Last Thursday I joined the team at WWT Caerlaverock for their annual swan catch. The main aim of the catch was to capture, ring and health screen Whooper swans as part of WWT's long term ongoing study on the species - looking into the movements, family structure, health & body condition of the birds.
It was my first time at Caerlaverock since they finished the new Sir Peter Scott hide and it is looking fantastic, well worth a visit.
After the team was briefed we all gathered, quietly waiting for the morning feed to take place by the swan pipe. Everything went to plan and we soon had a nice catch of 104 Whoopers and 30 Mutes.
There were a surprising number of new Whooper swans caught during the catch, many of these birds could well be on passage and 'calling off' at Caerlaverock en route further North to their breeding grounds in Iceland.
All birds were swiftly processed and released with Whooper Swans also being colour ringed. Any colour ring sightings of Whooper Swans are greatly received by WWT and can be submitted to: colourmarkedswans ‘@’ wwt.org.uk.
Full biometrics were also taken from the Whooper swans – this included head and tarsus measurements as well as recording the weight of the birds captured, this allows WWT research staff to look at the pre migration weights of the swans prior to their departure and allows the weight to be compared to those taken at the start of the Winter when the birds first arrived.
The average Whooper swans weighs between 7 - 14kg. Most swans caught during the catch were showing a good healthy weight in preparation for their migration back to Iceland.
|WWT's well organised catching team at work.|
Whilst processing the birds it was a great chance to have a look at their bill patterns. Most people will know of the Bewick’s swan’s unique bill patterns but most aren't aware that Whoopers too have this unique patterning and can also be individually identified by their bill patterns. The three patterns seen are: dark neb, yellow neb (most common) and penny neb (my favourite).
It was great to get up close and personal with my favourite swan species again and also to get out with ringing with other members of The North Solway Ringing Group. Big thanks to WWT for inviting me along.
With Whoopers on the move I think last weekend was the last time I’ll be see the 2013/14 wintering swans. I’m hoping to get out to Iceland this summer to see some Whoopers in their breeding grounds which would be amazing and would love to see some familiar birds from Caerlaverock or Martin Mere, you never know!