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Owen Sound Swans Saga

Writing and photos by R. Meingast


"Kelso Beach" Swans

In the fall of 1997, two mute swans (Cygnus olor) from Harrison Park (#11 on map) swam down the Sydenham River and out into Owen Sound Bay. There they spent the winter mostly cruising back and forth between Kelso Beach (#15 on map) and the East Side Boat Launch near the Harry Lumley Bayshore Centre (#14 on map). They also went for trips up and down the Pottawattomi River and around the inner harbour. The swans had been released in the spring of 1997 from the bird cage at Harrison Park and into the Sydenham River there. They built a nest and spent the spring and summer sailing around the river within the park boundary. As fall arrived, I guess they decided to go on a little adventure and they cruised northward down the Sydenham, over the mill dam (#10 on map), and out into Owen Sound Bay.


Icy harbour in mid-February 1998. Normally the harbour is completely frozen over at this time of year, but the winter of '97 -'98 was not as severe as previous winters. The freighter Mapleglen is to the left and the Oakglen is moored next to the grain elevator.


Here you can see the "fugitives" near Kelso Beach. This photo was taken in early February 1998. Since I walk through Kelso Beach Park on my way to and from work, I couldn't help but notice the "Kelso Beach" swans and always made sure to carry some whole wheat bread to feed them. I saw them and fed them almost on a daily basis for the four months plus that they spent around Kelso. Being born and raised in Owen Sound, this was the first time I had ever seen swans outside Harrison Park like this.



Another photo taken near Kelso Beach. You can see the grain elevator and the bows of the freighters Oakglen and Mapleglen in the background. On one of my first occasions of seeing the swans, they were cruising north in Owen Sound Harbour just as the freighter Oakglen was steaming in. As I stood and watched them, the two swans were heading directly towards the Oakglen - which they may have thought was the "Mother of all swans." Disaster was averted for the two, as the sailors aboard the Oakglen shooed them away and the swans wisely detoured around the huge grain freighter.


Off Kelso Beach on a cold day.


The east bayshore is in the background.


Here they are cruising up the Pot (Pottawattomi). Pleasure cruise, I guess.


Camera shy.



In late March 1998, the swans returned back up the Sydenham River towards Harrison Park, returning to their old stomping grounds in early April. There they were arrested and captured near the mini-golf course by Owen Sound Parks Department personnel and returned to jail in the bird cage, near the Harrison Park Inn, where they currently reside. The park manager told me that the two "jail birds" will never be released again.
MM1 Update - Kelso swans are still serving their life sentence in the bird cage at Harrison Park.

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