L-APC: Getting to Know You

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #145, hosted by Scillagrace, has the theme “Getting to Know You” (I am already singing the next line of the song from My Fair Lady in my head: Getting to know all about you…).

This is how Scillagrace describes the theme: My invitation to you is to present a “Getting To Know You” post showing your relationship with a subject you’ve photographed. The subject could be a Person, a Place, a Culture, an Object…anything that has captured your attention, won your affection and taught you a thing or two.

I have chosen a selection of my photos and observations of the birds on the ponds of our community, especially the swans, but I enjoy the ducks too! While observing these birds (which was one of my main entertainments in 2020 during the pandemic), I was curious about some of their habits, and did some research to learn more.

We have two pairs of swans that arrive in March to occupy our ponds until late fall. Last year there was a contest to name the swans, but I had my own names for the swans, especially those on West Pond: Sidney (cob) and Celina (pen). Swans mate for life and we were able to observe their mating rituals. One afternoon in March, we actually saw them mating. I was so awed I didn’t even think to pull out my camera and take pictures, although I did get their post-mating “heart” – where they put their heads together and form a heart shape – it’s like their kind of kiss!

Two weeks later, Celina began laying her eggs. Swans lay one egg at a time, usually two days apart. Even though they may lay several eggs, their method of incubation causes the cygnets to be born about the same time. The pen doesn’t spend as much time sitting on her eggs until all have been laid. She pulls feathers out from her belly so that the clutch will have direct contact with her skin to maximize their warmth. One of our photographer friends spent a lot of time observing this pair, and he not only got photos of their actual mating, but even one photo of Celina in the process of laying an egg! With my cellphone camera, I only got a photo of her with two eggs, and then 5 eggs when she was temporarily in the water feeding. (She laid a total of 6).

To keep us entertained during the pandemic, there was another contest to predict when the eggs would hatch! I’d found out that the incubation period is about 35 days, so I calculated May 21 as the date we would see the hatchlings! Unfortunately, there was a huge storm that swept in on May 18 with high winds and rain. Alas, all the eggs were lost, blown into the water where their precious cargo immediately drowned! (Bird eggs cannot be saved from the water – since oxygen does permeate the egg shell, once they fall into the water, the babies drown.) It was a great disappointment to many in our community, since we were greatly looking forward to watching the cygnets grow. Because of the pandemic, their loss was particularly devastating for us.

But Sidney and Celina carried on, not laying any more eggs to replace those they’d lost (sometimes swans will do this). The photo below was taken the week before the storm. Sidney had been vigilant about keeping potential intruders away from the nest. Here he chases a Canada goose out of the water. (Once the eggs were lost, both swans lost interest in chasing geese away.)

More tranquil scenes, in July

A daily visitor to our ponds last year was this heron – he’s back again this year, but I haven’t taken any new photos of him (or her – I don’t know which it is)!

Sidney and Celina were returned to us this spring, but within two weeks, Sidney died of unknown causes! Instead of taking the pen back to choose another mate, a substitute cob was brought to the pond two days later. This year, Celina has laid 7 eggs, but I am unsure whether these were fertilized by Sidney or the new mate – perhaps a few of each. I haven’t been able to find out whether this is possible. As a stepfather, though, it remains to be seen whether the new mate will bond with the cygnets once they are hatched (if in fact, he is not the real father). Surprisingly, Celina and her new mate (I will have to come up with a name for him) seem to get along well, so I hope things will work out between them and their new family!

Although we had no cygnets last year, we did have plenty of ducklings! Ducks, unlike geese and swans, do not mate for life. In fact, they can be quite promiscuous, mating with multiple partners during one season! But usually they are seen in pairs, until the hen is ready to make a nest.

A mallard couple last April

Once the female goes off to nest, the male stays behind and doesn’t participate in duckling rearing. Over time, as the females went off to nest, there were an increasing number of mallard drakes (males) hanging out together, which I dubbed “the bachelor club!”

I loved watching these families grow – the ducklings were so cute!!

This is my favorite photo of a duck family – the ducklings were so adorable, always following Mom!!
As the ducklings grow, you can begin to see their tiny wings, and gradually they take on the colors of male or female adult mallards.
Two duck families – usually they didn’t swim so close together.
A mallard hen preens herself.

It’s a new season and the life cycle of our swans and ducks has begun again. Celina has seven eggs, but the swans on East Pond, in spite of diligently working on their nest, and even squeaking at us when we got too close, have not produced any eggs – they didn’t last year either, but it was their first year as a couple. Often swan pens don’t produce eggs until three or four years old.

A pair of Canada geese – I don’t know where their nest is, since they are not “permanent” residents here. Still, geese tend to return to the place where they were born, so these two quite possibly were born here a year or two ago. Last year, we had one family of geese that was always around – the parents and three goslings.

Bright Stained Glass of a Charleston Church

I was looking through my 2014 photos of Savannah and Charleston for another post, and came across this bright circle of stained glass from The Circular Congregational UCC Church in Charleston.

Ceiling stained glass

I also took this photo of other stained glass windows, the beauty in their simplicity, at the same church.

Stained glass windows
This view of the church’s sanctuary helps visualize the circular-ness of the interior.
Front facade of Circular Church

The church had a rather interesting graveyard in back, which we also explored, with some very old and historical graves.

Day 28 of Becky’s April Bright Squares photo challenge

FOTD: A Single Tulip

This single tulip popped up in the small garden in back of our house – I had not planted it, and it looked a bit ragged – obviously some animal was taking bites out of the leaves. Probably a squirrel – it brought the bulb to that spot and buried it, so it grew…

Looking closely at the photo above, I saw something I hadn’t noticed before: another tulip stem alongside with the flower missing!

I loved the color of this single tulip and I am glad I took these photos when I did because the next day, we were sitting in our living room and Dale said, “A squirrel is eating your tulip!”

I looked and sure enough: the squirrel had bitten the flower off the top of the stem and would have absconded with it if I hadn’t charged out onto the porch and scared it away! If only the cat had been on the porch, perhaps the squirrel wouldn’t have dared to approach.

Anyway, that is the short and sad story of my one and only tulip. I miss the tulips at our old house, and have resolved to get some more tulip bulbs to plant in the fall. And I will find some sort of barrier or method of keeping those pesky squirrels away!

Posted for Cee’s FOTD 4/29/21.

Just One Person … and Many Ducks (Sweden)

We took our first cruise in 2015, on the Baltic Sea, stopping at interesting historic ports, such as Tallinn, Estonia and St. Petersburg, Russia, as well as some of the major Scandinavian capitals. I captured this wonderful scene in the town of Sigtuna, Sweden, which has a renowned boarding school and is often a destination for church retreats.  The name of Sigtuna comes from an old English word for town (tuna), which was originally a Viking word.

After a wonderful lunch and a tour of the historic parts of town, learning about runic stones and mythology, visiting a 13th century church, and seeing a scary-looking contraption that was put on people who were jailed for drunkenness at the Town Hall, we were free to walk around on our own. We strolled down the street with lots of souvenir shops. Then we headed down to the lake on a sloping street past picturesque houses (some quite large) with pretty gardens. Along the lake was a park, including a spiral path with a faux runic stone in the middle, a miniature golf course that used tiny versions of local buildings for the holes, and many ducks who hoped for tidbits from an old couple sitting on a bench. There were lots of ducks in the lake as well, and this little girl on the lake shore trying to attract them. She was the picture of innocence and inquisitiveness of childhood and I loved her black hat! She is just one person (with many ducks!) in Sigtuna.

Here is a gallery of photos taken in Sigtuna.

WWE: Reflections

Jez’s Water Water Everywhere is an open photo challenge, to post photos with water. Right now his theme is reflections. Here are some of our water fowl, reflected on the water of our campus ponds.

A swan fluffs up his plumage as he chases a Canada goose.
The goose found its way into the water anyway!
A swan pair readies a nest for laying their eggs.
Is this mallard drake swimming in red water? No – merely a distorted reflection of a nearby building!

April Squares: Bright and Whimsical

These whimsical animals were part of a sculpture garden next to an elegant restaurant in Antigua, Guatemala, and I think they are perfect for Becky’s April Bright Squares.

Antigua was part of an optional tour during our 2017 cruise through the Panama Canal. We crossed from east to west, and made several stops along the western coastal ports of Central America.

After touring the historic center, our tour bus took us on a narrow winding road up a hill, past the rich part of town. At the very top of the hill was a cultural center, Santo Domingo del Cerro, and restaurant called The Golden Fork.  This is where we had lunch and afterward had some free time to shop at craft vendors or wander the grounds which contained interesting artwork by local artists, including various colorful animal sculptures – a rabbit, monkeys, snails, crocodiles, horses, and merry-go-round horses. 

SYW: Money vs Love, Music, & Mythical Animals

Yesterday was Monday, and Melanie has posted a new set of Share Your World questions.

QUESTIONS: 

Which would you rather throw away: Love or Money?
Money, of course. This was the theme of the Beatles’ song Can’t Buy Me Love.

Do you believe you should do one thing a day that scares you?
No, what an odd question. Why should I do something I’m scared of every day? I’m retired and enjoying life. Scary moments will happen, no doubt, but I’m not going to put myself into a position to be scared voluntarily.

What’s the last thing you do at night?
Read. I sit in bed in my nightwear and read a little or a lot from the book I keep next to my bed. Whether it’s a little or a lot depends on how tired I am and how engaging the book is.

If you could own a mythical creature (unicorn, phoenix, etc.), which one would you pick? (A nod to the soon ending 2021 A-Z Blogging Challenge, my topic this year “Mythical Creatures”) 
I would choose either a unicorn or a phoenix, because I could ride on either one. The phoenix would take me soaring through the sky; the unicorn would gallop through meadows, fields of flowers and on the beach. All along the way, I would take stops to pick a flower or feel the water on the beach between my toes.

On the other hand, SOME people prefer dragons.


GRATITUDE SECTION (Always Optional)

I am grateful for my husband, Dale, who has been so good to me the last few days! I injured my left big toe last week, and he said I should get it x-rayed because it hurt so much. Then it started to get swollen and even more painful so on Sunday he took me to an immediate care clinic, where they x-rayed my foot and found I had a fracture! So now I am hobbling around in one of those special shoes you get from doctors’ offices when you hurt your foot, and I have to wear it for six weeks, and keep my toe “buddy bandaged” with the toe next to it. Dale has patiently driven me to places I normally walk to, he changed the bandage after my shower this morning, and he sewed a button on a shirt I wanted to wear. (He can sew, I can’t or won’t.) Yesterday I had to have my heart defibrillator replaced because the battery drained very fast – it shouldn’t have had to be replaced for at least 6 more months. The procedure was excruciating because they didn’t sedate me completely so I could feel some of the pain from cutting me open. Afterwards, they gave me Fentanyl for pain, but then gave me an even stronger pain killer called Norco. Just as it was taking effect, I was discharged! I could barely walk and since my stomach was empty, I threw up multiple times. I was given some graham crackers, but I threw those up too. When I got home, Dale helped me to the front door, and right in front of the door I threw up again! He helped me go to bed and while I slept he cleaned up the mess. Then he served me chicken noodle soup and toast. What a guy!

He has health issues of his own, and I am patient with him, but not like he is to me. I am lucky to have met and married him 26 years ago!