Aggressive Swan Chasing a Goose

Yesterday I was out doing more eBook field work photographing birds, and was able to capture some images of an aggressive swan chasing a goose. What follows are a selection of images taken from an AF-C run of 37 photographs. Frame sequence is noted. I shot in Manual mode using continuous auto-focus (AF-C) with subject tracking at a frame rate of 20 FPS, and Auto ISO 160-6400.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Frame 1, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-640

I noticed a pair of swan with their four signets on the edge of one of the ponds at Hendrie Valley Sanctuary. Like many birds with young, swans can be quite aggressive. A few Canada geese landed on the same pond. Anticipating some aggressive swan behaviour I readied my camera for some fairly predictable action and focused in on the family of swans.

Frame 2, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-200

As soon as the geese came in a bit too close to the family of swans, the chase was on! One of the swans, most likely the male, let out a sharp call and with its huge wings flapping and its large webbed feet smacking the top of the water, raced off towards the geese.

Frame 3, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-200
Frame 4, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-200
Frame 5, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-220
Frame 6, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-220

In Frame 6 you can see one of the Canada geese exiting the area as the swan continues its pursuit of a different goose.

Frame 7, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-220
Frame 8, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-360
Frame 9, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-360
Frame 12, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-200

Jumping ahead a few frames we can see the swan is still focused on its target goose and has completely ignored the other one in the photograph.

Frame 18, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-280

Moving ahead a few more frames in the AF-C run we can see the swan turning to its left as it continues its pursuit. The last three frames show the swan closing in on the target goose.

Frame 21, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-250
Frame 22, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-250
Frame 23, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-250

Luckily for the target goose it was able to escape just ahead of the aggressive swan reaching it.  This action sequence was completed in only a couple of seconds.

In order to capture this kind of action sequence it is important to take note of bird behaviour, then anticipate it reoccurring under similar circumstances.

You’ll notice yellow tags on the wings of the swan. These tags identify it for government nature tracking studies.

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured using Nikon 1 camera gear as per the EXIF data. Images in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

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4 thoughts on “Aggressive Swan Chasing a Goose”

  1. Great shots. I almost hate to ask, but what happens if the swan catches the goose? Tyson against a cub scout?

    1. Hi William,
      I have never seen a goose try to fight back given the superior size and strength of a swan. when overtaking geese I have seen swans bite them, usually on their rear section, causing some loss of feathers. I’ve never witnessed anything more serious than that. Some of the avid bird photographers that I chat with from time to time have mentioned that they have seen swan fight with each other to the point where one dies from a broken neck. I’ve never seen this behaviour.
      Tom

  2. Hi Thomas,
    nice work as per usual and illustrates perfectly what help a bit of knowledge about bird behaviour can be in anticipation of getting the shot.I have spent many hours just watching and making a mental note of what can happen and it comes in very handy for some interesting shots that might otherwise be missed,

    Regards

    Stuart.

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