Following a complete absence in December, the swans of Lincoln are back…but for how long?

Only 15 years ago, Brayford Pool was home to one of the largest colonies of mute swans in the country.  Now, instead of over 200, only a handful remain. Development of the waterfront is to blame, experts say.

Trevor Lee, head of the LincsBirders Club, said “Swans are tolerant of people- but only up to an extent. They need areas out of the water where they can preen, and unlike ducks, they can’t jump, they have to waddle out.” Over November and December, the swans could no longer use their usual boat ramp to get out of the water, due to construction work on the road.  Since that work has been completed and the slipway made available again, the birds have returned. But in general, the area is becoming less and less hospitable. Bars, restaurants and student accommodation have all dramatically decreased quiet spots and  grassy areas on the bank for preening and feeding. An increase in rubbish is also causing the birds to look further afield- but this is unusual behaviour as mute swans do not migrate.

The mute swans in Lincoln have a long and iconic history. The swans even had a patron saint, St Hugh, who became famous for a white swan following him around, even guarding him at night. Legend has it that St Hugh, who helped rebuild the cathedral in 1185, warned that the cathedral would all but collapse if the swans ever left the Brayford.

Trevor Lee says that, in order to keep these iconic birds in the city, more needs to done. He thinks that the university side of the Brayford can be made more swan friendly, a safe haven from the bustle on the other side.