Thursday, May 3, 2012

6 Mute Swan cygnets, UCD Lake



So the UCD Mute swans have done it again, successfully brought another 6 cygnets into the world.
Exactly the same number of cygnets as last year and bang on the Mute Swan average clutch size of 6.
Last year's cygnets made their first appearance on the 4th of May, this year it was the 30th of April.

From what I can gather the timeline for the UCD swans was as follows:

It was mid February when the Mute swans started buidling their nest on the little island in the ucd lake.
The male adult swan swam around gathering appropriate twigs and handed them to the female adult who arranged them into a nest, this continued for a few weeks.
At the start of March, Mrs sat in her nest and started laying 6-8 eggs. Mute swans usually lay an egg every other day, so that's approx 12- 16 days laying eggs, which takes us to mid March.

#Occupynest begins.
Incubation can take a month to 6 weeks, in this case incubation must have been 6 weeks if the cygnets hatched and were on the lake by April 30th (cygnets will all take to the water 24 hours after the last cygnet has hatched).

During the incubation period the female adult will get up every now and then, stretch her legs, do her yoga exercises and feed. Whilst she's off the nest, the male will take over incubating, but this isn't ever for too long as it's the female who does most of the incubating.
Once the last cygnet has hatched, they all stay in the warmth for another day, getting their hair and make up done to perfection - ready for Showtime.

April 30th 2012, and it's Showtime day. The 6 cygnets leave the nest and can be found floating around the ucd lake, following Ma and Pa everywhere, Wowing everyone who lays eyes on them..
They look completely clueless, but they know how to soften us humans and make us smile - just check out their showstopper routine - getting a lift around the lake on their parent's back! Oh, they've got us sussed - they've got us feeding them haven't they.

Adult swans don't feed the their cygnets beak to beak, instead you'll see the parents tipping up and reaching down to the bottom of the lake to dislodge food for the chizlers.
Here's hoping the ucd cygnets enjoy eating dirty empty crisp packets, dirty bits of newspaper and all the other rubbish I saw the female adult dislodging from the bottom of the lake yesterday.
Luckily in ucd there's lots of the students and kind visitors who feed them bread and this is great for the Swans, as are salad leaves and Mute swans love lettuce!
As long as the bread is thrown into the water (so it softens, making it more digestible), and isn't mouldy (swans will get sick on mouldy bread), bread is fine to feed to swans, preferably decent grainy bread.

So there you go, unless the cygnets are eaten by a hungry Hooded crow, Rook, Magpie, Heron or fox (all around ucd), they should be styling their 'aren't I so damn gorgeous' look on the lake until late August/ early September.
Once September comes, the cygnets will have moulted their baby feathers and will look more like adults, and in bird circles, if you look like an adult, you're going to be treated like an adult.
Once doting parents, will suddenly see their children as potential threats to territory and start aggressively tormenting them away.
Freaked out, the juveniles will fly over to somewhere like the Grand canal, where they'll happily live in a flock for a few years until it's time for them to start the breeding cycle themselves.
And so cycle continues, year after year.

I've seen lots of fledglings from several species around ucd, Blackbird, Magpie, Blue tit, Wood pigeon, I think Dunnock or Robin.
I love watching their unadult like behaviour.
I watched a baby Magpie jumping from branch to branch yesterday shouting inaudible 'Waheys' between each jump, shaking herself, checking the feathers were all her own.
A baby Blackbird which was sitting in a tree, instead of flying away as I approached, jumped into a flower container on the ground.
A couple of baby Blue tits behind the creche looked comical in their brand new feathers, erratically flying from one shrub to another, landing by pure luck rathen that design.
Walking around ucd at the moment is pure joy.

Also so first ucd Swallow yesterday and a Swift flying over the Dodder river near Clonskeagh gate.