It’s been a spring-filled weekend here on the Cape. On Friday, we saw temps in the fifties and that night, when the temperature dropped, it didn’t drop nearly as much as we’re accustomed to lately. On Saturday we woke to find 45 degrees and that’s been the steady temperature, with little more than a degree or two’s fluctuation throughout the remainder of the weekend.
And today, there was bright golden sunshine to tease us into thinking it had really come to stay. Always one to live in the moment, I struck out for the far side of town, where I knew of some snowdrops that would be in bloom. In the same neighborhood, I also knew there was a walking trail I’d recently heard about and I thought I’d explore.
The snowdrops were right where I thought they’d be, and like most bulbs, their numbers even increased since last year. I haven’t planted any of these in my own gardens. And have only known just a single snowdrop flower in any of those locations, so they are new enough to fascinate me a little. I love the green trim on the center flower petals.
Then I headed off down a road I’d never explored – something I enjoy in real life, as well as metaphorically – in search of the walking trail. On the way, the road took me skirting along the shores of a small pond, where I spied an array of ducks and a single white swan on the point where a brook fed into the pond. A small parking area located right there only encouraged me and I stopped to get a closer look and maybe a photo or two.
Like most ducks I have known, these guys were quick to quack “there goes the neighborhood” and take to the water to escape me.
The swan, however, seemed unphased by my presence and continued to dip its head into the water, presumably feeding on some patch of underwater vegetation.
I was able to get some pretty nice shots, considering the distance…and I’d have been quite content with one or two of those before moving on.
And then the Swan – I’ve no way of knowing if it was a cob (male) or a pen (female) – took to the water and started to swim up the brook, allowing the opportunity for a few closer photos and some nice reflection shots and a chance to admire this beautiful bird a little more closely. It was sort of fascinating, too, to watch as it dipped to drink as it swam, then lifted its head, tilting that long neck back to swallow.
As you can see, all of these just delightful images and a wonderful chance to have a look at the life of such a beautiful creature. I was completely satisfied and ready to go on with the rest of my afternoon.
But then…and this all happened sort of quickly…it seemed I was spotted and identified as a person of interest and he or she came over to give me a proper once over. It’s possible there’s a nest somewhere in the area and I was to be kept away.
I admit I was both excited and perhaps a little nervous. In some dusty stored photo album, there are pics of a very young me being menaced by geese at a petting zoo. I have no desire to have my last photo in a set be the one where the Waterfowl is about to beat me senseless…and the one thing I was already appreciating was the size of this creature. I’m not a fan of being pecked, is all. And that’s a big beak.
But I screwed my courage up and – while I retreated as far as the car – I didn’t get inside. I thought about it though.
I would’ve liked to have remained in a crouched position, for the lower angle of picture I was able to get, but the advance was coming rather quickly and I didn’t feature falling on my back as the great lovely creature fell upon me. We had a bit of a staring contest.
The car was examined, and the front fender pecked a single time, maybe just it’s reflection…or perhaps a subtle warning. They are “dentless panels” – it might’ve made an amusing Saturn commercial.
I leaned against the car, snapping photos as I watched this amazing bird. It turned around, it’s face toward the sun like my own, and began preening.
I’m astounded with the flexibility of that graceful neck. I watched as it laid is neck back across the center of its body, tilting its head to run through it’s neck feathers, shedding them of excess water, running its bill through them, paying particular attention to places here and there.
Amazing to watch the way it’s neck twists and rolls and snakes about, so practical for this purpose of primping and cleaning. Of course, it wasn’t lost on me how helpful that sort of thing would be if you were defending territory or just deciding to attack some silly human who let it get to close. As each minute passed, though, it seemed like less of a concern, though. We seemed to be quite comfortable with one another.
So, this evening I’ve done a little research. This is a Mute Swan. Contrary to the name, they are not mute and do vocalize from time to time. This one made a sound once, barely a hint of a honk or anything. The species is identified by the orange beak and the black knob at the top of the beak. That knob, actually, swells on the male of the species when the breeding season is on
The species is native to Europe and was long believed to have been introduced to North America. However, recent re-examination of painting done during early explorations has suggested that they depict this variety as having already arrived here by the time of man’s arrival. This may be a symptom of their aggressive nature which disrupts the nesting of a variety of native waterfowl.
They are known for their long-term monogamous relationships and are often seen as a symbol of love or fidelity.
It was a treat to have a little natural company as I enjoyed the warmth of the golden sun on my face.
When the preening seemed at an end, my new friend tucked its head into its wings and seemed to get a little standing snooze, despite the nearby arrival of a number of Canada geese and a few more exuberant monochromatic duck types who might’ve been buffleheads.
It was about this time I realized that my new friend was also taking care of some business of the Number Two variety as it preened…and rested. In fact, the bird seemed to poop for about half an hour. As I am discreet, I’ll avert your gaze to where mine went, a lovely tree growing across the stream from where we stood. I don’t know the variety, but take note of the flush of buds on its branch-tips. (Don’t you worry, Tornwordo, my friend: the supplemental photos are in your email…)
When all the preening and pooping was done, the Swan settled itself down, tucking its ungainly feet underneath it, resting right on the hardpack of the parking area. Once again, it slid it’s head under its wings and seemed to go to sleep. After a while, I slipped quietly away, leaving my friend to bask in the sun.
There’s lots more to tell you about of the weekend. But my time with The Swan was easily the highlight of my Sunday. There’ll be plenty of time to tell you the rest tomorrow!