Thursday, September 3, 2015

Swans - Very Much a Part of Hellevoetsluis Life.

We like, perhaps even love, our Swans in Hellevoetsluis.
Originally rather elusive waterfowl, they have become an established ordinary inhabitant of the historic naval port, home to some 40,000 people. Drivers are quite used to entire swan families (of up to 10 members) inhabiting the grass verges of the roads, and keep an eye out for swans crossing the road at their leisure.

 © Wibe Koopman Photography

Hellevoetsluis has a lot of waterways, and that is the key to our great mute swan population, for although they have become confident town dwellers, they do want their bath close by.

In Spring people are charmed by the fluffy white cygnets, who cluster around their parents and usually mirror their movements perfectly (if not sleeping). I have witnessed seven cars patiently waiting for a swan family of nine to cross a busy thoroughfare, and have frequently seen people leaving their cars unattended in order to herd some swans to safety.

Folks feed them as well, and this presents some problems. For swans, like all animals, like their home comforts, so when they realize there is a snack-to-go nearby, they tend to cluster around that house and leave their huge droppings all over the pavements. And they can become quite pushy about their food, as one of my friends found out.

Years ago there lived a swan family of six in the small park near their house. My friend was given to feeding them left-over bread, and one day the cob followed her home. She thought this amusing, so fed him some bread on the garden path. The next day he was back, and again she fed him some bread.
He started coming every day, and started bringing his pen and cygnets as well, who modestly waited at the garden gate while Mr Swan waddled up to the back door. This went on for some days, to the amusement of all.
But then, Mr Swan started coming earlier and earlier, until he was literally hammering on the back door at 5 am.
This my friend thought not quite as amusing, and she started closing the garden gate to keep him out. Undaunted, he walked around the house and started hammering on the front windows.
It took her weeks of ignoring him until he took his loss and stayed away.

We have swans in the pond of the park behind our house. We love watching them when the young swans are practicing their flight. The pond is adequate, but not very large, so it takes some clever navigating to actually take off in time (it always reminds me of Faro Airport, Portugal) and they have to make an immediate sharp turn after lift-off to clear some huge willow trees.
We hear them making speed on the surface of the pond, with lots of flapping and many false starts. We have heard some almighty crashes after one of the swans has made a wrong turn, or a wrong calculation, but so far no casualties. Not even when one of them crashed into our neighbour's roof (the story of this is on my blog of Feb. 21st of 2014, I believe) and fell on my neighbour's head.

We have not incorporated swans into our mythology (as far as I know - I'm not all-knowing though!) in the Wetlands. Strange, really. But we do love them in Hellevoetsluis.

This is the entrance to the port of Hellevoetsluis

(On May 15th, 2014 I again blogged about swans, but from a different perspective. And if you like reading about animals: I very regularly blog about the birds in my garden, my butch tomcat Viggo, the deer I chase with a camera and my old dog Gina)
 (except for the photo by Wibe, the rest of them I have lifted from the Internet and so do not know who has taken them as they were there anonymously)