Photographing Mute and Whooper Swans

by Philippe Henry
May 3, 2011

 

 

Whopper swan's Kuusamo, Finland by Philippe Henry ©

Whooper swan's pair on the nest during a snowfall. Region of Kuusamo. Finland

I have photographed the Mute swan and the whooper swans for many years in east of France and Finland. Today I am based in the province of Quebec and I plan to photograph other swan's species living in North America.
I have photographed the Mute swans - cygnus olor - in east of France, along the Rhin river, where they lay their eggs around mid-March.

Whopper swan on nest by Philippe Henry ©

Whooper swan on the nest during a snowfall. Region of Kuusamo. Finland

Mute swan and cygnets by Philippe Henry ©

Mute swan swimming on a lake with cygnets. Forest of La Wantzenau. Region of Alsace. France.

Only the pen (female) sits on them to incubate while the cob often stands guard nearby and chases off intruders. It takes five weeks for the eggs to hatch. By about 4 1/2 months old, the cygnets are able to fly. In east of France and other temperate European countries, the mute swans have little or no migration except when harsh winters. In northern Europe (Scandinavia, North Germany to Estonia) they are largely migratory.



Whooper swan on the nest. Swan with a cygnet on his back. Region of Kuusamo. Finland

Whopper swan and Mute swans by Philippe Henry ©

Left side: Whooper swan on the nest at midnight. Top right: Mute swan swimming on a lake at sunrise. Bottom right: A mute swan's cob lands on a lake, close to the nest where the female is incubating the eggs.

The mute swan has an aura of mystery and tradition around its shinning white plumage. Of all the swans the mute swan has been associated with legends and history. It has been revered by kings and lauded by poets.

Mute Swan by Philippe Henry ©

Mute swan standing up and flapping his wings. Forest of La Wantzenau. Region of Alsace. France.

Mute swans have been introduced to North America in the late 1800s as decorations for parks, zoos and private estates. In many North American areas it is considered as an invasive species.

Mute swan flapping wings at sunrise by Philippe Henry ©

Mute swan flapping his wings. Swan at sunrise. Forest of La Wantzenau. Region of Alsace. France.


The whooper swan - Cygnus cygnus - is the national bird of Finland. I have spent months up there to photograph this species. They built their nests in the taiga zone around mid-april and are migratory, wintering in northern Europe (another population breeds farther east, in Siberia and Mongolia and migrates in eastern Asia). This species which nests in northern latitudes has a biological cycle shorter than for the mute swan. That allows the ' whoopers' to leave the northern waters before they freeze. By about 3 months old the cygnets are able to fly.

Mute swan with agressive gesture by Philippe Henry ©

Mute swan moving toward another swan with an aggressive gesture. Forest of La Wantzenau. Region of Alsace. France.

Whopper swan on nest at sunrise by Philippe Henry ©

Whooper swan on the nest at sunrise. Region of Kuusamo. Finland

Whooper swans are close relatives of North America's trumpeter swans and have carrying, bugle like voices. The whoppers here belong to a population that the Finns have brought back from the brink of oblivion. Poaching and development took their tool in the early twentieth century and by 1945 only 9 pairs remained in Finland. Then public attention focused on their plight and poaching dropped off.

Mute and Whopper Swans by Philippe Henry ©

Top Left : A mute swan's cob lands on a lake, close to the nest where the female is incubating the eggs. Top Right: Whooper swan flying off. Male living the nest site to reach the feeding area. Bottom Left: Whooper swan flapping the wings. Swan with cygnets. Bottom right: Mute swan moving toward another swan with an aggressive gesture.

A family of mute swans on a lake by Philippe Henry ©

A family of mute swans resting on a lake. Forest and lake in the mist. Forest of La Wantzenau. Region of Alsace. France.

Philippe Henry portrait

 

I started my wildlife photographic career after I published my first story -the whooper swans- in European and North American magazines. I left my job in the French Air Force and then, in 1994, I moved to Canada and started working with wildlife biologists involved in conservation projects. Today I write stories for magazines and books for kids and I am a stock photographer.



Two new books by Philippe will be published later in 2011 and 2012:

  • The Alligator of Texas. Publisher Texas A&M University Press / USA.
  • The Andean Bear. Publisher  L'Ecole des Loisirs / France

E-mail: philippe_henry@hotmail.com
Website: www.philippe-henry.com
Tel: (Quebec) + 514 259 0664

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