In May, East Hampton was abuzz with news of a new swan cygnet in Hook Pond. The baby, nicknamed “Hook,” gave his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Swan, renewed hope for the future. Last year, none of the baby cygnets born survived to adulthood. East Hampton’s Commissioner of Swans, Steven Tekulsky, was concerned that only one cygnet was born but hopeful that he’ll survive, as he was doing very well so far.
“Last year, we had three cygnets in the pond and none of them survived to adulthood. As long as I’ve been watching them; the swans have built their nest in the town pond. I’ve seen as many as seven cygnets [at a time],” Tekulsky says.
Tekulsky notes that one of the reasons for the lack of cygnets may be the swans’ questionable lifestyle choices. “Two or three years ago, the nest was flooded out. What they’ve been doing the last few years is to not build the nest on the pond,” he sighs.
The swans now keep their nest on Hook Pond Lane, which Tekulsky doesn’t think is a very wise decision on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Swan. “Unfortunately, there’s lots of danger lurking. There were more than two eggs to begin with this year. They’re prey to foxes, which there are a fair amount of in East Hampton.” To make matters even more complicated, the swans walk half a mile from Hook Pond to the town pond, which is a danger in itself, thanks to a ton of traffic (especially during summer season!). As a result of the struggles Mr. and Mrs. Swan have had conceiving the past few years, the coming of Hook prompted some questions; rumor has it that Mrs. Swan, desperate to produce cygnets, strayed from her marriage to Mr. Swan. This would certainly be a shock to the swan community and the larger East Hampton community, as the swans are typically monogamous.
Tekulsky, who has a close relationship with the swans, admitted that Mrs. Swan has a habit of choosing volatile mating partners. Her first mate, who died a few years ago, was prone to violence: “One day, a seagull was in the town pond and got too close to the babies, and the male began to beat him with his wing, stopped to see if he was still alive, then continued to beat the seagull until it was dead,” Tekulsky recalls with a shudder. “And one year, the father at the time was very aggressive and frequently backed up traffic on James Lane.”
A source close to the situation (who wishes to remain anonymous) is quick to corroborate that swans aren’t necessarily the demure creatures they appear to be. “People assume the swans are always peaceful and serene. But beneath those beautiful ivory feathers is a flawed ugly duckling, just the like the rest of us.”
The pond is one of the most beloved and popular attractions in East Hampton. Tekulsky says that “other than wanting to find out where the fireworks are during the summer, the most frequently asked question from visitors is about the swans.” The swans do leave the pond for long periods of time, but Tekulsky notes, “they’re not snowbirds. I don’t think they go to Florida. They come back every year.”
Despite the murky marriage Hook’s parents may have, it’s comforting that Tekulsky is watching over them and will be for the foreseeable future: “Village administrator Larry Cantwell recently re-appointed me Commissioner of Swan Activity through 2110,” he smiles.
UPDATE: It is with great sadness to report that right before this story went to press, Hook disappeared and is presumed dead. Speculation suggests that Hook may have fallen prey to a snapping turtle. While cygnets stay with their mothers, the Swan family was in a difficult situation, what with having to commute to the pond every day. Mr. and Mrs. Swan could not be reached for comment.
Our thoughts are with the Swans, and we will always remember Hook as a bright spot—however brief—in the world’s increasingly murky waters.