Ollie And The Swans

In 2016, I posted about Ollie’s rather tense encounter with three swans.

Ollie’s Mexican standoff.

Earlier today, something similar happened again.

Although it is 10C cooler today that it was yesterday, (18C instead of 28C) the air is very humid after heavy rain last night, with thunderstorms forecast for later. So after a couple of tours around Beetley Meadows, by the time we got over onto Hoe Rough, Ollie was panting, and ready for a drink and a dip.

He waited until we got to his favourite spot, where he can slide under the wire of the fencing, and slip into the river. There were two swans already there, a large male and smaller female. (Yes, I know they are called a Cob and Pen, but this is easier.) For all I know, they could well be the same pair from 2016, as they have been on the river every year I have lived here, and they do mate for life.

Ollie ignored them, and plopped into the rain-swollen water, which came up to the base of his tail. The large male swan flared out its tail feathers, and the female moved away slightly, protected behind her mate. When Ollie had drunk his fill, and presumably cooled off sufficiently, he decided to turn and investigate the nearby waterfowl. At this, the male swan raised its wings, and the female swam away, making for the safety of the next bend in the river, and deeper water.

With the swan making no noise, but threatening with his strong wings, Ollie continued to move through the water in his direction, breaking into a dog-trot. At that point, I whistled Ollie to come back out onto the bank.

One of them, or both of them, would undoubtedly have been hurt.

Ollie’s Mexican standoff.

Today has been miserable in Beetley. If you didn’t have a calendar, you could be forgiven for not realising it is August, as it is more like March. The day started wet and grey, and stayed that way. It was even chilly enough for me to need a coat when I went out with Ollie. (Though I still wore shorts)

The grass was wet over on The Meadows, but luckily the rain had not been heavy enough to bring back the mud. I wandered around for a while, but my heart wasn’t in it, and I headed over to Hoe Rough to give Ollie more to explore. Nobody was about, and there were no other dogs for him to sniff, or to run around with. One of those days when I could happily have headed home, and written off the walk as just another dull trek without inspiration.

After just over an hour, Ollie made his way to the path that runs alongside the river. I guessed that he had warmed up enough to need a refreshing dip, and a long drink too. He scrambled down the bank into the water, and I took position against the wire fence nearby. He walked around in the water for a bit, exploring over to The Meadows just in case any other dogs had appeared. Seeing nothing, he just stood in the water up to his belly, looking more than a little fed up.

Suddenly, three swans glided gracefully around the bend. A large male, a smaller female, and another that seemed to me to be the offspring of the pair, tagging along behind. Seeing Ollie, they stopped dead, less than six feet away from him. He stood and looked, and they looked back. He made no attempt to approach them, even though he was obviously interested and watching them intently. The male flapped its considerable wings, but my dog remained unimpressed. I thought that they would turn back, and that would be it.

Ollie looked across to me on the bank, and back at the three birds again. He wasn’t going to move, that was certain. I smiled to myself, wondering how this dog and swan version of the traditional Mexican standoff would end. He was outnumbered three to one, but seemed unconcerned by the weight of numbers. The male swan emitted a strange noise, and flapped again. Ollie had a small drink, and carried on staring. They had one route to get past him, close to the other bank, and separated by a large clump of weed. The male swan checked this out, and as he moved, Ollie suddenly ran through the water after him.

With a raucous honking and flapping of wings, the big bird crashed past the dog, finding sanctuary behind him though still just a few feet away. The smaller swans were making squeaky noises, apparently calling to the male. When he didn’t return to help, they took their chances by using the same route. Ollie let them go. He was never going to hurt them in the first place.

But he wasn’t about to give ground to them either.

Swans don’t play

Today was yet another day of heavy rain, with occasional torrential downpours added in for good measure. I am not complaining, you understand. Our two days of excellent weather over the weekend had to be paid for somehow. I had to go out to the car dealership this morning, to get new struts fitted to the tailgate. They did the job in good time, and I waited for them to finish it, in the room provided for customers. As I was paying, the young lady advised me that it was beginning to rain harder. ‘I hope that you don’t get too wet,’ was her cheery farewell.

In the town of Dereham, I stopped off to get some watch batteries installed, and was allowed a fifteen minute respite, as it actually stopped raining for that long. Cars were splashing through the deep kerbside puddles, and pedestrians had to be careful to avoid a soaking from them. Heading out to the village of Swanton Morley, to collect a prescription from the GP, I noticed the narrow country lanes were awash with water running off of the fields, and I had to increase the speed on the windscreen wipers, to keep the screen clear.

Back at home, it carried on raining without let-up, and I advised Ollie that there might be a delay with his afternoon walk. I was hoping to wait out the worst of it. No such luck. By 2.10 pm, he was becoming fractious, and I had no alternative but to gird my loins, and face the inevitable. After a few soakings last week, I decided that it was time to dust off the wellington boots, dig out some long trousers, and don my heavy parka. Even though it was still August, and not cold at 18 degrees, I had to return to my normal winter clothing, like it or not.

Wrapped up in the aforementioned attire, I headed off under my umbrella, with Ollie raring to go. After ten minutes on The Meadows, I was uncomfortably hot. After twenty minutes, I had to sit down for a rest, on a very wet bench. Ollie was still full of get up and go, so headed off to the river. I watched him until he got past a large clump of nettles, and then heard an almighty splash, followed by lots of flapping sounds. I went to investigate, and found Ollie in a canine version of a Mexican Standoff, ten feet or so from a pair of very grumpy-looking swans, up to his chin in the water. The large male and his mate had gone a little way, then turned to face my hapless hound. He was looking at me, wondering why they wouldn’t play with him. He meant them no harm, but the large male wasn’t to know that of course. I made Ollie leave them in peace, and he trotted off to sniff around some bushes.

A little further on, I stopped again, becoming weary as I was feeling hot. Standing still by the riverbank, I noticed the large grey heron. Ollie had spotted it too, but for some reason, decided not to try to catch it. We watched the bird for a while, and it suddenly plunged its head under the water, returning with a decent sized fish in its beak. It took off immediately, presumably to eat its catch undisturbed, in a better location. That was a nice moment, that even Ollie seemed to appreciate.

We continued our normal circuit, with me sadly lacking in enthusiasm. My normal brisk pace was reduced to a begrudging shuffle, heavy boots sliding on wet grass and mud. By now, the rain was getting through the parka, at least around the shoulders and back. I lowered the umbrella, to make sure it was still raining, as it was hard to tell, with all the drops coming off the trees. But it was, and still as heavy as ever. Ollie wanted to venture into the woods, to check for squirrels, but one look at the muddy ground in there brought a refusal from me. I managed to stand it for a good while longer, as Ollie really seemed to be enjoying himself, despite the complete absence of playmates. On the last turn around the bend in the river, he spotted the swans again, in deeper water. This time, he left them alone. It seems that he had learned a valuable lesson this afternoon.

Swans don’t play.

On a nicer subject

The  sun is finally here in Norfolk. It has been such a rarity, it almost seems like something new to discover. I wouldn’t say it was exactly warm though, and venturing out in shorts left me with chilly legs. However, it was a joy to walk Ollie for over two hours, without rain, mud, and high winds to spoil the outing.

I  noticed that two swans have taken up residence on the small river, as well as a family group of Canada geese, and a few ducks. Locals say that this is a sign of good water arriving, and that lots of fish are being seen in the river now. There were a lot more people out than is usual, and many I had not met previously. Ollie was pleased to encounter some new dogs, and there were even youngsters in the water, trying out inflatable boats, ready for the summer season of fooling around in the river.

I walked over on to Hoe Rough, and was moderately excited to get quite close to a large stoat. I have never seen one in the wild before, and neither had Ollie, who immediately chased it, with no chance of ever catching up to it. I was also warned, by another dog walker, that she had seen an adder earlier in the day. This area has lots of these indigenous snakes, and they are best avoided. A bite from them can make you quite ill, and can easily kill a dog, or very small child. As they are normally out of sight around trees, or hiding under cover, it is more likely that Ollie will find one, when he is snuffling around.

The ‘Flanders’ mud has dried at long last, and it is now possible to walk without wellington boots. All the birds are very busy, and the buzzing of insects was noticeable, for the first time in ages. The small lambs are in the fields, irresistibly cute, as they bounce around, or pester the ewes for milk.

This is the best part of moving to the countryside. It is only a shame it is not like this all year round. But then I suppose that would be California, not Norfolk.