Saturday, 2 September 2017

Down on the ancient 'Swan Farm'!

Once upon a time  and long ago, there was a monastery by the sea. Here the monks farmed and enjoyed the rich bounty of the surrounding fertile lands and nearshore waters. 
These gentle waters were protected from the storms of the open sea by a remarkable bar of shingle and in the calm brine of the local lagoon eel grass and other plants grew forming a safe and rich feeding ground for waterfowl, including numerous swans. The monks started to manage and harvest the swans and lived well until a certain very famous king decided that the monasteries across his England were too powerful. So he closed them all down; some with more force than others. The monastery, including the 'swan farm', was passed by this King (Henry VIII) onto one of his lieutenants, Sir Giles Strangways, and thence on down the years through 15 generations of this same family to this present day.

Now the Abbotsbury Swannery - the only such establishment to be privately owned anywhere in the world - is run to help the swans and as a tourist attraction. In addition feathers are collected - especially during the moult in late summer when the swans loose the power of flight for a few weeks - and sent off to be used in various ways.... including as quills to write with. 

This year's cygnets are a few months old and still mainly grey. They will soon have their full flight feathers and be able to take to the sky, and they will loose the grey slowly over winter and emerge in their pure white form with a big orange beak by the spring.

Mute swans and many feathers
A view across the swannery towards the reed beds.

Portrait of a fledgling.
Fledgling in the reeds. 

Canada geese also enjoy the swannery.
Adult mute swan.

Coming into land....

Mass preening!

The mute swan - here seen as both adult and offspring - is not really mute. It is just quieter than other swans.

A flypast by Canada geese. 
The Swannery is at Abbotsbury in Dorset. The pebble bar is Chesil Beach (18 miles long) and the lagoon is the Fleet Lagoon. 

Abbotsbury Swannery website HERE. 

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