Cygnets Attract a Community of Onlookers

After the weary winter pandemic left many folks feeling lonely and isolated, Mother Nature has brought them together again.

Now neighbors from Beacon Hill, Back Bay and beyond are making daily pilgrimages to the grassy banks of the Charles River where spunky carps swirl, baby ducklings paddle and lazy frogs sleep on floating logs. And for the last six weeks, the lagoon’s main attraction has been a nest occupied by an elegant female swan, her protective and sometimes feisty mate, and  their nine newly hatched cygnets.

Throughout every day runners, cyclists and walkers pause on the bike path near Dartmouth Street for a look at the the nest. Michael Nichols, executive director of the Esplanade Association (EA), estimated about 200 people stop by every hour. They peer over the granite wall with admiration and awe as they discover the nest in the lagoon below. They turn to others with smiles and laughter. At first they would chat about the nine eggs – when they first saw them (one lady said it was on May 2), when they would hatch (most guessed in 35-45 days) and what else they have heard about these graceful birds with their elongated curved necks and angle-like wings who are rarely seen on the Esplanade.

According to Nichols, last fall sixteen swans descended on the riverbank but only these two stayed for the winter. In early April, the female built the nest. After all her eggs were laid, she incubated them for about six weeks. Presumably, sitting on eggs all that time could become boring, so she was often seen dozing, preening, arranging the nest and rolling the eggs around. Occasionly the male would take a turn nest-sitting when he was not busy fending off threats from aggressors like Canadian Geese.

No one quite knows how long the new family will stay. Typically cygnets remain with their very protective parents for at least six months. Already the mother has begun teaching her babies to be independent and is even offering them swimming lessons.

Earlier this week the EA surrounded the area with fencing in anticipation of the hatching.  So far all visitors have been respectful to the birds and are following the EA guidelines which are posted nearby, Nichols said.

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