This morning my children and I were out in the woods at a local lake, waiting in the predawn twilight in hopes of seeing deer. We were out of luck on the deer; the kids had trouble sitting still in the dark and even so agreed that it was worth it to listen to the quiet and the wind rifling through the stiff grasses and the tweets and twitters of the early birds.
The sun finally cracked the horizon and we decided to take a hike down the trail that rings the lake. Suddenly out of the woods came a fanfare of horns, the harbinger of late fall. The trumpeter swans are back to Lake Rebecca from wherever they roam in northern Canada during the summer. They are a miracle every time I see them, and they make my heart jump with delight.
If you’ve never seen a trumpeter swan, they are the largest native bird in North America. They’re common in Alaska and northern Rockies, as well as in Ontario, but listed as threatened here in Minnesota. Twice before I’ve been hiking in dead cold and quiet in late January and February and have been surprised by a flock of trumpeter swans. I don’t know anything that quite warms the heart in bone-chilling cold like the warm trumpeting of these birds.