Friday, 11 February 2011

Caerlaverock Swan Catch.

This morning we all gathered in the hide that over looks the Whooper pond at Caerlaverock, for the 11am swan feed. It was obvious that we could potentially pull off a good catch, as the reserve warden – Emma went out to do the feed, there were around 200 Whooper Swans, amongst other wildfowl eagerly awaiting their elevenses!


One of the great things to experience at a Caerlaverock catch is seeing the actual catch take place. Whereas at other centres we are often hidden and don’t see the birds until we run into the pipe, to help bring the catch under control.


As Emma headed up the swan pipe the birds followed as they routinely do three times a day, every day and we waited until the catch organiser felt that we had enough birds to cope with and then……. 3, 2, 1 Brian released the door & made a catch.


The above photo is during the initial drive when we form a human line in the water, to try and get most of the birds to the top of the pipe. We successfully managed to pen all the birds during the first drive, so another push wasn’t needed.


Now the birds have been slowly driven to the top of the pipe, we split them up into more smaller manageable groups.



The birds then wait in the pens, an area were only a few people have access to, this minimises the stress. Once the birds have been sexed, they get placed into jackets and brought to the processing tables.

P1000281Three ringing stations manned by Larry, Steve & Ciaran made sure that the processing line flowed nicely & ringing done quickly before the birds met Julia, Sheila & me on the biometric table. 


Sheila Stubbs (above) expertly scribed our measurements onto paper, often under pressure at times but provided a neat set of sheets ready for the data input team! Actually I must say it was great to be working alongside one of the people who helped kick-start my interest in Whooper Swans! Thanks Sheelz!

In total we caught 147 Whooper Swans of which 96 were new birds & 49 recaps. Also 70 Mute Swan, 6 Canada Geese & 1 Wigeon managed to get caught, making this one of Caerlaverock’s biggest swan catches!

Equipment all packed up it was time for a cuppa & bite to eat after a very successful catch. As the centre closed down & the Slimbridge team headed back south, I stayed up at Caerlaverock for the weekend. This was to help Sheila in sorting out the ringed families, something that can only be done by intensively watching the birds after the swan catch.


It was somewhat encouraging to see that the day after, perhaps with a little hesitation, the birds were back up the pipe, feeding as usual and seemingly unfazed by yesterday’s operation.


Both birds underneath the red arrow were caught in the swan catch and feeding in the pipe the day after!


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