Swan Song

19 01 2011


One of the main attractions that drew me to the idea of living by the river was the abundance of beautiful birds that live in this area; and in particular, the 100’s of majestic swans that populate this stretch of the Thames.

I admire their grace and I adore the symbols of love they create each time they embrace.

Over the past year I have gained immense pleasure from witnessing their cycle of life and I feel so blessed and privileged to have the opportunity to live here and to feel a part of their lives.

I love watching the proud parents with their brood of youngsters in the springtime. Seeing them take such tender care of their young never fails to move me.

Often they will be accompanied by older cygnets born the previous year, almost fully grown and sprinkled with brown feathers, indicating their transition into adulthood.

In the UK all swans belong to the Queen and ‘swan upping’ takes place in the summer when the birds are hauled out of the river to be marked with identifying rings. This traditional ceremony with flotillas of boats and ‘swan uppers’ dressed in ceremonial finery is quite a sight to see.

Swan Upping

Sadly, last autumn an adult swan was found lying dead in my neighbour’s garden. I have never known swans to fly over our property and it looked as though it had just dropped like a stone out of the sky.

Usually the swans will take off in groups facing up river, creating a roaring sound similar to that of a jet engine careering down a runway. Invariably they will come in to land in the same manner; so for one to have been flying overhead was a very strange occurrence.

To see such a proud bird lying prostrate in this way was a heartbreaking sight. Reaching out to offer it my blessing, it felt like I was touching the wings of an angel.

Under normal circumstances it would be impossible to get so close to a swan; it was just very sad that the opportunity to do so presented itself in such a way.

Then yesterday I experienced an even more poignant moment as I gazed across the river and saw a young adult cygnet lying dead on the opposite bank. The usual large gathering of swans had broken up into small groups with each group taking their turn to swim up to the edge of the riverbank where the cygnet lay.

They each stayed awhile to grieve and to pay their respects whilst the other groups kept their distance and awaited their turn.


I had always understood that swans mated for life and that if they lose their mate, they will often grieve for the rest of their lives. But witnessing their mass grief in this way was totally unexpected and it has been a very emotional experience.

The procession of grieving swans went on all day and all through the night. It was an incredible sight and one that couldn’t fail to touch my heart.

The poor cygnet was still lying there this morning surrounded by mourning swans – until a dog walker appeared and unceremoniously threw the carcass into the river.

That was many hours ago and even as I write, groups of swans are still gathering and taking their turn to pay their respects at the spot where the cygnet had lain. 

What an incredible Swan Song – for the bird of love with the angel’s wings.

Day 19 – 365 Days of Celebration

Today I celebrate the beauty and the grace of these angels of the river. Thank you for bringing such joy into my life.

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15 responses

19 01 2011

Very aptly named title to this post. x

19 01 2011

What a beautiful love story. I have never had the pleasure of experiencing the beauty of the swan, but after reading your post I feel as though I could have been right there on Thames.

19 01 2011
1961 Girl

Thank you Jeanne.

Yes, the swans are very beautiful and bring such grace into my life. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to interact with them on a daily basis.

19 01 2011

What an incredibly beautiful yet sad story… I’ve always loved the elegance and majesty of swans and to read this story is very touching.
How fortunate of you to leave near where they gather… You must take and share some pictures please…
What a gorgeous piece. All life forms have intelligence and this is a keen reminder too 🙂

19 01 2011
1961 Girl

Hi Eliz.

I need to get myself a decent camera and take some good photos. I have some ‘snap shots’, but they really don’t do the location much justice. I feel incredibly blessed to live in such a beautiful location and I still get a thrill from looking out of the windows first thing in the morning.

Watching the swans continuing to gather, I am reminded of how we leave an imprint wherever we have been and the cygnet must have left an energetic imprint where it lay which could explain why the swans are still paying homage.

19 01 2011

I just love that swan love story… reminds me of the swans that have returned to San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts after another adult swan was killed. I just adore the magnificent, pretty bird, and it just makes me smile when I see them make love. So adorable indeed!

19 01 2011
1961 Girl

Hey Anthony.

I’m so pleased you liked my post and it is interesting to hear your story of the swans returning the San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts. I guess this occurance is more common than I thought as previously, the only animals I had heard of that come to pay homage to their dead were the elephants. Obviously this is not the case.

Hope you’re enjoying some sunshine over there. It’s still cold and miserable here in the UK.

19 01 2011
Knight L

What a beautiful piece -poignant, informative and very touching with balance.
Thank you. It made my day

19 01 2011

What a great post! Thank you.

19 01 2011

Beautiful post. Thank you.

19 01 2011
1961 Girl

Thank you Alison x

20 01 2011
The Great Chocolate Cake Robber

Sadly swans often appear as a form of literary imagery related to death

“And now this pale swan in her watery nest Begins the sad dirge of her certain ending — ”

William Shakespeare

Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep, Where nothing save the waves and I may hear our mutual murmurs sweep; There, swan-like, let me sing and die.

Don Juan, Lord Byron

24 01 2011
1961 Girl

I went to see Black Swan last night. It was very beautiful and very dark with imagery of death. Highly recommended!

28 01 2011
Jenny Cutler

good heavens. animals, even birds, are SO much more than we realise.

The story is very like the recently trapped whale who was freed by divers, wanting to apologise for their cruel fellow fishermen – and the whale, after leaping and jumping for joy at his release took the time to nuzzle each and every single diver in return before leaping off again into the freedom of what was his home.

28 01 2011
1961 Girl

I love your story of the whale…I hadn’t heard that inspiring tale. Thank you for sharing.

Yes, animals and birds are far more attuned than we can understand. If we created more time in our lives to slow down and re-connect with ourselves…and the universe…we would begin to realise that the universal mind works as powerfully for us as it does for the animal kingdom.

Some of us may view the animal kingdom as being below us on the ‘food chain’ and in that respect I guess they are. However, when it comes to connecting with each and being totally in-tune as one collective living for the common good…they leave us miles behind.

And yes, they grieve…and love…just like us!

Juls x

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