Updated 17 May 2014

Swans at Bear Mead

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Swans on the Stour at Bear Mead

The River Stour at Bear Mead, near Wimborne Minster, Dorset.

The O.S. Reference is: SY 985-995. This stretch of the river is about 20 miles from the sea at Christchurch Harbour, and 40 miles from the source just inside Wiltshire. At Bear Mead there are wide flood plains on each side of the river, mostly grass pasture or cereals with very few people.

The Author tries to keep track of the many swans seen on the River Stour near his oak Plantation at Bear Mead.
Using a pair of binoculars, I read the tag on the birds left leg which (for this area) has an orange background and 3 letters or numbers in black. This big fat tag is called a Darvic. Examples of ID characters are PAY, B7E and KUB. Reading the tag requires patience and accuracy!
The results, such as Darvic, date, place etc are sent to David Stone on . Dave writes:
"The birds were ringed as part of my long-term study of the swan population on the Hampshire Avon. While the Stour is a tributary of the Avon I must say that, other than the stretch near Christchurch, I visit it rarely. In recent years I suspect that a higher proportion of the swans that moult at Christchurch use the Stour rather than the Avon. Your observations are therefore of interest to me. I presume from your notes that KNC and KUB are a breeding pair - sadly KNC has now been reported dead. Are the others singles or part of a flock? If they are in a flock it would be interesting, in future, to know the flock size".

Dave has kindly sent database records of his sighting histories at Christchurch, of swans I have also seen on the Stour near Cowgrove, Wimborne Minster, Dorset. These records are listed below.

Beware Landlord! 12 year old senior swan "KUB" (wings arched) chasing 25+ nervous young swans upstream away from "his territory" (2 Dec 2010)

Swans seen at Bear Mead

    N=newly ringed, X=dead, BTO gives the number of the metal ring on the opposite leg to the plastic ring. Age 5 = first year, Age 6 = adult RTYPE BTO Darvic Age Sex Date Place Site Status Mate Notes N W14654 A5C 6 M 20-Jul-03 Christchurch Harbour group A5C 13-Sep-03 Christchurch Quay group A5C 14-Sep-03 Christchurch Quay group W14654 A5C 17-Jul-04 Christchurch Harbour group A5C 24-Jul-05 Christchurch Harbour group W14654 A5C 16-Jul-06 Christchurch Harbour group A5C 01-Oct-06 Cowgrove Wimborne ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N W14664 A6E 6 F 20-Jul-03 Christchurch Harbour group A6E 11-Sep-05 Christchurch Harbour group A6E F 08-Jun-08 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+7 ? ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N W14575 B7E 5 M 17-Jul-04 Christchurch Harbour group B7E 30-Sep-04 Christchurch Harbour B7E 08-May-05 Christchurch Harbour group B7E 09-May-05 Christchurch Harbour group W14575 B7E 16-Jul-06 Christchurch Harbour group B7E 14-Oct-06 Cowgrove Wimborne B7E 22-Jul-07 Christchurch Harbour group B7E 28-Mar-10 Cowgrove Wimborne pair H4V B7E 06-Jul-10 Eyebridge Wimborne put down, injured in territorial dispute ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N W14578 B7K 5 F 17-Jul-04 Christchurch Harbour group B7K 12-May-05 Cowgrove Wimborne ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N W19513 F4H 6 F 24-Jul-05 Christchurch Harbour group F4H 01-Oct-06 Cowgrove Wimborne ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N W22106 H2A 5 30-Apr-06 Christchurch Quay group H2A 03-May-06 Christchurch Quay group W22106 H2A 16-Jul-06 Christchurch Harbour group H2A 07-Feb-07 Cowgrove Wimborne ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N W22455 H4V 6 F 16-Jul-06 Christchurch Harbour group H4V 14-Oct-06 Cowgrove Wimborne H4V 11-May-07 Cowgrove Wimborne H4V 09-Jun-08 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+5 ? H4V 22-Jul-08 Christchurch Harbour group H4V 28-Mar-10 Cowgrove Wimborne pair B7E ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N W22557 H8P 6 M 16-Jul-06 Christchurch Harbour group H8P 22-Jul-07 Christchurch Harbour group H8P 20-Jul-08 Christchurch Harbour group H8P 10-Mar-09 Shapwick Wimborne dead Darvic preserved ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N W22573 J3N 6 M 16-Jul-06 Christchurch Harbour group J3N 11-May-07 Cowgrove Wimborne pair H8V J3N 15-May-07 Cowgrove Wimborne pair H8V J3N 20-Jul-08 Christchurch Harbour group J3N 10-Jan-09 Cowgrove Wimborne pair H8V J3N 05-Mar-09 Cowgrove Wimborne pair H8V J3N 01-May-10 Cowgrove Wimborne pair H8V J3N 12-May-11 Cowgrove Wimborne pair H8V ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N X1957 KNC 6 18-Jul-99 Christchurch Harbour group KNC 11-Jun-04 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+4 KUB KNC 29-May-05 Cowgrove Wimborne KNC 11-Jun-05 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+12 KUB X X1957 KNC 19-Jun-06 Holt Heath Died in care ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N X3104 KUB 6 18-Jul-99 Christchurch Harbour group KUB 11-Jun-04 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+4 KNC KUB 29-May-05 Cowgrove Wimborne KUB 11-Jun-05 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+12 KNC KUB 15-Jul-06 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+4 KUB 15-Jun-07 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+7 no darvic KUB 29-Jun-08 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+7 no darvic KUB 23-Jul-08 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+6 Cygnet lost in floods KUB 10-Jan-09 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+6 no darvik KUB 25-May-10 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+6 no darvik KUB 02-Jun-11 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+none no darvik, no cygnets KUB 20-May-12 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+2 no darvik KUB 24-May-13 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+7 no darvik KUB 26-May-13 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+5 no darvik, 2 cygnets never seen again KUB 14-May-14 Luther Wimborne Pr+7 no darvik, 6 eggs hatch on Mill Stream KUB 17-May-14 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+6 no darvik, at Bearmead ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N X3175 KYB 5 18-Jul-99 Christchurch Harbour group KYB 12-May-05 Cowgrove Wimborne ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N U4073 PAY 6 18-Jul-93 Christchurch Harbour group PAY 02-Jun-94 Christchurch Harbour group PAY 15-May-04 Cowgrove Wimborne Darvic only found, preserved. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N X4465 SLY 6 23-Jul-00 Christchurch Harbour group SLY 22-Jul-01 Christchurch Harbour group SLY 15-May-04 Cowgrove Wimborne X4465 SLY 17-Jul-04 Christchurch Harbour group SLY 11-Nov-04 Cowgrove Wimborne SLY 21-May-05 Cowgrove Wimborne ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N X4474 SNI 5 23-Jul-00 Christchurch Harbour group SNI 22-Jul-01 Christchurch Harbour group SNI 21-Jul-03 Christchurch Harbour group SNI 09-Mar-09 Cowgrove Wimborne pair TFN ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N X4139 SUF 5 14-Jun-01 Christchurch Harbour group SUF 22-Jul-01 Christchurch Harbour group SUF 14-Jul-02 Christchurch Harbour group SUF 28-Sep-02 Ringwood SUF 20-Jul-03 Christchurch Harbour group SUF 17-Jul-04 Christchurch Harbour group SUF 18-Jul-06 Christchurch Harbour group SUF 08-May-07 Cowgrove Wimborne pair ? Mate had no Darvik or BTO SUF 23-May-07 Cowgrove Wimborne pair SUF 22-Jul-07 Christchurch Harbour group SUF 27-Sep-07 Christchurch Harbour group SUF 25-Jul-11 Christchurch Harbour group SUF 06-May-12 Cowgrove Wimborne pair ? Mate had no ID ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N X5804 TAD 6 22-Jul-01 Christchurch Harbour group TAD 29-Sep-01 Christchurch Harbour group TAD 11-Sep-05 Christchurch Harbour group TAD 01-Nov-05 Cowgrove Wimborne X X5804 TAD 03-Nov-05 Cowgrove Wimborne Found dead ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N X5835 TBU 6 22-Jul-01 Christchurch Harbour group TBU 21-May-05 Cowgrove Wimborne ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N X5898 TFL 6 M 22-Jul-01 Christchurch Harbour group TFL 15-Jul-02 Christchurch Harbour group TFL 24-Jul-05 Christchurch Harbour group TFL 11-Sep-05 Christchurch Harbour group TFL 16-Jul-06 Christchurch Harbour group TFL 26-May-07 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+8 A6? TFL 13-Oct-07 Cowgrove Wimborne Pr+8 ? Albino cygnet ------------------------------------------------------------------------ N X5899 TFN 6 F 22-Jul-01 Christchurch Harbour group TFN 21-Jul-03 Christchurch Harbour group TFN 09-Mar-09 Cowgrove Wimborne pair SNI ------------------------------------------------------------------------


----Anyone with more details for publication on this webpage, please email ----

David Stone wrote on 8 Aug 2011
Hi John,
I notice from your sightings that I had still missed out some of my records, which I have completed below.

I was in the area over the weekend of 24/25 July, when my team helped with the Abbotsbury round-up. They caught 771 birds - a good Saturday mornings work! In the afternoon we went to Christchurch for a more modest 98, followed on the Sunday by some small catches on the chalk streams above Salisbury. Numbers on the chalk streams are quite low this year, with birds having moved off because of a lack of water weed due to the poor water flows following the dry spring.

I see from your website that TFN had an albino cygnet in 2007. Was this just one white cygnet out of the 8? I suspect this will not be a true albino but a colour form known as a 'Polish Swans, in which the cygnets are white, not brown. They also have pale, pink legs. This form is common in Eastern Europe, hence the name, but rare in the UK. The colour forms depend on a single gene on the sex chromosome, with the white gene recessive to the brown. The white gene certainly exists in the local swan population and I have come across white cygnets near the coast from Lymington to Poole, but not every year.

I will be in the area again towards the end of August, so I will give you a ring and hope to meet up at your reserve.

David Stone wrote on 16 Jul 2011
Hi John
My apologies for having lost contact when I changed computers a few years ago. It was only recently that someone reminded me of your website and I see that it carries my old email address. I also note that you have continued to add sightings. For some of the birds I can add additional details. My recollection was that you preferred the info in the body of the email rather than an attached file, so have given this below.

You may have noticed a drop in the proportion of darviced birds in the flock. This is because the manufacturers of the plastic ceased trading and it has taken some time for swan ringers to source a suitable alternative. In the meantime I ceased the large roundups at Christchurch to conserve what stock I had for cygnets and flocks on the chalk streams above Salisbury. While we can now get an alternative material (although we still call it Darvic) we have to import it from Poland.. Needless to say costs have gone up so the plastic and metal ring together now cost £3.50 per swan - a bit pricey when there can be 3-500 birds in the Harbour.

Best wishes


Press release



    THE WORLD’S largest round up of swans has been successfully completed at Abbotsbury Swannery.

    Around 250 people volunteered to catch nearly 800 mute swans from the length and breadth of The Fleet lagoon, from Weymouth to Abbotsbury.

    Over two exciting and dramatic days, 90 canoeists paddled seven miles up The Fleet to herd swans together and secure them inside booms and buoys. Next, children and adults camped out overnight at Shipmoor Point to stop the birds from escaping. Then, in the morning, people waded into the water to form a human net that steadily drove the swans on land.

    All birds were then checked over by vets and scientists, weighed and measured, vaccinated against disease, ringed if they were not already ringed, and, as soon as possible, released.

    The Round Up was supervised by Her Majesty’s Swan Warden, Professor Chris Perrins of Oxford University.

    Prof Perrins said: ‘We learn a lot from the Round Up but more importantly the swans benefit. It means we can have a jolly good look at every swan, and any bird that needs attention, gets attention.’

    ‘It is a huge amount of work,’ said Abbotsbury Swanherd Dave Wheeler ‘and there is a certain amount of worry.

    ‘We only get one crack at this, once every two years, so we have to get it right.

    ‘One year, the wrong bloke was in the wrong place and we lost about 300 swans. All of a sudden the swans panicked and broke through the canoes. People were jumping in the water trying to stop them, but we lost the lot.

    ‘This year it went superbly well, as smooth as silk. There was a wonderful spirit, a great mix of people, everyone worked together, it was fantastic.

    ‘We caught 771 swans. We only missed about five or six, and we deliberately left 18 or so parents with cygnets.

    ‘I judge the success of a Round Up not by how many swans we catch, but by how many we fail to catch, so to miss less than one per cent is brilliant.’

    Mute swans are among the heaviest flying birds in the world. Males generally weigh about 11 kilos (24lbs), females just over 9 kilos (20lbs), although two birds in recent years have topped 19 kilos (that’s 42lbs or three stone).

    If all the swans caught this year could be formed into just one bird, it would weigh around eight tonnes.

    To maximise people’s chances of catching as many swans as possible, and to make carrying large wet birds simpler, the Round Up is held when they are moulting and cannot fly.

    Carrying swans is a magical experience. Dave Wheeler said: ‘Hug them to you, so their wings are trapped, and swans are surprisingly easy to carry. It’s lovely. You can actually feel the heart of the swan, the movement and the warmth. I think that’s half the reason we get so many volunteers! It’s a great experience for children, not something they’ll get anywhere else.’

    The first Round Up was held in 1980, partly to assist Prof Perrins with long-term studies into the Abbotsbury swans.

    Prof Perrins said: ‘If you don’t ring the birds, you can’t identify them, and if you can’t identify them, then it is difficult to study them.

    ‘I’ve got very attached to them over the years. They are very fine birds.’

    Prof Perrins has conducted studies into such questions as why individuals start and stop reproducing at certain ages, and whether swans with cygnets moult at different times because they need to keep using their powerful wings to defend their families.

    Abbotsbury Swannery was founded by Benedictine monks in the 14th century. Many swans have interbred over a very long period of time and now act in ways that swans elsewhere do not.

    Dave Wheeler said: ‘There’s a strong core of birds that have modified their behaviour. They are very used to humans and remarkably tolerant. They don’t react to people in the way we would normally expect swans to react. They are very used to the environment of the Swannery and The Fleet and they behave in a way that suits this environment.’

    This is why Abbotsbury Swannery is the only place in the world where visitors can enjoy the experience of walking through a colony of mute swans.

    Fast facts:

  1. Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset, UK, was established after Benedictine Monks built a monastery next to Chesil Beach during the 1040s. The monks farmed the swans for lavish banquets. The earliest written records of the Swannery date from the 14th century.
  2. The birds are fed wheat up to three times a day while raising their young.
  3. Abbotsbury Swannery conserves the only managed colony of nesting mute swans in the world.
  4. Swans can live for as long as 20 years. All mute swans look alike.
  5. A female swan is called a pen.
  6. A male swan is called a cob. You can recognise a cob by the slightly larger ‘berry’ above its beak.
  7. There is lots to do in Abbotsbury – visitors can also enjoy the amazing sub-tropical gardens, medieval tithe barn and children’s play farm. See www.abbotsbury-tourism.co.uk and follow @dorset_swannery on Twitter. On Facebook search for Abbotsbury Swannery.

Compiled, formatted, hyperlinked, encoded, and copyright © 2007, John Palmer, All Rights Reserved.