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Old May 27, 2011, 12:56 AM   #1
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Default Our Rental Swans -- New Cignets (5 imgs)

Hi All,

We have a pair of mated Mute Swans that are brought in to keep the Canada Geese from taking over the lake in our condo complex, and last year they produced two cignets late in the summer. This year they got an early start, and I've been watching them since I noticed that the female always seemed to be on the man-made nest provided for them out in the lake. I figured that she was incubating eggs, but it had been quite a while, so the other day, I went over to get a better look.

The male was swimming around as usual, and the female was on the nest. When I took a closer look at the pics I took of the female, I noticed two buff colored lumps that looked a bit out of place. . .



I returned when the sun came out briefly, and saw that those lumps were actually babies as I had thought. . . but I thought it looked more like three. . .



Dad was preening on shore, and he didn't look too happy about me taking some unauthorized family pics. . . or maybe he just wanted to be included. . .



Today, I saw that both adults were swimming for the first time in weeks, so I took a walk over, and there were indeed three babies, and they were busy getting some lunch with mom watching over them. It was really hard getting a good shot of all three babies and at least one of the adults in the frame. . . I took almost 400 shots to get a few like this.



The adults pulled on the plastic liner that rims the lake to prevent erosion, then let it snap back. This caused some of the seeds and cut grass to be pushed up to where the babies could get to it. Later, they pulled up pieces of algae from the rocks on the shallow bottom so it would float up so the babies could grab them.

This one is actually pretty much the shot that I had wanted. The little guy had grabbed some of the algae that the dad had ripped loose from the rocks on the bottom, but the piece was too long, and the baby was trying to shake some of it off.



Not really exciting stuff, but it's been raining and in the 40's lately, so I feel lucky to have gotten something interesting. . .

Scott
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Old May 27, 2011, 9:45 AM   #2
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Awesome shots! Love the last one of the baby playing, they look so soft. It's interesting to see how their downy feathers repel water.

I gather the owner of the pair will keep the babies to use in his business, what a neat way of doing things. Rent two swans out to someone who will take care of them for the summer and get 5 back in return. How long before swans are breeding age? And can they begin protecting a lake/pond at 1 year or do they have to be older? Seriously, I once bred horses briefly, there's all sorts of ways to go broke in the agricultural business, and swans would be no different.

However, I just think it's a neat idea, having a swan business. Providing guard swans.
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Old May 27, 2011, 10:41 AM   #3
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These are wonderful pictures...very clear. Also the scenes you have caught...especially #'s 3,4 and 5 are excellent.

The 'evil eye' from the parent....the family scene and the cygnet splashing it's beak in the water...really excellent.

Swans good idea...bring in a bigger bird. I hear Border Collies can be effective...but on golf courses.... as far as lakes go they can't swim as fast or for as long as a Mute Swan.
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Old May 27, 2011, 2:05 PM   #4
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Awesome shots! Love the last one of the baby playing, they look so soft. It's interesting to see how their downy feathers repel water.

I gather the owner of the pair will keep the babies to use in his business, what a neat way of doing things. Rent two swans out to someone who will take care of them for the summer and get 5 back in return. How long before swans are breeding age? And can they begin protecting a lake/pond at 1 year or do they have to be older? Seriously, I once bred horses briefly, there's all sorts of ways to go broke in the agricultural business, and swans would be no different.

However, I just think it's a neat idea, having a swan business. Providing guard swans.
Hi Harriet,

Thanks!

I think that the introduction of the swans has been a benefit to our complex as the Canada Goose population has gotten out of hand in this area. In past years, I've seen entire park areas overtaken by hundreds, if not thousands of them, and people just stopped visiting them. I remeber when I moved into the area around 40 years ago, we would run outside when we heard geese flying overhead during migration, but we never saw them close up. . . Now, it's not unusual to have to wait in traffic as a group of geese waddle across the street, and many stay year around.

Apparently wild Mute Swans are considered an invasive species in many places, and there are considerable problems controlling their populations. They are not native to North America, and the aggressive behavior that makes them good for goose control can make them undesirable in the wild since they can limit other waterfowl trying to breed in their natural habitat. Their large size protects them from predation, and means that they can consume more than a normal amount of underwater vegetation so they sometimes can be destructive to a formerly balanced ecosystem.

They apparently breed at about 3 years. The cygnets stay with their parents for about 4 months. I would assume that they only use mated pairs for goose control since the aggressive behavior is associated with the protection of their nests.

I was surprised to find that much of what is posted on the net is negative for this species -- in North America, at least. I find that using them for controlling the geese is a great idea, and the companies that are doing this seem to be flourishing in this area as I see more of these swans every year. They seem to coexist well with ducks and gulls, and they don't seem to bother the Mergansers and Grebes that use the lake as a stop over during migration, so other than the Canada Geese, the lake seems to continue to attract the same numbers of other water birds as it has in the past.

Scott

Last edited by snostorm; May 27, 2011 at 2:22 PM.
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Old May 27, 2011, 2:18 PM   #5
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These are wonderful pictures...very clear. Also the scenes you have caught...especially #'s 3,4 and 5 are excellent.

The 'evil eye' from the parent....the family scene and the cygnet splashing it's beak in the water...really excellent.

Swans good idea...bring in a bigger bird. I hear Border Collies can be effective...but on golf courses.... as far as lakes go they can't swim as fast or for as long as a Mute Swan.
Hi Les,

#'s 3, 4, and 5 were really the reasons for the post. #'s 1 and 2 were just the setup. . .

I like having the swans. They are very decorative, and do a good job keeping the geese away. About 10 years ago, a wild Mute Swan took up residence at our lake for a couple of weeks. I happened to be watching it when it left, and was astounded by the sound of its wings as it took off. I was about 150 yards away to start, but I could hear the whoosh of the wings until it was out of sight. Pretty impressive birds. . .

Scott
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Old May 27, 2011, 7:51 PM   #6
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Hi Les,

#'s 3, 4, and 5 were really the reasons for the post. #'s 1 and 2 were just the setup. . .

I like having the swans. They are very decorative, and do a good job keeping the geese away. About 10 years ago, a wild Mute Swan took up residence at our lake for a couple of weeks. I happened to be watching it when it left, and was astounded by the sound of its wings as it took off. I was about 150 yards away to start, but I could hear the whoosh of the wings until it was out of sight. Pretty impressive birds. . .

Scott

Scott,

I used to be an avid fly fisherman....Northern Pike, Walleye, Yellow Perch...

I was never an extremely successful fisherman, but I primarily went fishing more to get out in the outdoors, then catch fish, which I would release.

Your post about hearing the whoosh of beating wings took me back. The lakes and rivers I fished, were generally very isolated...no other humans...just the sounds of the wilderness.

I recall hearing, as you so aptly put it.... the 'whoosh' of flying birds.

Les
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Old May 28, 2011, 6:31 AM   #7
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Super shots, looks like you might get a problem with swans instead of geese in .... (it'll take a while)

Cheers

Ronny
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Old May 28, 2011, 5:50 PM   #8
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As always, some amazing shots from the master! Wonderful story told with great, sharp, well-composed photos!!

Interesting use of swans - we have tried a number of methods for Canada Goose control, none very successful. Not sure that we want to try introducing a non-native species though...
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Old May 28, 2011, 10:26 PM   #9
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Your patience paid off handsomely - you got some really nice shots.

Quote:
I was surprised to find that much of what is posted on the net is negative for this species -- in North America, at least.
I don't think these swans' behavior is any different from any other species of swan - all are aggressive in defense of their nests and young. I think it is just that anything out of its natural habitat is out of place, often destructive to the natural environment and/or fauna, and as such is viewed negatively. In England these swans are considered the property of the Queen and at least there is an impression given that are highly regarded for their grace, and there and elsewhere they have been kept on estates of the landed gentry for centuries..
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Old May 28, 2011, 10:51 PM   #10
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Scott,

I used to be an avid fly fisherman....Northern Pike, Walleye, Yellow Perch...

I was never an extremely successful fisherman, but I primarily went fishing more to get out in the outdoors, then catch fish, which I would release.

Your post about hearing the whoosh of beating wings took me back. The lakes and rivers I fished, were generally very isolated...no other humans...just the sounds of the wilderness.

I recall hearing, as you so aptly put it.... the 'whoosh' of flying birds.
Hi Les,

I have similar experiences, though I was a shore based ultra-light fisherman using small artificial lures for Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, panfish, and catfish. I always practiced Catch and Release, and broke the barbs off my hooks. I was actually pretty good at it, and averaged over 4 4+lb LM Bass/yr in urban ponds and lakes where the great majority of fishermen never see one over 3 lbs in a lifetime. My record was a 22 lb Channel Cat on 6 lb test and ultralight tackle -- it took over 15 min. to land it. I used pieces of hot dog for cat fishing.

The short rods were easier to cast accurately around shoreline foliage, and though the small plastic worms and grubs attracted a lot of small fish, the big ones would grab them if I gently landed them or passed them near enough. This meant that I never got skunked, especially since I'd turn to Bluegill and Crappie if the Bass were being extra shy, and the ponds I fished always had abundant panfish to support the larger bass.

The variety of birds I saw while fishing remote areas of public lakes is actually one of the things that spurred my return to photography.


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Super shots, looks like you might get a problem with swans instead of geese in .... (it'll take a while)
Hi Ronny,

Thanks!

There won't be a problem. The company that hires the Swans out monitor the babies' development and take them before they are able to be on their own then raise them to maturity on a farm. It's a very lucrative business since there are hundreds, if not thousands of small private lakes in the suburbs that were dug out to raise the levels of Tollways and Limited Access Highways to above normal building height. There quite a few of these that thread through a major metropolitan area like Chicago.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mole View Post
As always, some amazing shots from the master! Wonderful story told with great, sharp, well-composed photos!!

Interesting use of swans - we have tried a number of methods for Canada Goose control, none very successful. Not sure that we want to try introducing a non-native species though...
Hi mole,

Thanks!

This probably wouldn't be close to practical for such a large park area. These swans were originally brought in from their native Europe for decorative purposes, and the escapees have become troublesome on the East Coast especially where they have no natural predators and their population growth goes largely unchecked. They are voracious, and each eats about 4 lbs of Submersed Aquatic Vegetation a day, so a number of these guys on a small lake can wreak havoc on fish and frog breeding areas and the survival rate of their young. Their aggressiveness has also driven other birds from natural breeding areas so the negative effect of wild populations of Mute Swans on the ecology of an area both above and below the water line can be massive, and it doesn't take long for some situations to become critical.

I imagine that this is only practical in urban private lakes where the birds can easily be monitored and with companies that are diligent in their watching over their birds. I see the company truck around the premises at least twice a week while the swans are here, and I hope that the companies are regulated to not allow the possibility of young escapees.

At first was difficult for me to believe that such beautiful birds could possibly be seen as dangerous to the natural order of things, but after a little research, there's no doubt that they can, and have.

Scott
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