Yesterday I'd just started riding my StreetStrider outdoor elliptical bike at Salem's rural'ish Minto Brown Island Park. Coming to a flooded area just west of Parking Lot 1, I saw a woman with her smartphone out, taking photos of an unexpected sight.
I'd seen the swans a few days before, when I was riding at Riverfront Park. They were hanging out by the dock in the Willamette where the sternwheeler ties up.
(I'm assuming these are the same swans, since until now I've never seen any swans out and about in the wild here in Salem.)
Some kayakers were keeping a distance from the birds, which must be Mute Swans. Non-native to North America, this pair may have escaped from a captive life. I found a 2007 Oregonian story, "State wildlife officials worry about invasive swans, including two at Salem Retirement Home."
Hidden Lakes Retirement Village, if you're missing some swans, check out these photos.
They didn't seem wary of people. When I walked to the water's edge to get as close as possible to them, the swans swam closer. I had a feeling they were looking to be fed. But the Oregonian story describes their temperament, which isn't shy.
Although the swan's population is small and scattered in Oregon, evidence from other states proves that the birds can spread and multiply quickly, driving away native swans and other waterfowl.
"They are the bullies of the wetlands," said Jim Gores, an invasive species and wildlife integrity coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "They have a temper and attitude that you would not believe."
Then I got a headless swan photo.
Here's a 47 second video of the pair:
It was great to experience this swan surprise. Such is the benefit of keeping Minto Brown Island Park as natural as possible, along with the rest of Salem.
Our predictable so-called "built environment" typically doesn't make you stop in your tracks and go, Wow!
Yet nature often does bring us surprising wow-moments, being largely uncontrollable.
Flooding just happens at Minto Brown when it rains a lot. Animals just do what they feel like doing at the park.
Which reminds me of a previous blog post: "On the need for wild places, and the wisdom to preserve them."
But here's the beauty of nature: wildness can be perceived everywhere, even in the most urban environment. Craig reminded us of that, saying that bald eagles can be seen flying over downtown Salem. If you look up.
It's the looking that is key. Seeing the wild around us with a sort of poetic eye, one that groks our intimate connection with the wildness of nature.