I had the pleasure of visiting Abbostbury Swannery on Friday where I managed to see some beautiful scenery and very sweet little Cygnets – one of which was still wet having just emerged from its shell!
The swannery is the only place in the world where you can walk among a colony of nesting mute swans – you can even watch them turning their eggs and repairing their nests. Baby swans are grey and fluffy once they have dried off after hatching and carry an amazing cute factor! This year there are around 96 nests with an average of 5 eggs in each nest, this means that there will be nearly 500 cygnets following their mums and dads around by the end of June.
The swannery is in a beautiful location right by the Fleet in Abbotsbury. Part of the Ilchester Estate, it is open all year round and is a wonderful place to go and see not only swans but many other birds.
Walking around the swannery is easy and they even lay on tractor and trailer rides to take those who need/wish to be assisted from the entrance to the Swannery. (Disabled badge holders may take their vehicles to a designated disabled parking area inside the Swannery).
There are two trails around the Swannery, the first takes you to the feeding area on the Fleet Lagoon and past some rearing pens. The circular walk finishes and you are guided on the second walk which takes you through the picnic site and further past some more rearing pens and an observation platform. There is also a hide which would be a great place to observe all the birds coming and going on a less than dry day.
The swans’ nests are constructed mainly of reeds (found on site) and unlike many other ducks and geese, the male helps with the nest construction. Average egg size (for the mute swan) is 113×74 mm, weighing 340g, in a clutch size of 4 to 7, and an incubation period of 34–45 days. The male swan (Cob) also helps with the incubation of the eggs taking it in turns with the female (Pen). Swans form pair bonds from as early as 20 months of age which can last for a long time – sometimes life (10–20 years).
Note to self – next time I go, try not to stray too close to a nest when a swan is trying to tidy it up. She thought I was a bit close and decided that my shoe was invading her space – just a friendly nibble and a warning not to get any closer. The swanherd monitors the swans, eggs and nests on a regular basis, recording the number of eggs in the nest and number of cygnets that have hatched. This ensures that no eggs are disappearing and that the cygnets when hatched are safe and kept with the correct family.
Feeding times are twice daily at 12:00 noon and 4:00 pm when children are able to assist the swanherd who provides a running commentary while feeding up to 600 swans.
The eggs in the nest underneath the observation platform had not hatched when I was there.
On leaving the swannery you will pass a decoy pond and duck decoy tunnels which were old ways of catching fresh food, especially during the winter months. There are a number of other historic things to look at and learn about including Barnes Wallis’ “Bouncing Bomb” from the Dambusters Raid of World War II which was tested on the Fleet in March 1943. And finally before leaving there is a lovely cafe for a nice refreshing drink and maybe a piece of cake!
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