All about Swans on the River

All about Swans on the River
February 11, 2014 Adrian Walters

The Mute Swan is the most spectacular example of bird life on the Sudbury riverside and, in particular, on the Sudbury Common Lands. Whether flying overhead with ponderous wing-beats or ‘gliding’ serenely on the river, they are a wonderful asset to the local environment. At Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset, the public pays good money to see what is available for free in Sudbury.

It is difficult to remember that a little over twenty years ago there was but one pair of swans on the entire Sudbury Common Lands section of the river. Those birds were named Nike and Nimrod by Maureen Bowden, the ‘swan lady’, who kept a beady eye on them. They nested for a number of years on the wet scrape on North Meadow Common.

The removal of overhead power cables at BallingdonBridge and Friars Meadow significantly reduced the collision danger that killed or injured swans as they flew up and downstream and the end of the use of lead weights by anglers very quickly reduced the incidence of lead poisoning. Prior to that swans would pick up the small lost weights from the riverbed and ingest them. Now any lead weights are buried deep beneath the silt and well out of reach. Thus today, we see swan numbers that would have been quite unimaginable in the early 1990s.

Originally the swans gathered at the Croft for feeding but one particularly powerful territorial cob moved the birds upstream and feeding then became established at Brundon. Of course, it is only through liberal feeding by people that encouraged the establishment of a large gregarious group.

Over the years there have been numerous incidents involving the swans at Brundon because some people encourage them out of the water to feed on the riverbank, the lane and even on the bridge. As a result swans have been injured or killed by passing agricultural and residential traffic.

Following representations, the Trustees agreed some considerable time ago to fence off the area to prevent swans from gaining access to the lane and the bridge. The work was to have taken place once the Environment Agency had installed a canoe portage point and provided the charity with a gate. However, with no progress in that direction, the fencing work will take place within the next few weeks. This work may prove unpopular with some people but it is necessary in order to avoid further injuries to swans and inconvenience to those driving across the bridge.