It should have been the happy ending residents along the river from Spalding to Crowland had been waiting for – but a second tragedy has struck a family of swans just hours before they were due to be reunited.
For weeks we have watched the pen swimming alone with her two cygnets, unaware that her mate was being cared for at a wildlife centre in Norfolk after swallowing a fishing hook.
But on Monday, the day he was due to be released back into the River Welland, the Spalding Guardian received a cry for help to save the cygnets after the female was found dead, trapped in a barbed wire fence with a broken neck, and attempts to capture the cygnets and take them to safety had failed.
Phillip Green, who found the injured male swan, contacted us to appeal for help from anyone with a boat – and the Spalding Water Taxi offered to be on standby should they be needed.
However, Kathy Ornig, of the RSPCA, managed to get a boat and was able to catch the cygnets at Crowland.
Witnesses have described the heartfelt cries of an injured male swan calling for his mate after being released back into the River Welland as tragic.
Dagmar Smith-Kura, who found the dead female swan in a barbed wire fence dividing the Crowland lake and the river, said she had been hoping it would be a happy day.
She said: “The cygnets were born in Crowland and I had become very close to the swan family, regularly going down to feed them.
“It was heartbreaking to hear the male swan’s cries. He swam in a circle for 20 minutes calling out for her, before he finally swam off.
”I wish I had been able to tell him what had happened and that he hadn’t been abandoned.”
The RSPCA animal welfare officer was equally distressed by what she saw. Kathy said: “It was especially hard driving to the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre in Norfolk to fetch the cob for release knowing I had the cygnets with me, his mate was dead and they would never be reunited.
“The cygnets wouldn’t have survived on their own in the river.
Their down would not be waterproof, they would not be able to feed properly and the male would probably have been aggressive towards them.
“The only positive note is now they have every chance of growing to full weight and eventually being released back into the River Welland.
”It’s been a traumatic few days but, hopefully, the swan will find a new mate next year.”
Phillip Green, who found the cob after it swallowed the fishing hook, joined Dagmar in praising the RSPCA for the care they have given the swan family.
He said: “We have nothing but praise for them. The male swan had to undergo an emergency operation to remove the hook and line from his throat. He was nil by mouth for weeks – it must have cost thousands. They are amazing people.”
When the swan swallowed the hook, there was a public outcry to anglers to be more careful when discarding rubbish.
At the time Mr Green said: “It’s really good to see such a range of men and women enjoying the fishing on Crowland lake, but it’s such a pity that there always has to be one careless person.
“Anyone fishing needs to be ultra careful when discarding tackle.”
This week, Dagmar said it was especially distressing the death of the female swan was again because of the actions of humans – on this occasion a “badly maintained fence”.
She said: “I know fences have to be put up, but why barbed wire? They are for concentration camps and prisons.
“Swans are such beautiful creatures – and the property of the Queen.
“We should do everything we can to protect them.”
Later, Dagmar said she went to the river to call the swan.
She said: “The family had grown to know me and always came when I called. He still knew my voice.”