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TERRIFIC TUESDAY TRIALS – ALL ALIKE?

Preeti Kanwar at LenzExperiments has started a new challenge, Terrific Tuesday Trials. This week’s theme is “all alike” so, having a few spare pictures around, I thought I’d come out and play with the other kids.


You almost always see swans in pairs. Swans mate for life, so where you see one, the other is rarely far behind.

And of course, when there are babies, you’ll see the whole family, in formation like a proud armada on the pond.

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SPRING ON THE POND

Welcomed by a singing bird. I think it’s an Eastern Kingbird. Can anyone confirm this or otherwise identify this guy? I managed to grab a pretty good shot of him before he flew away.

It was good to be back at the pond.

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It was our first trip to the pond in 2014. I was wondering how the swans fared through this terrible winter. I don’t have a complete answer, but there are swans on Whitins Pond. And they are nesting. We saw two swans today.

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One was sitting on the nest. The other came right up to us. I wished I’d remembered to bring some bread. He was clearly hoping for a handout!

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Hard winters — like this one that seems to have finally passed — take a toll on water fowl. The pond freezes for long periods of time and there is little or nothing to eat. The heavy snow makes it difficult to hide from the weather.

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I’m glad we still have some swans. A few of my pictures today and I’ll try to process some of Garry’s tomorrow.

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Mom and the Kids – Back to the Pond

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I hadn’t had the time to check back at the pond and see how the battle of the swan and geese had gone. But I did get there today, at least briefly and the whole swan family was out. Six cygnets this year … last year only five and there may be more. There were also some ducklings in evidence. Didn’t see any of the geese, but I think they’ve established themselves in a different part of the pond.

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It is a very large pond and as I said in the beginning, there’s more than enough room for everyone … but geese and swans are both highly territorial and don’t share space well. Apparently the ducks aren’t considered a threat by any of the other feathered friends. There was also a diver standing around, related to the ducklings? I was too far away to tell.

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This was my first trial of my Panasonic DMC ZS 19. It’s got a Leica lens on it and it’s a nice 20X telephoto and this is exactly the kind of shooting situation where I need a long — sharp — lens. So far, I’m a bit underwhelmed. On the plus side, it focuses quickly, even at full extension, unlike my superzoom Olympus which takes great pictures if you don’t lose the shot while the camera is trying to find its focus.

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It’s also much faster focusing than the Canon Powershot 260 (gave that one to my son when his older Canon Powershot passed away). In fact, it’s very fast focusing, but the pictures seem soft at full or nearly full extension … and I bought it for the superzoom. But you can judge.

Can you see the ducklings?

Can you see the ducklings?

I’m not sure the camera I want exists. I want fast, long, high quality and small enough to pack in my purse. As far as I can tell, if I get the quality, I can’t get the superzoom and vice versa. Any suggestions? I think I’m ready to give up!

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I think the problem is the autofocus. If I was still able to focus manually, I would … but my eyes are not that sharp anymore. I have to rely on autofocus. More than I wish. That, alas, is part of aging.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Home In the Earliest Golden Hour

This is my home. A sequence of pictures taken in the first hour of sunlight a few days ago. The final picture was taken from the road. Look for the sign that displays our house number. We put it up because no one, including us, could find our house from the road in the summer without something to mark the driveway. Sun comes at this angle in July for about 40 minutes starting just before 6:00 am. Then it quickly rises and is blocked by the canopy of the oaks.

You can barely see our pond hidden deep in the woods. I used a very long lens to get those two pictures. It is nearly impossible to physically walk to the pond. The ground is rocky and uneven. There is no path. The ground is choked with blackberry brambles and poison ivy (which I am trying very hard to not scratch). The creatures who live in the woods go there to drink and happily consume the blackberries along the way. I’m sure the berries are yummy. I wouldn’t know since I’ve never gotten any before the birds and other fruit-loving critters consumed them all.

Finally, we breed world-class mosquitoes in the pond and are their lifeblood. Add that to the poison ivy. Serious itching. Very serious. My doctor suggested I stay clear of the woods. (Scratch, scratch, scratch …) How would I do that? Just asking.

Nesting Swans

Back at the pond, the important business of nest-building continues. It’s family time on the water where hopefully, Mr. and Mrs. Mute-Swan will take care of business and fill their nest with cygnets. Their babies will become the new generation of swans on Whitins pond.

The war between the Canada geese and the mute swans is far from over, but life has its own imperatives.Time out for love. It’s the mating season.

Later, time enough to go attack those demon geese.

Battle of the Nests – Chapter 3

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 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.

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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!

Attack mode!

Attack mode!

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“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.

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Standoff on the Pond

We stopped at the pond yesterday and I was sad to see that the geese are still occupying the nesting area and the swans are still patrolling around it. The longer the stand-off continues, the less likely we are to have little swans this year. There is a lot of room for other nests, but swans apparently are very programmed and keep the same nests … and the same mates … till death do them part. In the meantime, they are still on the pond. Sooner or later, something will happen.