Saturday, 29 November 2008

WWT More Interesting Swan Facts

More Interesting Swan Facts

(From the information pack I received as sponsor of Doon.)

Swans belong to the same family as geese and ducks.

There are 8 different swan species.

Mute,Trumpeter, Bewick's, Whistling, Black, Black-necked, and Coscorba.

Mute, Whoopers and Bewick's occur naturally in the wild in Europe.

The Mute is UK's heaviest resident bird, the male weighing in at 12 kg.

It takes about 40 days for a Black Swan's egg to hatch which is longer than any other wildfowl species.

Swan parents help their young to feed by bringing up submerged vegetation, or pulling off overhanging leaves.

Unlike most ducks, the sexes in swans are similar in appearance, although the male is usually larger.

The male is called a COB, the female a PEN, and the young are CYGNETS.

Swans have more vertebrae in their long necks (25 in total) than any other animal. This allows them to reach submerged vegetation to a depth of 1 metre. Compare with the giraffe which has only 7 vertebrae!

Swans need a runway to take off, look for them running along a waterway in order to get airborne.

Swans find it difficult to change course quickly in flight. Collisions with overhead wires and buildings are the most comon cause of swan death in UK.

Swans occasionally mistake motorways and roads for open water and are either killed or injured when attempting a landing.

Mute Swans, despite their name, are not silent. They have a range of gentle grunts, and make a whistling noise whilst in flight.

At the beginning of next week, and Scottish weather permitting, I hope to go to see Doon, Balfron and family at Caerlaverock. I shall report on this after my visit.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

WWT Interesting facts about Whooper Swans

WWT Interesting facts about Whooper Swans

Take a stroll to your local pond or river, and look at the swans there. In particular look at the beak. You will see it has orange markings. This identifies the Mute Swan. The Whooper Swans are identified by their YELLOW bill markings in the shape of a triangle.

When you sponsor a swan you get a lovely information pack from the WWT. This gives lots of really interesting data about the Whooper Swans, some of which I shall put on my blog.

All swans pair for life and start to breed when they are around 4 - 7 years old.They lay 4-5 eggs out of which approximatley 2 - 3 hatch. This makes Doon and Balfron's rearing all 5 cygnets successfully a great achievement. The cygnets stay with them all winter and sometimes cygnets from previous years will also join them.

There are 5 populations of Whooper Swan, with the Iceland population overwintering in the UK and Ireland, although a small percentage remain in Iceland all year.

Around 12,000 Whoopers migrate to UK every winter with around 300 arriving at Caerlaverock.

Whoopers have been recorded flying at heights of 27,000 feet, where air temperature is as low as -48 centigrade.

Migrating Whoopers can reach flying speeds of 100 mph or more and can reach Ireland from Iceland in 7 hours! WOW! That is some achievement.
When you read this data of the family life of these graceful beings, and their brave and arduous annual migrations, it makes one wonder why human beings feel they can go out and shoot at them. X-rays have shown that approximately 15% of the swans contain lead shot from illegal shooting.

Friday, 7 November 2008

WWT Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Caerlaverock and MY VERY OWN SWAN - DOON

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and DOON

Last month I noticed that the wildfowl migrations had begun. Swans and geese were flying over my cottage on their winter migration from the cold Northern Countries to Caerlverock Nature Reserve.

Caerlaverock Nature reserve is located very near to Caerlaverock Castle.

On one of the few sunny days my sister and I decided to pay a visit to the reserve. Whilst most of the visitor attractions in this area close for the winter months, this is the busiest time of the year for Caerlaverock. It is a veritable hive of activity with birds arriving from Scandinavia, Siberia and Iceland all the time.

When the birds arrive from each country the flag of that country is flown to greet them. We saw the flags of Iceland and Norway the day we were there.

A few days after our visit it was my birthday and imagine my surprise when my sister presented me with a real live Whooper Swan called DOON. (well he was not actually there in the flesh, he was adopted!) Doon was ringed at Caerlaverock on 21 02 2001 (21st Feb 2001) and has a mate called Balfron.They were still in Iceland in October, and had reared a family of 5 cygnets.

Last night I heard that they had arrived in the area with 4 of the cygnets. As for the other cygnet it is hoped that it has taken a break on the Island of Mull on the West Coast of Scotland before continuing down to Caerlaverock. This is what Doon & Balfron did last year.
So watch this space for more information about Doon and family!
The following is taken from the WWT Site
Super Whooper Doon flies in to Caerlaverock
5 November 2007
Doon has become the first satellite tracked Super Whooper to arrive at a WWT centre this autumn. He arrived at his winter home at WWT Caerlaverock yesterday (4 November) with his mate Balfron, but minus one of their five cygnets.
Doon is one of seven Whooper Swans fitted with satellite transmitters as part of the Lough Neagh Whooper Swan Project this summer at their breeding grounds in Iceland. There, Whooper Swan expert, Richard Hesketh, reserve manager at WWT Caerlaverock, was joined by Kate Humble and a BBC film crew to film the Super Whoopers for Autumnwatch which begins tonight on BBC 2.
Doon, Balfron and their cygnets made this treacherous journey together for the first time, and the youngster are only three and a half months old! The group flew from Iceland and headed south over the western isles via Lewis and Skye before hitting the mainland in Ayrshire and landing appropriately at Loch Doon.
Richard Hesketh said: "When we saw them yesterday at Caerlaverock we could only see four cygnets, we feared that one of the youngsters must have perished on that terrifying 500 mile maiden flight over the sea. However one of our contacts on the island of Mull reported a lone Whooper cygnet on a lochan and managed to read the ring on its leg and sure enough it was our missing cygnet.
"The chances of her being re-united with her family are fairly remote, she will probably latch on to other Whooper Swans as they pass through."Of the other six remaining Super Whoopers, Blidfinnur also appears to be heading towards Caerlaverock, Fiachra and Merlin are in North East Scotland, Conn and Jaleel have reached Northern Ireland, and Gudjohnson is yet to leave the breeding grounds in Iceland.
You can follow the flights of all of the Super Whoopers at and on BBC Autumnwatch from tonight or even better come to see Doon, Balfron and their family with hundreds of other Whooper Swans at WWT Caerlaverock. The centre is open from 10am to 5pm daily with a chance to see the swans at close quarters at the spectacular Wild Swan Feeds at 11am and 2pm every day.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Shut your trap !

Shut your trap !

No I am not being rude here. It is the expression which was used by knights about to go into battle when they would close the visor of their armour in case they were hit by arrows.