Saturday, September 26, 2015

Chasing Swans

A swan family on the canal
As you cruise through the canals of England, it is common to run into families of swans. They live all over the canals, and are completely at home there. You can be gliding along through the country, or gently sliding between brick walls in cities and towns, and a group of swans will come out to greet your boat. They obviously get fed by people in boats and when they see boats coming along the canals, they come out to see if food is offered.

The swans are not afraid of the boats, they swim right towards them and easily swerve out of the way if they get too close. They look elegant and regal, but they are not friendly; reach down towards them and they will bite.

After two weeks on the canals, you get pretty used to seeing swans, and although they are
Swans are everywhere
pretty special in many places, they are common on the canals. We had a bit of a different encounter with swans on our last day with the boat.

We went down on the Anderton Boat Lift, then came back up and decided to spent the rest of the afternoon cruising further up the canal. There was another tunnel we could do; not as long as the Harecastle Tunnel, but an experience worth exploring. This tunnel was only 500 meters long, so you could peer in and see the other end, and know if another boat was coming through the other way.

After stopping for lunch at a lovely mooring spot after the tunnel, we turned around to come back to Anderton through the tunnel the other way. I again looked into the tunnel and signaling Bill that all was clear, and we proceeded through. About a third of the way through I realized that there was something else in the tunnel with us; I could see the heads of swans swimming well ahead of us. The family of swans we had seen on the canal earlier was swimming through the tunnel. This was a mother, father and four young swans. Now this time of year the young swans are still grey, but are almost full-grown and as big as their

As we approached half way I realized we were going to catch the swans before the end of the tunnel. Sitting in the front of the boat, I could see the swans clearer than Bill who was driving the boat so I told him to slow down. Even at a slower speed we still were gaining on the family of swans. Bill slowed a bit more but was concerned about loosing the ability to steer the boat; we had been warned that going too slow would cause you to hit the sides of he tunnel.

The swans realized that this was not a good situation. They wanted to stay in front of the boat, because falling beside the boat they could get crushed between the walls and the boat. They frantically tried to speed up and were able to pull ahead for a while, but tired and we caught them again. Bill tried to inch to one side and one of the young swans fell beside the boat on the wider side. The mother was desperately herding the young ones to the safer side while keeping herself between the boat and the family, while the father led the way and pushed ahead encouraging the family to greater speed.
Finally as the end of the tunnel came into range, Bill slowed a bit more and the swans put forth another final burst of speed, finally pulling out of the tunnel inches ahead of us. Even the one that had fallen behind was able surge forward into the sunshine. A happy ending for all.


  1. Good job of avoiding a "swan song"!
    The video works perfectly, Art. No lag ... good quality .. feel free to add more in the future!

  2. We actually have lots of swans here as this is the wintering grounds of the trumpeters. Yes, they can be very nasty critters if you get too close, but sooo beautiful!