Beau­ti­ful swans are on in­crease

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

THERE is some­thing rather mag­nif­i­cent about the mute swan on our lakes and rivers.

Th­ese are awe­some birds strik­ing fear into any­one whose sand­wiches at­tract their in­ter­est. Af­ter all they are big enough to look af­ter them­selves so they don’t mind wan­der­ing over and try­ing to steal your din­ner.

On land they seem lum­ber­ing as they wan­der to­wards you but on the wa­ter they are im­pos­si­bly grace­ful, float­ing gen­tly or preen­ing them­selves so they al­ways look their best.

The mute swan is an un­mis­take­able white with a long curved neck and a red­dish-or­ange bill with a knob­bly black bit on top.

The young have darker feath­ers un­til they ma­ture, but they too are beau­ti­ful birds and who­ever thought they were ‘ugly duck­lings’ needs their eyes ex­am­in­ing.

They are fas­ci­nat­ing birds to watch as they duck into the wa­ter and reeds look­ing for their wa­ter­weed din­ner. They don’t re­ally need our hu­man food so there is no point in throw­ing bread at them – it has no nu­tri­tional value.

One of the sad­dest sights I ever saw was a hunched up swan swim­ming around a lake in Lan­cashire. Its wings were arched back­wards and it swam awk­wardly com­pared to other swans. The rea­son why it was in this state? Lead poi­son­ing from care­lessly dis­carded fish­ing weights. It sur­vived for a cou­ple of years but was clearly not lead­ing a happy life.

On a brighter note, mute swans gen­er­ally mate for life.

So the cou­ple of swans you see on your lo­cal pond will be the same pair you have seen over the years. More good news is that the pop­u­la­tion lo­cally has been on the in­crease since the early 90s. Re­cent sur­veys have shown that in win­ter the re­gion has more than 4,000 birds which is nearly two per cent of the UK pop­u­la­tion.

This rise has con­tin­ued de­spite per­se­cu­tion when they are nest­ing in ur­ban ar­eas. Some peo­ple do not ap­pre­ci­ate our wildlife.

You will no­tice other large white swans on our lakes but their beaks are yel­low. Th­ese wild swans are whooper and Bewick’s swans and they do look sim­i­lar.

Whooper swans tend to have more yel­low on their beaks and are larger than Bewick’s. Both feed on fields dur­ing the day be­fore roost­ing on the wa­ter at night.

Whoop­ers nest in Ice­land and visit our re­gion in win­ter, meet­ing up with the Bewick’s which have flown in from Siberia. It is great to see whoop­ers as most of them fly over, not keen on our north­ern hos­pi­tal­ity.

Bewick’s like us a bit more, with records rang­ing from 300 in the re­gion to more than a thou­sand, which makes the north west an in­ter­na­tion­ally im­por­tant stopover for this bird.

Can I men­tion one more swan that has spent the last few years at our Brock­holes na­ture re­serve in Pre­ston. This is a black swan which is a na­tive of Aus­tralia.

No it hasn’t been blown wildly off course, it is more than likely an es­capee from a pri­vate col­lec­tion nearby. ●● TO sup­port the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side. Text WILD09 with the amount you want to do­nate to 70070.

The trust is ded­i­cated to the pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of the wildlife in Lan­cashire, seven bor­oughs of Greater Manch­ester and four of Mersey­side, all ly­ing north of the River Mersey. It man­ages around 40 na­ture re­serves and 20 lo­cal na­ture re­serves cov­er­ing acres of wood­land, wet­land, up­land and meadow.

To be­come a mem­ber go to the web­site at www.lanc­swt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust. org.uk.

●● Whooper swans fly over from Ice­land

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