This was swan territory. Many geese live nearby on other ponds and along the banks of the many rivers and streams of the Blackstone River watershed. But this pond belonged to the swans and the swans and the geese, like the rival gangs in a turf war, don’t share.
The geese scouts are already in place, unbeknownst (apparently) to the swans.
Swans will happily share their nesting grounds with ducks and divers. Herons pose a serious threat to smaller fowl (all fowl are smaller) because they will eat the eggs and (if they can get them) the young of ducks, geese and swans until the babies are big enough to defend themselves.
Herons are more solitary and like loons, build nests in places hard to find by people or and other birds.
This spring, the geese came to the pond. In an expansionist move that broke all previous treaties, they moved in and actually took over a nest belonging the a pair of lordly and bad-tempered swans. It was war. We were there when the geese conducted a surprise raid on the swans.
First, the geese surrounded the nest and infiltrated. Geese are faster, organized and more mobile than swans. Swans are bigger, heavier and hold grudges. Geese can take off and land easily from almost anywhere, land or water. Swans need a long running start across flat water to get airborne. They are virtually helpless on land, bodies so heavy they can barely waddle. They are disorganized. Swans aren’t good rank and file soldiers, but they compensate with long memories and seriously bad attitudes.
The geese surrounded the nest while one of the two swans was away. The timing was good for the geese. With only one swan to defend against the attack, the lone swan was out-flanked.
The battle continued while papa swan paddles back to the nest. But he’s taking far too long.
The odds are not with the swan, alone, defending her turf. Where’s her partner? Paddling like mad, but he was on the far side of the pond … and will not be back in time.
So what happened? We came back. There were no sign of geese, but the swans were still there. They must have rebuilt a nest elsewhere, because there were more than the usual number of cygnets.
Feeding happily, sharing space with Mama Duck and her ducklings.
Taking the family for a stroll while papa duck keeps watch o’er the ramparts. No geese here!
The kids venture out on their own. They are now big enough to defend themselves and are likely to survive to maturity. It’s not, mind you, that I have anything against the geese. But they have taken over the majority of ponds and lakes in the valley. There are far fewer sites where swans breed. If they can’t share space — and clearly, they can’t — than I’d prefer this place for swans and ducks.
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