The Swan Lake at Kew Gardens

25 Mar

Kew Garden’s Swan Lake

2015 was our first full year in Kew Gardens. Having been a friend of Kew Gardens for many years prior to living here, we were familiar with the main landmarks at Kew. It is different, however, when you visit this exquisite park daily; you begin to observe its life more closely.

The season viewed almost daily from Kew Gardens shows nature’s cycles of birth, death and regrowth of the many plants, birds, insects and animals that find their home here.

In 2015 we witnessed for the first time a pair of swans nesting their eggs, giving birth to five cygnets, losing one and raising four till they flew from the lake to find their own home. It was a privilege. We had become accustomed to feeding this pair of swans almost daily. They would come to greet us and we liked to believe they recognised us too.

In March to April 2015, we watched the cob and the pen busy building a nest on the small islet on the lake. The cob gathered sticks and dried grass and many different plant materials. The pen built what looked like a great mound of sticks and twigs. We noticed that the Canadian geese were agitating the cob as the pen incubated her eggs in April time. We couldn’t see the number of eggs in her nest. The cob kept the geese well away from the islet and seemed to have an endless job. This went on for some six weeks. The pair did take turns in incubating and whilst we were feeding a pair of swans in the early part of the year, we were now only feeding them one at a time.

Then one day we were blessed to get sight of the cob, the pen and five beautiful cygnets swimming together under a bright spring sky. The lilies were blooming at the edge of the lake and the whole scene was one of beauty and awe. It was truly an elating moment when time stopped and we were struck by the love they had for each other. The cob was always on guard and the pen lead the brood in Nature’s ballet that could have been a source of inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

We did notice one day that there were only four cygnets; one was lost. As the four cygnets grew they too recognized us and came to us for food. They each had a distinct character; one was very boisterous and cheeky, always first to feed; one was shy and reserved and the others were neutral. The pen always allowed her brood to feed first and the cob kept guard. They are very organized creatures, so majestic and elegant. We ought to learn from them.

Eventually after some five months the cygnets changed colour and turned into swans. On one visit we noticed that only one was left on the lake with the pair; the other three had flown the nest to some unknown territory. In early November the lake had returned to housing the original pair of swans. We wonder what awaits us this year.

We think you will agree that this daily unfolding at Kew is simply magic. To observe life over time is truly an exceptional experience.

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