Taking the time to listen to the swans

Tony D'Souza
Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge manager Ron Cole discusses conservation efforts with the media during Friday's Centennial celebration.

Ron Cole, current manager of the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, spoke at length of his love for his place of employment during Friday’s centennial celebration at the vast expanse of mixed wetlands on the Siskiyou County side of the Klamath Basin. 

Concluding his remarks, Cole said, “We thought about doing this inside, but you can’t do something like this inside and do justice to the refuge. We in the refuge system promise to take care of it for you and all those to follow.”

An article about the refuge and the centennial event is on page A11 in this week’s paper. Following is an excerpt from Cole’s speech:

“This past spring, I was driving early one morning across this highway behind you. I came upon something that made me pull off to the side, turn off my engine, and roll down my window. The cold morning air felt good. There before me, were about 50,000 tundra swans. Close to half of the entire population in the Pacific flyway. I listened and here is what I thought… They pay no attention to our calendars. Their arrival is synchronized with some ancient timepiece. Their voices are a symphony of crooning echoes that only they understand. To hear half of the Pacific Flyway population of tundra swans, sharing tales of travel no doubt passed down from generation to generation, transports the spirit to a special place. This is swan-speak. Mount Shasta provides these flocks their northern compass point with which to mark their journey from the warm, southern marshes of California. Shasta glows pink, looming large and out of proportion as if painted by both child and master artist. For weeks these birds with their whiter-than-snow feathers, have been building in numbers at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. This is live theatre at its finest. Their play is beautiful, entertaining, timeless, but with purpose. To truly understand the purpose, the stories of those who passed through the Basin before us, to learn the secrets of the ancient timepiece and what the future may hold for us all, take the time and listen to the swans.”