The Ugly Duckling

Mother and kids

As a kid I remember listening to Grimm's 'The Ugly Duckling' story(if you don't know the story I've attached a written copy for you... or for your children) on the radio and not truly getting the picture, having seen baby ducks and chickens but never a baby swan. Well all that has all been completely cleared up since our move to Pully located on the shores of Lake Geneva. I wouldn't say swans abound here but pairs of them do appear to have staked claim to their share of the water and and gravelly beaches below the pathway where we walk and run most days.

When we arrived in late July last year the cygnets were already adult sized and quite brown in colour. Over the next six months we watched them grow even bigger, slowly fade to white, then disappear to find a mate and stretch of the lake to call their own.

About two months ago Harvey and I observed pairs of these giant white birds making their first clumsy attempts to build their nests on a patches of gravel that had reasonable access to the water but were still high enough up so as not to be inundated when the snow melted. One day I noticed two such swans opposite the school on the lake at Pully struggling to find enough materials to build a reasonable quality abode for their kids to crack their way out of in the not too distant future and waddle down to the water for that first swim called life. However on the other side of one of the pipes where they were building their home there was an abundance of materials they could not see. So I did what any good neighbour would do and passed it over the fence to where they were.

Now these two swans are sitting have been sitting on five eggs for about 35 days. That means they are due to hatch any day now, but me being me I wanted to tell this story today and get some photos up of another swan family that hatched out a week ago at the eastern end of Ouchy.

Harvey and I found them last Tuesday when we were on one of our lake runs. When I went back on Wednesday the parents and the babies were gone. I returned to the nest on Friday and a long time local said that hooligans had done it, frightened them away. On Sunday I stopped by again when out running but no luck. Then, as I continued to run east about 100 metres there they were. Two parents and five  cygnets happily lapping up the new food on the lake that the overnight rain had provided. A lady from Chicago who was also watching them said she thinks they were scared away from the original nest by the motor boats that do skiing there in the afternoons.

Yesterday when Harvey and I were on a hike/run back from Lausanne they were almost on the shore, with three of the cygnets riding on the mother's back. The photo opportunities yo get when you don't have a camera. Jo and I went for a walk yesterday afternoon and as well as the swans we also found a couple of new duck families. This has been such a great experience for me of nature in action and something that I really want to share with the world. So for those who love ducks and swans, enjoy.

The Ugly Duckling
Grimms' Fairy Tales

Mute SwanOnce upon a time … down on an old farm, lived a duck family, and Mother Duck had been sitting on a clutch of new eggs. One nice morning, the eggs hatched and out popped six chirpy ducklings. But one egg was bigger than the rest, and it didn't hatch. Mother Duck couldn't recall laying that seventh egg. How did it get there? TOCK! TOCK! The little prisoner was pecking inside his shell.
"Did I count the eggs wrongly?" Mother Duck wondered. But before she had time to think about it, the last egg finally hatched. A strange looking duckling with grey feathers that should have been yellow gazed at a worried mother. The ducklings grew quickly, but Mother Duck had a secret worry.
"I can't understand how this ugly duckling can be one of mine!" she said to herself, shaking her head as she looked at her lastborn. Well, the grey duckling certainly wasn't pretty, and since he ate far more than his brothers, he was outgrowing them. As the days went by, the poor ugly duckling became more and more unhappy. His brothers didn't want to play with him, he was so clumsy, and all the farmyard folks simply laughed at him. He felt sad and lonely, while Mother Duck did her best to console him.
"Poor little ugly duckling!" she would say. "Why are you so different from the others?" And the ug}y duckling felt worse than ever. He secretly wept at night. He felt nobody wanted him.
"Nobody loves me, they all tease me! Why am I different from my brothers?"
Then one day, at sunrise, he ran away from the farmyard. He stopped at a pond and began to question all the other birds. "Do you know of any ducklings with grey feathers like mine?" But everyone shook their heads in scorn.
"We don't know anyone as ugly as you." The ugly duckling did not lose heart, however, and kept on making enquiries. He went to another pond, where a palr of large geese gave him the same answer to his question. What's more, they warned him: "Don't stay here! Go away! It's dangerous. There are men with guns around here!" The duckling was sorry he had ever left the farmyard.
Then one day, his travels took him near an old countrywoman's cottage. Thinking he was a stray goose, she caught him.
"I'll put this in a hutch. I hope it's a female and lays plenty of eggs!" said the old woman, whose eyesight was poor. But the ugly duckling laid not a single egg. The hen kept frightening him:
"Just wait! If you don't lay eggs, the old woman will wring your neck and pop you into the pot!" And the cat chipped in: "Hee! Hee! I hope the woman cooks you, then I can gnaw at your bones!" The poor ugly duckling was so scared that he lost his appetite, though the old woman kept stuffing him with food and grumbllng: "If you won't lay eggs, at least hurry up and get plump!"
"Oh, dear me!" moaned the now terrified duckling. "I'll die of fright first! And I did so hope someone would love me!"
Then one night, finding the hutch door ajar, he escaped. Once again he was all alone. He fled as far away as he could, and at dawn, he found himself in a thick bed of reeds. "If nobody wants me, I'll hid here forever." There was plenty a food, and the duckling began to feel a little happier, though he was lonely. One day at sunrise, he saw a flighth of beatiful birds wing overhead. White, with long slender necks, yellow beaks and large wings, they were migrating south.
"If only I could look like them, just for a day!" said the duckling, admiringly. Winter came and the water in the reed bed froze. The poor duckling left home to seek food in the snow. He dropped exhausted to the ground, but a farmer found him and put him in his big jacket pocket.
"I'll take him home to my children. They'll look after him. Poor thing, he's frozen!" The duckling was showered with kindly care at the farmer's house. In this way, the ugly duckling was able to survive the bitterly cold winter.
However, by springtime, he had grown so big that the farmer decided: "I'll set him free by the pond!" That was when the duckling saw himself mirrored in tne water.
"Goodness! How I've changed! I hardly recognize myself!" The flight of swans winged north again and glided on to the pond. When the duckling saw them, he realized he was one of their kind, and soon made friends.
Mute Swan"We're swans like you!" they said, warmly. "Where have you been hiding?"
"It's a long story," replied the young swan, still astounded. Now, he swam majestically with his fellow swans. One day, he heard children on the river bank exclaim: "Look at that young swan! He's the finest of them all!"
And he almost burst with happiness.

— The End —


  1. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog as it led me to yours. What beautiful pictures. Are you a photography by hobby or trade? I was in Switzerland a few years ago and think it is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I will enjoy visiting your blog as a follower.


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