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Swans with an Attitude Feb 6 09

It’s not every day that I get mooned by a swan, let alone by two swans at once. Then again, I suppose the swans in question weren’t used to having a guy standing on the streamside snapping pictures of them. Swans evidently don’t take kindly to paparazzi, and these ones chose to express their disapproval in the plainest possible terms. Swans are big, feisty birds, and not shy about letting you know what they’re thinking. In fact, if there’s one thing swans have got plenty of, it’s attitude.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself; let me backpaddle to the other day, Wednesday. It was one of those rare, flawlessly blue midwinter afternoons, with the February sun casting long shadows across the snowscape, and I was in far northeastern Kent County on a photo expedition. I love this part of the county up around Lincoln Lake. A patchwork of lakes, wetlands, woods, orchards, and farmland, it is far from the city and full of appeal for nature lovers and outdoorsmen. For those whose eyes are attuned to the landscape, every backroad here brims with latent epiphanies.

Where one such backroad crossed a stream that wound through a broad, snowy marsh, I pulled aside to take in the panorama. Mute swans were patrolling the waters like miniature gunboats—beautiful birds, as white as the snowbanks that gleamed, resplendent, in the slanting light.

The swans drew my attention from the start, and they quickly became the main show. For maybe ten minutes, I kept my camera trained on a pair cruising the brook on the east side of the road. Eventually they drifted through the conduit and passed to the west side. Aware of me but not alarmed, they continued to paddle placidly back and forth where the current maintained an open channel between brittle crusts of ice.

After a while, a trio farther upstream caught my interest. These guys were busy foraging for submerged vegetation at the bottom of the creek. One by one, they would stick their heads into the water, turn bottoms-up, and rummage around underwater for whatever kind of a meal they were finding at this time of year, aided by those long necks.

As I drew closer, two of the swans went topsy-turvy at the same time, side by side. It was a spectacle as far from swanlike grace as you can get—some might have even called it inelegant—but as a photo op, it was too good to pass up. I grabbed a shot just in time. In another second or two, one of the swans righted itself, and the other followed suite shortly.

No, the swans weren’t intentionally mooning me. They frankly couldn’t have cared less that I was there; they were just going about the business of being swans, enjoying dinner in their inimitable, swanly fashion. But I like my other version of the story better. It has a certain mystique.

After all, not everyone can say he’s experienced a dual-swan mooning. I guess I was just twice blessed.




Written by Dave.