Swan. Mute swan, to be explicit. They aren’t exactly mute, but have a range of hisses and other sounds. When I lived in Norfolk, I was lucky enough to be closely associated with two pairs of swans – and all their many interactions with the swan hierarchy of the area. I called them the Upper swans, who lived above the weir, and the Lower swans… you get the picture.
The Upper swans would bring their family down the dyke opposite my house, and I even had a visit from them to my front door one time, much to the delight of my human visitors.
So this is my take on the #writephoto prompt from KL Caley at New2Writing.com this week. And here is the photo:
I told the missus that this bank was too close to that human path, but no, that’s the one she wanted. It was safely away from the main river, where too many predators prowled day and night. Not to mention our main rivals for the river around here, Big White and his missus. They had their nest a full four hundred yards downriver. But they would soon come lording it up the midstream, under the bridges, wings in full show-off mode, and expect everyone to kowtow.
This had been going on since we were kids, really. Every year he made out he was bigger and stronger than me. Well, he was nearly a month older, so he got the idea early on. And he also subscribed to the ‘winner takes all’ theory of life. Namely, your missus is my missus, and I have a harem. Look how important I am.
Just now, we were both too busy sorting our respective ladies out, and taking over warming the eggs as soon as she wanted a break. Strange how often she needed a break. I suppose, when you’ve done all the work of laying the eggs, you need a rest. And when she was on the eggs, I was on guard.
I’d patrol all around the area of the nest without drawing attention to it. Then I’d saunter up and down the dyke, a nibble of grass here, and grab of duckweed there, just to show I was here, and watching. I’d come out and stand by the path if there was too much four-legged traffic. These little hairy chaps on four legs were a pain, to put it mildly. Given to yapping, and trying to scare me off. Sometimes I’d just stand my ground and flap my wings, which usually got rid of them.
As soon as all the eggs were hatched we’d take these little balls of fluff off on the river. We’d show them where was safe, and make sure they learned how to swim against the current, and not get caught in eddies. And never, ever go past the line of bubbles where the water from the weir came to the surface. Every year we’d see someone else’s young think they knew better, and never learn they were wrong, because they didn’t come up again. Ducks, geese, coots, moorhens, we all floated around on the millpond and above or below the weir, enjoying the grass and the pond weed, and the small invertebrates we could eat.
And then, about the time my kids were about half the size of my body, or maybe bigger, Big White and his missus would come swimming up, wings like sails, showing off their brood, and lording it over the rest of us.
Most times I’d get everyone to hightail it back to the dyke, but sometimes he’d decide he really, really wanted my girls to add to his harem. Then we’d fight.
It’s not pretty, a swan fight. Basically, after a lot of splashing and beating wings and trying to break each other’s bones, the one who thought he was winning would try to drown the other. It was just the way it was. I had a lot of narrow escapes, because, well, he was bigger than me. I just knew more places to hide. Including right under the mill. It was dodgy though, because getting out was difficult. But he was too big to get in, and I could just rest and glare at him till he gave up.
That was how it was, most years. It ‘s easy enough, provided you don’t have too many dogs off leads to contend with. Why don’t their owners think of the other animals using the land? One track minds. Just stay on your track and we’ll be fine. I’ll stay on guard, anyway.
© J M Pett 2021