Last Sunday I had big plans … not fun plans, but I had dawdled long enough in compiling the tax paperwork, so it was time to hunker down and get ‘er done. So, I would walk to the Park, do some laps, feed my furry and feathered friends, then head home. I wasn’t too enthused with the prospect to be honest.
Then I looked outside.
It was a bright and beautiful day – who wants to be inside sifting through paperwork? In a heartbeat, I tabled that tax task to the next weekend and decided to drive, make a quick pit stop at Council Point Park, then head one mile east to Dingell Park on the Detroit River.
Though I had sworn off taking any more pictures until I had exhausted the 2021 photos, apparently I had a momentary lapse of judgment as I sped out the door with the camera in hand. Hours later I would return with enough waterfowl shots for several posts.
Mr. and Mrs. Mute Swan graced the Park with their presence.
At Council Point Park, I really didn’t plan on taking any photos, but, as I walked around the perimeter path, suddenly there was a flash of white between the bare bushes and trees. That sighting could mean only one thing: a Mute Swan visit. In nearly nine years of walking at the Park, I’ve only seen Mute Swans about a half-dozen times. So, I hurried over, hooking my bag onto my arm, shucking my mittens, exchanging them for my fingerless gloves.
My hunch was correct. There was a pair of Mute Swans gliding around the alcove area, the same spot which was so popular with the Mallards due to the dead shad. I had not seen any shad, dead or alive, the last time I was here, but I suspected some bodies might have lingered as a fishy smell permeated the air.
I stood back admiring the swans from afar before taking photos. It was a male (“Cob”) and female (“Pen”) and they alternated between preening, diving for aquatic plants and admiring one another. I often see photos of swans beak to beak, their graceful necks forming a heart – these two were close together, but I captured no such dramatic shots.
It was then I noticed one of the swans had something on its neck. I first thought it was some muck it had dredged up from the Creek bed, but it was moving. I turned the camera on and quickly zoomed in. It was a band of some sort with numbers on it. Hmm – strange they would band a bird around its neck and not its feet? I pondered about the swan’s “necklace” and watched it slipping up and down this beautiful creature’s neck effortlessly and seemingly not constricting it.
Yes, I was mesmerized by these Mute Swans.
Filled with bravado, yet determined to thwart any unwelcome advances by a prickly Cob, I inched a little closer to the ledge and began taking photos of the pair. But, after only a few shots, evidently the clicking of the shutter alerted the Cob, who paddled closer to the cement ledge, so I backed up posthaste. I managed to get a few shots in as you see below.
Together or apart, the Mute Swans made an impression on me as I watched them on that cold February morning. Although I’ve seen no more shad floating about, there are other fish that populate the Creek waters and clearly that was the magnet for the Mute Swans’ appearance. Interestingly, the Cob was content to watch the Pen go diving several times for a fish and then wrangle it as you will see in the photos below. I couldn’t tell if she shared her fish with her mate.
Mute Swans breed anytime from March through June. Every year I am hopeful to find cygnets tucked away on their mom’s feathers on her back going for a free “boat ride” – maybe this year?
I wondered if I could find out the history of this collared Mute Swan, so after going through my photos on Saturday, I researched a little on my own. I found an article online by David R. Luukkonen, Ph.D., a Wildlife Research Biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The DNR had collared and tagged many Mute Swans and he requested any sightings of swans with their I.D. info and location be forwarded to him as they wished to track the swans’ whereabouts throughout Michigan. I submitted the criteria requested and three photos. I hope I can learn the origin of where this swan was tagged and released; if so, I’ll update this post.
P.S. – Wondering about my wariness to approach the swans?
Because you only have to be chased by a Mute Swan once to remember how scary it was, as you read above, I stood a respectable distance away while admiring and taking pictures of the pair. Here’s the backstory, for those of you who were not around in 2018 when I had two encounters with Mute Swans within a few weeks’ time.
The first encounter happened after taking photos of a pair of Mute Swans on a picturesque day at Council Point Park. Portions of the pathway were icy and the landscape snowy. As I happily clicked away, I heard one of the swans making a snorting noise and figured its nostrils were stuffed up from diving into the frigid water. Well, that was an incorrect assumption. While Googling later that day, I learned the swan was irritated with me and made these noises. But why? I was not doing anything to anger it. Just admiring the pair’s grace and beauty and taking photos.
In fact I was still standing there when suddenly the huge Mute Swan huffed and puffed its way up the Creek bank and proceeded to charge at me. Yikes! On a Winter’s day when you had to be mindful of where you stepped, (and I’m talking about icy patches, not goose poop), my heart was pounding as I began walking backward, thinking I could go to the nearby park bench and climb up onto it to foil any attempt for this big brute to attack me. Mute Swans are known for their unprovoked attacks on humans. The swan plodded toward me, those powerful legs and webbed feet quickly shortening the distance between us. I was glad I had my wits about me and some quick thinking on my part as I tossed some peanuts I had in a Ziploc bag toward it, thinking it might eat them, allowing me a hasty getaway. It worked! I hightailed it to the other end of the Park and to the car, lest it should decide to come after me. It’s good to respect wildlife, though I certainly wasn’t hurting either of the swans. If you want to see the post about our interaction, here is the link and just scroll down near the end.
The other incident, just a few weeks later, at the same venue, did not involve a menacing Mute Swan, but instead a Mute Swan that was intently pushing its way through the thick ice on the Ecorse Creek. I stopped in my tracks on the perimeter path, marveling at how incredulous it was that this swan had forged a path through the ice and, having reached the Creek banks, it climbed up the sides and began preening all the icy chunks from its feathers. Its neck was soaking wet and it looked exhausted for that had been quite a trip. As it stood there, I knew it was tired, likely not even mindful of my presence. I remained frozen in place, worried that once the swan stopped preening, it might come after me, but I was surprised that it turned around and walked to the Creek bank and into the water to continues its ice-cutting journey once again. I was happy I had the camera handy for this sequence of events. That post may be found here.