Five small fluff balls sitting on the nest, Mother and father just want some rest! Saturday I returned to the swan family to see how they were getting on. On my arrival, mum was cleaning herself (which I might add, she was doing for two hours!) and dad was out on patrol. Under mums wing I counted five little fluff balls all mirroring their mum’s actions and doing a very good job of it. When mum stood up, I saw that there was one unhatched egg. This could be a very late hatcher, but more than likely this little babe didn't make it. Unfortunately, this is completely natural and despite the efforts from mum and dad to protect their young, they will be lucky to have just one surviving cygnet. This can happen from a number of reasons such as predators (Birds of prey, foxes etc). Natural causes such as the cold, starvation and even weakness, when its siblings are stronger than itself and are the first to feed, they can push others out of the way and so on.) Rather than dwelling on this unfortunately certain topic, the day I spent with the family was far from morbid!
I sat with the family for two hours until my sister Rebecca (or Bex, or Becki or Becki boodle, whatever you like really…) met me down there with her two dogs, Millie a very beautiful and bouncy golden Labrador and Reggie, the springiest springer spaniel I guarantee you will ever meet. Just before they met me, mum swan seemed to be trying to heard her cygnets into the water, which will have been their very first dip. I kept watching and one cygnet actually wandered too close to the edge of the nest, tumbled down the side and stopped just before it reached the water. Panicking it ran as fast as it could back up the side of the nest and once reaching the summit of what must have been a mount Everest equivalent for this little one, it retired into an exhausted pile and snuggled into its brothers and sisters. Just after the ordeal, I went on a walk with Bex and the dogs to the other end of the canal. When we returned about half an hour later, to my delight and also disappointment at missing the big moment, the entire swan family were in the water. Of course they were complete naturals. In fact, they took to it like a duck to water. Or swan to water. The siblings were playing, chasing one another and catching a few of the thousands of flies that were dancing on the water’s surface. Mum and dad couldn't have looked prouder, and although you might think a swan couldn't show any other emotion that anger, hatred or annoyance, it was clear that when the two enclosed their young in-between their bodies they had a slight glimmer in their eyes. Metaphorically…
I managed to capture a few shots of the young in the water, but nowhere near enough than I wanted (due to the fact I was late for horse riding). Despite this I know now that the best images from me will be of the cygnets in the water because of them being closer to me. The nest is just slightly too far to achieve images I am truly happy with.
I plan to return to the family on Monday morning for sunrise. I would like to capture the swans interacting in the soft warm glow of daybreak, and I may even be lucky enough to get a nice layer of mist.
Watch this space for more! Thank you for reading and all comments are hugely encouraged!
I’m sure that many of you may have had a run in with a swan or two in your life. It’s more than likely that the encounter was annoying to an extent you wanted to strangle the swan. A prime example is when my family and I would go on regular bike rides along the Leeds Liverpool canal (From Rodley to Apply Bridge). There was one straight section that were guarded by what I can only describe as a psycho swan couple. We braced ourselves, and one by one peddled as fast as we could past them. Wings ruffled and paddling as fast as they could they were often right at our heels hissing as they snapped. Unfortunately for my dad, it would always be him that would get the brunt of it (more than likely because he brought up the rear of the bike ride). Anyway, he took a wing to the back of the head that day, and ever since has been a bit wary of the birds.
Despite this, as most things do when they are new-borns, baby swans (cygnets) are extremely cute, fluffy and wobbly. I would like to share with you readers, a family unit so complete and loving that swans may very well be your new favourite bird!
I am lucky enough to live a five-minute walk from the Leeds Liverpool canal, and as you know, I’m based in Rodley which covers a very small stretch of the entire canal. Along this stretch, backing onto some houses is a swan family. They have decided to build their nest on the safety of the far side of the canal, and if anyone was to go close to the nest, it would only be the inhabitants of the house it backs onto. No public are able to reach it unless they have a boat or have a huge desire to swim in the probably toxic water. I have been walking past the nest everyday accompanied by Cassie who seems to wonder what I am doing when I stare out across the water. The mother is always sat on the nest while the father is patrolling the stretch and regularly going to touch heads with his partner. The two have a very close bond, which is enough for anyone and any parent to notice. It was easy to see these swans were going to make a very good mum and dad. I was never able to see how many eggs were in the nest and so I am unsure if all have made it to seeing the outside world.
On my usual afternoon walk with Cassie on the 26th May 2016, I stopped to see the couple both looking in the nest. To my delight and excitement, I saw 6 fluffy grey heads moving around. They had hatched. Naturally I ran home with Cassie, grabbed my camera equipment and headed straight back. Unfortunately, mum was fast asleep on the cygnets and although I was there for well over an hour it must have been nap time as only once showed and very briefly. Dad however was patrolling and looking for danger as the probably exhausted mother and babies had their rest.
I managed to get a few snaps of the swans despite not seeing much of the young.
I will be regularly updating this blog with the swan’s progression. It won’t be long until they are swimming around with mum and dad, and I plan to photograph their developments over the next few weeks.
Please stay tuned! My future blogs will contain more images of the cygnets as well as behaviours from mum and dad.
Thank you for any comments, all are welcome!
Note: I am very respectful of the swans personal space. I do not invade and if dad swims towards me I will back off. I have not experienced any signs of aggression so far and both swans seem to be very relaxed.