The Environment – Mill Creek neighbors unite behind wild swan in hopes of making the area a bird sanctuary

October 13, 2009
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Shopping carts and hazardous waste on Mill Creek have quietly yielded in recent years to fish and wildlife – and one wild swan nicknamed ‘Gus’ has united residents on both sides of the creek with his friendly demeanor and unique personality.

Mill Creek, which serves as the city line between Revere and Chelsea, was a victim of the industrial revolution. Though it had been a beautiful tidal creek in the past – industry, oil farms and shipping concerns found the Chelsea Creek/Mill Creek area to be an advantageous location from the early 1900s to the 1980s.

They left it a mess, and residents abutting the Creek on the Revere and Chelsea sides are now reporting that it just might have recovered.

“I was raised to be scared of this creek,” Pattie Buckley, who lives on the Chelsea side and has a large backyard that faces the Creek. “I was told never to come here. If I ever fell in, I was told they would have to scrub me and take me to the hospital for a tetanus shot and I would still probably get sick. Now, it’s totally different. The water is clear and there are a lot of interesting things going on now with the wildlife. I’m really learning a lot about birds and I like them a lot now. I didn’t know anything about these birds before.”

Said Richie Smith, a Chelsea resident and 9-1-1 dispatcher, “The only thing you could see in terms of wildlife in the past was the Cabot Paint cans floating on the water. Now, coming out here is like therapy. It’s a little bit of hidden serenity here.”

Revere resident Dana-Zoe Gest – who lives in an apartment in the historically renovated Slade’s Spice Mill – said that she had heard that the water underneath her had a bad reputation when she moved in, and she believed the stories.

However, her eyes were telling her something else.

“This water is much cleaner than we all think,” she said. “When I came here three years ago, it was pretty clean. I happened to take a canoe ride through the Creek and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The next year I began noticing the wildlife coming in and the fish…What we have here now is just like this incredible little spot in Revere and Chelsea.”

In fact, Gest began chronicling the wildlife that she saw daily out of her back window and took beautiful pictures of many of the birds and native plants – all of which she posts on the Internet in her blog called ‘dakotablue.vox.com.’

In the process of chronicling the changes outside her window, one day last June Gest noticed a big white bird swimming casually in the Creek.

It caused her to do a double take, and on second glance, she was looking at a wild swan that appeared to be a little sickly.

“I was just looking out my window and saw this swan swimming by,” said Gest. “I grabbed my camera and took pictures of him thinking that I would never see him again. But he has stayed and it’s been wonderful.”

A similar situation has unfolded all along the Creek with Gus and the neighbors.

Gus has visited the Irish Club, the Cronin Skating Rink and even further down at the new Parkside Commons Shopping Center.

Buckley said Gus – who is easily three-feet tall – waddled up to her back door from the Creek one day. It was a pleasant surprise for her, and the two bonded immediately.

Now, she makes daily trips to the Rink or to visit Gest at the Slade’s Mill in order to feed Gus. While he is wild and they do not wish to domesticate him, a bond has grown as the group has rehabilitated the once-feeble swan.

The swan even seems to look forward to the daily visits – which come with a lot of talking as well as soda crackers, cans of sweet corn and water donated by Poland Springs.

“He’s a character,” said Smith. “He’s like a cartoon. He’s very fun and comical and not at all aggressive. He loves the company believe it or not and seems to crave it. He even recognizes voices and will come to you if he knows you.”

Added Buckley, “I’ve never known anything about swans until now, but if I’m ever a little down or sad, I go find Gus.”

All three are curious about where Gus came from, and the general consensus is that he and a mate (who were actually spotted on Revere Beach last winter and chronicled on the front page of the Journal) stayed behind a few years ago when a flock of wild swans left for the winter.

Not long after the pictures appeared in the Journal, Gus’s mate was hit and killed by a car on the Boulevard. It was but a month later that Gus appeared on the Creek in a weakened state.

All of the adventures with Gus and the appearance of so many other birds – and possibly even the endangered Piping Plovers – lead many neighbors to call for Mill Creek to become a bird sanctuary.

As crazy as it seems for those who associate the Creek more with dead bodies and sunken shopping carts rather than fish and wildlife, neighbors said that they’ve witnessed a turnaround.

“This place needs to become a bird sanctuary and it needs to be preserved and not disturbed because some amazing things are happening here,” said Gest. “We’ve seen them ourselves.”

  • Cher

    What a wonderful story. I know of Gus, and his new mate, Gina. I am one of the folks who goes to visit them as much as possible. I know Pattis is there every day rain or shine, thank God. There are a number of us who keep visiting the swans, such a heaven sent mircle in a respite that used to be as stated, nothing less than a hell hole.
    I have found syringes on teh grass however, and other thngs not so nice. I hope we can keep teh swans from any harm and that more and more bird species continue to come or pass thru the area. The area offers such tranquility to folks, and the swans are exquisite. There are many stories to be told about these swans and theier would be family. I hope we can keep the vandalas away next year so that they can raise some young. Tragedy befell all of their eggs this year. It was amazing to observe how they waited the hatching of their eggs how they diligently cared for them, and how extrmely sad they were when the eggs and in two instancces, what horrible tragedy occured to two of the chicks actually born. It was heartbreaking. I hope that they make it through the winter and we, along with Mother Nature, can keep them from harm, and here for us to enjoy much longer. The lifespan of wild mute swans such as these, is only about 5 years in the wild but in captivity it is more than quadruple that.
    I think these swans help in maintaining a clean waterway as they eat much of the algae, and the weeds that populate the area. They should be treated with respect as they are marvels of nature just as we are. Kudos to Patti espeically and the reset of us who care for and appreciate this magnificant species!

  • JournalReporter

    Definitely a changed area. There was another story with pictures in the Chelsea and Revere papers about the eggs/chicks and their unfortunate demise. Beyond the swans, there is a lot more wildlife returning to that area. I hear there are even big Stripers in the late summer.

  • Patty

    It is Saturday Feb 5th and it is about 10:00 thunder and lighting tide in . As I looked out the back
    window of the house what do I see Gus and Gina heading towards the rink. To day they flooded by this afternoon. It has been a hard winter for them but they stayed around. I went down to feed them . It is very hard to get to them as the snow is so high. I hope all at the mill are still caring for them. and all along the creek . I got to feed the ducks and other birds off the ridge on broadway. hope the spring comes soon. I want to interact with them as it has been hard. lPattie

  • Patty004

    Oh I forgot there was another swan afew weeks ago . I think it was the one in boston as it was gone the next day. It was very dirty.Im glad they took it to a shelter.

  • davidinchelseama

    This year, two eggs hatched and there are now two very healthy-looking young swans at the Mill Creek, along with their parents. The young swans were given names – “Chelsea,” and “Revere,” according to two women I spoke with this morning over at the creek. And the parents are named “Gus” and “Gina.” So now we have FOUR Mute Swans in the Chelsea Creek. Pretty amazing.

    When I walk the path between the Beth Israel Annex and the Parkway Commons, to go to the Planet Fitness in the morning, the amount of birds you can spot along the path and in the mini-forest to the right, along the creek, is astounding. It’s a tiny part of my walk, but it is the most relaxing.

  • Lhutch9969

    what happened to the female swan she is missing

  • Nancy

    I have been asking everyone what happened to the female, its been about 5 weeks. does anyone know, how can we find out

  • Nancy

    Is there anyway to find out where Gus is, I believe the male Swan is missing. I also go visit there and feed these beautiful animals and have noticed in the past 5 weeks one white swan is missing. I think its Gus because the two baby swans which are very large now seem to be following the other white swan leaving me to believe that its the mother. Have you heard anything of the missing swan

  • Nancy

    Hi Cher, I visit the Swans on a regular basis as well and I noticed one of the white swans is missing. I think it may be Gus. Its been about 5 weeks. Have you heard anything about this. I am so sad for the surviving swans. They must feel the lose of one of their own. I hope that no one has harmed him. I have become a bit attached to these beautiful creatures and look forward to seeing them. Thanks

  • Wittchblade

    0k update they took the swans away i called city hall in chelsea and revere i m waitin for a call
     back  im glad they moved them beccause it is to dangerous there but i want to know where they brought them

  • Nikkibear831

    what  happened  to both of  the  swans  i  am going  crazy  i  dont  like that area  for them 

  • Nikkibear831

    i  agree  i  lived in chelsea  but  think  the swans  would of  been better of in a  better  place like  wakefield 

  • Nikkibear831

    oh  good you  know i seen  two  swans in  wakefield  i  suggested last year  they  go  there safer cleaner  place  there are swans there already  hope they are doing fine  to  dirty  at that place  in chelsea  not safe  either 

  • Niknikkibear831

    were  did they bring the  swans ??  are they safe and doing  well???

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