What would you do if you walked into the enclosed Foundation and Year 1 play area of your school, during the half term holiday, and came face to face with a scared and angry young swan, who had mistakenly concluded that the sizeable rainwater puddle, which had formed on the sand box tarpaulin cover, was actually a pond?
Well that was the dilemma I faced last Thursday (24th October).
One of the few facts I know about these birds is that they are protected by law and another is that they required an enormous amount of space, in order to achieve flight: some 60 or more yards to be a little more precise.
And there in lay my problem.
You see even without the trees, climbing frames, outdoor classroom shelter, planters, table, chairs and play house, there simply wasn’t enough room for this bird to take off. Coupled with its’ inexperience, obvious lack of flying hours (the mix of brown and white feathers identified it as one of this years signets) and the fact that this particular bird appeared to be short of a few brain cells, I didn’t hold out much hope of it getting itself out of the pickle it was in on its’ own. However, always the optimist, I did leave the little side gate open which gave a potential straight take off route down the side of the school building but, to be fair, I wasn’t convinced this would work.
Once I got home, the next logical step for me was to try and contact a suitable wildlife rescue organisation and I started with those specifically registered for swans but no-one seemed to be home and there wasn’t an answer phone facility.
Next it was the RSPB but they don’t do bird rescue of any sort but they did give me the number for another organisation but this also proved to be a dead end.
The RSPCA was the next port of call and after getting no response from the local numbers I tried their national number, proceeded through the automated system but as the bird wasn’t injured or sick (just stuck in a garden and therefore, in my opinion, a sitting target for one of the many foxes we have in or around our village – but what do I know) there wasn’t a suitable option and eventually I came to the end of the automated list and the system hung up on me!
Much head scratching later and with the day progressing along at a smart pace and all the while trying to sort out the Broadband issue as well, I remembered the local Water Bird Sanctuary some 10 miles from us. Excellent! I knew they had a swan family there and so thought, erroneously as it turned out, that they would be a good place to contact.
“We can’t help,” the helpful voice on the other end told me, “But I could give you the number of our Ranger and she may be able to assist.”
Fantastic! So I called the number and it went to answer phone. I left a message explaining the situation, where I was and leaving my contact details, hung up and waited.
And then waited some more. In fact it was yesterday (Monday) before the Ranger attempted to get in touch with me which isn’t that impressive really.
By now it was getting dark and there wasn’t much more I could do. The Mudlets were worrying about foxes, cats and badgers potentially hurting the young swan and I did my best to comfort them but it was a matter of waiting to see how things were in the morning.
Having been in contact with the head Teacher, it had already been arranged that the caretaker would pop over Friday afternoon and open the main security gate for that area, in the hopes that the youngster would waddle through onto the playground and take off from there but our playground isn’t that big and with the trees and picnic tables and adventure playground equipment dotted about, I still wasn’t sure that this would work.
First thing Friday morning, I popped back to the school to see if by some miracle the swan had left or at lest survived on its’ temporary home. I was disappointed to see that it was indeed still in residence but relieved that it hadn’t been attacked.
“I’m going to have to phone the RSPCA again,” I said to Mud, “And this time choose the trapped option” although when the RSPCA refers to ‘trapped’ I don’t think a swan in the garden is what they had in mind. Finally I got through to a human being and explained the situation.
“Is it sick or injured?” asked the operative on the other end.
“No…” I replied, “But we live in a rural area with lots of foxes, cats and badgers about and so I’m pretty sure that it will only be a matter of time before it is sick, injured or dead!”
I was getting a little annoyed by now, as between the swan, the Broadband and the birthday party cake I still had to make for Little Mudlets’ party the next day, not to mention the party bag shopping that also needed to be done, my stress levels were rising at a quite alarming rate of knots.
“And you’re sure it can’t get out of where it is?” was his next question.
“No!” I repeated, explaining about the lack of available space etc. etc. etc. Talk about reluctant to help. I mean I know they rely on donations but this was a wild animal in need of rescue and so far absolutely no-one other than myself, Mud, the Mudlets and the Head Teacher seemed in the least bit concerned with its’ welfare.
Finally I was told that an inspector would be sent to assess the situation and would contact me when he was on his way. Fabulous! Of course that then put my much needed shopping trip on hold but at least I got the cake itself made and baked before the RSPCA arrived at 11.45am.
Less than 15 minutes later, the swan was safely tucked up in the back of the RSPCA van on its’ way to the nearest water source, away from other swans and I could finally wash my hands of the whole episode. One abiding memory though will be that of the Inspector chasing the swan across the playground in an attempt to get it airborne but, as I had suspected all along, there simply wasn’t enough room for it to get up the speed it needed.
Unfortunately in all the excitement I kept forgetting to bring my camera and so have absolutely no photographs of either the bird in situ’ or the rescue in progress ….. typical!