Stuart Reed, from Fareham, on the thriving swan population in the town
Over 10 years ago a pair of mute swans built a nest of scraps of vegetation close to the A27 where it crosses the River Wallington at the top left hand corner of Fareham Creek.
The birds carefully guarded their clutch of eggs, taking turns to sit on them. Later a handful of cygnets could be seen, attracting the attention of pedestrians passing by. The fluffy babies matured and found mates.
Today the swan population at the top end of the Creek must be approaching 100. This flock is going through a period when, having lost their brown feathers, the birds cruise about learning to socialise.
In time they will find a mate and look for their own territory to start breeding. The pairs may not go far but, like most humans, they prefer to have a home of their own. Unlike many humans today they mate for life.
Generally, mute swans do not leave our shores but stay put on shallow lakes or slow flowing rivers feeding on underwater plants, snails and insects. Clearly Fareham Creek fits the bill; no pun intended.
The Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton has the largest self-contained veterinary–registered swan hospital in the country.
According to founder, Dorothy Beeson, mute swans are the most common species of swan in Britain. Despite their name, they do have voices which they use to ward off the enemies of their young.
They are also commonly known as the royal birds as, in theory, the Queen has right of ownership of all such unmarked birds in open water. This royal prerogative means it is an offence to harm them or damage their nests and eggs.
The Queen, who is referred to as the Seigneur of the Swans, demonstrates this legal privilege on stretches of the River Thames and its tributaries, when, once a year, her swans are counted and marked, usually on their webbed feet.
In the Middle Ages, swans were kept by landowners as poultry to be served up at feasts and special events. The richer you were, the more swans you owned.
In that respect, Fareham’s prosperity must be on the up and up.