A snapshot of a winter Mute Swan flock in North East England

Mute swan flock at QE2 Country Park (Winter 2015)

Members of Northumbria Ringing Group are involved in the long term study of Mute Swans across North East England. Every summer we catch and ring breeding swans and their cygnets as well as individual birds in the established summer moult flocks. In the winter we ring any birds that arrive at the winter flock sites.

One such flock site is QE2 Country Park on the site of the old Woodhorn Colliery near Ashington in Northumberland. The flock currently contains 62 Mute Swans.

On November 14th 2016, 50 of the swans were individually identified from their ring numbers, giving an opportunity to look at structure of the flock in terms of age, sex and where the birds originally came from.

Age of the birds

The vast majority of the swans in the flock are young birds with more than 50% in their second or third year. The two oldest swans are the resident breeding pair aged 10 years (cob) and 7 years+ (pen). Perhaps surprisingly, despite a good number of 2016 cygnets leaving their natal sites to join flocks, none had yet arrived at QE2 Park by mid-November.

age

Sex of the birds

Of the 50 swans identified, 28 are male and 22 are female so there doesn’t appear to be a strong bias towards one particular sex.

mf

Origins of the birds

The Mute Swan is generally thought to be a fairly sedentary species, but individual birds regularly travel longer distances. This would appear to be backed up by a check on the origins of the swans in the QE2 flock.

From the sample of 50 birds, 25 were ringed at QE2 park, but none of those individuals were ringed there as cygnets, so all of the birds in the flock have travelled to QE2 from elsewhere. Of the birds ringed at other sites, only 3 birds have travelled more than 40km. The furthest travelled bird was ringed in Edinburgh as a cygnet in 2014 (131km). The breeding male at QE2 park originally comes from Stockton on Tees (70km) and a 2015 cygnet, from Brasside pond in County Durham, has travelled 43km.

One bird was released at the site by the RSPCA after rehabilitation and another unringed bird is flightless as a result of an “Angel Wing” deformity in one of its wings.

distance

map

QE2 country park marked in green with the known origin of ringed birds in red

BTO Ring Darvic Where ringed Sex Dist. from ringing site
ZY 1021 ZDJ Stockton on Tees M 70km
ZY 4463 Marden Quarry, Whitley Bay F N/A
ZY 5005 ZCS QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland F 0km
ZY 5089 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
ZY 5345 Ladyburn Lake, Druridge Bay, Northumberland F 11km
ZY 5372 Killingworth Lake, North Tyneside F 18km
ZY 5376 Killingworth Lake, North Tyneside F 18km
ZY 5854 Bradley Hall Gardens, Wylam M 29.5km
ZY 5883 Burradon Pond, North Tyneside M 16.5km
ZY 5884 Burradon Pond, North Tyneside M 16.5km
ZY 6314 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
ZY 6383 Wansbeck Busines Park, Ashington M 1.5km
ZY 6392 Marden Quarry, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside F 19km
ZY 6794 Ramside Hall, Durham M 40km
ZY 7074 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland F 0km
ZY 7075 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
ZY 7079 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
ZY 7081 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
ZY 8101 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
ZY 8127 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
ZY 8129 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
ZY 8139 Herrington CP, Sunderland M 35.5km
ZY 8168 Tilesheds, Boldon, South Tyneside F 28km
ZY 8171 Newsham, Blyth, Northumberland M 10km
ZY 8172 Newsham, Blyth, Northumberland F 10km
ZY 8175 Ladyburn Lake, Druridge Bay, Northumberland F 11km
ZY 8192 Woolsington Pond F 21km
ZY 8199 Big Waters NR, Seaton Burn, Newcastle upon Tyne F 16km
ZY 8602 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
ZY 8612 Killingworth Lake, North Tyneside F 18km
ZY 8619 Felmoor Park, Northumberland M 13km
ZY 8641 Herrington CP, Sunderland M 35.5km
ZY 8665 Big Waters NR, Seaton Burn, Newcastle upon Tyne M 16km
ZY 8683 Brasside Pond, Durham F 43.5km
XY 2008 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland F 0km
XY 2012 Bradley Hall Gardens, Wylam, Nothumb. F 29.5km
XY 2015 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland F 0km
XY 2025 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
XY 2030 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
XY 2033 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
XY 2049 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland F 0km
XY 2050 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland F 0km
XY 2062 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
XY 2073 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
XY 2075 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
XY 2077 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland F 0km
XY 2079 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland M 0km
XY 2809 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland F 0km
XY 3047 QE2 Park, Ashington, Northumberland F 0km
W38249 SCD Green Figgate Pond, Edinburgh M 131km

Andy Rickeard – Northumbria Ringing Group

Acknowledgement

With grateful thanks to Joan Fisher for providing frequent and comprehensive sightings of Mute Swans across the region.

 

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