Tuesday, 26 July 2011

8 Tonnes of Mute Swans and A Bad Back AKA Abbotsbury 2011 Mute Swan Round-up

On Friday I set off from work bound for Dorset, after a very long delayed journey I arrived at Abbotsbury Swannery just over 4 hours later! It was time to make me debut as a swan ringer. I was camping with the troops from WWT Slimbridge, it did take me a while to find them though as now body knew what each other looked like which made it interesting to find each other in the masses to say the least.

A ringer's camp!

 After wrestling with my tent we headed off to the pub for some much needed grub. After only getting a few hours sleep we awoke at 5am to the sound of Chris Perrins on the loudspeaker! As we stumbled out of our tents into the light we were greeted by a TV crew filming for BBC One's The One Show. So after doing a bit of advertising for WWT we headed off to join up with everyone else for the briefing. Then it was time for the main event.

Readying the troops

With around 90 canoeists out in the water the rest of us waded out into the murky water to join up with them and herd the swans into the pen. There was a lot of pressure not to fall in as the entire time the TV crew were pointing a camera in our faces. Luckily no one fell in and the 771 swans were safely rounded up and secured in their pen. It was quite freaky as we waded close to the banks as we had been accidentally corralling the lake's population of fish at the same time as the swans so as we got closer to the banks the fish would jump out of the water and into us or slam into our feet under the water which sure does make you jump!

Filming for The One Show

The brilliant canoeists

Corralling the swans

After dragging our sorry selves out of the water, a quick change and a nice hot dog for breakfast the processing could begin. WWT had it's own ringing station and processed nearly 200 swans throughout the day.

The WWT Ringing Station

I was lucky enough to have been able to ring and Darvic most of the swans. It was my first time ringing swans but I soon picked it up.

Ringing my first swan

Darvicing the swans was really interesting and I now own my very first Darvic ring which I removed from an adult Mute swan and replaced with a bright. new, shiny, yellow one reading TVT - so keep an eye out for it!

My first Darviced swan

An expertly fitted Darvic if I do say so myself!

It was a long and tiring day but completely worth it and so were the muddy clothes, bruises, scratches and achy muscles. The swans are incredibly heavy and lifting them up and down all day sure does take it toll, I have been hobbling round work all day! The Swannery reckon that we carried and weighed 8 tonnes of swans on Saturday, hence the reason I am now sporting a bad back!

Weighing a swan

During the day I was taught how to sex swans, which is not for the faint hearted I can tell you. It's actually quite a skill to sex a swan and is quite hard to master.

A male swan's bits!

After 5 hours of intense processing I was on my last swan which I decided to release back into the water myself. Of course after staying relatively unharmed the whole day the last swan saw fit to give my arm a good shredding and almost make me fall into the water in front of a large crowd of ringers!

The last swan, before it ripped into my arm

The last release

After having survived the ordeal of releasing the last swan we celebrated with some rhubarb pie and clotted cream!

Our hard earned reward

There was a great atmosphere to the day and I had great fun. It was nice to see a lot of familiar faces there like Terry Coombs and the Cardiff Ringers. I enjoyed visiting Dorset for the first time and found it a stunningly beautiful place especially the quaint little villages and seemingly everlasting sunshine.

Laura and her swan

 An amzing day was had and I can't wait to go back for the 2013 event. I want to say a special thank you to the Abbotsbury Swannery, Terry Coombs, the gang from WWT Slimbridge, my kind boss Nigel Williams at WWT Llanelli for letting me attend the ringing on behalf of WWT and to all of the other ringers, canoiests, first aiders etc that made the day a brillant one.

Me and my Mute friend

The Abbotsbury round-up will be shown on The One Show in the near future - I will update this post when the exact date/time is known. After Abbotsbury typical me decided to go on a random adventure but more about that in the next blog post which is not to be missed! Bye for now.

Showing off my handy work!


Abbotsbury will be shown on The One Show on Monday 14th November at 7pm on BBC1

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