A little more than two months ago, they were six little orphaned bundles of yellowish fluff, stopping traffic on busy Highland Avenue in Salem on a rainy afternoon.
Now, they are young feathered Canada geese ready to stretch their wings.
"They're really big," their surrogate mother, Jodi Swenson of Gloucester, said. "They're ready to get out."
Swenson cared for the goslings, which rescuers thought were baby ducks, by feeding them grain crumbles for geese available from Agway and greens.
Yesterday morning, Swenson released the young birds around Walker Creek in Essex; the property's owner will keep an eye on them as they adjust to the "wild" and feed them if necessary, she said.
This has been a busy spring for Swenson, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator specializing in the care of songbirds and various oceanic birds. She moved from Pleasant Street to Essex Avenue on June 1, "right at the beginning of baby season," and has opened a small studio in her home where she conducts her business as a self-employed restorer of china. But, she admits ruefully, that work right now has somewhat taken a backseat to her feathered young.
Besides the goslings, Swenson said she is now caring for about 25 young birds.
"In an average year, I get about 15," she said. "This year, I was hit by 50."
Right now, because of finances — on average it costs nearly $50 to raise a songbird and $75 per gull — and the number of birds she has, she is not accepting any more except for baby gulls.
Instead, she is referring the finders of such animals to other wildlife rehabilitators or to Tufts University's wildlife center in Grafton. She is taking seagulls because she has a large pen for them, "and they're not as demanding as songbirds" she said.
"Naked baby songbirds," she said, "need to be fed every 15 minutes from sunup to sundown."
Anyone who would like donate to Swenson's rehabilitation work may do so through her Web site, Cape Ann Wild Bird Rescue, at http://www.valentine-design.com/Birds/ or by sending a check made out to her at her home.
Besides setting up her business, Swenson is looking for help to setting up Cape Ann Wild Bird Rescue as nonprofit organization.
She asks that anyone willing to volunteer their expertise to contact her at home or through her Web site.
Andrea Holbrook may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.