Whooper Swans in Motion

Loch Glascarnoch is frozen. The February afternoon light was turning the ice a warm peach. Far below the main road that connects Ullapool to Inverness the Whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus) can be seen. Merging with the ice, their movement is the first sign of their presence.

Whooper swans on Loch Glascarnoch in the Scottish Highlands
Loch Glascarnoch and the mountains at the western end
Whooper swans on a frozen loch in Scotland

These transient visitors from Iceland visit the north of the UK from October until April. Feeding on aquatic plants, grass, grain and bizarrely potatoes they will over winter in wetlands and marshes before returning north in the spring. This is an amber protected bird as it has such a small number of breeding pairs and is Schedule 1 protected.

For a while we stand watching them, lorries thundering by on their way to the last ferry of the day across the Minch to Stornoway. Milling around, content on the chilly ice the Whooper swans are a pleasure to watch. Silently a red deer hind emerges in the shrub on the shoreline. The noise of the swans increases before a ripple passes through them and they take off. Their long legs and black feet skimming the ice as they loop away from the deer and head across the frozen loch to a quieter corner.

Graceful in their departure they eventually merge with the black and white landscape in the distance.

Whooper swans in flight on Loch Glascarnoch in Scotland