Nathanville Family History


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A Final Farewell




As told by Patroller Eileen Tyrer
Chair. HEAT

Harwich Environmental Action Team

The Mistral Story - 2004

January 2004 - Two of Mistrals cygnets left several weeks before Christmas. The whole family flew on two occasions to the Boating Lake, eventually two of the cygnets stayed there. I would presume that they might be males. It is difficult to tell when they are young but they are often the first ones to leave.

On Boxing Day morning when Eileen went to the Dyke the remaining two cygnets came out to greet her followed by Mistral and Braveheart. Freedom decided to stay in the water where he feels safe. She notice on several occasions that Mistral got hold of one of the cygnets’ neck when he/she tried to get her food. Likely it will not be too long before they will be leaving as well, maybe to join the other two on the Boating lake.

At this precise time there are between seventy to eighty-six swans on the pond to keep fed, a much larger number this year than usual. This is due to the hot summer with no rain in the area, consequently all the grass dried up, which they need for grazing and the water levels dropped in the ponds drying out the weed that they also feed on.

Thankfully there are a fair number of people that feed them on a regular basis, Sandy and Eileen both feed them at different times during the day with mixed corn and flaked cooked barley which they buy by the sack load as well as several loaves of brown bread which gives them a mixed diet rather than just bread all the time.

May 2004 - Mistral is now nesting again, which is quite obscured by the reeds. She has had help building her nest by Freedom and Braveheart. It is quite amazing how they seem to tolerate one another at times then in the next breath Freedom will attack Braveheart, but he always seems prepared for the attack. Her young of a previous year that nested on the Hammerton pond are back again this year in the same place. We will really have to think of some names for them, the female (Pen) has pink feet, which is the polish genetic disorder, the Male is an extremely large (Cob) and very protective of his mate, especially if Freedom is making his usual noise on the dykes.

We have had a few problems with Mistral’s cygnets as well as the Hammerton Pond family. This year so far none of the adult swans have been caught up with fishing line; I just hope I have not spoken too soon. Freedom and Braveheart are still in attendance; Freedom in charge, with Braveheart still hanging around, although I have noticed lately that when they feed Mistral will eventually join Braveheart. Although Mistral lost one of her cygnets soon after they were hatched she was more fortunate than the Hammerton Pond family, who lost three. I am afraid it was Mr Fox I saw him on several occasions but I have to say he was quite beautiful. I surprised him one day down on the dyke just as I was going to feed them; he jumped out in front of me, he had been hiding in the reeds watching Mistral. He didn’t really stand a chance of getting near them, as Freedom is such a good protector.

Freedom is always standing tall with neck out stretched surveying the area and immediately warns of any danger by a sharp call and all of the family makes for the centre of the Dyke. Sometimes when I have been feeding them I have wondered why they suddenly left and have looked around to see what is wrong. It has often been a friend of mine that’s turned up unannounced or a holidaymaker. He knows right away it’s somebody different and they won’t return to feed until they have left.

On one occasion early in the morning they came to feed as usual, I tend to count the cygnets in my mind as they come into feed. That particular morning I had counted as usual got to three and wondered what had happened to number four. Suddenly he appeared from behind the reeds, I breathed a sigh of relief but it was short lived. Number four was badly lined up I gave him time to feel safe and decided I would just have to take a chance to catch him. I had Mistral and Freedom on my left the cygnets were next to me on my right with braveheart next to them. To get to number four I had to reach over one of the cygnets, I waited till they were immersed in feeding on the corn and flaked cooked barley I had put in the water. Their heads were down, so I took my chance and grabbed it by the neck, within a second all hell broke loose.

I had the cygnet in my arms when suddenly I was hit from behind on my back and my leg it was either Mistral or Freedom, I had turned my back on them to get to number four. I managed to get past Braveheart then turned around to find Mistral and Freedom in hot pursuit following me. I was running up the hill from the dyke, I got to the top near the small car park looked around to see if they were still following me. Mistral was not going to give in, she proceeded to chase me down the lane until I rounded a corner and number four had finally stopped calling her. I waited a while then made my way back to my car to get my swan medical case, unfortunately number four started calling again so back came Mistral. I barely had time to get the car door open and decided in a split second the best thing I could do was to plonk number four on the car seat and drive home. I would at least be able to look at him without being attacked. Had some of my dog walking friends been around I would not have had such a problem. I would have got them to hold their arms out and walk towards Mistral driving her back to the dyke while I dealt with the cygnet but it was not to be. Instead he had a ride in the car and ended up in the sink while we untangled him and took the hook out, it was only thirty minutes before he was once again back with his family. It took me a few more days to gain their trust although Mistral will still hiss every so often just to remind me. My friends had a good laugh when they heard what had happened, they were all wishing someone had been there with a camera.

When Freedom the hooper goes to attack it is quite different from Mistral and Braveheart our Mute swans. Freedom hold his wings out completely straight, which are very aerodynamic in shape just like concord he will turn his body so he is able to swipe you with his powerful wings. When you consider they have been recorded at flying twenty thousand feet and thousand of miles no wonder he is so strong.

We have noticed one of the cygnets is not holding his wings correctly; they look as if they have dropped and one or two of the feathers are damaged. We can only assume he was caught up by fishing line and when he pulled himself away damaged his left wing. I have spoken to Sue Morgan and sent her photos to have a look at. It does look as if we may have to take him to Sue’s where she will strap the wings back into position with the hope that they may mend; it depends how he heals if he will ever fly. If we were to leave him there unable to fly, eventually the males may kill him as they drive their young away each year, and he would be unable to get away from them, I will let you know how he gets on.

The Hammerton family as I said did not fair so well regarding the fox and have been left with only two cygnets, and they too have had their fair share of fishing lines. My friend Janet who helps on a regular basis has taken hooks out of the cygnets when they were quite tiny. Only last week one was badly lined up, it is not easy to get them on this pond, as the banks are steep and the water quite deep. This particular day Janet was away on holiday when I had the call come in from a lady that feeds them in the afternoon. Unfortunately her husband had seen it caught up in the reeds and released it with the line still attached trailing behind, which means one of the parents or the other cygnet could get their legs entwined in the line get pulled along and even drowned. On top of that they had fed them so there was no way we would get them out of the pond.

I went down at 4 p.m. to size up the situation; I called my nephew Graeme who has helped me on other occasions. Graeme came down to the Hammerton family and we tried for a little while, but no luck. They were just not very hungry; we decided we would meet up again to have one last try that evening. At 6 p.m. we met once again on the edge of the pond with fingers crossed we threw the bread and corn just out of their reach to encourage them to come out. It took about 15 minutes to finally get them to start trying to get out; the parents came first followed by one cygnet. Of course it would have to be the lined up cygnet that was still in the water. We waited patiently trying to ignore it while we fed the others gradually enticing them further away from the water suddenly with a tremendous effort the last remaining cygnet came out of the water. Once it had walked up towards Graeme I edged my way round to get between them and the water, to cut off their means of escape. It’s a bit difficult on this pond as there are so many bramble bushes you only have small areas to work in. Thankfully I was able to come up from behind it pick it up quickly and make my escape. The Hammerton family, are quite a gentle pair they will allow the ducks to feed with them. They made no attempt to chase me just hissed and raised their wings. We moved a short distance away so as not to stress them and the cygnet, then knelt down holding him tight and slowly unravelled the line, we cut most of the line off. Then looked to see how the hook was embedded in his neck luckily it was only in the surface of the skin, we were able to remove it quickly and return the cygnet to its parents.

We have had an amazing amount of swans turn up on the boating lake and the yachting pond, even a couple of families with their cygnets. At the last count Janet did it came to a hundred and fifteen, for so many to turn up I wonder if we have got bad weather on the way. I had to dash out in the middle of this letter I had a call from the beach warden, a young seal was on the beach in a distressed state. I called Stephanie just as I was going down to it to call Tendring District Council’s “Back Waters Warden” I only know him as Leon and also Jim Farr of the RSPCA. When I got there Jim was already there holding a small towel. I went back to my car and grabbed the cover I have on the seat for my dog Blaise. Jim took the cloth, I had the towel, he went from behind and I went to front to stop its escape to the sea. After a bit of a struggle it was captured, Leon turned up sat astride it so they could look at it wounds. It had been bitten a number of times, apparently several are turning up like this, and its never ever happened before, so they are trying to find out what is biting them. It turned out to be a little girl and its now on its way to East Wynch RSPCA centre near Thetford Forest, leaving behind a cover with an enormous hole in where it had clamped its teeth and wouldn’t let go.

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