Police Arrest Protects a Nest
Our lake spread out like a blanket of wrinkly blue silk as I sat on the pier, dangled my feet in the cool water, and stared at a school of minnows idly circling nearby. Lost in my own reverie, I could not know an unwritten law of nature would soon demand two full-scale, high-speed chases – one involving a brutal assault.
When I finally looked up to scan the opposite shoreline, a regal-looking male swan churned in my direction. He paddled furiously, his powerful neck arched like the crook of a cane as he policed his territory with a “code two” sense of urgency. Within thirty seconds his feathers swelled and stood on end until he appeared almost twice his normal size. This behavior matched a “code three” in police jargon - mirroring flashing lights and emergency sirens!
The swan pulled his puffy, oversized body of distended feathers through the water with increasingly more powerful, webbed-footed strides. Another single adult swan zig-zagged nervously in front of this steely aggressor as if to confuse his pursuer. However, the enforcer cut straight through the uneven path knowing the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
Ironically, sunlight sparkled like diamonds and soft breezes peacefully whispered through dancing cattails as the dramatic chase intensified. Stroke, stroke…the angry-looking male bore down on his prey. Finally the undesirable visitor slapped the water a few times with his huge wings, tip-toed across the top of the water with his webbed feet to gain momentum, and took to the air before his pursuer could strike a crippling blow.
Meanwhile I watched the male’s mate through binoculars. She sat confidently on her nest – an elegant, quiet-looking bird perched atop a giant heap of dry bulrushes only a couple of feet from the water. She trusted the male implicitly, knowing he would faithfully patrol all areas surrounding her nest to keep predators at bay.
Once the opponent no longer threatened his turf, the male went off duty for a few minutes to enjoy “code seven” – meal break! He dipped his long neck underwater and tipped his bobber-like body forward until his tail pointed skyward and his feet dangled freely in the air.
But unknown to us both a family of ducks approached – an obvious misdemeanor on their part.
When the male swan paused long enough from feeding to notice the ducks, he bristled with contempt. This was no misdemeanor in his mind, but a major felony.
Once again the white tyrant ruffled his feathers and approached these new trespassers. He soon caught up with the family whose pace was slowed because of the creeping babies – struck a blow at the group of ducklings with his muscular neck – and then chased their frantic, squawking mother into the air. The tiny ducklings scattered and dipped underwater amidst a flurry of splashes. Sadly, one baby did not resurface.
With an indignant air the swan turned to leave, allowing mama duck to return to her now diminished brood and lead them hurriedly in the opposite direction to safety.
The male glided back toward the nest knowing he’d successfully kept order and regulated his domain. He knew - deep down in his protective waterfowl heart – he would passionately continue to do all he could to prevent crimes against his mate and her eggs and thus shelter those he held most dear.
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