It’s at this time of year, whenever I have a spare moment that my instinct for photography leads me to go and check out how mother swan’s getting on with her nesting. If I’m lucky I might just get to see her new brood over a couple of days. If that’s the case and her eggs have already hatched I can marvel at the new arrivals already capable of walking, swimming and getting about with a certain independence. I never fail to be moved by the spectacle. We’re talking about the nature reserve Pian di Spagna at the entrance to Valchiavenna
and bordering the provinces of Lecco and Como.
The name derives from the Spanish dominance up until 1726. The ruins of the fort at Fuentes bears due witness. To the north the reserve covers the whole of Lake Novate Mezzola and stretches across to the point
newnew arrrrivalswhere the River Mera meets Lake Como. The shores of the lake are occupied by reeds and marshlands, the favoured habitat of water birds and waders, and my brief in springtime is to try to capture some of the young of the most common species – with my camera. The swans are undoubtedly the most choreographed and popular. No ugly ducklings these – elegant, proud and regal under all circumstances. The eggs are laid around April and 35 days later the newborns arrive.
And the adults themselves are a sight to behold, a supreme combination of majesty and power when seen taking off or landing on the water.
I’m a great admirer too of the young of the mallard, a common enough duck throughout Italy, splendid creatures with their soft feathered down which is a sure protection from both cold and water, and also serves as a useful camouflage.
Another species I’m devoted to in my spring photographic ‘shoots’ is the coot. We’ve all seen them on the surfaces of lakes up and down the valley but few actually see them when they’re particularly young. I must confess they’re not that pretty a sight! Clearly Mother Nature had to work hard to create such a dreadful creature at birth – quite shocking really: judge for yourself in the accompanying photographs.
Should you wish to photograph or simply observe nature at its most exotic do please remember that these are creatures at a particularly sensitive period: don’t go too close or you’ll disturb them, be patient and you’ll probably find they’ll approach you.