300 Icelandic swans make themselves at home on midlands farm
UP to 300 whooper swans, believed to be from Iceland, have been making themselves at home on the open pastures of a lush suckler farm in Emper, Co Westmeath.
The bevy of swans have been making the annual 1,400km trip across the North Atlantic, to Vincent Nally's farm for over a decade.
"They first landed 10 or 12 years ago but the numbers are bigger ever time, this year is the highest ever, I'd say there is 300 max."
The birds, measuring close to 7ft wide when their wings are fully extended, arrived last October and are expected to fly back next month.
"My take is that they like fresh new grass. They tend to make their way into fields where slurry was recently spread to spend the winter grazing," said Vincent (inset).
They generally spend their evenings flying in V formation in groups of five or 10 and drink water from flooded patches in the field.
Vincent, who has grown quite fond of the majestic creatures, said there is a social stratum to the group.
"It's like they have scouts above on the look out for better grass and they send the messages back. There is a hierarchy, the younger ones' plumage isn't as dark, but by the end of the winter they all look the same," he said.