The Flight of Swans

The coming and going of certain birds corresponds with the coming and going of seasons. Here on the Island and elsewhere in the UK, the return of the swallows herald the blossoming of the year at the end of April. Their cries are heard high over our house during the lengthening evenings; clouds of them skimming low over the Yar River at feeding time – a magical and joyful sight that tells us summer is returning.

At this time of year, with spring almost upon us, the Brent Geese will soon be leaving. Since autumn, crowds of them have been feeding in the water meadows of the Brading Marshes; countless numbers of them flying low over the sea at Ryde, bobbing up and down on the tides, occasionally flying inland to share the Canoe Lake with the ducks and swans. They are a wonderful sight, their honking flight beautifully symmetrical.

A very large gathering of the seasonally constant Mute Swans can be found on Ryde Canoe Lake – it is a fantastic sight. I was walking on Ryde beach last week in the late afternoon. It had been a bitterly cold day but very beautiful; vast blue skies and bright sunshine. As the sun descended, the blue bleached a little and became edged with pastels, the perfect backdrop to several mute swans, flying in groups low over the surface of the sea and turning back inland to the lake. Swans are some of my most favourite birds; it is exciting enough to see them fly alone or in pairs but truly magical to witness whole groups of them.

I have a beautiful card of a Peter Scott painting called Twenty Whistling Swans. It is a painting of (predictably) twenty whistling swans in flight low over water. Scott paints them, the water and light in the palest of colours: brilliant white, greys, bluish greys, with just touches of gold. Light appears to pour down in rays and be reflected back in a kind of ethereal dazzle. They look like angels in flight. It is no coincidence that when we think of angels, we see them with giant swan’s wings!

Included here is a picture of willow work by the basket maker Julie Gurr. She is based on the Isle of Arran and can be found here

Swans at Sunset - Julie Gurr



  1. March 12, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    This was interesting to me as I am very fond of birds, and the other day as I was on my way into town I turned a corner and was greeted by the sight of 4 swans flying together, they looked so beautiful and elegant flying in such perfect harmony. . A cheerful sight. We are also fortunate to have Swifts nesting every year at the front and back of the house. It seems this could be a regular nesting site, perhaps for years. It is always good to see them back again and the last two years have seen their numbers increase and they have had to make nests on adjacent houses too. They get very cross when we sit in the garden, eventually accepting us when they realise we mean no harm. Amazing flyers too of course. Hope they all make it back again this year. Yesterday the local Sparrowhawk caught a meal and spent 45 mins in the garden eating it. (hope it wasn’t Robbie). Glad to hear you have been out and about.

  2. luckyloom1 said,

    March 12, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Hi Chris! Oh no, I hope it wasn’t Robbie!! I have becoome quite attached to him despite never having met! He can’t afford to lose any more bits of him! Yes, Swans are incredible when they fly, Swifts too. How wonderful to have them nesting so near – a real treat. I have become a total fan of Cormorants since living here too. There is a little hut on the marshes quite near the sea in Sandown, next to the railway track. They have taken to sitting on the roof to dry out with their wings spread. They always look so comical. I like watching them fly, skimming the surface of the sea. They pick up such speed. Once L and I watched one race the hovercraft!

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