Mute Swans Emmet Bridge, Dublin

The commentary that follows was written on the day after St. Patrick’s Day 2011.

If one is in a pensive mood one can turn the sound off and just watch the movements of the Mute swans as they go about their business. I didn’t want to have music playing in the background, as I felt it was important to maintain the good, bad and indifferent sounds of the natural city environment that Mute swans have to endure every day of their lives in Dublin.

I took this very amateur video of Mute swans on the day after St Patrick’s Day 2011. It will not be very long before their departure to foreign shores. The Kodak 12 mega-pixel Easy Share C182 camera is no bigger than a large mobile phone so quality of video is not 100%.

I’d heard in the media that some sixteen swans had died, so thus went frantically to my favourite spot at the grand-canal to see if my old friends were still there. I was very relieved to see they were indeed. I peeped over Portobello Bridge, which lies on the opposite side of the road and saw that there were no swans there. I had been promising myself to meander down that side of the canal at some time before their departure, but I never got around to it at all. I’m now left wondering if the swans that died were in fact resident in that part of the canal? I did see swans there a while ago. I shall look into it further.

The swans seem to settle for this particular grass area to look after their young sygnets. I don’t know how they put up with the constant traffic noise? I know they have such sensitive advanced hearing. A lot of people out walking along the canal continually throw bread to the swans, which is not very good for them at all. Whenever there is bread thrown at them by well meaning folk, out of nowhere an assortment of birds, such as pigeons, mallards and sea-gulls appear on the scene. A ginger cat also appeared, not knowing exactly what to make of the beautiful feathery white/grey/brown friends. Listen closely to the vocal bugling or honking! A passerby told me that some of the swans were tagged.

I do hope that the ambulance with its roaring siren at the very tail-end of the video got to its destination pretty quickly and that the sick patient(s) recovered okay.


The following is information pertaining to Mute swans.

Mute Swan. Cygnus olor Eala bhalbh. Status: Resident at wetlands throughout Ireland.

Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland, as more than 20% of the European population winter in Ireland. The European population is considered to be Secure.

Identification: Large white swan, with an orange-red bill with prominent knob on the forehead, black nostrils and cutting edges.

Call: Despite the name not mute! Adults give a curious snorting or rumbling sound. Juveniles beg with high-pitched whistle. Hisses when alarmed. Does not call in flight, but a loud whisteling sound is produced by the wings.

Diet: Water plants, which these large birds can reach with their long necks at depths of up to one metre. Also graze on land and occasionally feed on small amphibians, snails and insects.

Breeding: Clutch: 4-7 eggs (1 brood) Incubation: 34-45 days. Fledging: 120-150 days (precocial). Age of first breeding: 3 years. Breeds on lakes, ponds & rivers, and nests are a large mound constructed from reed stem and other aquatic vegetation, with seaweed being used in coastal locations.

Wintering: Widespread on lakes, ponds and rivers.

Where to See: Largest wintering numbers (250-2,000 birds) found on Loughs Neagh & Beg & Upper Lough Erne in Northern Ireland, and Lough Ennell, the Shannon Callows and River Slaney in winter.

Monitored by: Irish Wetland Bird Survey (I-WeBS).


Swans stricken with mystery illness: from @the_irish_times


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