First Cygnets are hatching at Abbotsbury

Abbotsbury Swannery

Swans in Abbotsbury

EXCITEMENT is building at Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset as the colony’s first baby swan of 2012 arrives.

This afternoon a hole the size of a marble appeared in one of a clutch of eggs in ‘Nest Two’, close to the Fleet Lagoon, and the sound of cheepings can be heard. The whole clutch is expected to hatch by tomorrow.

Nests were built on 8 March and the first eggs were laid on 14 March. The arrival of this first cygnet is much earlier than normal, as cygnets usually hatch in the second or third week of May.

The birth of Abbotsbury’s first cygnet heralds the first day of summer, according to the beliefs of the Benedictine Monks who tended the swans 600 years ago.

Cygnets will hatch over the next six weeks at the swannery, based on Chesil Beach at Abbotsbury. There are approximately 500 swans and over 100 nests at the world’s only managed colony of wild mute swans.

Dave Wheeler, who has been Head Swanherd for the past 30 years, said: ‘Watching and waiting for the first cygnet to hatch is always a very exciting time for us. We know all the swans by sight, so we really feel like we share this special time with them. Visitors might be lucky enough to be standing next to a nest and watching the cygnets hatch. The next two months are really the most exciting as far as visitors are concerned, especially children.’

John Houston, General Manager of Abbotsbury Swannery, said: ‘It’s nearly a record for us, but not quite, because we have had cygnets arriving earlier in the year over the past decade.

‘We are hoping the Benedictine legend is true this year, especially as Dorset has been so battered by floods and torrential rainover the past fortnight! It’s fair to say we’re warmly welcoming the first day of summer.’

The swans return to the swannery year after year to nest and raise their young. Female swans, called pens, start laying eggs from when they are three years old and can go on until they are 20. Each pen lays an average of six eggs up to a maximum of 13 (the record for Abbotsbury is 12).

The cygnets will hatch over the next six weeks into June. Visitors can walk safely among the nests while hundreds of baby swans are hatching out on to the paths. People can stand next to the nests and watch them hatching. This tremendous spectacle is one of the highlights of the English summer.

The Swannery is open to the public and visitors can see the swans on their nests and take part in the twice-daily mass feedings.

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