THE MISTRAL STORY…
As told by Patroller Eileen Tyrer
The Mistral Story - 2005 to February 2006
We have been extremely busy with calls from the police and general public for injured and sick swans from all over the district. I have managed to get a small swan house in my garden plus a collapsible makeshift pond, which Sue Morgan gave me. Sometimes we have them stay for a week’s course of antibiotics others are just overnight before being moved on to Sue’s. We have had DEFRA come to the house to pick up dead swans for post-mortem; thankfully so far it has not been Avian flu.
With regards to Mistral, Freedom and Braveheart they are fine, they have been frozen in a few times, but I was still able to get the food to them. I think Mistral and Braveheart may have mated or she is preparing to, as she seems to be very hungry and cannot wait for me to walk down the path to the dyke. If I am not quick enough she will be up the path to the top as soon as she hears my car, then they will walk down with me to the waters edge and wait, while I tip the corn and flaked cooked barley into the water, which is then followed by a bag of fresh cut cubed bread hand cut by my husband Alan. I will let you know when they start to nest.
The Hammerton family, who I have now named and they sound very grand, finally got rid of their remaining cygnets by taking them down to the boating lake. We had a problem with Lady Hammerton (very grand) about a month ago; she seemed to be attached to an area near the island and would not come for her food for several days. In the end I managed to get my nephew Graeme to help as well as Andrew and his brother Steven with their kayaks and canoes to try and catch her. It turned out Lady Hammerton wasn’t attached to a line, but something was definitely wrong. Andrew and Steven tried to corner her, but she and Lord Hammerton finally took flight. They both landed in the dyke, which then became quite manic as Freedom and Braveheart went into attack, Lord Hammerton nearly got drowned until Andrew intervened with his kayak and Lord Hammerton was able to take flight. Lady Hammerton followed, but by then was too exhausted and landed on the other side of the dyke.
Andrew and Steven landed their craft to investigate where she had come down while Graeme and I took to our heels and ran all the way from the Hammerton pond to the other side of the dyke, finally panting and puffing we arrived to find Lady Hammerton in the middle of the field of long grass and bracken. I had shouted to some fishermen on the way to come and give us a hand as we needed to prevent her taking off again by forming a circle around her. After much banter and persuasion they joined us to close in on her and with my final rugby tackle we caught her. With help from Andrew I managed to get on to my knees still holding onto Lady Hammerton and finally sitting astride her leaving my hands free to investigate what was wrong.
To begin with the only thing that was visible on one side of her neck was a small lump. This could have possibly been a small fishing hook, which at sometime had been caught in her neck and eventually calcified around the hook; this certainly would not have caused her unusual behaviour. I then began feeling and looking at the other side of her neck and suddenly glancing at her eye I discovered it looked red and very misted compared to the other eye. After inspecting it more closely and conferring with Sue Morgan by mobile my observation concluded with a diagnosis of a possible cataract and eye infection. Sue then confirmed I was most probably right as Swans unfortunately do get cataracts, but there is nothing we can do other than treat the infection. With the help of Andrew and Graeme I managed to get back on my two feet again and we proceeded to my car to transfer Lady Hammerton to her new home (Swan House, Dovercourt Bay) for the next seven days where she would receive eye drops, antibiotics and vitamin B every other day until the infection had cleared up and she was eating again.
In the seven days Lady Hammerton resided with us Lord Hammerton went back to the Hammerton pond to guard his territory. I have to say I was extremely worried that he would leave the area and they would loose contact with each another. The day came to release Lady Hammerton, the infection having cleared and although the beginning of a cataract was there it did look a lot better. Graeme along with Sandy and her husband Gary joined me, as they have all helped me on numerous rescues. Andrew and Steven unfortunately couldn’t meet at the rendezvous as they had other commitments. It was a windy day when we arrived at the spot where we always feed. Lord Hammerton was right down the other end of the pond guarding the cut through, which leads into the dyke, where our Mistral Freedom and Braveheart reside. There have on several occasions been stand offs and skirmishes between the five of them in this vicinity. We called and called him, but to no avail as he would not leave his position.
Normally releasing a swan on the edge of a bank they will immediately go straight into the water. It was not to be, Lady Hammerton decided to take flight, she rose into the air flew right over her beloved Lord Hammerton then seemed to lose height. We stood watching in horror with open mouths then we all started to run. We were not sure if she had landed in the grass area again or the sea, gasping for breath we eventually got to the field and to our horror we found she had landed in the sea. The wind was blowing quite strong, the sea was very rough and the tide was on the ebb. We were very worried she would be carried out by the tide. We stood watching for about twenty minutes although it seemed like hours. Finally she started to take off while we watched with bated breath. We all ended up shouting “come on” “come on” as we willed her to gain height. Finally she made it.
We prayed she would go back to her pond but she was obviously confused, which we put down to having only one really good eye. Suddenly she veered round and came right over our heads making for the boating lake, or so we thought, when she again veered round towards the sea and started coming back towards us and the two lines of beach huts. The awful thing was that she was loosing height and we knew she wasn’t going to make it. Suddenly she disappeared from sight and it was obvious she had come down. We just prayed she had not hit a beach hut.
We all started to run towards the beach huts to get to the field beyond them. Gary and Sandy being younger were in front with me behind, when suddenly two very large dogs thought it was a great game and decided to join in. One minute I was running the next I was on the ground with two large dogs standing over me and licking me to death, with their owner apologising like mad and me with only one thought on mind; to get up and start running again. I managed to extract myself from the very friendly dogs, running and explaining at the same time to their owner that we were after a swan and I was ok. I got through the beach huts to see Gary reaching Lady Hammerton and managing to pick her up. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at our joy at catching her and then my explanation at not being right behind them having been delayed by my unfortunate meeting of two very large friendly dogs.
We took about ten minutes to get back with her to the pond; thankfully we managed to find another area close by to where we normally feed them. It was very steep but with us hanging on to Gary, so he did not slip while he was holding Lady Hammerton, he managed to get down to the waters edge. Lord Hammerton was in the area and as we released her she thankfully went straight into the water. They did not greet each other right away but as we left they had swum closer together. Over the next few weeks we monitored her closely to see how she would cope. Thankfully we have a happy ending; they are both together with Lord Hammerton being very protective to his beloved allowing her to eat first while he stands guard. Lady Hammerton is coping very well with her weak eye. We are now waiting to see when they will start building their new nest.
The Swan Lady
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