For the past three years, I’ve been sloshing into a boggy Wildlife Management Area and photographing a pair of swans. They come back and nest every year in the same spot. I’ve been extremely cautious with this pair, keeping my distance and using a long lens. I dress in head to toe camouflage, sit patiently, and observe. I’ve come to the realization, they know I’m present, but over the years have become accepting of me. They look over in my direction if I make a noise they disapprove of, but are quick to give that, “Oh, it’s just you” look of boredom. I do not try and push the “invisible” boundary. The last thing I want, is to upset these swans and have them abandon the nest.
Two years ago, this pair left with two Cygnets. They returned without any. I was disheartened. Cygnets usually leave their parents at 1 year of age, so I wasn’t sure if I had missed them, or, if they just didn’t make it over the winter that year. Swans pair up around 3-4 Years of age, and usually mate for life.
I was quite surprised and elated to see them on Monday. I hadn’t seen them since September, before the grouse hunting season really got underway. The last time I sat with these proud parents, they had three cygnets. There they were, resting on the ice. They still had one, with them! I was thrilled to have definitive evidence that one of them would actually make it into adulthood.
When I first arrived, the parents lifted their heads, on high alert. Within a few short minutes, they went back to snoozing. I sat with them for a few hours. Being in their presence, is a treat for me. They really are funny creatures, and have personalities all their own. I was hoping that they’d get some energy and move around, but they didn’t. The marsh was still frozen, the sun was out, and I’m sure they had a long journey to get back.
Just as I was getting antsy, and thinking that I should abandon the sleeping trumpeter swans, I heard this sound, like a smaller outboard across clear calm water on a warm summer evening. Memories of a distant summer lake flat as glass, when sunset is coming into its grand finale of pinks, oranges and purples, filled my head. At first I thought, “What the hell is that?” In the short time of lifting my head up towards the sky behind me, the sound became almost deafening. My eyes quicker than my brain, when it comes to wildlife photography, saw two adult eagles in a dive bomb position heading right in my general direction. They had their wings fiercely pinched back, trying to minimize as much drag as possible.
In synchronicity, they swooped up right over me, about ten feet over my head, and proceeded out over the still frozen marsh. It was a spectacular site. The trumpeters just kept on snoozing. I’ve never seen that behavior from eagles before. I’ve never heard that sound before. Nature sure is wonderful.
It might not have been my “best” photography day. I didn’t walk away with any award winning photographs. The experience, was a gift that I’ll not soon forget. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to witness wildness.