Blame it on the swans…

swannestbest swanpairpond    well, yes…. I had been visiting the Reservation regularly for a couple of years…. but one Easter Sunday just happened to spot a swan on Yates Pond…. swans have made me swoon for a long time… their elegance and grace have captured many hearts… and here… only a block from my house, a large swan swam gracefully around the pond, feeding and preening…. where there is one swan, most often there is another, my companion reminded me…. so we searched and quickly spotted the mate.. in the tall grasses… literally pulling brown grasses out of the ground and making a huge pile….  we had come upon a nesting pair…. we spent several hours watching them (along with several Canadian geese and some red-winged black birds)…. feeding and nesting……

That  spring I was scheduled for major surgery…. an anxious patient … nature presented me with an alternative focus…. the coming of  not only a swan pair, but the hope of cygnets….. I was elated…  most afternoons I sat with these very large birds(at 25-30 pounds among the heaviest of water birds)… as they sat on the nest together, took turns feeding…. and fighting off the geese who took great delight in trying to jump into the water….these parents did not let that happen…… all my anxieties vanished there…..swanvsgoose

Now is perhaps a good time to tell you that there are people …many fine people…. who do not want these swans here….  In fact…. swans are an invasive species….. swans are generally from Europe and Asia and were brought here by the wealthy…. for decorative purposes….  nature being nature, they pushed past the confines of expensive estates and we have swans….

The problem with invasive species … which can be enormous… is that they unbalance nature’s balance…. a plant, for example, can overtake the native plants with its fast-spreading ways … leaving wildlife species without important food… a simplistic example…. but you get the idea…. invasive species are a serious problem and environmentalists often recommend extreme measures to control them….. or even eradicate them… to protect native species….

The FAR member that told me this who I respect deeply sees swans quite differently… as aggressive, hostile water birds who are aggressive for no reason….. I have not seen that, although swans are strong in the defense of their breeding territory…. so I would rather leave the decision on this to those who study this problem more deeply …it is important to know….

That breeding season I spent many hours there as the mute swans sat on the nest ( actually nests as they changed spots… perhaps a predator got to eggs?)….. fed…. and we all waited…   After my surgery I thought about the swans and wondered if the babes were being fed now….and how long before they would swim the pond with their parents…  it was a great healing time for me and barely 3 weeks later I was able to get back …. only to find the pair…  off on the far side… swimming together closely with no offspring….very disappointing to me… and my heart was sad for these valiant attempts to make a family…. within a couple of days they were gone…. geeseonswannest 

I don’t know if I ever saw those swans again… unable to tell them apart…. but I did see swans again… 2 breeding seasons later… with almost exactly the same experience at Yates Pond…. they left, too…. and I was despairing of seeing any more swans ….

As I got to know the Reservation better … and with the opening of new areas (we’ll visit that later)…..my reward came…
One afternoon at the bridge over the Little River a beautiful swan family swam through….. two stately parents with two handsome cygnets in tow….  always elegant, always royal, sitting tall ( it’s no wonder the Queen ‘owns’ all the swans in Britain)…. they glided up the river close together…. one cygnet was brown and I read later that this is a normal occurence … that its adult feathers would be white…. stopping to feed and preen…  before peacefully swimming up toward Little Pond where 2 or 3 swan families were flourishing…..swanfamily

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