Whooper swan fights | Gulf of Finland, Lebyazhje, April 2016

Flying whooper swans
Flying whooper swans. , ƒ/10 ISO, 640, 1/1000″.

Finally, swans have arrived. And another and another new ones have been arriving.

Whooper swans flying low above the water
Whooper swans flying low above the water. , ƒ/10 ISO, 640, 1/1000″.

A week after the first spotting I made the ride to Lebyazhje once again to spend bight and meet birds early next morning. The good thing is that there are no people at the shoreline in the morning, especially on Monday. Another one advantage is cold air. Means that photographs would be sharper when taken without miracles and warm uplifting air streams which literally ruin the image.

Whooper swans fly in a flock above Gulf of Finland
Whooper swans fly in a flock above Gulf of Finland. , ƒ/10 ISO, 500, 1/500″.

At sunrise, I got out the car and was standing at the ruined pier, looking through a binocular here and there. A mammal passed by in the water, guess it was something like an otter. A number of cornorants were shitting sitting on a large boulder in two hundred meters from the shore. In this empty morning silence I finally saw some swans to the west and two groups to the east.

Whooper swans in the early morning
Whooper swans in the early morning. , ƒ/9 ISO, 500, 1/1250″.

Swans did not show too much of activity in the morning. They were waking up and stretching, and did their lazy float from bays where they had spent the night. Some of them could flap once or twice while stretching, but that was rare.

Whooper swan flapping
Whooper swan flapping. , ƒ/9 ISO, 500, 1/800″.

When swans started feeding, a standard view you got was their white bottoms popping out from water like pyramids.

Feeding swans' bottoms
Feeding swans′ bottoms. , ƒ/10 ISO, 640, 1/1000″.

And here is another one of this kind – swans′ bottoms with a cargo ship in the background. Ducks float nearby silently and impressed.

Feeding swans' bottoms with a cargo ship in the background
Feeding swans′ bottoms with a cargo ship in the background. , ƒ/10 ISO, 500, 1/500″.

I wanna pass by in a kayak and pinch one′s bottom! A girl, preferrably, but how to guess? They all look similar...

Those with short necks or having ground too far try to dive deeper, so their feet appear above water like if they were trying to grip the air and push themselves towards bottom.

So while swans were feeding, I walked along the beach and reached the beam of rocks which used to be occupied by seagulls.

Seagulls sit on rocks
Seagulls sit on rocks. , ƒ/10 ISO, 640, 1/1000″.

Okay, there were seagulls sitting on rocks, just as usual. Swans were floating on shallow water nearby. Good, let them float. I wanted them to get accustomed to my presence. So I sat on a dry trunk near water edge, put on my hood, checked e-mail and replied to a few calls.

Swans near rocks
Swans near rocks. Pay attention to the one at the right which tilted its neck and spanned wings – this guy initiates the fight. , ƒ/10 ISO, 400, 1/800″.

Meanwhile, swans started to gather near those rocks. Hot tempered ones started a squabble.

Swans next to the rocks
Whooper swans squabble near rock range. , ƒ/10 ISO, 500, 1/640″.
Whooper swans squabble

Everything starts when swans gather into a large group, and the most active ones begin to shout loudly – to whoop. That′s why they are called whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus).

Swan tries to catch another one’s back
Swan tries to catch another one′s back. , ƒ/10 ISO, 500, 1/640″.

Well, boys start to whoop loudly. Their necks are straight, their heads are pulled up – which one is higher? Wings are fully spanned, and swans flap them against water. Shiny sparks are all around wings, necks and strong black feet under bright spring sun – girls must be excited!

Few more flaps to secure the fight win
Few more flaps to secure the fight win. , ƒ/10 ISO, 500, 1/640″.

First clash seems to be harmless, however the faster one tries to bite the opponent′s tail. The winning swan secures his victory by a few full wing flaps. Then all birds get calm and continue feeding. Retired ones or just a couple of more sedate birds stand on a dry rock, clean their feathers and observe the area from above.

Whooper swans stand on a dry rock and clean their feathers
Whooper swans stand on a dry rock and clean their feathers. , ƒ/10 ISO, 500, 1/640″.

One more flock arrives from the west. Little by little, almost all the swans in the area gather on the shallow water just in front of me. And when there is a lot of them, it provokes the craziest ones to get up to mischief :)

Whooper swan clash starts
Whooper swan clash starts. , ƒ/10 ISO, 500, 1/500″.

Swans may gather into a group of 10–12 and again start whooping, flapping and try to bite one another′s tail.

Whooper swans fight
Whooper swans fight. , ƒ/10 ISO, 500, 1/500″.
Whooper swans fight

Whooper swans fight
, ƒ/10 ISO, 500, 1/500″.

Here′s one such moment – swan approachers the neighbour and tries to bite from behind.

Whooper swan bites the other one′s tail
Whooper swan bites the other one′s tail. , ƒ/9 ISO, 500, 1/1000″.

Few minutes later everybody go calm down but some still whoop and swim towards neighbours with their necks tilted. If a neighbor dives down to eat algae, it looks like he is out of the game. The “squabbler” has then to swim by – the clash is cancelled.

Whooper swans approach the main flock aggressively
Whooper swans approach the main flock aggressively. , ƒ/9 ISO, 500, 1/800″.

Suddenly two swans approach from quite far away, tilt their necks aggressively, and whoop loudly. As a response, four swans from the main flock go to meet these “aggressors”.

Swans go to meet “aggressors”
Swans go to meet “aggressors”. , ƒ/9 ISO, 500, 1/800″.

They whoop too, tilt their necks and span their wings to demonstrate force. One more clash happens, water drops are everywhere, splashes, wing flaps, everything goes so fast that I lose the track of things, and cannot see where are the “friends” and where are the “foreigners”.

Whooper swan clash Whooper swan clash Whooper swan clash Whooper swan clash Whooper swan clash Whooper swan clash Whooper swan clash Whooper swan clash
Whooper swan clash. , ƒ/9 ISO, 500, 1/800″.

Again everybody get calm, and swans feed for almost one hour. Sometimes one could try to provoke the others, but haven′t seen any support, shuts up and dives to feed. Finally one managed to stir up the others, and one more clash happens.

Another one whooper swans clash starts
Another one whooper swans clash starts. , ƒ/9 ISO, 500, 1/800″.

My shoutcaster swan clash commentator talent reached its limit by now, so I′ll just put the photos chronologically. The good thing is that you may see how things develop naturally, so no need for comments.

Whooper swan clash
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Whooper swan clash
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Whooper swan clash
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Whooper swan clash
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Whooper swan clash
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Whooper swan clash
Another one clash of whooper swans. 16. , ƒ/9 ISO, 500, 1/800″.

Finally, here are some wallpapers for those who liked whooper swans. iPhone 5S, iPhone SE, iPhone 6, iPhone 6S и iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S Plus are supported.

Whooper swan iPhone wallpaper
Whooper swan iPhone wallpaper.

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