A magic encounter happened about three years ago... I was driving on a very familiar road to and from work everyday. There was nothing much exciting on either side of road except one subdivision after another; lavish estate homes with yardmen working on their front lawn 24 hours a day and the worse part of my everyday commute was there were 8 traffic lights in less than one mile road. While stopping at the last traffic light and imagined soon I would hop onto a four-line freeway, my heart started racing. Suddenly, I heard a flock of Canada Geese flew over my head with their wings stretching open and watched them lowered their landing gear- their webbed feet. “There must be a lake inside!” a quick thought jumped out of my brain. As traffic started moving, in stead of turning right onto my speedway, I went through the light and made a painful U-turn only to come back to see those geese. Canada Geese are very popular here. You can always see them near water or on a golf course. To me, every wild bird is my opportunity as long as I have my camera with me. The funny truth is I walk with my camera :)
This is a well-known neighborhood with ten feet tall stone walls along sides of front entrance. No one really pays much attention to it if they don’t live there. As passing through a mini golf course like hill, I made a right turn into the neighborhood, first thing came into my view was a large man-made lake with a beautiful fountain in the middle. Canada Geese already scattered all over the lake …One thing caught my attention even more was seeing two large white spots at the very far end of lake. I was thinking they might be just two domestic white ducks since swan of any kind was considered to be rare and Mute Swan was not allowed (or encouraged, I should say) to be reported on eBird because they were considered a pest in most of states! Omg, can anyone even believe this! As I parked my car, went to trunk got my camera and binocular, walked alone the gravel path and came down to the lake. By the time I reached the bank, it was too dark for me to ID these two white birds. So I decided to make another trip next day.
Weekends quickly approached and they were the wondrous days to fellowship with my birder friends. I swung by lake after morning field trip to see if I could see anything unusual or surprising. Bingo! Without my binocular, even before pulling in parking lot, I was sure they were two Mute Swans!! Overjoyed, I snapped a lot of shots, good and bad and just wanted to make sure I had their solid images imprinted inside my camera. For the next three years, visiting swan lake became my weekly routine or whenever I had a chance. Strangely though, this pair had not reproduced.
(Male swan chases Canada Geese away from his territory)
Mute Swan is originated from Europe and Asia. They were introduced to North America to grace pond and lake of some estate homes. Some escaped from captivity become aggressive towards other native waterfowl. But others have different opinion that Mute Swan’s long neck brings back a lot of aquatic vegetation while stirring bottom of the lake that other waterfowl might find difficulty to reach. I prefer the latter because I witnessed some Mallards and White-front Geese were perfectly compatible with this pair around them.
Another interesting fact makes Mute Swan a symbol of “True Love” is that Mute Swan is reported to be monogamous and they mate for life. A swan will only remate if his or her mate dies. A male swan normally mates with older female will go to her territory; and if a younger female mates with an older male, she then will go to his territory. Though, they are not sexually dimorphic, males (12 to 15 Kg) are about 25% larger than females (9 to 12 Kg). I often see them eat together, splash water to each together, swim together and when they are in a romantic mood, they will entangle their long necks for a brief second! They are not very vocal that’s why they are called “Mute Swans”! But when they fly, their wings beats make a unique vibrant sound which transpires through sky and can be heard from almost a mile away. If there are foreign visitors stop by the lake, male raises his both wings speedily swims to chase them away from his beloved mate. He is very territorial and always in alert and I am sure he is very protective too! Often time, these two swans swim close by each other brings nothing but peace and tranquility to this lake. Few residents told me, before this area was developed, sometimes 20 years ago, two lovers came to this lake, consummated their love under a starry night. Their marriage was disapproved by their families. Later, the young lovers were reported missing. No one can prove the factuality of their story but two swans have been spotted since then...
(Aggressive pose displayed by a male swan )
To Mute Swans, they have no songs for their loved ones, but they display their love and affection by “doing things” for each other! He protects her and provides her with a safe breeding ground and in return, she dances for him and makes a fine nest to carry the most beautiful cygnets! Who says you need music to dance ..., you don’t! And, if you only want to dance!
Happy Birding & Happy Reading!- Linda :)