Monday, July 13, 2009


Linda, here, posted a blog the other day on swans that reminded me of a story involving s dear friend who is no longer with us. This is a story he loved to tell.

John and Becky were retired and had put in a large, lovely pond at their home. John thought graceful swans floating around the pond would just make it perfect. He researched the species so he could provide them with a good habitat and care for he never went off willy nilly into any project.

John was aware that swans are the largest and generally considered the most beautiful of waterfowl. Males are known as a cob, a female is a pen and the young are called cygnets. The more he learned, the more excited he got. He was impressed that they mated for life and would hopefully run off the messy geese who stopped by the pond. Add their beauty and grace to the mix and what was not to like?

He finally purchased a mated pair and installed them in his pond. Oh was he a happy guy. They were beautiful floating gracefully around his pond. Then he discovered something he had not found in his research. A swan can have 25,000 feathers and they seemed to shed like a dog. The area around his pond periodically looked like a fresh snow fall. Another chore added to his list but he was still enamored with the birds. They were his pride and joy.

Late one night, John heard a terrible racket out by the pond. By the time he got dressed and armed it was too late. Something had killed his female. The carnage was awful and John was just sick at the loss. The cob was very riled up so John left the female where she was and decided to bury her in the morning. He stayed on his porch with gun in hand till morning, hoping the predictor would return. Morning however brought on a new problem.

The male was still upset as daylight came. His neck was stretched out and bobbed rhythmically as he spread his massive 6 foot wingspan in display. John hesitantly stepped over the small fence around the pond and headed for the female's body which was laying against the wall of the shelter. He bent over to pick her up when he was clubbed from behind and forcefully thrust against the wall of the shelter. He turned to see the male in full attack. The outraged bird was not about to let John cart off his mate.

These birds are quite large when fully stretched out. John grabbed the thick neck in both hands to keep the beak away from his face. The bird had him pinned against the wall so John was in full defense mode and trapped. He was amazed at the birds strength and it was taking all he had to keep it off him. He could not stop the wings though that came down on his arms and shoulders again and again with a series of painful blows. On and on they kept up this bizarre battle till John felt his strength giving out.

Finally the bird backed off, dropped his wings to the ground and lowered his head. John sank against the shelter, shaking and sucking air. Like a couple of drunks after a saloon fight. they stared at each other across the torn up patch of dirt, both completely exhausted. John was too tired for another round and fortunately, the bird was also. Finally he made a move and the swan just followed him with its eyes. The fight was over. It was a draw.

John said his love of the bird was damaged that day a but mutual respect was born. They shared an uneasy peace the rest of their time together. Whenever I would visit, that bird would come at me hissing and posturing till he saw John, Then he would just lower his head and return to the pond. That odd couple shared a grudging respect that had to be seen to be believed.

You told the story much better John with your arm waves and sly grins. You were one of my favorite story tellers. You are missed.


  1. You have a new's ok but I am asking your last post to the humming bird.
    Wonderful small birds.Your photos are good but the wings are almost impossible to see, so fast they go.
    We do not have these lovely little birds in Finland.
    Have a nive mondey.

  2. Glad to learn about the swans. Hmmm, their serene appearance is deceptive.

    But again how nature teaches us we should be when we have lifetime mates and friends, two legged or four legged--PROTECTIVE and RESPONSIBLE for that nebulous, fragile breath of life.

    Many lessons in this story. Thanks

  3. A great post and amazing story. I don't know how you find the material for a daily post and keep it interesting. Good Job!!

  4. i am afraid of all fowl...when you started this story it made me cringe and my first thought was they are mean... Years ago my Daddy had a tom wild turkey...the turkey stayed in the pasture but would run the fence when I came close to the pasture fence ... which was 60 acres...It wasn't like he was in a little pen...he was a mean old rascall...

  5. Very interesting - I had no idea swans are so aggressive!

  6. Oh what a sad story, Patti. So sorry something 'got' the female. That's what happens out there in nature--but I still don't like it.

    Glad John was okay after his 'fight' with the swan. That male didn't want him to take away his mate--even though she was dead.

    Oh the joys of loving the birds!!!!!


  7. I have been whipped by a goose wing more than once. And it ain't no fun. I appreciate your story all the more.

    Thank you very much for visiting my birds blog and for the comment you left me there.
    My Birds Blog

  8. Mia N
    That is part of their charm, those fast moving wings. It takes a better camera than I have to stop and capture the wings.

    They can be very agressive especially when they have babies. Their huge size makes them pretty scary.Love that they mate for life.

    Key bunch
    Thank you so much. I don't know either, in fact, right now, I have nothing for tomorrow. Hopefully something will come to mind.

    4th sister,
    Know what you mean about Tom turkey. I was attacked by one once and had no idea how to defend myself. All the flapping and swatting is confusing and scary.

    Cheffie Mom
    They have been known to put people in the hospital. There huge wing span can break a collar bone easily. They are best admired from a distance.

    You and I grew up on the Disney version of Nature. The preditor always just missed the bunny. We knew he would someday eat one, we just didn't have to watch it. Not like today's "nature" shows. I kind of like the whitewashed Disney version.

    Truthfully, I am more afraid of a goose than a biting dog. I have been goose caught and when they catch your flesh, they give a sharp twist, leaving a softball sized bruise.

  9. When I was in England, there seemed to be swans everywhere. They were beautiful. I found out that the swans are the property of the Queen, as is all wildlife. That's one way to protect them.

  10. Being attacked by his swan had to have been scary and disheartening for your friend. I have been attacked by a Canadian goose while sitting on the ground, innocently reading a book. I was shocked at how big and menacing they are with their wings spread. I had a good amount of bruises on my legs and arms before I managed to get away.

  11. Betty,
    Way to go Queen. Knew there was a reason to like her besides her love of Corgis.

    I have been goose caught also. They leave awful bruises. He must not have liked the book you were reading.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Linda,
    Welcome to TNS. Thank you so much fo stopping by and commenting.
    You are right. They both lost that day.