In winter the swans return several weeks after the Canada Geese. Canada Geese come in great hordes and announce their annual return noisily, but the swans are quiet and usually it is the whoosh of their enormous wings that I hear first. For twelve years out of fourteen they have been odd-numbered. Five, seven, nine, eleven ----- these are the multiples I have counted. They are loyal maters, leaving me wondering about the odd-one-out.
These swans are descendants of the Mute Swan, native to Europe and Asia, notable by their yellow bill and curved neck and head that forms an arc like a question mark. Mutes, so named for their comparatively quieter vocalization than the native Trumpeters, also raise their feathers comparatively often to produce an overall defensive posture called busking. This is more common in the males, or cobs, than the females, or pens, but it may be a trompe l’oeil that rewards the swan gazer.
One morning, as I was talking on the phone and pacing the back porch at Jubilee, I spotted a busking swan in the creek that suddenly shed large balls of furry blobs in to the water. It wasn’t a busker at all, but a pen with cygnets, seven of them, flopping in and out of the water from her back. It was child’s play off a summer’s raft!
The cob was breaking the water ten meters ahead of the bevy, a memorable family outing that convinced me the world in spring is nothing if not wondrous.
It convinced a wary colleague to phone me back later.