The city's naturalist club went looking for swans out on the Crooked River last weekend. The province's annual swan count - seen as an overall indicator of environmental conditions in any given region - got some Prince George content as it has for decades.
"Eleven adventurous naturalists checked along the Crooked River for wintering trumpeter swans on Sunday," said Sandra Kinsey, the key organizer for the P.G. Naturalist Club. "The weather was quite tolerable with very good visibility. Snowshoeing was easy."
As has been the case in recent years, the numbers were low compared to past decades. While the record sits at 60 in the one-day event, there were fewer than 30 this year. Swan spotters located 28 trumpeters, of which seven were young ones making up three families of the large water fowl.
The eyes of the bird watchers also alighted on three American dippers, seven grey jays (all together in one group), 11 common golden eyes, one common merganser, 21 mallards, a belted kingfisher, many ravens and several red polls. Even a mink was observed.
Although the Prince George swan count is always done on the Crooked River, there are other observation points around the general region, said Kinsey.
"June and Denis Wood had 72 Trumpeter Swans on the upper Nechako River," she said. "The weather was a bit more character-building with temperatures at minus-32 degrees in the morning."
The general decline in Crooked River numbers is not a sign of overall population decline, Kinsey said. It is hypothesized that the scientifically proven increase in overall winter temperatures in the region during recent years has allowed more bodies of water to remain open, giving the swans more options than just the Crooked River (it has natural open spots all winter long, even in the colder decades) to settle on for the season.