Tag Archives: Cygnus olor
We friends of Mr. Swan think he is practically a genius. You would have to be, to survive the oftentimes inhospitable shores of Cape Ann. And, too, he is well over twenty years old and has out lived two mates!
Mr. Swan at Brace Cove
Mr. Swan is a species of swan called a Mute Swan, which do not migrate great distances. Instead, they move around from body of water to body of water within a region. When Mr. and Mrs. Swan were raising their young, by mid summer, when food was becoming less plentiful and water levels receding at Henry’s Pond, the entire swan family–mom, dad, and all the cygnets–would travel for the remainder of the breeding season to Niles Pond, a larger pond with a more plentiful supply of aquatic vegetation. Several weeks ago, the brackish water of Henry’s Pond thawed. Mr. Swan returned to the Pond, but then with a stretch of cold weather, it quickly refroze. He headed over to Pebble Beach to forage for food in the saltwater cove. This week, sensing the coming nor’easter, Mr. Swan moved over to Rockport Harbor, which rarely freezes, is less rough than Pebble Beach, and where a supply of food is readily available. Whether a September hurricane or March blizzard, Mr. Swan rides out the storm tucked in along the edge of pond or harbor.
Don’t you find it very interesting that although not indigenous to this country, Mute Swans have adapted many strategies for surviving our changing seasons, and with the seasonal changes, the differing types of, and amounts of, food available.
If you see Mr. Swan at any of our local bodies of water, please be very kind to him. Dogs, no matter how well meaning, will make any swan feel threatened. And please, if you must feed him, only feed him whole corn. No junk food ever. Swan junk food includes bread, crackers, chips, and Doritos. In all the years that I have been filming Mr. Swan, never once have I fed him. Mr. Swan has friends, wonderfully kind stewards, who regularly look after his well-being, supplementing his native diet of pond greens and seaweed with cracked corn, and that is quite sufficient for his good health.
Thank you everyone for looking out for Cape Ann’s one and only Mr. Swan!
Brought to you by Mr. Swan –
We’re happy to see our buddy surviving the winter without too much ado (except when he got himself frozen solidly into the ice).
A friendly note to folks who would like to visit Mr. Swan. He is very shy around dogs so perhaps leave your furry companion in the car. And if you plan to feed him, please, please only whole corn or shredded veggies (swans don’t have teeth, so no large chunks). Junk food is a killer and weakens their bones.
Mr. Swan has resumed his habit of traveling from body of water to body of water within his territory. Why does he not travel during the summer months, primarily dwelling at Niles Pond? Swans molt each summer and during the molting period, they cannot fly.
Mute Swans molt when their cygnets cannot fly. The female (pen) begins to molt almost immediately after the young hatch. The male, or cob, waits until the female’s flight feathers have grown back completely. The reason for this staggered molting period is because swans use their wings in battle and to defend their young. The swan family will never be left defenseless with at least one of the pair’s set of wings fully functional. The molting period lasts anywhere from four to seven weeks.
A pair of swans was spotted at Niles Pond this morning by my friend Lyn. I stopped by the Pond at 8:15 to have a look. They were on the far side of Niles, getting ready to take off and was only able to take a few quick photos. The pair flew overhead in the direction of Henry’s Pond. After doing the podcast with Joey and the wonderful Gloucester Stage Company cast, I raced over to Henry’s. In the meantime, the two had returned to Niles, but were chased away by our Mr. Swan. As I arrived at Henry’s they flew in!
The pair appear to be in their third year. This is evident by the patches of brown feathers and dullish pink bills, although the bill of the larger of the two is gaining a more coral-orange hue. Note both have black eyes, unlike our rare and beautiful blue-eyed swan. I am hopeful that Mr. Swan will find a new mate and if we are fortunate, this newly arrived on the scene pair will decide to make Cape Ann their home too!If you catch sight of swans at any of our area ponds or in the harbor, please write in and let me know. Thank you so much!
Mr. Swan resting (trying to) in the early morning sun. Mallards courting make nap time difficult.
Recently, one of the very kind people who regularly feed our resident swan, Dominic Nesta, pointed out that Mr. Swan is unusual for his blue eyes. I was surprised by his comment because I’ve only ever filmed Mr. Swan, his deceased mate, and their offspring up close, and they all have (had) blue eyes. Aren’t all Mute Swans blue-eyed I wondered? After looking at hundreds of photos on Google images and reading dozens of descriptions, Mute Swans eyes appear as, and are always described as, black, whether they are the English Mute Swan or the Polish variant.
Mr. Swan is of the Polish kind. Polish Mute Swans are rarer, mostly pure white, and with pinkish gray feet, as opposed to the English sorts, which have black feet and legs. Hans Christian Anderson’s Ugly Duckling was perhaps logically written with the English Mute Swan cygnet in mind, which are typically dressed in a mottled gray downy coat. Polish Mute Swan cygnets are pure white. Until I learned the difference I wondered how there could ever be such a story as the Ugly Duckling because again, I had only ever seen Mr. Swan’s offspring, which have always been exceptionally beautiful perfect little balls of fluffy white down (gray cygnets aren’t ugly either, IMO).
Cygnet, Polish morph
Polish Mute Swans (Mrs. Swan and Cygnet, Henry’s Pond)
A pigment deficiency of a gene in the sex chromosomes is what causes the whiteness (leucism). Polish Mute Swans were given their name when in 1800 they were introduced to London from the Polish coast on the Baltic Sea. They were at first thought to be a new species because of their unchanging color form (Cygnus immutabilis).
Our Mr. Swan is extraordinary not only for his long-lived life of well over twenty years, but also for his sapphire blue eye color.
Help needed from our readers–do you have a pair of swans in your area? If so, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you very kindly.
So many thanks to everyone who came out for my talk at the Cultural Center last night. Thank you to old friends who were there and thank you to my new friends; it was a pleasure to meet you! We had a wonderful turnout. The Cultural Center at Rocky Neck and the Rocky Neck Art Colony did a tremendous job hosting. With special thanks and gratitude to Martha Swanson, Suzanne Gilbert Lee, Jane Keddy, Karen Ristuben, Tom Nihan, and Mary Lou. The Beautiful Birds of Cape Ann thank you to!
I hope to see you at my talk at the Cultural Center at Rocky Neck tonight!
Several weeks ago, in response to a question sent in by a reader that asked can swans drink seawater, we responded yes, because just above the eyes and under the skin, they have a gland that removes salt from their blood stream and concentrates it in a solution that is excreted from their nostrils. In the photo below, you can see sunlight coming through the nare holes, which are near the base of the bill. When the swan shakes its head, the salt is removed through the nares. Most species of birds have nare holes, which lead to the nasal cavity within the skull, which is part of the respiratory system.
Please join us Thursday night at the Cultural Center at Rocky Neck. For more information on my illustrated talk”Beautiful Birds of Cape Ann” visit this post here.
Mute Swans typically bond for the life of both members of the pair. If one is killed or dies, the other will usually take a second mate. Mute Swans engage in an intimate courtship dance. The cob (male) will often begin by pulling up nearby twigs (perhaps to show he is a good nest-builder). The pair next bobs their heads together, stretching and intertwining their necks alongside and opposite to each other in a beautiful synchronized ballet.
Mute Swans mostly drink freshwater (and a great deal of it) because most of the places that you find swans living at are on freshwater ponds, lakes, rivers, and inlets. However, just above the eyes and under the skin, swans have a gland that enables them to drink saltwater. This gland removes salt from their bloodstream and concentrates it into a solution that is excreted from their nostrils, which the swan can shake its head to clear.
There are a number of good folks in Rockport and Gloucester who keep a watchful eye on our local swans. Thursday I had the joy of meeting Lois and Serena, who have been feeding and observing the swans for over twenty years. They have photos of Mr. Swan (known as Buddy in Rockport) dating from 1998. He was already full grown by then, which makes him at least twenty years old. That is quite extraordinary as most Mute Swans in the wild live on average only to twelve years of age.
My deepest thanks and appreciation to Lois and Serena for the time they took sharing swan stories, the reading material lent, and for their kind and goodhearted nature, especially towards Buddy/Mr. Swan!
As you may or may not have read here on Good Morning Gloucester, I have been filming the swans over the past several years for a film project. If you have a Cape Ann swan story that you would like to share I would love to hear from you. Please contact me at email@example.com. Thank you so much!
Nine Swans a-Swimming
After checking in with my elbow doctor at Anna Jacques Hospital in Newburyport, I took a drive along the road to Plum Island. I only meant to stay for a few minutes as I was planning to hurry on back to work on current projects but within moments of being there, a gorgeous Red-tailed Hawk was spied circling around. It was too tempting and I desperately wanted to stay longer and photograph and film but turned right around and headed back over the causeway. Halfway across a bevy of some sort of large white avian creature caught my eye–could it be–yes, it was a large flock of swans! They were feeding on the seaweed and seagrass along the Merrimack River shoreline.
Quickly finding a place to park I got out my gear and with a wide swathe of marsh grass dividing me from the swans, I tried to get as close to the water’s edge as possible. There were NINE swans in all, two adults and seven almost year-old swans. So much for getting back quickly. And was I ever pleased with my rule never to leave the house without cameras.
A passing woman from the neighborhood out walking said that this was the first time she had seen the swans at the river’s edge in over two years. For my swan film, footage of one year old swans was needed, and here were seven! Every cloud has a silver lining as I never would have been on Plum Island today if not for elbow injury.
I am sorry to report that there have been no recent sightings of Mr. Swan’s girlfriend.
Today at 9:30am while out doing errands, I stopped by Niles Pond to see if I could find my brand new glove, which was lost the morning previously. That Monday, the day after the weekend storm, the mergansers had moved overnight to Niles Pond to escape the wind and waves on the harbor and I had captured footage of Mr. Swan with the Red-breasted Mergansers. Last I saw him, he was alone and circling the pond, plaintively calling.
Just as I got to the spot where filming yesterday I looked up and flying overhead were not one, but two swans! They were flying towards Brace Cove. I hurried back to my car to get cameras, checking all the while to see if the pair would stay at Niles or continue up the coast. They circled back around Niles before landing on the far side of the pond. The large pure white male looks like Mr. Swan and his girlfriend appears to be much younger as she is comparatively smaller and still has some brownish-gray cygnet feathers.
I immediately called my friend Lyn to let her know about the swan pair swimming at her end of the pond. There was a large patch of ice that prevented the swans from coming closer to where she was calling them from shore but we did have a good long look and we both agree it could very well be Mr. Swan (Lyn calls him Poppa Swan and in Rockport he’s known as Buddy).
The pair of swans stayed, feeding on pond vegetation and moving slowly through the icy waters. Swans use their powerful breast muscles in a lifting and lurching movement to break up ice. It takes a great amount of effort to cut a path through the ice and Mr. Swan is much more adept at ice breaking than is his new girlfriend.
By a swan’s second summer (in other words two years of age) it will have lost all the characteristics of an immature. The brown feathers are gradually replaced with the white feathers. The last thing to visibly change is the color of the swan’s bill. A cygnet’s bill is blue/grey changing over the two year period to pinkish and then orange. Swans can breed as early as two years of age although most don’t begin until three years.
I can’t saw with 100 percent certainty that this is Mr. Swan because I didn’t get a close look at the distinguishing marks on his bill however, all signs point in this direction.
Note the young swan’s brownish feathers and greyish-pink bill (left). This tells us that she is not quite two years of age.
Daybreak from around Niles Pond, Brace Cove, and Henry’s Pond in Rockport.
Mr. Swan left Niles Pond yesterday morning and although he flew in his usual direction towards Henry’s Pond, he did NOT fly to Henry’s, which had become his habit. I did not see him at Henry’s, Niles, or the harbor this morning either. Perhaps he has flown to another region in search of a new Mrs. Swan. We can only hope!
See additional photos here of Mr. Swan, dead skunk, and more ~ Read more