After our less-than-spectacular sunrise at Blue Cypress Lake a few weeks ago, I headed to Lakeland to see my swans. You see, the City of Lakeland takes the cygnets away from their nests almost immediately — sometimes on the same day that they hatch. The City believes that it’s better to raise the babies in a private facility, away from the hustle and bustle of the lake. I find it hard to believe that it’s good to separate babies from Mom. It’s been so sad to spend precious moments with the birds on their hatch days, knowing that they were going to be torn away from their parents in a matter of hours.
Thanks to friends on the lake, I found out that the City left a few of the babies free for a few days. So I hightailed it to the lake to photograph them free and happy. I spent a wonderful evening with Mom and her three-day-old. Carla, there are the babies from “your” nest from the day we visited the lake together!
When I arrived, Mom and Dad and the babies were in the lake near their nest. It was so much fun to watch them swimming together. I never got to see that last year – the babies were penned as soon as the City found them off the nest. Unfortunately, none of the babies grew to adulthood. Swans just aren’t meant to be penned. They are meant to be free and wild – and I have a feeling that Mom and Dad know best how to take care of their cute little guys!
I was really hoping to make some images of a baby riding on Mom’s back on the lake. Unfortunately, they just didn’t cooperate. But they did pose quite nicely! I got there around 2:00, when the light was pretty harsh. I took a walk around the lake, where my dad and I both got to see the cute little babies at two nests. Then I took a quick ride up to Circle B, where I saw my Bobolinks. Then I went back to the lake for sunset. :)
In the late evening, Mom brought the babies to the shore of the lake to feed and rest. They snuggled down to take a nap while Mom preened herself. They were just adorable how they cuddled up together in one little fuzzy ball. They never stayed still for long – there were lots of scratches, head turns, and wing stretches. I laid down with my Beast and tried to frame cute shots. I liked this one, where one of the cygnets wiggled out, stretched, and then plopped back down on top of his brothers.
It’s hard work being a baby swan! You swim behind Mom, learn to find your food, stay away from the gulls, and preen yourself in your spare time. No wonder this little guy was so tired!
As the sun set, Mom came out of the water and laid down. The cygnets cuddled up next to her, trying to get in under her wing. The last one stretched his little head as hard as he could, trying to cover his head with her feathers. Then they all fell asleep together. I left them all tucked in, free and happy and together. The way families are meant to be.
A few days after I made these images, the City captured all the cygnets and took them away from their parents to be raised elsewhere. I am not sure where they go and if they will be returned to the lake.
Want to learn more about nature photography at Lake Morton?
Check out my Lake Morton page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
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