Swans and cygnets

  ella33 23:17 17 Aug 2010

I don't know if anyone here has been closely involved in swans and their life cycle? If so maybe you can answer my question

This year I have been living fairly close to a large pond/ nature reserve area. It is also a right of way for the public. I saw the swans building their nest, which was something I have never seen before, so I found myself watching and taking photos. They had seven cygnets, looked after them beautifully and didn't lose any. (others that I saw in a river all lost two or three)

Then a couple of weeks ago, the male (cob) swan vanished and didn't return. No one seemed to know where he had gone but the cygnets were growing and not really independent. The mum (Pen) continued looking after them beautifully and they are now log necked and strong but still grey and with little stumpy wings. I came back from holiday to find the Pen gone. A few days later, the smallest cygnet had gone.

I spoke to the pond bailiff, who said that it is unusual for either to go before the cygnets are able to fly. As I have never watched a swan family growing up before, I have no idea what may have happened.
Any ideas or previous experience please?

  spuds 23:39 17 Aug 2010

Swans usually team up for life, and if one goes missing then there is a worrying reason. If both parents have left, and its obvious that the young are still not able to fend for themselves, then contact the RSPCA or local wildlife trust or charity. I am surprised the bailiff hasn't considered this.

Losing adults can be through various reasons, ranging from animal (same species or otherwise) or human attacks and sickness. To lose two adults should raise alarm bells. Usually the young will move away, not the parents.

  spuds 23:44 17 Aug 2010

Perhaps I should add further, that swan and other water fowl, plus fresh water fish are a good meal for some of our Eastern European neighbours, and poaching is on the increase.

  ella33 23:51 17 Aug 2010

Thank you. I was aware that they normally mate for life, just by conversations around the pond. They were obviously the delight of many who walked through the park, and the RSPCA have previously been involved as there were eggs stolen while they were nesting.

However, today the park bailiff was counting the younger ducklings (the early ones are fully grown now) as well as cygnets, and he said that there are some of those missing too. He suspects humans and gave a couple of reasons, reports that humans have been seen carrying huge bags out of the pond area at a late hour.... Why on earth should anyone want a dead swan? A goose is more understandable, like more eatable!

I will contact the RSPCA but think there may be little they can do. There are a lot of large ponds and a river nearby and the only answer seems to be overnight vigil, I should think. Which did happen during nesting

  ella33 23:53 17 Aug 2010

In reply to your second reply, spuds....I already feed those people!

  ella33 23:57 17 Aug 2010

It is unlikely to be a similar animal attack, they are the only swans on our pond and swans on other ponds or the river are busy with their own families.

There has been a problem with mink attacking swans in the park, in the past.

Out spotting in the dusky part of the evening, I have seen two heron, doing a kind of dance. I don't know if they would attack the other water birds?

  ella33 09:46 18 Aug 2010

It is possible that there are still some there. It was before I lived here. I have seen dead baby coots at the side of the pond with a bite in the side of their necks, which I think is possibly mink. (Someone ought to tell the mink what a huge campaign there once was to save them!) I believe it is eggs they are looking for.

I will go over the bailiff's head and report direct to the RSPCA, as I get the feeling that they listen to him and maybe do a bit but that is all. I should think it would take quite a campaign to get the swans the protection that they should have by law. (I know you can't prosecute a mink, but there must be some means of protection!)

  canarieslover 13:30 18 Aug 2010

If it was mink that were the guilty party I would expect to see evidence of the kill somewhere. If the swans have just disappeared it is much more likely that the predator is two legged.

  morddwyd 18:09 18 Aug 2010

Roast swan

click here

  ella33 22:09 18 Aug 2010

Most people feel that the problem is two legged and sadly many people who walk around the ponds daily are very upset, they were an amazing quirky swan family, who grew up before our eyes but it is a quiet spot at night.
Someone said to me today that the heron had also disappeared and there was an enormous pair of feet by a tree, that I ought to go and look at. I somehow couldn't bring myself to as I have often watched the two heron "dancing" in the evening and cannot believe anyone could bear to have heron for tea!

Morddwyd, there is also some call for swan's down, which could be another reason for taking them. As for roast swan, there are plenty of geese in the ponds that I doubt that too many people would miss!

Anyhow, the ending (for now) to the story is that when I went to the park today, the cygnets came running towards me as sweet and innocently as they would run to an attacker. They can look after themselves to a point but there is a concern that they will not feed properly and have no defence against a calculated attack.
So the RSPCA are due to come and take them to be looked after until they are older. I don't know how long they will take to come out, they seem to be quite busy round here.

  canarieslover 09:07 19 Aug 2010

I'm glad that you have some survivors. The reason probably that they don't take the geese is because they are so noisy when disturbed. Just think that Rome used to use geese in preference to watchdogs and you will realise what I mean. Many are the farms I've passed where the geese are responding to my presence before anything else notices.

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