Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Mute Swan Dispute

On one of my trips to LaSalle lately, I saw two people boating from island to island, visiting them each, spending a couple minutes only, and moving to the next.  They were oiling eggs.

Oiling eggs.
(note: I've pixelated the face as I don't intend to cause anyone trouble)

I am assuming they were oiling Mute Swan eggs given the size of the white eggs I could see them holding.  I had heard that this was being done, but had never seen it before.  The pair that nests every year by the boat launch of Bayfront Park I'm sure is spared as it is a well known spot and attracts many people each year as they watch the 32-37 day incubation and then the hatching fun.  In fact, my encounter with this pair was at the beginning of my birding/photography fun and I thoroughly enjoyed the anticipation and then the slow arrival of the cygnets.  Here are those post in order:

They use vegetable oil to spray onto the eggs to close up the pores in the eggs which doesn't allow oxygen to pass through to the developing embryo/chick inside.  And they oil the eggs instead of destroying them so the swans don't re-lay new eggs, but sit through the full incubation time.  The reason for the oiling is to try and control the Mute Swan population.  It is a swan that was imported from Europe as decoration birds for large estate ponds back in the late 1800's.  But it's huge appetite and very aggressive manner have pushed out many of the other water birds, keeping them from breeding in the area it claims.  Because of their massive "through-put" (food turns into poop), they are also seen as contributors (along with Canada Geese of course) with algae bloom problems that starve the aquatic fauna of oxygen and decrease the water plants that are necessary for a balanced environment.

Now, after realizing the impact these swans have and that they were not naturally here, I think I'd support the control.  My understanding is that they are not eliminating them, but keeping them to a manageable population and in some ways, putting a "predator" in place that isn't naturally here.

There has been a big effort to reintroduce the Trumpeter Swan back into the area after it almost became extinct.  This program is going well by all accounts, and LaSalle beach in Burlington is home to a large group that seem to be well established with many over wintering there.  Here's an interesting YouTube video of Trumpeter Swans being banded and tagged.

Trumpeter Swans

Here are a few resources I found on the topic of oiling the Mute Swan eggs elsewhere...I could only find a few references to this actually being practiced in the Hamilton Harbour area:
Here is another blog post from someone in Vermont on the topic.

I don't do this often, but the egg oiling made me think of an aspect I'd like to share with you...One interesting aspect of the egg oiling, is the amazing design of the egg itself.  Until recently, I hadn't even known that eggs had these thousands of pores for "breathing".  Along with so many other wonders of the natural world around us, the egg is another very powerful evidence for seeing all the beauty and intricate systems as designed, and not the product of chance.

Consider these interesting egg facts which all have to be in place and working for a little bird chick to survive:
Strength and shape - Without both of these the egg would be crushed by the parent bird.
Holes - Thousands of microscopic holes allow for respiration during incubation.
Air pocket - At the end of the incubation period, and just prior to the massive effort to get out, the holes are not sufficient to provide enough oxygen.  There is a little pocket of air which provides just enough for the little bird to break the skin inside, and then chisel a hole in the egg with...
Egg tooth (correct, it's not part of the egg!) - the little bird has to develop with this egg tooth strong enough to break the shell.
This doesn't even include the amazing reproductive system that all has to be in the right order for embryo, fertilization, shell production to take place.  But if any of these parts of the system aren't in place, the chick would die.

Adds another dimension to the question of the Chicken or the Egg dilemma don't you think?  I believe all these amazingly complex designs all point to a God who put them there to make us wonder at how amazingly well he created everything to work.  Problem is, we live in a world that is not without breakdown and problems.  It doesn't all work perfectly.  Despite the underlying, amazingly wonderful designed world that we see, there is disease, trouble, and breakdown.  That is our fault, and along with the rest of the world He created to be good, it groans to be fixed.  It wasn't always that way.  We decided that we knew better and rebelled against the God who made us.  And we're still "benefiting" today.  Because we are part of a long line of people who continue to live our own way, and because we're "in the hole" from the start, we can't fix the problem ourselves. Thankfully God sent a rescuer - Jesus - to pay for the debt of our wrong as a representative.  All He requires is that we admit our guilt and are willing to humble ourselves and ask for His grace through the payment on the cross.  Otherwise, we can't complain about the payment we will be required to make for our less than perfect lives which is the standard of a good, but just God.

If you think I'm all wet here or differ in your opinion, please don't feel bad to let me know.  I'd be glad to discuss further or hear your view.  Please be sure that I don't share these thoughts to discourage, or to say I'm better than you, or anything like that... I'm not any better, and I'm in the same condition as everyone else is.  But I want to share the fix that I know and believe to be so true.  I want you to have the same comfort and peace that I have - to know that the the day you die, you'll have a confident answer as you stand before your Maker.   And some day, I don't want you to say, "Why did you never tell me!?"

And... as I enjoy watching and sharing the birding and wildlife photographs, I'm "afraid" I can't help but see that all these creatures declare HIS handiwork.  So, once in a while, a little "sermon" results and I hope that from it, someone some day, will see Him too.

Take care!

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