Rescue mission saves swans attacked by breeding pair

Volunteers round up the swans for relocation
Volunteers round up the swans for relocation
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THEY had lived happily side by side for years – until the offspring arrived.

The joy of a family of swans breeding for the first time in 20 years has been somewhat soured after it caused fighting to break out among the group. And it became so bad a mercy mission had to be launched.

Operation Swan Lake swung into action at Inverleith Pond over the weekend, with the persecuted swans relocated to a new seaside home in Musselburgh.

Members of the Lothians and Fife Swan & Goose Study Group spent Saturday morning wrapping 12 birds in specialist “swan bags” before carefully transferring them to their new home.

It happened after swans on the lake finally produced cygnets due to the pond being recently cleaned. Unfortunately, the proud parents were so vigilant in protecting their young that they drove other adult birds out of the pond and into the jaws of marauding dogs.

They had not been able to fly away from the danger because their winter feathers were moulting and their summer feathers had not yet grown.

George Gordon, 53, a member of the group for the past nine years, said the new arrival of the cygnets was a huge boost for the population but it had brought its own challenges.

He said: “There has been such an improvement in the conditions that this is the first time there has been a birth in two decades, four births in fact.

“However, as a result the cob [male] will be aggressive to other swans and the pen [female] will attack when he’s not around.

“Normally any bird being attacked would fly off but now we’re in the moult season, they can’t fly and so are sitting ducks.”

Mr Gordon said his group was reluctant to intervene with nature but that the new swans had been left with an unfair advantage.

The new cygnet population will be able to mature over the next few weeks and the 12 relocated swans will fly back to Inverleith Park like “homing pigeons” once their new summer feathers have grown.

The Lothians and Fife Swan & Goose Study Group rescued 23 swans from the pond last year when council workers accidentally emptied it and dogs attacked the birds.

Inverleith councillor Gavin Barrie said the arrival of the new cygnets should lead to considerable interest in the park. He added: “A bit of publicity might attract people to come along and have a look at the cygnets. Inverleith Park is incredibly diverse and this will add to that attraction.”

A bird in the bag

IT is said that a swan can break an arm with ease – so safely capturing 12 swans is no mean feat.

George Gordon and his team had to corner each of the birds one by one and safety place them into bags in the shape of a swan.

“We have these purpose-made swan bags, which we secured across back around neck”, explained Mr Gordon.

“Swans are quite amiable but are high tempered so we corral them, one at a time, although we’d never take a bird if it’s resisting. When they are all safely in the bags we can transport them.”