Unusually Low Swan Statistics This Year

March 27, 2024

The Aylmer Wildlife Management Area saw a peak of 386 tundra swans on March 10th, as reported by the Elgin Stewardship Council—this unexpected low surprised many swan enthusiasts, with a peak of 4,300 swans visiting in 2023. Totalling the daily number of swans in 2023, we saw over 37,000 swans; in contrast, the daily swan numbers in 2024 total 2,351 as of March 27. The trend of unusually few swans was common throughout southern Ontario, with the Lambton Heritage Museum reporting a maximum of only 1,000 visiting swans at once.

Our contacts at the Elgin Stewardship Council speculate that the unusually warm winter is to blame for the lack of swans. Elgin Stewardship Council Director and Aylmer Wildlife Management Area Manager Ron Casier, in consultation with biologists following the migration, provided some context to museum staff.

We received many reports that tundra swans were sighted in the Aylmer and Malahide areas much earlier than expected. With the mild weather, the tundra swans seem to have begun their journey westward in January of this year. Many swans likely made the journey on the night of the full moon on February 24ᵗʰ. Birds tend to favour clear, moon-lit nights for their migrations.

The tundra swans that stop by the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area usually winter in Chesapeake Bay in the United States, positioned between Virginia and Maryland. With the warm weather, fewer swans may have wintered so far south as Chesapeake. From a position northward, Aylmer wouldn’t necessarily be along the swans’ flight path to return to their breeding grounds in northern Canada and Alaska.

Swans that did take the usual route may not have been compelled to stay in the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area. Having experienced an easy winter, birds weren’t necessarily relying on the Wildlife Area as a food source along the way.

Altogether, we’ve witnessed a strange migration this year! Many of us were holding out hope that larger numbers would come later in the month, but it seems that we’re currently seeing the tail end of the migration.

Wildlife Area Manager Ron Casier likened the low swan count to the 2019 migration, when planned maintenance to the Wildlife Area necessitated draining some of its water, and prevented many swans from landing. The migration progressed as planned in 2020, and we hope that tundra swan numbers will likewise recover in 2025.

In collaboration with the Elgin Stewardship Council and Eastlink, we plan to continue updating the Swan Line ((519) 773-7926) with daily statistics until the end of this week (Friday, March 29, 2024). The Aylmer Wildlife Management Area remains open for visitors, though interpretation services will be unavailable for the remainder of the migration.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Elgin Stewardship Council for their efforts in taking care of the tundra swans and the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area, as well as for counting the swans each day. We would also like to thank Ron Casier for his valuable assistance in helping our staff understand this year’s migration.



View the Swan Line here.



Featured image courtesy of David Helsdon

Sponsor Spotlight

March 22, 2024

We wish to extend our sincere thanks to Jackpot Time Gaming Entertainment for affording us the funds to purchase four new mannequins for our featured exhibit, The Roaring Twenties: Flappers, Fashion, and Freedom! This exhibit, available at 14 East St. until November, explores how the social changes of the 1920s were reflected in women’s clothing and fashion. We’re very lucky to have some wonderful examples of 1920s dresses in our collection, and we’re very excited to be able to display them with Jackpot Time’s help!

Photograph of four mannequins on a stage, wearing dresses from the 1920s. The central mannequin wears a turqoise-coloured, short-sleeved, ankle-length dress decorated with glass beads.

The dress in the centre of the image above was a belonging of the McLay family of Aylmer. It likely belonged to Kathleen (Lashbrook) McLay (October 24, 1894-December 8, 1982), a registered nurse and wife to Dr. Homer Garfield McLay. This handmade georgette dress with built-in slip, short, openwork sleeves, and a drop waist, was painstakingly hand-decorated with transparent glass seed beads.

Illustration of a woman wearing an "Egyptian Revival" dress, orange in colour, with a sash around her waist.

Above: Illustration from a McCall’s brand sewing pattern published in 1923.

The dress may have been made with the “Egyptian Revival” of the 1920s in mind. Archaeologist Howard Carter opened King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings on February 16, 1923. The grave goods and scenes painted along the walls of the burial chamber captured the world’s imagination, giving rise to an artistic style called the “Egyptian Revival”. This art movement mimicked the motifs of Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern art and architecture. The skirt of this dress is reminiscent of the combination of sheath, sheer tunic, and sash that women would wear during the Egyptian New Kingdom. 


Please consider joining us to learn more! Additional thanks to Jackpot Time for their assistance in displaying these beautiful dresses.


A special thank you to our supporter Jackpot Time Gaming Entertainment. Throughout the year, we are very grateful to receive funds from our participation in bingos at Jackpot Time in St. Thomas. Through this program, the museum receives funds monthly that we can use towards the preservation and maintenance of our collection. We are also able to fund a portion of staff salary to work on the collection. We are very grateful to be one of the charities that receive funds through the charitable gaming program, and very thankful for the volunteers that assist us with bingos each month. 

We’re Hiring!

March 19, 2024

Through the support of Young Canada Works and Canada Summer Jobs, we’re pleased to announce that we’ll be hiring two post-secondary students to help us document our collections via our online database. Those hired will:

  • Assist museum staff in the effort to fully digitize the records relating to the museum collection.
  • Organize and document artifacts within a specified area of the collection, including creating photographic records and database entries for each artifact.
  • Identify artifacts that do not fall within the museum mandate and set them aside for review by the collection committee.
  • Assist with exhibit tours and visitors as needed.
  • Assist with exhibit installation according to the exhibit plan as set by the curator.

Qualifications include:

  • Secondary school graduation
  • Enrollment in post-secondary education related to culture, education, history, science and/or tourism and recreation (preferred).
  • Experience in museum-related work an asset.
  • Experience working with volunteers an asset.
  • Must possess strong computer skills in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Publisher.
  • Must be a self-starter and able to work independently as well as in a team setting.
  • Provision of police records search.
  • Must have own transportation.
  • Must be able to read cursive handwriting.

The Aylmer-Malahide Museum & Archives is an equal-opportunity employer. Qualified applicants are invited to submit a cover letter and detailed resumé by email no later than Friday, April 19, 2024, to officemanager@aylmermuseum.ca (attention: Kathi Vandermeer).

We thank all applicants who apply for this position, however, only those applicants selected for an interview will be contacted. Personal information collected will be used for the purpose of candidate selection only.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Click here for more information.