Sunday, May 17, 2009

Selfless behaviour.

- in the animal world. I would have pooh poohed this story if someone had told it to me, but I have just witnessed this selfless act with my own eyes, played out right before me, just yards away from where I sit and observe the Birds of The Lake.
First let me set up the scenario.
This beautiful, approximately 50 acre Lake, with it's miniature Bays and Inlets, an Outlet to The Chesapeake Bay and yes its very own Island, sits just 100 feet from our bedroom windows. The ten, floor to ceiling windows give an unparalleled view of The Lake and its inhabitants. My beautiful wife Julia and I spend many happy hours watching the Lake and it's denizens.
Two of those denizens are a pair of nesting Mute Swans, their nest, resembling a huge volcano of twigs, grasses, leaves, branches and other debris, sits magnificently on the Island, with the female positioned beautifully on her eggs. Meanwhile, the very aggressive Mr Swan patrols The Lake searching for dangers. These perils to his future issue, are apparently everywhere on The Lake, because he can be seen at almost any time pursuing such risky hazards as a pair of ducks, Bill the canoeist, Herb in his Kayak, a pair of Canada Geese with their own three Goslings to take care of and, not to my mind, but apparently to his mind, other Lake occupants that jeopardize his offspring.
Today it is raining, a nice soft much needed rain for the seeds that I have just planted, not good weather for working in the garden, but The Lake's water birds see no discomfit in it, in fact they revel in it. There are a plethora of birds out there today, from a very bedraggled looking Harry The Heron, to a trio of male Mallards (No doubt their mates are seated on their future offspring too) and four Canada Geese.
The drama that is taking place right now before our astonished eyes involves the Canada Geese. Our neighbors lawn slopes gently down to The Lakes edge, giving easy access to their grass by all the Birds of The Lake and enjoyed most often by the Canada Geese. There are two pairs of Geese on The Lake right now, one pair as I mentioned earlier has 3 delightful babies, the other pair are "childless", but the pair without babies seem to stay fairly close to the Geese with the babes. All seven geese - the four adults and the three Goslings - are on the lawn right now, the two groups separated by maybe 50 feet. They are all plodding around, poking their beaks into weeds and under logs and nibbling at the grass, the parents watching their progeny carefully and seemingly proudly. Suddenly, they start to honk, all heads are up and looking out at The Lake. Following their anxious gazes we see the male Swan approaching. The geese honk louder and get closer to the little balls of feathers who still don't sense any danger. The Swan moves relentlessly closer, I get my shoes ready in case I have to intervene on behalf of the helpless chicks. The Swan has reached the shoreline, I've never seen him come up onto the land to chase the Geese before and he doesn't this time either. Instead, he stands uncomfortably close, in the shallow water, alternately preening himself and eating the underwater weeds. When he moves closer to land the Geese become even more agitated and the childless pair take the initiative and move towards the Swan, putting themselves between the family and the Swan. Now this is no silly little gesture, because the Swan killed one of the Geese last year and one of this pair has a badly twisted leg that it hops about on, possibly the result of another run in with the attacking Swan. Suddenly one of the Geese goes into the water, not attacking the Swan - he wouldn't stand a chance - but seemingly to draw him away from the others. The Swan takes the bait and terrifyingly begins to chase the foolishly brave Goose. And it is terrifying, if I were smaller than the Swan I cannot imagine putting myself at the receiving end of his anger. And believe me, he is angry, the Goose swims away from the Swan as fast as he can, the Swan swims after him, the Goose swims faster, the Swan starts flapping his wings and running across the water. The six or seven foot wingspan of the Swan is scary even to me (I think I would run if he chased me!) but the sound of the wings and the huge feet crashing against the water, the loud grunting, and the long neck extended way out is dreadful indeed. Finally, with the Swan getting too close the Goose takes off, the Swan takes off too and continues the chase, but the Goose no doubt helped by his fear, gains on the Swan and eventually the Swan lands on the water, now well away from the baby geese. He does not head back that way, not for now anyway. In my mind this was an act of heroism in the animal world.

Enjoy your day, love, David XXX

To read more of my stories about The Lake, and other things, please go to my Blog at

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