14 FEBRUARY 1941, Page 16


Swan Battle Six swans, two parents and four cygnets, ruled the lake all sunimer. At the first sign of severe frost six strange adult birds appeared from the direction of the coast. The lake was almost entirely sealed with black smooth ice, but there began in the morning a great battle for possession, which reached its height in the afternoon. Taking off from the north shore, the strange swans repeatedly made savage power-dives of a hundred yards, dashing madly at the defending birds. The end of each power-dive was a great slithering skid, sometimes on the feet, sometimes on the breast of the bird. Occa- sionally, unable to take off again, the birds struggled furiously to make contact with each other, spreading their wings, flopping on the ice, and then rowing themselves along, fierce, hissing, rather comic. Sometimes they tired of it and retreated, as if to plan fresh strategy. Presently the cygnets rose and flew far up the lake and found a stretch of ice-free water. Soon the strange birds were in pursuit and the battle began again, a series of pursuit flights now, ending at last in the same floundering crash-dives on the ice. This struggle for possession went on all that day But in the morning the two swans and the four cygnets were still there, serenely breaking the thinner edges of ice with their breasts, and I could hear the thin cries of the raiders as they flew away above the winter mist, turning outward towards the coast agai a.