Mid-winter cygnets

It’s July, the middle of the Australian winter, and there in the wetlands are 5 bonny cygnets looking as though they hatched on or around Winter solstice. Black Swans can raise a clutch at any time of year, particularly after suitably heavy rainfall, but to me cygnets herald springtime and that’s a lovely thought when your toes are tired of being cold.

 

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) – cygnet
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 160, 340mm

 

Oh my, the cygnet above made my heart go pitter-pat. It has a tufty look that is very endearing, along with the gentle curve of its neck and the way it is beaded with drops of water.

 

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) – cygnet
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 160, 340mm

 

I liked the cygnet so much that I’ve included a shot that I took two frames later when the water droplet on its bill began to fall. I took a burst of three shots on high-speed continuous shooting which is supposed to have a rate of 8 frames per second. The two images above are the first and third in the series and the data says all three were taken at precisely the same time, down to the hundredth of a second. Now that’s a bit puzzling.

 

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) – cygnet
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 320, 360mm

 

The cygnets were shepherded to the reeds by their watchful parents where they began grazing. I was focussing on the cygnet in the front as it peeked at the reeds. Its movements were so quick that it was hard to get the shot I was after but I was trying for it when the cygnet in the back darted into the frame.

 

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) – cygnet
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 250, 340mm

 

This is a different cygnet; each one has an individual pattern of tufts as they lose their downy fluff. At last I got the shot I was after. This little one darted towards a reed and tore the end from it, the tiny pointed tip of the reed can just be seen at the base of its bill. If you’re looking that closely you will also be able to see its tongue peeking out and the tooth-like serrations that swans, and some other species, use to strain water when they are feeding on aquatic vegetation.

 

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) – cygnet
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 400, 400mm

 

This reedy area is clearly a favourite place to dine as all of the reeds in this clump had been grazed.

 

 

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) – cygnet
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 160, 320mm

 

A little more diffused light settled on the scene for a moment which brightened the catchlight in this cygnet’s eye as it glanced towards the camera. What a comical expression, so different from the graceful pose in the first two images.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these winter babies and am grateful to the new friend who kindly introduced me to some of her favourite places.

In August of last year I was lucky to see swans nesting and to photograph what I believe was the first time their cygnets took to the water. The images from that nest can be seen by visiting Spring is in the air and Cygnets on mum’s back.

Happy birding, Kim

 

 

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