Commercial, Professional, Wildlife Management Control

Man hopes swans swap island for floating nest

Two black swans trying to nest near the Town Lake shoreline are experiencing their ups and downs as the waters rise and fall.

The female is due to lay her eggs any day now. To prepare, they are frantically arranging branches, weeds and flotsam on a small island about 40 feet from shore. But the effort likely will prove futile. As the lake rises, their nest is destined to become submerged.

At the shoreline, an octagon-shaped nest made of wood and plastic foam floats on the water, tied to concrete pilings. It is the creation of Tom Regner, who resides in an East Austin apartment complex at 1818 Lakeshore Blvd. South, which fronts the area of the lake the swans call home.

Regner hopes the swans will take to his floating nest, which will rise and fall with the lake level, before the waters destroy their island nest and another attempt by the swans to produce offspring.
“We’re going to have to do it gradually,” said Regner, who has an educational background in behavioral science. “Animals won’t take to drastic changes most of the time.”

The design of the floating nest was based on one created for swans at the San Antonio Zoo, he said.
The two swans are part of the original population of 16 swans – eight black, eight white – that were donated in 1988 by a local photographer. The swans’ wings were clipped to keep them from flying away.

Their inaugural launch on Town Lake was such a big deal that then-Mayor Frank Cooksey issued a proclamation declaring the lake “Swan Lake” for the day.

Last year, floods had so ravaged the Colorado River that the swans never had a chance to build a nest on Town Lake, Regner said. Two years ago, their shoreline nest was destroyed by vandals.

After the eggs were destroyed, the female black swan sat on a sterile duck egg for more than 21/2 months, as if it were her own, said Brooke Monfort, Regner’s girlfriend.
“They get sad,” said Monfort, who often feeds the swans from the shoreline pier. “You can tell. They console each other.”

Regner and Monfort said they know of only two other black swans on the lake nesting near Zilker Park.

When Regner floated his nest for the first time Saturday, the swans approached but didn’t climb on it. The octagon box is filled with materials that Regner removed from the island nest.

The female swan is expected to lay her eggs this month. The incubation period is two months.

By Stuart Eskenazi
American-Statesman Staff