On Sunday I visited Lake Morton to photograph what is probably the last Mute Swan cygnet of the season. We’ve had a great spring this year, with lots of great nests and adorable cygnets. Unfortunately the babies are taken away by the City of Lakeland almost as soon as they hatch. So we haven’t had many opportunities to see the babies bonding with Mom and Dad out on the lake. One thing I really wanted to see was the babies riding on Mom’s back as she swims. My friend Kim got this amazing shot, which inspired me to try for my own. I got there five minutes after the baby posed on Mom’s back! Go figure! After waiting for the cygnet to nap on the nest for about an hour, I finally got my own shots…
As I observed these precious creatures in their natural habitat, I just couldn’t get a song from Kim’s blog out of my head…
It’s not that unusual
When everything is beautiful
It’s just another ordinary miracle today*
I was so excited to see the baby nestled on Mom’s back. He worked hard to scramble up there, and once up, it was hard to stay on! He kinda slid off a couple of times. You can see how he’s falling towards the water in the image above. I love how Mom’s wings form the sides of his own personal flotation device! From the side, you hardly notice him unless he sticks his head up…
This mom has a sad story. She laid six eggs in her nest. She patiently sat on the nest for over a month, incubating the eggs and keeping them safe. Three babies hatched on Memorial Day. Thanks to the holidays, they had several days of freedom before being taken by the City. When her babies were taken, residents heard her “swan song” of mourning. She returned to the nest and began to again incubate her remaining eggs. Two more hatched, but one died. The baby featured in this post was taken by the City on the day after I photographed it. The sixth egg never hatched. It’s so sad to see these swans returning to their nests after their little ones have been taken away. I really don’t understand why the City doesn’t keep the families together. Nature intends babies to stay with their mommies!
After the little swimming excursion, Mom brought Baby back to the nest for a nap. The cygnet snuggled up next to the remaining egg. I’ve read that birds can communicate with the babies still in the egg. I wonder what this little guy was saying to his brother as he settled down to sleep…
Kim and I checked for the Wood Duck babies and then returned to the swan nest. It’s such fun to see the residents of Lakeland come to check on their swans at Lake Morton! Everyone wants to know how the swans are doing and how many babies there are. Everyone delights in the little gray fuzzballs.
When Mom settles down to sleep, you know that you’re in for a wait before the next swimming opportunity! When she wakes up, she makes this little sound, almost as if she’s calling her cygnet: “Come on, let’s go for a swim! I want to get a snack out of the swan food feeder!” The baby perks up, then they make their way through the lily pads out to the lake. The little baby is adorable as he does a power-swim…
The cygnets have natural predators on the lake, including the herons and the gulls. On a previous visit I watched a gull fly up to a cygnet, grab him by the neck, and try to fly off. Luckily he didn’t succeed in snatching the baby, who shook himself off confused as Mom told the gull to get lost. On this day, we were pleased to see a heron minding his own business as Mom brought Baby into the shallow water for a bath.
Mom wasn’t incubating the remaining egg, but she did seem to be building up the nest around it a couple of times, giving us reason to hope that it might still hatch. From a side vantage point we had a good view of the nest with Mom, Baby, and the remaining egg.
Life is like a gift they say
Wrapped up for you everyday
Open up and find a way
To give some of your own…*
It’s been a privilege to observe these swans this spring. Thanks to Kim for letting me know when to hurry to the lake!! :)
* Lyrics from Sarah McLachlan’s song “Ordinary Miracle”
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!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!