Friday 27 September 2013


Mute swan

Its hard to imagine an area without Mute swans, but it wasn't until 1992 that Mute Swan nested in Shetland, on the Loch of Tingwall. This was after an arrival of  birds over a period 1970 to 1992. Back in the early 1900's 4 attempts were made to introduce Mute Swans to Shetland, with birds brought up from Orkney, but these were wiped out when men returning from the WW1 shot all 10 birds.

Birds now usually breed each years with varying success. In 2011 six pairs nested but only 3 pairs were successful all of these in the west mainland. The previous year 12 pairs nested but little information is available on their success.

While mute swans are now common throughout the UK, I can remember when only one pair nested in the Sheffield area, and while they were successful one of the adults was shot by an air gun but somehow managed to survive. Birds at this time were suffering from lead poisoning from ingested lead shot from fishing., thankfully this doesn't happen now.

Whooper Swan

This is a bird I have always liked, a true wild bird that from 1994 has bred in small numbers throughout Shetland. Chicks fledged in 6 out of 8 years between 1994-2000. Some birds are very territorial and conflict occurs with mute swans trying to nest in the same area. In 2011 9 pairs bred of which 5 raised young. The best year was in 2009 when 8 pairs raised 23 young, which was also the best year for Mute swans as well which raised  16 young from 9 pairs. Shetland has around 50% of the UK breeding population

In November the Shetland Bird Club organises a survey to record how many birds arrive in Shetland. Counts in the past reveal that numbers of birds in Shetland have declined from the 1980's when as many as 300+ birds arrived, now counts of around 200 or less are the norm. Birds don't stay around long and start to move on in December when food starts becoming scarce

For me the sound of incoming Whooper swans means that winter has arrived.

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