Friday, February 23, 2007

Heber Spring's Swan Song

Posted on Fri, Feb 23, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Heber Springs, Arkansas. Every weekend, dozens of spectators congregate around Magness Lake to oh and ah and point and marvel at the 130 trumpeter swans who showed up right before Thanksgiving. But if you want to look and listen, too, you’d better hurry because the swans are ready to head home for the lakes and tundra of Minnesota....

“This year they should start leaving on March 3rd,” says caretaker Dick Herget, who feeds the swans every afternoon. “They always leave in family groups once the lakes up north start to thaw.”

A trio of swans first arrived in 1992, settling in for the winter on the 30-acre lake located on Hays Road a few miles east of town. Since then, the majestic birds with snow-white wingspans up to seven feet have returned every year to the lake, located on the edge of the E&W Wildlife Refuge.

“They keep coming back, and they bring their family and friends,” says Herget. “Last time I counted, we were up to 137.”

Typically, the swans – whose trumpet calls sound more like an old car horn than a musical instrument - don’t venture so far south. In fact, the gathering of swans at Magness Lake is the largest in the Southeast and has attracted considerable attention from national media and conservation groups.

The best time to view the birds is late afternoon, when they fly in for feeding at 4 p.m. “Just remember to only feed them shelled corn,” Herget says. “Never feed them bread because too much can kill them.”

by Pamela Denney

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