The return of the swans to Tysslingen lake in central Sweden is considered a sign of spring’s arrival and often attracts hundreds of onlookers captivated by the majesty of the great birds.
By Sunday afternoon, an estimated 4,000 swans had gathered around the lake, much to the delight of local bird lovers.
But the normally peaceful scene of springtime serenity was shattered around 2.30pm when a group of young boys decided to launch a volley of fireworks into the unsuspecting bevy of swans.
What ensued, according to a one witness, was “total chaos”.
“Suddenly we heard the explosions and the swans become very upset. Then we saw rockets coming toward the swans, which went into a panic and began trampling one another. And several got stuck in a chain-link fence,” freelance photographer John Hall told the local Nerikes Allehanda newspaper.
Disgruntled bird-watcher Helny Olsson explained how around 1,500 swans look to the air in an attempt to flee the incoming rockets.
“Every bird disappeared and there was nothing left to see,” she told the paper.
“It so gruesome, so deplorable. It was either a stupid prank, or it could be so bad that there are some who got annoyed by the birds and their song.”
Several hours after the attack, the swans nevertheless made a cautious return to Tysslingen.
At first, Hans-Erik Karlsson, who heads the local visitor centre, said some form of report about the incident would likely be filed.
But later on Monday, three boys came forward and confessed to having been behind the fireworks attack.
“They boys have confessed and are sorry for the prank. What they did was stupid, but hasn’t done us that much harm,” Karlsson told Nerikes Allehanda.