It couldn't have been a better day for a picnic in St. Catharines, Ontario.
Fred Bowering, along with his mom and niece, were basking under a clear blue sky, the waters of Martindale Pond lapping up against the shore.
And then there was the wildlife: First, a beaver that let Bowering get unusually close before diving into the water.
Birds, too — geese, a blue heron.
And one very miserable-looking swan.
A fishhook was embedded in the bird's neck. The rest of the line snaked down inside her mouth, making it impossible for the swan to even raise her head.
"My niece and my mom were really sad," he tells MNN. "They were like, 'We need to call somebody now'."
But who to call? The humane society? A wildlife rescue?
His niece had a better idea:
"Uncle Freddie, go in and help it!" she said.
"What do you want me to do? Jump in there?"
"Yes, Uncle Freddy."
And so, Uncle Freddy jumped in the water.
Talking to the bird the whole time, Bowering managed to catch her. But not without a fight.
"I've had encounters with Canada geese. I've been attacked by them. Swans are a lot bigger and tougher," he says. "I was trying to back paddle while I was holding her. She kind of climbed up on my stomach a bit. She gave me some rights and left. She gave me some good combos."
And despite all that feathered fury, Bowering managed to hold on.
"I felt bad that I had her by the neck there … but I didn't have a strong grip. I wasn't squeezing. I didn't want to hurt her. I didn't want her to hurt herself."
And suddenly the powerful bird grew calm.
"She realized I wasn't going to hurt her," Bowering says.
Ever so slowly, he pulled the fishing line out of the swan's mouth.
"There was no resistance," he says. "So I pulled again. Then I felt the blockage where the fishing line and the little anchor on it probably caught something on it, seaweed probably. It was squishy."
He pulled a little more, still gently, until he heard a pop, like a tiny plug being pulled.
"When I got it out, it released whatever was tangled on the fishing line."
A moment later, the swan glided away, freed from a tether that would likely have killed her.
And Uncle Freddy emerged from the pond, a hero to his niece — and maybe even to that majestic bird. But certainly to us all.
A picture-perfect day indeed.