I recently discovered that astrophotographers, those who photograph the stars hate the full moon. It had never occurred to me that anyone besides insomniacs and employees of psychiatric units would hate the beauty of a full moon any more than someone might hate swans, but they do. The light of the moon makes it nearly impossible to photograph the stars, comets, the Aurora Borealis and many other naturally occurring events. Man made light pollution is an ever increasing problem resulting in ever fewer nights suitable for documenting the night sky. Every new house creates more lights. It seems innocent enough to turn on a light, even necessary. But, a little bit at a time, as we populate earth, the lights go on and stay on. To be able to visualize the glory of the night sky gets harder and harder, well - every night. Here, on Totman Cove, we have always savored that part of winter. It's when our pristine night sky blooms. In the summer, our cove is rimmed with cottages and twinkling lights. We sometimes can hear music and laughter from people happy and having fun during their seaside vacation. We don't begrudge that and even enjoy it, though we do cherish when the lights go out. But this winter, across the cove there has been a security light on an unoccupied summer home which has been lit twenty-four hours a day since Labor Day. It's especially urksome when the power goes out because they have a battery back up with an even brighter bulb. In the winter, no one lives on the road rimming the cove with cottages like beads on a string. The security light secures nothing from no one. Yet, there it is, piercing through the darkness, bouncing across the water to my darkened windows, eroding the beauty of the night sky. The people who own the cottage are from Massachusetts. I'm sure they mean no harm nor even realize their light has marred something precious. Probably, they've just done something familiar out of habit brought from an urban environment. Where they come from, what's one more light? What's one pretty swan brought to these shores from far away? All those people and cars and concrete in New Jersey didn't get there suddenly overnight. It happened one light at a time.
Some research suggests that Mute swans may have come here of their own accord without being introduced by man in the mid 1800's, as is generally thought. If you want to read about that idea, click on this green stuff. Uh, text. It will connect you to a link on the subject. Wikipedia also sites a reference to this effect.
Perhaps if they weren't Mute swans, they would say "Please turn out the lights." They get their English name from being less vocal than other swans, though not actually mute.
Mute swans, as do most swans, mate for life. They sometimes get divorced when a nesting failure occurs. I wonder if they call lawyers, if not for divorce actions, perhaps for slander and libel suits. In French, their name is Cygne tuberculé from the nob on the honker. Naaaaaice! In German they are Höckerschwan which sounds like the noise one would make when hawking a lunger. In Spanish they are known as Cisne Vulgar. Vulgar or not, in many cultures, swans symbolize love, purity and elegance.
Atlantic City, N.J., as seen from the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Oceanville, New Jersey