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Vicki and Henry reunite at Save Our Seabirds before making the journey to their new home. Photos courtesy of Dave Novak
Longboat Key Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2013 4 years ago

'A storybook ending'

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Some swans can be happy alone.

But some swans just aren’t meant to glide solo.

Bay Isles swans Vicki and Henry had been living apart for the past month-and-a-half, after Vicki became sick and longtime swan-keeper David Novak took her to Save Our Seabirds, which he thought would be her permanent home.

Their separation was short-lived.

They’re back together, but they have a new home: the lakeside home of Lakeland veterinarian and swan-care expert Dr. Geoff Gardner.

Novak thought Henry might be able to live without his mate when he took Vicki to SOS. She wasn’t swimming normally because of an intestinal disorder.

Some swans can live alone and be content. They generally mate for life but can still find love again. Henry could possibly have mated with a female that flew in from another area.

But Henry left his home turf and flew into another territory occupied by two females and a male that he tried to fight.

Perhaps, in Henry’s mind, Vicki was missing. Novak said Henry wasn’t there when he removed Vicki from the golf course, so perhaps Henry was searching for his mate when he went into the other territory.

Placing Henry in a rescue facility alongside Vicki was unlikely because he’s an able-bodied bird who doesn’t need care.

Novak, who has worked with the Lakeland-based Regal Swan Foundation to care for Longboat Key’s swans, learned Gardner would be willing to take the swans under his wing.

On Saturday, Novak captured Henry and took him to SOS, where he reunited with Vicki. He was disoriented but recognized her immediately. Regal Swan Foundation CEO Sheila Bolin placed them both in specialized slings and put them in her van en route to their new home.

Novak didn’t travel to Lakeland with them. But, according to Bolin and Gardner, they’re doing well.

“Most noticeable was (Vicki’s) position in the water, which was balanced and stable, allowing her to propel herself in a normal manner, something she has been unable to do for more than a year,” Novak wrote in an email Saturday night.

And how is the swan-keeper coping?

“I’m lamenting the whole doggone thing, to tell you the truth,” he said Monday afternoon.

The departure of Vicki and Henry marks the end of an era on the Key.

They’re approximately 12 years old and hatched from the nest of the original swan pair, George and Gracie.

They were named for longtime Longboat Key Publix associate Vicki Workman and her husband. (His name is George, but, because there was already a George, they named Vicki’s mate Henry, George Workman’s middle name.)

For Vicki Workman, the reunion is a happy one.

“Do tears tell it all?” she asked. “I was just so afraid that poor Henry would always be on his own.”

According to Novak, Vicki and Henry are the most amorous of the three mated Bay Isles pairs. They were often seen rubbing their necks and were always loving parents to their cygnets.

They remind Vicki Workman of her and her husband a little bit.

“Well, they had more babies,” she said of the pair that in one season had a whopping seven cygnets in their nest. “We have two boys, one granddaughter, one great-grandson, and any minute now, we’re going to have a great-granddaughter.”

Novak doesn’t plan to visit Vicki and Henry in Lakeland, unless he happens to be in the area.

“They’re really not characters that carry feelings very deeply,” he said. “It’s more like, ‘You fed me yesterday. Feed me today … ’”

Like swans, he has to think about survival and territory. Swans Alan and Beverly and Stan and Wendy look like they could be entering nesting mode.

And there’s also the male and two females, one of which the male appears to be favoring.

Novak describes the male as “good-looking.” He’ll probably nest with his female of choice in the next couple of seasons.

But, for Vicki and Henry, Novak thinks of it as a “storybook ending.”

It’s appropriate, because they’re actual royalty, descendants of a 1957 pair of swans that Queen Elizabeth II gifted to Lakeland after predators decimated the local population.

And, now, their story can end with: “And they lived happily ever after.”


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