Latest data shows Lincoln’s swan numbers still dismally low

Two aggressive and territorial swans may be responsible for the drastic decline in the birds’ population on the Lincoln Brayford, according to the Brayford Trust, but a swan expert said it’s down to a lack of natural vegetation.

Cyril Bennis, who has been looking after swans for 40 years, told The Lincolnite that the natural environment for the wildlife is the “crucial brick”.

He said areas which have been taken away over the years need shored up for the wildlife, and particularly the swans who “need their rest area for preening”.

As previously reported, experts said in 2018 that swan numbers in Lincoln had reached record lows due to development around Brayford Pool. At the time the latest Brayford Mute Swan count by the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) showed the number of swans spotted on the pool had fallen to just 12.

The latest data shows this number then rose to 13 in 2017 before falling to figures of 2 and 11 in 2018 and 2019 respectively. However, the date for 2018/19 and 2019/20 has not yet been verified.

At its peak, in 1990, Brayford Pool was home to 156 swans!

Mute Swan peak counts at Brayford Pool. Photo: WeBS

David Rossington, Company Secretary of the Brayford Trust, told The Lincolnite: “From the Brayford Trust’s point of view, people we’ve spoken to suggest the most likely cause of the swans having left the Brayford is because two swans have been nesting on or near the Brayford.

“When that happens they can be territorial and aggressive and may have chased away the others, including their own young.

“What we don’t know is if the eight cygnets (of the two adults who nest at the viewing platform on the university campus) will be chased off by the parents.”

The Brayford Trust is required to provide a Business Plan to the City of Lincoln Council every five years. The current draft plan is currently available for consultation .

The plan will go to a board meeting with the Brayford Trust in early December before it is delivered to the city council by the end of the year.

David added: “In our business plan we want to make sure we keep the south bank, the softer area, as natural as possible. Although swan numbers have been going down, geese, moorhens, and ducks have been going up and we also have an otter now.

“The actual environment is quite good at the moment and we are hoping to do a project with the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust to put in some floating beds along the South Bank in the Brayford to give a better environment and help with erosion.”

Cyril Bennis, who is the warden of the swans in Stratford-Upon-Avon, published a report warning that Lincoln’s swans were in trouble back in 2006. Photo: Cyril Bennis

Cyril Bennis is currently the Chairman of the Swan Management Committee in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

He has been to Lincoln several times and passed on his expertise, including when he was called in by a resident over a report of concern for the Swans in 2000. He produced a report and met the mayor in 2001 to set out his concerns, and has returned to the city a number of times since.

He said: “I think like everything else nature will take its cause. Swans will do whatever is necessary, and there is not much feeding area around the glory hole and the Brayford. There is not much natural vegetation, so it’s a battle between the balance of wildlife and development.

“Lincoln is such an important establishment for swans. The city council needs to be setting aside money for the development of wildlife and a partnership is needed with them. If everyone works together the numbers can go back up again.”

Photo: Lincoln Swans/Twitter

Swan ecology project

Volunteer swan spotters are needed to help monitor the health and movements of Lincoln’s swans.

Ecologists from the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences have worked with volunteers from the Yorkshire Swan and Wildlife Rescue Hospital, and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, to add coloured leg rings to 130 birds from the local population of Mute Swans over the past 24 months.

It is the first time in almost a decade that a comprehensive swan ringing programme has been in place around the city. Dr Jenny Dunn, an ecologist from the university’s School of Life Sciences, is leading the new programme.

Local people are being asked to report swan sightings by noting down the 4-digit codes on the bright yellow Darvic rings attached to ringed swans’ legs.

Sightings can be submitted to the Swan Rings project by emailing [email protected] or using the Twitter handle @LincolnSwans

Over 600 separate sightings have already been reported. Comparing sightings with historic data has shown at least one of Lincoln’s long-term resident swans to be at least 13 years old.

Data collected with help scientists and students to study the complex dynamics of the area’s swans. It will also help show if swans migrate to new areas as the codes are unique to locations.