Ever since these swans lost their main food source ten years ago, a devoted 70-year-old woman spent a total of over $25,000 on bird food to make sure they stay fed every day.
Every day for the last ten years, Irene Hodges visits the same place to offer bird seed to dozens of hungry swans. She has gained the nickname "Swan Lady Chasewater" thanks to her devotion to feeding these swans.
Irene is a retired pharmacy worker that started this ritual back in 2009, when the pools were emptied to build a dam to improve the park at Chasewater.
As a result of the dam being installed, many fish, tadpoles, and swans struggled to find food.
I used to go just to visit the swans because they are so beautiful and gave me peace. They are so serene and the place is so beautiful.
After the pool was drained to build a dam, they lost many of their feeding reserves and I became really concerned for them. The maintenance work was unavoidable but it almost destroyed the swans’ habitat.
I knew the fish which they depend on had been taken away and I was worried either that the swans would starve or would fly away. I was desperate not to let that happen so I decided to help them stay put by feeding them.
I did some research and found out the seed and pellets they like and just started bringing it in buckets to the pool at the same time each day.
It went from there and every morning I just went along to make sure they were fed.
It did the trick and none of them flew away and now there are more than 50 swans thriving at the pool.
The food she provides costs Irene a little udner $200 per month, and is funded partially by donations but mainly by her husband Barrie.
Barrie should have retired five years ago but he still works two days a week just to earn enough to pay for the feed. The fat pellets we give them in winter, especially if the water freezes, are expensive. They need the fat to keep warm.
They’re there waiting each morning. They know the time I get there which is about 11am every day.
The swans aren’t aggressive towards me. I walk in between them. But if anyone else comes, they flap their wings.
I’m quite realistic about the relationship I have with them though and I know they don’t like me personally – it’s the food I bring,” she said with amusement.
Hodges has two children, and two grandchildren, and she says she will continue to feed the swans everyday for as long as she can.
I don’t have a week’s holiday. I’m too dedicated. Christmas Day and Boxing Day I’m here through rain or snow. We must love and look after our animals.