Are these the two that survived?
You know how I worry over the swan babies—a great deal more than about goslings. Perhaps some of them were also snatched by a snapping turtle; like the one that ate two of the four cygnets. After their Memorial Day holiday cruse around the lake, the swan family went into hiding for many days. I could spot some white patches from a distance in their usual habitat but as I got closer the ground sloped making it level with the tail end of Flat Iron Lake, I could not longer see them through the reeds. I hoped against hope that all the little ones survived.
But finally, they showed them selves again in full view of our windows. I grabbed the binoculars so as to account for the cygnets. No matter what angle I viewed, I could see only one bright white one between the parents. My heart sank. Three gone, just like that? Finally I spotted a darker body almost camouflaged by the ripples and shade on the lake. Two survived—a male and a female. My disappointment at losing some turned to a celebration that at least two remained. Convinced that they are big enough now to elude their predators, I rest easy—hoping to enjoy watching the little family for the rest of the season. They must stay on the lake until the babies learn to fly from their parents, usually late September, which is a sight to behold.
I also spot many places in the yard and along the road where the snapping turtles have laid their eggs. The eggs are now broken and strewn close to the indented soft earth. Another kind of predator ate the potential offspring of a predator. I suppose I should cry over them as well—but today I don’t mind if there are going to be fewer snapping turtles laying in wait for the baby swans. How do we decide which life is more important?
Our first sighting
Two day old cygnets
Our resident swan pair was nesting on the tail of Flat Iron Lake, in plain view from the path next to the woods. Since the trees were not yet leafed out, it was easy to spot them even from the driveway. Because of last year’s experience (see 9/17/2010, Swan's Song), I worried over them when the abundant rain caused the water level to rise, and the nest looked swamped. I worried when I witnessed Mr. Swan fighting off a goose that strayed into the territory. I worried that the babies were late to hatch and might not hatch at all.
A family outing
But the day after the world was supposed to come to an end, we made a routine stop and there they were! New life: four babies easily visible from the soggy shore. Immediately I began to pray for but worry about their survival, especially when I saw the parents eating green algae. I remembered the year that one baby listed in the water and finally died because his little digestive system could not process the course food. Now I worry that the hungry snapping turtle is hovering nearby ready to drag away a baby for supper.
Today was the first time we saw them outside the cove: the family of six out enjoying a warm (90 degree) Memorial Day. I kept counting the babies, just to be sure. They circled the perimeter of the lake, ending near our dock. The camera and I rush down the hill for a rare close-up. Mr. Swan saw me as danger and moved his family to a safe distance, while I snapped away. It looks like there is one boy baby (slightly darker) and three girls.
I suppose the one-week-old babies are not yet out of danger but I worry less. We long for the companionship of swans from early spring’s nesting to fall when the babies learn to fly and leave us again. Praise God! The cycle of life continues.