Ma and Pa Trumpeter Swans 18 March 2012
Winter has a good grip on us this year, and I am reminded by the frozen lakes and sharply shadowed edges of drifted snow that we will see remnants of this winter well into April. I have been spending too much time indoors, but not because of the weather. Work beckons constantly as my own expectations are ramped up in times when governments forget to invest in education. Each member of the educational family feels the squeeze, and, I suppose, some of the animals I have come to know are wondering about the absence of my silhouette on the distant drifts, my lurking about in curious ways.
There are two wild trumpeter swans I have come to know well, and for a few years I have called them “Ma” and “Pa”. My kids call them “Slurper” and “Guzzler” as a tribute to the way swans feed in the early spring. They don’t have neck bands, so I can’t read their names. But there is something about them that is unchanging, constant, and certain. When I see them again this year on territory, I will know it if it is still them. I would be willing to bet a lot that I will see them again in the same place, doing the same things.
The weather is never so constant and certain. My favorite swans are still making circuits around the landscape. This year, I can only wonder where they are and what they are doing now. In a few weeks, the pattern will resume, and I will pay a heartfelt visit to “Ma” and “Pa” as they take care of things in a small wetland I love so much. Every duck and goose knows who owns that water. They give these swans a wide berth.
Let the snow keep coming, at least for now. This land needs the drink. The swans need deeper water. Last summer’s drought was difficult for local swans as the shrinking natural “bowls” of water placed the shallow margins closer to the middle. As our local swans fed for tubers and picked up gravel in the areas that were now at just the right depths, they encountered an abundance of forgotten lead, left over from the days when hunters threw toxic shot relentlessly toward the middle of marshes. We lost a few swans to lead poisoning in the late summer, and I can’t help but feel anticipation for the thawing ice and open water that still has yet to come.
I look forward to checking on my old friends to see if they are here for another season. I imagine we’ll throw out a small wool blanket across the grasses and watch the swans as we eat a snack and bask in the early spring sun. My kids will watch through binoculars to see details in birds that are already very close. We’ll sit for an hour or two, entertained by these beautiful birds, and we’ll say very little as we enjoy this time together. I can guess this will happen, because, like “Ma” and “Pa”, some very few things are still wonderfully unchanging, constant, and certain.
These images were taken with a Canon 30D and Canon 300mm f4 IS Lens.