UEARG has been ringing swans in Norwich for many years, but not typically in big numbers. Last winter we ringed 20, which I thought was pretty good, but the metal rings we put on typically don't get a lot of returns and unless the bird is very close can be tricky to read without recapturing the bird. With colour rings, amassing additional encounters is easier, the public can get involved, and most importantly it's less hassle for the bird. I therefore approached Mike Reed to join his national colour ringing project on Mute Swans, in the hope of setting up a mini project within his larger project. With the Norwich Swan Project (as I have named it), our aim is to get a better idea of how swans use Norwich waterways and get a better assessment of how well the population is doing.
One national lockdown later I set about getting swans across Norwich colour ringed, hoping I could match the 20 I did the previous winter. Six months have now passed and it's fair to say my expectations have been well and truly surpassed. To date we have colour ringed 123 swans across Norwich, amassed over 400 sightings, across 17 sites, and we are only scratching the surface of assessing the life histories of a species that can live into their late 20's.
Here's a map of all those encounters, each point is a location that a swan has been ringed or sighted with darker points indicating more encounters. The lines show movements between locations, with darker lines showing more movements.
The majority of our catching takes place in the east of the city at Whitlingham Country Park, Carrow Road Bridge, and Thorpe River Green. Three sites I've affectionally dubbed the Swan triangle. As a result, the points and site links here are stronger but it does reflect the much higher density of swans in this area (hence why we do so much catching here). Anyone passing these sites this year will be familiar with groups of 30+ swans eager for some food. The Carrow Road Bridge area in particular has recently become a hotspot for swans in Norwich due to people feeding from their balconies that overlook the river.
Only 12 of our 123 swans colour ringed this year were hatch year birds, and the majority of these turned up late in the season likely dispersing from their natal sites. We think this may point towards low breeding productivity of swans within Norwich itself, and is an area we want to explore further next year. If you know of any nesting locations we'd be keen to know about them, especially next spring when swans start to pair up and nest build.
We also need more sightings! If you are in Norwich and you see a colour ringed swan, please stop and give it a read if you can and submit your sightings to mike.reed2017 [at] outlook.com or contact me directly through our Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook pages. It doesn't have to be a long distance movement to be interesting to us, all data is good data!