A major ice storm was predicted to hit here this week, so I thought I'd get out on Monday before the weather got too nasty. The weather people were predicting that the northern parts of the state would see ice, but it would be awhile before it would reach us here in central Arkansas. As I drove northwards, the radio said the current temperature in Little Rock was 34 degrees. But different signs that showed temperatures could never agree - one said 31, the other 26. My plan was to drive up there and take pictures and leave well before it got cold enough for the roads to get icy.
My first stop was at Magness Lake, which is the home of a large flock of trumpeter swans. These birds are the largest waterfowl species native to North America, and were nearly hunted to extinction in the last century. Since then they made a nice comeback, but it is rare to see them around here. Normally, they don't migrate this far south in the winter. But in 1990, three swans settled down on this lake near the Little Red River. It is thought that a storm knocked them off course and they ended up settling down at Magness Lake. Since then the swans have returned over the years, with as many as 150 swans counted there.
Since then a pair of trumpeter swans wintered at a small pond in the Boxley Valley of the Buffalo National River. The state tried to establish a few more swans here, putting a few more at Boxley and at Holla Bend last year. I saw a few swans at Holla Bend last week that might have been part of the program.
But at Magness Lake you can get a nice up close view of the birds. It's illegal to hunt swans in Arkansas, so they don't mind getting too close to people at the lake.
Magness Lake is located about 50 miles north of Little Rock, and is just east of the city of Heber Springs. You can drive and park right at the edge of the lake, so it is very easy to reach. The birds there are very photogenic, and will try to show off their best side to any visiting photographer:
Luckily the owners of the land look like they're working to help protect the area to help make it a nice habitat for the visiting swans.
And one last shot, which I guess will be the end of this post: