Cygnet Special

Every year a pair of swans nest on our local pond and lay a clutch of eggs. This year our resident pair laid four of them. As soon as they’re laid I begin my almost daily ritual of watching over them. I must admit I was a bit worried this year. I’m not sure how experienced this pair are.

Their large, shallow circular nest was perfectly made, but I thought it was a little too close to the bank and any potential predators. Once the eggs were laid, normally one of the swans will always sit on the nest, but in the early days they seemed to leave the eggs uncovered whilst they both went off to feed.

However I’m probably either just very inexperienced about swans or an over-anxious surrogate parent: they seem to have got it right.

I’m not exactly sure when the eggs hatched. They were still eggs on Saturday afternoon, but by Monday afternoon they were cygnets. My first sight of them on Monday was only a fleeting one: they were lying on the nest covered by their mother’s wings. All I could see were brief glimpses of grey feathers and the odd beak. I hung around for a while, but no one seemed to be going anywhere, so I left them to it.

Peek a Boo

Here they are sheltering under a wing. They’s definitely not leaving the warm to be photographed by me.

I went back on Tuesday and all four cygnets were on the bank with their parents. I got as close as I could to take some pictures, but their father was doing an excellent job of guarding them. He was chasing everything off,: dog walkers, ducklings and photographers!

I’m not about to start getting on the wrong side of an irate fully-grown swan, so I played a  patient game. I’ve noticed that if I stand very still and edge forward a few inches at a time, the swans tend to relax a little, and I can get close enough to take some decent pictures. I suppose a smart photographer would invest in a high quality ultra-long lens, but patience and a bit of stealth is about two grand cheaper than hi-tech optics.

Just resting

The cygnets seem a bit braver now and are happily settled on the grass.

The swans sat around for a while, but eventually they took to the water, which is what I really wanted to see. The whole family did a stately circuit of the pond

Swim Time

Here’s the whole family deciding whether they want to swim or not.

Swimming lesson

Keep up at the back there and don’t go too far.

Convoy

Both adult swans carefully guarding their young

After their swim their mother took then back to the nest. What fascinated me was that the adult swan then started to groom herself and a few seconds later the cygnets followed suit. It’s amazing how quickly they learn.

Back Home

Settling down on the nest and ready for a quick brush up.

In a few days, once the cygnets have grown a little and become stronger swimmers, the whole family will move from the pond onto the river. I suppose food supplies are better there, and the cygnets will do most of their growing up away from the prying eyes of humans. In a month or two a pair of adult swans will return to the pond, and next spring the whole cycle will start again.

I hope the cygnets survive to maturity. It’s a harsh environment for them for the first few weeks, but they are well guarded by their parents. I always feel very lucky to have the swans living so close to me, and very privileged that I’m able to get close enough to photograph them. I’ll be back next year, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy the pictures.

One Reply to “Cygnet Special”

  1. I was about to drop a line here to tell you what a smashing photo essay this is, but then someone reminded me lunchtime was over and I apparently I had more important things to do… Anyroad. Nice one Dave. Pics are ace. Lovely ugly ducklings.

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