Once again our nesting swans have hatched a gorgeous brood of little cygnets, only this year there seems to be something different about them. 

Regular blog readers will know that the swans (we presume it's the same pair) have been nesting here for a number of years now - possibly as may as four or five - and have hatched cygnets for the past three or four.  They've never been particularly successful.  The first year they came they abandoned the nest before the eggs had hatched and in subsequent years they've lasted between three days and two weeks before losing interest and flying off.  It's always been hard for us to see the little cygnets abandoned and left for the fox or crows to take.  One year after they were abandoned we did try to save them, but having taken advice from nearby Abbotsbury Swannery who said they were unlikely to survive, we tried not to be too upset when they died overnight.

But this year I reckon the swans have got it.  Their parenting is different.  Usually the male isn't as present as he has been this time round.  Quite often when the female was sitting on the nest he'd disappear (off down the pub I shouldn't wonder) and once the cygnets were hatched he would often take off and not be seen again.  This year he's been very watchful, hardly leaving the lake at all and being quite protective of his territory.  He has seen off a couple of Canada Geese who tried to nest early in the year and another swan who tried to make an early claim. The other day just after hatching, a large flock of around 20 Canada Geese flew in and he went into battle mode making his wings as large and imposing as possible, he charged at them all so that they had barely landed before they all took off again.  

We did worry that the eggs might not hatch at all this year as last weekend the female got her leg and neck caught in a decoy duck that we had floating - we thought harmlessly - around the centre of the lake.  We'd found the decoy duck in a field one day years ago when we were walking and brought it back to give it a home.  We'd put it in the lake, tied it to a bit of rope and some iron to act as an anchor threw it into the middle of the lake and told gullible towny friends that it was a Siberian Still Duck.  We'd tell them that it looked really still but under the water its legs were going like mad just to keep it in the same place.  Oh, how we laughed as so many of them believed us.  But, the laughter stopped last weekend when - for the first time in four years - Mrs Swan swam into the Still Duck and got it wrapped all round herself. She was off the nest at a crucial time and she'd been off the nest for a few hours. She and the Still Duck had lived happily on the lake for years ignoring each other until the Sunday night of a Bank Holiday Weekend when they decided to collide.  The Sunday night of a Bank Holiday Weekend people!  Not exactly convenient timing.... So, after a bit of frantic phoning round - it's hard to find a Swanherd (yes, that's an actual thing) when you want one, let alone on a Bank Holiday - a lovely man called Dudley from the RSPCA turned up with a long pole and a net.  The plan was to set her free whilst distracting Mr Swan at the same time, bearing in mind that he could break anyone's arm if he chose.  (It might be an urban myth, bet it gets a lot more believeable if you're the one manhandling his Mrs and kids).  Mrs Swan had somehow managed to get herself back on the nest with the Still Duck strapped to her leg.  Dudley and Keith rowed out to the island, Dudley got out of the boat and ..... DIVED... and managed to catch Mrs Swan. He cut her free and Keith and he rowed back to shore before the potential-arm-breaker had even seen them. The Still Duck is now sitting on the bank watching proceedings from a safe distance.

Dudley counted the eggs in the nest and told us there were six.  And there is a happy ending because all six hatched two days later. Mr and Mrs Swan have been very devoted parents this time round.  They have not left them alone and when we go to see them at the lake Mr Swan keeps a protective eye on us whilst Mrs Swan and the kids float away in the other direction.  For extra protection they also get on her back in between her wings.  She had all six of them on her earlier today which made it impossible for her to tip herself upside down to feed.  She tried and one by one they all dropped off and plopped into the water, bobbing around her like grey fluffy corks.

So, fingers crossed everyone.  With a bit of luck, dedication and a fair wind they might just make it.