Peaceable Co-existence

Ignoring the terrified woman’s sobs, the mute swan relentlessly went at their pedal boat, and chased the two women completely off the water.

© Babsje (

Great blue heron fishing near a nesting mute swan.

“I am never, ever going out on this lake again!” she shrieked between sobs, as they beached the two-man boat. They stormed off on foot, leaving the boat deserted for days.

On cold winter days, one of the swans resident on my small lake visited the birdfeeders daily, scooping up seeds dropped by blue jays and cardinals and chickadees. Peaceable co-existence abounded on those cold mornings, and the swan would approach me as I replenished the feeders.

But come spring and nesting season, all bets were off. The swans aggressively chased the geese, preventing them from nesting, and chased the great blue herons away from their feeding grounds. And those two women who paddled too close to the swans’ nest? Someone retrieved their pedal boat days later, but I never saw either of them on the water again.

I was reminded of the swans’ aggressive nature last weekend when I noticed a great blue heron plying the shoreline just west of a nesting swan.

Would the heron continue on its path towards the nest, or detour?

Would the nesting swan assert herself as the heron neared?

Would the swan’s mate swoop in aggressively and banish the interloper?

[Before continuing on with that story, a word about the next image. I can’t take you out with me in the boat, as fun as that might be, so I’ve purposely included it here to give you a taste of what it feels like to be in a floating kayak photographing wildlife on the shore. You can get a sense of the way the waves shift and lift the kayak, and the effort to keep the camera steady and focused on the subjects, swan and heron. It was a little windy that day, and the kayak shimmied left and right and up and down, sometimes all at once. As far as photography goes, there’s a high degree of difficulty in this sort of work. As far as being one with nature, I wouldn’t have it any other way.]

In the following sequence, you can see what happens as the great blue heron approached the swan’s nest.

Did the swan appear alarmed?

If you look closely, you can see that it’s not until the heron has passed by the midpoint of the nest that the swan even sticks up her head, in a subtle movement. While swans are notoriously aggressive birds, and especially protective of their nests, this swan seemed completely at ease with the approaching heron.

I love peaceable co-existence, wherever – and whenever – it manifests.

© Babsje (

Great blue heron approaches nesting swan. The shifting movement of the image results from waves in the cove, and gives you a sense of what it is like taking photographs from an undulating kayak.


Thanks to Shane Francescut and WordPress for their Weekly Photo Challenge: Split-second Story.

Thanks to Cee for her Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Water.

Thanks once again to Stewart Monckton for his Wild Bird Wednesday prompt.


A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, Mute Swan

Posted on June 3, 2014, in ardea herodias, Art, Cee's Fun Foto Challenge, Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, Mute Swan, Nature, Photography, Photography challenge, postaday, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wild Bird Wednesday, Wildlife Photography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. A great series of photos! In my limited experience, the female swans will remain motionless on the nest unless they feel very threatened. I have found myself very close to female mute swans on nests and never had a problem. The males are a different story, they attack anything larger than a duck, including me!

    • Thanks for your kind words, glad you like them. You have been attacked by a swan? I have heard they have been known to break bones when sufficiently enraged, human bones.

  2. A wonderful post and lovely captures.

  3. Hi A great post and that was a great idea to put the last series of shots in to give us an idea of what it is like to photograph from a Kayak.

    • Hi Margaret, many thanks as always for your kind comments. I’m glad you enjoyed sharing the kayak experience, even if only via the interwebs.

  4. Some very impressive shooting there! I almost got seasick! 😀

    • Thanks, Gunta, glad you like it and yeah, about feeling seasick? I have never been seasick on the water, but definitely have on dry land, but looking at my own animation in this post starts that queasy feeling for me, too.

  5. Great post and story.. I love the photos. Have a happy day!

  6. Interesting post!! Boom, Bobbi and Gary.

  7. Beautiful scenery. The green reflection in the water is marvelous.

  8. Interesting Kayak demo! I reckon swans are pretty confident of their place. I see them quite often close to when trout fishing in the UK. As long as one acts normally – no sudden movements / trying to stare them down etc – they are pretty unconcerned even if they have cygnets with them. Best not to try to catch one though – since all swans belong to the Queen, that would probably be treason…) RH

  9. I love happy endings. Thank you for sharing such an intriguing and beautiful post.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

  10. What a beautiful blog. Thank you for coming by mine so I could fine yours. I LOVE Great Blue Herons. Am lucky enough to live adjacent to them. All the egrets, too. Tundra swans even have their babies here each year. To the beauty around and the beauty within.

    • Hi Elizabeth. Many thanks for your wonderful comment. It sounds like you live in a magical place for watching beautiful birds. Glad to meet you virtually here. Best, Babsje

  1. Pingback: Un-Usual Suspects | Babsje Heron

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