Best of the Tetons

Tight Group - July 12

Trumpeter Swans:

Young Cygnets and Proud Parents on Flat Creek in Jackson Hole.

A pair of Trumpeter Swans makes their home along Flat Creek. At least for a while each fall, they share their piece of heaven with migrating Swans. This year, the resident pair hatched five Cygnets. One of the babies disappeared almost immediately followed by another a week or two later. During the month of July, I was fortunate enough to be able to see and photograph them on numerous occasions—and in a variety of light and conditions.

Swan Family July 6

Swan Family – July 6:

Adult Stretching July 6

Adult Stretching – July 6: I can’t tell the sex on the adults. If there’s a difference, it is very subtle.

Heading Upstream July 6

Heading Upstream – July 6:

Stretching July6

Stretching – July 6:

Family of Six - July 6

Family of Six – July 6:

Swan Photographers July 6

Photographers on Flat Creek – July 6:

Adult Swan Stretching July7

Adult Swan Stretching July 7:

Parade of Swans - July 8

Parade of Swans – July 8: On several days, the Swans stayed around 150 yards upstream from the observation platform. We all waited and hoped we’d get to see this scene.

Cygnet Getting an Easy Meal - July 8

Cygnet Getting an Easy Meal – July 8: Especially at first, the babies stayed close to the adults and picked off food brought up from the creek’s bottom.

Cygnet - July 8

Cygnet – July 8: On a couple of days early, the parents brought the babies amazingly close to the fence along Flat Creek. I shot through the fence with my 200-400mm lens with VR turned on.

Stretching with the Cygnets - July 9

Stretching with the Cygnets Nearby – July 9:

Extreme Stretch - July 9

Extreme Stretch – July 9: This year, it was fairly easy to get shots of the family swimming in a line. I was always ready to capture one of the adults stretching their wings. This one was even more animated than some.

Cruising Swans - July 12

Cruising Swans – July 12: Hard to beat calm, richly colored water and reflections!

Downstream Parade - July 12

Downstream Parade – July 12: I liked this shot because of all the “strata” or layers of grass that morning.

Unexpected Shower of Water - July 12

Unexpected Shower of Water – July 12:

Tight Group - July 12

Tight Group – July 12: Not long after this photo, one of the four Cygnets was missing.

Unwelcomed Mallard - July 18

Unwelcomed Mallard – July 18: If you look closely, the aggressive swan is missing its flight feathers. I don’t know much about that cycle for a Trumpeter Swan, but I found it interesting it would coincide with the period of time when the cygnets are “grounded”. Other than chasing off Canada Geese, neither of these two birds have flown during June.

Swans in Single File - July 23

Swans in Single File – July 23:

Swan Stretching July 25

Stretching Adult  – July 25: By late July, the water levels dropped considerably in Flat Creek, allowing the weed beds to reach the surface. The young Swans could easily feed for themselves.

Swans In Gold

Swans In Gold – July 30: By the end of the month, the Cygnet’s necks were getting longer and were starting to resemble smaller versions of their parents. This was taken very early one morning as the early filtered light passed through a layer of smoke in the east. Occasionally, one of the Cygnets will flap their tiny little wings.

Lone Swan Stretching

Lone Swan Stretching – July 30: During the earlier parts of the month, the pair of adults stayed very close to the Cygnets. By late in the month, it was not uncommon to see one of the adults break away from the group and feed on its own several hundred yards away. As I write this post on August 11th, the family is holding strong at five. The babies are getting more independent and are growing fast.

Stretching Adult Swan - July 30

Stretching Adult Swan – July 30:

Swan Family October 16

Swan Family ~ October 16: The green cattails of summer have been replaced by the gold of fall. The cygnets are almost grown and beginning to fly. On the few times I have been around to witness it, the cygnets fly roughly 100 yards and about two or three feet off the water. I haven’t had a chance to actually capture them flying in my camera.

Shooting Notes: Most of the images on this page were captured with a Nikon D4 and a Nikon 200-400mm lens. Occasionally, I switched the body to a Nikon D800, but knowing the adults flap or stretch their wings, I like the idea of a faster frame rate. At 10 FPS on the D4, I get to capture more of the “in between” shots I might miss with the 4 FPS on the D800. In anticipation of one of them stretching, I like to keep my shutter speed up to around 1/1000th of a second by adjusting the ISO and aperture settings. Lastly, I like to take a few test shots to help determine a good exposure, then underexpose another 1/3 stop. When an adult swan flaps, especially in bright light, I find it better to err on the safe side to keep from having blown out pixels in the wings.

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Comments (3)

  1. Marion

    Fantastic series. Just amazing. My favorite is the adult stretching and appearing to be shielding the baby.

  2. Craig Knecht

    Great photos of the swans.

  3. Lowell Schechter

    Hi Mike
    wonderful images of the Swans. You got quite a few images of them in different situations and poses. I certainly like the ones with the mother swan and her babies. It looks like they have a nice set up where you can take full advantage of taking great images of these birds.

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