Stretching the Wings

There’s something about beautiful weather in September that I find so much more appealing than a full blown summer’s day. Perhaps it’s because I live in a tourist destination, and now the schools have gone back but the university term’s still a month from restarting my locale is experiencing a temporary lull.

All in all this summer has gone by very quickly. It’s hard to believe that only four months have passed since the swans of Swanpool hatched their pair of chicks – especially when you look at the size of the surviving cygnet stretching her wings at the waterside. I noticed a couple of weeks ago how pale her plumage was starting to look beneath her dust brown feathers. Although she’s been shaping up like an adult for some time, she’s now fully grown: so much so that despite the sepia tint to her outer layers it’s hard to still call her a cygnet. Her once blue bill – still an indeterminate blueish shade beneath which I may be imagining that I can detect a hint of orange – is full length, with the black knob growing in like a nose at the top, conjoining with the eye-make up-like markings of her face. It’s no wonder swans make such good ballet, they are quite theatrical to look at. The whole family were beached and preening at the poolside today, so I got a really good view of how well the young swan’s plumage is coming on. I wonder if it itches as they grow through? The grooming process certainly looked very satisfying, enough so for both the pen and the young adult to ignore the bread and bird food in favour of its continuing; whilst the cob had to contend with herring gull young from above, and shoals of dark fish from below for his share.

It seems like the young one’s wings have either sprouted overnight, or been glued on by an invisible helper, so small they seemed when I last caught her stretching them out. They now look big enough to fly with – after a lengthy grooming session the young swan stretched out her neck, then her wings, then flapped a bit. I wonder how long before she’ll fledge, and although I imagine learning to fly must be a task and a half for a bird of that size and weight, it is already apparent that those wings are very powerful.

Wandering on I’m struck by how many butterflies there are out and about and making the most of the sunshine: red admirals, tortoiseshells, painted ladies, and some sort of fritillary resting on my neighbour’s wall. The buddleias blossoms are now more brown than purple, waggling like eyebrows all over the hedgerows, but what flowers remain are full of butterflies everywhere I look. Their abundance goes some way to making up for how many spiders there are everywhere else – but then I console myself with how many fewer flies there must be thanks to their work.

More on this?

How to tell it’s August, Seven Week Cygnet, And then there was One… 

Water Babies, Sitting Pretty, Spring Sunday March

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