Brood walking on footpath
But some pairs will nest in their home territory and some of these are in some unusual locations.
This is Funny Bill, a huge dad with a small part of his bill missing (hence the name). This pair nests here but does not remain in the area after hatching.
Another isolated single nest in an unusual position surrounded by people is this one at Lakes Entrance
Mum & dad swans of North Arm Lakes Entrance are the talk of the town. Their nest is about 4 metres from the footpath and quite an attraction for site seeing tourists, cyclists and those walking their dogs. They lost their 2 cygnets a few days after hatching back in August last year, then, after a few weeks of romantic aquatic behaviour they were ready to nest again but some sadistic children destroyed their nest so mum laid the clutch of eggs on a floating pontoon away from the little terrorists. But with no nesting material at all on the bare deck of the pontoon it was doomed to fail.
During incubation, nesting swans instinctively stretch out their necks and rake back leafy matter, twigs, grass, etc with their bills to add to the nest and it was heart breaking to see them do this on the bare timber.
Dad stretching neck to rake back debris to add to non-existent nest
They abandoned the eggs on the pontoon and in November they moved from the area.
NOW THEY HAVE RETURNED!
They started building a nest on the exact same spot as last year beside the footpath and completed laying a clutch of 7 eggs on the 26th of April. After their previous ordeals, they now have most of the householders across the street keeping an eye on them.
photo courtesy of Paul Crozier
The Paynesville Progress Jetty resident pair, nest at the communal nesting site, (about 2 km from their home) and spend 2-3 weeks at the cygnet nursery before they head for home.
Progress Mum with her two, 10 day old cygnets at the cygnet nursery about a week before their first long journey home.
It can be very hazardous nesting and living close to humans but it can also have its benefits. Having sat with several broods on public foreshores, watching cygnets grow up then leave home, I have noticed that the constant harassment of people walking dogs, especially those dogs that are unleashed is probably the best training a growing cygnet can receive!
The above photo is the property of Duncan Fraser, taken in 2007 of a nesting swan at the Paynesville boat ramp.
Cygnets have to learn the parents signals and learn threat detection habits and the responses. Broods growing up in public areas receive dozens of daily threats where a dog approaches. Those unleashed rarely attack, being simply curious, they usually end up running away yelping after a dad swan bites a chunk off its ear or belts it with his painfully hard and effective wing strike. The cygnets learn quickly due to the repetitiveness of these dog lessons .
Broods in the wild, isolated from us and our pets, can lose a cygnet at each lesson because the threat is not a friendly curious dog but a hungry predator wanting a meal. After three and a half months of repetitive dog threat training these cygnets can recognise the non aggressive dogs. This Raymond Island brood are quite relaxed about the docile old dog on the beach with them after spending 2 months sharpening their threat perception at Progress Jetty.
The North Arm nest at Lakes Entrance will hopefully be yielding 7 cygnets in early June and will not only be the most popular and most photographed cygnets in the area, they will perhaps be the most ‘threat awareness’ trained as well due to the proximity of the footpath.
Some footage of these gorgeous black swans with their cygnets who are learning to tolerate the local dogs. Click on the picture to be taken to YouTube to watch it.