At Highgate Ponds on Hampstead Heath, London, lived a “married” couple of swans. They were committed to be married for life although sometimes divorces happen. Although contentedly married tragedy struck in 2016. The male swan (cob) hit a building while they were flying together. He fell to his death. Mrs Newbie, the lady swan (pen), was suddenly widowed and alone and for four fruitless years the City of London Corporation said that she searched in nearby nesting grounds for her lost love. She laid unfertilised eggs as she waited to be reunited with him.
She stayed in Hampstead in the expectation that he would return. She could have left the area to find a new companion but never did. Male swans who wanted to be her “husband” were swiftly rejected. Her heart was set on being reunited.
Mrs Newbie faced another major problem. A pair of territorial swans arrived at the ponds where she lived. She was in danger of being evicted from her home. She disappeared and people wondered whether she had fled or been killed by the new couple.
Then in March of this year, just before Britain went into lockdown under the coronavirus pandemic, the park rangers received a call from a local resident who said that a swan had taken up residence on her roof. Mrs Newbie had returned and rescuers quickly identified her and managed to bring her down using ladders and a blue bag. They took her to Swan Sanctuary, a charity for swans and waterfowl based in Shepperton, Surrey.
At the sanctuary she was placed in the same pen as a male swan whose name is Wallace. He had been rescued after he had been injured in a fight over territory at Waltham Abbey, Essex.
Mrs Newbie recovered and the corporation went to retrieve her to take her back to Hampstead. Wallace stood in their way. He wouldn’t let them take her. They backed off and waited and again he stood in their way when they tried a second time. They eventually succeeded and when they placed her in the car she cried for Wallace.
They took both Wallace and Mrs Newby, now a couple, back to Mrs Newbie’s home at Highgate Ponds. It was obvious to anybody who looked that the newlyweds were a committed couple and had eggs of their own.
Gill Walker, a volunteer at the Swan Sanctuary said that when she approached the pair, “It was clear they had bonded. They had 36 hours together. To bond in such a short time, it’s quite exceptional. She had rejected various males quite naturally. She was obviously looking for something specific”. She had found love again.
A love story between two swans. Let this be a reminder to people that all animals are sentient beings demanding our respect.