Friday, 21 September 2012

Quit swanning around - for a while anyway!

Yesterday was the last planned full-on swan-catching day of the season. We still had a few broods to do in Telford and a few territories to check in and around Shrewsbury. Compared to canals, catching swan broods on big rivers and large lakes is usually a lot more problematic (especially if the broods are large) and so Jane and I were joined by regular swan-catching assistant Adrienne Stratford from North Wales and Shropshire trainee Jenny Thomas (whose dad Gerry is head of the Shropshire Ringing Group).

The River Severn around Shrewsbury was a complete blank with four pairs cygnet-less (not  unexpected given the floods in the summer which were known to have washed-out most of the nests). Telford was a bit better and 14 cygnets and 3 new adults were ringed along with one control and a couple of birds which needed their colour-rings replacing. This isn't unusual as swans can be long lived. One of the pairs we visited yesterday was a male known to be at least 25 years old (on his fourth Darvic) and his 17 year-old mate (still on her first). Even given their advanced age they had nested and hatched 2 cygnets but sadly these were taken by a mink.

Mute swans generally don't travel very far, although see the most recent posting on the BTO's demog blog  As an exercise in public relations however, and for demonstrating the value of ringing to the public, there can't be much better. There are very few species where the general expectation is that the birds will be ringed rather than not and that the thing most likely to be harmed by the process is the ringer!

Me, a proud swan owner (Julia) and Patrick and Harriet with one of 
their three offspring (the other two declined to take part!). Harriet is Patrick's second mate his first, (and for many year's) was his mother! 

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