“Once I got to the office, the swan was right in front of the window. At first I thought, wow, that’s great, we’ve got ourselves a swan! But at the same time, I vaguely remembered an EM story about a swan that had got stuck in the exact same spot. I didn’t see any injuries, but I did see a shitload of swan poo. It was clear that the animal had been there for a while.”

Esther decided to call security, who referred her to the animal ambulance service, which in its turn referred her to Zwanengroep Zuid-Holland (the South Holland Swan Group). “They came from Brielle straight away. Their analysis was that the animal needed a bit of room to be able to leave, because they need a bit of a run-up to become airborne. But it didn’t have enough room to do that [because of the high walls surrounding the roof – ed.].”

Bold swans

Edwin Vosselman, 54, and his 14-year-old son (‘he’s been cooped up inside the home for days and days because of the coronavirus, so I thought I might as well bring him along’) saw the swan peek over the low wall of the roof as soon as they got close to the building. “It looked really weird – not a sight you see every day. I carefully approached him. I used a stick to back him into a corner, so that he wouldn’t make the kind of weird jumps that animals in distress will sometimes make and get injured. And once he was in the corner, I caught him.”

Gevangen zwaan op de redactie EM corona
The caught swan on the floor of EM’s office Image credit: Esther Dijkstra

Vosselman has run the South Holland Swan Group since 2018. Prior to that he served on an animal ambulance for several years. So far, Vosselman has rescued some fifty swans this year. “Purely on a voluntary basis. I found all my tools myself and was recently given a small boat. I’ve been declared unfit for work, but I do want to contribute to society in one way or another. So I’m now doing that by helping animals in distress.”

He has noticed that swans are getting a little bolder now that streets are empty because of the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m getting the impression that they are venturing farther into residential neighbourhoods. A little while ago I was called to come and rescue a swan from a planter. I was looking at it thinking, why on earth did you choose this planter? It’s not the best place to build a nest. And today I’m dealing with swans on the campus, as you can see.”

‘None of that kiss, kiss, cuddle, cuddle’

When he arrived on campus, Vosselman had already seen another swan in the pond next to the Erasmus Pavilion. “I thought: that might just be his partner. So I took the swan I caught to the edge of the water. And lo and behold, they talked to each other in what we call ‘swan language’. They nodded with a bend of their necks, the way swans greet each other, and they made friendly sounds. So we knew they were an item.”

Generally speaking, swans are ‘fairly’ monogamous animals, Vosselman says, so he decided to release the mute swan near its suspected other half. As expected, it showed no signs of aggression. Quite the contrary. “After the swan had drunk and eaten something, they performed a lovers’ dance, turned around each other a few times and even created a love heart with their necks. Isn’t that great?”

For her part, Esther spent some time on the water’s edge looking at the two animals as well. “I was there for at least fifteen minutes, to see how they swam around each other and greeted each other. It was like, hey, there you are, nice to see you again. There was nothing hysterical about it, none of that ‘kiss, kiss, cuddle, cuddle’ stuff. Just ‘all right, we’re whole again now’. It was a fairy tale of sorts on an empty campus. That should keep me going for a while.”


About last time a swan got stuck

Swan stuck at UL’s skyway for hours

Animal rescue service rescues mute swan in distress on campus.

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