Whooper Heaven

I’m just back from a few days on the Solway estuary, home in the winter months to large numbers of wintering wildfowl with particularly large numbers of Barnacle Geese and Whooper Swans.

Having spent an amazing evening with a Whooper Swan family and their cygnets in Iceland last summer I was keen to get some more close up time with these long-distance travellers and wasn’t to be disappointed.

You can see from this very simple profile image just how elegant they are but spend some time watching them after they’ve fed and they start to preen their feathers then their grace really comes on show.

Mixed in with all the preening and a huge amount of socialising there’s also time for what seems to me when watching it as if it’s just pure fun – and this comes in the form of a good splash and bathe!

Caerlaverock Wildfowl and wetlands Trust reserve provides a regular daily feed for any birds in the area which is particularly useful to them when any cold snaps come and food becomes harder to find in the frozen fields, just like that this last weekend when I was up there.

This provides an opportunity to look for another aspect of swan behaviour that is always a joy to see and listen too in the form of their incredibly powerful and noisy wing beats, which interspersed with the occasional honk to a nearby flight partner was very much in evidence as either feed time, dawn or dusk approached.

Interspersed with the visiting Whoopers and taking full advantage of the feeding and socialising on offer were good numbers of native Mute Swans and some time spent watching and photographing them was equally enjoyable and rewarding too.

Caerlaverock and the Solway are by no means unique in their gatherings of wintering wildfowl – any of the main WWT reserves can offer good numbers of close up opportunities with these wonderful wanderers. ¬†Add some stunning light and cold conditions to the mix like we’ve just enjoyed though and this reserve very soon becomes it’s own photographic version of Swan Lake – and with a rendition on ice at times too!

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