On one of our recent journeys up the M4 to Shepperton with a greylag goose suffering a bad eye infection and two young cygnets which needed to be in care for a while, we received an urgent call for help (this often happens when we are miles from home but this time it was certainly too far to turn back). It was to tell us one of the cygnets on Cwmbran boating lake (one of the family originally from the ponds at Llantarnam) was entangled in fishing line with one end coming from his beak. This was a problem which couldn’t wait till we arrived home later in the afternoon – it needed urgent attention as the swan had already separated himself from the rest of his family and was showing no interest in food. So we rang our stalwart helpers, Dorothy and Brian and passed the details to them. Thankfully, they were able to leave immediately.
In Dorothy’s words: ‘following this call for help, we put lunch on hold and hurried the six miles to Cwmbran and to the lake. Very quickly we found one cygnet which was obviously fine so we continued our search around the rest of the lake and soon noticed another one tucked in quite near to the water’s edge. Unfortunately there was a long stretch of rushes and undergrowth between him and us so trying to reach him was impossible. We tried to tempt him with some bread to move closer but it was no good – he was not interested. We became concerned the fishing line he was entangled in was also caught in the undergrowth and was the cause of him not moving. At that time it was not an easy situation.
Nearby to where the cygnet was were several men with radio controlled boats. We watched them for a while then Brian asked one of them if he could help by manoeuvring his craft ‘The Liverpool Pilot’ gently towards the cygnet in the hope it would not only show he was not caught up in the reeds but also to try to get him closer to the bank for us to catch him. The cygnet started to move and gradually came towards the bank which was a relief as it meant he was not tangled in the reeds. Then, as happens with swans, when you think you are winning he decided to turn away and move further out in the water. He was able to manoeuvre easier and more quickly than the Liverpool Pilot but having the boat there to keep him moving was a great help and as far as we know, this technique had never been tried before. But then he started moving to the other side of the lake. I followed him but he must have got fed up with being pursued and decided to fly/skim across the water to the far side where he landed and walked up the side of the bank. I was able to get between him and the water and catch him. When Brian got to us I had to untangle myself first as the line was around my legs and then Brian helped to unravel the line from around the cygnet which was around his leg and several times around one wing (approx. 3-4 metres) also steel traces hanging from his beak’.
Brian and Dorothy told us afterwards, as it turned out, it was really quite an easy rescue but without the help of the man and his radio controlled boat it would have been a different story.