3 Mar 2013

Black Swans

We discovered this huge bevy of more than 50 black swans ( did you know that collective noun?) yesterday in some wetlands near church, and I snapped these photos for my friend, Tammy, who has been doing a Swan Study with her daughter, Pamela. The photos are grainy and not very good, because the wild swans swam or flew away as soon as we got anywhere near them, and so I had to quickly zoom in using my little iPhone camera. Still, looking at all those little black dots, I hope you get some idea of just how many birds there were. It was quite amazing, actually
The birds reminded me that I hadn't posted these shots of us feeding some rather more tame, although still wild, birds on our visit to Daylesford in October. These are for you, Pamela!

It took Jemimah quite a deal of courage to get close enough to feed the swans. They were quite aggressive, and a bit scary, so we were all really proud of her when she had a go! The ducks were far more friendly!

Did you know that when explorers first reported the presence of black swans in Australia, scientists in Europe believed them mythical creatures and dismissed the sighting as a hoax? Dutchman Antonie Caen is believed to be the first to sight the birds back in 1636 off the coast of Western Australia, but his reports were doubted, and it was only when Willem de Vlamingh captured two or three birds during his voyage in 1696-7, and tried to take them home to Holland with him, that Holland believed. Sadly the swans died in Jakarta on the way home. De Vlemingh also had a painting made of them on what he named the Swan River in Perth.

Willem de Vlamingh's ships, with black swans, at the entrance to the Swan River, Western Australia, coloured engraving (1796), derived from an earlier drawing (now lost) from the de Vlamingh expeditions of 1696–97.
(This painting of de Vlemingh's ships and the black swans is actually a 1796 copy of the original drawing made a hundred years earlier and sadly lost.)

England also believed in the birds about this time, but poor old France took another hundred years, apparently! Anyhow, Rod Giblett's newly published book, Black Swan Lake: Life of a Wetland has a whole chapter on this stuff if you want to learn more. Jemimah and I found it fascinating!

Jemimah and will head back to the wetlands again in a day or so with a zoom lens and a set of binoculars. I do hope the swans are still there. I'll report back.

Our favourite book on black swans is Leslie Rees' The Story of Koonaworra the Black Swan. It is excellent. I'm not such a fan of Rees' Tom Thumb character, Digit Dick, but if you are, he also visits black swans in Digit Dick in Black Swan Land. I haven't read it - If you have, please do drop me a line and let me know if it's any good.


  1. Black swans are in our area and they are just so lovely to watch, I find them very elegant.

  2. Swans are lovely, but they are quite aggressive! My sister used to work at a house museum and gardens that included a lake complete with swans. The swans would parade about the grounds, hissing and chasing employees at any time of the day! My sister HATED them!

  3. I'm like this with geese, but my hubby, who grew up with them, has no fear. They run from him, not the other way around! Even these swans were respectful of him!

  4. I've only ever seen black swans in Victoria, you guys must have them all:)


I'd love you to leave me a message. Tell me what you like - and what you don't. Just remember that this is what we do in our family - it doesn't have to be what you do in yours...