THE MISTRAL STORY…
As told by Patroller Eileen Tyrer
BRAVEHEART - A new rival for Freedom
A Mute swan has been making advances to Mistral on the yacht pond and she now seems to have left Freedom. Mistral has been seen doing the love dance with this new male on the dike I have fed her on several occasions in this vicinity. Sometimes Freedom turns up and chases the other male away, but he never goes too far away and at every opportunity he is back again with Mistral. I am afraid she does seem to have the reputation of being a bit of an Essex girl! (You know intelligent, perfect manners, well dressed and very friendly).
Recently the police called Clacton Swan rescue to the dike when a fisherman first spotted that Mistral had a hook and line in her neck. This was a great shame; as I could have caught her so quickly because she would, by this time, stand next to me. They were unable to catch her with nets and ropes and finally left and called Sue Morgan. Sue went to the dike, but knew immediately it was impossible to even try to catch, Mistral she was so spooked by the previous attempt. Sue called to tell me, and to say the hook was not at present in any way life threatening, I monitored her very closely every day for several weeks and was unable to get any where near her, because she was now so frightened of humans. Last week I became concerned as the line attached to the hook, although not long had wound itself around her neck. I went home and was about to ring Sue when the phone rang and she was on the line, I am sure she must be telepathic.
Sue had arranged for the South Essex Wildlife Hospital in Grays to come down as they were doing several jobs for Sue in the area. Craig and Miles arrived at mine and we went straight to the dike. Craig immediately went down towards Mistral and sat very quietly feeding her, but still she would not come too close. Miles sat on the bank waiting to give help when necessary. Craig then decided to hide behind a clump of reeds in an attempt to catch her. Suddenly there was a loud splash, Craig was in the water and had surprised Mistral by jumping over the top of her and so blocking her means of escape. Miles and I ran towards him, he was by this time holding Mistral and passed her to Miles, we very quickly carried her up the bank to the waiting wildlife ambulance. Craig was, by this time, feeling rather cold after jumping in the water, and quickly put some more warm clothes on, before getting the hook out. Miles held Mistral, while I held her beak and neck up in the air so Craig could see what he was dealing with. In a short while the hook was out, she was given a shot of antibiotics and a ring put on her leg, not the metal sort though. It was the type that’s put on your wrist when you go into hospital only larger, it should stay on her leg for about three years. When everything was done it was time to set her free, Miles took her down to the dike and she was happy to join the new man in her life but not very pleased with us at capturing her in the first place.
We then departed quickly to the Hammerton pond where another swan had a hook and line in its neck, but nowhere near the length of Mistrals and definitely not life threatening. Unfortunately Craig and Miles were not so lucky with this particular Cob. After chasing him in a canoe several times around the pond he finally had enough of them and took of towards the sea. Still not to worry, he was there the next day when I went to check on him, and I will continue to monitor him, hopefully when he goes into moult next year Craig and Miles will be back, but we won’t breath a word to the swans. Harwich Environmental Action Team (HEAT) gave a donation to the South Essex Wildlife Hospital as we cannot thank them enough for all that they did for Mistral, I am sure she does appreciate it in her own way.
As for Mistral she is still with her new mate, and although I am feeding them both every day, she is still not coming too close, but then who can blame her. We are now going to have to wait and see what is going to happen in the love triangle and who will win her heart. For the moment the possibly hybrid cygnets, have come back to be with their dad Freedom on the yacht pond and he is still very protective of them. You may notice that one of them has a blue ring on its leg. I, along with help from Janet, removed a hook from its leg, had to give it an injection of antibiotics and the leg ring, before returning it back to Mistral and Freedom when they were on the dike together.
We seem to have gathered a few more swans along the way; I have counted thirty-one, which gave me quite a shock. I believe some of them are last years babies as one in particular will jump out of the pond when I go to feed them, he wants to be hand fed and one of Mistral babies last year would always do that. I can only assume that they tell one another where they might get fed, or is it that ponds that contain the food they need are in short supply. Many ponds are being filled in when building developments are taking place, whatever the reason; they seem to like it here at Dovercourt.
If you want to feed them please give them brown bread, as it is better for them than white. Feeding them also with mixed corn and cooked flaked Barley is a good idea, as it gives them a mixed diet, these can be obtained from the pet shop in Lee Road. I feed them four boxes of this mixture as well as two, sometimes three, loaves of wholemeal bread, and more if it’s cold. Feeding is usually at 6 am sometimes at 4. 30 am depending if I have visits to London Hospitals. You cannot start feeding them in the winter, then miss a few days; it has to be on a regular basis. All our birds and wildlife are under threat from developments all over the country.
Once they are all fed I start my beach hut patrol, whatever the weather, with my two faithful friends Tammy and Blaise, who have waited patiently in the car whilst I have fed all the swans on the yacht pond. We then check on all the huts, right down to the Orwell Terrace area, you can always spot Blaise with her flashing collar; it helps me to see when and where she deposits her toilet. (I happen to be a responsible dog owner who constantly tells irresponsible dog owners to jolly well clear up, as they give all dog walkers a bad name).
We finally start our trek back towards the West End and check again that all beach huts are safe and sound. Once back, with my faithful friends safely in the car, it is off to feed Mistral, her new mate and finally negotiate the Hammerton land to monitor the Swan with the hook in its neck, which is now proving very difficult. I have not got caught by anyone yet, as they move their Tonka Toys full of earth depositing it on all the wildlife in the area, and I am sure you will be as excited as I am that soon we will be seeing caravans and log cabins! What a thought! I do not think the Swans will stand a chance then.
Just give me a thought occasionally, as the wind and rain hammers against your windows in the early hours. I am not to keen on it myself, but I love the early mornings when no one is around. Just me and perhaps, one other dog walker, the moon, stars and the odd fox trundling on his way searching for food. The Swans silently gliding across the ponds gleaming white in the moonlight, those moments are definitely worth throwing myself out of bed every morning, you could always come and join me.
JANUARY 2003 – Freedom has now left his young on their own for several days on the boating lake ponds and has gone back on the dyke to be with Mistral and the other male.
One morning when I was very early I could see the new male on his own where I usually feed them. I started to call out "come on come on" then suddenly I could see two white swans gliding towards me in the darkness it was Mistral and Freedom. Mistral came in closer to be fed with the other male while Freedom stayed further away and I threw food out to him. The new male is wary of Freedom but they seem to tolerate each other at a distance, we shall just have to wait and see what develops.
Freedom the Hooper swan is really chasing off the male Mute swan that Mistral went with, in a very aggressive way. He is also getting extremely vocal and can be heard quite a distance away.
OIL THREATENS SWANS - JUNE 2003
I have been very busy rescuing Guillemots that have come in very oiled. My coat gets taken off and thrown over the birds to stop them escaping back into the sea, the trouble is it always seems to manage to fall into a muddy puddle. I am left with a struggling bird that wants to attack me, a damp coat which I am unable to put on, and a long cold walk back to my car. Still if they survive it is well worth it. I take them to Wildlife Hospital at Thorrington near Colchester then they are eventually sent down to an RSPCA centre in Hasting before finally being released. We had two different oil spills early in the year in our area going up the rivers Orwell and Stour as well as other oil on a three-mile stretch of our coastline. Many birds have been affected especially the swans a great many are completely black with oil which is burning their eyes - it is terrible. Our group was out rescuing and transporting the swans to the rescue centre for treatment every single day for nearly a fortnight. We were all very tired and exhausted but there were still more swans we were trying to catch along with the smaller seabirds. Alan has been answering the phone non-stop, Stephanie has been helping an enormous amount on the phone as well as coming out with us and she was over the moon when she caught her first swan.
Mistral and Freedom are fine though, but still with the other male in tow. I have been feeding all the swans on the ponds to keep them from flying into the oil and so far it has worked. The update on Mistral this spring is she has made a nest and is now sitting on it permanently with Freedom guarding her. He has pushed her chosen own species of Mute Swan out, although he is still hanging around which is rather sad. The Mute Swan has most probably mated with Mistral that is why he is still around but he is very frightened of Freedom the hooper Swan as they can be quite fierce. I have spoken to Sue Morgan of Swan Rescue about Freedom and we think he should really be with his own species. The trouble is he does not molt the same time as our native Mute. Our native swan molts now, so he cannot fly away but has to remain with the swan he has bred with to look after her and the cygnets. The hooper we believe molts in October. It maybe decided to try and catch him when he is in molt then take him to an area of Norfolk where they have wild hooper Swans as well as migrating ones that come at certain times of the year. He would then hopefully be with his own kind and able to breed. He may even learn to migrate, which might be a lot kinder to him and Mistral in the long term. If we are able to catch him about October time any cygnets would be quite grown up and reasonably able to take care of themselves with their mother still around. Again if the Mute, that we think mated with her, is still around he may well take over looking after the cygnets. Its all obviously supposition on our part, but we feel we ought to do something about him.
Thinking on the long-term problem, even if Freedom gets rid of the Mute Swan that is hanging around now or the Mute gets fed up and leave on his own accord, which is highly unlikely. The same thing will happen again next mating season. Mistral will obviously want her own species to mate with and naturally performing the love dance that Mute Swans do together will be part of her ritual. We, and any new Mute that comes on the scene, will have the same problem with Freedom. We all feel quite sorry for Freedom, Mistral and any Mute that comes along as their problem was not of their making but of some stupid person trying to keep wild hooper swans even if they have been bred in captivity its kinder to get them back into the wild to be free. Some of Mistral’s last year’s babies can be seen on the Yacht/Boating Lake, two of them had rings put on their legs when fishing hooks were removed from them, they have grown into beautiful swans.
These pictures, taken July show Mistral with her young and the two males still pursuing her. The photos show Freedom, the Whooper swan (with the yellow beak) and a Mute swan (Braveheart) from her own breed (the orange beak).
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