Today I took a stroll along to my local park. I go here often when I just want to go on a short walk. It isn’t thriving with wildlife, as it is too well managed – it is used by people for recreation, rather than wildlife spotting. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t wildlife there – you just need to look and listen for it!
The park has a big pond in it, which is great for water birds. Over the spring I saw that the coots, moorhens and mute swans all successfully had nests on this pond. There are also mallard ducks, and black headed gulls on the water. Occasionally I see a different species – for example I saw a female merganser there once (another type of duck).
As I have been returning to the same park for a year now, I can see the changes in the young coots, moorhens and swans each time I go. My favourite are the swans – so I’ll focus on them here. This year the female was on the nest in May, and I first saw the cygnets on a visit to the park in June. They looked very small, grey, and fluffy; in my eyes the very definition of “cute”.
I would guess that they were already a few weeks old by this point, as the cygnets I saw in 2017 were even smaller and younger than this. Cygnets stay with their parents for around 6 months and during this time learn what they need to learn to survive as an adult swan (such as how to fly!). Their appearance gradually changes – the swans become a mottled brown rather than grey.
At around 6 months (winter), the cygnets will join a flock, and their parents will return to the breeding territory without them. If the cygnets are a bit reluctant to go, the parents might resort to chasing them away! By the end of their first year the cygnets will be fully white, and they will become mature adult swans when they are 3-4 years old. At this point, they will have found a mate (and yes they do mate for life) and will be ready to have a family of their own.
Here is what the lovely cygnets, who were born in June, look like now. It is currently November, and it saddens me to think that it won’t be long before I take a stroll to my local park and they will have literally flown the nest!