Hostile Waters

I’ve had this set of pictures processed and ready to go for some time now. They were actually taken at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge back in March 2015. If you are new to the blog you might be saying to yourself “Good lord that was like more than a year ago!” Contrast that with the long time reader who expressed equal excitement that “this was like yesterday compared to most of the posts here!” It’s all about perspective and that happens to be the theme for today’s post.

For the uninformed birders out there, you might look at this royal looking species and think about how regal its behavior must be as it paddles around the calm waters of the Emiquon preserve.
Mute Swan and Canada Goose at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge - April 2015

Maybe it gives the classic royal wave as it spots spectators along the shoreline exercising their index motor skills as they press on their expensive cameras.  Splendid in white with a stoic stature that reinforces those lofty expectations.  One might guess these Mute Swans are gracious to their fellow watermates , maybe even hanging out directly with the commoners to enhance the self worth of those not born into such privilege.

Mute Swan and Canada Goose at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge - April 2015

I referred to those that might hold this opinion as the uniformed.  Hit the jump to find out “the rest of the story”

As people familiar with the Mute Swan already know, nothing could be farther from the truth with this particular species of Swan.  These creatures happen to be mean as hell and likely among the most possessive of their surroundings of all the feathered kingdom.  They are actually considered an invasive species as they are not native to our country.  In some areas they are taking steps to even remove them for their local waters.

Mute Swan and Canada Goose at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge - April 2015

Come into their territory and you are likely going to find yourself in a nasty fight.  It just so happened, this Canada Goose decided to test its toughness while we were out there.  It originally landed about 30 or 40 feet from the Swan.  Immediately noticing the intrusion, the Swan began a fairly slow but direct line to confront.  Figuring how this would play out, I readied The Beast.

Mute Swan and Canada Goose at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge - April 2015

Sure enough, within range it turned hostile.  The Goose would attempt to launch out of the water to escape the immediate onslaught on its tail feathers, but opted to simply put a small distance between before landing again.  Rinse and repeat – Swan makes a deliberate paddle to the new location and proceeds to attack it over and over.  At one point they looked like they were actually running on the water.

Mute Swan and Canada Goose at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge - April 2015

As a note, the Goose’s mate was actually there as well, but chose to land quite some distance away.  There was an initial thought that this was actually one of those well known Goose Dirty Deeds moments – a revenge kill hired by a previously wronged inhabitant.  First Goose lures it out into the open waters and bam, get jumped from behind by a stone cold Canada assassin.  Tie the victim to a chair under a hit white spotlight, take a few web footed crosses to the bill, grab a pliers and pull out feathers one by one before finally tossing it to the pet alligators.

Mute Swan and Canada Goose at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge - April 2015

… or maybe not.  Turns out it it was two completely stupid Geese that were no match for a disgruntled Mute.  It finally drove those intruders from the waters with their tails on their feet.  The Swan even gave them a parting taunt – farting in their general direction.

Mute Swan and Canada Goose at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge - April 2015

Truth be told, after looking around a bit, I found an explanation for this extra level of aggression.  His mate was actually resting on their nest tucked away in the nearby reeds.

Mute Swan and Canada Goose at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge - April 2015

Mutes are aggressive enough without cause – add in a threat to their loved ones and ….well you better bring an entire skien of Geese because there is going to be a throw down.

I’d feel bad for the Geese, if they didn’t have a similar disposition during breeding season.  They have no qualms about opening a can of peck-ass on you if you accidentally come upon their nest.  Just another datum point for the Mute strength if the Geese ended up fleeing like spineless Coots.

2 thoughts on “Hostile Waters”

  1. That’s an interesting interpretation of the bubbling around the bottom of the Mute Swan. That’s the sign of a true observer of nature! You should write a birding book with these kinds of facts. You could call it “What I know about birds that those d*** birders don’t!” Actually, I’ve formulated some theories of my own about bird behavior–like this week when a Red-Winged Blackbird was mad at me and flew around exactly between the sun and me so I could hardly see it and had to keep looking away half-blinded, while its mate was flying around in front of me trying to distract me so he could attack. Bastards. (And yet again a yellow-and-black bumblebee attacked me because of my yellow-and-black Nikon camera strap, another fact I know.)

    So those Canada Geese are annoying even to other birds. I knew it! The female swan looks totally amused by the whole thing, actually, which of course is something else birders will not tell you.

    Thanks for the post! It certainly tells a story, including things you won’t read in Sibley.



  2. What can I say, my propensity to share is only topped by my utter lack of reliance on facts. I think that bird book idea is golden, although I will say the Red-Winged Blackbird story isn’t that interesting due to one simple thing – EVERYONE already knows that birds hate you – word has it they even devised a clever tripwire to send you tumbling down the embankment at Emiquon (if anyone is interested, I have pictures!) Wait a minute, I bet one of those would be an awesome cover for that book. I’ve heard you claim the bee aggression before. I will have to witness that in person. Seems odd since I have a similar yellow strap (yes, folks, cool people only shoot with Nikons) and never once been attacked.

    As far as Sibley goes, it is kind of hard to really capture the behavioral aspect of a bird species if you have to KILL it in order to draw it (obviously I having problems letting that little tidbit go)


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