Swan Song 2.0

Nearly ten years ago I posted Swan Song, with photos of Trumpeter swans on Potter Marsh in the fall. Today I captured the spring version of their annual migration, and the marsh is currently overflowing with cuteness.

We’ve been watching a nesting pair of swans for the past few weeks, anxiously awaiting the arrival of their cygnets. We certainly did not expect them to have eight (!) adorable chicks. It’s going to be fun watching these fluffballs grow all summer!

Of course the swans get all the attention, but the marsh is full of geese, gulls, terns, and ducks as well. The terns are actually my favorite, with their angular wings and darting flight patterns.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was young, where bird feeders dangled from tree branches throughout their yard. The sidewalk to their front porch featured a flag pole and bird bath, both points of pride. I remember lying on the shaggy green carpet in their living room, listening to various calls that would chirp from my grandma’s singing bird clock. The face featured a different bird in the place of each number on the clock, and she still has it to this day.

My mom has even more bird feeders than my grandma. She boils sugar water to feed hummingbirds and goes through vats of jelly to keep the orioles happy. An Audubon Society identification guide is often perched on her kitchen counter, but she rarely needs to consult it any longer.

When my daughter turned six, she asked for a bird-themed birthday party. She loves birds so much that one year Santa brought her a bird feeder and suet for Christmas. She is also the reason we have a chicken coop in our backyard.

Was I really naive enough to think this bird thing had skipped a generation with me?

There is currently a lone swan a bit farther up the marsh. Of course I don’t know its story, but I do wonder. Is it a young bird, still in search of a mate? Or maybe it’s a widow, migrating alone? Does it feel excited for the next phase of life, or nostalgic for the past? Or, more likely, is it simply focused on the constant effort it must exert to survive?

Some believe that swans only sing before their death, but I have my doubts about that. Then again, I can’t hear them either way. Birdwatching at Potter Marsh is a noisy affair, with squawking gulls, whipping winds, and (contrary to the National Geographic look of the photos) zipping highway noise in the background.

One thing I choose to believe: if the swan song is real, it contains details about the entire circle of life.

And for eight tiny cygnets on our marsh, the music has just begun.

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