We’ve all seen Colgate’s own tourist attraction: Adam and Eve, the eighth generation of swans by that name to float on Taylor Lake. Despite wild rumors flying around, our current pair of birds is in fact a male and a female – not two males, as some believe.
The swans are viewed as a Colgate tradition, and as such have experienced quite a lot. Our current pair has been around for at least 15 years. As Mike Jasper, the Buildings and Grounds worker in charge of the birds said, “In swan years, they’re ancient!”
Adam and Eve’s life at Colgate has been pretty standard as far as swans go: float around on the lake, look pretty, hatch some babies, go to a farm off campus in the winter, come back in the spring in time to impress prospective students and their families, repeat. Life continues in this fashion for the swans with one change: now that they’re old, they no longer hatch any baby swans.
“When they were younger they were pretty stubborn,” Jasper said. “When they were nesting, they would move if they got bothered.”
One year long before any of us arrived at Colgate, poor Eve was having a problem – she was getting ready to nest, but the town dogs would not stop bothering her. What’s a swan to do? Well, she most certainly couldn’t have dogs harassing her babies, so she moved and set up camp over in a wetland area near Tyler Field. The people at Buildings and Grounds tried to take her back to Taylor Lake a few times, but she was having none of it. She hatched her three eggs near Tyler Field and soon enough the time came for Buildings and Grounds to capture her babies and take them to the farm where Adam and Eve go every winter.
A swan’s instinct is to hide her babies, so while Buildings and Grounds workers managed to capture two of the young swans with relatively little difficulty, the third remained hidden. It was eventually located in a nearby pond, but when the people approached to capture it, it took off flying.
“It just stayed wild,” Jasper explained. “There was a sighting of it in a nearby body of water. It probably flew to Lake Moraine.” Baby number three hasn’t been seen since.
As far as the captured hatchlings are concerned, they were taken to the game farm owned by Leon Slate in Madison, which is where the swans were originally obtained from and also where they go in the winter.
These escapades are all in the past, though – Adam and Eve haven’t had any hatchlings in years.
Another interesting feature of life that makes existence for a Colgate swan a bit out of the ordinary is the process of being captured and sent to a farm each year during the frigid winter months. Every year when Taylor Lake starts to freeze, Buildings and Grounds workers would put corn near the bridge over the connected stream. This would lure the swans there and make them easier to catch. Alas, in their old age the swans have become a little more stubborn.
“Each year they’re harder to catch because they don’t want to leave,” Jasper said. In fact, Adam and Eve don’t even really need to leave in the winter. The cold doesn’t bother them. They’re actually outside while they spend the cold months at Slate’s game farm.
The problem is just that because their bodies are too heavy for their legs to support for long periods of time, they need an open body of water on which to swim so they don’t have to carry all their weight. Theoretically, if Colgate broke the ice on Taylor Lake, the swans could stay here during the winter instead of going to the open water which is provided at the game farm.
“It’s a PR thing, though,” Jasper explained. “People don’t want to see them out in the cold [so we take them to the farm].”
Adam and Eve are in good hands at Slate’s game farm. Slate has everything from ducks to wild turkeys to peacocks on the farm. He even has a zebra, for some reason. With companions like that, the swans definitely don’t get lonely during the winter months.
As far as personality is concerned, this generation of Adam and Eve seems to be a pretty stoic, self-sufficient pair of birds. They are very territorial, and do a pretty good job of keeping Canadian geese off Taylor Lake. In their 15-year reign at Colgate these two have become well adapted to the seasonal changes, the winter capture, and the students. They simply tend to leave everyone alone and just take life as it comes. Even last year when the lake was drained, they remained there and looked like “pigs in the mud,” said Jasper.
“They’ve been through it all, and get through pretty much everything without too much fuss,” he continued.
Adam and Eve are old, and they’ve seen it all. So, what happens when the unthinkable comes to pass?
“Well, one day they just die,” Jasper said. “For swans, there’s nothing leading up to it. We think it might be soon for these two, because they’re the oldest birds Mr. Slate has on record.”
When this does happen, Colgate will get the ninth generation of swans from Slate’s game farm.
“We had wanted to get the next pair as the offspring of this pair,” Jasper said. “We might not, though. The records are confusing – this isn’t like dog breeding.”
Nevertheless, when the time comes we will obtain the next generation of Adam and Eve. For time immemorial, two white swans will continue to paddle about on Taylor Lake as a symbol and tradition of Colgate.