My Life with Wild Swans, Spring, 2014

Lori McCray
4 min readJan 9, 2018


Angel & William’s brood, 2014. Six healthy cygnets, two happy parents and an ecstatic nanny grammy.

Six, soon to be four
Stella takes on Mr. Mallard
When your mother is an angel (literally and figuratively.) Something killed Angel (Coyote?) and something killed two cygnets (Snapping turtle, Coyote, Heron, Mink? Be safe little mites).

Shortly after these pictures, Angel is dead, two cygnets are dead. Snapping turtle, Coyote, I wasn’t there, but I know Angel to be the most excellent mother and I am quite certain she died fiercely protecting her brood. Poor sweet William, this is his third partner lost. How he grieved, we both did. But he raised the babies to their freedom, and they all flew off to make new homes and new lives in a new pond (now and then, they return for a visit. William is never happy to see them. Ever). Life is so much shadow and light.

I was so excited about the cygnets, counting carefully to determine six! Angel brought them to meet me straight away, but after a short time of eating the cracked corn she so enjoyed, made a funny gutteral noise, snapped the babies to attention and took off, William reluctantly trailing (he was done eating), and by the time they were all back on the nest, it had started raining. How did she know? Remarkable!

cygnets in silver. July 18, 2014 (the scum on the water looks pretty here but it is nasty.

There was a mink in the water. I haven’t seen one before, but know there’s a beaver. William was after it (I had my big stick and wildly whacked the water next to it (I wouldn’t hurt it, but it surely is a predator of cygnets, and I love them so. William came out of the water and stood next to me, preening, just like the olden days. He wanted to chew on my shirt sleeve. I told him I was sorry he lost Angel. I know he knows Angel’s name, as she knew his (“Where’s William? That scoundrel!” I’d say when she was nesting and he was off doing Lord only knows what. Seems like years ago now). I tried to clean the water some before I left but as soon as I cleared some open water the muck crept back in. It’s a bigger job than one small woman can tackle but I keep working on it because I love them. It’s not about the photographs. It’s not about the food. It’s about the love (yesterday I got all the way down to the water, over the embankment and down the steep hill with the heavy buckets, only to realize I’d left the camera’s memory card on my desk at home. I was so mad! If it was solely about the photographs, I would have turned around and gone home for it, and not dispensed the grub (they were starving). Of course I fed them (of course I went home for more food and the card and went back!)

Such a sweet girl. Sadly, she didn’t recover and had to be put to sleep

Poor little Sage. I found her on the nest, way back in the woods, all alone with a mangled foot. At first I thought it was Stella (the females rarely fare well. They’re smaller, and a liability to the safety of the group. Lily, partner #2, tried to drown them, right off). I’m guessing the Snapper bit her. I have no phone (I know, I know), so made the decision to take off my sweatshirt, wrap her up and take her. Stopped by Liane’s across the road to use her phone, but she wasn’t home. I asked her son to take this pic, bless his heart, kisses to him. Took the poor thing home to make some calls, Animal Rescue League closed today. Arrggh. Sage smells. Bad. Both rabbits freaking out. I took her to Tufts, stroking her head the entire drive. She closed her eyes, enjoying the comfort. What a sweet experience. Loud trucks startled her and she shipped her long neck around until I settled her again. I don’t know that her foot will mend. Last time this happened (with little Star), she had to be euthanized. But at least she won’t die out there alone. I left her in good hands at Tufts Wildlife Clinic, went back to the woods to see if I could find the others, walked every square inch of that pond, and found not one swan anywhere, despite my yelling for William, and I do mean yelling. I pray for their safety, and try not to worry.

Typical teens, eat and take off! Here’s something interesting. When they come in, the largest (Cori) leads. When they go out, the smallest (Cami) leads. They all have herb/spice names, at the suggestion of my friend Jesse. Cinny (for Cinnamon), Sal (for Salvia). Cori (for Coriander) and Cami (for Chamomile). I made it mono because the green scum is so scummy. Like thick pea soup.

When the cygnets outgrow their baby fluff and begin developing feathers, they are called juveniles. At the end of their first year, they will be White, but their bills won’t turn orange for a while yet.



Lori McCray

Photographer, Poet, Musician, Mother, Mystic, Gardener, friend of wild creatures, swan whisperer. Find me on Flickr: