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Tales From the Riverbank – Swan Song

Tales for the Riverbank, well it’s a canal, but it kind of doesn’t fit. Tales from the canal doesn’t have the same ring to it. So for the purpose of my blog its now a river.

There has long been a legend that the European Mute Swan is completely silent throughout its lifetime, only to sing one glorious and beautiful song just before it dies.


I live near the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union for a few years now, spend lots of time on the towpath camera in hand. There has been a pair of swans for years, if the cob is feeling particularly grumpy, he loves to chase you down the towpath nipping at your heels. This year was the first time our pair of swans had built a nest and produced a clutch of eggs.

After what seemed like months of nest building, the parents were finally taking turns sitting on the nest looking after their eggs. For a few days I only saw the Cob sitting on the nest, the Pen was nowhere to be seen. I later found out that sadly she was hit by a boat and was killed.

The cob continued to sit on the nest until the signets hatched in early May. Over the 2 days he hatched 6 cygnets. I watched these cygnets grown up, Dad did a brilliant job as a lone parent looking after all 6 of his clutch.

The little family were doing great until mid June, were over the course of a week 4 of the cygnets went missing. There are foxes and otters about so think nature did its thing.

The last two did well, so friendly you could hand feed them. They started to look a bit unkept as they started to get their flight feathers, so funny watching them lumbering along the canal side. Late August the cygnets had grown full flight feathers, Dad started to fly again after his malt, I bet he felt great on the 1st flight after being grounded for 6 months.

Early September the 2 cygnets and were nowhere to be seen, hoping Dad took them to the big lake to join the rest of this years cygnets. The cob stayed around for about a week then he went too.

I do hope he comes back next year; he lost his mate so not sure if I will see him again. It was such a privilege watching him raise his family over the summer. We had a few dramas where the cygnets got stuck in the lock, the Canal and River Trust guys came to the rescue on more than one occasion. Some serious squabbling with the Canada geese when they showed up on the canal…. But that’s another story.

2 thoughts on “Tales From the Riverbank – Swan Song”

  1. Lovely record of this swan family’s summer, who made such an impression on so many of us, lucky enough to live near this section of the canal.

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