Birds at the park

So we have these swans hanging around town.

Actually, they live here.  I’ve seen them around the water park ever since moving here.  Just the two of them, gliding along the water impressing the tourists and looking for handouts.  I understand they are collected and housed by the local zoo when winter starts setting in so they don’t have to migrate.

These are mute swans.   You can tell because of the knob on their nose and the way they hold their neck in that graceful S-curve we associate with swans.  Their bigger cousins, the trumpeter swan, doesn’t have the knob and holds their necks straight.

Their size is deceptive.  In the water you can’t get a good sense of their body girth but when they come out on the shore you immediately realize “this is a BIG bird,” especially when they wander through a flock of ducks picking through the grass for bugs.  Look at the little sparrows on the ground behind this one.

ISO 100, 35mm, 1/500 sec., f/8

Every year this pair raises a few cygnets, nesting in various places around the park and then parading their kids around for the public once they’ve hatched out.  Don’t know what happens to the young ones the next year – all we ever see are two instead of a crowd.  The cygnets keep their distinctive grey color until their second winter so we’d notice them if they returned.  Maybe they find a different town to hang out in the following year.  They certainly attract a lot of attention while they are here in the summer.

ISO 100, 35mm, 1/250 sec., f/8

Much like the sandhill cranes (and I guess any migratory bird) the young get big fast since they have to be ready to fly away when winter shows up.  Apparently cygnets can put on up to 20% of their body weight every day during the early stages of growth.  And this is a bird that can weigh up to 15 pounds when fully grown.  Hard to believe they can get that much nourishment just grazing around the bottom and edges of the water park.  I’m wondering if the city doesn’t supplement their feed at times….

Swans are known for their monogamous life style and can live to be 20 to 30 years old.  Which means we’ll probably be seeing this scene for quite some time.

ISO 100, 35mm, 1/400 sec., f/8


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