MOUNT VERNON– With trumpeter swans expected to be on hand and honking, a public wildlife-viewing area near here will be dedicated Jan. 27.
The Johnson/DeBay Swan Reserve, completed last year in a joint effort by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and a volunteer stewardship group, will be officially dedicated in a public ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. Gates will open at 9:30 a.m., and WDFW biologists and volunteer wildlife enthusiasts will be present to answer questions. Light refreshments will be served.
Located northeast of Mount Vernon, the 240-acre swan reserve attracts a variety of wintering birds, including eagles, raptors, ducks and a few tundra swans. But the stars of the show are the majestic, white trumpeter swans, which stand some four feet tall with a 7- foot wingspan. During January and February the swans descend like snow storms– up to 1,300 at a time– on Skagit Valley fields.
The swan reserve, site of a former dairy farm, was acquired and developed at a cost of $500,000 by WDFW and a stewardship group that includes The Trumpeter Swan Society, the Washington Waterfowl Association, Skagit Audubon, Ducks Unlimited and Pilchuck Valley Wildlife Rehabilitation.
The viewing site is wheelchair accessible, with a fenced, off-road parking area that keeps human and avian visitors safely separated. The swan reserve is an important amenity not just for the birds but also for the throngs of wildlife watchers who clog the Skagit Valley's rural roads each winter.
The Johnson/Debay Swan Reserve may be reached by taking the College Way exit east from Interstate 5, turning left at LaVenture Road, following the road (as it becomes Francis Road) downhill and continuing 3.2 miles past a 50 mph speed-limit sign at the bottom of the hill. Turn left on Debay Isle Road.
For a map and detailed directions to the site as well as more information about trumpeter swans, see the swan society's website on the Internet.