BOSTON (WBZ) -- Days after a mother swan died in Boston, a photographer captured a bittersweet photo of the father swan carrying its babies on its back.

The mother swan passed away in her nest Monday night. According to the Charles River Esplanade Association, Boston Animal Control removed her “while the father swan sat at the nest with their cygnets tucked under his wings.”

Three days later, Matthew Raifman went to the Esplanade running trail and found them going into the Storrow Lagoon.

“And when they approached I noticed something was kind of unusual. All the baby cygnets were on top of the papa swan,” he told WBZ-TV Friday.

He had just an instant to get this incredible photo.

Raifman said he dropped his bike, grabbed his camera out of his bag, ran over and took the picture.

“I texted my wife, ‘This is probably the best photo I’ve ever taken,’ I actually did right at that moment, but it was more the emotional connection,” he said.

Raifman posted the photo on social media and said he’s never gotten this much engagement before and he suspects there’s a reason why.

“It’s not a fairy tale story and I think that’s what is powerful about it. That challenge of kind of love and loss and triumph and overcoming these obstacles is something I think we’re all kind of connecting with around this papa swan story and rooting for,” he said.

Raifman told WBZ he’s been following the swan family since before the cygnets were born, watching the eggs hatch on social media and looking on as they cruise the Charles River.

“It’s a really heartbreaking story and I was really touched by it,” he said.

Animal control will monitor the nest for the next few weeks.

“They’re so adorable. They absolutely are,” Raifman said.

Copyright 2021 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.

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