Here's a series of pictures that tell a little story about the behavior of swans. I'll show them in the order in which the story occurred and also tell you what else was happening when I don't have a picture about it. And I'll give only one opinion, well, two or three, but I'll be brief, I promise.
I told you in the last post that there is a preferred rock in the middle of Sacchem Pond where the birds can groom themselves. All of the different species of birds prefer it. They prefer it in spite of the fact that they could easily go to the far side of the pond and groom themselves where there is plenty of room and virtually no human intrusion. Perhaps they enjoy the fact that all the other birds can see them up there being king of the mountain. In any case, it's clear that from a bird point of view, this is the most valuable real estate on Block Island.
The proper behavior for a bird who wants a turn on the favorite rock is to patiently wait a short distance away. In the picture above, the younger swan on the right is actually not doing what he's supposed to do. He is moving in close, in a "come hither" kind of way, implying that he's not interested in the rock at all, but in her delightful company. He's acting as if he wants her to leave her perch in order to swim with him around the pond.
And the older swan buys in. You can see how she enters from her perch, by tipping herself, breast first, into the water.
And having abandoned her spot, she begins to follow the younger swan, as swans love to do together. He in turn, pretends for a bit but quickly betrays his intention. He circles around, climbs onto the rock and begins his grooming procedure.
At that point, the older swan heads back to the swan on the rock. She's doing this at speed. You can see that she's putting up a little wave against her breast as she is hurrying toward him.
And then she gives him the benefit of her opinion.
And she chases him off of the rock.
I've sat many times, waiting and watching for pictures as bird after bird takes his or her turn and then gives way to another. Although the swans seem to get more time on the rock than the others, the rules are the same for big birds and little birds, old ones and young ones, not only with swans but with geese and ducks and seagulls. I've never before seen anyone forcibly evicted.
What could this represent, except for a sort of inter-species order? And in this case, a sense of the violation of that order? You might say, a sense of justice? I'm guessing, and this is just a guess, that an older bird, one wiser in the rules of the rock and the pond and its attendant karma, would not have tried to pull this off.
When he opens his feathers, you can see that this is a young one. He's still got his darker, first-year feathers.
The first swan didn't reclaim her spot. That's her in this picture, swimming away after having delivered her correction.
So that concludes the story, except to tell you that I'm always trying to get a better version of this shot, showing the back of a swan, surrounded with layers upon layers of feathers. Baby swans get to ride around in there when they're little. I've thought I might like to come back as a swan, let's say for five minutes, so I could know what that's like. Or failing that, maybe one day I'll get those pictures with the babies tucked in, all cozy and safe and warm and dry - being carried around, the light shining in through those feathers. I think we could all use a room like that, sometimes.
And the feathers of birds fit so well together, like the petals of flowers. It's always true in every bird, but you can really see it with swans. They're an easily seen example of the perfection of feathers in both form and function, which for some reason makes me feel deeply fine.
The feathers of bird open like flowers, except that it's not the season or the time of day that moves them. It's the will of the birds for flying. Isn't that something, flowers with the will to fly?