THE MISTRAL STORY…
As told by Patroller Eileen Tyrer
The Mistral Story - March 2006 to May 2007
Taking up the story of Mistral, Freedom and Braveheart they finally nested, and as usual Freedom would always make sure he was on the nest with Mistral, while poor old Braveheart would be in the water in all weathers.
Eventually the happy event occurred and she produced six baby cygnets, which she brought for me to see the first time they swam the length of the dyke, sometimes resting on her back until they got bigger. As usual we did have a few problems with fishing lines. The first one was really a nasty one, if we had not got to the little cygnet when we did it would have perished through the heat of the sun. They had taken to sitting on the opposite side of the bank near the cut through to the Hammerton pond. I got a call to tell me something was wrong so I called Sandy who turned up with her husband Gary and we made our way over to the Hammerton pond, as this was the only way to get to the bank. We pushed our way through and on reaching the bank Mistral Freedom Braveheart and cygnets splashed into the water, except for one …
To continue: one cygnet who was struggling, pinned flat on his back by a fishing line and calling for his parents, then decided to start attacking us. We backed off slightly to decide what to do. We decided that Gary and I would keep the swans at bay while Sandy tried to release the cygnet. After a little while she succeeded but he was still covered very badly in line so we moved away from the bank towards the field only to find Mistral coming after us. Gary and Sandy proceeded to remove the line while I kept Mistral from coming up the bank towards them. At last the cygnet is free of line and not injured. We slipped him gently into the water just as his family were going to attack us again. Once they had all swam off chattering to each other we had a good look at the bank and ended up removing a massive amount of line from the whole area, including from the water, a job well done. The following day they were there at the usual place waiting to be fed.
The cygnet rescued from the beach didn’t make it - he slowly went down hill. We think he may have had an air leak and there is nothing you can do for them only ease the pain. I had to let DEFRA know and they came to collect him, as I have no idea where he came from. They will test for bird flu but I don’t think it will be that, fingers crossed.
Life continued in a peaceful way for quite a while with Mistral and her family, all six of them grew into beautiful young cygnets. Then as usual I went to feed them in the early morning when no one was around except one man walking along the prom towards the car park. I carried on down towards the dyke to be greeted by all the family and spotted one of the cygnets lined up. I had no option but to take my chance while I had the opportunity of them being close and feeding.
I grabbed the cygnet and ran up the path towards the small car park with Mistral and Braveheart on my tail. None of my dog walking friends had arrived; the only person was the gentleman near his car, poor man he must have thought I was some crazy woman appearing at the top of the lane with a swan under my arm and my hand in plaster as I had broken my wrist. The conversation followed with only me speaking, I think he was struck dumb for a while.
“Would you mind standing at the top of the lane as the parents are chasing me” “I am Swan Rescue the cygnet is lined up with fishing line” “just put your arms out wide they will think you are enormous then just move your arms back and forth hopefully they will go back to the water” doing exactly as I asked I then said “Have they gone back down”. At last he spoke “yes they have”. I said “oh good would you mind helping me hold the cygnet while I look to see where he is lined up”. He replied in a very cultured voice “I have never touched a swan or had any dealings with them”, answering back I assured him there was nothing to worry about and there is always a first time in life for everything. With that out of the way I knelt down with the swan and showed him where to hold the cygnet while I proceeded to check the cygnet out. The line was all around its wing, and leg with a hook in the foot.
Carefully snipping the wire and gradually unraveling it from its wings being careful not to damage the feathers I finally got it down to the leg cutting the loose line away I then cutting the barb off the hook so I could remove it. All the while this was going on the gentleman was saying how marvelous it was to touch a swan. The hook was finally removed. I went towards the pathway and the cygnet immediately called to its family and Mistral started up the path again, I quickly put the cygnet down and it rushed towards her. I turned and went back to my stranger to thank him for all his help. “Do you live locally” I asked? “Oh no” he replied “I am only parked near the beach to kill time as I am waiting to go to Germany via the ferry.” He told me that he came from Sussex and had obviously seen swans, but had never been that close before. He then thanked me for the experience!
Nothing else happened for quite a while until they started to learn to fly and one of the cygnets came down, we think on a hard surface, injured its leg and wouldn’t get out of the water for a long time. Unfortunately they often end up with leg injuries and there is little you can do except take the pain away with a painkiller, but it’s not something you can keep doing. The best therapy is to keep them on water so as to give the leg time to heal. Although some swans will always limp if they have an injury; once on water or in the air they are fine.
Family life continued with the cygnets growing into beautiful swans. Then in January two of them flew off and did not return. Gradually one by one they disappeared. I am sure some are on the boating lake pond and will no doubt find a mate perhaps for next year when they will fly off to find their own territory
Its now March 2007 and the last cygnets disappeared about two weeks ago, its always rather sad when they go. You wonder how they will fair in the big wide world, as not everyone is nice, but we have done our best to help them. Mistral is on the look out for a nesting place and it looks as if she has gone back to her previous one on the other side of the bank, which looks as if it might be reasonably well protected by brambles, let us hope so.
Back to the emergency:
I was dreading the following morning when I would go to feed Mistral, Freedom and Braveheart. I certainly did not sleep very well that night. I was full of apprehension as I approached the dyke. Apart from Freedom and Braveheart waiting to be fed there was no sign of Mistral. I called several times then all of a sudden she came into sight, it looked as if she was swimming quite well. I stood waiting for her to approach and as she glided in I could see no sign of line, lucky enough the water was clear and one leg and foot were ok. I waited patiently as she fed, hopeful that she may turn around so I could get a good look at her other leg. Having had enough grain and bread she turned to go back to her nest building and I was able to see clearly she was free from all line. Relaxing with a long sigh of relief I departed up the bank smiling to myself as I reached for my phone to send texts to the young lads that were coming to help. The text read “everything fine mission abort” an answer back from one of them was “The eagle has landed” laughing to myself I continued on collecting my dogs, Meg and Patch, from the car. We proceeded to do a beach hut patrol and a long walk before eventually returning home for breakfast.
Patch is our new dog I call him our Polish refugee, as he was on his way to Poland and got stopped by the “Stena Ferry Line” because the people had no documentation and although they said that they found him a hundred odd miles away they couldn’t remember exactly where. He was a poor little scrap when I picked him up just in cardboard box, no lead or collar. I had been looking for another dog but not quite as small as him. We checked him out with the authorities and they reckoned he was about nine or ten weeks old. So we decided to keep him. He has made us all laugh so much with his antics, not one to take swan rescuing though.
Life continued on the dyke with the flurry of nest building taking place with Freedom and Braveheart helping Mistral with her nest. On several occasions during the week Mistral and Freedom could be seen sitting on the nest with Braveheart in the water then everything changed. They seem to have left the nest and kept disappearing. I walked one afternoon all along the whole length of the dyke and eventually found them. They had gone under the bridge in a very overgrown part of the dyke, which had a great deal of weed in it, and they stayed in one place not moving and would not come for food. On reaching home I phoned June, a friend who also keeps an eye on them and warned her that they were behaving oddly.
The following morning Freedom was on his own on the usual part of the dyke, not far from the bridge, when I noticed his left wing was hanging down and he didn’t look happy. I found Mistral and Braveheart still in the same place and they seemed very wary. The following day Saturday March 24th 5.45am Freedom was again by himself with his wing further into the water and he was leaning to one side. I knew I had no option but to ring Andrew to see if he could help. I decided to wait until I got home after my walk with Meg and Patch all the time wondering how we would catch Freedom as he is so beautifully wild and had evaded all previous attempts to catch him. On reaching home I phoned Andrew, bless him he immediately said yes he would get some more people to help. By the time they had got the canoes and kayaks together it was about 11am. He is such a nice lad and his wife Maxine is a lovely person, they have just had another baby to add to their family, a little boy so I did feel awful having to bother him. He and Maxine are so good natured. I spent the rest of the time getting everything ready, I phoned Sue Morgan of Swan Rescue in Salcott to discuss the situation and to get her advice. I then phoned some more people to help, my husbands friend Ken and a fisherman friend John from the Caravan Camp volunteered to come along, as well as my daughter Stephanie who is not to well but loves to help and is very good at getting the injections ready for me to use. The time arrived for us to depart.
On reaching the Dyke Andrew, Dave and Bill were already there with their canoes along with Ken and John and his son were walking towards us from the other end of the dyke. Stephanie stayed with the car getting everything ready for when we returned. The canoes were put in the water and Andrew offered to canoe but his friend Bill decided he would, when he realised the person sitting in the back of the canoe with the hook would have to catch Freedom, I don’t blame him. The lads got into the canoes and made their way up the dyke towards Freedom while the rest of us walked alongside on the bank. The canoes reached Freedom before we got there and I could see he was trying to hide in the reeds. Fortunately there’s not too much growth at this time of year so he had very little to hide in. Suddenly he realised this and was trying to get away but they got the hook around his neck. I called out to them to grab the neck as I could see he might have learned from Mistral to bend his neck sliding it out of the hook. Thankfully that didn’t happen and Andrew grabbed the neck and hauled him on to the canoe. “I asked if they were alright to canoe back with him towards the car as Stephanie was there waiting for us.
Finally arriving Andrew was helped out of the boat holding onto Freedom as he walked towards the car. I quickly opened the back of my estate and placed Freedom inside while some of the others held him. He was extremely strong and was determined to try to stand and escape. I eventually passed him over to them. I helped Stephanie with the drugs as the long acting antibiotic is difficult to draw into the syringe, which is then followed by a painkiller and a vitamin B. All of these are to help him heal and relieve the pain. Stephanie completed getting the drugs ready and with a full syringe we turned our attention to the wing that was injured. The only way to see if a wing is broken is by pulling it out to its full length and then watching to see how it retracts when let go. His wing did retract, but not like a normal healthy wing because obviously it was bruised and he was in pain. We checked the other wing, which retracted quickly having noticed a main wing feather was missing on the injured wing with only the shaft of the feather left. We treated this with iodine knowing it will eventually grow back. Freedom was then injected in the leg. Once done it was time to return him to the dyke. Andrew and John went down to the waters edge and waded into the water and gently lowered him in. As he swam away he flicked his wing which is a good sign, then he drew himself out of the water as if to shake off any feelings he had of being touched by us, and swam quickly up the dyke back to where he had come from, a fair distance and a joy to see. Having thanked everyone for coming and helping it was now just a question of monitoring him so and we departed for home
Later in the afternoon I took Meg and Patch for their usual walk but this time towards Freedom and to check on Mistral and Braveheart. Freedom had returned to where we had captured him and was standing preening himself. I stood and watched for a while and was pleased to see he was preening both sides of his wings so he was obviously feeling better. I continued on towards Mistral and Braveheart. I found Braveheart in the water and Mistral had built another nest which she was sitting on asleep. She raised her head as I stopped to look but made no movement to get off. On my return to my car I met a friend, Maureen and her husband Bob. I stopped to chat and mentioned our problem with Freedom. Bob then started to tell me that a couple of nights ago they had come down with their dogs at midnight and had been surprised to hear the whooper swan flying around at night and calling out making a dreadful noise as if he was distressed. It so worried them that they shone the headlights of their car on to the dyke to see if it would help him land, but he was still making a lot of noise and they couldn’t tell if he had landed. Swans do not normally fly at night and always find a roosting place as dusk sets in. They are convinced something had really frightened him, which would explain why they deserted their first nest. It could have been foxes or even undesirable humans I don’t suppose we will ever know.
This morning I made the long trek towards where they had last been and I met Braveheart on the way and stopped to feed him, then continued on to find Mistral was on her new nest with Freedom in the water not far from her and looking well, with both wings in the right position. Now we can only watch and wait for the next installment. We are keeping a close eye on Freedom and we just hope the wing will heal. His wing is still dropped he hid in the reeds on the dyke after we had dealt with him on Saturday. Sunday he was with Mistral, Monday he was still on the dyke hiding. Today (20th March 2007) he was missing from the dyke but had gone over to the Hammerton pond.
MAY 2007 - UPDATE
Had a few injured swans and a duck in, which take
up a great deal of my time looking after them. The last one went to
Salcott for continued treatment and recovery of a head injury and
Freedom was beginning to recover after he hid for several weeks in the Hammerton Pond. His wing had gone back to the normal position and he was beginning to flap his wings. Then suddenly In the middle of March Freedom vanished completely. We searched for him everywhere, people from around the district walked miles but to no avail.
Then two months later a Whooper swan turned up on
the Yacht Pond, but his head and neck was all orange? Several people
including one of my members who is a bird watcher did not think it
was Freedom but we all searched through our old photos to compare
the markings on his beak. Although I have to say I was convinced from
the day he turned up that it was Freedom because of the way he went
straight to the corn and barley. Usually a new swan will not readily
go to eat it, its normally a few days before they get the hang of
it, thankfully I was proved right. He has made no attempt to return
to the dyke athought he has flown close. Mistral and Braveheart must
know he is back as he is in full voice now and can be heard at quite
Mistral has hatched her family and has six cygnets, one egg was left on the nest so we presume there must have been something wrong with it for it not to hatch. Freedom is ruling on the yacht pond at the moment, when I put the corn down in heaps along the edge of the pond Freedom watches from the back of the flock. Once I move away he moves in and in one fell swoop and a few pecks the swans move away from the heap of corn he has chosen to eat from and he is left to his own pile.
We worry every day that the largest pike in the dyke, that has been seen to take an adult duck as well as small ones, will try to take the Cygnets. Each day when they come to be fed I count them in to see they are all there - so far so good.
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