The River in Winter
Go see the swans.
by Bob & Jorja Feldman
Clarity comes in winter. The trees shed their leaves, the breeze brushes the ground bare, and a quieter kind of beauty is painted in almost monochromatic earthy tones.
This clarity is particularly evident along the Huron River. Those of us without the proverbial paddle, much less a canoe or kayak, can see more of the river during winter than we can at any other time of the year. It is prime time to go on an exploratory trip, be it a twenty-minute scenic drive or, weather permitting, a river walk. The slower you travel, the more fruitful it will be.
Be ever mindful of other travelers when nature touring. The beauty of the outdoors should not blind us to the presence of our own species, in all of its manifestations. Though bike riders and pedestrians have their own path through Gallup and Bandemer parks, along Huron River Drive sharing the road is the order of the day.
In winter, the curvature of the river is more readily apparent, the twists and turns providing endless eye candy. When the temperature drops, patterns in the ice magically emerge, combining with any remaining open water to create original works of art on huge canvases lit by constantly changing winter skies.
Keep an eye on that open water for great white swans. At other seasons of the year, swans are found most easily at Barton Pond or Gallup Park and perhaps down at Foster Bridge, but in the winter these big birds, often in family groups, may be seen at many other spots along the river.
The river, given some open water, is home to both invasive mute swans and native trumpeter swans. If you haven't already learned the difference, winter is a good time to catch up on your studies. Both species are photogenic, but the mute is larger and very much more the show-off, arching its wings over its back, S-curving its neck, and fanning its finery for all who care to see. It is unquestionably the cinematic star of the river. The adult has a large black knob at the base of its orange bill (which may be gray or pink in immature birds). By way of contrast, the adult trumpeter is smaller with a black bill.
The swan photograph accompanying this article was taken here last winter. What about this winter? Why not go see the swans?
[Originally published in December, 2013.]