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Mattamuskeet gearing up for annual Swan Days Festival

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The annual Swan Days Festival on Lake Mattamuskeet in Hyde County on Dec. 9 celebrates more the annual migration of more than 250,000 birds to the lake, including Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, Canada Geese, and more than 20 species of ducks.


By Bobby Burns
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Tuesday is the time to make reservations for a seat on the bird tour trams that are among several highlights of the annual Swan Days Festival coming up at the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in nearby Hyde County on Saturday, Dec. 8.

The tours take visitors into restricted areas around North Carolina’s largest lake where they can view thousands of migratory birds that cannot be seen from public roadways, according to Lewis Forrest, director of the Mattamuskeet Foundation and a member of the Swan Days planning committee. The reservation period opens at 8 a.m. and seats fill quickly. 

“All seats are usually reserved before the end of that first day, so it is important for anyone interested in the tram tours to save that date and patiently keep calling until they get through,” Forrest said.

The numbers to call are 252-926-1638 and 252-926-1639. These are landline numbers so text messages will not go through. TVolunteers will not accept early reservations, so please do not call before Tuesday, and please do not call the Mattamuskeet Refuge number used in past years.

At the peak of the migrations, more than 250,000 birds, including Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, Canada Geese, and more than 20 species of ducks, will be wintering on Lake Mattamuskeet. Hyde County organizations sponsor the annual Swan Days Festival to celebrate the return of the swans and the annual migration.


Many of the festival activities this year will take place for the first time this at Mattamuskeet School to shelter visitors from weather. The school is located at 96 Mattamuskeet Road, across from the lake and the historic Mattamuskeet Lodge and pump station.

Among many offerings at the school, Matthew Molt of Pantego is returning to lead a nature photography workshop and Chase Luker of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will lead a decoy carving workshop.

All of the educational activities will be free to the public and appropriate for all ages, Forrest said. Wildlife and conservation exhibits also will be set up on the refuge. Guided tours of the refuge will be available in addition to the tram tours.

The educational programs and vendor exhibits will open at 10 a.m.

A grant from the Tri-County Telephone Foundation supports the educational programs. The foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization devoted to the improvement of economic and social conditions of the communities in Beaufort, Hyde, and Washington Counties that the Tri-County Telephone Membership Corporation of Belhaven serves.


A.B. Swindell, who represented Nash and Wilson counties in the state senator from 2000–10, will coordinate a panel discussion called “Lunch with the Guides.” Several Hyde County men who guided Canada Goose hunters on Lake Mattamuskeet in the old days will share their experiences.

In the 1950s and 1960s, sportswriters described Lake Mattamuskeet as the “Canada Goose Hunting Capital of the World.” Changes in migratory patterns and a declining flock of Canada Geese on Lake Mattamuskeet prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to outlaw shooting geese on the lake in 1972. The men on this Swan Days Festival program guided before that ban went into effect.

Swindell’s family had a home on the lake when he was young, and his father, state Rep. Russell A. Swindell, hosted Gov. Kerr Scott on a hunting trip there when A.B. was a child. Swindell later guided hunters on the lake himself in 1967-69.

The guides’ program will take place in the cafeteria of Mattamuskeet School at noon.

For more information about the festival visit the Swan Days facebook page the website at www.swandays.com.