Anne Notations

Monday, December 29, 2008

Swanning around

Because they are an artificially introduced "alien" species – originally from Eurasia and brought over in the mid-1800s to adorn parks and estates – and can crowd out less assertive waterfowl, swans are not universally beloved of American naturalists.

They are beautiful birds to behold, however. On our little peninsula, there seems to be a durable truce between swans and the other fowl, principally mallard ducks and Brant and Canada geese, that frequent our section of the Atlantic Flyway, particularly in the winter. I can't get enough of looking at them.

This morning at around 8:30, before the day became overcast, Michael and I took Daisy on a walk up Seaview Avenue past a small brackish pond on the east side of the road and Brushneck Cove on the west. As we stood on the hyperbolically-named Danger Bridge – a tiny section of road with railings on each side where a tidal brook connects the cove to the pond – our year-round resident swan couple swam toward us with two of the seven cygnets they raised this year, now nearly grown.

Daisy stared and trembled on her leash as the birds neared, and the father swan responded with a series of warning hisses – one of the few sounds made by this species formally known as the Mute Swan. They also emit, according to Cornell's guide to birds, a "snorting 'heorrr'." I like the urgent whooshing melody of a swan in flight, produced by air rushing past or through its powerful wings. The Anglo-Saxons were said to believe that a swan's wings sang with a human voice when it flew. Goose-bumpy, no pun intended.

In addition to the pond swans and their undaunted mallard companions, we noticed what appeared to be an entire convention of swans in Brushneck Cove just to our west. Michael counted 20 of them. That's a lot of swans in one place. I read on Wikipedia that such congregations may be the swan equivalent of debutante balls, where the year's young adult fowl gather to pair off with their lifelong mates.

I like to think that "our" swans will continue to coexist peacefully and share the wealth (algae, in this case) with other local species. I'd hate to miss their stately progress across the local waters, the noble curve of their lovely necks, the bobbling gray babies paddling in their wakes each spring. Today we returned home smiling and grateful for swans, alien species or no.

Click on any photo to see it larger.


  • They are beautiful, and the way you tell it I can almost hear them.

    ...I hope Danger Bridge was named after a person and not the state of the bridge itself. ;)

    By Blogger BrideOfPorkins, at Tue Dec 30, 06:54:00 PM EST  

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