August in the Three Brooks nature reserve

Swan and cygnet ringing at the lake in the Three Brooks Local Nature Reserve, Bradley Stoke.

An update from Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.

Swan ringing

Although we have in previous years wanted to ring our cygnets, we never managed to find a time when both the birds were present or the ringer’s first baby wasn’t making an appearance (welcome to young Freddie). So we were rather excited that this year it all seemed to be coming together, and mostly it did. The first flaw in our plan came when we discovered we were rather short on swan jackets, as it turned out that the three Robin had planned to borrow and the three Richard planned to borrow turned out to be the same three jackets! The second flaw was putting up a corral in knee-deep water. While the boys patiently waited for the birds to decide to all be in the corral at the same time, they discovered that the silt at the bottom of the lake was less firm under foot than they thought and that they were now thigh-deep in water. It was at this point that the cry went up and we chose to just take the birds from the lake, only for the boys to discover that they were now stuck fast in the mud and, as their waders rapidly filled with cold water, they could only watch as three of the cygnets glided past.

Weighing a cygnet at the lake in the Three Brooks Local Nature Reserve, Bradley Stoke, Bristol.After that, everything went smoothly, the birds were remarkably unfazed by our attentions and the two adults and two cygnets were safely trussed up, checked over and weighed. Who knew that Ikea bags were perfect for this? (Although we’re hoping Gill remembered to wash it out before she used it again.) None of the group has the required swan ringing licence, so that part of the evening was left to Richard, who works at WWT Slimbridge and wildlife expert and author Ed Drewitt. Richard also showed us how to determine which birds are male and which are female, which is a very hands on technique! As we’re very organised, the two males have their rings on their left legs and the two females on their right. The female cygnet has been named Lily, her name was chosen by young Olivia Hayes and the male cygnet has been named Angelo by our slightly older but no less charming Emma.

I’d like to say “thank you” to everyone who helped out and to all the dog walkers who were happy to take the long way home to avoid stressing the birds while they were on land. Also to Les, who helped us try to persuade the other birds they too would like some bling.

Swan ringing experts at work near the lake in the Three Brooks Local Nature Reserve, Bradley Stoke.

No bread please!

Angelo was given his name because he is suffering from ‘angel wing’, a condition which mostly affects the left wing on young males and is usually caused by a poor bread-based diet. Angel wing starts with rapid growth of the wings, when the bone structure is not yet strong enough to support the weight of the new feather growth, which is heavy with blood. The wing feathers then start to fall outwards and end up growing out from the body rather than correctly folded onto the back. Angelo’s wing has the outer part of the wing twisted as well as the feathers, which means he may never be able to fly, while he is young. Unless he is attacked by a fox or a dog, this may not be too much of a problem, but when the time comes for him to fly the nest and he is unable to do so, it could prove fatal.

Cygnet with the condition 'angel wing' at the lake in the Three Brooks Local Nature Reserve, Bradley Stoke.

Please, please, please can we ask that everyone stops feeding the swans and the ducks with bread? You may say “one more bit won’t do any harm”, but it will, and mouldy bread can give the birds a fatal lung disease. Graphic designer Adrienne Wheeler has offered to redesign our bird feeding posters, but in the meantime, healthy and cheap alternatives are porridge oats, unfrozen peas, sweet corn, cut grapes, shredded lettuce, cracked corn, wheat, barley or similar grains, bird seed, chopped vegetable trimmings or peelings, or shop bought pellets.

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This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 22 & 23). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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