17 August 2023

Why there's no swan song for these Queanbeyan love birds

| Sally Hopman
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Injured swan

Mrs Swan recuperates in the home of her Queanbeyan carer, Melissa Pearce. Photo: Melissa Pearce.

Once upon a time, the Swan family floated happily about the Queanbeyan River. Mum, Dad and three kids. Life was grand.

Nearby humans mostly left the family in peace, except for the occasional photo opp or food delivery – no, not that sort. They prefer to pick for themselves – pond weed, tadpoles, that sort of thing.

Then one day, Wildcare Queanbeyan volunteer Melissa Pearce noticed Mrs Swan had been hooked by a fisherman’s line. “It took us several days to catch her,” Melissa said, “we took her to the vet because it was clear her leg was badly infected.

“She had a short stay with us while she was on antibiotics and we returned her to the river. But we saw that her foot had become more swollen and she couldn’t use her leg at all. It took us a week to catch her again, but we did. We took her in for X-rays and brought her back into care.”

The good news was that Mrs Swan was responding well to Wildcare’s help. For Mr Swan, the news was not so good. He was missing his Mrs. He had built her the swan mahal of new nests and with the kids flown the coop – with his encouragement – he was ready to get down to business – again.

Injured swan

Mrs Swan’s injury was so serious Wildcare volunteers were concerned she might not survive. Photo: Wildcare Queanbeyan.

Melissa, who has been a volunteer with Wildcare Queanbeyan for more than six years, said the Swan family was well known locally, having floated about near the river cafe for a number of years.

Yes, they sometimes got themselves into trouble, but mostly they lived harmoniously with humans.

“They’re funny,” Melissa said. “It’s been this same male with the same female for years. We know when they have babies, they chase the young ones away almost six months to the day after they’re born, and Dad is ready to do the deed again.

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“We know this couple was very bonded – swans tend to mate for life – and we knew he would be grieving for her while she was away getting better.

“Ever since she left, Dad’s been swimming about, honking for her. He’s built the most beautiful nest for her, but she’s been away a while now and the risk is that as we come into spring, he will find another mate.”

It took about a week to capture Mrs Swan the second time, hours of sitting by the river throwing in bits of corn and spinach to build up her trust. After doing that twice, the volunteers were not keen to put her through it a third time so they ensured she was in the best of health before even thinking of returning her to the river.

Two swans

Mr and Mrs Swan, together again, naturally, on the Queanbeyan River on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: Melissa Pearce.

Everyone was there: the volunteers who patiently got her out of the river and into a safe recuperation, the vet who went beyond the call of duty to care for her, Dr Daniella Hsu from the Unusual Pet Vets, and the perfect strangers who were just wandering by the river at the time.

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But there was one important person missing – Mr Swan. No one knew where he was, whether he’d done a runner/swimmer, whether he’d met someone else and had settled into a new spot on the river, or whether, on hearing his other half has finally come home, would eventually return.

“We really just wanted a happy ending,” Melissa, disappointed that Mr Swan wasn’t there but pleased that Mrs Swan looked to be making the best recovery she could, said.

But you know the story can’t possibly end there.

When Melissa went back down to the river on Tuesday to check on Mrs Swan’s progress, who should she see but Mr Swan back with his mate, the two of them together again, swimming about as if they’d never been apart.

Now that’s what you call a happy ending.

Volunteer groups like Wildcare Queanbeyan are always in need of help – either physical or financial. Anyone who can help them keep up the great rescue work, can donate via the Wildcare website.

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