Here I respond to . . .
Ohio-birds Post from Ohio Division of Wildlife dated 24 August.
"3) Evidence of trumpeters breeding in Ohio is documented in a paper by Philip M. Rogers and Donald A. Hammer in North American Swans, Bulletin of the Trumpeter Swan Society Volume 27, No. 1- December 1998 entitled [sic] Ancestral Breeding and Wintering Ranges of the Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) in the Eastern United States. 3 archaeological sites containing Trumpeter bones were located in Ohio along with several sighting reports."
It is not my intent to review the status of the Trumpeter Swan nor all of the literature that may pertain to its restoration in Ohio. It is my understanding such a review is being undertaken for publication elsewhere (see The Ohio Cardinal article by Bill Whan in late 2000). However, I do feel compelled to delve into the above citation for the benefits of the current discussion. Rogers and Hammer bring together an array of citations; in particular notes from early pioneers are the strength behind their arguments. Leading up to what I feel is the pertinent portion of their discussion, they review the
Briefly, there are fossil remains from Oregon, Illinois, and Florida. With these facts, and with the "indirect evidence" provided "by the migratory behavior of the Canada Goose and the Sandhill Crane", noting further that "extant populations of C. buccinator also exhibit limited behavior" (and citations therein), "permit(s) postulation of a resident population of C.bucinator in northern Florida". The authors also provide an alternative hypothesis. So far so good - the marginal evidence certainly allows for hypotheses to be generated. I make this point for what is said later regarding Ohio.
Much more interesting time frame. Although the authors consider the achaeological faunal record sparse with respect to the Trumpeter Swan they present data from an array of sites across a considerable geographic area. In Ohio archaeological sites with C. buccinator bones include 1 site near Toledo, and 2 sites in the vicinity of Chilicothe. While this establishes the species in Ohio, the authors themselves conclude "it is not possible, however, to determine the season of the year or the reason for the presence of the birds . . .on the basis of achaeological data." Again this was reviewed by Peterjohn (1989) and serves, in part, for the basis of including the species as an Ohio bird by Peterjohn.
The authors have done their detective work and provide an interesting mosaic of anecdotal observations serving as a backdrop to the Late Historic Period. This is the most original portion of the article bringing to light some obscure references. There is no explicit reference to Ohio for this period but of interest is a note concerning the Falls of the Ohio (Louisville, Kentucky). P. Hildreth travelled the Ohio River downstream from the Falls in the spring of 1805 recording "swans" as common. The authors state "it is possible to place him at the Falls of the Ohio on May 12". This and a similar record of a large flock of swans on the date of May 27 (1808) for just north of Memphis, Tennessee have Rogers and Hammer wondering about the presence of swans at such late dates. A late spring departure does not fit the known timing of departure from the wintering grounds on the lower Mississippi nor do independent observations of the spring of 1808 indicate anything abnormally late for the waterfowl season. The authors conclude that these late May dates "are suggestive of molt migration". This is a crucial piece in the authors' "postulation of a breeding population of C. buccinator in northeastern Arkansas and, probably, the Yazoo River basin, in northwestern Mississippi as late as 1808" - an area outside the recognized historical breeding range (whether you follow Bellrose 1976 or Palmer 1976). The authors have a forceful argument.
In Ohio, we learn of the collection of individuals from Ravenna, Cincinnati, and St. Mary's Lake [Grand Lake], Ohio, during the 1880's and the last report of a Trumpeter Swan in Ohio, that of a specimen near Wellston. All this is in Peterjohn (1989) and so should be nothing new to Ohio birders. These sightings also serve to reaffirm the status of the Trumpeter Swan as bird of Ohio. But did it ever nest here? Peterjohn looked at this evidence and concluded no. Rogers and Hammer abruptly conclude the paragraph on Ohio sightings with "these reports and the achaeological evidence and ecological evidence cited earlier support a minimal extension of the ancestral breeding range to include the northwestern half of Ohio". Well that's a bit of a stretch - but the reader can draw their own conclusions. There is no more "evidence" provided than this with regard to Ohio.
A map provided in Rogers and Hammer, gives the breeding range limits of Bellrose (1976) and Palmer (1964). Bellrose is a bit more generous (and seems to follow Banko 1960) more closely. However, with respect to the southeasternmost extension (closest approach to Ohio), they coincide almost exactly in pulling up shy of Ohio by about 40 miles. Nearest present habitat which may sustain Trumpeters includes Lake La Su An Wildlife (Williams Co.) at about 50 miles and Mercer Wildlife Area (on Grand Lake) at about 80 miles or so. Rogers and Hammer failed to cite Lumsden (1984) in which a case is made for inclusion of southern Ontario within the historical breeding range (this is accepted as "probable" by James 1991). This may be the source of an image in my mind of a map which includes the Lake St. Clair marshes within the historic range. If my recollection is correct (I don't have a copy of Lumsden handy), the marshes of the Western basin of Lake Erie were at the very edge of the breeding range of C. buccinator.
The authors of this recent review of the evidence for the ancestral grounds of the Trumpeter Swan provide persuasive evidence that previously published limits for the breeding of the species should be expanded. Their own summary states " evidence has been presented to support postulation of breeding populations of C.buccinator in Florida, the Carolinas, Ohio, and the Lower Mississippi Valley." The key phrase here is "support postulation" - that I can abide. They further remark "Despite its limitations, the evidence presented is deemed sufficient to suggest that C. buccinator probably bred wherever suitable habitat could be found in North America" and further offer that " the present resident populations of mute swans [sic] with essentially similar habitat requirements . . . argue for the probability of breeding C. buccinator in these [current distribution of Mute Swan] areas".
Conclusion: I find the principal assertions of Rogers and Hammer reasonable and agreeable. Yet nowhere do I find evidence presented of an Ohio breeding population of Trumpeters Swans. Their detective story got them far enough to present an intriguing hypothesis, one to be tested* against their anticipation "that additional evidence will become available with continued archaeological evidence and paleontological field efforts and further publication and republication of manuscripts and volumes of historical significance". Their assertion with regard to Ohio's northwest assumes ecological compatibility. Outside of the coastal marshes of the Western Basin of Lake Erie, the necessary habitat in Ohio would have been exceedingly scarce. Apart from the rare kettle lake (e.g. Stages Pond), a prairie pothole or two, standing bodies of open water were a scarce resource in pre-settlement Ohio.
I find therefore the citation of this paper as the basis for "Evidence of trumpeters breeding in Ohio" - O.D.N.R., O.D.O.W. to be insupportable.
That is a biological opinion. It is not a politically correct one. For all those who get caught up in whether the Trumpeter Swan restoration effort involves the Introduction or Re-introduction of the species to Ohio why don't you ask the obvious followup question to my conclusion?
And that is . . .
SO WHAT? . . . for the answer read "Parallels"
________________ * It strikes me that if you really wanted to get to the bottom of all this, do mass-spectrometric analysis for isotope signatures in the bones. See work pioneered in alcids by Keith Hobson and presently employed in Ohio Henslow's Sparrow research at The Ohio State University for guidance. ________________
At the time of the intial Ohio-birds I had not seen Lumsden. 1997. History of Trumpeter Swans in Ontario. This is available through The Trumpeter Swan Society.
Victor W. Fazio, III
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