PRESS RELEASE 25 JULY, 2011
SWAN LIKE: ROUND UP SUCCESS FOR ABBOTSBURY SWANNERY
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
‘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.
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.
- The birds are fed wheat up to three times a day while raising their
- Abbotsbury Swannery conserves the only managed colony of nesting mute
swans in the world.
- Swans can live for as long as 20 years. All mute swans look alike.
- A female swan is called a pen.
- A male swan is called a cob. You can recognise a cob by the slightly
larger ‘berry’ above its beak.
- 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.