If you rode New York City's subway last week, you might've spotted an unusual passenger: A sick adult swan took the A train on her way to receive treatment at an animal clinic.
Of course, the swan — nicknamed Bae — didn't embark on the journey solo. The hard work of one determined bird lover, along with the help of a few generous New Yorkers, likely saved her life.
The night before her 30th birthday, Ariel Cordova Rojas was visiting the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, a borough of New York City, when she noticed the swan on the side of a trail. As a former employee of the Wild Bird Fund — the Upper West Side clinic where Bae was treated — Rojas could tell that the bird was unwell.
Her next move was to approach and lift the 17-pound swan — a risky move known to anyone who's encountered swans at geese at their local pond.
"You cannot simply walk up to a swan and expect them to be OK," Rojas told NBC New York. "They're going to try to bite; they're going to try to make some wing motion to get you away from them. But she didn't do that."
Once Bae was secured in her jacket, Rojas knew they had to somehow make it to the Wild Bird Fund — nearly 24 miles away by car. The only problem was that she'd traveled to the refuge by bike.
She carried Bae in her arms for about a mile until finally crossing paths with a couple who was kind enough to give the duo a ride to the nearest subway station. One of them — coincidentally a Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker — even carried Rojas' bike to the platform.
Surprisingly enough, the presence of a swan on the train didn't turn any heads.
"Nobody really cared," said Rojas. "Because this is New York City, and you see wild things every day!"
Thanks to a ride from a former co-worker, Bae and Rojas reached the Wild Bird Fund, where Bae is now being treated for lead poisoning, fungal infection and weakness in her legs.
Despite the unexpected interruption to her pre-birthday celebration, Rojas seems happy to have gone on this crazy adventure with Bae — the endearing name that she gave the swan.
"She was my 'bae,'" said Rojas. "She was my date for the evening."