One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

snowdropsIt’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.

swans-neck-shoreAnd 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.




eye-contactAs 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!


Comments on: "Of Snowdrops and Swans" (12)

  1. There’s something about the way you describe things that just cracks me up… I’m relieved to know you weren’t attacked.

  2. He just wanted to say hi. Or you are a natural bird laxative and he knew it. One or the other I’d say ; )

  3. I’m used to tame flowers that let you look at them up close and personal, but the fearlessness of that swan is remarkable.

    Cool snowdrops. Out here people either don’t grow them or I’ve never noticed them. The little green details on that central flower structure look like they’d be nice to examine from down on the ground–probably safer than trying the same thing with the goose!

  4. Unknown paths can be surprisingly dangerous :-)
    Fortunately you were neither bitten nor beaten, lovely snowdrops.

  5. Fascinating pictures of that Mute Swan. He/She was definitely as interested in you as your were in it.

    Here in Providence we get ducks, geese and swans. For the most part they stay in the Moshasuck river, protected on two sides and below grade. Occasionally they’ll be on parade out in the Waterplace Park basin. I really need to get out and get some more pix of that.

    My goose story is interesting. My friend owns a software company based in Foster, RI. I did some documentation and voice over work for him so every day I’d drive onto his ‘farm’.

    There was a large flock of geese that had taken up residence since there was a man made pond nearby but for the most part the geese considered the driveway their domain.

    My first day I was timid, inching slowly forward. By the second day a little faster. By the third day I just barreled into the driveway. The geese understood, don’t mess with a huge Crown Vic.

  6. I did a lot of research on swans a few years back, because I was playing one (*The Swan*, by Elizabeth Egloff, gorgeous play). I would have been more afraid of the wings than the beak, because swans have been known to break grown men’s legs with them. That may be specific to trumpeters however, I don’t know if they’re substantially bigger than mutes. This sounds like it was a fun little encounter though. I think you would have known right away if the bird’s intentions were hostile; they hiss, look menacing and generally make their feelings very clear. I love it when nature gets up close and personal (without hurting me).

  7. How bad is it that I thought of Torn before you even typed his name? At least you didn’t post the pictures here. (But if you sent them to him…)

    It is so cool that you were able to get that close without personal injury! Gorgeous bird.

    Well, Birdie, there’s one view that sort of snuck through, but I was pretty sure you all didn’t really need to see those pictures. But yes, they are out of my hands. As always, caution in clicking links at Sticky Crows is recommended! ;)

  8. What a lovely encounter! I have heard that geese can be territorial and make good watch-fowl. I don’t know about swans. This one is quite pretty.

    I, too, like wandering down unfamiliar roads. It used to drive my son crazy, as he wants all of life to be predictable. I like finding out new things and new ways to get from here to there.

  9. So many beautiful scenes. I could spend hours perusing the lot. You’re so blessed.

  10. Oh no! The head dipping in the water and her coming over after means she is attracted to you and now you are her mate… for life! Oh well Greg free eggs. ;)
    I suspect people may have fed it in the past and maybe it was looking for treats.
    I like those snow drops much better thean the real stuff.

    Steven, I will admit I was thinking of their mating habits, as I scanned the horizon for signs of a mate…and pondered that perhaps we two were kindred spirits. More than likely, other humans have fed this swan and it thought I might have something. Either that, or it always poops there, and I was just in the way.

  11. Great swan story and photos. I’d be retreating also.
    Nice blog.

  12. I believe your bird is male. If I remember right females have a pale looking beak. Males have a brighter orange color like the one in your pictures.

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