There’s nothing more graceful than a swan swimming on perfectly still water.
We see swans quite often on Lake Allegan. They’re drawn to the weedy, shallow water surrounding Eagle Island, a few hundred yards from our home. Swans mate for life, and they’re social creatures. So usually, they feed in pairs—or herds or banks or bevies—of six or eight (who comes up with these collective nouns?).
So, when a solo swan floated nearby for days, I wondered if something was amiss.
The beautiful creature dabbled and dipped for food.
It preened. It floated, head tucked under a wing, with its eyes closed. Sleeping, perhaps?
But one behavior made me look thrice. Take a gander:
At first, I thought the swan was in distress. But in between wing gyrations, diving, and water slapping, the bird closed its wings and paddled calmly as usual. My go-to reference, the wonderful Birds of North America, reassured me that I was just watching the bird take a bath.
I have no clue why this swan spent so much time alone. Did it lose its mate? Coyotes are known to prey on incubating swans. I’ve noticed many creatures are about a month behind in nesting, judging from earlier years’ date-stamped recordings. So, it’s possible that a female, who does all the incubating, was still on the nest in early June.
If I knew the solitary swan was a male, I might lean toward the predation explanation. But I can’t tell cobs from pens (boys from girls).
During its week-long residence, several herds also appeared. Did the solitary swan join those groups? Perhaps. But it always reappeared, solo, after a group departed.
Three days have passed since my last swan sighting—either solo or group. This video snippet might explain why.
That flapping sound you heard was the swan’s take-off… over the boat noise, no less!
Boats and birds often meet unexpectedly, as they round the island, unaware of who—or what—waits on the other side. These boaters took a wide berth when they saw the swans. Did you notice the one swan’s nerves of steel?