A photographer at the scene called the story both “heartbreaking and heartwarming”

By Naledi Ushe
June 10, 2021
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father swan
Father Swan and babies
| Credit: WCVB

A father swan was left as a single dad just one week after the mother swan gave birth to their six cygnets.

In the Charles River Esplanade in Boston, the swan family became local celebrities after the babies were hatched. But they quickly were struck by tragedy when the mom died on May 31 of no clear cause, the Boston Globe reported.

The father swan has since been caring for his babies on his own.

One photographer, Matthew Raifman, captured a sweet moment on camera as the father swan created a cradle with his wings to ferry his newborns across the Charles River Esplanade.

In a June 3 Facebook post, Raifman wrote, "Thought I'd share one of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming stories in a while. Last week, six baby swans were born on the Charles. The mother died a few days later of unknown causes. One of the cygnets drowned, another had to be rescued by animal control. 

"But this papa swan, left to his own, is rising to the challenge," he continued on a more positive note. "Today, I finally got a chance to photograph them and found three of the four remaining cygnets hitching a ride on dad while the fourth trailed close behind. I ran to a bridge to the lagoon just in time to take these. Hopefully, our newest swan family is in the clear, but at least all of the Greater Boston Area is pulling for them!"

Raifman - who is a dad to a 20-month-old - spoke to WHDH about capturing the photo and said, "I can relate on some level, I think, to what it's like to be a new dad struggling with a challenging situation you need to overcome." 

"As I was looking through the viewfinder, I was just blown away by that opportunity and that really cool experience I was having, to see this baby swan family on top of its dad," he said, adding that he immediately called his wife and told it was the best picture he's photographed.

The nonprofit organization Esplanade Association, which focuses on the preservation of wildlife in the Charles River Esplanade, announced the tragic death of the mother swan on June 1.

"We're saddened to report that the mother swan of the adorable Esplanade swan family passed away last night in her nest," the organization wrote on Twitter. "We want to thank @animalboston for safely removing her from the swan's nest while the father swan sat at the nest with their cygnets tucked under his wings."

This story originally appeared on people.com