It was to be an average Sunday birding expedition with our South Shore Audubon Society. There were about 25 people gathered on Merrick Road in Massapequa, New York. At this juncture of Merrick Road, the word “road” is a misnomer as the “road” is more of a parkway and the cars are whooshing by at 50 miles per hour.
That was okay; we were all on the sidewalk looking out over the beautiful Massapequa Lake checking out any one of the 31 species we would see that day.
I caught the event in my peripheral vision and simultaneously heard the woman scream, “Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhh!” A huge Mute Swan, one of those beautiful all-white creatures, had flown over our heads and across Merrick Road, then hit the electric lines and fell onto the road just at the edge of the curb. I saw it drop. The bird moved a little but I was sure it would die. It must have hit those power lines at maximum speed.
Four of our members braved the traffic with Bob yelling, “Don’t cross the road; you’ll get hit.” But committed birders are committed birders, that’s for sure. Four bravehearts, first Bill, who was then joined by Bill. Then Cathy and Anne crossed that road. The first Bill knelt by the bird. The bird moved its legs slightly so it was still alive.
“They had better get that bird onto the sidewalk or some car is going to hit them,” I said to Paul and Bob.
“The bird is dead or it will be dead,” said Paul.
“They were crazy to cross that road,” said Bob.
A car pulled up near us and a grey-haired lady got out. As fate would have it, this lady had just gotten her certificate in animal rescue. She and some of our birders talked and she called the animal rescue society.
“That bird is dead,” I said.
“Dead,” said Paul.
“I know dead when I see it,” I said.
“We’re lucky our guys didn’t get hit by a car,” said Bob.
Bill and Bill and Anne and Cathy lifted the bird to the sidewalk. These Mute Swans are quite large, upwards of four feet sometimes, so it took them a little time to get that bird onto the sidewalk.
“It’s dead,” I said.
“They should throw it into the stream,” said Paul.
“What a way to die,” I said, “slamming into those wires.”
“Those guys were crazy crossing that road,” said Bob shaking his head.
Then the bird moved. It flapped its wings and tried to stand up. Our four birders lifted it. “Let’s get it back to the lake,” one of the four bravehearts said. And so Bill and Bill lifted the bird and started across the road while the grey-haired lady and Kathy and Anne stopped traffic.
As the bird came towards the lake it seemed much better. The men released it and it paused on the banks of the water.
“Man,” I said. “I really thought it was dead.”
“So did I,” Paul said.
“I still wouldn’t have crossed that road,” said Bob.
The bird took to the water and we all burst into applause. You would think this conclusion would have made our day but then…
…another Mute Swan came zipping over – this one was gigantic, much bigger than our injured one.
“Oh, God, no!” shouted one of our birders.
“No! That other swan is going to kill it!” shouted a second woman.
The gigantic Mute Swan aggressively slammed his head right into our swan. A skirmish ensued, but our swan struggled to shore while the gigantic one waited for him to reenter the lake. Our swan stayed put. When the gigantic swan saw that our swan would not head back into the lake, it paddled away but you could see he was still eyeing our swan.
When our swan reentered the lake the gigantic swan came flying over.
“I don’t think our swan can survive another fight,” I said.
“The big swan is going to kill it,” said Paul.
“Our swan should never have gotten back into the water,” said Bob.
“Our swan can’t fly,” I said at the exact same moment our swan took to the air and escaped the gigantic one who, surprisingly, did not follow it.
Joe, our leader, said: “They are territorial. They stake out a section of a lake and will fight any other one from going into their territory. Mute Swans tend to mate for life. Another bird enters its territory at risk.”
Our mute swan survived an awful ordeal.
“I really thought it was dead,” I said.
“So did I,” said Paul.
“I still wouldn’t have crossed the street,” said Bob.
[Read Frank Scoblete’s book Confessions of a Wayward Catholic. Available from Amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]