Local Tweedbank restaurant owner Sandy Craig has been hailed a wildlife hero this week for his attempted rescue of a young swan trapped in a frozen loch.
Sandy, 67, decided it was time to take action after the male swan had been unable to free itself from the frozen waters of Gun Knowe Loch at Tweedbank for some hours at the weekend.
Donning the thick thermal waders he normally uses to maintain the loch’s fountain, Sandy, co-proprietor of the adjacent Herges on the Loch restaurant, used a spade to hack his way through the thick ice towards the swan.
“The swan had been there for some time. Someone from the RSPB came down and it seems it probably flew in from somewhere else and maybe got chased by the loch’s resident swans. I think it was a young male,” Sandy told us this week.
“It’s feathers had become frozen to the ice. I pulled on the thermal waders I use to maintain the loch’s fountain - I wasn’t cold because the waders come up to my chest and are of the special thermal type.
“It also wasn’t dangerous because the loch isn’t deep and I know it well. I’m always watching the loch and the birds on it. But it was quite hard going because the ice was about an inch thick in the middle.
“Ironically, as I got closer to it, the sight of this strange man coming towards it with a spade saw the swan start to struggle and it managed to free itself - although leaving some feathers still stuck to the ice.”
The Scottish SPCA later trapped the swan on a different part of the loch and took it away for examination and any veterinary attention. “If the swan had not freed itself, there’s no way it would have survived much lodger trapped in the ice and with the weather as cold as it has been. I was pleased to be able to help it on its way,” added Sandy.
Sadly, the story did not have a happy ending, as Scottish SPCA Senior Inspector Jenny Scott explained: “The cygnet’s leg was badly broken and it had to be put to sleep. We’d like to thank the kind local man who went to such an effort to help rescue the cygnet.”
The loch attracts many visitors due to its population of wildfowl and swans. Among the largest flying birds, swans come in various species, including mute and whooper swans. They can weigh 15 kg and have a 10-foot wingspan.