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Rithet's Bog LogoMonarchs of Swan Species Back in Bog

Times Colonist March 21, 2004 – Jeff Bell

For the first time in almost a decade, the distinct call of the trumpeter swan is being heard at Rithet’s Bog.

The spectacular birds, the largest of the swan species with wingspans up to two metres, have started turning up at the 43-hectare Saanich nature sanctuary in recent weeks, said Sharon Hartwell of the Rithet’s Bog Conservation Society.

"It’s been a family of seven that we’ve seen. Ten years ago, before the whole thing started to overgrow, the Victoria Natural Society did a bird survey and that was the last known time a trumpeter swan had been seen there”

The conservation society spotted some of the swans, also common in agricultural flatlands around the region, during one of its weekly Saturday bird counts. As well, Hartwell has had reports of swan sightings from several regular users of the bog’s four-kilometre trail.

The key to bringing trumpeter swans back to Rithet’s Bog wetlands was to remove growth covering areas of open water. “It grew over and grew over, and then two years ago we cleared the whole thing out,” Hartwell said. “But still no swans because it had all this willow debris left in there from what was cut down.”

Last September, the conservation society called on a group of army cadets to take out tonnes of excess material.

“(We were) trying make the water deep enough so it was like a landing runway for the swans,” Hartwell said. “It seems to have worked … It was a last-ditch try.”

Hartwell said the swans need long landing and takeoff area because of their long legs and necks. “And when they feed they take their long necks right down to the bottom, so they don’t like shallow water.”

Farmers’ unused fields attract the swans because they come stocked with leftover potatoes, carrots and other vegetables, Hartwell said. Since the bog doesn’t include such a ready food supply for the swans “we don’t know if they’re going to hang around or if they are just trying it out.”

Hartwell said her group’s efforts over the years have been in co-operation with Ducks Unlimited Canada, the District of Saanich, the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund and the Department of Fisheries. Attention to conservation has made the bog home to more that 100 species of birds, along with other creatures such as deer, mink and muskrat.

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