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Inspiring and Supporting Photographers of Australian Birds

Black Swan

Black Swan (Image ID 46651)
Photographed byMichael Hamel-Green on Wed 2nd Jun, 2021 and uploaded on Sat 12th Jun, 2021 .
Resolution1114x1400
Viewed108
ID46651
CommentA madeleine was Proust’s trigger for remembering a “lost” time. This photo of a Black Swan and its recently hatched cygnet is my “madeleine” memory of a lost and much happier time for a Black Swan pair that has made its home at Coburg Lake for much of the last decade and whom I have followed through their highs and lows on an almost weekly basis ever since. The pair arrived at the Lake around 2013-14. I know this because the male was tagged as part of a Melbourne University Study and tracked from its early days at Albert Park Lake through to Coburg Lake. In those first few years from 2014 to 2016, they would produce a new family every year, of around 5 to 6 cygnets, whom they would nurture for up to around 6 months before sending them off into the wider world. It was a delight to watch them at a conspicuous nest in the waters of the lake as they took it in turns to sit on the eggs, with a changing of the guard around 8 or 9am in the morning, with the female going off to feed and the male gently settling himself on the eggs (if only all human males were as conscientious and attentive). On one occasion, I sighted their affectionate mating ritual in which they began by intertwining their necks, progressed to the male mounting the half-submerged female, and then separated and began swimming in a circle around each other, like two ballet dancers performing a duet. But tragedy was to strike. In October 2016, the pair hatched four cygnets at their nest close to the weir. But one by one in the ensuing weeks, the cygnets disappeared until none were left. For months, the pair looked totally bereft. In 2018, they sought to hatch another brood but with little success: two cygnets were hatched but disappeared within a few weeks. In 2019 and 2020, after the arrival of a large White Ibis colony on the island in the lake, they did not appear to engage in any nesting at all, and were sometimes absent from the Lake for months at a time. This year, after a partial decline in the Ibis colony, they were once again seen at the lake and building a new nest in a shallow stretch of water. They took it in turn to sit on the nest for some six weeks, and about three weeks ago, were sighted with two creamy white cygnets. This is a photo taken a week and half ago of one of the cygnets with an attentive parent looking over it. Walkers in the park were delighted to be seeing our pair of Black Swans raising a new family once more. But already tragedy has struck again. Today only one of the cygnets is still with them, and, going on recent history, it may not be long before the last remaining cygnet disappears too, leaving them bereft again. The memory of a lost time when all seemed to be going right for them remains with me, as too does the ineffable sadness and anger about what has possibly led to the progressive failure of their broods, including chemical pollution upstream, extraordinary amounts of plastic, nylon and other detritus in their nest, the impact of a large White Ibis colony (200 strong at its peak) that has arrived in the park, and extreme weather events, like the storms Melbourne has just had, with swift flowing waters having possibly swept a cygnet away. I am sad about what has happened to this Black Swan pair. And I am angry about all the ways we are beginning to extinguish such beautiful creatures from the surface of this planet.
EquipmentNikon Z7ii, Nikon 300mm PF f4, TC1.4, focal length 420mm
ISO 800
1/800th f8
LocationCoburg Lake Reserve, Coburg, Victoria
Keywordsjuvenile, adult
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