Mr. Swan in the Boston Globe!

Mr. Swan super stressed and panting while being chased around Henry’s Pond.

Mr. Swan Makes the Big Time in the Boston Globe!

In Rockport, Chasing Mr. Swan

Article by Boston Globe correspondent Emily Sweeney

Photos courtesy Kim Smith

A popular swan at Henry’s Pond in Rockport managed to stay one step ahead of rescuers who were trying to capture him Tuesday.

The elderly bird, known affectionately as “Mr. Swan,” has been a common sight at the pond for many years. During that time, he’s fathered many cygnets and outlived two of his mates, and led a peaceful existence on the water.

But things took a turn recently when Mr. Swan hurt his leg. Although he could still swim, some people began to notice that Mr. Swan was having difficulty walking. And they began to worry.

Soon enough, the Animal Rescue League was called in to help.

“The swan is considered a community pet, so the goal was to capture it, have it treated, and then returned to the pond,” said Michael DeFina, a spokesman for the Animal Rescue League.

While that mission sounds simple, carrying it out proved to be anything but. Catching Mr. Swan turned out to be an impossible task for the organization’s rescue team. Armed with large nets, the two rescuers — Bill Tanguay and Mark Vogel — used kayaks to pursue Mr. Swan on the water. At one point, Vogel almost caught Mr. Swan in his net, but the bird was able to break free.

Mr. Swan eventually sought refuge in the reeds, and the rescuers decided to call off the chase.

“The swan was stressed, and the soaring temperatures made him very tired,” said DeFina. “The fact he eluded capture and was able to swim without showing obvious signs of pain led to the conclusion that the injury may not be that severe.”

“After giving up the chase, ARL and the concerned parties agreed to continually monitor the swan’s condition, and if it worsens, ARL will be contacted to get the swan medical attention, and again, have him returned to the pond,” DeFina said.

Kim Smith, a Gloucester resident who counts herself among one of Mr. Swan’s many fans, described the rescue attempt as a “wild swan chase.”

“He was chased back and forth across the pond,” she said.

What made his escape even more impressive is Mr. Swan’s age. According to Smith, sightings of Mr. Swan date back to the early 1990s, which would make him at least 27 years old. (Smith knows Mr. Swan well: she’s spent the past six years filming him for a documentary film.)

“He’s an amazing creature,” she said.

DeFina said that the average lifespan for a swan in the wild can be about 10 to 15 years due to the hazards they can encounter (getting caught in fishing gear, getting hit by a boat, etc.), while a swan living in a protected environment can live 20 to 30 years.

“It’s clear that there are certainly people in Gloucester who care for this swan, if he’s in fact been around that long,” DeFina said.

Smith said that although the Animal Rescue League’s efforts were well-intentioned, she’s happy that Mr. Swan eluded capture.

“He’s lived this long, he deserves to spend his last days in his own neighborhood with his friends,” she said.

Long live Mr. Swan.

Mr. Swan is Not in need of rescuing. Drinking and eating just fine❣️#swan #birdsofinstagram

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Emily Sweeney can be reached atesweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter@emilysweeney.

Mr. Swan Capture Update #2

After suffering the extraordinary trauma of yesterday’s attempted capture, Mr. Swan was seen late in the day by friends, peeking his head out between the reeds. I stopped by to see him this morning at about 6:30, thinking perhaps I would catch a glimpse, and to my utter surprise he was sitting on the edge of the road that divides Pebble Beach from Henry’s Pond. Very deliberately, Mr. Swan was heading to the open ocean. He was obviously extremely weary from the effort, and from the previous day’s event, taking only a few difficult steps at a time, before plopping down, then a few steps more. Slowly and determinedly he made his way.

Crossing the road between Henry’s Pond and Pebble Beach

Friends Lois, Serena, and Skip Monroe stopped by to offer food and encouragement. After at least an hour of effort, he made it to the water’s edge and took off toward Niles Pond (it usually takes him about five minutes to cross the road).

Making his way through the super yucky red seaweed.

Shortly after we got a call from Lyn that Mr. Swan had arrived safely at Niles Pond. I stopped by Niles on my way to work to see him and he appeared so much happier and relaxed than earlier in the morning. A true survivor, he was gliding and preening and vocalizing. Long live Mr. Swan!

In regards to how old is Mr. Swan, I was reminded by another great Friend of Mr. Swan, Skip Hadden, that Mr. Swan is actually at least TWENTY SEVEN years old!! When Skip arrived at Niles Pond in 1992, Mr. Swan was an adult breeding male with a family (swans do not begin to breed until they are at the very least two years old).

Regarding Mr. Swan’s foot injury, Skip writes, “He has injured this foot in the past. He fell off our roof after crash landing there in turbulent winds circa 2000. Heartily agree in daily monitoring as he is one determined character. He has a strong chance of survival if left to his own devices and our small efforts to assist from a distance.”

Mr. Swan at Niles Pond this morning! I hope he chooses to stay here to recuperate.

Mr. Swan Capture Update

Despite repeated attempts by Boston Animal Rescue League workers Bill Tanguay and Mark Vogel to capture Cape Ann’s beloved swan, Mr. Swan escaped.

The day began a little after 6:00am when the Friends of Mr. Swan convened at Henry’s Pond to strategize on how to manage and understand the mysterious notice posted at the pond, which read, “Please don’t feed swan. He is being rescued on Tuesday.” The Friends of Mr. Swan are a group of people who feed and monitor Mr. Swan on a daily basis throughout the year and they include Skip Hadden, Lois, Serena, Skip and Joel Monroe, Lyn Fonzo, Elaine Somers, and myself. The news had spread quickly amongst the group about the scheduled rescue. Mr. Swan’s left foot appears to be sprained or in some way injured at the ankle (possible snapping turtle bite) but we had taken the tactic of allowing the foot to hopefully heal on its own. Wildlife capture can lead to euthanasia and that is truly the last diagnosis any of us would want for Mr. Swan (also known as Buddy, Poppa Swan, Old Blue Eyes, and Papa Swan).

Lois and her Buddy

Mr. Swan is at least 27 years old, has outlived two mates, and fathered many cygnets. With his beautiful blue eyes and pure white cygnet offspring, Mr. Swan is a rare form of Mute Swan (Cygnus immutabilis), thought to originate from the Baltic Sea region. All these many years that he has called Cape Ann home Mr. Swan has brought joy and happiness to countless people, especially to young children. At this point, he is not showing outward signs of physical pain, he is feeding and drinking, and maintaining his feathers (preening). We hope with all our hearts that his foot will heal but believe that if it his time to go, he should be permitted to live out his remaining days in his own neighborhood with his community of friends.

Lyn and her Poppa

The Friends agreed to take turns watching for the ARL workers. Our objective was to speak with them to learn more about the specifics of the capture and how it would impact Mr. Swan’s overall health, what would be the various courses of action based upon veterinary examination, if we could determine the outcome with covering his medical bills, and to insure that Mr. Swan be returned to Cape Ann, if he did have to undergo rehabilitation.

ARL’s Bill and Mark arrived at around noon. We discussed the various options and were assured that as Mr. Swan is a community “pet,” with plenty of friends to look out for him, he would less likely be euthanized.

Coaxing Mr. Swan to the pond’s edge was easy when offered some favorite foods, but getting him to walk onshore was another story.  Out came the kayaks, where Mr. Swan led Bill and Mark on a wild swan chase back and forth from one end of the pond to the other. He skillfully led the workers through the thick reeds of phragmites, where he has a secret nest and many avenues of escape. At one point it appeared as though Mark had captured him with the swan-sized net, but he wriggled out and bolted free. We could see Mr. Swan panting and visibly tiring and at that point he slipped deep, deep into the reeds and was not seen again. We all came to the mutual decision that it was best not to continue as Mr. Swan was clearly super stressed and exhausted.

Nearly captured!

Super stressed and panting after being chased around the pond numerous times.

Final slip into the reeds.

Bill, Mark, and the Friends decided that the logical course of action is to continue to monitor Mr. Swan on a daily basis. If his condition worsens we will at that time call the ARL. In the meantime, we are urging everyone to please follow these simple guidelines in helping Mr. Swan on his road to recovery.

  1. A healthy diet while healing is critically important. He should only be fed cracked or whole corn. Additionally, chopped lettuce or grass cuttings can be offered along with the corn. PLEASE NO JUNK FOOD, which includes bread, chips, and every other kind of processed food snack.
  2. Please do not bring your pooch to the shoreline where Mr. Swan is resting. Dogs, especially bird chasing dogs, create a great deal of stress for swans.
  3. If you see Mr. Swan in any kind of distress please contact any one of the Friends of Mr. Swan or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com

THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP!

You can’t miss the Red-winged Blackbirds at the pond and they love cracked and whole corn, too.

A Day in the Life of Baby Swans

Meet the Swan family. They live on a pond in Eastern Massachusetts. On an island in the middle of the pond, Papa and Mama built a nest made of cattails, reeds, and sticks. For six weeks Mama and Papa Swan took turns sitting on the nest warming, or incubating, the eggs.

Within hours of hatching, the baby swans, called cygnets, are mobile. Precocial refers to animal species in which the young are relatively mature from the moment of hatching. Within a day or two, Mama and Papa take the cygnets to water for their first swim.

Unlike songbirds, which are born naked, blind, and helpless, cygnets are born with downy soft feathers and with their eyes open. Piping Plovers are another example of a bird species that is precocial. The cygnets will soon outgrow the soft down.

A family of cygnets is called a clutch or brood.

Two week old swans are sleeping on the bank of the pond. Although cygnets are precocial and relatively independent, they are unable to regulate their body temperature. They rely on warmth from Mom and Dad, and from snuggling each other during nap time.

Cygnets absorb the last of their yolk  into their tummies before hatching, which means they don’t have to eat for several days. Their first meal might be a nibble of an insect caught along the water’s edge.

The cygnets forage for insects and pond vegetation.

Precocial birds find their own food, occasionally with instructions from Mom and Dad.See the little tiny V-shaped wing bud, tucked over the bill. Notice how much proportionately larger are an adult swan’s wings (below). Cygnet’s wings grow rapidly. They usually learn to fly  by early fall, at about five months old.

Back to shore to preen and to warm up.

Time for another nap!

An adult swan’s bill has jagged, serrated edges that look like small teeth and are very sharp. Nesting swans can be very aggressive. They will hiss, puff out their feathers to appear larger, flap their wings, move very quickly when angered, and smash their body and wings at a perceived predator. Swans will bite and peck, too. Please keep a safe distance when observing swans, especially nesting swans.

Papa and Mama Swan need their rest, too.

MR. SWAN EMERGENCY

MR. SWAN EMERGENCY

Please share , thank you!
We Friends of Mr. Swan would like to know who posted the do not feed sign because there is a planned “rescue” of him, which is to take place tomorrow, Tuesday.

We are all aware of his injured leg, and expect that it will heal. If it does not heal, we will have a swan expert have a look at him and take him to Tufts, if needed.

To the well-intentioned person, Mr. Swan will be EUTHANIZED if he is rescued by the wrong group. Whoever is planning Tuesday’s rescue should be aware of the following information, passed on by Jodi Swenson, our region’s local bird rescue expert:

“Because he is non-native, Mr. Swan would have to go to New England Wildlife Center. But, if it is just a limp, or something like that, leave him alone because a hurt leg that won’t get better will make him non-releasable, and that means EUTHANASIA”

Please, please contact kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. THANK YOU.

Mr. Swan, filmed several days ago at Niles Pond. He is staying in the water, probably so as not to bear weight on his leg. He is eating fine and his feathers are well-groomed and in good shape, signs that he does not need to be rescued at this point. Also, in order to fly from Henry’s Pond to Niles Pond, he needs to run on his feet, otherwise he won’t become air born. Mr. Swan is well over twenty years old. If his leg is not curable, he deserves to live out his life in his own neighborhood with his friends.

He's a hungry boy today! Mr. Swan at Niles Pond. ❣️

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Alpaca Shearing Day at the Marshall’s Farm

Just like sheep, alpacas need to be shorn at least once a year. Their beautiful fleece is so thick by the time spring comes along, the animals would suffer tremendously in warmer weather if not shorn.

Family and friends lend a hand for alpaca shearing day.

Malcolm Cooper arrived Sunday morning with his assistant Krystian Hoszkiewicz.Expert shearing, with a firm but kind touch. 

Andrew Spinney from Paynter Saltwater Farm in Essex brought three of his alpacas for shearing, along with Maggie the sheep. Maggie likes getting shorn, so much so that she turned into an acquiescing blob of jello.

Angela administers a monthly shot to prevent parasites.

Here’s Nikki helping with the Paynter alpacas. Next is an after-shearing photo, with the Marshall’s daughter Jennifer. What a difference!

Alpaca lower teeth and upper dental pad.

Alpacas only have bottom teeth. On the top they have a hard dental pad. Alpacas eat by trapping grass between their teeth and the dental pad, and then nipping it off. Some alpacas are genetically pre-disposed to misaligned teeth and need to have their teeth trimmed. If the teeth were not trimmed, it could lead to eating disorders and starvation. A protective guard is placed in the mouth and the teeth are quickly ground with an electric grinder. It takes all of about 30 second for an alpaca’s dental treatment!

 

Pippi Longstocking’s first dental check up.

One-year-old alpacas Maisy, Rascal, and Pippi Longstocking had their first shearing. The yarn made from the first shearing is referred to as baby alpaca, and it is silky soft, luxurious, and super warm.

Maggie’s wool is more course and contains lanolin. After she was shorn, you could feel the sticky lanolin on her skin. Because alpaca fleece bears no lanolin, the yarn is hypoallergenic

Pippi Longstocking’s first buzz cut.

Phew, I was exhausted just filming the Marshall Family corral twenty plus alpacas and one tubby little Maggie. The Marshall’s alpacas are beloved family members, each named, and each with a unique personality to go with their name–Pokey, Magnolia, and Rascal, to mention just a few. Animal farming is super hard, non-stop work, especially when the animals are as well taken care of as are the Marshalls.

The public is welcome to come stop by and visit the alpacas. Yarn from the Marshall’s alpacas is available to purchase. At the present time, Angie’s Alpacas is open by appointment. Call 978-729-7180 or email Angela at Angiez65@hotmail.com. Marshall’s Farm is located just next to Marshall’s Farm Stand at 148 Concord Street in West Gloucester.