Notes from St Tiggywinkles: What was this Arctic swan doing in Luton?

Arctic swan rescued from Luton
Arctic swan rescued from Luton

At Tiggys we do rescue many swans and cygnets, many of them time after time, repeat offenders getting themselves into trouble time and again.

This swan was different, not the usual mute swan we are all used to, but a bird of the high Arctic, a whooper swan.

Their breeding grounds are far north in subarctic Eurasia.

From there they will migrate hundreds, or even thousands, of miles to their overwintering grounds in southern Europe and eastern Asia.

They will overwinter on specific sites in Great Britain, but this whooper broke all the rules; brought in, down and out, it was found collapsed under a tree, in of all places, Luton.

Apparently there is a small group of these special swans that are on Wardown Park Lake in Luton Hoo.

Why should these arctic birds be resident in Luton?

The only other place where I had seen whooper swans on a municipal lake was in Reykjavik in Iceland, perfectly understandable.

This whooper swan was not well. It could not stand and its eyes seemed to be protruding. Put on an intravenous drip it did gain its strength over the next few days.

In the meantime I set out to solve the mystery of the swans of Luton Hoo.

Eventually the mystery had a logical, if somewhat strange, answer.

Originally on the lake at Wardown Park somebody had released a pair of pinioned (the end of one wing amputated) whooper swans who would never be able to fly away.

They settled and started to breed with their youngsters being able to fly and seen all over Bedfordshire.

This casualty we had taken in seemed to be one of their cygnets that had collided with, possibly, that tree.

He should recover but I wonder if he will fly high Arctic like all other whooper swans except those two residents.