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VIDEO: Army of volunteers help with swan census

Around 200 volunteers, up to half paddling kayaks and canoes, have been draftedin to assist with the biennial round-up of swans at Abbotsbury Swannery on Saturday.

The round-up hopes to take a snapshot of the size and health of the swan population on the Fleet Lagoon at Chesil Beach - the world’s only managed colony of mute swans.

The swans are individually checked by vets, vaccinated, ringed, weighed and measured.

"Swanherd" Dave Wheeler said: "It is an amazing sight. We estimate there are around 700 swans on the Fleet at the moment, as well as 130 cygnets in the swannery itself.

"Visitors will still be able to watch and help feed the swans at 12 noon and 4pm."

Baby swan parents could 'defy selfish gene'

The first cygnet born this morning. Credit: Abbotsbury Swannery

Hundreds of fluffy cygnets are beginning to hatch at Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset after the first baby swan was born earlier today.

The swannery is the only place in the world where visitors can walk through a colony of mute swans, see cygnets hatching and participate in mass feedings.

Swanherds noticed the first signs of hatching when a female swan, or pen, became restless and began hovering over the nest, allowing the emerging cygnet more room to peck its way out of the egg.

Another expectant mother was recently bereaved when her mate died in a territorial dispute. Swanherds put up a fence to protect her nest and were astonished when a neighbouring male, or cob, swam downstream and "adopted" her eggs as his own.

Deputy Swanherd Steve Groves said: "Even though he is not the father of these eggs, he is behaving like he is, which is very odd - I have not seen anything like this in nearly 25 years of this work.

"This behaviour seems to go against what scientists call the ‘selfish gene’, where you would expect a cob to kill young that don’t belong to him.

"Staying true to the old adage that swans mate for life, we believe she will stay paired with him, and next year he will be able to father his own cygnets with her."

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Gardens are illuminated

Gardens lit up
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens illuminated Credit: Watershed PR
Gardens lit up
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens illuminated Credit: Watershed PR
Fire eater
Jules Dorrell breathes fire Credit: Watershed PR

Fire-eaters and laser light shows are entertaining visitors to Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens. The incredible illuminations are part of the Enchanted Floodlit Gardens event, which is on until November 4.

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