Swans on Ice

story and photos by Derek Doeffinger

One of the most elegant of birds is the swan. Its graceful curving neck and haughty deportment seem to   reign regal as it glides through the water.

Today, it’s ironic that its gracefulness make it a favorite subject for ice sculptors. Ironic because ice has surrounded swans in the past month, forcing them to gather in the few open areas of water suitable for feeding. About forty mute swans had gathered in a small patch of open quiet water on the west side of Irondequoit Bay.

That water was kept open by a marina running ice bubblers to protect their docks.

Although it swims like a duck, the American Coot does not have webbed feet like a duck.
— allaboutbirds.org

Other water fowl took advantage of the sheltered open water: Canada geese, mallards, coots, and the occasional long-tailed duck hung out there.

On the first day I visited a squall hit and many of the swans climbed out onto the ice and hunkered down. They wrapped their necks around their bodies and looked like mounds of snow as the flakes settled on their backs.

The bright sun of the following day found most of them paddling about, often turning topsy turvy with their rears pointed skywards as their long necks unfolded underwater to graze on plants. By the start of this week, most had already departed to stake out nesting territories along the ponds and swamps scattered inland but near the Lake Ontario shoreline.

By mid-May their cygnets should begin hatching. Family time is fierce time for swans and geese. Intruder beware.

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