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River Suir – Water Lilies And Mute Swans

Our local water ways, namely the river Suir, which flows through the town of Thurles and the Cabragh Wetlands on the outskirts of the town, are particularly attractive at this time of year.

The native White Water Lily (Nymphaea alba) and the invasive Yellow flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus) are in full bloom in Cabragh Wetlands, while on the river Suir our year round resident Mute Swans (Dan and Doris)  have finally introduced their surviving three cygnets, hatched in mid May, to the local residents.

The male (called a Cob), and the female (called a Pen) birds, usually attempt to mate for life, although it is not true to say that if one of the birds were to die, that the other would necessarily pine away. It is very possible for an adult bird to find an alternative mate.

Their nest is a huge mound of mixed material, normally assorted vegetation, consisting of  sticks dried grasses and rushes, are constructed at the water’s edge. The nest is built by the female, while the male supplies the materials.

The female lays up to seven eggs between late April and early May. Both sexes incubate the eggs, which hatch within 35-41 days. The young birds (called cygnets) sometimes ride playfully on their parents’ backs as seen in this video clip.

The youngsters remain with the adult birds for four or five months before being driven from the breeding ground in mid Autumn.

Swans normally find enough food in the wild without supplementary feeding. It is only in freezing weather that extra food can be helpful. Many people like feeding bread to swans and while this is unlikely to do them any real harm in the long term, it is no substitute for the proper diet that the birds themselves will seek out. Grain, such as wheat, and vegetable matter, especially lettuce and potatoes, can be fed to swans.

Food should be thrown into the water to avoid encouraging the young birds onto the bank, thus putting their lives in danger.

A visit to Cabragh Wetlands is such a peaceful experience and for those who enjoy a closeness with nature, it is well worth a visit, particularly in the evening time.

Music used in the video clip is by Johannes Brahms, entitled “The Cradle Song”.


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