Thursday, 30 September 2010


All philosophers eventually go mad but, you can believe your Uncle Wayland when he tells you that not all swans are white. I was standing on Odhams Quay looking on the River Clyst yesterday and watching the black swans. And if they are not swans then I'm a cuckoo. A three year old child could have told you that they were swans!

The black swans have been off and on the Estuary for many years. I first saw them, three of them, maybe ten years ago, swimming by the steps at Powderham where the River Kenn enters the Channel. They are said to escape from Dawlish Brook where, since Edwardian times, they have been kept pinioned to be wondered at by the visitors. These four swans yesterday on the Clyst looked happier and healthier for having got away. I am told cob and pen had hatched three cygnets of which two survive. The third was probably scrobbled up by a fox.

There is an Exmouth Quay Residents' account of doomed black swans coming to the Estuary in January 2008. It tells of the Dawlish harbourmaster swanning about the Exe trying to get his birds back. I hope these Clyst swans will be left in peace. They looked to me as though they had come to stay. They were not lacking in confidence. In fact the pen was humming the old black swansong as she glided along among the reedbeds:

"I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem,
as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon."


  1. I have always wondered at black swans, where do they come from? I assume somewhere they are wild not that they are a bird bred for its colour. They always have an exotic image which make them seem otherworldly.

  2. Australia, and introduced to Britain as an ornamental waterfowl.