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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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