Australian Black Swan with signet.

As we move through another week of lock-down I thought to share some interesting facts about our iconic Australian Black Swan which is the emblem of Western Australia (WA), the state it was first seen in by early European Dutch sailors in the 1600s while exploring the mysterious Great South Land as they sailed along the west coast, at the bottom of the world, hoping not to fall off it. The Swan River in Perth, the capital of WA, gets its name from these birds which are seen in great numbers there. However, the indigenous inhabitants, our First Nation people, were well aware of these beautiful birds as they were an important part of their spiritual life for thousands of years.

The black swan is found breeding well all over Australia and its surrounding islands and is basically a vegetarian, feeding on aquatic plants and grasses both above and below the waters of lakes and rivers, of both salty and fresh consistency. The male is slightly larger than the female, and the signets pass through several distinct plumage changes during their development from juvenile to adult. They make a trumpeting like sound when calling:

The small family below would normally have between 6 and 12 youngsters, but most of the young were taken by the large number of raptor predators that frequently circle this lake. This is highlighted in my book Flight of a Fledgling in reference to dealing with grief and loss, which many are experiencing in some way all over the world at present due to Covid.

A small Black Swan family enjoying life together.

Part of a Black Swan family

Now some of you are wondering, what the meaning of my title is, with this strange word adynaton, which the WordPress spell check does not even know exists. It is a hyperbole that uses imagination that is so exaggerated that it would seem an impossibility. The inhabitants of the northern hemisphere, for much of history’s early years believed that their part of the world was all there was, and that white swans, which were a symbol to many of light, grace, beauty, love and purity were the only kind that existed. The Mute Swan, which is actually not so mute when it hisses and grunts, is a beautiful bird, which my wife and I had the pleasure of seeing when in Britain some years ago. It was brought to Australia for wealthy private ponds, but is not found here in many places today.

Now the trouble, or should I say this adynaton, originated in the first century AD when a Roman satirist named Juvenal referred to a ‘good wife as a rare bird in the earth, and very like a black swan.’ in other words, so rare and absurd as to be an impossibility. Over the years this led to the idea in folklore literature and later in the famous ballet Swan Lake, where the sorcerer is depicted as an evil black swan casting a curse on the lovers (the pure white swan beauty). It was so not believable in Europe that such a thing existed, that when one explorer saw our Aussie Black Swans for the first time, he recorded it simply as ‘they are as large as swans’. They looked like swans and acted like them, but because of the years of accumulated false belief, he could not come to call them swans. Later, in 1804 the first pair of swans were brought to France by a French explorer for Empress Josephine Bonaparte’s garden. Most of the swans taken to Europe died or were murdered, as people saw them as evil and connected with witches, which was the mindset, that years of folklore and Tchaikovsky’s ballet had created in the minds of people. They are now found in zoos and gardens in many other countries, but survive best in the warmer ones, which do not experience snow.

Mother Black Swan incubating her eggs on a wetland.

During the the time of molting the feathers of these birds become very vulnerable and they are unable to fly, so they spend their time in the centre of a lake or river, which is usually a large one. Interesting that the black feathers are actually stronger and firmer than the white, due to the very high level of melanin, that gives it the colour, in a similar way it does to our own eyes and skin. This increases the durability of these birds in our sometimes harsh Aussie climate. As you can see below, these birds are actually pied, and not entirely black. It is a beautiful experience to see these birds in flight, as the sun picks up the white of their wings.

Black Swan in flight

Especially when there are a flock as the feature photo at top of page illustrates. When I was on King Island in Bass Strait I saw large flocks grazing on grassy fields.

Black Swans on King Island

Here are some examples of the growth changes in plumage I mentioned earlier:

The male is a very commanding bird and is slightly larger and is on the right hand side below:

A close up of their face:

Below is my favourite Black Swan image which appears in both my second and third books, as well as on my bedroom wall…

…where it is featured in my book Flight of a Fledgling to emphasize the need for us to do a regular self help check on ourselves using retrospective reflection. This includes not just our physical health but our emotional, mental and social behaviour.

A page

Enjoy the rest of your week and stay safe and use your time constructively. Double thumbs up to the essential services people, pushed to the limit, helping to get us safely through this current crisis and also to the many organisations, such as Food Bank, which are providing essential food freely to struggling families.

I did find it interesting how misunderstanding can so easily develop in the human mind due to innuendo and folklore etc as seen in my above post. Simple minded people actually feared the Black Swan as if it were evil and brought bad luck and demonic activity, and this was also in a so called Christian countries. We can be so easily influenced by what we hear, as many of the conspirators and fake news people have found, making millions on Facebook and other media sources, as people, out of their current vulnerability, fear and anxiety, are sucked in to erroneous, unhealthy thinking, which ultimately adversely affects their emotional and mental states. Many of these people fear vaccination more than catching the virus, and many of those now live in regret as they suffer, or watch their loved ones suffer and even pass away.

Love, faith and hope are the three vital elements to living a happy and healthy life on this earth, for the short time we are here. Positively encourage and strengthen each other through this season, not negatively weaken and further upset. In thinking we may be doing good exposing what we hear said by others, we may just be assisting the enemy of our souls to further destroy and move people to make unwise and unfounded decisions that could adversely affect their lives and those of others. I have heard several people share their stories as they suffered severe symptoms of Covid in hospital, how they listened to and believed what their ‘so called friends’ had so authoritatively told them, and how they regret listening to them, as the whole family were now very sick.

Encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” – 2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. ” – Ephesians 5:15-17

 And we know that God causes everything to work together[a] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” – Romans 8:28 (NLT)

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18


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‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,

To learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’

NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed  by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021.

19 Comments »

  1. Hello Ash,
    Just a quick note to say I have started to catch up on your blog articles and it was a real treat to learn more about this beautiful swan. I do remember them being featured in your second book, and I appreciate how you shared more of their history, along with some very important lessons for us humans.
    Wishing you and your wife a blessed week and hope to catch up soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Takami, so glad you enjoyed reading about these beautiful birds. We hope you are enjoying a break from the stress of your previous challenging job and resting. Praying you will find a new beginning again soon. Enjoy your week my friend 🙂

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  2. Ah! Starry perked up from his nap at the swan’s call!
    I really enjoyed this post, presenting the beauty and attributes of one stunning bird – the Black Swan surely deserves such attention. I hope you and your lovely wife are doing well in your lockdown, I’m praying that the Lord lockdown with you – inspiring and encouraging you everyday.
    Plan to go bird watching with a group this weekend. It’s the “Fall Bird Migration Tour”. Usually when people say, “there it is!”, I look and look but often miss it….hope to be faster this Saturday!
    Stay well brother!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lisa Beth, yes we are experiencing a renewing and refreshing in our faith at present, thanks for your prayers. It is a strange time here, and especially as my wife considers whether to retire soon or not. So glad you can go out to your bird tour this Saturday, will be praying you have an enjoyable time and see many interesting birds. We so miss not going out birding for the last 3 months. It may be the end of October before we can again, providing infection rates fall enough and people get vaccinated. Thanks again for your encouraging comments and precious prayers and enjoy your weekend dear sister 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Our seasons are opposite yours, it is now spring here, but most of our trees are evergreen and do not loose their leaves in winter because we do not have snow and the really cold temperatures as in the northern hemisphere. When they do loose their leaves the leaves just die and fall of, usually in late summer or when stressed by drought. So it is nice to see occasional deciduous trees from your part of the world, planted in parks and gardens as they add colour during May to July, my wife loves her Japanese Maple which looked beautiful this passing Winter.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. These lovely ducks have been introduced to many countries and have had great success, seems like they can adapt to any different climates and different food. I’ve seen them thriving in South America. Nice pictures, Ashley. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks HJ, I hope your eye is healing well, I can empathize with you as to the difficulties we share with vision, with my own eye ailments. Yes the Black Swan has been spread over the world now, as have many of our birds and is surviving best in the warmer climates.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. They are such a stunning creature. And a pleasure to work with from a photographer’s perspective. However given a degree of aggravation they are also quite capable of intimidating people at parks and ponds.
    A male raised up, wings out is enough to send the small average child or dog heading for adult assistance 🙂
    I grew up in Swan Hill Victoria, no prizes for guessing the origin of the name.
    It is claimed that the good Major Mitchell and his entourage of travellers camped at the area on 20 June 1836, so the story goes that swans on the river flat kept the group awake all night with their calling. 🙂

    Beaut story and photos. Hope that your lockdown gives you all some relief soon.
    I finally got the first AZ vax yesterday, not because of hesitation on my part, but reluctance by my GP as I have some autoimmune issues.
    So far so good.

    Thanks again for sharing the info on these awesome birds

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks David, it is good that you have had a good run so far with your first AZ vaccination, as you know we all need to be vigilant for the next few weeks. Autoimmune issues would be a concern for your GP, we also will pray that you stay well through this period.
      Swan aggression for the protection of its family is understandable, and in some ways is similar to geese which they resemble. I have not seen it yet as the swans I have seen have mainly been in peaceful family groups.
      Swan Hill is interesting, as I wondered about the name, as I saw no swans when I visited there many years ago. I thought it might be named after a person called Swan. 🙂 Interesting, thanks for sharing the history, you are a country boy like me. Stay safe and enjoy Spring.

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    • Thanks Donna, yes the last pic is very special due to the very deep pensive look on the swan’s face, which made it ideal for self examination in my second and third book. We both love reflection photos and these feature on my side of the bedroom wall.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely photos of the beautiful black swan and a very interesting read. I have been seeing some cygnets on my walks at the local wetlands lately, as well as observed some vicious fights between adult swans when one gets too close to the offspring. These birds appear to be good parents and very protective, but sadly they still lose many of their young ones to raptors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sue, yes I remember you showing the swans, it is always a treat to see them breeding and watch the plumage changes as they grow up. The very early books on these birds said they mated with other females, but all recent writings say they are monogamous and good parents, which is what we both have witnessed, and yes they will defend their family. Sad they loose so many though.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mim, I did not expect until after I had finished the post that my message would come out of it, it just seemed to be there all the time. Enjoy your week in the Spring sunshine on that beautiful beach 🙂

      Like

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