Musings and photos of wild and everyday life

Swans & Cygnets

Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

If you go down to the pond today you’ll see 7 lovely cygnets under the watchful eyes of proud parents.

Well you will if you go to the pond in St. Stephen’s green, Dublin.  Today they are already a good deal bigger than in the photo from the end of May, but they are still seriously cute, swimming almost at random and getting into contortions as they copy their parents preening.

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These are our resident Mute Swans. (See  http://wp.me/p10npw-rX
for our winter visitors, the Whooper Swans).
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Mute Swans courting St Stephens Green

Mute Swans courting St Stephens Green

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Amazingly, they were conceived while the parents were still looking after the remnants of last year’s brood.
The courtship (foreplay?) is very elegant – a kind of dance by heads – and reminds me of Gannets or Great-crested Grebes although the Grebes’ dance is longer and more elaborate.
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On the other hand the mating act looks quite brutal to us with the female risking drowning.  It is not unlike the mating habits of many ducks.
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While one of their cygnets from last year looked on in an inquisitive way, people in the park sat or walked by, mainly oblivious.
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Mute Swans mating in fromt of their Cygnet St Stephens Green

Mute Swans mating in fromt of their Cygnet St Stephens Green

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5 cygnets were produced last year and I believe 4 lasted through the winter.  In fact there were still 4 hanging around home while the parents were ‘planning’ the current lot.
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Perhaps they are mimicking the current human trend of staying home longer.
Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

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Charlie the Swan man with Swans & Cygnets & St Stephens Green 2012

Charlie the Swan man with Swans & Cygnets & St Stephens Green 2012

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When they emerge from the egg, the cygnets are fluffy grey and grow quite quickly.  After a few months they start to get brown feathers which are slowly replaced by white and they begin to look more like teenagers!
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This is one of last year’s mob, already the size of an adult.
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Part of the success may be due to Charlie, ‘the Swan Man’, who pretty much set himself up as the granddad last year and visited the family most days, sitting closely with them and feeding them.
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Mute Swans often have reasonably big clutches – usually 3 to 7 eggs – and families but the attrition rate is often high.  Those on the Grand Canal, for example are usually lucky to bring one cygnet up.  They fall victim to dogs, rodents, humans and sometimes disease, amongst others, despite the strong defence capabilities of the adults.

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Despite this, there are large numbers of Mute Swans in Dublin, particularly along the canal!

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The current cygnets are amusing visitors in St. Stephen’s Green.  May they live long and prosper!
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2 responses

  1. Sadly Charlie and others feed the birds white bread.!

    June 12, 2016 at 10:28 am

  2. Yes, seems to happen everywhere although I have seen him feeding the Swans grass more recently!

    June 15, 2016 at 6:53 pm

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