My fascination with mute swans began with my first sighting in 2009, and it grew stronger when one swan became my favorite. At the time, I didn’t know it was possible to bond with a wild swan.
In 2010, a pair of mute swans nested in the nearby wetlands and had three little cygnets. Only one survived. In October, when that one remaining youngster was old enough to fly, the parents brought him to visit the lake behind our mobile home.
He later came alone, and I threw bread out on the water for him. He soon began to come to me when I called or waved my arms. Sometimes he would swim toward me whenever he saw me in the back yard. I called him Henry.
Henry Stood Beside Me
One day, I saw him standing in our back yard. Was he looking for me? By the time I took some buns out to feed him, he had gone back into the lake and was swimming away. When he saw me, however, he turned and swam back. I threw out a few buns broken into pieces, and he ate them all. When they were gone, he came up out of the water, climbed awkwardly up the bank and stood beside me.
He had appeared quite elegant in the distant water; but standing there next to me, he seemed amazingly huge. Even his feet were huge. In spite of his intimidating size, I felt a connection with this wild bird. I told him I didn’t have any more buns, and he went back into the water. This happened in April of 2013.
The Sound of Flight
From the front porch one day, I heard a strange sound like a loud pounding machine. I ran to the back yard, where the swan was taking flight out of the lake. I watched as he flew up over the trees and away.
The sound of his powerful wings was a thrill I never forgot. I listened for that sound from then on, knowing what it was. I even heard it once from inside our mobile home—it was that loud.
Henry brought his bride
When it was time, Henry found a mate; and he brought her with him a few times to eat my bread. The last time I saw Henry and his bride was in January of 2015.
The ice had frozen thick that winter. One day in March when I came home from shopping, I saw huge footprints on the snowy ice at the edge of our lake. I was sure that Henry and his bride had paid a visit and I had missed them that day. I never saw Henry again.
Swan footprints in the snow
In April, I saw one new swan in our lake. I knew it wasn’t Henry, because it didn’t come to me when I called. I worried about Henry. Had something happened to him? Could this be his mate alone? A pack of a dozen coyotes had been seen roaming the area while the ice was frozen, and all the ducks and geese on the lake had disappeared. I prayed that Henry and his bride had simply gone to a safe new home.
Many swans have visited our lake since I last saw Henry—some single swans, some pairs, and a group of four. None of them have come to me to eat my bread. I’m not feeding any of them anymore. It might be good not to be too friendly, in case someone else would take advantage of their trust. And swans don’t need bread; I’ve been told it’s not good for them anyway. Algae is better.
Discover seven swan foods in this Nature in Flight article.
Related reading: Mute Swans in the Wetlands