Photo:A sleepy swan on her nest - April 2009

A sleepy swan on her nest - April 2009

Photo:And mother makes five!

And mother makes five!

Photo:Two sleepy ducks on one former swan nesr

Two sleepy ducks on one former swan nesr

Photo:Moorhen and chick on a mid-pond nest

Moorhen and chick on a mid-pond nest

Photo:One of the latest 8 ducklings - Sunday 17th May

One of the latest 8 ducklings - Sunday 17th May

Photo:A lonely female swan back on the main pond

A lonely female swan back on the main pond

All photos: Andy Gilbert

Ups and downs at the park.

By Andy Gilbert

The 2009 season started well enough with the female swan nest-sitting and the male busy fluffing up his feathers and telling everyone who was boss. Incidentally there are two young swans up near Denton Island these days who haven't yet lost all of their adolescent colouring and it would be nice to think that they might be the surviving pair from last year's Drove Park cygnets. The frogs are busy too and, while you don't see them much, you can certainly hear them. It's a shame the site doesn't let me post audio clips!
Last year's swan nest was taken over by one of the park's pairs of resident ducks and the first of this year's arrivals were a quartet of ducklings, soon happily swimming around with their mother. The swans did start to build another small nest at the other end of the pond earlier this year. For some reason, they did not complete it and it was gratefully adopted by a female moorhen, and some moorhen chicks were soon to be seen with her, keeping to the safety of the reeds.

The end of April saw the female swan still nest-sitting, with the male being very aggressive towards other birds, seagulls and - if they ventured too close - people! However, things were about to take a serious turn for the worse. In brief, if looks like a rogue male swan arrived on the lake. He fought with and frightened off the resident male, which ended up being rescued by WRAS from Paradise Park's main car park. He was slightly injured and also showed signs of arthritis. The rescuers not being 100% sure if this bird was the Drove Park male, it was decided to release him at Princes Park in Eastbourne instead (an 'alien' male would apparently have destroyed the nest and eggs). I was told that the released male should normally be able to get back to his Newhaven home, but that his injuries and arthritis might require him to be taken into a swan sanctuary on a permanent basis.

He hadn't made it back a week or so later, so things were not looking good. On Sunday 17th May, the female swan was back on the main lake but alas had no cygnets with her. Looking at the nest through the zoom lens of my camera it was clear that it contained several broken eggs. What happened isn't clear. Were the eggs not fertile? Did the female swan then eat the eggs herself (she must have been starving, having not moved from the nest in weeks)? Or was it the local foxes again? Whatever it was, there will be no cygnets this year and, with no mate, no prospects for future years.

The laws and regulations regarding the 'capture' and movement of swans are complex, but it would be perhaps nice if the female were to be reunited with her mate, either at Eastbourne or in a swan sanctuary, and a new breeding pair introduced to Drove Park.

On the upside, the absence of the protective usually aggressive male swan has allowed for three sets of ducklings (another 8 hatched in the last couple of days) and three sets of moorhens to inhabit the lake without being chased around and, with more pairs of ducks and moorhens here this year, we may have more to come.

Some of the moorhens have been very clever and built nests perched on clumps of reeds in mid-pond, ensuring the safety of their chicks in their earliest hours and days. I have spotted two such nests on the small pond so far and this morning spotted a moorhen busy gathering reeds on the main pond.

Edit: 25th May. A few days ago, the lone female swan disappeared from the park and has not returned. My wife did see a few 'officials' and Police officers there talking about something, but we don't know if it involved the swan's disappearance. I will make some enquiries.

Edit: 3rd June. No 'official' news about the swans, but I'm pleased to report that it looks like the female swan is back on the lake, swimming around with all the ducks and moorhens. Pictures to follow.

I'll update this page from time to time, so do drop back and catch up with the latest news.

This page was added by Andy Gilbert on 19/05/2009.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.