Beautiful swans are on increase
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