Trumpeter swans make glorious noise

Trumpeter swans at Magness Lake near Heber Springs. (Gwen Green photos)

Sometimes you have got to get out of the house, out of town and on the road for a bit.

In these pandemic times, and in winter, diversions like that can be hard to come by, but when you get the chance, you should take it.

Such was the case recently when my wife noted that the Trumpeter Swans had returned to Magness Lake near Heber Springs in Cleburne County.

So a road trip was in order, and the drive was easy enough from central Arkansas at a little more than an hour.

On the outskirts of Heber Springs, instead of turning north and going into town, take Arkansas Highway 110 east not quite four miles before turning left on Hays Road. There’s no signage, but a pretty steady stream of traffic on the paved county road is a tipoff.
A gravel lot provides ample parking by the lake, and there’s no admission. There’s also no bathroom, so plan accordingly.

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, about a dozen cars were parked by the lake, and roughly 60 Trumpeter Swans were looking stately on Magness Lake.

You can’t miss them and even if you did, you’d still be able to hear them.

Cornell University described Trumpeter Swans as ”our biggest native waterfowl, stretching to 6 feet in length and weighing more than 25 pounds.”

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said, in comparison, “Canada geese living in Arkansas weigh about 12 pounds.”

So the swans are more than twice the size of those annoying birds.

A fence keeps the Trumpeters on the water and away from the onlookers, which on that recent trip was about 20 people.

These swans are believed to be from the Midwest, and Magness Lake, an oxbow off the Little Red River, is their furthest home south.
Cornell University said “Swans have expanded their range in recent years as they continue their comeback from near-extinction. In fact, the species now nests across a broad swath of the Midwest/Great Lakes and in scattered portions of the Northern Rockies.”

The Trumpeter Swans arrived in Arkansas in the early 1990s and have come back year after year. They tend to arrive in November and depart in mid-February.

Game and Fish said the best chance to see them in action is in the late afternoon.
There’s a feeder of shelled corn near the parking area, and that is the only recommended feed.

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