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Prospect Park now has a real swan lake

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In a stunning development, two families of swans in Prospect Park have welcomed a new family of white-feathered visitors, flouting their reputation as territorial tyrants.

The change in avian behavior comes on the heels of the uneasy rapprochement reached between two once-warring waterfowl clans, the Monster and Honeybear families, which were previously vying for the prime feeding grounds by the boathouse.

Now the two families, each with one cygnet, are accommodating two more swans, dubbed John Boy and Grandpa, by the pair of bird lovers who spotted the newcomers’ arrival on Jan. 10.

“It’s a swan society at work!” said Ed Bahlman, who along with his companion Anne-Katrin Titze visits the swans like clockwork most mornings. “They’re just trying to make the best of the winter. They’re in it together.”

Bahlman insists that this is the first time that he can remember that three families of swans — normally territorial, aggressive creatures — are sharing the lake.

Indeed, on a recent sunny morning, all eight swans seemed to be getting along swimmingly. Mama Bear and Poppa Bear floated near the shore, awaiting discarded bread. Meanwhile, Honeybear romped with Ziggy and John Boy, chasing them off by batting his wings along the water.

Bahlman and Titze laughed at the antics, saying that Honeybear’s newfound confidence was nothing more than harmless roughhousing.

“This is truly what wildlife, left to its own devices, looks like,” Bahlman said while feeding one of the swans a handful of cooked corn.

A quick search on eBird.com (“revolution­izing the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds!”) reinforces the significance of the new swan community. The highest population on record from 1900 to present day in Prospect Park was in June of last year, when both the Honeybear and Monster families still had their broods intact.

Since those glory days, six of their cygnets have either perished or flown onto other lakes. Rumors abound that some of the infant swans died as a result of fishing-related injuries.

So, the current population of eight swans stands as an early record for 2010 that will likely not be challenged until April, when mating season begins.

The birder who filed the record count of 12 swans, Larry Zirlin, noted that it was uncommon for three families to live in peace.

“Normally, what happens is one family tends to stay in the lake, the other by the boathouse,” said Zirlin, who has kept tabs on birds in the park for roughly 20 years. “They can be very nasty beasts.”

In Zirlin’s estimation, swan lake will not be so tranquil when mating season begins.

“Last summer, it was like the Hatfields and McCoys,” Zirlin said. “This spring, if two of those cygnets get together, it will be the Montagues and Capulets.”

Updated 5:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

nature girl from Carroll Gardens says:
“This is truly what wildlife, left to its own devices, looks like,” Bahlman said while feeding one of the swans a handful of cooked corn.

Hand feeding swans cooked corn is not exactly what I call leaving swans to their own devices. Most parks have signs telling people NOT to feed the water fowl.
Jan. 19, 2010, 5:47 pm
Colin from Windsor Terrace says:
Mr. Brown’s sense of humor is clearly at play here, by juxtaposing Mr. Bahlman’s “This is truly what wildlife, left to its own devices, looks like” comment with the feeding of a handful of corn.
The thrust of the article is evidence that a 60 plus acre Prospect Park Lake can be a habitat shared by more than one swan family.
"nature girl" could be more concerned about the irresponsible fishing practices than a kind gesture by Mr. Bahlman.
We have a lake that is badly in need of cleaning up. It is a wonder that these swans have worked it out with all the hazards coming from individuals with bad intentions. The amount of broken glass, rusting metal, fishing debris, plastic bags and the occasional dog jumping in the lake chasing the swans, surely is better worth commenting on.

I have seen the swans flying over the lake in the snow and I will never forget it.
Thank you Mr. Brown for following up and getting this story out.
Jan. 20, 2010, 9:08 am
CAROLINE from PARK SLOPE says:
I have one question for nature girl.
Who provides her food, shelter and the removal of her trash from our urban landscape?
I bet you have a good restaurant tip or two where the waiter brings your cooked food to your table.
Enjoy the park and the urban creatures that reside there.
Jan. 20, 2010, 10:27 am
Bonita from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
How wonderful it is to witness the frolicking wildlife in all its glory at the lake. We have so much to learn from it. It really is Brooklyn's greatest treasure. Let's try to keep the grounds as trash free as possible.....for all the animals well being and our own pleasure.
Jan. 20, 2010, 8:32 pm
Swan from Lake says:
Mwaahhhh, quck quack quack, mwahhhh!
Jan. 21, 2010, 7:30 am
Sheila from Lefferts Garden says:
During my daily walks in the park I am able to reflect upon my nature by observing that of the swans, ducks, coots, and geese. When I observe a lake filled with bottles, sinks, and diapers it stirs up the rage. Is the park merely a reflection of the disregard humans have for nature? When I avert my eye away from the violence inflicted upon the park I commit my own act of violence. If we want to teach our young people how to commune with nature we must teach them how to nurture nature - rather than the misguided fishing day - why not a planting day? And, again, I wonder how we can create others to care for the park - if it is simply to monetarily punish those who continue to dump their charcoal at the base of trees, or throw their trash on the ground - or whatever - I say let's start issuing fines and keep the park clean.
Jan. 21, 2010, 9:37 am
Sheila from Lefferts Garden says:
Again, PLEASE, BAN FISHING IN THE PARK.
Thank you
Jan. 21, 2010, 9:39 am
Deb from Ditmas Park says:
My husband and take our dog to the park almost every day to enjoy the outdoors, exercise, nature, and all the birds - but especially the swans. No, Prospect Park is not wild - no comparison with the Adirondacks Wilderness area, but it should be kept natural, so that wildlife can thrive. Let's start by cleaning out the lake - get rid of the bathtub, glass, metal, etc., by dredging the lake. Surely it would be a better use of funds than concreting over large areas for a restricted BBQ area, or building TWO new skating rinks, or redoing a perfectly good children's playground ( just 3 of the incomprehensible projects that are now killing trees and grass).
Jan. 21, 2010, 10:53 am
Ber from Ditmas Park says:
Prospect park is a wonderful amenity for all Brooklyn that
is being damaged by the thoughtlessness of some of its
users.
On my daily walks I have also noticed the trash. Part of the reason seems to be the shortage of trash cans, There only
seems to be the ones provided by FIDO, and you can go
a long way before you encounter one.
The other part seems to be just thoughtlessness on the part of some park users, perhaps this can be addressed by social
pressure. The swans seem to be establishing a society that
shares the lake with other swan familys. Do you think people
could learn from them?
Jan. 21, 2010, 10:57 am
Michele from Kensington says:
I am delighted to hear the swans of Prospect Park are doing well. I am concerned for the water birds because of the amount of pollution in the Lake. Almost every time I walk my dog there I find discarded fishing line (which has led to the death of swans in the past) as well as barbed fishing hooks which are not legal but apparently still in use. I urge Park administrators to take the Park's health seriously and to post a few signs to inform those fishing of the rules and regulations needed to protect the birds and other animals inhabiting the Park.
Jan. 22, 2010, 3:51 pm
Thereza from Ditmas says:
Hmmmm....feeding a handful of corn? This isn't how or what these creatures eat in the wilderness. Corn is not their ancestral diet AND crappy for them! How can one say this is Mother Nature left to her own devices? Also- How is the park supposed to take care of these issues? Do they have a specialized fund to hire trained, additional staff to sddress these needs? ....And a bird in the hand is worth three in the bush (Catchin' 'em aint easy!)
Jan. 23, 2010, 10:50 pm
Jimmy from Lefferts Garden says:
Actually Thereza - corn is acceptable - and if you wanted to feed them slightly cooked broccoli, a soft potato, green beans and cabbage that would be good too - better yet go to the feed store and buy a mix. You are right - Bread should not be fed to any water fowl - it is only good for fattening the animal which helps in winter but it has no nutritional value - as it has none for humans - and you are part of nature, as are the people who throw trash, or drive their trucks through the grass, or toss their plastic bags into the lake - and if only there were a special fund that paid and honored those who care for our parks and animals - what a beautiful reflection that would be. Unfortunately we have to worry that the water fowl come to "trust" some of us humans when others should be avoided - but maybe you can find a way to translate your care of the water fowl's poor diet into action and then inspire others to create positive changes
Jan. 24, 2010, 2:20 pm
billb from gso says:
bring back the glory days
Jan. 25, 2010, 6:08 pm
Steve from Windsor Terrace says:
I was amazed that "Swan from the Lake," above, actually got the Mute Swans to talk.
They are saying, "Please help all of us waterfowl, and people too, by cleaning up the Prospect Park Lake."

Perhaps the Parks Department and the Prospect Park Alliance can collaborate in setting up volunteer activities to clean up the debris in the lake, in establishing and publicizing rules for fishing in the lake, and for educating and monitoring activities of visitors.

It is a lot to ask when there are so many other problems in the city and parks, but I'm sure there will be some people eager to join in this effort to enjoy nature in the middle of our great city.
Jan. 27, 2010, 12:22 pm

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