Swans are truly beautiful birds. They are embedded in our lore and culture. The male trumpeter swan, weighing 28 pounds, with an eight foot wingspan, is the largest waterfowl on earth.
I have had the good fortune to watch and photograph a swan family (Cobb – male; Pen – female and Cygnet – baby) at one location for three years. Swans usually mate for life, though ‘divorce’ does sometimes occur, particularly following nesting failure. The number of eggs in each clutch ranges from three to eight. A pair of mute swans (can be identified by a bulb on their beak) have been inhabiting and raising cygnets on a pond at Pebble Beach in Rockport, Massachusetts. While I cannot be sure it’s the same pair each year, swans are known to be very territorial. I have seen the pair chase away a swan intruder who landed on the pond one morning.
Swan intruder being chased away:
The swans feed mostly on vegetation from the bottom of the pond, but will also eat any invertebrates that are pulled up with the vegetation. They use a method of dabbling and wallowing. Dabbling is where water fowl tip their feet to the sky and stick their heads underwater to graze. Wallowing is where, if shallow enough, they will use their feet and body to stir up the vegetation, then dip their heads underwater to consume the results.
The video below shows a swan family feeding in this manner while teaching its cygnet how to graze.
The challenge for me in photographing swans is to make a photograph that captures a family at an intimate moment. My hope is that the image creates an emotional response in the eyes of the viewer.
And finally, Proud Parents. This image required in excess of 1000 shots over 6 mornings to capture this moment. The swans are in constant motion, the light must be right, the background dark and neutral, the water reasonably calm, the subject the right distance away and, of course, in the right position. This happened for 1 second in 6 mornings.
Any proud parent can relate to this image.