For a swan, assisted living in West Tisbury's Mill Pond
Photo by Lynn Christoffers
Three weeks ago, West Tisbury Animal Control Officer Joan Jenkinson got a call about a lone swan wandering around the fishing shacks along Menemsha Creek. The fishermen had been feeding it and it had become a bit aggressive when it got hungry.
Ms. Jenkinson zipped up to "the crick," picked up the swan, and put it in the back of her vehicle. When she looked back at it in the mirror, she saw the swan bobbing up and down, so she decided to name him Bob. Of course.
Which was all well and good until Bob turned out to be a female. Bobbette, as she's now known, has lived since then in the Mill Pond in West Tisbury, where Ms. Jenkinson feeds her at least twice a day, sometimes with homemade cornbread, sometimes with Pepperidge Farm white bread. Homemade?
"Do you know what they charge at the market for a pack of three muffins," she explained, although anyone who knows her thinks Ms. Jenkinson's motives might not be entirely economic. She takes her animals to heart. When she's busy and can't make a scheduled feeding, her friends have filled in, as happy to spend a few minutes down by the old mill pond as they are to get acquainted with Bobbette.
About a week after Bobbette moved into the Mill Pond, Angela Waldron, Ms. Jenkinson's sister, spotted a lone swan walking along Moshup Trail in Aquinnah, where she lives. So off goes Ms. Jenkinson.
"I drove up there, and we got him in the car, and I took him to the Mill Pond and plopped him in," Ms. Jenkinson said of her abrupt introduction of Gay (short for Gay Head) to his new digs.
After consulting with Gus BenDavid, Ms. Jenkinson says that it's not all that unusual to find single immature swans struggling to survive after they have been driven off by their parents who are intent on starting a new family. Sometimes the parents even kill their young.
Bobbette and Gay were doing fine in the Mill Pond until a lone male flew in one day — on his own power. He took an immediate dislike to Gay, and bullied him relentlessly, finally driving him under the sluice way under the Edgartown Road, where he died next to the Garden Club.
Ms. Jenkinson buried Gay, and continued to feed Bobbette. But the bully made life difficult for Bobbette, too, forcing her to stay up in the head waters of the pond.
Lately, he has taken off for a day at a stretch, and Bobbette responds to Ms. Jenkinson's calls to come for dinner. She varies her diet with grass in the Mill Pond, a critical dietary ingredient, since Bobbette will need to feed on natural, wild forage when she takes off and flies south after the Mill Pond ices up.
Bobbette is teaching herself how to fly, according to Ms. Jenkinson, and the intinerant male is hassling her less often. If Bobbette decides to winter over, Ms. Jenkinson plans to try her in three West Tisbury ponds. "There's Maley's, Stan Murphy's, and Allen Whiting's — all artists," she said.
If none of those work out, Ms. Jenkinson plans to talk to the West Tisbury Police, whose station is on the banks of the Mill Pond, about installing a bubbler by the outlet of the pond, to maintain some open water for Bobbette during the few weeks of deep winter when things can freeze up hard.