A few days spent on the river Wye, close to Fownhope, gave a good opportunity to work with what appeared to be a resident and local population of mute swans. There were 25 birds in all and during the time I was there spent all of their time within an area of a couple of hundred yards.
They split the time between grazing on the young shoots in the field and on the river itself. There were two males (they seemed a little stockier and with a stronger neck) who were particularly aggressive and would take the classic low in the water posture before launching an all out attack on others within the group.
I’ve photographed such behaviour before but on that occasion against Canada geese.
Waters of the Wild Swan – Jim Crumley
There’s a really fine book by Jim Crumley, Waters of the Wild Swan, and in it he describes much of what I experienced whilst photographing them over these few days and on the other occasions. I could spend weeks watching and recording their antics and never tire of the nuances of rivalries that play themselves out over the course of a season. Jim Crumley puts into words the essence of what I’m trying to do with the images.
I put the glasses on him. He came head-on, which is the most impressive angle to observe a roused male swan, provided you are not the object of his attentions. His wings hoisted like two great mainsails, a small bow wave appeared at his breast, then his head went ominously low almost to his own waterline, the neck marvellously withdrawn as if it had never been. The young swans suddenly sensed his approach, and if they were slow to react, it could simply be that it was the first time they had ever encountered the phenomenon and mistook its purpose. From 200 yards, he charged, wings and feet thrashing the water, neck restored and stretched low and straight, and the young swans panicked.