Wednesday, 27 January 2010

How a differently-abled cygnet relates to his family

Took these yesterday evening. My little friend the cygnet is continuing to paddle about with his family and, while a little smaller and fluffier than the others, he is developing. His wings are much smaller than those of some of the other five cygnets.

His siblings are larger, their wings are more developed and their plumage is darker. This is one of the largest ones out of the water and grooming. I haven't seen the injured cygnet out of the water. He did mess about above this same submerged log, but didn't stand and groom like the others were. I assume he can stand on the one leg, but I'm not sure how he would actually get out of the water. Possibly he doesn't, but floats about to sleep. I have seen the whole family with heads tucked under wings floating around the wharf having a nanna-nap.

Here one of his siblings is showing off their wings.

The tide was quite high at the time, so the water depth over the bottom was much greater. I noticed that he was following the others around and swiping a bit of weed when they dived for it.

He clearly cannot do the "duck-dive" that the others do, although I did get the impression he was trying to. Maybe with a bit more size and strength, and practice, he'll work it out. Here he is hanging around while the others dive for weed.

And he's got some weed that one of the adults let him have. When I first saw the family in mid-December the adults were diving for weed and distributing it to the cygnets. They're still doing it for this one at times. If he pinches food from the others, it's not surprising that they peck at him.

And here's one of the adults. Just liked the photo actually!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Pelicans on the Huon River

The book says they're uncommon. I saw one a couple of years ago, but now I've seen a few on the river. One flew south past Franklin the other evening, and now we've seen some on the river opposite Braeside, south of Franklin. There are three which have been seen regularly on the logs just offshore of the Braeside intersection. The photos aren't good enough - I *need* a much better lens! (Not likely!)

More of the swans

Checked them out again today, all still OK.

South Cape Bay - 25th January 2010

South Cape Bay - 25th January 2010Wagged work yesterday to go bushwalking instead. (Actually, it was arranged, OK!) Nice day for a walk to South Cape Bay, not too hot, but warm enough for shirt and shorts all day. The track was quite busy yesterday, including a number finishing the South Coast Track. The tide was very low, revealing a lot of rocks, some of which are also normally covered in sand.

Rock formation with 'tesselated' jointing, South Cape Bay - 25th January 2010This rock formation is intriguing. It is below the cliffs as you walk towards the steps, and you can reach it at low tide by doubling back after descending. I think it's often covered with sand, and that's why I've only seen it now and then. The jointing is very reminiscent of those in the Tesselated Pavement at Eaglehawk Neck, but I haven't yet investigated possible links in rock types and ages.

Lion Rock, South Cape Bay - 25th january 2010
South East Cape from South Cape Bay - 25th January 2010
East Cape from South Cape Bay - 25th January 2010

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Looking like part of the family

My injured cygnet friend looks like one of the family at the moment. He's a bit smaller and fluffier than any of the other five cygnets, and his wings are less developed, but he's with the family full time now as far as I can tell, and he's keeping up with them. His right leg must be getting very strong.

You can see how he carries the damaged left leg laid across his tail, keeping it out of the water when he's moving. It must just create drag.

The leg is clearly damaged lower down, so that while he can move the leg as a whole, he can't use the lower joints. I assume this is because the fishing line had reduced blood flow to the lower leg for too long.

The adults show the uses to which you can put a very long neck.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Injured cygnet still kicking

Actually he's looking a little better. With the rest of his family, they were all foraging close to the shore halfway down the Franklin riverfront this evening. He did get harassed by one of the others briefly, but basically the family seem happier for him to hang out with them. He doesn't seem able to do the deeper duck-dive with his bum in the air like the others do to forage the bottom in deeper water, and I wonder if this manoeuvre requires the feet to be working well. I suspect, thinking of the mechanics, that he would need to pull both feet hard up towards his chest in order to swing his body vertically downwards. Being unable to do this will impede his feeding. He manages to stand on one leg, but I haven't seen him properly out of the water. He is developing darker plumage. Time will tell, and I remain intrigued.

His siblings are developing their wings more rapidly. Interestingly, it does appear that three of the cygnets are slightly more developed than the other three - based on my assessment of their "fluffiness". This one is amusing - developing flight feathers, but with fluffy down on top of the wing - and here he is emulating his parents display. I'm not entirely sure what it's about, but the adults have certainly done it to me when they seemed to want to tell me to go away. Might just be posing!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Ugly Ducklings - Part 6

Then over subsequent days I've looked out for them. The injured cygnet can be found alone at times, or hanging around with the family. When he's with the family he's like an outsider - he probably feels better with them, but his siblings have pecked at him for some time, and the adults are now pecking away at him at times too. I think they see him as a bit of a "drag". In this first photo you can see three of his siblings about to harass him for getting in their way. His other problem right now is that he isn't as big as the others - I assume because he has more trouble eating and is using more energy swimming. There must also be benefits from being in the group that he is missing out on.

His leg remains useless. he does seem to be able to move it a little, but I suspect it is dead from halfway down. So, when he's swimming he tends to drape it on his butt which must reduce drag. He has an ungainly and lopsided stroke, a little like someone swimming side-stroke. His right leg must be getting very strong.

He must also be getting more independent than the others, given their usual exclusion of him, and they way they disappear without him. However, I suspect this is not overall a good thing.

This one of his siblings is clearly larger, sleeker and more mature. The injured cygnet remains fluffier, and overall a little shabbier. The uninjured cygnets are developing their darker plumage quite obviously.

Anyway, he always seems to catch up with the family again. Here he is early this morning - a bit peripheral, but swimming along gamely nonetheless. I'm interested to see if he can survive - I assume not, but then I thought he'd be dead by now.

The Ugly Ducklings - Part 5

The next day I passed by in mid-morning. The family were swimming about together, but the injured cygnet was being monstered by the others. He seemed to be moving better, but still not well. Looked like the leg was permanently damaged. In early evening I got some closer shots. His leg looked better than it had when the fishing line was wrapped around it, but he still draped it, and it didn't seem to be of use.

A little later he had been left on his own. The rest of the family had disappeared, across or down-river perhaps. This little fellow was swimming about haphazardly - seemed to be looking for the others. He swam across the river, then back, and then across again. All this in a stiff breeze, across the current, and with one leg. He must use a lot more energy than if he had both legs working. Seeing this, I again assumed he wasn't going to make it. When I left he was on the far side of the river in the gathering gloom.

The Ugly Ducklings - Part 4

Having watched the swan family for some time, they had become quite used to me. I think they are also accustomed to people handing them food, as they have a tendency to swim up with an expectant air about them. I didn't see them for some time, as they weren't around the Wooden Boat School when I was. Then on the morning of 10th January. a week ago, I saw them returning from downriver. One of the cygnets appeared to be asserting his independence, swimming apart from the group, and doing his own thing. It became apparent that he was actually injured in some way.

He was swimming with only one leg, the other was draped somewhat uselessly either in the water or along his back. This gave him a very ungainly swimming style. The family appeared to be a bit impatient with him, but the adults waited for him and hung about. Most of my photos of him were blurry - he wasn't staying still, but in a couple he looked like he had some fishing line tangled round him.

I returned in the afternoon, to find him slumped on a mudbank near the Wooden Boat School, where he was obsessively scrtaching away at his breast with his beak. At times he appeared frenzied. It was hard to tell, but his leg did appear like it might have fishing line wound tightly around it. I noticed that his siblings were pecking at him. The adults were just hanging around. I thought he was a goner. A lady on a nearby boat started to feed the rest of the family some bread, and at this he hauled himself across the little inlet and started to try to compete for some. He didn't do well.

I wandered over and had a chat to the couple of the boat, pointing out that one of the cygnets appeared to have a damaged leg, possibly with fishing line. Being closer to the water, the bloke looked more closely, and then managed to grab him. They proceeded to remove a couple of meters of fishing line snarl which had wrapped around his leg, at least twice, his body, his neck and just about everywhere else. Very tight turns around his upper leg had to be cut off.

On release, he was obviously a little better, but his leg was still draped behind him, and still appeared useless.

The Ugly Ducklings - Part 3