Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Please Turn Out The Lights - More Mute Swans

In response to my post about New Jersey and the Mute swans, I received some e mails in defense of The Garden State and a suggestion of mass slaughter as a reasonable control measure for that aggressive bird species. Since photographing them, I have spoken to several people who told me about being attacked by swans while kayaking and canoeing. This lead me to some internet research which confirmed that this is a serious problem where the big birds have established nesting colonies. One such population of swans in Purdy, New York is visible while whizzing at 45,670 mph along the Saw Mill Parkway. Zooming in on a  Google map I could actually make out the geese on the water as they are so large. Knowing how much poo Canada geese produce in a day; it's reasonable to speculate that Mute swans produce even more. A flapping, hissing, crapping machine with a bad attitude could definitely render a summer outing in Purdy not so 'purdy.' That being said, it seems extreme to be willing to fall on a grenade in martyrdom to commit mass swan-ecide as one reader stated willingness to do. Several states employ lethal and non-lethal population control measures. As a serious birder, I was slightly embarrassed to have been so gushingly and openly smitten with them. It was a lady birder's version of coming out of a restroom with my  slip tucked into the back of my pantie-hose hauling my dress up for all the world to see my arse. It's been years since I last did that. It's a mistake a woman only makes once, but the humiliation of it when it's pointed out (always publicly, it seems) stays with a girl. I do wonder if in Europe, Asia and Russia where they are 'native,' if the swans are regarded differently and if means are used to control their populations. Popular thinking amongst birders is that they were introduced to this country for aesthetic reasons (There is argument about this; see links below). However, the consequences were not known.  Surely, no one thought anything bad could come of the graceful birds. Like the swans, people - the human inhabitants, have been drawn to New Jersey for good reasons, too - so many, in fact, that much of the natural beauty of the state has been irrevocably altered if not destroyed. The consequences of their numbers was not understood fully until it was too late, either. The cars and concrete and malls are there to stay.
        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



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1 comment:

  1. Once took my two Labs for a walk near an inlet from LI sound in CT, two beautiful swans were there- one of the Labs swam for her life to get away from them attacking her! Needless to say I never had to try to keep her out of the water if the swans were around! They are rather cranky birds, although beautiful to look at!
    Ms. Boo

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