Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Brief Detour: Louis and Serena

Every day my commuter train passes by a small pond that, for at least the past two springs, has been home to two swans that come to nest in the reeds. Their first appearance took me by surprise; I honestly didn’t know there were wild swans in New England, and I am used to seeing only captive swans in zoos and parks. Apparently, though, these swans (in all likelihood mute swans) were granted federal protection several years ago and have begun breeding inland. They are considered an invasive species by some, as they are non-native, and they are also apparently quite territorial and can not only displace other (native) birds, but destroy vegetation in the ecosystem.

Learning this made me sad, because it’s hard to imagine how anything so lovely could actually be a pest. I have to confess that, like many people, I feel a certain amount of romanticism about swans, not the least of which because they often mate for life and are doting parents. Anyone who ever read “Trumpet of the Swan” by E.B. White can probably relate; the story of Louis’s father stealing the trumpet, and then Louis trying to win over Serena undoes me every time I read it. This was one of my favorite books as a child, loved even more than Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. In tribute to E.B., I mentally christened the pond swans Louis and Serena the Second. (What can I say, it’s a really long train ride.)

A few months ago Louis and Serena returned from their winter vacation. For about a month now, on both my morning and evening commutes, I’ve caught glimpses of one of them sitting on the nest while the other was out on the water; for quite some time I wondered if the swan tending the eggs had moved at all overnight (apparently swans share incubating duty, so I can’t assume it was Serena). Sitting on those eggs all that time seemed like such a pure act of faith to me, not to mention dogged determination --especially on those days that it was raining so hard it hurt. I know any biologist would tell me it is simply propagation of the species, but it’s still kind of inspiring nonetheless.

This week the birds disappeared; I couldn’t see them anywhere, the nest was empty and there was no sight of them on the pond. I was worried something had happened and they had left, or worse, become something’s dinner. Finally, this morning, I saw both on the water with what looked like three fluffy gray cygnets gliding along between them. Woo-hoo! Triumph! I wanted to cheer, but settled for a quiet chuckle to myself.

This post deserves photos, but the train travels too fast to be able to take a decent picture, and I cannot figure out how to get to the pond from the road. Plus, let me tell you: these birds are BIG and I’m not sure getting too close is such a great idea. However, Google Images to the rescue: I cribbed this one posted here, because it’s pretty much what I saw this morning.

Photo Credit: Emily Eaton, Shrewsbury MA / Bird Watchers Digest

1 comment:

Where the nodding violets grow said...

Swans are beautiful aren't they. When I was a child I lived near Windsor Castle which was on the river Thames and there were lots of swans there. My father used to say that a swan could break a man's arm with the flap of its wing! I don't know if that is true but it certainly scared me and made me keep my distance. It is said, over here, that all swans belong to the Queen. I don't know if that is true either but it is widely believed. What a lovely site on your commute.