“All up”: Queen Elizabeth’s swans checked and counted:
SHEPPERTON, England (Reuters) – Royal officials clad in scarlet outfits took to the River Thames in traditional boats on Monday for the annual “Swan Upping” ceremony, an 800-year-old tradition of counting the swans owned by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.
Take our swan couple that started coming to the bay at the west end of Colonel By Lake in 2015. This secluded bay is part of a nine-acre waterfront parcel of land and provincially recognized wetland. Ideal for breeding by water fowl, fish and turtles. The ever present Red-winged Blackbirds their nests in the bulrushes and add a touch of colour and excitement. Two juvenile Mute Swans explored out bay for their future needs. “Is it quiet enough,” they seemed to ask? The nosy Canada Geese could be chased away, the cormorants, ducks and gulls were tolerated. They explored the area day after day and seemed to enjoy each other’s company but not more than that. They were not ready to set up home.
In 2016 the pair came back and seemed serious, they could not wait for the ice to leave the bay and hung around until the ice broke up. They fed themselves on the submerged weeds near shore where there was open water. They lingered all summer in the bay but didn’t build a nest. We had to wait and be patient.
Juvenile couples don’t breed until they are three years old, on average.
Then in the early spring of 2017 they came back and started building a nest. The female looked like a dragline pulling weeds and mud from around the nest to build it up, each day a little more. Sometimes the male would gather mud and pieces of reed from a larger distance off the nest and deposit it closer to the nest for the female to pick it up, like in a relay operation.
When all is done, the nest is inspected, and some discussion seems to take place. The pair appears to agree that the nest is perfect and they are set to breed.
The female has laid her clutch of eggs and gently settles down on top of them. It is an amazing sight to see such a large and heavy bird, settle down on her eggs after taking a brief break to feed.
And then one day in June two cygnets emerged from the nest to test the water. The young are vulnerable especially in the first week. If they are not caught by a predator they might easily perish from hypothermia as they are not ready to eat solid food and rely on the egg yolk that clung to their bodies for the first few days after hatching. If that doesn’t provide enough nutrients and if the ambient temperature in the air and especially the water still too low, they will die. Young Mute Swan couples lack the experience to be perfect parents and indeed these two puff ball cygnets disappeared in the first and second week. The two adults stayed in the bay, seemingly not knowing what to do and towards the late summer disappeared for days and weeks on end to join the other juveniles on the River Styx, and possibly to explore Lake Ontario’s coast line.
Sadly in 2018 a nest was built in the same location but it was early in the season and it got covered by snow and soaked by a heavy rainstorm. The pair abandoned it and disappeared for good, we thought, to seek their luck elsewhere.
But no. Apparently, the couple returned in the early spring of 2019 and choose to nest in the provincially recognized wet land on the north west side of the lake a corner that we just couldn’t observe from our dock.
I am told by our friend Mark Fleming, who explores the lake and river by canoe and takes beautiful photos, mainly of the waterfowl, that they have become parents of four well fed grown cygnets.
Jackie Duffin and Bob Wolfe who observe the lake from their dock, recently took this photo when the pair came “sailing by”.
Come fall they will be ready to migrate to some warmer wetlands and lakes south of us, and in two or three more years they will seek mates, and natures’ cycle will continue.
Mute Swans were native in Eurasia but are an invasive species in Canada and the USA. Could they be escapees from the Royal flock? They are now abundant in Canada and North America. Invasive yes, but they are beautiful and in the presence of the Canada Geese, the cormorants, ducks and other migratory birds they are a magnificent sight in spring and fall on Colonel By Lake and in the River Styx. When they take off for flight their two and a half meter wide wings make a shoosing sound and the tips hit the water many times before they are airborne.
It is not unusual to see Mute Swans with five to seven cygnets. This couple came to visit Colonel By Lake in 2018. This couple lived in the marsh of Caseys Island the peninsula on Colonel By Lake. They hatched seven young of which these five survived to have a chance of becoming adults.
To go back to the INDEX click this photo of a young osprey landing on the nest. Photo take by Claire Dickingson August 2016. This osprey nest has been productive from 2004 to 2019 and hopefully will be viable longer than that.