Mistral Story (A final Farewell) May 2007 ~ April 2008
Mistral & Braveheart up-date
With regards to Mistral Braveheart and Freedom things went well for them in the beginning.
Freedom left the area once his wing had healed, and never returned to be with Mistral and Braveheart, he was missing for quite sometime and everyone was searching for him. He eventually turned up on the Boating Lake Pond in late December 2007, then vanished again and returned in January. He looked as if he had been partly dipped in orange but according to Sue Morgan he had been eating somewhere where there is a high content of iron, so we think he was in the backwaters area. Since then he has come and gone on a regular basis, sometimes for a few days other times he's away for weeks.
Mistral had six cygnets in 2007, one was quite weak and disappeared very quickly but the remaining five continued to thrive being protected by Braveheart and Mistral. Then on June 29th one of the cygnets on the other side of the bank was in trouble, it was trapped on the bank by fishing line and was unable to stand up or move. It was an extremely hot day and the cygnet certainly would not survive the heat of the sun.
I contacted Sandy and thankfully she came to help along with her husband Gary, which was a great help to me. Mistral and Braveheart were going crazy as we approached the cygnet and were trying to attack us. There was only one thing we could do. Gary and myself kept them at bay while Sandy worked behind us to free the cygnet, once it was free from the bank we retreated with it up the bank, and further away from its parents, while we tried to de-tangle it from the line, as the line was round the wings, legs and body.
Mistral was not going to give up on her cygnet and still came after us, so I stayed back to keep Mistral at bay while Sandy and Gary finished helping the cygnet. As soon as it was free of the line and thankfully had no other injuries we quickly returned to the Dyke and released the cygnet into the water, with Mistral and Braveheart hissing like mad. They all then swam away together. We stayed behind on the bank and inspected the whole area, including the waters edge, and we removed and enormous amount of line.
Life continued in a peaceful manner until the end of July when one of the cygnets started limping. He was caught but nothing wrong could be found with him so he was given long acting pain relief and antibiotics and seemed to be picking up; then suddenly he completely disappeared. We can only presume a fox had taken him one night as he could not fly.
In late August the remaining four cygnets started their flying lessons and could be seen practicing up and down the Dyke and eventually took to short flights. On 15th September I had a call from a lady living not far from the Dyke and Hammerton Pond area. A cygnet had tried to land on her roof then fell off and landed on her car. We rushed to her house to find the swan bleeding and obviously traumatised. The lady and her husband were both lovely, they were more worried about the swan than their car, even though the car had been dented.
He was reasonably quick to catch, transferred to my car, then home to my place for a couple of days for long acting pain relief and antibiotics. I monitored him for those two days and it was obvious he had a back injury. There is not much we could do for an injury like this, apart from pain relief and to get him back on the water as quickly as possible, so we returned him to his family on the 17th September. He was alright whilst on the water but had difficulty in standing for any length of time, but we knew it would take and incredibly long time to heal and there was always the probability of him always having a weakness in standing. We never saw him fly again, he was happy to stay on the Dyke while the others would take off for a flight but he would always be looking for them to come back.
It was a few days later on my usual early morning visit when I found only three cygnets with their parents. I took a wander along the Dyke to see if the fourth one was about, but no sign of it. I spotted something white in the small over grown stream that flows between the Dyke and the Hammerton Pond, I was hoping it was a plastic bag. I took a walk over to the area and fought my way threw the brambles and managed to peer down into the stream and much to my horror the cygnet was laying dead in the water. It was going to be difficult to retrieve so I went home to arrange to get more help and equipment. Having made a few phone calls, discussing with my nephew Graeme and my friend Julie how we were going to retrieve the cygnet and what equipment we would need, we arranged to meet there at 3pm.
On arriving at the Hammerton wearing old clothes, Wellington Boots and bringing swan hooks, and a rope as well as matting to lay over the brambles, we looked a motley crew. We cut as many brambles as we could to clear a way to the edge to lean over to see if we could retrieve it that way. After a lot of scrambling about, Graeme managed to heave the cygnet with the hook just out of the water enough for us to grab hold to help him out with it. Once out we had a good look at the cygnet, we again can only assume what might have happened, which is the cygnet accidentally landed in the Hammerton Pond and was chased by Lord Hammerton protecting his own cygnets from what he thought was another Swan trying to attack his family or steal his territory. Lord Hammerton must have caught the cygnet unable to fight its way through the stream to the Dyke area and unfortunately drowned it; nature at times can be very cruel.
Mistral, Braveheart and the last remaining cygnets continued on the Dyke for sometime. By the beginning of December one of the cygnets was being chased by Braveheart to make him leave the area eventually he flew off on his own and never returned. The remaining cygnets continued with their parents and at times dependant on the weather they were frozen in at the Dyke, but they always managed to either crack the ice to get to where I feed them or, if not, come near enough for me to throw food to them.
I had been keeping a close watch on the cygnet with the back injury, his tail feathers would hang down in the water, which indicates a back injury, as I have said before there is nothing you can do for this. He was eating and preening and doing all what he should while in the water, but had not flown since his accident. Lately Braveheart and Mistral were pushing the last two remaining cygnets to leave, knowing he most probably couldn't fly it was decided to pick him up to give him some more pain relief and antibiotics in the hope it would stop tail blight, as he was loosing his feathers in that area.
I contacted Julie as I thought it would be wise to remove both cygnets to the Yacht Pond so at the very least they would have one another. On the 15th Jan 2008 we were lucky as Mistral had been going up to where she had nested previously and Braveheart had gone with her. When Julie and myself arrived we positioned ourselves around the edge of the Dyke and persuaded the cygnets to come out with bread and seed. Once they were out of the water I threw the seed on the ground. As they bent to eat it we both moved at the same time and grabbed a cygnet each, my goodness were they heavy, I must have fed them too well. I had hold of the injured cygnet, which we had called No-tail. We struggled up the path to the car park, I knelt on the grass holding on to No-tail who was struggling like mad and Julie was in the same predicament with the other cygnet. Both of us were laughing as we had realized neither of us could get the car keys out of my pocket.
Thankfully I spotted a dog walker coming towards us, with his little daughter and a dog. I called to him and explained the situation and asked if he could help. He kindly said he would, although he had never touched a swan as he had always considered them to be dangerous. He put his dog in the car then came to help us, I showed him how to hold the swan on the grass while I quickly got my keys to open my car. He was quite thrilled to have helped us and we let his daughter stroke No-tail, which she thought was wonderful and we gave them an up-date on why we were removing them. It was decided to put No-tail in the swan carrier bag as he was coming to my place for the night to receive pain relief and antibiotics to prepare him for life on the Yacht Pond with the rest of the flock. Julie said she would sit in the back of my car carrying the other cygnet, which was only a short drive away to the Yacht Pond. Once there he was quickly released and we proceeded to my place with No-tail where he was injected and put in the swan house to rest. On 16th January No-tail was released onto the Yacht Pond and has been doing well ever since although I have never seen him fly.
From the 14th January I had not seen Mistral, she had not come for her food but I knew that she was perhaps preparing her nesting site by gathering material, at such times she would often not turn up at feeding time. I had asked some of the dog walkers that pass where she often nested and one said she was sitting on the nest. On 18th January I decided to go and investigate as Braveheart had come for food by himself, I walked along by the side of the Dyke and on reaching the area I found her lying in the water with her neck stretched out in front of her on the other side of the bank, with no possibility of reaching her as there were thick brambles all along that area, which is why she always nested there because it gave her good protection.
Braveheart had followed me up the Dyke. As he reached Mistral he stopped and just stood over her. It was just so sad, she had been such a good mother, always bringing her young with her, as soon as they could get to the feeding area where she knew I would be. Then she would walk them out of the pond to meet me as I came down the path to the feeding area, I felt very honoured that she trusted me so much considering I sometimes had no option but to catch her many times to remove hooks and fishing lines. There was nothing I could do now but get home and to get someone with a boat. It took me all day phoning and asking everyone I met in every shop I went into until at last I struck lucky. I was told to ring someone called Andy, which I did and when we finally met up he turned out to be someone I knew a long time ago and had not seen around for a considerable time. It was a joy to meet him again. As we talked I gathered he had been through a very rough time having been very ill and still has quite a few problems, but he sure has a heart of gold as it was not easy for him but he insisted on helping me.
We eventually got the boat into my car and drove very slowly to the Dyke, which is quite a distance from where Andy lived, the last part was a bit of a rough road. On reaching the Dyke Braveheart was standing by Mistral but as I helped Andy put the boat into the water and Andy started to row towards Mistral, Braveheart swam a short distance away while watching Andy take Mistral away. When Andy got back to shore I helped pull the boat out. Then we carried it back to my car putting it and Mistral in the back. We stood and looked at Braveheart as he had gone back to the place where Mistral had been. I knew he would mourn for several weeks.
We left to return to Andy's to unload the boat and once that was done I thanked him most profusely and departed for home. On reaching home I phoned Sue Morgan to inform her what had happened. She ask what position Mistral had her neck and on informing her the neck was stretched out in front of her Sue said it was either a stroke or heart attack.
Mistral has had a very chequered life with quite a few partners and has had many cygnets over the years looking after them all so well. There are a great many people who will miss her. I know I will but I have some lovely memories of her and all her cygnets that she has brought into this world. Some are very special, especially to me and to Janet who often helped me rescue her when she had become tangled in fishing line.
Braveheart continued in the area protecting his territory but he looked so lonely. When he came to feed in the mornings I'd give him seed as well as bread and had turned to leave him to finish it, but as I walked away he started to leave as well. So I stopped and stood with him until he had finished, it was as if he needed company. I tried several mornings to walk away but every time the same thing would happen. This went on for several weeks. It was well over two weeks before he would finally stay on his own to feed. For the first two days I stood at the top of the path to watch what he would do. Many people had asked if I could find a female for him as he looked so lonely. We all kept hoping one would turn up but as time went on we thought he was going to be on his own for a long while.
On Tuesday 22nd April upon reaching the Dyke, I found Braveheart with another swan nearby. It could only be a female as there was no way he would have allowed a male into his territory. She is a small swan, quite a dainty lady and I do not think she is very old. She came to feed with Braveheart and they both made a huffing sound, which swans do when they greet one another. Then she wandered off again, but never too far away, I think she could be playing hard to get, or Braveheart is pretending he is not interested, we shall just have to wait and see what happens. We thought about calling her ones of these names, taking into account she is small dainty and quite pretty so far we have thought of Spring, Snowdrop and Bluebell unless anyone else can think of a better name for her, we are open to offers.
In May I saw Braveheart mate with her and since then they have been together a great deal but no sign of nest building. I think she is a very young swan, so perhaps it is to soon for her to have young ones. We may be lucky next year, only time will tell. I still see No-tail and he is coping marvelously, today he walked out from the Yacht Pond to meet me, it's rather nice to see how well he is coping with walking.