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The swans of Exeter

The swans of Exeter
Mute swans (Cygnus olor) congregate under Cricklepit Bridge

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) congregate under Cricklepit Bridge

One of the advantages of living on a boat is that you get to see a lot of aquatic life go past. Exeter is famous for its mute swans (Cygnus olor) with congregate in large numbers on both the River Exe and the Exeter Ship Canal. The swans have become very used to the tourists and locals strolling along the river and canal side in the centre of town, so much so they even nest next to the footpath in the heart of town. At this time of year pairs of swans can be seen cruising around guarding clutches of fluffy grey signets. The adults will shepherd the signets along, occasionally pulling bits of weed off the botton for the youngstesr to feed on, or paddling furiously with their webbed feet to stir up weed in the shallows for them.

Mute swan cygnet (Cygnus olor) only a few days or weeks old.

Mute swan cygnet (Cygnus olor) only a few days or weeks old.

Mute swan cygnets (Cygnus olor) feeding in shallows.

Mute swan cygnets (Cygnus olor) feeding in shallows.

Mute swan cygnets (Cygnus olor) swimming.

Mute swan cygnets (Cygnus olor) swimming.

A pair of mute swan (Cygnus olor) cygnets swimming, Exeter Ship Canal.

A pair of mute swan (Cygnus olor) cygnets swimming, Exeter Ship Canal.

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Mute swans at midnight, River Exe, central Exeter, UK

Mute swans at midnight, River Exe, central Exeter, UK

Standing on the edge of suspension bridge crossing the River Exe in central Exeter a little after midnight attracts a little attention from passing dog walkers and late night revellers. Was I suicidal? Those that came closer breathed a sigh of relief when they saw my camera and tripod. No! I was obviously simply deranged; why else would I be pointing a camera down towards almost totally black water.

The swans of central Exeter are a glorious sight, skimming low over the water or congregating along the quayside to be fed by tourists, children, couples….pretty much everyone really. At night they float noislessly along the river like luminous ghosts. Sometimes they gather in large numbers, as in this picture, to squabble, converse, exchange ideas, debate, bicker, cogitate, fraternise and flirt – who knows? In early spring (as this was) the water is muddy and dark with suspended soil washed in from moorland upstream. At night the darkness enhances the already striking contrast between the pure white swans and the inky water.

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) gather at midnight, River Exe, Central Exeter, UK

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) gather at midnight, River Exe, Central Exeter, UK