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email received April 7 2006

Dear Mary,

Dr James Irvine's land care website states that the mute Swan is "native to Scotland and not one that has migrated from another country". My 'Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe' describes the mute swan as "Partial Migrant. Vagrant Finland Norway, and south to Spain". Admittedly that was published back in 1957 but the more recent 1994 Collins Gem 'Birds' describes the mute swan's habitat as "widespread across N & W Europe, summer visitor in N, year round resident elsewhere. Favours fresh waters of most types, occasionally only on sheltered seas." The "Observer Book of Birds" describes the mute swan as "partially domesticated, distinguished from the truly wild swan by its deep orange bill with a black knob ..".

So which correct? Was this swan a 'truly wild' migrant that prefers fresh water, or a resident partially domesticated bird that died elswhere and was dumped in the harbour? I had thought that all swans were ringed because they were considered property of the crown? If so it should have been easy to find where it had come from!

And what will have become of the gulls that were seen pecking at the corpse. Do they know to keep in the safety limits?