Kimiwan Lake is an important staging area for waterfowl both regionally and nationally and the Kimiwan Lake Birdwalk on Highway 2 in McLennan, draws over a thousand visitors and birding enthusiasts to the region annually.
Staging areas are places where birds rest and feed along their migratory flight path and every fall, Kimiwan Lake stages the highest numbers of swans in northwest Alberta with both tundra and trumpeter swans staging at the lake.
Tundra Swans breed in Arctic and Subarctic regions. They are the smallest of the Holarctic swans, which includes the mute swan, black swan, whooper swan and trumpeter swan.
Adult tundra swans have white plumage, black feet and an almost entirely black bill with a dash of yellow just below the eyes.
The adult trumpeter swan also has all white plumage. The cygnets have pink legs and are light grey in colour, developing their white plumage at around one year.
The trumpeter swan has a large, wedge-shaped black bill and some have a thin pink colour along the mouth line.
The trumpeter and tundra swans share a strong resemblance except the tundra swan is much smaller.
Fall staging counts taken intermittently at Kimiwan Lake between 1962 and 1985 by Alberta Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited Canada, usually took place in August to September, which meant the counts missed the staging of swans. Only one survey on October 17, 1985 resulted in the observation of 91 swans at the lake.
However, Kimiwan Lake Naturalists have undertaken full staging swan counts consistently since 2001.
Earlier conservation planning by the Kimiwan Lake Naturalists identified the need for accurate inventories of staging swans at the lake as part of an ongoing program to collect bird population data.
The Kimiwan Lake Naturalists fund the annual census and plays an active role in the collecting of this vital data as it sees these inventories as important to maintaining habitat at the lake.
On behalf of the Kimiwan Lake Naturalists, Bradyn Heckbert completed eighteen surveys of staging swans at the lake between September 18 and November 3, 2017.
Using a spotting scope 15-45 X, the surveys took place from a higher elevation within the Town of McLennan at the corner of 2nd Street East.
If the weather prohibited surveillance of the entire lake, the survey took place on the next suitable day, which in 2017, resulted in a minimum of three surveys a week.
Weather conditions and time of survey were recorded but no distinctions were drawn between tundra and trumpeter swans.
The arrival of Swans on the lake began on September 20 with four birds observed. The swans remained at the lake until November 3 with the highest number recorded on October 19 at 6,900.
The average number recorded during each survey day through the duration of the program was 1,511 swans.
The daily counts fluctuated drastically as birds staged, then left and others arrived.
The middle of October saw radical changes occur with 428 swans on October 16 rising to 6,900 by October 19.
The number of swans at Kimiwan Lake continued to be in excess of 4,820 until November 1, when only 400 swans remained.
There were no sighting of swans after November 3, and the lake was completely frozen-over by November 5.