It was a magnificent Spring day, and Emory couldn’t pull on her boots and waterproof pants quickly enough! She grabbed her camera, put on her bug spray to keep away ticks, and placed her bucket of cracked corn carefully in the trunk. It would make a big mess if it were to tip over in the car.
She parked on the side of the road, grabbed her bags and bucket and slid carefully down the hill, through the woods, to the pond. Swans being swans, she never knew where she might find them. They were never in the place she left them! After walking in the direction of the nest, too warm now for a jacket, she stopped to take it off, arms flailing as her long hair snagged on some low hanging branches. The children saw her first and yelled, “Hi Emory! What ever are you doing?” She laughed and told them she was trying to take her jacket off. The largest cygnet (always the leader) said, “We’re lucky to not wear clothes! We just come out of the water and shake ourselves dry, and the oil in our feathers keeps us warm, even at nighttime.” Emory agreed. Clothes can be a bother.
William and Bella swam over to say hello, and remind her of her promise. “I have your treat!,” Em said cheerfully. “Two stores were out of it, but my friend Dan brought me a bag bigger than William!” “Well, any friend of yours is a friend of ours,” said William. “Please tell Dan we said thank you!” Emory began pouring the corn into the water, a banquet for her friends, when suddenly, whether it was the noise or the swinging motion of the bucket, all eight swans jumped back and paddled quickly away. “I didn’t mean to scare you!” Em said. “I’m so sorry! You must know that I would never hurt you, or allow anyone else to hurt you. Ok? You can trust me.”
Relaxed (and very hungry), the swan family dug into the corn, floating on the water, while William and Bella used their long necks to dive down to get the bits which landed on the pond’s bottom. Until the young ones are big enough to find the tasty greens which grow from below, their parents bring them to the surface by swimming in circles and stomping their ridiculously big feet. “Swans are the very best parents,” thought Emory. “They always make sure their children have enough to eat, even if it means the parents go hungry.” After breakfast, Bella gathered the cygnets for a little nap in the sun, while William watched both sides of the pond in all directions. There are coyotes in the woods, and they are hungry, too.
Emory sat with William, enjoying the smell of the Pines and the warmth of the Sun, happy to be done with Winter. After staring at the water, as it rippled and reversed, becoming almost mesmerized, she quietly took a picture of Bella and the babies, and a close up of William (he said it was fine, having decided they could trust her) and then she smiled at him, Father Protector, and said, (it was to become her parting ritual, for the next twenty-three years): “Be Safe. I Love You!” and she gathered her bucket and bags and crept carefully through the woods, so as not to wake the babies.
When Em got home and put her wet muddy clothes in the wash and her boots out to dry (waterproof boots let her stand in the water with the swans, just like one of the family!), she sat down at the computer to look at the photographs she took. Some people go on Safari to see wild animals up close and photograph them (‘shoot’ has two meanings, one of which is distasteful to Emory. She would never shoot anything with a gun). Em told her friend Dan, the bringer of corn (Dan looks after the big white geese at the restaurant, (‘Embden,’, they’re called), like I do the swans)), that what matters most is the relationship with the birds; not the pictures or the food, but the love and the trust. Dan said he couldn’t agree more. Wild creatures know who to trust.
Dan told a funny and not funny story about a woman who tossed a big baked ham over the fence at the restaurant for the geese. She probably meant well but geese don’t eat ham, even on holidays! Dan waited until she left and picked it up. Every day, people throw junk food over the fence for the birds; Cheese Nips and potato chips, without even thinking it’s harmful to their health! Even moldy bread, which is toxic to birds and will kill them! So good people must always be watching and helpful, to keep the birds safe. Emory told Dan about a lovely friend of hers who feeds peas to her goose friends. She buys them frozen, very inexpensively. It’s good for the birds, they enjoy it, and it’s kinder to the water than moldy bread! Dan thought that was a fabulous idea!
Here are some of Emory’s photographs of her early visits with the swans (if you can’t count 6, they are hiding on their mama’s back. Best ride ever!):