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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."

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Ongoing mystery surrounds oil spill that hit 150 swans

Swans rescued from oil spill
Some of the swans rescued from oil spill in the River Thames

Investigations are continuing into what may have caused an oil spill which led to around 150 swans having to be rescued from the River Thames between Windsor Bridge and Eton Bridge over the weekend.

Swans being cleaned
The birds have been cleaned by the Swanlife charity

The Environment Agency has said the mystery substance could have been caused by illegal flytipping, leakage from boats or tanks, or faulty drainage.

It is hoped that the birds, which are being cared for by charity Swan Lifeline, can be released on Tuesday.

All swans contaminated in mystery oil spill rescued

Swans hit by mystery oil spill
Swans contaminated in oil spill are being cared for by a rescue charity

A spokesperson from the Environment Agency has said all the swans hit by a mysterious oil spill along the River Thames in Berkshire have been removed from the water. More than eighty of the birds are being cared for at a rescue centre.

The birds affected bords were found in the area between Windsor Bridge and Eton Bridge, and recovered on Friday and Saturday.

Environment Agency investigators are still trying to find the source of the oil, with possible causes ranging from flytipping, leakage from boats or tanks, to faulty drainage systems. However there are only small pockets of the substance left in the water, which makes it harder to detect the origin.

It is hoped that it will be possible to release the swans back into the River Thames in the next few days.

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."

Swan lays six eggs during snowy weather

It may have been wet and cold for the rest of us, but a pair of black-necked swans at the WWT Arundel Wetland Centre produced six eggs during the recent snowy weather. The South American Swans usually begin to nest mid-winter.

Arnie and Laura
Arnie and Laura guard their nest Credit: WWT Arundel Wetland Centre

Staff have given parents Arnie and Laura straw to insulate the eggs. Staff had to distract the protective male, while adding the straw.

The superviser of the ground team, Sam Halpin said: "While we had the swans away from the nest we checked the eggs. The shells are too thick to candle so we weighed them all to find that four of the eggs appear viable.”

cygnet
After the cygnets hatch they may look something like this Credit: WWT Arundel Wetland Centre

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