Posted: 31.07.20 at 08:56 by Derek Davis
Scores of swans are proving a popular attraction after returning to Shotley for a second year, prompting the question - why do they love it there so much?
This bevy of beautiful mute swans have taken to frolicking next to the river Stour, yards from the Shipwreck Loft, bar and restaurant and along from the new apartments near Admiralty pier.
More than 100 swans have been spotted feeding and socialising on the rocks, with unattached youngsters looking to find a mate before setting off to find a territory of their own. Some have gone to the pier area at Harwich, others further down the Stour to Cattawade, and the more have been spotted down Orwell at the Strand and into Ipswich docks.
The attraction for the whiteness of Shotley swans appears to be a rich source of nutrients in the waters close to an outlet pipe between the rocks acting as a sea defence and the Stour. These native mute swans enjoy marine roots or tubas nestled just under the river bed, which are rich in their favourite foodstuff.
Typically of youngsters, which includes a couple of black swans this year, they spend much of their time preening, eating or napping, leaving feathers scattered everywhere waiting for the tide to clean up their mess.
Wildfowl ranger Karima Englefield of Bird Aware explained: "Swans are very sociable birds and like to hang out together. They are like typical teenagers finding their way in the world and are looking to establish their own nests.
"They will have find a good food source and enjoy feeding together."
The Shotley swans are unperturbed by people and dogs passing by so close. Most people walk along the pathway and do not stray onto that section of the beach where cormorants regularly use the triangle warning sign at the end of a groin to rest between hunting.
After first turning up unexpectedly last summer, this ballet of swans has grown in numbers to more than 100 being seen at times, and have proved a popular sideshow for walkers along the promenade.
While it is not unusual to see some swans in this particular area, it is understood to be very rare to see so many at any one single period of time.
The swans, officially owned by the Queen, started gathering as the weather started getting warmer and some will have laid eggs, which are due to hatch very soon.
Once a male cob mates with a female (a pen) and legend has it they stay together for life, and remain monogamous, with some reputed to die of a broken heart if their other half dies first.
According to tradition, the swan is a symbol of grace, beauty, devotion, love, fidelity, purity, peace, partnership, elegance, energy, protection, calmness, creativity, and transformation. Combining the elements of air and water, they also embody eternal life.
Six swans stats:
• Swans were given royal status in the 12th century
• The Latin name for swans is Cygnus
• The collective noun for swans can be bevy, herd, regatta, ballet or whiteness
• It is a criminal offence to harm, or eat a swan under the 1980 Wildlife Act
• Swans sleep with their head under a wing, and can kip on one leg.
• Swan eggs take between six and seven weeks to hatch