Let the Trumpets Sound
Like an eighth grade orchestra warming up, a brassy, off-key melody rang through the air. Then silence. We waited. A lone riff broke the stillness and the tune up session returned in full swing. What a treat to be entertained by a wild flock of Trumpeter Swans!
Clad in tuxedo colors of black and white, 41 of them took center stage on Sparrow Ponds in Montana’s Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Moose welcomed us like ushers in a theatre. Reveling in our private concert, Greg and I sat on a grassy bank in the warm sunshine. Maybe a more convenient venue would fill the house, I mused.
“I guess we took the long way in!”, I commented when we entered the visitor’s center. “Which way did you come?”, the friendly volunteer asked. “The 22 mile gravel road over Red Rock Pass,” I replied. “Nope, that’s the quickest route from West Yellowstone,” she grinned. The trip is only about 40 miles total but the winding, narrow, rough road through the mountain pass begs you to slow down. The Sparrow Pond trailhead, a short distance from the visitor center, leads to an easy, one mile trek to the ponds, a favored retreat for swans and other waterfowl.
The swans didn’t seem to mind the small audience. In a breathtaking encore, a squadron took flight, circled the area and ….
…landed in perfect formation.
An impressive show since Trumpeters, North America’s largest wild waterfowl, measure up to four feet tall with a wingspan up to eight feet. When the refuge was established in 1935, the swans were nearly extinct, numbering less than 100 in the Greater Yellowstone Area. Today, the refuge hosts an average of 450 in the summer and about 4,500 migrating swans in the fall.
When summer crowds descend on Yellowstone, we seek solitude in places off the beaten path. Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge delivered a perfect escape!
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