Fledgling. I always dither about words with -dg- combined with -ling when writing them. Some surnames and placenames have an e, some don’t. Why?

Swan. That’s this week’s #writephoto prompt from KL Caley at New2Writing.com. Fledgling was last week’s. I had an idea, but didn’t find the time to write it. It’s been a bit busy recently. The idea seemed to work with my inkling for ‘swan’, so I concatenated them (I’ve been dying to use that word somewhere!) This one’s about 500 words.

a solo swan swimming under a small bridge
a tiny bird hiding in a plant pot

Rory meets the fledgling and the swan

“I like swans.” Rory pointed at the graceful white bird standing on a rock. Its feet were just showing above the surface as the stream flowed over them, rushing to get through the narrow gap under the old stone bridge.

“You like everything; all the birds, animals, trees, everything. One mute swan, and a mallard.”

Rory grinned at his father’s words and bent down to peer at the mallard, rapidly approaching in hope of a titbit. 

“Nothing for you today, little one. And you’re looking very good in your fresh plumage. Why do they call swans mute, Daddy? They make all sorts of interesting sounds.”

“Not sure. Maybe because they don’t sing, or make musical calls like the wintering ones.”

“Whoopers and Bewick’s. Yes, they make a real racket at the feeding ground. Can we go and visit them again this winter?”

“It’s a fair old journey there, but maybe.”

“We could visit the Wildfowl Trust at Slimbridge instead. That would be good.”

“It’s even further than Welney, though. We’ll have a look. See if we can afford the petrol coupons. What’s that noise?”

They turned towards a gurgly, chirruping noise somewhere in the woods behind them. It came again. 

“Sounds like a young bird. It’s very late to be that young, isn’t it Daddy?” Rory’s face reflected his concern for a young bird late from its nest, still dependent on its parents.

“It is, but it sounds a bit like a blackbird. They often have a late brood, but one still calling in September—well, that is late. Look, it’s over there in that box, or crate, or maybe it’s a pheasant shelter.”

“Clever to take up a good shelter. Maybe its parents are close by.”

“I hope so, son. Although…” Rory’s father pulled out his binoculars to have a closer look. “Well, he looks a good size, and his plumage is fully formed. I reckon he’s been out of the nest several days. He’ll probably cope if he finds something for himself. If he looks.”

“Should we find him something? A worm or beetle?”

“Best leave him be.” He scanned the trees around them. “Ah, that may be his father over there. On the branch in front of the holly bush.

“I see him!” Rory said. “Let’s go and stand on the bridge, and see if he comes.”

They walked on. They didn’t see the adult blackbird fly down behind them, but they exchanged knowing looks as a torrent of excited cheeps and squawks came from the fledgling as its father arrived with some food.

“That’s all right then,” Rory nodded, satisfied that all was well with the world. Well, this little part of it. He wanted to be an environmentalist when he grew up. He was learning as much as he could about climate change. Would these birds would survive it? He would help them, anyway.

© J M Pett 2022

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Fledgling and Swan | #writephoto Flash Fiction
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