Over the summer months Wildlife Warden James McComiskey and his team audit each of the captive black and whooper swans around the Castle Estate to check their health and overall condition.
The health check takes place when an opportunity presents itself on an individual swan basis or en masse using kayaks and boats for multiple swans. Each bird is microchipped to allow James and his team to identify individual swans and each swan has a history attached to their unique chip number.
James explains: “When we catch a swan we check the microchip, which tells us which swan we have caught and we make sure the microchip is still working. We then give each bird a visual health check, weigh it and assess the bird’s feet for bumblefoot (sores). It is useful to compare the weight of the bird from one year to the next as this can be an indicator of poor health.”
The annual health check is a quick and painless process for the birds and if the swan is in good health it is released in around 10 minutes. If a problem is identified the swans are taken to the vet for further examination and treatment.
Throughout the spring and summer of 2016 the Wildlife Team has been fitting either blue or red spiral rings on the leg of each of the black swans to allow visitors and staff to easily identify the gender of each bird.
James explains: “This is useful as some of our younger birds have been pairing up in all male or all female couples (fairly common in swans). The bird photographed is called Borris who is a two year old male from Shrewsbury. He was bought from a breeder and came to Leeds Castle in September 2014 and weighs 6.5kg. He is fit and healthy and is now happily back on the Great Water.”
There are currently 30 black swan and 4 whooper swans at Leeds Castle.