The Unexpected–Checking Up On the Neighborhood


Mute swan swimming alone at Silver Lake

Mute swans nest at Silver Lake almost every spring, and we have been lucky enough to watch these large birds shepherd their little ones all summer and into the fall, when they are finally ready to learn to fly. But as I approached the spot I’d seen the swan perched on when I’d visited the lake a while ago, something did not look right.


Swan is no longer on the nest, cause of death unknown

Usually we see one or the other of the swan pair sitting, nose tucked under a wing, or perched on the nest, looking outward. But not today. In fact, the bird’s position was remarkably similar to how it had been sitting when we had last walked. But that day we had no binoculars. Today I was prepared and could see better. This was no bird sitting on her nest. Instead, she was stretched out, head submerged in the water, and clearly dead. Any eggs she may have laid were long chilled, no longer viable.

Her mate swam in another section of the lake, seemingly indifferent to the loss of his partner, but then with birds, it’s not always apparent how they feel.


Female common merganser looking for a meal before heading north

I saw only a few visiting migrating birds, male and female common mergansers,


Male common merganser staying near the shoreline of the island in the middle of the lake

as well as some canada geese. Neighbors have assured me the otter family is still in the neighborhood, but it’s been several weeks since I last saw them.

Other neighbors met me alongside the lake and said they’d seen an eagle in the neighborhood. Sadly, not today, but it made me wonder if the dead swan was drawing scavengers to the lake.

Spring is often a time for new life, new growth, and a time to start new projects. But it is also a time for nesting, an enterprise that takes tremendous energy, and sometimes the challenge is too much. And so I will check back, keeping an eye out for the scavengers, the circle of life that is part of nature as well.


beech cliffs 2018Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then  


Filed under Blog posts--Easy Walks

4 responses to “The Unexpected–Checking Up On the Neighborhood

  1. That’s a very sad ending. I thought swans mated for life, so this male swan could be mourning in his own way. I know “Circle of Life” and whatnot, but I hate to see this. Thanks for sharing.

    • marjorie561

      Agreed, Mary. It made me really sad as well. It really was not what I expected when I headed out to check on them. So many other springs I”ve been able to watch the parents patiently tending their nest. But not this year…

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