Whilst taking a walk around the Botanic Gardens the other day, I came across a family of swans paddling about among the water lilies. As usually happens when I have the camera with me, they were too far away to get any kind of clear picture so I contented myself by just watching from a distance. There were two adults and three young ones, the older birds vigilant against any danger that might threaten their brood.
As I observed them, two things happened. A cormorant landed in the water near where they were swimming and a third adult swan arrived and began cruising around at what he considered to be a safe distance, nearer to where I was positioned.
The cormorant was the first one to get it in the neck! If you click on the picture above you’ll get a clearer view of what happened. He had just taken a dive underwater when the larger of the two parent swans flapped across the surface with wings outstretched and began beating the water as though trying to prevent the intruder from resurfacing. After a minute or so the cormorant bobbed up behind the swan and, no doubt blowing his adversary the proverbial raspberry, paddled off, discretion being the better part of valor.
It was then that the victor spotted the third adult swan and, gathering his family together, sailed over towards the bridge upon which I was standing and under which the object of his by now boiling temper was hiding. The third swan decided to head for the hills and I watched him as he waded ashore and took cover behind a clump of reeds or some such.
While all this was going on, another lady who had also been watching the preceding scene play out, walked down to the water’s edge, her camera poised ready to catch a prize-winning shot. Now I may not know a lot about the intricacies of wildlife behavior but I do know that you don’t bother a swan when it’s mad especially when there are young ones about. There was a case, not too long ago, in our local paper, about a man in a kayak who had been drowned after a swan attacked him and knocked him out of the boat and I also remember tales that my grandmother, who lived near the river Thames, had told me about people suffering broken arms and legs as a result of swan attacks so I remained on the bridge in what I hoped was well out of harm’s way.
As the swan family drew nearer, the adults began that honking noise they make when they’re really getting aggravated. I think the lady finally got the hint when their fearless leader started opening his wings and began climbing out of the water with his mate lining up behind him in case he needed assistance, and she beat a hasty retreat while the third swan joined her as they both headed for the path and safety.
I imagine if the father or mother (I’m not sure who the major player was in this drama) had been able to, he or she would have dusted off their hands, adjusted their cuffs and said “Well, that’s taken care of them!” As it was, the two birds returned to their offspring and nonchalantly paddled off.