A PAIR of Mute Swans seem to be prospecting for a nest site. They feed together, necks bending in unison, on stringy algae by a willow at the reedy edge of the canal. With an air of quiet concentration they pick up wisps of dried grass.
When a man with a couple of dogs walks by, they retreat a few yards from the bank. The male, the cob, raises his wings, more than doubling his apparent size. He bristles feathers on his neck, doubling its thickness. The knob above his bill is bigger than the female's (the pen's). When they're feeding quietly together it's difficult to spot the difference but now that he's puffed himself up he appears to be a much more powerful bird.
Tiny leaves are unfurling on the dry-looking twigs of Elder by the towpath. They're purplish brown, standing on the twigs like little bromeliads. I'm surprised that these canal-side elders seem to be the first trees in flower. The twigs look so grey and lifeless. Some are dead, stripped of their bark, like yellowed bones.
The first leaves of Wild Garlic, Ransoms, have appeared by the causey stone path alongside the stream by the entrance to the woods. I realise that deep green woods, with their delicious waft of garlic, aren't that far away now.
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