Harvey, the Trumpeter Swan, which had become a fixture at Lake Churchill in Germantown for two and half years has left the area on a quest to find love. Harvey left Germantown a little more than two weeks ago, and it is believed that he is headed north to find a mate.
Trumpeter Swan M78, also known as Harvey, was hatched as a wild bird on May 23, 2013, at Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto, on the shores of Lake Ontario, where he was tagged by the Trumpeter Swan Society. Harvey then did some exploring north and was spotted on Bastedo Lake in October of 2014. He arrived in Germantown in November 2014 as a young bachelor looking to make his way in the world.
The Trumpeter Swan is North America's largest bird and one of its rarest. Native only to North America, they are the largest waterfowl in the world. Although most populations are increasing, they are one of our least abundant native birds with about 46,000 Trumpeters on the entire continent, according to the Trumpeter Swan Society.
For a Trumpeter Swan to make an appearance as far south as Maryland, it is a very rare thing. Harvey liked Germantown; he stayed in the Lake Churchill area for 28 months. He could be seen floating along the tranquil waters. Hanging with his fellow waterfowl and being fed by the many folks who had come to look forward to seeing Harvey the Swan at the lake.
One of the first people to take a liking to Harvey was Laural Weetall. She is a photographer and found out about the swan that showed up on Lake Churchill and went to take photos. She noticed that he was tagged and decided it was a good idea to report the tag.
“I put the photos on the Maryland Birding Facebook page, and somebody told me that I should enter the tag into the bird banding site,” said Weetall. “Shortly after doing that, my Facebook started blowing up with people saying that I found “Harvey.” I giggled, the swan has a name?”
Shortly after reporting the tag, Weetall was contacted by Burl Garface from Toronto saying, “You found our Harvey, we thought he was dead.” Garface is with the Trumpeter Swan Society, a group dedicated to assuring the vitality and welfare of wild Trumpeter Swan populations. A population that was nearly destroyed in the late 1880s. He is the man who put the tag on Harvey.
“From there they told me how to make friends with Harvey,” joked Weetall. “I was like, you want me to make friends with the bird? They told me to buy a bicycle horn and whole corn. They told me to go to the lake and toot the horn, and he will come to you. They told me to put the corn down, and the bird would eat it.”
The folks in Canada were worried. Harvey it seems was the alpha of his brood. According to Weetall, “Harvey has traveled the farthest of the all the swans that they track.”
“They were worried that because he was still a baby that he may not be getting the proper nutrients,” said Weetall. “So there I was at the lake honking the horn, and I feel like an idiot. Everyone is looking at me like ‘what is this foolish woman doing?’ Suddenly, Harvey stops, looks at me. He swims right over to me as fast as he can, walks right out of the water and right up to me. I was amazed.”
As a result of that first meeting and a few more feedings, Weetall and Harvey developed a friendship. “He just hung out with me. I would just sit at the shoreline and Harvey would sit right next to me,” she said.
During the bitterly cold winter of 2015 Lake Churchill had frozen over, so Harvey moved next door to Little Seneca Lake. Weetall said she would visit him while he was over at Black Hill Regional Park as well. “He was happy to see me. He would chase me up and down the trails. He was probably looking for food, but I think he just liked the company. He would look at me like a little person in a swan suit. Whenever I was upset, he would get very close to me and stare at me. He was very sweet and in-tune.”
Weetall tells a story about one day on the lake when Harvey was not getting along with the myriad Canada Geese which also call Lake Churchill home. “Some woman said to me, ‘Your bird is being mean to the other geese.’ I would say his not my bird. He is a wild animal.” Eventually, Weetall said she walked over and yelled at Harvey to stop. “He stopped. He looked at me and swam away from the other birds. I thought, he looks like a little kid getting in trouble.”
Weetall had stopped feeding him after three times, knowing that he would have to learn to fend for himself in the wild. Except, she said on his birthday when she would bring him a corn treat and sing him Happy Birthday. “He loved it. It was like he would smile when I sang to him.”
Meanwhile, everybody else at Lake Churchill was falling in love with him. Other photographers were coming to take his picture and hang out with Harvey. He became a huge attraction at the lake.
One of those photographers was Melissa McCeney, “I don't think anyone can say why he chose our little lake. My guess is he felt safe there, and the locals kept him very well fed. We knew that he was likely to move on in pursuit of a mate when he became an adult at age three, but he had become such a fixture that I'm not sure any of us really believed he'd go. I'm glad he did, though. He deserves to find a mate and make a family.”
Harvey is making his way north. According to Matt Rogosky, a biologist with the Bird Banding Laboratory of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Swan M78, AKA Harvey, was reported at Rose Valley Lake near Trout Run in Lycoming County, Pa. on March 25, 2017. Rose Valley Lake is 152 miles north of Lake Churchill.
“I was absolutely devastated when he left,” said Weetall. “I cried my eyes out. It was like I lost a friend. But he is a wild animal, he is four years old now, and he needs to find a mate.”
Her contacts with the Trumpeter Swan Society report that other swans which were born at Tommy Thompson Park have come back to find mates if that is where he’s headed, he will have to fly about 194 miles northwest of where he is now. Harvey is a little shy of halfway home. His total trip, if that is where he’s going will be 348 miles.
“I hope he will find a mate,” said Weetall. “Maybe they both will come back to our lake; maybe they won’t.”
However, the chances of Harvey returning seem pretty good. According to the Trumpeter Swan Society web page, “Trumpeters may live 20-30 years in the wild. They usually maintain very predictable annual movement and habitat use patterns unless faced with a significant habitat change.” Harvey at four-years-old is still very young.
“He deserves to find a mate and make a family,” said McCeney. “Of course, if he wanted to bring his wife back to Lake Churchill and make some baby swans here, that would be alright with me. Either way, it was a pleasure to get to know him while he was here.”
Top: Harvey the Swan became a huge attraction at Germantown’s Lake Churchill. The Trumpeter Swan, which is rare to find in Maryland has left the area after spending two years and four months in Germantown. Photo by Germantown Pulse.
Next: Harvey strutting his stuff. Trumpeter Swans are the largest waterfowl in North American and found only in North America. Photo credit: Melissa McCeney
Next: Harvey playing coy by hiding his beak. Photo credit: Melissa McCeney.
Next: Harvey with his geese friends on Lake Churchill. Photo by Germantown Pulse.
Next: Harvey with his “American Mommy” Laural Weetall, who said Harvey like to honk the bicycle horn. “I think he liked that because it sounds like him, and it allowed him to hear the sound of another trumpeter swan,” said Weetall. Photo courtesy Laural Weetall.
Next: Harvey as a baby or cygnet at Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto. Harvey is the little swan out front. Photo courtesy Burl Garface.
Next: Harvey’s journey. Map courtesy Google Maps