I watch the swan pair glide by but I know something is terribly wrong. Until now only one parent has left the nest at a time. Now they are together—but alone. No cygnets follow closely behind. Nesting season is past—there will be no babies this year. We are left to wonder what went wrong.
Swan eggs and newly hatched cygnets have always been vulnerable. Over the years we have watched a clutch shrink from five to two, likely snatched by a snapping turtle. We’ve discovered the white feather remains of babies far away in the woods, prey to fox or hawk. Once we watched a baby swimming on his side and learned later that he had eaten too much alga that he could not digest.
We’ll miss watching the youngsters grow this year: learning to dive for water plants, growing and changing from grey to white. We’ll miss the amazing early fall spectacle of the parents patiently teaching their young to fly. But mostly there will be this pang of sadness each time the stately white pair swims by, knowing that grief from loss will mark this season for them and also for us.