Stephanie, the intrepid animal advocate from Brighton’s Park Place Salon, contacted me Tuesday evening about an injured swan in the parking lot of Corky’s Car Clinic at the northern end of the millpond. I wasn’t able to investigate until almost 2:30am. Yup, it was Maggie roosting in the middle of the lot. It had been plowed earlier in the day but now had an inch of new snow on the pavement. I could see her tracks walking to her current position and there wasn’t a blood trail so I knew she was able to walk without difficulty and had no fresh wounds.
I walked to within five feet of her. She didn’t budge. That’s not a typical response by a wild swan. I tried to coax her to get up with duck chow. She showed no interest in it. I’m not convinced she knows it’s food. I had seen her ignore duck chow as the ducks snarfed it down on several occasions during the previous two weeks of her residency.
The plow had built up a 3-4′ tall ridge of snow at the edges of the parking lot. She couldn’t see the pond. Since she’s a new resident, I wondered if she might not know where it was in relation to where she was roosting. I decided it best to lead her back to the water where she could graze on the submerged vegetation (Yes, it’s still there in the frigid water) and also be safer from predators than on land.
I felt like the boy scout in the old joke about helping an old woman cross the street even though she didn’t want to go. Maggie wanted to be left alone, but she was going to the pond whether she wanted to or not. If she stayed in the lot, she’d be dodging cars all day long.
How does one convince a swan to do something and avoid being bit or clawed? I employed a soft, nylon bristled broom I keep in my vehicle to sweep off snow. Maggie hissed and bit the bristles a couple of times as they gently nudged her to her feet and directed her toward the pond. She paused to lie down a few times to pull her feet up into her feathers to warm them.
I’d let her rest for a while then use the broom to prod her to move closer to the pond. The city’s plows had made their first pass on the sidewalks and the pond’s boardwalk. In their wake, two foot tall mounds of soft snow were between Maggie and the pond. With insistent nudging, Maggie and I climbed over them to land in 10″ of powdery snow at the top of the embankment. Maggie looked down the slope but still needed encouragement to press on.
She took a couple of steps then roll to one side (above center) so she could get one foot above the snow line to shake off the ice crystals. She’d move a few more feet before stopping to do it again. Then she acted like a penquin and slid down the 8′ slope on her belly. It was a quick scoot and fun to watch. She left a wide trail in the snow (below).
After a moment’s rest, she entered the water and took a drink.
I threw duck chow down but Maggie just watched as the dozen ducks and a pair of Canada geese picked the pellets out of the snow. Maggie drank more and poked at a couple of ducks. I left her knowing she’d be safe for the night, if she didn’t wander off again.