The womph, womph, womph made me stop in my tracks and look up. It was the sound of wings, big wings, wings big enough to make the use of the verb "flapping" seem inappropriately diminutive. Above me I saw a large white bird pummeling the sky on its descent to the pond in the middle of the golf course where I was walking my dog.
I thought to myself, "It could be a goose," because there are plenty of those here, and as it flew it had its long neck thrust forward like a goose. But if that's what it was, it was not like any Canada geese I'd seen before, because it was completely white.
"A heron perhaps?" I wondered. Maybe, but the legs didn't seem long enough, though the wing noise was quite like the sound a heron makes.
As it settled onto the surface of the water and collected its wings around itself I was surprised to see it was a swan.
First, I didn't know swans could fly and second, I've never seen one solo. My limited ornithological knowledge includes these facts: Swans are silent, they mate for life and they are not always white.
Once while walking on a golf course in Twin Waters, Australia, I was blessed to discover, in a pond half hidden by reeds, a half a dozen black swans. This is also where I saw my first wallaby, but that's another story.
The men who tend to the beautiful course at Innis Arden Club know about the goings on of the critters who reside there. Over the years we have shared lots of stories about the wildlife we've seen.
The grounds keepers presented me with an abandoned iron club one summer when the coyotes were exceptionally aggressive, threatening other early morning walkers. They showed me where the snapping turtles lay their eggs, information that sprang back to mind the day I saw a golf-ball sized baby turtle lying lifeless on the pavement.
I've watched the life-or-death pas de deux of red-tailed hawks and common black birds, the hawk making menacing swoops over the smaller birds' nests and their retaliatory onslaught -- black birds courageously flying in ones and twos toward the hawk -- harassing it with brazen nips at its wings.
From foxes and deer to blue herons and ducks, a walk on the golf course in the early morning hours is like living in my own personal episode of Animal Kingdom.
So when two of the workers arrived curious about what had caught my attention I was not surprised that they had more intel about this lonely swan.
Several weeks ago, on the other side of a hill from the pond, they had come across the body of another swan. What had killed it, they did not know. Nor did they know the status of its companion.
As I watched the swan swim the circumference of the pond, its lovely white wings piled high over its back, it approached the area of the bank where I stood and peered at me for a long time. I won't presume to know what is in the mind of the creature but I am concluding that this lonely bird is the dead swan's mate.
For all the time I've spent walking golf courses, I've never actually played a round. I can assure you, however, that among the wildlife the events are dramatic as nature plays out its deadly serious game.
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