An afternoon stroll around the estate of Leeds Castle in Kent didn't deliver any surprise wildlife sightings, a Great Crested Grebe on the castle lake and a nice Kingfisher perched on an overhanging tree again on the castle lake were the highlights.
But I found some interest in the captive Black Swans scattered around the estate lakes, which now number eight pairs.
I remember many years ago seeing Black Swans at Dawlish in Devon, seemed to be at home there, I wonder if they still frequent that area, been a while since I last visited .
The Black Swans at Leeds Castle originate allegedly from a gift from Winston Churchill to the then owner of Leeds Castle, Lady Baile for her collection, I believe they were gifted to Winston Churchill from the Australian goverment.
Lady Baile had a love of Birds and for many years a large collection of exotic birds were kept in her private aviaries. These have long gone now, closed down in 2012 to save money, although there is still a relatively small Bird of prey centre in the grounds.
But the Black Swans seemed to have survived and flourished and appear to be regular breeders on the lakes at Leeds,
I have read that many Black Swans have escaped private collections around the country and are breeding at many sites.
[Black Swan is listed under Schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with respect to England and Wales. As such, it is an offence to release or allow the escape of this species into the wild.]
A piece of legislation that appears not to be working .
Some research by the British Trust for Ornithology found back in 2004, Black Swans were recorded at 73 sites with only 11 breeding pairs. In 2009 that there were at least 500 reports of Black Swan at 170 different locations, but of these only 37 locations had breeding pairs.
So numbers are increasing and there is evidence that the Black Swan population is nearly large enough to become self sustaining and may be added to the authorative " British List" of birds found in the UK.
I must admit I have not come across any in the wild, only those in private wildfowl collections.
The Black Swan is said to be more aggressive than its white counterparts to both human and other wildfowl especially when it comes to protecting its chosen territorial waters. these at Leeds appear friendly enough.
|Black Swan adult and Juvenile|
Apparently these Black Swans can breed at any time of the year, although the Juveniles find it difficult to survive our winters, At Leeds castle they have had seven Black Swan cygnets this year 2017, some of which you can see in these photographs, hope they make it through the winter.
Certainly an eye-catching bird to see, even in a private waterfowl collection.