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Have you noticed how big swans are?

Let me tell you, they are BIG. With great big strong wings and long, strong necks and a loud hiss when they’re scared or angry. But my daughter and I love them, and we’ve known most of the ones in our park since they were cygnets and their parents before them. So of course we had to try to help when we realised that a swan was stuck in amongst twisted dead branches and they were round his throat and the more he panicked the tighter were getting.

We'd have tried to help any bird in distress but this wasn’t just any swan. It was Perky. Also known as PRK214, who is the son of Punky (PNK173), who is the swan with the pierced beak from a fish hook that we helped to rescue eight years ago by keeping him calm till the Swan Rescue people could get there and then checking on him each day and feeding him lettuce and peas while his beak healed. He’s not the sweetest natured swan you’ll ever meet but he seems to remember us, and we always feed him so he’s lovely for us.

I don’t know how Perky managed to get himself so caught up but it looked as if he was gathering bedding for his nest. He’s only just three, so this is his first year of mating and breeding, and his mate isn’t ringed, so she’s not from around here and we don’t know her. That explains why she was frightened and angry, and Perky was struggling and making things worse for himself as he tried to get to her defend her, but luckily I had my daughter with me and she’s always preferred animals to people and knows a lot about them.

I knew we couldn’t get near Perky while his mate was that upset so I began to feed her with the grain my daughter always has in her bag if we’re going anywhere there might be birds and talk to her and say those daft things you say when stuff’s gone wrong. “It’s all right. It’s all right. We’ll get it sorted.’ I did the parent thing of sounding confident while inwardly thinking oh help, he hasn’t got time for us to get the Swan Rescue people over from Wimborne so it’s us or nothing and I don’t feel as if I’m a lot better than nothing. She didn’t exactly calm down, but nor did she go for me, and she moved enough that my daughter could get into the greenery and use my nail scissors to cut away the vines. They won’t be much use for anything else now, but who cares?

I’ve written about Perky before. He’s the swan who likes the back of his neck scratched, and it was incredible to see the way he trusted my daughter to help him, and just as amazing to watch his mate calming down as she realised that he was finding it easier to breathe. She stopped hissing at me (and it was a loud hiss) and then Perky was free and my daughter eased the remains of the vines away from round his neck and I started to breathe more easily every bit as much as he did!

My daughter hand-fed him, just as she’s done since he was a cygnet because she is totally fearless with them and then I stepped back and let her come out. We went for our walk around the park and saw ducklings. (Don’t you love ducklings? They’re all brown and gold and fuzzy and no sense at all, but they stand for spring and new life to me so I’m always excited to see them.) Punky was watching over them so no seagulls stood a chance. He was also hissing at any that pushed their luck because he’s not a kind gentle parenting type. He’s more ‘Swipe’ listen to me. ‘Swipe, now do it’ and ‘Swipe’ because I feel like it. His mate, Lucky, is a lot more placid and she’s on the nest at the moment so there’ll be new cygnets soon for us to fall in love with and watch out for.

After that, we walked back down again because we wanted to make sure that Perky was okay. He was snoozing on his new nest, but he woke up and came over to us for a neck rub which was great because it meant that I could give him a quick check. There were deep indentations but no cut skin, blood or difficulty moving his neck so it looks as if the daft bird got away with it and we’ll go back and check on him for a couple of days to be sure. His mate watched me closely, and then, slowly, oh so slowly, came closer and dipped her neck so that I could stroke it, and I spent the rest of the day feeling as if I was walking on air.

So, if you are thinking that the world is a horrible place, then please remember that there are swans and ducklings and people who try to make things better, including our brilliant local police as you can see here. .

In a few weeks time my daughter and I will be going on a swan handling and first aid course a few miles away at the Swan Rescue because I never want to feel that helpless again. I did first aid courses before the children were born and kept them up, but somehow I never thought I’d be doing the same thing for swans! (On the whole, I’d say swans are probably easier…)

Here’s hoping for a less exciting week, with more ducklings and maybe even some goslings too.

And after all that, what else could I have for today’s picture but Perky the swan and his new young mate? Long life and good health to both of them, and if you look closely and optimistically, you can see them making a heart shape with their necks, thus proving that this particular and unashamedly slushy romantic writer got a happy ending!


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