Residents and businesses at Kingston Foreshore have joined forces to stop cygnets becoming separated from their parents by constructing a makeshift ramp in the waterway.
The family of black swans are considered part of the local community at Norgrove Park, but on their excursions out to Lake Burley Griffin, the young are constantly going over the treacherous 20cm drop at the man-made concrete weir and struggling to get back up.
Deborah Thomas is a resident of the nearby Kingsborough Village and she can hear the distressed calls through her windows.
“I’m constantly listening out for birds that drop down so my sister and I rush down to see what we can do to get them back up,” she says.
It has been a problem since Kingston Foreshore was first developed, reoccurring after every mating season when a new crop of cygnets arrive.
However, this year help is at hand.
Another resident, Jamie Haynes, and his partner ‘know a guy’ at nearby pub The Warehouse. After one quick visit, they returned with a large plank of wood, which they then shoehorned into the space to act as a ramp to give the cygnets a means of escape from the lower level.
But it was only a quick fix and it wasn’t long before the wood was bloated with water and started to fall apart. It has since been replaced a number of times, but locals agree a more permanent and fixed solution is needed.
Jamie’s son attends St Edmund’s College in Narrabundah and he spoke to the principal suggesting a worthwhile project for a technology or metalwork class would be to construct a ramp out of sturdier materials.
“The younger kids can come and admire the lifecycle of a swan, or some such educational experience for them,” says Jamie.
Deborah and her sister, Tracey McNicol, have been pushing for the ACT Government to install a ramp of some description.
“Norgrove Park has a huge number of young birds at the moment, and every one of them is at risk of dropping over the edge of that weir,” says Deborah.
ACT Parks and Conservation responded to her call for action by saying they would love to do something but the level of red tape involved would make it unlikely.
“My main job at the moment is to keep my door open to listen for little, persistent chirps,” she says.
Deborah says there was a point when birds were getting stuck every second day.
A typical rescue experience would see her sister clamber over the fence, down the ladder, and into the water, scooping the errant cygnet up to the safety of the higher level.
Caring for animals comes naturally to the two sisters. Both volunteer at the National Zoo & Aquarium half a day every week, working in the primate section. Tracey also volunteers with ACT Wildlife and Deborah has recently joined their ranks, too.
On the back of the recent wild weather, they’ve had plenty of dealings with stranded baby birds.
“There was a baby duckling with a broken leg recently and despite the cold, I dove into the lake to rescue him,” says Deborah. “He’s now with a wildlife carer.”
Two of the Kingston cygnets have been lost, but apparently the sole survivor is progressing well.
Deborah says locals have invested so much into this family of swans, many paying them visits ever since the eggs hatched.
“They cheered when a cygnet was reunited with their family and cried when the two went missing,” she says. “This swan family has brought together a community.”