Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Mute Swan

Sometimes the Seasons get really pushy with each other, anxious to exercise their clout with Mother Nature. Saturday was one of those mid-winter days when Spring seemed to be testing the Mother's patience to see if she could sneak in a day or two ahead of her appointed time with her own idea of how the weather should go. I must say that Spring has spent an entire week with us, with, I think, her main goal to melt all of December's snow. Goal accomplished. The TV weather lady reported the other day that we have gone 18 days without moisture. The weather map for this new week shows Winter flexing her authority once again with more snow on the way.

Spring won't give in easily as March approaches either, for she will bring with her a cousin, Wind. I don't much like Wind. Not a weak maiden this time of year, she flexed her own muscles last week with a fierceness that she proudly uses. Tree Hugger Heather with her boss off on a ski trip, spent one evening sending alerts to her tree crews to be on stand-by for Wind's damage the next day.

While the week was quiet, there were some exciting moments. On Thursday while in Greeley running errands, I caught sight of large white spot on Bittersweet Lake, located in the middle of town, the center piece of a wonderful park. I knew instantly that is was a lone swan. So after tutoring Friday, I stopped by the park to photograph the swan.

He floats gracefully, elegantly, nonchalantly on the rough water, bouncing on the waves driven by the breeze. By the time I parked the car he was on the other side of the lake. I took this photo with the iPhone, but I had my Canon with the 300mm telephoto. While the breeze was chilly, I lingered pond-side to wait for him to come back across the water, and he did.

And while I waited, I watched the geese and the mallard ducks coming and going. As you can see, the lake is still iced over, so some of the fowl float on the the waves, while others rest on the ice, standing on one foot, heads tucked under their wings, resting, soaking in the sunshine.

I ponder the dormant cat-tails and listen to the red-winged blackbirds jabber. Childhood memories of our farm pond stream through my mind. We had a small pond that the wild ducks and geese made home. I was always asking dad to buy a pair of swans. He always said "no" because they would eat his prized water lilies. The neighbors had a pair of swans. Now I am content to visit the lone Swan on the lake in town. In this part of the country, he is a rare bird.

 After doing some research on swans, I am discovering that these swans here in northern Colorado are an anomaly. According to Audubon Society's web page, this swan is a mute swan and is not native to North America.

Instead, these swans were imported from Europe by parks and wealthy estates as curiosities. As other animals that have brought to the continent as pets, these birds established themselves in the wild; now Audubon refers to them as feral in large enough numbers to become nuances. They re hardly a nuisance here in northern Colorado.

In parts of Northeastern USA, they are even pests, probably much like the Canada geese which populate our parks by the thousands, some never migrating away. They like it here.

A lone male mallard duck. I do wonder where the ladies are.

So is this fellow a young bachelor, waiting to find his life's mate or is he the old boy who was here a few years ago with a mate? I don't know that this bird is male or female, but it is a wonderful, magical bird either way.

I've not given up looking for the pair of swans on the river yet, but they may be hard find as the river goes on a ways.

Saturday I loaded up the SUV with 3 rascally granddaughters and their mother and drove to Denver to miniature show. It was located at Jefferson County Fairgrounds, my childhood stomping grounds. The Lakewood Westernairs were holding the regular Saturday morning drill practice. As a kid, I belonged the Westernairs for a time. Perhaps you might have heard of them. Formed in the 1940s as an organization to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble, they rose to fame performing in parades and rodeos all over the country. They are known for their precision drill team work on horseback, having performed literally all over the world, including Calgary, Canada and Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, CA. So we lingered for a bit, watching the kids ride, taking instructions as they learn how to maneuver their horses into positions. More sweet memories for me.

The miniature show was a bit of a disappointment. No need to go into detail here.

It is rare that I get both daughters and all 5 grandchildren together in Denver. At Heather's suggestion, we visited a roadside park located west of Denver dedicated to my grandmother. I blogged about her some time ago, Visit Colfax Avenue web page to read the background on the Blue Star Memorial Parks, rest areas across the nation, honoring American Armed Forces.

Here is Abbie Duston's legacy: Jacob, 13; Lucy, 8; Elinore, 9; Lily, 3; and Nathan, 6 (proudly smiling to show that he has lost his first tooth). We did get pictures of all of us, but they are on another camera. I'll share when I get my copies.

These ladies show the formality, grace, and elegance of the flower shows of the past.

This week's mosaic honors my Aunt Margie who posed for an article in a local newspaper on the park and my grandmother. As the article explains there are actually two memorial parks joined together. I have written before about Abbie Duston's gardening expertise in the Denver area and nationally. She was a certified national flower flower show judge and coordinated the flower show at the Colorado State Fair. I have fleeting memories of the flower shows. I do remember she encouraged me create little flower arrangements to enter in the Lakewood flower show. I keep thinking that I should recreate this arrangement with the daffodils and pussy willows. I think I'd use artificial flowers so that it would be ever lasting. She wouldn't mind. In the next photo she is the lady on the right. I don't know what the occasion was or who the other lady is, but look how they are dressed in the mid 1950s. Proper ladies with purse and hat.

One of the many flower shows that Abbie Duston judged

We are getting itchy around here to get out in the Garden Spot. I noticed today that we have garlic coming up where we planted it last spring with not such good results since it should haven been planted in the fall. We are wondering what we left behind to sprout. It is very exciting to see how these new shoots will grow and develop--hoping that the Head Gardener does not forget that the sprouts are there and till them under. 

Thanks so much visiting. I hope you enjoyed my meandering. I appreciate your visits so much and enjoy reading about your adventures, too. 


  1. This is written so well, my friend. I can feel your longing for a mate for this dear swan. We have a huge abundance of swans on our lake in Michigan. They love the little bay we live on and they come ashore to prune their feathers and sun themselves. They are huge birds and prone to aggression when it comes to our boat, jet skies and sadly, even our kayaks. It can be quite scary when you are drifting along and a male comes skimming at you with a 5 foot wing span flapping. Still, who's territory is it anyway? Mixed feelings on that.

    Good for you with some plant sprouts. I need a few signs of spring!!! :)


  2. Poor swan. They are normally in pairs, so I hope he/she finds a mate soon.
    How interesting to see the photos of your Aunt. I do remember my mother and grandmother would never go out without a hat and gloves. Those days are long gone now, sadly.

  3. Wonderful series of the swan, so sorry I cannot send him or her a mate from over the great pond, we have lots of them and see them almost daily swimming in front of our house. So nice to go to a horseshow with your grandchildren and the picture of the descendants of Abbie Duston is so pretty, you must be a very proud grandma.
    Here we have schoolholidays this week and our two grandsons come tomorrow to stay the rest of the week.

  4. Hello, your grandchildren are all so cute! Sounds like you had a nice outing. The mure swans are pretty but they are not welcome in our, due to all the damage they do. The non-native birds have a way of taking over, I believe the Tundra Swans are native to Maryland. Our weather has been teasing us with some warm days only to swing back to the cold weather. I am ready for spring. Great post and images. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

  5. Oh, Ann, what a beautiful and touching post!
    Concerning the swans, our situation is a little bit similar to some states in the US. The whooper swans are native, but the mute swans are increasing greatly in number... and they are more aggressive.
    As Eileen says above, your grandchildren look so very cute. The story of your grandmother is really interesting, and judging by her smile, your Aunt Margie is (or was) a lovely person.
    Thank you for sharing. Have a lovely week!
    PS It does look like spring is on its way there. We may have that kind of views in April. :)

  6. I hate to see swans on their own - I only tend to see them in pairs on our local lake. They are such graceful birds. Is that ice I see? How flower arranging has changed since those days so much more formal than we like these days - it is good that you know so much of your family history - very interesting. We are experiencing some lovely days but it is all about to change apparently - so changeable at this time of year.

  7. What a great visit with so much going on....Spring has been here a day or 2 at least 4 weeks apart...but winter will linger here for weeks galore still. What a stunning swan...reminds me of the fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling....long elegant swans....beautiful.

    Itching to get out in the garden too!

  8. Hi Ann! The swan's dunk is so cute! I saw lots of swans in Washington and we see lots of GEESE here! Ha ha! I love the geese.

  9. What a treasure to find the swan locally. Great shots. And the kids by your mom's memorial park - what an honor. Looks like you had a good week - even if the miniatures show was a bust.

  10. Like you, I have a hard time imagining those lovely swans as pests. But I know all about those pesky Canadian geese, they like it here too. I've read where people admire Canadian geese, etc, but obviously they must not be pests where these people are from!