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‘Widow’ swan on Hampstead Heath finds love

'She called incessantly for the male and so we made the snap decision to not split them up'

28 March, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

The new partners living in the ponds [Photos: Louisa Green]

THE course of true love never runs smooth – and with London in lockdown, anyone searching for amorous distractions will struggle.

But for one couple, romance has blossomed this week, bringing joy to Heath walkers and nature lovers.

A swan, who lives alone at the Highgate number one pond after the death of her partner four years ago, has found a companion to share the watery expanse with.

Swan rescue volunteer Louisa Green, a research scientist at Hampstead’s Royal Free Hospital, walks on the Heath each morning to visit the swans and works closely with Heath rangers.

In the past four years, the Heath has had only one pair of swans breed successfully.
Four years ago, a male swan who lived on the Highgate ponds died after flying into a building.

Louisa Green, left

Ms Green said: “Since then, his widow has never left the Heath, never ventured to a flock to find someone new and has spent her days by herself, flying between the Highgate ponds as if she is looking for him.”

“The first year after he died she even built a nest and laid unfertilised eggs, and whenever a male has landed on Highgate number one pond in recent years, he only lasts a few days before she pushes him away.”

When two new mating swans recently appeared on the Highgate number three pond, it spelled trouble for the widow, as swans are territorial. Ms Green and other swan watchers were worried how the widow would react.

She said: “Last week the unimaginable happened – our long-term widow swan went missing. All the ponds were searched, but not a trace was found. We wondered if she had finally left the Heath, fed-up of the threats to her territory, or worse, had the new pair killed her in a territorial fight?”

Then, on Friday, Heath rangers received a phone call from a household who live near Millfield Lane, bordering the Heath.

Ms Green said: “A neighbour reported a swan had landed on her roof – and it was our widow.”

Ms Green and her colleagues collected the bird and took it to a swan sanctuary to be looked after over the weekend.

And it was here that an unlikely romance blossomed.

Ms Green said: “Over the 36 hours she was there she surprised us all and formed a bond with a male in her pen. He was admitted in January after a territorial fight in Waltham Abbey, and two fishing hooks were found in his throat, for which he needed surgery.”

“When we went to collect our widow from the sanctuary on Sunday a large male swan stood in the way and started communicating with our widow.We let things settle and tried again, only for the same thing to happen. When we managed to catch our widow and take her to the car, she called incessantly for the male and so we made the snap decision to not split them up and to bring him to the Heath too.”

Now volunteers are checking on the pair daily to make sure the first flushes of love have not worn off.

Ms Green is creating a rota for people who are taking their sanctioned daily walk under the coronavirus restrictions to monitor how the newly-weds are settling in.

She added: “We want to make sure the swans will still be monitored. Although we are not allowed out in groups, getting out to check on our own as part of our allowed exercise would serve to both ensure the swans are being checked and give people some relief.”

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