Swans & Swan Cam

Bishop's Palace Swans 1
Bishop's Palace Swans 2
Bishop's Palace Swans 3
Bishop's Palace Swans 4

Swan News

June 2024

Our cygnets seem to be growing daily – I am sure they double in size over a weekend. All six cygnets are doing well, and I am delighted to report that two or three of them have already been shown how to ring the bell at the Gatehouse for food. One is very determined to ring the bell and pulls the rope with some force!

For anyone who missed our social media post in early May of staff and volunteers drawing the names for the cygnets, the names of this year’s six cygnets are: Theo, Willow, Susie, Tulip, Dopey, and Eira. Thank you for all of the name suggestions.

As we move further into summer, you may notice that Grace and Gabriel are losing some of their feathers. If you walk around the moat regularly, you’ll probably start to notice an increased number of stray feathers or even piles of feathers. This is due to the annual moulting that adult swans go through. They will lose and replace a number of their feathers over the coming weeks. They tend to moult one at a time. As swans use their wings in defence if they feel threatened, by moulting one at a time, they ensure that one swan is still able to protect the other. Do look out for the swans moulting – you will be able to spot who is moulting as their wings will appear to be much smaller than usual.

May 2024

Springtime cygnets! I am pleased to report that we have 7 beautiful fluffy cygnets that hatched on Saturday, 20th April. Well done to all of the eagle-eyed Swan Cam watchers who contacted us to report the first glimpse of cygnets on Saturday lunchtime. I was glued to Swan Cam myself on Saturday afternoon, trying to work out how many had hatched, and was delighted to arrive at work on Sunday morning to be greeted with all seven of them on the nest. They took their first swim in the moat on Sunday lunchtime and have since mastered the art of getting in and out of the moat. Returning to the nest after the first swim is always a little nerve-racking to watch. They have been exploring the moat over the last week and have already grown! They will spend less time on the nest over the next week or so, and I am afraid that Swan Cam will no longer be available later in May as our swan family spend most of their time on or around the moat.

Those who have visited the Palace in the last week may have noticed one or two of last year’s cygnets or juveniles on Palace Green. They have both left the moat several times over the last couple of weeks but both end up returning. Gabriel is doing his best to keep reminding them they need to leave, and we are closely monitoring their location. It is hoped that they will leave over the coming days, but if not, then advice and perhaps intervention are the next plan of action.

The cygnet naming competition is also live (as of Friday 26th April), so please send us your cygnet name suggestions on our social media to enter – Good luck!

April 2024

Two eggs were spotted on the 6th of March. A few more were seen the following week, so there are at least 4 eggs. However, it was very difficult to determine the exact number, as Grace is very good at hiding the eggs to protect them. Now, she is incubating them and rarely leaves the nest. But there definitely are eggs!

In the coming weeks, Grace will spend the majority of her time sitting on the nest, incubating the eggs. This process usually takes 35 to 41 days. She will only leave the nest briefly to drink, feed, and clean herself. Gabriel tends to stand guard on the nest during these periods. Looking back over recent years, we believe this may be one of the earliest times that eggs have been laid. Therefore, I anticipate that ‘cygnet watch’ may start around mid-April!

Those who have visited the Palace in recent weeks may have noticed that we still have two of last year’s cygnets hanging out on Palace Green. They should hopefully embark on their next adventures in the coming weeks. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we don’t end up like last year with both years’ cygnets. I would like to make a plea: please do not feed the large cygnets if you visit in the coming weeks. With less food available, they are more likely to fly off in search of a better food source. This is, of course, what should happen, which means that when the eggs hatch, the young cygnets will be nice and safe, and Grace and Gabriel can concentrate on them instead of having to worry about the older cygnets.

Please keep an eye on our social media over the coming weeks, as any updates will be posted. Alternatively, feel free to chat with any of the team members when you visit over Easter.

I hope you are enjoying Swan Cam this year. Have you seen Grace turn the eggs? Keep an eye out for this gentle movement as she rearranges them in the nest.

March 2024

The past week or so has seen Gabriel starting nest-building for this year. Nest construction typically spans several weeks, and we are pleased to announce that Swan Cam is up and running earlier than ever this year. We hope this early setup allows you to watch Gabriel completing the nest over the coming weeks. Currently, Grace visits the area daily but doesn’t spend much time at the nest. However, Gabriel dedicates some time most days to adding more to the nest.

Once the nest is complete and has passed Grace’s inspection, we anticipate egg-laying will occur in early March. We will do our best to provide egg updates as soon as possible. After all the eggs are laid, Grace will incubate them, so you will see her on the nest constantly, taking short breaks to drink and clean herself.
Having observed Gabriel’s nest-building skills over the last couple of years, I find him fascinating to watch, and I hope you can see him too. He starts the nest by clearing a patch on the ground—a small dip in the soil—and then sits in it, bringing nesting materials to each side, building them up as he goes. When you look at Swan Cam, you will currently see the nest and a pile of garden materials that the gardeners have “donated” for nest building. Gabriel has been adding grass, small sticks, and anything else he can find on the moat bank too!
Cygnet Update – Currently, only two of last year’s cygnets remain on the moat. They spend a lot of time on Palace Green, staying out of Grace and Gabriel’s way. Both have been flying around, so hopefully, we will see them bravely take their final flights to leave home shortly. The other three cygnets have already left—one before Christmas and two in the last month.
February 2024

At the time of writing, we still have four cygnets on the moat, however Grace and Gabriel have been encouraging them to be more independent and leave on a daily basis. A few of the cygnets have been brave enough to venture out around Wells, though one did find itself at the Bus Depot earlier in January so needed a little assistance to return to a more suitable place for a cygnet! If you do come across a cygnet exploring Wells in a safe place (e.g. a field) then it will probably just be having a rest and will make it’s own way back to the moat or onwards.

February is usually the month when Grace and Gabriel starting looking forward to building a new nest. You may be lucky enough to see them “courting” and making lovely heart shapes with their necks –  I’m hoping that this year I’ll be lucky and be able to capture this on camera!

Swan Cam

Please note: Swan Cam is now offline as Grace and her cygnets are no longer spending time on the nest.

They are spending a lot of time on the moat, so be sure to purchase some swan food from our Ticket Office and feed them when you visit! Grace will also be teaching them to ring the Gatehouse bell for food, so watch for that every lunchtime!

History of the Palace Swans

The tradition of Swans on the Moat at The Bishop’s Palace and Gardens in Wells is thought to go back to the 1850s when it is likely that a Bishop’s daughter first taught the swans to ring a bell at the Gatehouse for food. We now have two swan bells – one just beneath the window on the left of the Gatehouse, the other to the right – with a rope hanging down for the swans to pull.

Our current pair of Mute Swans, Grace and Gabriel, arrived in May 2019, thanks to Swan Rescue South Wales.

Since their arrival, they have become well-loved inhabitants of the Moat. They improve their nest building each year, and we have been lucky to have cygnets on the moat yearly. They have been known to walk through the market square, become pretty partial to the fudge shop one year, and enjoy being fed swan food.

Gabriel teaches each year’s cygnets how to ring the Gatehouse bell for food before the cygnets leave the moat in the winter/springtime to start life on their own.

Nest building for the next generation of cygnets starts in February/March, and eggs are laid later in March. After incubation of around 40 days, where Grace will remain on the nest, Cygnets tend to hatch around the first week of May.

Our former swan pair, Bryn and Wynn, who were long-standing and much-loved, sadly left us. Bryn, the cob, passed away in April 2018, and Wynn, the pen, departed from the Moat, along with her four remaining cygnets, in October 2018.

It is thought that the family group headed off to the Somerset Levels, a popular site for groups of swans. Wynn returned to the moat briefly in January 2019 before leaving again.

Swan Talks

Are you a member of a local club/organisation? Did you know that you can arrange a talk for your group about the Swans at The Bishop’s Palace? If you would like to know more, or have any dates in mind then do contact Moira Anderson (contact details below). A Swan Talk is generally around 45 minutes plus time for questions and is a light hearted look at the history of the swans on the moat, what to look out for each year and a few behind the scenes stories!

Email: [email protected]

A small donation is requested to cover Moira’s time (and travel if outside of Wells).