Friends, If you have seen a solitary swan in your neighborhood, please write and let us know in either the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org. We haven’t seen him in his usual places since Easter. He sometimes takes off for an extended rendezvous, but this one seems unusually long.
While out doing errands, I always hope to have time to take the “scenic route,” which usually means driving by one or more of our local bodies of water, whether sea, pond, marsh, or river. The day before I left for Mexico I was wonderfully surprised to spy the Three Graces swimming in a marsh on the other side of Cape Ann. There was still snow on the ground, but they were right at home foraging in the salt water marsh for vegetation.
Swans don’t migrate long distances, but move around from body of water to body of water within a region. These three siblings were most likely kicked out of their family and nesting area by the dad, as he is preparing to mate and nest with the mom to produce the next brood of cygnets. The Three Graces won’t be mature enough to mate and lay eggs for at least two more years and during this time, I imaging they are learning the lay of the land, where food may be plentiful and where may be a good place to nest. Swans are at their most vulnerable in these first few years of life. Hopefully at least one will survive and decide to make Cape Ann his/her future home!
A beautiful trio of young Mute Swans spent the day at Niles Pond foraging on pond vegetation and enjoying fresh water. When the fresh water ponds thaw, we see our local swans take a break from their salty harbor refuges. The Three Graces spent the entire day eating nearly nonstop, which suggests they are very hungry.
I believe the three young swans are not quite one year old. Their bills are pale, and brown first-molt feathers mix with incoming white feathers. It’s their first winter so if you see the young swans, please be kind.
Mr. Swan, too, has been enjoying the fresh water at Henry’s Pond. He’s so territorial that I hope he stays over in Rockport for a bit so the Three Graces can fortify at Niles.
Over the weekend the Rockport Fire Department was called by a well-meaning person because they thought Mr. Swan was stuck in the ice. Believe me when I write that Mr. Swan has spent the last 29 years of his life (at least 29 years) on Cape Ann’s wintry waterways. If Mr. Swan finds himself partially frozen in the ice he uses his mighty breast to break up the ice by lifting his body out of the water and then coming down hard, pounding the ice with his chest. We have seen him do this powerful move dozens of times.
There was a concern last year about him being unable to get off ice he had unwittingly flown onto, only because he had an injured foot. With his bad foot, he could not get a running start to take off flying. Mr. Swan’s foot has healed and he is doing beautifully.
It is of grave concern when the local authorities are called regarding Mr. Swan. We are afraid that the case will be referred to Mass Wildlife. Mute Swans are considered an invasive species and it is not part of their protocol to save non-native species of wildlife. As he is a “community” pet, some leeway may be permitted, but that is not guaranteed.
Please contact me at email@example.com. When you contact me about any issues regarding Mr. Swan, I in turn contact and discuss with his longtime caretakers and friends Lois and Serena, Lyn, Skip, Joel and Skip, Elaine, and Jodi and Erin at Cape Ann Wildlife. It was a terrible ordeal last time there was an attempt to capture Mr. Swan. We don’t want him to go through that kind of trauma ever again, especially at his age.
During the winter months, Mr. Swan’s territory expands tremendously and it includes the length of the Annisquam River and all inlets, all along the backshore from Rockport Harbor to Gloucester Harbor, and all the fresh bodies of water in between. Please let people know and share this post with everyone you know who may have contact with Mr. Swan.
Part One: Winter
By Kim Smith
Cape Ann provides welcome habitat for a menagerie of creatures beautiful, from the tiniest winged wonder to our region’s top predator, the Eastern Coyote. Last year and the previous year I posted a Cape Ann Wildlife: A Year in Pictures 2016 and Cape Ann Wildlife: A Year in Pictures 2017. This year I changed the title to A Year in Pictures and Stories and have provided a partial list of some of the stories. You can find links to the posts at the end of each season. I hope you have found the wildlife stories of 2018 equally as interesting and beautiful. Click on the image to find the name of each species.
* * *
The first days of January began with the dramatic rescue of our blue-eyed swan by Mr. Swan’s Niles Pond caretakers, Skip, Lyn, and Dan. He flew onto the ice and could not maneuver off. The most amazing thing is that two black-eyed “angel swans” magically appeared at just the right time they were needed and, in a swan sort of way, helped release Mr. Swan from the ice.
She arrived sometime in December and stayed until mid-March. Hedwig staked out a territory that covered a great part of East Gloucester, from Captain Joes Lobster Company on the inner harbor, up over the Bass Rocks Golf Club hill, and all along Atlantic Road, even battling a young male we called Bubo to maintain her dominance over this rich feeding ground. Late in the afternoon we would see her departing for her nightly hunt and she was seen eating a wide variety of small animals, including rabbits, mice, and Buffleheads.
Hedwig was photographed battling, bathing, grooming, and eating.
Mostly though, Hedwig was observed while sleeping and resting on her various perches; not only the beautiful rocks along the shoreline, but Atlantic Road homeowner’s chimneys, as well as the rooftop railings of the Ocean House Hotel and Atlantis Oceanfront Inn.
This remarkably people-tolerant owl drew crowds from all over (including a Canadian visitor), providing a wonderful window into the secret world of these most magnificent of Arctic wanderers.
Resident Eastern Coyotes and beautiful migrating ducks were photographed and filmed. And then came the terribly destructive power of the four’easters of March, reeking havoc on wildlife habitats all along the coastline.
Hedwig was last seen during the early evening on March 12th, departing the rooftop of the Ocean House Hotel. This was also the night before the third nor’easter. She was perched on the railing of the Ocean House Inn facing towards the sea. The wind was blowing fiercely. After making several attempts, she successfully flew in a southerly direction out over the water.
Mr. Swan Rescue Update and a Pair of Mysterious Swans Arrive at Niles Pond!
Mr. Swan Update Rescue #2
Not One, But Two Snowy Owls on the Back Shore
Snowy Owl Aerial Fight
Close Encounter of the Coyote Kind
Snowy Owl Hedwig Takes a Bath
My What Big Feet You Have Hedwig
Hello Hedwig! What Are You Eating
How Can the Wings of a Snowy Owl Be Quieter Than a Butterfly’s Wings?
Good Morning Sleepyhead
Snowy Owl Feathers in the Moonlight
Beautiful Brants, Scaups, and Ring-necked Ducks Migrating Right Now On Our Shores
Gloucester March Nor’easters Storm Coverage 2018
Clear Evidence of the Destructive Forces of Global Warming on the Coastline and How this Negatively Impacts Local Wildlife
Friday afternoon, after the nor’easter, the sun came out just barely before the skies again darkened with a brief snow squall. I was driving along Atlantic Road during those fleeting in between moments when way off in the distance I spied a flock of birds, with the distinct shape of swans in flight. Swans fly with their long necks extended, unlike herons and egrets, which fly with their necks curved in. What on Earth is Mr. Swan doing out in this wildly windy weather I thought. But it wasn’t Mr. Swan, it was an entire family of Swans! There were two adults and four cygnets. Stunning to see and very uplifting. They flew over the Twin Lights and then further and further until I could not see them any longer.
The first and third swans are the adults, the second, fourth, fifth and sixth are the cygnets, or first-hatch year juveniles.The young swans will retain their grayish brown feathers until their second summer.
Please write and let me know if you saw the Mute Swan family on Friday afternoon. They were flying along the backshore at about 2:15. Or, if you live on the Northshore and know of any swan family with two adults and four youngsters, I would love to learn more about them. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for any leads!
A few more of the Mute Swan family flying toward and over Thacher Island
Cape Ann’s beautiful blue-eyed swan is doing quite well especially considering he is at least 28 YEARS OLD. It is highly unusual for a Mute Swan to live that long. Wild Mute Swans live on average eight to twelve years. In captivity, they can live up to 40 years, but our Mr. Swan hardly lives the cushy life of a Queen’s swan. .
He is only occasionally a little gimpy on his bad leg. Mr. Swan still manages to rule most of Cape Ann’s waterways, from the Annisquam River to Rockport Harbor, and everything in between.
Rock On, Mr. Swan!
Mr. Swan is back to frequenting both Niles and Henry’s Pond. He’s reveling in the return of warmer temperatures, which with it bring access to his preferred freshwater nesting sites. As I was walking alongside the pond at twilight, he suddenly flew overhead. I wish I had a better photo, but here you can see he is flying well, and it was wonderful to see him looking so full of vigor in the fading rosy light.
The Young Swan is also faring well this winter. His kind hearted caregiver Lyn has taken to calling him Thomas, after Farmer Thomas Niles, who at one time owned all of Eastern Point, and for whom Niles Pond and Niles Beach are named.
A number of friends have been texting and emailing that they are seeing a swan all along the Annisquam. I suspected that it was Mr. Swan as I have seem him on the Annisquam, near the bridge and Cape Ann Marina after he lost his second mate. It would be swan-logical that he would head over to the Annisquam in search of open, fresh water because both Henry’s and Niles ponds are still frozen.
Thanks to Craig Kimberley, who texted a swan sighting in real time, I was able to get a closeup of the swan, and YES, it is Mr. Swan that many of our readers are seeing. Mr. Swan’s bill is uniquely marked and he has beautiful blue eyes, which is unusual for most Mute Swans seen in these parts. In the closeup photo above it is difficult to tell his eyes are blue. It’s much easier to notice when his eyes reflect sunlight, but trust me, if it were a black-eyed swan, you would not be able to distinguish the iris at all.
Thanks so much to Craig, Brianne, and facebook friends for sharing your Mr. Swan sightings, so very much appreciated 🙂
The Annisquam River stretches from Annisquam Harbor on the north to Gloucester Harbor on south.
Thanks to Lyn Fonzo, Dan Harris, Skip Munroe, Skip Hadden, Duncan, Stephanie, Lillian, a bunch more Eastern Point residents, Steve Monell and a pair of “angel” swans, our Mr. Swan has flown off the ice at Niles Pond. As Lyn shared earlier, two Mute Swans flew to Niles Pond, landing precisely at the same spot where Mr. Swan was resting. They must have been very tired because the mysterious swans immediately closed their eyes and took a nap while Mr. Swan watched over the pair. He eventually dozed off, too. After a long rest, all three departed the Pond, circling around and then heading over Brace Cove towards Rockport. Mr. Swan had some difficulty but perhaps encouraged by the presence of companions, he successfully took off.
Without Dan and Lyn’s overnight vigilance against a coyote attack, our daybreak watch, and the angel swans I think it unlikely Mr. Swan would have survived this latest escapade. Our most heartfelt thanks to all who are keeping good watch over Mr. Swan and friends.
When temperatures plummeted in December, Mr. Swan moved to one of his favorite winter territories, Rockport Harbor and the adjacent coastline, where the salt water rarely freezes. My theory is that the January thaw we experienced over the past several days drew him to freshwater Niles Pond and I imagine, he expected to find a thawed pond. This is only a theory, but in trying to think like a swan and understand why he would be so uncharacteristically foolish, it is my best assumption.
After spending a good part of the day in the center of the pond, I coaxed him over to the edge where there was a patch of open water. He ate a little bit of corn, although not nearly as much as usual. He appeared to enjoy the freshwater but then at dusk, he half flew-half ran back to the center of the pond.
Extremely concerned about coyotes, Mr. Swan’s caretakers Lyn and Dan checked on him throughout the night. I took the dawn shift and found him alert and preening. He made several attempts to walk, but then would plop down and tuck his head under his wing to sleep and to keep warm. Eastern Point residents Duncan and Stephanie, and ice boat sailor Steven, offered to help while Lyn, Skip Munroe, Lois, and I conferred on the phone. We decided the best plan of action would be to capture him and return him to Rockport Harbor. At 9am Skip and Dan determined that the ice was okay to walk upon. They fearlessly walked onto the pond and at one point Lyn followed with blankets. After first attempting to capture him, they then herded him over near Skip Hadden’s dock. Skip, Skip, and Dan again tried to capture him. He’s a very smart swan, wily and wild, and after several unsuccessful attempts, we decided to not tire him out and try to feed him, and help him as much as he would allow, from Lyn’s little beach.
Mr. Swan at sunrise and trying to negotiate the ice.
Shortly after, and unbelievably, A PAIR OF TRAVELING SWANS flew into Niles, near Lyn’s beach, next to Mr. Swan. At the moment, while writing this post, all three are sleeping peaceably together in a little group!
Newly Arrived Swans!
The thing is, we think that this may be Mr. Swan’s way of encouraging the Young Swan to fly. If she is going to survive a New England winter in the wild, she has to move to saltwater coves and harbors. Niles Pond resident Skip Hadden has seen her fly but she seems to have no interest in leaving the Pond. Niles Pond is freezing over, and unless the Young Swan follows Mr. Swan’s lead, she will have to be relocated.
Mr. Swan is also know as Papa Swan and Buddy to his human friends, and The Boss-of-the-Pond to all avian creatures, from Rockport Harbor to Gloucester Harbor. He will be turning at the very least 28-years-old in 2018. We know this because a gentleman named Skip has been keeping watch over Mr. Swan, along with his first mate, second mate, and cygnets, beginning in the year 1992. A male Mute Swan cannot mate until he is a minimum of two years old and even that age would be considered unusually young.
When Mr. Swan lifts out of the water to stretch his wings as he is doing in the photo below, he reminds me of the story of the Phoenix in Greek mythology. Not only because he has lived a very long life of at least 28 years, which is extraordinary for a wild swan, but because he has an incredible ability to adapt to a constantly changing environment, and to rise from the depths of sorrow. He has survived near capture, physical injuries, boats in the harbors, coyotes, snapping turtles, and the loss of not one, but two mates. He was so deeply distraught after his second mate was killed by a coyote, many of us worried whether or not he would survive. But he has, and magnificently so.
Is the young Mute Swan at Niles Pond a male or female? Based on outward appearances, the simple answer is we don’t know yet. Notice that there is no pronounced black knob, or protuberance, at the base of the young swan’s bill. Our young swan only hatched in the spring of this year and has not reached puberty. The knob becomes prominent at about three years of age.
After swans reach maturity, it is easier to distinguish between the two sexes when they are side by side. The male’s knob, also called a blackberry, is larger than the female’s blackberry, and too, his neck is thicker.
In case you were wondering, the swan’s bill will begin to change color at eight to ten months and it will not turn completely orange until the swan is at least one year old.
Compare the difference between the male and female swan in the photo above. Mr. Swan, on the left, has a larger blackberry, thicker neck, brighter orange bill, and is overall larger. He is with is his second mate, Mrs. Swan, and the last cygnet they hatched together.
* * *
$22,765.00!!! RAISED FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING DOCUMENTARY! THANK YOU KIND DONORS!!!!!!!!!!!
WITH THE GREATEST APPRECIATION FOR OUR COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS AND SPONSORS, I AM OVERJOYED TO SHARE THAT TO DATE WE HAVE RAISED $22,765.00 FOR THE DOCUMENTARY FILM “BEAUTY ON THE WING” ONLINE FUNDRAISER!!!
Friends of the Monarch Butterfly: If you would like to help towards the completion of the documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, please consider making a tax deductible donation here:
Donors contributing over $5,000. will be listed in the credits as a film producer.
For more information, visit the film’s website here: Monarch Butterfly Film
For an overview of the film’s budget, please go here: Budget
Thank you so very much for your help.
MY DEEPEST THANKS AND GRATITUDE TO LAUREN MERCADANTE (PRODUCER), SUSAN FREY (PRODUCER), NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS FOUNDATION, BOB AND JAN CRANDALL, MARY WEISSBLUM, SHERMAN MORSS, JAY FEATHERSTONE, MARION F., ELAINE M., KIMBERLY MCGOVERN, MEGAN HOUSER (PRIDES CROSSING), NANCY MATTERN (ALBUQUERQUE), DONNA STOMAN, PEGGY O’MALLEY, JOEY C., CATHERINE RYAN, JOEANN HART, JANE PAZNIK BONDARIN (NEW YORK), ROBERT REDIS (NEW YORK), NUBAR ALEXANIAN, PETER VAN DEMARK, PATRICIA VAN DERPOOL, FRED FREDERICKS (CHELMSFORD), LESLIE HEFFRON, JIM MASCIARELLI, DAVE MOORE (KOREA), LILIAN AND CRAIG OLMSTEAD, JOHN STEIGER, PAT DALPIAZ, AMY KERR, BARBARA T. (JEWETT, NY), ROBERTA C. ((NY), MARIANNE G. (WINDHAM, NY), PAULA RYAN O’BRIEN (WALTON, NY), MARTHA SWANSON, KIM TEIGER, JUDITH FOLEY (WOBURN), PATTI SULLIVAN, RONN FARREN, SUSAN NADWORNY (MELROSE), DIANE LINDQUIST (MANCHESTER), HEIDI SHRIVER (PENNSYLVANIA), JENNIFER CULLEN, TOM HAUCK, AND ANONYMOUS PERSONS FOR THEIR GENEROUS HELP.
After a summer of what appeared to be a not-so-happy pairing between Mr. Swan and the new one, the two seemed to have turned some kind of corner. Whether the truce is temporary or not, this morning the pair were observed preening within mere feet of each other and the young swan, actually nodded off, with Mr. Swan nearby.
For the sake of this story and in case a romance blossoms, we’ll call her a she. Friends of Mr. Swan have been reporting that he was either very aggressively biting and flying at her, chasing her into the reeds on the far side of the pond, or possibly chasing her to teach her to become airborne.
Mr. Swan has spent nearly the entire summer at Niles Pond, and he may never again return to Henry’s after the terrible debacle of his attempted capture. The day before the recent southeaster wind and rain event, Mr. Swan took off to Rockport Harbor and was seen there by his friends Lois, Joel, and Paul.
The young swan softly crying.
I looked for the young swan at Niles Pond the day after the storm and much to my surprise she seemed very lonely. She was softly crying over and over again in much the same manner as I have filmed Mr. Swan when his mate was killed by a coyote several years ago. Her cries were quieter than his, but she definitely appeared to be searching, calling, and distressed.
Yesterday, Niles Pond resident Lyn reported that Mr. Swan had returned to Niles Pond. I’ll relate exactly what I observed this morning. The young swan was at the water’s edge, busily preening. Although she does not yet know how to fly, she certainly knows how to groom and maintain her flight feathers for future flying. Mr. Swan caught sight of me and began to swim straight towards us, with his feathers all busked out. She began to swim away from him as he was approaching and made it about thirty feet. He then flew directly towards her, but this time not in an aggressive way, but in a manner that herded her back to the shoreline. I was honestly very happy and relieved to see this because I really did not want to witness Mr. Swan attacking her again.
The soft colors of the first hatch year feathers matched the soft colors reflected off the water in the early morning light.
Both were now at the shoreline and both began to preen, only several feet apart, as if they had been doing this their whole life and it was the most normal interaction between them imaginable. I filmed them for a bit when the young swan grew tired of preening and fell asleep, with Mr. Swan keeping an eye out towards the water. Eventually Mr. Swan took off towards his friend Skip’s dock. She then awoke, but stayed behind near the shore.
Are they becoming more comfortable with each other? Is the young swan a girl or a boy (too soon to tell from outward appearances)? Will the young swan ever learn to fly, or is there something wrong with her wings? So many questions and only time will tell. I hope so much both will survive the winter without coyote attack (or some other tragedy befalls them) and we will be able to observe as this new chapter in Mr. Swan’s life unfolds.
Mr. Swan Makes the Big Time in the Boston Globe!
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.
Emily Sweeney can be reached email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter@emilysweeney.
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.
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).
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.”
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).
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If you see Mr. Swan in any kind of distress please contact any one of the Friends of Mr. Swan or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP!
My husband Tom suggested that I write a year-end post about the wildlife that I had photographed around Cape Ann. Super idea I thought, that will be fun and easy. Not realizing how daunting and many hours later, the following is a collection of some favorite images from this past year, beginning with the male Snowy Owl photographed at Captain Joe’s dock last winter, to December’s Red-tailed Hawk huntress.
Living along the great Atlantic Flyway, we have been graced with a bevy of birds. Perhaps the most exciting arrival of all occurred when early summer brought several pairs of nesting Piping Plovers to Gloucester’s most beloved (and most highly trafficked) of beaches, Good Harbor Beach. Their story is being documented on film.
While photographing and filming Red-winged Blackbirds this past spring, there was a face-to-face encounter with a hungry coyote, as well as several River Otter sightings.
The summer’s drought brought Muskrats out from the reeds and into full view at a very dry Henry’s Pond, and a short film about a North American Beaver encounter at Langsford Pond. Numerous stories were heard from folks who have lived on Cape Ann far longer than I about the extraordinary number of egrets, both Snowy and Great, dwelling on our shores.
There were few Monarch sightings, but the ones seen thankfully deposited eggs in our garden. Thank you to my new friend Christine who shared her Cecropia Silkmoth eggs with me and thank you to the countless readers who have extended an invitation to come by and photograph an exciting creature in their yard.
Pristine beaches, bodies of fresh water, and great swathes of protected marsh and woodland make for ideal wildlife habitat, and Cape Ann has it all. With global climate change pushing species further away from the Equator, I imagine we’ll be seeing even more creatures along our shores. Butterfly and bee populations are overall in decline, not only because of climate change and the use of pesticides, but also because of loss of habitat. As Massachusetts has become less agrarian and more greatly forested, fields of wildflowers are becoming increasingly rare. And too fields often make the best house lots. Farmers and property owners developing an awareness of the insects’ life cycle and planting and maintaining fields and gardens accordingly will truly help the butterflies and bees.
Thank you to all our readers for your kind comments of appreciation throughout the year for the beautiful wild creatures with which we share this gorgeous peninsula called Cape Ann.
The images are not arranged in any particular order. If you’d like to read more about a particular animal, type the name of the animal in the search box and the original post should come up.
I wonder what 2017 will bring?
Mr. Swan has resumed his habit of traveling from body of water to body of water within his territory. Why does he not travel during the summer months, primarily dwelling at Niles Pond? Swans molt each summer and during the molting period, they cannot fly.
Mute Swans molt when their cygnets cannot fly. The female (pen) begins to molt almost immediately after the young hatch. The male, or cob, waits until the female’s flight feathers have grown back completely. The reason for this staggered molting period is because swans use their wings in battle and to defend their young. The swan family will never be left defenseless with at least one of the pair’s set of wings fully functional. The molting period lasts anywhere from four to seven weeks.
Truly, one of the most beautiful sounds heard the world over is the sound that the wings of Mute Swans make when airborne. I call it vibrant throbbing wing beats. The highly audible sound of the wind through the wings is mesmerizing and it is the reason, or one of several reasons, why I became so interested in swans and why I decided to make a film about the swans of Cape Ann. No other species of swan’s wings make this sound, only Mute Swans.
As I am usually trying to capture the swans flying on film, I didn’t have any photographs of them in flight. Sunday afternoon I arrived at Niles just as Mr. Swan was chasing the new couple off his turf. I did not have time to get out my movie camera but did manage some snapshots. In the photo below you can see Mr. Swan is “busking;” his feathers are fluffed to their fullest to make himself look as large and threatening as possible to what he considers intruders upon his territory. This photo was taken moments after he chased the new couple to the harbor, returning to Niles to do a victory lap around the pond.
Ol’ Blue Eyes
Recently, one of the very kind people who regularly feed our resident swan, Dominic Nesta, pointed out that Mr. Swan is unusual for his blue eyes. I was surprised by his comment because I’ve only ever filmed Mr. Swan, his deceased mate, and their offspring up close, and they all have (had) blue eyes. Aren’t all Mute Swans blue-eyed I wondered? After looking at hundreds of photos on Google images and reading dozens of descriptions, Mute Swans eyes appear as, and are always described as, black, whether they are the English Mute Swan or the Polish variant.
Mr. Swan is of the Polish kind. Polish Mute Swans are rarer, mostly pure white, and with pinkish gray feet, as opposed to the English sorts, which have black feet and legs. Hans Christian Anderson’s Ugly Duckling was perhaps logically written with the English Mute Swan cygnet in mind, which are typically dressed in a mottled gray downy coat. Polish Mute Swan cygnets are pure white. Until I learned the difference I wondered how there could ever be such a story as the Ugly Duckling because again, I had only ever seen Mr. Swan’s offspring, which have always been exceptionally beautiful perfect little balls of fluffy white down (gray cygnets aren’t ugly either, IMO).
A pigment deficiency of a gene in the sex chromosomes is what causes the whiteness (leucism). Polish Mute Swans were given their name when in 1800 they were introduced to London from the Polish coast on the Baltic Sea. They were at first thought to be a new species because of their unchanging color form (Cygnus immutabilis).
Our Mr. Swan is extraordinary not only for his long-lived life of well over twenty years, but also for his sapphire blue eye color.
Help needed from our readers–do you have a pair of swans in your area? If so, please email me at email@example.com. Thank you very kindly.