National Geographic : 1959 Oct
Among Swans, Only Mutes Wear the Fleshy Black Bulb on the Forehead Gripping a captive by the neck, Mr. Lexster holds the powerful beak at a respectful distance. Lexsters and relatives have herded Abbotsbury swans almost 200 years. of vigorously protesting Tom. It was the only time at Abbotsbury I saw a swan look other than impeccably dignified. The other couple with Christian names were George and Margaret, who also sought seclu sion. For years they nested in a lonely creek near an old duck decoy. A Fighting Cob Takes Possession Then Margaret died. But again the next spring George came up the Fleet to build a barren nest. He was not prepared for the young cob swimming in battle array around the reed beds. The combat was short and fierce. Bruised and ruffled, George took flight from the creek where for many seasons all his offspring had been raised. But it was a fighting cob he left in possession-his own son! 570 It is not so bad for 30-year-old veterans like George, floating and dabbling and squab bling out there in the lagoon with a lordly eye on the up-and-coming. For 40 more springs he may watch the couples set sail for the reed beds, as he did proudly in his prime. Then one day Fred will find a swan's white body in the reeds, resplendent even in death. He will dig a grave deep out of reach of raven and carrion crow-and ponder awhile. We passed the monks' onetime fishpond, and Fred stopped to watch a pair of swans whose remote forebears, perhaps, had pre ferred this domain to the reed beds. And though I did not suggest it to him, my own thoughts turned to Tennyson's lines: Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath, And after many a summer dies the swan.