12 Swans-a-swimming

OK, I know there are only 7 in the Christmas carol but I needed a catchy title and the post is about a dozen swans that flew in to Clickimin Loch for a visit in mid-Summer.

So there I was, clearing the dishes away after dinner and looking forward to a quiet evening and thinking that I would have liked to have gone to Fetlar Foy but had been unable to because I had a stall on Victoria Pier for the weekend of the Flavour of Shetland. Suddenly, my attention was drawn to a large group of large white birds flying over the loch, initially in my peripheral vision through the kitchen window. As I focussed on it, I clearly identified it as a group of swans, possibly 10 or 12. I got the bins and went to another window for a better view; the bevy had landed on the water by this time and were at the far end of the loch but I could easily see they were mute swans, mostly immature.

large groups of mute swans together may be common enough in other places but it’s quite an unusual sight on Clickimin Loch; a dozen or more whooper swans often gather in winter but I couldn’t recall having seen that many mute swans together in one place in Shetland so I headed out for some photos.

As I got closer to the loch I counted 11 swans but they were swimming across the middle of the loch by this time. Then I noticed another swan on its own in the distance; it was smaller and a long way behind the others, almost as if if was struggling to keep up. I took a closer look through the telephoto lens and saw that it was a whooper swan. “That’s funny”, I thought, I don’t remember there being any whooper swans on the loch – they left weeks earlier. Then it became clear, the whooper swan was part of the group of mute swans, making 12 altogether.

As they swam around the whooper swan was sometimes left behind by the much more powerful mute swans, other times it just mingled with them, presumably thinking it was one of them. The mute swans, for their part, tolerated their companion, mostly just ignoring it and getting on with the business of feeding on the plentiful weed in the loch. I watched the swans for about half an hour that evening and on and off over the next few weeks until they left, sometime in the first few days of July I think. Of the mute swans there was 1 adult cob, 1 adult pen and 9 immature swans of which I think 5 were male.

(Updated 18 July) No sooner did I post this than 10 of the swans re-appeared; the cob mute swan and the whooper swan were the only 2 I couldn’t see.

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