Saturday, February 23, 2008


Some readers of BG might know that Black Swans are special birds for me and Anna. We are at present, designing our wedding invitation cards using images of Black Swans.

When we got together in London (and I moved to be with her in Walthamstow (nicer than it sounds)) we regularly used to watch a Black Swan on Walthamstow reservoirs and the river Lea.

I think we both appreciate "different" sights or animals, slightly unexpected or abnormal events and sights, things that are out of the ordinary or improbable. Doesn't everyone?

We were always delighted when we saw that swan fly down to the reservoirs or river (although smaller than the normal Mute Swans, you'll not miss a Black Swan flying - they have longer necks than Mute Swans, are jet black all over (at least it appears that way from a distance) and have very showy white wing flashes in flight which are hidden when it is on the ground or water).

The wild Black Swan (Cygnus aratus) is native only to Australia and Tasmania, although there is a significant breeding population in New Zealand also, where it was introduced.

It is a popular wildfowl collection bird, all over the world, many have escaped these collections and are now often found in "the wild". It was thought that they couldn't breed in the Northern hemisphere, so in tune were they with the southern hemisphere's "winter" breeding season - but that is quite clearly untrue.

I have no idea where the pair of Black Swans that appeared on the Thames at Reading have come from. There is a Wildfowl collection very close - and this stretch of the river is no stranger to exotic avian visitors because of that. Maybe they came from that collection. Who knows?

During the 1980's I enjoyed boating up this part of the Thames because you quite literally never knew what you were going to find - maybe a Carolina Wood Duck, possibly a Mandarin Duck, and ever since we've been living in Reading (for the last year or so), a Barnacle Goose, a dozen Egyptian Geese, and a semi-tame Tufted Duck - all of which I know can fly, and fly elsewhere should they want.

Well, now, possibly two of our favourite birds (as a couple anyway) have turned up right under our noses in Reading - maybe they took their time following us from Walthamstow!

I'll try and get much better photographs of these beautiful yet different (slightly unsettling) birds if we get better light here - its very warm and dull at present. We do hope they stick around for a while...

Click HERE for a review (in the Telegraph) of the book "The Black Swan" by the very rude, frank, Lebanese epistemologist, Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
I think that might be worth a read - "Plato was a nerd" eh?!!
Should be a giggle.


NB. A day later. After a little more research on the web, and after being told an interesting tit-bit of information by a colleague, it seems that Winston Churchill may have introduced the Black Swan to Blighty, at his country residence, Chartwell.

Lifted from the web:

"Out in the garden is a small lake with an island that Churchill helped to build himself. Unusually for England there are black swans resident in the lake. The original swans were a gift to Churchill from the people of Australia in recognition of his wartime achievments. He was very proud of them and their successors are there today".

The Black Swan means "Perth" (Western Australia) to Australians, in the same way that the Kangaroo means "Australia as a whole". There is an ancient Western Australian legend that explains the origin of the Black Swans. Allegedly a pair of White Swans stole some Eagles' boomerangs. The Eagles were so furious that they plucked those White Swans alive. Their blood stained their bills, and so concerned were the local Crows, that they covered the Swans in their own black feathers...



Jane said...

I love the black swans. Beautiful close up. I can understand it having a special meaning. We have a "special" bird which is a pair of Ospreys. The day before we married one came and flew over our boat time and time again. You could see right into his eyes.

That was in October, yesterday we went and visited the same area again. This pair now have 3 babies in a nest. Three plump, noisy balls of feather and fluff.

It made me smile to see them doing so well... a good omen I hope. I will show you the film when I get back. Jane

The Black Rabbit said...

That was the first post that got me interested in your Blog Jane!

I understand what you see in Ospreys. "The crooked raptor of the seas" have a very personal spot in my favourites also.

I am lucky enough to have seen SEVEN Ospreys fishing simultaneously over Findhorn Bay in Scotland many years ago - a sight that will live with me forever....