While the joys of Spring burst out over much of the campus, for at least one resident it is a pretty sad and lonely time. The widowed Black Swan…Until 2014 there were a pair of Black Swans on the lake. Birds that largely bond for life, and introduced as opposed to native in the UK, the loss of either is a real blow. And in late 2014 the male died. So now there is a single female, unlikely to find another mate.
Black Swans are sociable by swan standards and will normally nest in colonies with social hierarchies, so a single pair are already a little unnaturally isolated. Down to one is a recipe for a very lonely bird.
There are however two Mute Swans on the lake, and our lonely female has been attempting these past few weeks to latch onto this pair as at least some form of company. But it is not a happy group. Mute Swans are very much more territorial with a monogamous pair viewing the ideal number of grown swans on a lake as two. So the sudden appearance of the Black Swan is most unwelcome.
They will chase her across the water until she finally hauls out onto the bank, at which they will make elaborate displays intended to show their greater size and power. As long as she stays out of the water they don’t seem to mind. But she always gets back in, and she tends to head back toward them. Today I watched them chase her across more than a quarter mile of water.
The whole sad affair is made worse through the quiet, mournful sound she then makes when they have left her alone. It’s clearly anthropomorphism on my part, but it is a call of loss and confusion.
I don’t see a happy ending to this story. The Mutes are never likely to accept her, and she is unlikely to find a friend here. Her best option is to leave, and Black Swans do roam far and wide. But for now she shows little intention of doing so.
As an incidental point, how interesting is it that there is generic recognition? She isn’t interested in making friends with ducks or geese, just other swans. Similarly the Mutes see no issue with the other waterfowl, but another swan is one swan too many.