Saturday, January 30, 2016

Swan Soirée

The Trumpeter Swan Society hosted a "swan soirée" at Walnut Woods State Park in West Des Moines today.  They promised hands-on activities, crafts, hot dogs, and presentations from the county. It sounded promising, so we had to go check it out!

The first thing I noticed was how beautiful the woods are. We've been in Des Moines for almost two years now, and I never knew there was such a great state park this close to us. I made a mental note to check it out for camping later this year. Here's a link to more information on the park and campground.

When we arrived at the lodge, the parking lot was full. We continued on and found a spot in a tiny lot about a block down. We happened to park next to a man who was taking a trumpeter swan out of a crate. We got to meet and pet the swan! Notice its black beak.

We hiked the short distance to the lodge, which looked modern from the exterior. I was surprised (pleasantly so) on how "natural" and rustic it really was. There was an outdoor shelter attached with a fire burning in the outdoor fireplace (free firewood). Considering we were having an unseasonably warm day, about 50 degrees, it felt good to stand out there by the fire. Inside was packed! There were a few families there with kids, and the rest of the audience was older. We migrated to the craft table, where the kids got to create their own swans out of pipe cleaners, pine cones, and feathers.


I got to hear a little of the presentation on the trumpeter swans. The director of the Trumpeter Swan Society explained how our grandparents and great-grandparents never got to see a trumpeter swan because they were so close to extinction. 

In the United States, there were fewer than 70 left earlier in the 20th century. Thanks to an Alaskan population of trumpeter swans, there has been a huge effort to re-introduce the animals to more of their native habitat. Iowa is currently the only state that has had trumpeter swan sightings in all parts of the state. Here's a map from Wikipedia that shows their current range: 
After the kids finished their craft, we decided to take them outside to eat their hot dogs. I didn't expect them to sit through the presentations very well. They enjoyed the fire and the food, and then we hiked over to the nearby playground. My friend just so happened to be at the event, too, so we got to hang out while the kids ran around and played in the good weather.

The day's events didn't end there. A bald eagle flew overhead! Sorry for being a poor photographer, but I was actually so quick with my camera! This isn't the first time I got to see one in the area. When Jo and I were driving through Raccoon River Park one day, we saw bald eagles soaring over the water there.

In just a couple weeks, Des Moines Parks & Rec will be hosting "Bald Eagle Day." Attendees will have a chance to view bald eagles, and there will be activities for kids there as well. As long as the weather isn't bitterly cold, we plan on checking that event out, too. The details for that can be found on their Facebook event page here.