Monday, January 18, 2010

Walking on Water

No, not me, although Mr. Tide thinks I do, which is exactly why I married him nearly 24 years ago!

I'm talking about swans.  We are blessed with an abundance of wildlife here and each year in December we have an "eyrar" of Tundra Swans (I swear I didn't make that word up, it came from the Oxford Dictionary!) who migrate here for the winter.  Unlike the surly Mute Swans, these swans are quite timid and besides making a cacophony of sounds when they get into some sort of territorial disputes which we have yet to figure out, they are lovely to watch.  They glide elegantly along the creek bending down and popping their cute little behinds up in the air as they "dabble" to eat the bottom grasses and small fish...I assume that's what they feed on anyway.  When they take off towards the river, they are a graceful mass of white, winging their way across the evening sky.

We have come to expect their arrival each year and lament their departure, made a little less sad because we know it signals that Spring won't be far behind them.  We haven't seen them quite as much this year, with the extremely cold temperatures we've had the last few weeks, the creek has frozen over and so they've stay mostly on the river side where the water never freezes.  The last few days have been much warmer so the creek is starting to thaw a bit and the head of the creek is pretty much completely open now.

So imagine our surprise yesterday when we saw a family of swans "walking" up the creek towards the marsh!  It was a mother swan, a father swan, and two fairly small cygnets.  I have no idea why on earth they chose to walk instead of flying, but here they were trudging along like a family heading out on a long cross country trip.  The creek is fairly wide and long, so it must have been quite an adventure and you could almost hear the dialog that accompanied their trek, if you could understand "swan," that is!

The father appeared to be in the lead, with the mother and the two babies bringing up the rear.  The mother would stop from time to time looking remarkably as though she was shouting  "I told you to ask for you ever listen to me...NO!"  The cygnets were dutifully following along, apparently trying to avoid the fray and then suddenly the mother stopped as if to say she had had enough and wasn't taking another webbed step.  One cygnet continued on following dad, while the other seemed to be consoling mom until she simmered down a bit and carried on.  It was raining, so taking a picture wasn't an option, but just a few minutes later even more swans were toddling along and we were able to get a few shots.

Here is one of the adult Tundra Swans and an older cygnet, you can still see the brown/black on his/her head.

The cygnet seemed eager to keep up with the mother swan as they made their way to the marsh grasses at the headwaters of the creek.

It was quite a sight and something I doubt we'll see again for a very long time, plus I got to learn 3 new things!

1.  Signet is a ring, Cygnet is a baby swan.
2.  A group of swans can be called An Eyrar.
3.  Swans don't "dive" to eat they "dabble."


  1. When I worked at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, I learned all about diving v. dabbling ducks. Pretty funny!

  2. Meg, I had never heard the term "dabbling" ducks, until I looked up what a group of swans were called. You learn something new everyday!

    Kat :)

  3. These birds (and your photos) are so beautiful - thank you for sharing these wonderful images with us. How I wish we had swans like that on our farm! Leigh

  4. Thank you Leigh! Your farm is quite spectacular with or without swans!

    Kat :)

  5. I just love reading your posts! Love the descriptions and behavior of the "family headed out for a cross country trip" and the photos you were able to capture later. Gorgeous! Oh, and I'll post the link to recipe for haystacks on my post! --Lili

  6. Thanks Lili, I can't wait to try your recipe!

    Kat :)


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