My Life With Wild Swans, Spring 4, story entries (the fonts are varied, I’ll fix that).

3/15 William needs a GPS. I left them, day before yesterday, at the beaver dam. It snowed all day yesterday. I worried. I began at the beaver dam, it was soooo not easy to get out there. Kept sinking into snow. Had no breakfast and forgot water bottle. By the time I got back to where I’d started I was exhausted, but lo and behold, there they were, William and Bella, on the opposite side of the pond, where there is a stretch of open water so I yell to them, “STAY THERE!!!”, trek back to my car, drive to the other side of pond, park in a dear friend’s driveway as there’s no shoulder to pull over on, due to snowbanks. Walk out on the ice, carefully, carefully, toss out the lettuce, oatmeal, 12 grain wheat bread for William (bad or not, he’s been eating it 20 years. He loves it). Tread carefully back. The sun is a welcome sight today, so beautiful through the cattails.

4/9 Bella is brooding! I watched her go back through the reeds and then she flapped her wings to jump up on the nest (it’s impossible to see in there, but when she opened her great wings, I saw where she was). It’s a very good spot. Stay safe little peeps! (it’s plenty warm enough today, they both came for a quick bite and then William went off to patrol the geese and Bella back to the eggs).

4/16 Bella didn’t leave the nest, William didn’t come, so I went looking for him. He stayed only briefly and commenced heading toward the nest so I yelled, “I’ll race you!” Even running through the woods, as he was only gliding on water (no fair), I beat him! He wouldn’t come to me, so something must have spooked them (a huge Pine was down, must have made quite a crash).

4/23 I haven’t been to the pond all week, since I fell and bruised my leg badly. Also because it was chilly and rainy and one, ticks prefer clouds (I’ve had Lyme Disease. You make note of these things) and two, I didn’t want them to leave the eggs to come see me. I got there and saw no one, kept yelling for William, couldn’t remember where Bella’s nest in the reeds was and no head was visible, just worried, you know? And William came strolling in, and Bella joined him for a quick bite (I made her oatmeal, her fave), and then both left fairly quickly so I set to work with my saw, taking care of some dead stuff in the way of my photographs, before the cygnets arrive. We don’t need unsightly branches in the way of their cuteness now do we? Here’s William biting on my boot. Punishment for my absence (better than pulling my hair though, his other means of showing annoyance. Or is it affection? Or both?)

5/6 I haven’t seen William much, because of the rain (Bella is still brooding. A friend thought that meant she’s sad, isn’t that adorable? I forget my friends don’t always know technical waterfowl terms. Nesting, I should say. Sitting. So I stayed a good long while, after finally finding William (so far away from Bella, which concerns me. What if she needs him?) I took lots of pics and sat on a log and tried for a cute selfie and William grabbed my hair and yanked for all he was worth and it’s a good thing I didn’t drop my camera in the pond. Cheeky, he is. I love him so.)

5/4 On my way to see William finally, it was nasty weather all week (ticks out, remember?) There’s a male swan across the street from Hager pond in the ‘Wayside Glass’ parking lot, sitting close to the road (Rt. 20, very busy at that morning hour). I pulled in at the restaurant, walked back, no camera, though it would have been a fabulous video. He was skittery and darted into oncoming traffic (a big truck, wouldn’t you figure?) and the guy was so good, even when the swan was darting in front of the other lane of traffic he still waited. Everyone was fabulously patient (some people try to run them over, they really don’t care). I tried to stay a step ahead of the direction he was moving, but he kept moving away from the pond because Spartacus was waiting to pulverize him. I finally steered him toward the embankment and insisted he go down there, and stood in the water until he was in, and Sparty chased him clear to the other end of the pond. I think it was Bully, who ventured into Sparty and Bella’s (both Sparty and William have a Bella) territory. She was off the nest, which makes me think the eggs may not be viable again this year. So sad (it’s true. No cygnets again this year).

Beautiful Bully
Spartacus (the black ‘knob’ above the bill swells during breeding season, even in females)

5/8 Going to be a rainy week so I went today. I usually go every other day. Don’t want to bug them, lol. Went in a tank top yesterday, it was so warm, and paid the price. A tick crawled up my shirt and latched onto a, ur, let’s just say I’m glad I found it before it had a belly full of blood, eeeewwwww.

5/19 Bella and William’s brood has arrived! First the ducks, then the geese, then the swans. I must be more patient. In the dead of the night, I was worried William’s age had rendered him infertile, and poor Bella is young, and, and, and. But the babies are here! Bella came to say hello but then the geese came and she grew nervous. She took the cygnets before I even got to count them, and I had to help the geese get away from William who was all puffed up like a turkey or a peacock or I don’t know what but he surely meant business. Such a drama. I’ll sleep better now.

Bella with brood, May 20 (William beside me)
Growing quickly! May 27

5/31 William came first, Bella from a distance, and she looked to be alone, but as she got nearer, I heard the endearing little baby squeaking. Such a lovely surprise! We had a sweet time, and this is as close, this soon, as Bella has let me come to her wee ones, and I was loving it. Until the end, when Jasmine got a Water Chestnut tendril wrapped around her neck. When she pushed forward it tightened, may well have choked her. I told her parents and pointed and said, “Help her!” but Bella kept going so I got in the water and pulled it off, which made William disturbed so he commenced biting on me, and Bella made the most awful sound, I can’t even describe it. Something like betrayal. She let me in close and I screwed it up. So as they fled I yelled, “I Was Trying To Help You!!!” (sometimes words would be helpful. Not often and not usually, but sometimes).

Jasmine on her mama’s back. Safest way to travel
Bella with Jasmine, May 27, 2017
and baby makes three June 3
Bella and Jasmine, June 10

June 20 The remaining cygnet of 4, Jasmine, apparently suffered the same fate as her three siblings, (and many others, over the years), but the Snapping Turtle only took a bite of her, and not a whole meal. It seems it got a bit of her foot, and she lurches lopsided in the water. She looked really bad when I got there today. I thought she was dead, but saw her move her good leg. Bella was even more crazy protective than last time and stepped on Jasmine’s head, full body weight, which made me scream at her (I said I was sorry, and later learned that if a mother thinks the cygnet won’t make it she will try to kill it this way, in mercy). Jasmine was on her back, legs flailing like a bug, then only one moving slightly, then nothing. I was ready to be Bella bombed by picking Jasmine up and running, but again, it didn’t feel right. If she’s to die, she should die with her parents and if she does die, away from them, it will be worse for them, and they might well distrust my helpfulness. I stayed, and calmed everyone down (off the charts stress for both William&Bella. I couldn’t move w/o their hissing and biting). Jasmine never ate, and stayed out of the water but she righted herself , scooted on her belly and found a rock to lean against, and spent the entire time preening, occasionally making those sweet cygnet squeaky sounds I so love. William & Bella let me sit very close with my camera in my lap, and they preened, and in the end napped, while I told them how sorry I was that Jasmine was hurt, and what good parents they are, to protect her so well, and how we might need help, to help her get better, blah, blah, blah. And I told jasmine she needs to eat something. I brought some grass from home, growing in the Iris (I know not why but it’s lovely), and I put it by the entrance of the water, and threw away the nasty poking Water Chestnut pods that hurt like a *^&*^$#% if you step on them, and left some grains and lettuce in the water, and told them to stay safe. On the way out of the woods I cried. It’s my happy place, and it’s rare when it isn’t, but I’m so sad for them. Praying for a miracle. God, if in your Infinite Wisdom you see fit to heal Jasmine, it would be a very sweet blessing indeed.

protective parents. William fluffed up, Jasmine between them. They know she’s dying… I did consider grabbing her and taking her to the Wildlife Clinic, but if she is to die, she should be with her parents.
it’s uglier than it looks, really. The points are so sharp they make you bleed. And every one of these holds a crazy lot of seeds which last for up to 12 years, to make more nasty invasive Water Chestnut plants.
Water Chestnut takes over Grist Mill Pond, June, 2017. This is the first year it got so bad the swans couldn’t find enough to eat and left the pond until it cleared. Broke my heart (it’s a perennial weed. We may try a ‘natural herbicide’ next year, it’s very difficult to control).

6/13 After the people left yesterday, and William settled down, (Bella took Jasmine and went away miffed because I used a stick to wind the fishing line off the tree they sit by. Swans detest sticks). William abhors strangers (they’ve chosen a spot where there’s a lot of foot traffic. And dogs, but it’s the only place they can come out of the water). Everyone was mad at me, so the sweet time we had, with the birds chittering and the water passing through the grate, and William’s preening to my yammering (he likes me to yammer at him) was deeply appreciated.

I love this pic. Jasmine is under William’s wing, William is closest to camera

6/18 It’s Father’s Day, but William doesn’t know that. He’s standing behind me, biting my butt. Jasmine was sleeping as I came upon them and I feared the worst. She is one tough little sweetheart. She got down to the water to eat, and somehow flipped over and couldn’t right herself. It’s heartbreaking. I’ve scooped them up and taken them to Tufts Wildlife Clinic, some injured cygnets, and I thought long and hard about it but will wait til tomorrow. Both William and Bella are highly stressed, they know how dire the situation is, and I don’t want to make it worse for them. Happy Father’s Day, dads.

Jasmine with her daddy. He’s such a good father, my William
Bella looking for corn. Jasmine’s little foot rests in the middle of her back. So not right.
RIP, baby girl

Photographer, Poet, Musician, Mother, Mystic, Gardener, friend of wild creatures, swan whisperer. Find me on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wingthing/