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The ultra-realistic swans "swimming" in UMM's pond

Phony swan decoys fool UMaine Machias students and staff

Last Monday, UMaine Machias (UMM) was buzzing with news of two swans spotted in UMM’s pond. Many students went out to see these birds for themselves, but then they remained in the pond for hours, all night, into the next day, and then all week. Many students and staff didn’t realize that the ultra-realistic swans were phony until they had been in place for two days!

“Barney Perry, UMM’s Director of Facilities, told me a few weeks ago he had gotten them to deter the geese. But I had no idea they would be so realistic! I’ve noticed many people watching them, including one person taking photographs. The joy we are all getting from them is a delightful surprise!” UMM’s dean, Megan Walsh, informed us. Admittedly, I was likely the student Dean Walsh spotted taking photographs, being fully convinced that the swans were animate.

So far, the swans seem to be mostly successful at deterring the vast amount of Canadian Geese that roamed UMM. One student joked, “We must all look very depressed always walking around with our heads down. Little do they know we are all just fighting for our lives not to step in goose… [feces].” The occasional goose still can be seen flocking to UMM, but they mostly appear to stay a far distance from the swans.

“It does feel a little like an April Fool’s prank,” Walsh remarked.

A brave Canadian Goose swims close to the decoys, while still keeping a safe distance.

We were curious if the swans were so realistic that they could fool an experienced bird watcher, so we talked to the president of UMM’s newly formed Machias Audubon Chapter, Joey Ferguson. While he was skeptical at first, he quickly realized the birds were a fake.

“It was pretty dark outside, we were driving past it [the pond] and we saw the two swans… and I was thinking ‘oh my gosh, are they real!?’… So we walked over there… to go see if they were real… I got a video on my phone because I wasn’t sure if they were fake or not, so my reasoning was that if I got a video of it, then the next day they were gone, I would be like ‘it was real! It wasn’t a fake!’ I would have evidence on my phone…” “I didn’t toss anything directly at the geese, but I tossed a little stick near them to kind of see, at least, if they would react. I didn’t want to, obviously, hurt or scare them, but some sort of reaction would’ve told me if they were real. I was thinking they were fake at that point too… They didn’t move at all… They look pretty real! They must’ve been good quality!”

Joey Ferguson, second-year wildlife biology student and president of the Machias Audubon Chapter.

Ferguson then continued to inform us more about the Machias Audubon Chapter. “The Audubon Society, which is a very conservation focused organization… [has] a campus chapter program where they will sponsor a university club… to do all sorts of conservation work, bird watching, things like that. I started it up [the UMM club] about a month or two ago and I’ve been in contact with the Audubon group. We have to do one little bit of onboarding… and then we should be able to do more. I’m planning on having us do bird watching here on campus and off of campus. I’ve already gotten permission from facilities to put up bird feeders on campus… so hopefully that will attract more birds to the campus area and keep them in the area for watching.”

The Machias Audubon Chapter meets the last Saturday of the month at 7 p.m. in Dorward Hall. If you are a UMM student that would like to join the Machias Audubon Chapter, you are advised to speak to Joey, or come to a meeting.

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