Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A pair of Mute Swans on a local pond

Relatively new to our neighborhood is a pair of Mute Swans. Amy and Bill (whose birds, Rico and Kip, were featured in an earlier post, Hatched in the USA!) told me about a small pond just outside of downtown Mason that has become home for the pair. They regularly fly between this pond and the Proctor & Gamble pond, but nest here.

One of the new kids on the block!

I headed over to the pond today at lunch. It was cold. Very cold. So cold that the pond was skimmed with ice and only a 4-5 foot circle of water was open for the pair, but they didn't seem to mind. I did, however! By then end of the shoot my fingers were painfully numb and my face was burning.

Oh, look at me! I'm warm, dry, and gorgeous
even though I'm floating in an icy bath...

Beak Bits
I just learned that my cousins, Marianne and Paula, who are also bird lovers, are using Red and the Peanut to help their kids learn about birds, so this post goes out to Marianne, Paula and their kids in Chicago and Detroit! To help everyone learn new things about birds (including myself), I'm adding a section called "Beak Bits" that will introduce little bite-sized bits of bird science.

If a swan is floating in icy water, why doesn't it freeze?
Swans and ducks are lucky. Their feet come equipped with a network of arteries and veins lying very close to each other called a rete mirabile. In Latin, the term means "wonderful net," and it is! Fresh, hot blood flowing from the heart to the feet in arteries (up to 106 degrees F) enters the feet and immediately warms the cold blood returning in veins. Heat is exchanged because the arteries and veins are so close to each other. The warm blood essentially reheats the cold blood preventing body heat from being lost, so the foot never gets cold enough to freeze. Pretty nifty...

Feathers do an important job too, especially the fluffy down feathers on the swan's chest and belly. Feathers, like hair, do not contain blood vessels so body heat is not lost into the environment. Feathers trap warm air near the skin keeping body heat in. There's also a layer of fat in the dermis (just beneath the skin) that provides insulation and can be used for energy during very cold weather (to produce heat) and when food is in short supply.


The gorgeous bird has no problem plunging
its head into the icy water to find its lunch.

The water beads up on his feathers and drips right off.
Through preening, birds spread oil from a gland
near the tail over their feathers to create a waterproof barrier.

...and for dessert, I think I'll just poke around in the ice
a little, because my bill doesn't get cold either!

See you later alligator!


There will be a test next Tuesday...


Not! Learning about birds is fun...
no need to stress over a test.

17 comments:

Roy said...

Ah yes, Swans. Can you wonder why kings in Europe claimed them as their own personal property and forbade their killing? Good shots!

Kallen305 said...

I love mute swans. Such beautiful photos! I especially love the last one with it's feathers ruffled up some.

Shellmo said...

The first two and the last two photos should be on greeting cards! Beautiful!

Steve B said...

You got some nice poses! I look at the birds here on Cape Ann with standing in the frigid water and can't help but think that must sting a bit! Thanks for the extra data.

Laure Ferlita said...

Oh, I think I'm in love! What beautiful birds and you were able to get some great captures - despite freezing to death!

Love your blog and will be back!!

Pat and Abe said...

Don't fret, my Abraham Lincoln's Blog will still be there and pictures will be posted to it. Nothing will really change except that Patty and I are putting more emphasis on the 53 plus years that we have been married and I wanted to announce that to my followers on my major blogs. You will have to stop by and have a look at two young lovers so long ago. Here is a link for you to follow.

Pat and Abe

Pat and Abe said...

Forgot. I really like your swan photographs. I got so confused thinking about your comment I forgot why I came here.

Warren Baker said...

Snap! I had Mute swan encounters today. I just wish I had some of that sunlight you have there!

The Early Birder said...

Lovely series of shots of Mute Swan Kelly & definitely worth the cold fingers.

Kelly said...

Thanks, everyone! ...and thanks Kallen for letting us know about the embedded comments not working!

also...thanks for stopping by Laure...your artwork is beautiful, and I'll definitely be back to visit your blog!

NW Nature Nut said...

I love all your sunny photos. The sunshine on the icy water is wonderful!

Snowbabies said...

I see so many shots of Swans but these really stand out, brilliant white with the water droplets glistening in the sunshine, great stuff!

Paul.

Chris said...

Hi Kelly,
I love this post... The last picture is awesome, you can see his majesty and beauty....
I have been chased by one when I was snorkeling in Finland... They can be quite aggressive and I was just diving to avoid him!!!

Kelly said...

Thanks again! I took a lot of photos and the swans were very obliging. I kept alert to a changing attitude in them, though. Since they are not nesting yet, I guess they were more accepting. I've read that they can break an arm with their wing if they chase you and catch you!!

Heather said...

Kelly, these swan photos are just amazing. And thanks for the factual tidbits. Oh, and the names of the swans... Kip and Rico?! Obviously a Napoleon Dynamite reference. That's hilarious.

Mary said...

Beautiful!

Corker2 said...

I was snoopin' in your Blog and I'm amazed at the great Images you have taken of all the different kinds of birds. You have done a surperb job. Wish that I could do the same thing.

While out on a "Photo Shoot" this past Monday, I happen to stumble upon some Swans that were at the local Wildlife Area. I had no idea what kind of bird they were, until I asked on my Blog. Told they were Mute Swans. Never knew anything like that existed. They are so pretty to see and watch. I hope to see and capture them again. This time with a Tripod.