TredegarPark comprises 90 acres of beautiful gardens and parkland within which stands an outstanding example of late 17th century architecture – Tredegar House. The property has been acquired recently by the National Trust from its former owners – Newport City Council. It is situated adjacent to junction 28 of the M4 motorway, immediately to the west of Newport. It hardly needs reporting, but just in case there should be any doubt, there is also a very attractive lake a very short distance away from the house!
Swan Rescue South Wales has had a very long association with the property, extending back prior to the implementation of the partial ban on the use of lead weights in angling. We were in fact instrumental in getting angling banned here because of the steady stream of lead poisoned birds arising from here. Much more recently, we have successfully fended off an attempt to reintroduce angling; unfortunately, as will become apparent as you read on, this does not mean there is no angling; there are large carp in the lake, and clearly this presents far too great a temptation for some folks who are obviously quite content to break the rules and have a go, usually by entering through gaps they have created in the boundary fence.
Swans have nested here for very many years, and it should come as no surprise to learn we could tell a story every year of the goings on here! 2013 was no different, except in respect of the detail.
Seven cygnets hatched, but the first call we received related to a female intruder which was foolish enough to land on the lake on 25th June, and was promptly set upon by the resident cob. It turned out she was already at some disadvantage as a result of a pre-existing problem affecting one eye. Fortunately we were able to remove her from there before too much more damage was done.
Next (16th August) was a call relating to one of the cygnets trailing fishing line from a hook caught in its beak. By the time we arrived, it was clear the hook had ‘gone’; but where? All the birds were away out in the middle of the lake – not interested in food, and behaving somewhat warily. However, what we could see, even at some distance, was that one of the cygnets appeared to have a very red foot, the explanation for which was soon to emerge. We were called again later the same day in response to a report that one of the cygnets was bleeding from the web on its left foot. Now we learned what had happened; a disabled member of the public had caught the tackled swan earlier in the day, and, in removing the hook, had lost control of it, had badly pierced his hand with it, and then lost it. We know now, with reasonable certainty, the hook ended up on the bank, or in the shallows, and one of the cygnets had then skewered his foot on it. It was nasty, being close to one of the central bones in his foot – small wonder it bled so profusely. We bound it up, administered antibiotics and released him back to his family the following day.
A feature of 2013 for us has been the speed with which some adults appear to have wanted to be rid of their off-spring! And so it was, on 5th September we learned one of the cygnets was being bullied by papa. By now, weighing 8.75 kg. he was a good weight, but we felt still too young to be able to make his own way in the world (and frequently we say we should not anthropomorphise …!), so we transferred him the following day to the wildlife hospital at West Hatch near Taunton, where we knew he would be with other birds of similar age, until a more realistic release age had been attained.
The next to go was given his marching orders on 24th September. He flew out, but didn’t get very far. The south end of the lake is separated from a housing estate by a 3 metre high paling fence; our friend was the other side of the fence, trying desperately to return home, but at this time of year there is absolutely no point in this, so, a little while later he was released into a local non-breeding flock.
Surprisingly, given the story so far, we heard nothing more until 21st December – Saturday before Christmas. We were called away from a fund raising event barely two miles from TredegarPark. This time, the cygnet had attempted to fly north, but this time came down on the eastbound entry slip road at M4 Junction 28 – not a good place to be! Anyway, it was two very relieved Highways Agency officers who were happy for us to take over, and so allowing them to re-open the road properly.
Five days later, and over a period of 48 hours, the remaining three birds (2 male, 1 female) led us a merry dance. Finally, we did manage to catch the two males in quite separate locations – both, mercifully unharmed, but some time between the final evening and the following morning, the female must have got the message; despite a very extensive search in very heavy rain, we found to sign of her, so we have to assume she had flown out safely.
In a while, the 2014 story will start to emerge.
Postscript: During our search for the young female, we met a couple walking their dog; they are ‘regulars’ at Tredegar Park, and clearly are interested and concerned for the welfare of the swans. They called us on 4th. January to say they had seen the ‘missing’ swan on the Red Pond away over on the other side of the park. We went down there as soon as we could, but it was obvious right away we were not going to catch her – she was so very wary. The following day, we had another call to say the adults were also on the Red Pond, and were not allowing the young bird onto the water. Once again, we went down; it was clear the cygnet recognised it faced a real dilemma! As we approached, and with some reluctance, she went back on the water, only to realise the adults were advancing on her again. With the same reluctance, she clambered back up onto the bank, obviously hoping to elude us, armed as we were with our swan hooks. Fortunately, that was not to be, and very quickly we had her safely in the car, and were on our way to release her at The Knap. It was not obvious that she recognised her two male siblings released there a week earlier!