Residents and businesses at Kingston Foreshore have teamed up to prevent cygnets from being separated from their parents by building a temporary ramp in the waterway.
The family of black swans is considered part of the local community in Norgrove Park, but on their excursions out to Lake Burley Griffin, the youngsters constantly go over the treacherous fall of 20 cm at the man-made concrete dam and struggle to get up again.
Deborah Thomas is a resident of nearby Kingsborough Village and she can hear the distress calls through her windows.
“I’m constantly listening for birds to fall, so my sister and I hurry down to see what we can do to get them back up,” she says.
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It has been a problem since the Kingston Foreshore was first developed, and it reappears after each mating season when a new crop of cygnets arrives.
This year, however, help is at hand.
Another resident, Jamie Haynes, and his partner ‘know a guy’ at the nearby pub The Warehouse. After a quick visit, they returned with a large plank of wood, which they then shoehorned into the room to act as a ramp to give the gypsies a means of escaping from the lower level.
But it was only a quick fix, and it was not long before the tree was inflated with water and began to fall apart. It has since been replaced a number of times, but locals agree that a more permanent and permanent solution is needed.
Jamie’s son attends St Edmund’s College in Narrabundah and he talked to the principal and suggested that a valuable project for a technology or metalworking class would be to build a ramp of more robust materials.
“The younger children can come and admire the life cycle of a swan or such a learning experience for them,” says Jamie.
Deborah and her sister, Tracey McNicol, have been pushing for the ACT government to install a ramp of some kind.
“Norgrove Park has a large number of young birds at the moment, and every single one of them is in danger of falling over the edge of that assault,” Deborah says.
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ACT Parks and Conservation responded to her call for action by saying they would love to do something, but the extent of bureaucracy would make it unlikely.
“My main job at the moment is to keep my door open to listen for small, persistent chirps,” she says.
Deborah says there was a time when birds got stuck every other day.
A typical rescue experience would see her sister climb over the fence, down the ladder and into the water, scooping the stray gypsy up to safety at the higher level.
Taking care of animals falls naturally for the two sisters. Both are volunteers at the National Zoo & Aquarium half a day each week and work in the primate department. Tracey also volunteers with ACT Wildlife, and Deborah has also recently joined their ranks.
Against the background of the recent wild weather, they have had plenty of contact with stranded chicks.
“There was a duckling with a broken leg recently, and despite the cold, I dived into the lake to save him,” Deborah says. “He’s now with a pet sitter.”
Two of the Kingston gypsies have been lost, but apparently the only survivor is in good progress.
Deborah says the locals have invested so much in this family of swans that many have visited them ever since the eggs hatched.
“They cheered when a gypsy was reunited with their family and cried when the two disappeared,” she says. “This swan family has gathered a community.”