When I first started following the drama at Whitins Pond, the Canada Geese had come and taken over the nest belonging to the pond‘s long term residents, Mr. and Mrs. Mute-Swan.
The battle is waged.
The daring fait accompli has not been without ramifications, however. The Mute-Swan family has built a new nest in an adjacent curve of the pond, a swampy, shallow area with excellent nearby food sources and a clear 360 degree view of the surrounding area.
Today, we followed Mr. Swan as he patrolled his piece of the pond, keeping a wary and belligerent eye out for The Enemy Geese.
Mr. Mute-Swan enters the narrow and shallow channels leading to the swampy area where the new nest has been built.
Looking right left, then snaking his head behind, he headed for home by the most indirect route possible.
Garry and I, cameras hanging all over the place followed Mr. Swan’s passage through reeds and swamp grass. He made one brief check to make sure we were not a threat or, alternatively, packing goodies for him. I apologized but had not had the foresight to bring bread. Sorry kids. Next time!
Having ascertained that we were neither a threat nor a source of food, papa Swan proceeds to the nest where he joins Mrs. Swan who is still fixing up her nest and could really use a little help.
Together they enjoy a few cozy moments, rearranging pieces of grass and reeds and weeds and suchlike.
But ho! What evil lurks just beyond the nest? Those devil geese are spying on the new nest? Uh oh!
As you can imagine, the Mute-Swans were not happy about this. They stayed in their nest and made evil eyes at the geese until the Canada Geese took flight. Using a widely circuitous flying path, the geese returned to their (stolen) nest
You can run (fly) geese, but you cannot hide! Mr. Mute-Swan because knows where you live because your nest was HIS nest before you snatched it. And Mr. Mute-Swan holds a grudge. If he had shoulders, there would be a very big chip on them.
After the geese flew home to the other end of the pond, mom and dad Mute-Swan spent a some more time snuggling and arranging furnishings.
Were the geese lulled into a false sense of security thinking that Mr. Swan forgave or forgot? Not on your life. As soon as the missus was settled in, Mr. Swan decided it was time to swim next door to harass bad neighbor Canada Geese.
Garry, stationed at the other end of the bridge, picks up from here.
Mr. Swan spots his hated neighbors.
“Aha!” he says in Swan-ese. “Never shall these evil geese know a moment’s peace while I’m on the pond!” Gathering himself together, he gets ready to show those geese a thing or two!
“I’ll show you, nest stealing demon geese!”
It’s going to be a long, hot summer down on Whitins Pond. Very long and hot, hot, hot!
What struck me the most about this was how human the birds’ behavior is. The geese, having already stolen the swans’ nest have no reason to keep bugging the swans. And the big male swan, having built a new nest, had no reason at all to go over to the geese and harass them. He was simply pissed off at the geese and wanted to get a little of his own back. He had clearly no intention or expectation that he would be able to drive the geese away. He just did it to annoy them. Pure revenge.
I didn’t know birds could hold a grudge. I didn’t think water fowl committed acts of vengeance. I didn’t know animals could behave in a way that is as petty as people. I’m betting that although the geese won the battle, they will never know a moment’s peace on Whitins Pond because that big bad Mr. Swan is not going to ever forgive or forget the insult of having his nesting place usurped by a couple of geese.
That’s about as human as it gets. Next thing you know, they’ll be setting up a government and giving tickets for swimming too fast in the channels.
- Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) (ncfscience.wordpress.com)
- When Geese Attack! (thenaturalpoultryfarmingguide.org)
- The Black Swan (ryanphotography.co.uk)