Everything has it's beauty, but not everyone sees it. - Confucius
Sometimes the picture doesn't have to be perfect; it's the captured moment that counts. - me
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Saturday, 23 May 2009

The Black Swan Update

Working this afternoon, but Jim, as ever, decided 3:30a.m. is a great time to get up; so I got up. Even before the proverbial lark. Even before it was getting light!

Well, I did all the things people do when they get up in the mornings, and then took the insomniac Jim for his walk.
Since I didn’t have to be at work till midday today, I decided to go and check on the Black Swan. If you’ve read any previous posts, you’ll already know that a Black Swan is nesting with a Mute Swan, and I’ve been following any progress.

By the time I arrived at the lake, the sun had already lit up the morning sky with a spectacular red glow, and the birds were giving their thanks for a new day. I trudged through the wet grass, passing singing Reed and Sedge Warblers. The Cetti’s was doing his usual mocking cry, whilst hidden in the bushes, and the sweet song of Blackcaps filled the morning air.

I hurried onwards to the spot where the swans had been nesting, and there, out in the distance on the lake, I saw them.

A Mute Swan, the Black Swan, and to the right of him, an upended Mute Swan, with six cygnets swimming round.

The Black Swan swam over towards the cygnets, and some came over to greet him.

It was a shame they were so far away on the lake, and I couldn’t get a closer picture, but at least things appeared to be well. Six healthy looking cygnets, that were not dissimilar to the usual looking cygnets. Great news.
I carried on towards the bar/restaurant to check on the House Martins, and found some tucked up in their nests, peering out. More good news.

Swifts were skimming across the lake, as the sun was steadily rising in a blue sky. I wanted to stay, but was mindful of what the rest of the day had in store, so I reluctantly made my way back.
As I neared the water ski area, I noticed the swans had docked on dry land; the female preening, the cygnets settling down for a rest, and the Black Swan standing guard.
Close to where I stood, a male Mute Swan was organising his feathers, standing in the shallow water. I watched for a while, and the Black Swan made his way, slowly over to join us.

He watched intently at the grooming process,

and back on dry land, the cygnets were getting sleepy, while mum continued organising her feathers.
Then something began to unfold before me; one of those moments where you think to yourself, ooops, trouble.
A Canada Goose was slowly making his way past the cygnets, minding his own business. The Black Swan must have noticed about the same time as me, and had similar thoughts. He quickly left, powering his way towards the hapless intruder.
In an instant he was rapidly approaching the unfortunate Goose, who now realised his predicament, and was going into top speed to get out of the way. Not fast enough, because at supersonic speed the Black Swan was bearing down on him.

The cygnets woke up with the commotion, and ran for cover, as the Black Swan seemed to lift out of the water, as the Goose frantically flapped to get airborne.

In a flash he was on him, spray rising upwards, as the Goose disappeared from view, in a sea of bubbles.

As the mayhem subsided, there was only one bird on the surface.

The Canada Goose reappeared some distance away, and wisely made a quick exit. The attack had surprised me in its speed and ferocity, but probably not as much as the poor hapless Goose.
And after victory, comes celebration. The Black Swan rose up from the receding bubbles, and announced to the whole of Milton Keynes, who was the boss.

After a brief celebration, he swam back towards the male Mute Swan, who hadn’t moved throughout all this.
He stared,

he turned,

and then they both swam round each other, like a courting couple.

Or was that a look of aggression?
Either way, the Black Swan eventually swam back to join the cygnets, and the female.
Now I’m totally confused.
What is going on with these three?


  1. That's the most amazing account of the Black Swan's aggressive behaviour with a Canada Goose - I was on the edge of my seat reading it! Not seen that type of aggression before!

    Jim seems to know that the best time for watching wildlife is at the crack of dawn - albeit he was a tad earlier than that!

    Wonderful pictures as usual Keith - especially those action shots!

    and if only the swans could talk - and explain!

  2. You had me holding my breath reading that Keith.
    A beautiful series of photos. Interesting to see how much white the black swan has in its wing feathers. The contrast makes quite a display.

  3. Weren't you rewarded for your early rise. What a fantastic series of shots that really captures the drama unfolding.

    It's a storm in a teacup to us but I'm sure to the family of swans it was potentially a life-or-death threat that needed dealing with.

    And besides, us blokes like to impress the ladies :)


  4. You're confused...I'm not surprised, so am I!
    Great series of pics of the aggressive act though. Well done.

  5. Thanks Tricia. It can be annoying being woken early every day like that, but then I guess I'd miss a lot otherwise.
    The aggression by that swan was unbeleivable, and so fast.

    John, thank you. The Black Swan is certainly a handsome chap. Glad you enjoyed the account of events.

    Mark, thank you. Certainly was a dramatic moment, and I'm pleased I was able to capture it.

    Frank, thank you. I think the Swan is a bit confused too ;)

  6. That was brilliant Keith, real edge of the seat stuff and your photos are just as stunning as ever.

    Now, forgive me if you have told us this and I have forgotten, but, the Black Swan which is now 'married', is it the original one which you have seen there for some years or is it the other one? I would love to think it is the original who has found a mate after all these years!

  7. Oh man, the drama in my friend's life is difficult to keep up on, now I have a swan saga to stay afloat on... :)

    LOVED this set of photos. They were just stunning - the kind you can look at every day, and walk away feeling inspired.

  8. ...holy moly...what a spectacular find. I have never seen anything like that, but your writing was so descriptive it was as if I were there. Drama to say the least.

    I've never seen a Black Swan. His ruffly feathers are strange to me and from behind, they seem just a touch...scary! I don't know why, but they do. He is a beautiful bird.

  9. Wow what a moment to bear witness to! Wonderful action shots! Its a puzzle, who is the Cygnet Daddy? I had to kick my dogs out this morning it's drizzling and they just didnt want to go out..now they are cozy on the porch waiting for breakfast.

  10. ShySongbird, thank you. I believe the one on the nest is the one I’ve always seen, probably because of the wear on the beak. Mind you, after witnessing all that strange behaviour, I’m not sure of anything anymore lol

    Jen, thank you for your kind words. Appreciate them.

    Kelly, thank you. It had me enthralled, and I could of stayed all day, if I could. The black feathers have a curl to them; always reminds me of a curl of butter, when you scrape a knife over it. They really are beauties.

    Dixxie, quite a puzzle indeed, and I wonder if I’ll ever find out for sure.
    Your dogs sound like my cat; one look at the weather, and if it’s rain, she won’t budge. lol

  11. I was holding my breath while reading and looking at the photos going after that goose! Wow! You captured beautiful photos - especially those action ones! Looks like the Swan father is the hero of the day!

  12. Thanks Shelley for your comment.
    He certainly was a hero, and very quick too.

  13. You continue to capture the wonderful story of these Swans so well Keith.
    I always look forward to seeing what you do next.

  14. Nick, thank you for that great compliment.

  15. What a great photo story. Love the action shots. Great capture. A~

  16. Thank you Andrea, glad you enjoyed them.
    Was great to witness it all unfold.