She never forgot what happened when she got there.
“About a mile after my walk, I saw a swan sitting on the edge of the bay,” she said. “I’ve worked with swans before and noticed that she looked a bit absent. She didn’t move at all and just kind of looked at me.”
Cordova-Rojas, who had previously volunteered with New York’s Wild Bird Fund for five years, said swans are usually territorial and can hiss at people or try to flee from them if threatened. As she slowly approached the bird, the swan tried to escape but could not walk, she said.
“At that point, I knew something was wrong with this swan,” she said. “I knew exactly where to take her, but I didn’t know how to get there because I came on my bike. None of this mattered to me, so I just picked up the swan, tossed my jacket over her and shoveled it up and just started to run. “
What she didn’t realize was that the rescue would take her and the swan on a two-hour hike on foot, car, and subway. But that didn’t matter. She just wanted to help the swan.
Cordova-Rojas said she made a few calls to the Wild Bird Fund to see if anyone was available to pick them up and the swan, but no one was available to take them. She realized that the next step she could take was to get to the subway so she could take the Swan from Queens to Manhattan.
“People who passed saw someone walking with a swan trying to get to safety,” said Cordova-Rojas. She said a cat rescuer named Wendy and her husband Don were ready to ride their bikes to the Howard Beach subway station, and that Wendy could call another friend to ride Cordova-Rojas and the Swan.
Eventually, Cordova-Rojas took the swan on the subway to Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, 20 minutes later, where she could drive to the Wild Bird Fund to inspect the swan. The whole trip took about two hours, she said, and although the swan had no physical injuries or broken bones, she suspected the swan had lead poisoning.
The lead test came back positive and explained why the swan could not walk.
“Lead poisoning is actually quite common in waterfowl and other birds in New York City,” Cordova-Rojas said. “It seeps into water sources, but swans, being so large, often pick up a lead anchor when they look in the water and it gets into their systems.”
Over time, this leads to lead toxicity which can lead to neurological problems in birds.
The swan will stay for a few weeks to a few months while it recovers at the Wild Bird Fund, which, according to Cordova-Rojas, is the only wildlife rehabilitation center in New York City. The swan she called Bae – “She was my ‘Bae’ for the day,” said Cordova-Rojas – met another swan at the clinic and she might have a boyfriend now.
As someone born and raised in the concrete jungle, Cordova-Rojas said she was introduced to the wildlife through her mom and some camping trips she took during her childhood. She said that one day she would like to have her own show on National Geographic to educate teenagers about wildlife and nature.
The Wild Bird Fund has no rescue team. While Cordova-Rojas saw many volunteers come to the clinic as volunteers, she said that this experience is striking on the other side.
“The outdoors isn’t particularly noticeable, but the journey of how far it took to get there is definitely remarkable,” she said. “It’s not my first rodeo, but it was definitely a great experience. The big 3-0, right?”