Some days are made special by the smallest of wonderful experiences.
On our site is a large lake and we have a Mute Swan couple who come to stay each year, build a nest, lay eggs and raise their young. It is a wonderful opportunity to watch swan family life as the cygnets grow and learn to be swans, alongside ducks, coots and moorhens - we even have a crane and a couple of kestrels on site. All the swans leave in the late autumn/early winter and we never see the young ones again, as they go off to find their own mates, but mum and dad come back every year.
This year there are a couple of adolescent swans who are resisting the urge to leave as their parents and siblings have done. Two of the teenage cygnets are not a problem as they are mooching around the lake and flitting between us and the nearby AXA insurance company (who also have a small lake!), but one of the young swans is causing us a few headaches. In addition to the large lake, we also have several smaller ponds and fountains. The young swan has found his way into one of the fountain ponds and he is either reluctant or unable to get out. He has been caught and released, but when straight back in again. After several weeks we are starting to worry about his overall health, although he is still ok and is feeding on bottom algae. He is just starting to moult and his beautiful white plumage is beginning to show. He must leave soon to mature and find a mate.
We have contacted the local swan rescue who have advised us to watch him and occasionally feed him, and to call back next week if he's still in there.
So today my colleague B and I set out with a wholewheat bread roll and some unwanted low sugar fruit and nut Flapjack to feed Little Swan and check on his general health. As usual, and somewhat of a surprise to B, Little Swan came to us as I called 'Swannie, swannie!' and looked up at us, chattering his bill - saying hello, probably [grin]. We gave him some bread first to judge how hungry he was.
Have you ever seen a swan eat?
It will take the food from the water/ground and then dunk it in the water to soften it up - but it just looks like the swan is washing it's food!
So Little Swan took the bread, 'washed' it and gulped it down. And I tried him on some flapjack. The flapjack sunk, so I broke it up into pieces and laid it on the bank. Little Swan arched his neck and snuffled the food off the bank, 'washed' it and munched it down.
Now for the 'wonderful' bit.....
see this hand?
No, not that hand........this hand.......
A wild swan ate out of this hand today, straight from my hand with his big old soft bill. He took the food from my hand, nipping my fingers gently as he did so. B and I were ecstatic (me more so, obviously!), at the sight of a large wild adolescent swan eating from my hand, lots of 'OMIGOD, did you see??'!
As Little Swan was obviously hungry, I went back alone with another flapjack bar and he ate it all very quickly and again contentedly ate out of my hand.
How do I describe the sensation of a large young swan eating out of my hand?
It was amazing, absolutely mindblowing. I was so worried Little Swan would nip me, or hurt me somehow, but he was so gentle with his soft big bill. The first time he took my fingers as well, making me flinch although it didn't hurt, but he was more careful after that and took food almost like a horse, placing his bill carefully in my hand. I could have stroked his beautiful neck or touched his head, but I didn't want to scare him.
Just when life is dark and unhappy, Mother Nature sends a messenger to remind you that, big and scary though the world might be, you are definitely not alone.
Then when I got home there was a parcel waiting for me all the way from LA, and another one at the Post Office for me to collect tomorrow. Ain't life grand?