Campus Wildlife | June 2018

The hot news at the end of May was the hatching of the long awaited cygnets on the 25th. Since then there have been more dramatic developments: as I write, the cygnets are in peril on Grove House lawn.

I was lucky enough to be there at 7:30am just after the second had hatched. The newest baby was still sticky with yolk, hence the cute coiffeur.

While I was standing on the path, father Swan was sitting on the water nearby, keeping a watchful eye on the nest and ready to make sure I didn’t come too close.  He looked as nervous as any human father in a maternity  ward.

Moments later mother Swan (Pen) settled back down to sit on cygnets and eggs alike. I didn’t see the cygnets again until they were five days old. Even now at 10 days old they are still being sheltered by mum for much of the time.  Sadly the other three eggs have not hatched, I have no idea how the Swans disposed of the unhatched eggs, but they are now gone from the nest.

Baby Swans
The cygnets, just a few minutes old

At 5 days old the cygnets are quite capable of swimming, but not averse to hitching a lift.

Cygnets with mother Swan
Cygnets with their mum
Hitching a ride
All Aboard


Thursday afternoon: the 13-day old cygnets became trapped on the fountain pond beside Grove House.  Although it is easy to enter this pond, the steep concrete sides make it impossible for the cygnets to scramble out.  A ramp has been placed there for just this eventuality but the technology was far too difficult for them: they repeatedly swam under it while trying to reach land.

The parents stayed with them all night but would not allow anyone to approach the babies to rescue them. Luckily the cygnets are still small enough to be able to rest on the mother’s back, and they have plenty of duckweed to eat.

The rescue operation under way
Callum herding the Swans toward the ramp

On Friday morning I called the RSPCA and Callum arrived with a long handled net and a swan pole.

Unfortunately, these were not quite long enough and we were unable to herd the Swans onto the ramp.

Andy from the Green Team has turned on the water supply to the pond and the water level is slowly rising. The plan was that when the water got high enough, the cygnets would be able to climb out.

At about 5pm the grateful cygnets managed to struggle onto dry land.

Dry land at last
Safe, for now

On Monday morning they were still sitting out by the poolside and have been staying around the pond, moving on and off the water without too much problem. Unfortunately the water level was dropping and they have just entered the pond again at 3:00 pm.  I’m leaving shortly for a week in Scotland, so I’ve asked a couple of people to keep an eye on them and can only hope they’re okay.

The sadder news is that the Canada Goose family have lost one of their young and are now down to six, the ever growing goslings increasingly resembling a herd of velociraptors.  The idea of birds being genuine living dinosaurs (essentially because they are descendants of dinosaurs) doesn’t look so outrageous when you watch these guys running around.  Who needs to watch Jurassic Park?

Canada goslings on Froebel Lawn
The Canada goslings on Grove House Lawn

They’ve finally braved the water for an early morning swim.

The goslings go for a swim
Swimming at last
Canada gosling showing off his stubby wings
His mother loves him

By Monday morning most of the six Canada goslings were at last looking like Canada Geese, having almost completed their moult.  They are also getting in plenty of swimming practice, with the Swans busy at the ornamental pond.


Although all 8 Egyptian goslings are still looking good, I saw only the mother for a week. I don’t visit Digby every day, but this was a little worrying as normally both parents tend the young until they can fly. Happilly, on Tuesday, father was back .

Fluffy goslings
Egyptian goslings, still cute

At least, a male goose that I assume was the absent father dropped in briefly before flying off to watch over the family from a nearby roof. It looked as if they had been having a family row!

Goose on a roof
Father Goose returns

On Monday the Egyptian goslings were also looking a little more grown up.


Our resident Heron astonished me the other day, by deciding to have a swim, this is actually quite rare behaviour and the first time I have ever seen a Heron do this.

Heron goes for a swim
Swimming Heron

Here’s a video of this epic feat, hardly a marathon: he swam for under a minute, including lunch.

To my delight a Kingfisher flew across the Lake early on the 24 May. Unfortunately, it was too fast for me to get a picture.

The Coots and Moorhens are still producing young, although most pairs seem to produce one or two young at a time, this Coot family has five babies. It is difficult to feed so many young and the weaker babies usually die, often killed by their parents.

Three baby coots, with parent
Three of the family of five baby Coots

There are now hundreds of Starlings around the campus and (even more in Richmond Park, 10 minutes’ walk away—we are so lucky!), busily caring for their young. They don’t look much like babies, or indeed like Starlings, causing much confusion for new birders.

Baby Starling
Young Starling, Froebel College
Babies with adults
Adult and Juvenile Starlings, Richmond Park

Now it is my turn to migrate: I’m off to Scotland for a week.

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