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Thread: The Swan family of Bushey Park.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default The Swan family of Bushey Park.

    A few years ago a female Swan with a badly damaged wing turned up swimming in the river Dodder just where it runs past Bushey park.
    Female Swans are called Pens and this Pen made her way into the park and into the lake which is only about 40 yards from the river.

    Here she set up home and was soon joined by a male Swan, or a Cob as a male swan is called. Because of her damaged wing the Pen is unable to fly but she seems very happy living and rearing her young on the island and lake.

    This is the pair of swans which made the news last week when they allegedly killed a dog which, while swimming in the lake, got too close to their young swan (called a Cygnet).

    Last year this pair of swans had nine Cygnets. Only three survived to adulthood. When young Swans loose the last of their grey coloration the parents will no longer protect them. Quite the opposite in fact, they will drive them away if they don't leave before the arrival of the next years brood.

    Here is a picture I took last year of the three adult offspring and in the distance the proud parents contemplating how fast they grow.

    Two of the young needed no encouragement to become independent but, yea you guessed, one could not be gotten rid of.
    The Pen did her best to pretend the embarrassing kid was invisible while the Cob spent hours chasing the idiot offspring around and around the island.
    Here is a picture of the Cob trying to stop the family becoming the laughing stock of the Dublin Swan community.

    They eventually gave up trying to give the young one the heave-ho with the result that the Pen was nesting on her clutch this year trying to ignore one of last years family sitting near by and the Cob was spending an unusual amount of time with his head tucked under his wing.

    Usually with Swans as with all birds the chicks hatch within a short time of each other. This is especially important for water birds where the young will all be brought to the water together.
    This year only one Cygnet hatched and the pair displayed some very unusual behavior. Well at least I think it is unusual, I haven't seen such behavior before and I have been watching swans, albeit casually, for years.

    The Cob took over maternal duties and the Pen remained on the nest in the vane hope that the rest of her clutch would hatch.

    Usually it is hard to tell a Pen and Cob apart. The Cob is usually slightly bigger with a thicker neck and bigger feet (no seriously!) but the easiest way by their behavior, especially when they have young.
    In the case of the Bushy Park Swans the Pen and Cob are easily distinguished as the Pen's wing is obviously damaged.
    The Cob usually stays behind the convoy of Pen and Cygnets. This year however the Cob led the cygnet and displayed very Pen like behavior as the Pen stayed on the nest.

    The Cob and chick:


    This arrangement lasted for a couple of weeks until the Pen, bit by bit, gave up trying to hatch the remaining clutch and joined the other two swimming on the lake.

    The funny thing is that as soon as the Pen appeared the Cygnet instinctively started following her and the Cob reverted to a more conventional Cob role.

    Here is the Pen with the damaged wing back leading the family procession:


    It really should not have been necessary to put these signs up:

    Read more here:

    More about Swans here:

    and here:

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default Re: The Swan family of Bushey Park.

    Well it seems I was been a bit too suspicious when I referred to the Swans "allegedly" killing a dog.

    Got talking with one of the park rangers who witnessed the incident. He also told me of another happening a week or so later.
    A stray Husky type dog followed a Jogger into the park and started making a nuisance of itself. It spotted the swan family on the island, jumped into the pond and started swimming towards them.
    The two adult birds got up with a look on them that said "now just what do you think you are going to do" and started walking to the water like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood heading for a showdown.
    We will never know what the outcome would have been because Mr Husky remembered he had some urgent business back on shore.

    The urgent business, it turned out, was to continue making a big nuisance of himself.
    The park staff could not get through to the NSPCA so they called the Garda who came, caught, and arrested Mr Husky.
    Probability safer with them than the swans.


    I did not see that incident but I did see the Cob kill a Mallard duckling. A couple of pecks and the duckling was dead.

    The duck family must have got too close. Ducks with young usually keep well away from Swans.

    The Mother Mallard went ballistic quacking furiously but still unusually close to the swan with her remaining ducklings.
    The Swan went to make another attack:

    and the mallard attacked back, keeping away from the beak end and attacking the tail end of the swan.

    You can see the duckling in the sights of the swan in this photo, and the mother launching her attack.

    She succeeded!

    The swan was too busy making fast turns in an effort to keep its tail attached to the rest of itself.

    I wonder is the fact that they only have one Cygnet this year making the Swans even more protective than normal.


    It is a dangerous time for the inexperienced and small young.

    5am and three fox cubs trot one after another across the Lr Dodder road, three siblings venturing out on their own.

    The first and second make it, the third is hit and killed by one of the very few cars on the road at that hour. It did not make much of an effort to avoid it but that is life and death and a hard lesson for the survivors.

    One of the cubs seemed not too worried but the other seemed not to understand what had happened. It kept waiting for its dead sibling to join them, even venturing back out on the road towards its dead companion until another car scared it away only for it to return and stand on a small wall looking puzzled and maybe sad.

    PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are a bit extreme and romanticise animals but they do have good information and nice pictures on their website.

    This is what they have to say about foxes:

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