- Whistling Swan Lake Erie
- (scroll down for description)
- 36 x 48, acrylic, 1976
One of my most exciting memories from my early days as a naturalist was the occasion of a trip to Lake Erie to see the whistling swan migration. In those days they were called whistling swans but since that time, their name has been changed to the more appropriate tundra swan.
The goal is to be at the Long Point marshes at about dawn to witness the swans taking off from their roosting place far out in the marsh to continue their migration to their Arctic breeding grounds. This meant getting up in what seemed to me to be the middle of the night in Toronto and driving to Lake Erie in the dark. When we arrived, we found to our dismay that the area was blanketed in fog.
We stood in the damp, chilly, gray dawn hoping to see or hear something. It was March, so there were patches of snow on the ground, and the gnarled willow branches were black and bare. An occasional red-winged blackbird was making an early attempt at his spring song. Then we heard it -- a distant yodeling bugle -- then there were more. As we stood breathlessly listening, the chorus grew in volume and proximity. Suddenly they were there -- great silvery shapes coming out of the mist and passing remarkable low over our heads. Hundreds of them came yodeling to each other as they went like some mighty air force squadron bent on a determined mission. I was never able to repeat that memorable moment although I went back many times during the right season.
The lone swan pictured here is searching for the flock to settle down for the night on the broad, flat Lake Erie lowlands. The landscape is reminiscent of its wide open nesting grounds in the North. I have made the sky a very important element in the painting. It is wide and endless -- it is the highway for these great birds. At the top of the picture, you can barely make out the vapour trail of a jet aircraft echoing the form of the swan's wing and reminding us of the fact that the skies no longer belong to the birds alone.