(This article was originally written September 7, 2012.)
Once in awhile, the very thing we seek is overlooked in our belief such an object must be far away and great effort must be expended to discover its location. The subject of our most recent adventure was less than ten minutes from the house and the only effort expended was getting my feet wet from the dew in the freshly cut grass.
Lakeland, Florida. Settlement began in 1870 and the town was incorporated in 1884. The population increased during the expansion of the railroads in the state and the city was used to train troops for the Spanish-American War. Growth continued to have its ups and downs over the years and today it’s a medium-sized city with all the expected amenities, educational facilities, occasional political drama, diverse population and a location convenient to “area attractions” – a euphemism for “all things Disney”. Although, last year saw the opening of Lego-Land in Winter Haven on the grounds of the former Cypress Gardens. Displays of plastic building blocks have replaced the women in large Southern style dresses and hats, ski shows and acres of beautiful flowers. Sigh. Colorful flowers replaced by colorful plastic. Guaranteed not to fade – ever. Unlike my memory of what used-to-be.
Lakes. That’s what Lakeland was named for. One of these, Lake Morton, is a small lake in the center of town. There is a theory that a couple of swans kept as pets by a resident escaped in the 1920’s, did what comes naturally and several lakes in town sported beautiful Mute Swans for quite a few years. Disease and predators took a toll and the last remaining swan in town was reportedly eaten by an alligator in the 1950’s. A former Lakeland resident living in England heard of the tragedy and, noting the flocks of Mute Swans floating around on the River Thames, saw no reason the Queen wouldn’t mind giving up a couple of them. As it turned out, Queen Elizabeth II graciously agreed, as long as the Americans agreed to pay for capturing and transporting the birds across the “Big Pond”. Thus it came to pass, two Mute Swans were released on Lake Morton in 1957 and their progeny, along with a few more purchased by the city throughout the years, still populate the lakes of Lakeland today. The swans on the Thames are said to be descended from a pair given to Richard The Lionhearted.
Mr. David Barber recently visited Lakeland. He is Queen Elizabeth II’s “Swan Marker” and one of his duties is to take an annual census of Mute Swans on the River Thames to ensure their continued good health. He’s currently on a world tour in connection with celebrating the Queen’s 60 years on the throne.
I didn’t “mark” any swans, but I did take a couple of snapshots of them along with a few other Lake Morton residents.
(Check out “Lake Morton” under the “Gallery” for more photos.)
What a nice way to start a day. Gini parked within view of the city library and I walked around the lake and took about 150 photographs in less than an hour. We then drove to another area to do a little more bird and butterfly watching before heading home for breakfast.
We hope your days have been good and we’ll talk to you all soon.