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Mum helps Swan Sanctuary save family of swans from River Medway's tides despite Council's warnings of intervention


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An animal-loving mother helped a charity support two swans attempting to bear their first cygnets by building a floating nest despite council warnings against interference.

Adele Stearns, of Invicta Road, Sheerness, has been helping the Swan Sanctuary and a handful volunteers install the aid on the River Medway at Aylesford for the Queen’s favourite birds, dubbed Elizabeth and Philip in Her Majesty’s honour for the jubilee.

Adele Stearns came from Sheppey to help the poor birds in Aylesford. Picture: Adele Stearns
Adele Stearns came from Sheppey to help the poor birds in Aylesford. Picture: Adele Stearns

Adele explained: “For the past four years, a pair of mute swans have been desperately trying to build nests and lay eggs.

“But sadly, the eggs never had the opportunity to be incubated or hatched because of the river’s tides.

“The pair would swim in circles as their eggs disappeared beneath the rising water. When the tide receded, the female could be seen scooping her eggs together and trying to keep them under her to protect them. But by then, the eggs were no longer viable.”

The mum-of-three hasn’t been the only one looking into helping the birds.

Nicky Watson, 49, from Aylesford was also distressed be the swans’ plight and got in touch with Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) to see if a solution could be found.

The two swans Elizabeth and Phillip have struggled to bear cygnets for four years. Picture: Adele Stearns
The two swans Elizabeth and Phillip have struggled to bear cygnets for four years. Picture: Adele Stearns

However, they suggested any intervention could cause further harm taking advice from the Medway River Users’ Association.

Chairman Mark Smurthwaite said: “In all honesty there is very little that can be done.

“Swans are extremely unlikely to nest on anything floating. In fact that may well frighten them away.

“The best method would be to let nature take its course and hope the swans move on.”

Speaking before the pontoon was installed, Nicky said: “I was hoping the mayor or the Environment Agency would intervene but it is more likely we’ll have to do something ourselves.

Eggs would be drowned every day due to the tides. Picture: Adele Stearns
Eggs would be drowned every day due to the tides. Picture: Adele Stearns

“I just feel really bad for them. People stop and say ‘poor swans’ then walk past, but I feel there is something we can do about it.”

Advice from The Swan Sanctuary says: “If the nest is vulnerable to interference from human factors, such as on a tow-path or the bank of a pond where people walk their dogs, then you should contact your local council and ask them to erect protective fencing around the nest.

“If the nest is vulnerable to natural events such as high tides and floodwater then it should be left alone so that the swans can learn from the experience.

“If a young couple lose a nest under these circumstances then they will learn not to build a nest so low down the next year.

“Sad as it is, they have to be allowed to learn from natural experiences which is one reason why it is illegal to interfere with a swan’s nest in any way.”

'The female could be seen scooping her eggs together and trying to keep them under her to protect them'

Before it was disbanded, Swampy Wildlife Rescue on the Isle of Sheppey had raised funds for two floating platforms to help swans at Barton’s Point Coastal Park, Sheerness, and on the River Medway.

Earlier this month, Adele joined other volunteers to haul one of the metal platforms into place.

The platform was towed down the river and checked that it would float correctly with the rising tide.

Adele said she was heartened after, within just 48 hours the swans had climbed aboard.

She said: “It worked perfectly, rising and lowering, so the swans could get on it with ease.

Floating nest installed on the river. Picture: Adele Stearns
Floating nest installed on the river. Picture: Adele Stearns
Swan using the installed nest. Picture: Adele Stearns
Swan using the installed nest. Picture: Adele Stearns

“They have already taken quite a shine to the platform. They have investigated it and are now actually using it which is an absolutely fantastic result.”

On the jubilee bank holiday Friday she was presented with an award for her volunteering to help animals as part of Minster-on-Sea Rotary Club’s Platinum Jubilee volunteer awards. She said: “That was the icing on the cake.”

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