Autumn Visitor: A Mute Swan at Fawn Lake

Fawn Lake's mute swan - Image (c) Laura Bullock, 2015 all rights reserved
A mute swan returns to Fawn Lake for an autumn visit- Image (c) Laura Bullock, 2015 all rights reserved

Submitted by Laura Bullock

Preening - a reflection. Image (c) Laura Bullock, 2015 all rights reserved
Preening – a reflection. Image (c) Laura Bullock, 2015 all rights reserved

Each year Fawn Lake is graced with the presence of beautiful mute swans. About six years ago a pair of swans stopped at the lake for a few days and then moved on to their summer residence.  Each year since,  the number of swans has increased and in the spring of 2014 we had six.  In the fall we usually only see one or two at the lake and they will stay until the ice begins to freeze.  They do not migrate very far for the winter – they just need to find an area of open water.

Not everyone is a fan of the swans.  Although a protected species in much of the world, they are no longer considered so in much of the US.  In most states they are considered invasive because their numbers increase so rapidly.  Laying up to 10 eggs each year and with a lifespan of 10-20 years it’s easy to see how quickly the population increases. They are known to severely reduce densities of submerged aquatic vegetation eating up to 8 pounnds a day – which for Fawn Lake would be a good thing!   No matter how you feel though I think everyone can agree that they are a magnificent bird to see.

Mute Swans (named so because they are less vocal than other species of swan) can measure up to 5 ½ feet in length with an impressive wingspan of up to 7 ½ feet.  With a mature weight of approximately 33 pounds, it is the largest and heaviest flight bird.

The swans are monogamous and the male and female share the care of the nest.  They are very territorial and will hiss loudly to warn an approaching predator.  If that doesn’t work, they will physically attack with their wings and beak.  It is said their powerful wings exert enough force to break a human’s leg.  They have few natural enemies, although fox, coyote and bear will sometimes attack.  I noticed last week that this swan had a substantial wound on her neck and the feathers on her neck and back were stained with blood.  She normally stays on the island but with the weeks of added water from the DPW, combined with the heavy rains, the island virtually disappeared last week.  I’m guessing a night on the ‘mainland’ may have put her in harm’s way.   But I’m happy to report it appears she has healed beautifully.

Because they are territorial, it is said the swans will chase other bird species out of the lake, however the canada geese, wood ducks and great blue heron do not seem to be the slightest bit affected by their presence.  If you come to Fawn Lake this fall you will most likely find the mute swan by the island (near Springs Road) in the morning, then venturing into the rest of the lake to feed in the afternoon.  If you are in a canoe on the lake, please don’t chase her as the swans are territorial and she will have no problem turning around and attempting to attack you!

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