Friday, December 23, 2005

Battle of the Swans

Recently I went for a walk along the river, and saw swans there for the first time in a while. (I wondered if they showed up for aesthetic reasons - because they look so nice against the white snow and black water.)

First I saw two swans, sleeping on the water. Their heads were tucked underneath their wings - you couldn't actually see their heads at all, just their long necks twisted backwards, looking slightly grimy and very odd. Floating, sleeping, headless swans.

On my way back, I saw that the two swans were awake, and spreading their wings in a most beautiful way, which I have never seen swans do before. They stretched their wings up above their heads, and kept them raised up. They curved their necks gracefully.

It turns out that this is some kind of threat display. Because two more swans had landed on the river, and the first two swans sailed towards them - one on one. The new swans swam away, keeping their wings folded. If any of them made any noise, I couldn't hear it.

The funny part was that the first pair of swans were only interested in defending a certain portion of the river. They chased the new swans away, each one in an opposite direction. After swimming a short distance, they got bored and went back to "their" spot. One of the new swans swam downstream. The other swan went upstream, but apparently wanted to rejoin its companion. It kept swimming back into First Swan territory, where it was immediately met and chased away.

But eventually the first swans gave up and let the intruder swim past them. Hopefully the second pair was reunited.

I've heard that swans are bad-tempered. Now I'm inclined to believe it.

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