Swan News

1st March - 31st May

We know how much our visitors like to keep up to date with the swans on the Palace moat.  Moira Anderson,  Administrator at the Palace, will be sharing swan news with you here – do check in for updates!

Below, we’ve also left up last year’s swan blog, so you can read about the arrival and development of our current swans.     Swan cam can be viewed here

18th May 2020
Another busy week on the moat.    After little “Gulliver” returned from his adventures, he spent the night on the moat, but unfortunately his return was causing some unrest.  Gulliver was removed from the moat and was collected by the Swan Sanctuary who will care for him along with other cygnets and swans.     We were very sorry to see this plucky cygnet leave, but it was the best cause of action for him.

On Thursday 14th we announced the names suggested for the cygnets – as Gulliver had already left the moat 6 names were selected and these are:
Captain Tom
Rainbow (so many people suggested 7 colours of the rainbow to thank the NHS and other keyworkers that this name was chosen)

The family are exploring the moat daily and they are enjoying the attention from everyone walking along the moat.   

12th May 2020


Palace Cygnet Returns Following Dangerous Escapade!

Eagle-eyed viewers of the 24 hour Swan Cam became concerned on Monday, when it became clear that only 6 out of the 7 new cygnets were visible on the Palace Moat.

Palace Staff were contacted by members of the public and began a search of the immediate area. It was thought that due to the very high winds on Sunday afternoon and evening, the cygnet had been washed down the weir at the corner of Moat Walk and Silver Street.

However, on Monday afternoon, Claire Condie, of Wand Street, Wells, was leaving her house, when she discovered an injured cygnet being attacked by a magpie on her driveway and stepped in to save him. Quick-thinking Claire wrapped the cygnet up and took him to Westfield Vets, where Charlie Moore took over caring for the animal.

Following a night of supervision by Charlie, the cygnet was declared well enough to return home and will be reunited with the rest of its family at 1pm on Tuesday!

Moira Anderson from the Palace, who cares for the swans, says “It seems like he was washed over the sluice and then followed the stream all the way down to its end on Wand Road – quite a distance! The Vet also suspects that he’s met a cat on his travels, so it’s amazing that he’s now well enough to return to us. Many thanks to Claire and to Charlie from all of us at the Palace”

4th May 2020 
The moat has been very busy this weekend.    It seemed to take hours for the first cygnet to emerge and then its siblings arrived one after the other.    By Sunday morning seven eggs had hatched and the family went for their first swim!

The last egg hatched later on Sunday.    Grace and Gabriel have been doing a great job at protecting their new little family – while Grace took most of the cygnets off for the swim this morning Gabriel remained at the next with the little one who was too small to swim just yet.  Unfortunately as the day progressed it was clear that the last little cygnet to hatch was just too weak and it has not survived.
This afternoon Grace took the seven cygnets off on the moat again before a nap back at the nest.     The seven have been feeding while on the moat and all seem to be doing well.      They will probably spend the next few days in and out of the nest before spending more time on the moat.   As they get stronger they will venture further along the moat and hopefully anyone out for their daily exercise along Moat walk might be able to spot them.

1st May 2020 
Hatching eggs!    I am so excited today.  James, the Head Gardener, spotted movement in the nest this morning and the first cygnet.  I double checked swancam and saw lots of movement in the nest this morning but haven’t been able to get a clear view until 4pm today.   I promise I have been doing other work and not just watching swancam all day!    Our first cygnet of 2020 is looking fit and healthy.     Special thanks to Penny Gibbs, from the Bishop’s office who has just taken this fantastic photo of our first cygnet of the year – what an amazing image and so welcome to see.     All being well our little cygnets siblings should be hatching over the next day or so.   Keep an eye on swancam!

Photo by Penny Gibbs.

24th April 2020 
The moat is a little calmer now Lucky has left, although Gabriel is keeping the ducks in check now.     Grace has covered the eggs with lots of small feathers to help keep the eggs warm.  You may spot her carefully turning the eggs every so often, she moves them with her beak.    She looks quite comfortable on her nest. 

14th April 2020 
Lucky has left the moat!       After several days of increasing “encouragement” from Gabriel, Lucky was still not getting the hint about leaving home.    Gabriel’s encouragement has become quite aggressive, and while totally natural behaviour, it can seem distressing when amplified by the calm nature of the Palace moat.  The decision was taken over the weekend to assist Lucky with leaving the moat.   He is now safely with a number of other juveniles on the levels.   Good Luck Lucky.

7th April 2020
Head Gardener James has spotted 9 eggs!

6th April 2020 
A perfect picture of the nest, with its 8 eggs …  being closely watched over.

Do keep an eye on swancam – it would seem that our cheeky Kingfishers are missing out on their photo opportunities so have taken to sitting on the bridge in view of Swan Cam.    It is the perfect view of moat life with our swan family in the background and our beautiful Kingfishers on the bridge.    I will endeavour to get a screen shot but it took 4 years to get my first kingfisher photo!   Patience is needed.

Lucky is still exploring the moat – though is spending a lot more time by himself, getting ready to leave home and be an independent cygnet.

1st April 2020
No April Fools I promise.    No further updates on the number of eggs so I think that we maybe at 8 and Grace now looks like she is incubating the eggs.    She will leave the nest less now, usually only for some food and to clean herself.    Once the last egg is laid incubation is around 5 weeks so hopefully in early May we should have our new arrivals on the moat.

27th March 2020
Today’s egg update – Head Gardener James has spotted 8 eggs this morning.

26th March 2020 
Egg update – there are now 7 eggs in the nest.

25th March 2020
I am so excited to confirm that SwanCam is up and running!    A massive thanks to James, our Head Gardener, and also our IT company, Gatenby Services, for getting this in place in running at such a challenging time.
I will do my best to give an update on egg numbers (via James) and continue to provide updates as I can.    For now – enjoy our lovely Swans.

24th March 2020
Todays swan photo – Grace with her eggs.  Still 5 eggs at the moment but watch this space. 

22nd March 2020
Egg Update:  There are now 5 eggs in the nest.    Grace was off have a swim and some food today leaving Gabriel on nest duty.   He seems quite a proud father!

Lucky is still on the moat and becoming increasingly independent.

We have managed to get Swan Cam in place and will be working on getting the connected set up this week.  In the meantime we will post photos as and when we can to keep you updated on egg count and life on the moat.

17th March 2020
Some good news from The Bishop’s Palace today – Grace, the female of the pair of famous Palace Swans, has finally chosen a nest to use this year and has laid her first two eggs.

Palace Staff have spent the last few weeks trying to encourage Grace and Gabriel to nest at the side of the moat, close to the back of the Palace, so that they could easily install their extremely popular 24 hour Swancam and also ensure that their nest is as protected as possible.

However, now Grace and Gabriel – with the help of some lovely garden materials donated by the garden team – have created two nests.  Staff were pleased to see that one of these is in the perfect spot and within reach of a power cable to enable the swan cam.

However, it would appear the that saying “never work with animals” is true … Grace has actually decided to lay her eggs in the other nest, on the island in the moat! Whilst this is of course great news, staff will now be working on trying to get their swan cam to work on the island within the next few days.

The good news is that visitors will be able to see Grace and watch her on the nest.  The Garden team has put a protective board up next to the nest to protect both the swans and visitors.  The Palace Staff would ask visitors to be mindful that the nest is next to the willow bridge.

Lucky, last year’s cygnet is still on the moat, but has become more independent over the last week or so.  This week he is being actively encouraged to leave home by Gabriel, the male parent, and this “encouragement” may become more aggressive over the coming weeks. This is perfectly normal and Gabriel is doing this so that Lucky can move out into the world and meet other cygnets and swans. When Lucky leaves he will probably join up with a group of swans on the levels.  There are many large groups of swans in the local area at the moment which will contain a mixture of young and older swans who are not breeding.

Visitors who wish to watch the nest remotely will be able to find the Swan Cam on the home page of The Bishop’s Palace website in the next few days.

20th August 2019
Swan Cam is now turned off following the nesting period. Do keep up to date with swan news here on our blog!

14th August 2019
Gabriel has approached the Trust office, to the delight of office staff. Lucky also hopped onto the verge. This is encouraging, as it suggests that the swans might be happy to build a nest close to the Trust office next year – a safe and sheltered location.

Plus, Lucky is making real progress with the bell – visitors and staff have heard him make a proper ringing sound!

5th August 2019
You may have noticed that SwanCam is “offline” at the moment.   Over the weekend the moat bank had some visitors – a family of badgers.   First spotted around 12.15am on Saturday morning a badger was exploring the bank and the nest.    The Badger returned (with some help) and the family have removed the eggs that were not viable.   The nest is now empty. As they were leaving one of the badgers managed to disconnect SwanCam!  Lucky is absolutely fine and was not at the nest when the badgers visited.

Grace and Gabriel, along with Lucky do seem to be spending most of their time along other areas of the moat at the moment. Lucky is also gaining confidence by the bell, and following Gabriel’s example but grabbing the bottom of the bell rope.   Too little to actually make much of a sound with the bell at the moment but we are encouraging Lucky to keep going.

Any regular visitors to the moat will have noticed the large amount of swan feathers around at the moment.    Both Grace and Gabriel are currently moulting – they will lost a large number of their feathers and over the next few weeks new primary and secondary flight feathers will grow.    If you see either of them extending their wings at the moment they are looking very small and a bit pink in places.  All perfectly normal during moulting.    Photo of Grace with a feather in the moat today.

10th July 2019
What a 24 hours!   Little cygnet had been out exploring last night and got itself caught up on the garden fence behind the nest.  The team here were contacted by many SwanCam watchers and the heroic James rescued little cygnet, returning it safety to mum.   My first job this morning was to help James rescue little cygnet again from the flower bed that it has managed to get into again.    The fence was also removed from around the flower bed to stop any further incidents!   Little cygnet is getting the nickname in the office of “Lucky” after the last few days!    Hopefully it’ll be a quiet couple of days now where cygnet can just swim and fed with Grace and Gabriel.  The family did make a visit the Bell today so hopefully little cygnet will be taught the ropes soon.  Watch this space.

Footage from Swancam from 10 July.


9th July 2019
We have a Cygnet!    Eagle eyed SwanCam watchers spotted the little fluffy addition to the moat early Saturday morning.      Our little cygnet could be seen exploring the nest during Saturday and then went for it’s first swim in the moat on Sunday morning.     It has been out several times since then, and they are coming back to the nest to rest in between swims.     Unfortunately the remaining three eggs have not hatched.  As it has been several days we believe that these will probably not hatch now.     But one cygnet is fantastic and it seems to be doing really well.   Mum and Dad are looking after it well and are very protective of it.    This protectiveness can at times mean that the ducks get chased off but we are hoping everyone will get along on the moat!     The new family will probably only stay on the nest for a few more days so do look out for them on SwanCam.     We do think that they are first time parents so the coming weeks will probably be a bit of a learning curve for them.

Today we finally got to see both swans together for some time and I think i owe Gabriel an apology – It would appear that it has been Gabriel that has been ringing the bell so well for the last few weeks!     Apologies to Gabriel.

25th June 2019
I hope that you have been able to view the swans on SwanCam – all being well we may see some cygnets during the first or second week of July.    Our lovely swans are doing a great job of sitting on the eggs – though they have tried to add in some swancam cable and a stick a few times!

Many visitors have asked if Grace ever gets a break from the nest – well it’s actually Gabriel that sits on the nest most of the time!   He is being a great dad and keeping the eggs warm, and Grace is patrolling the moat and rings the bell frequently for food!    I checked on the nest and to give Gabriel some food and managed to see both of them at the nest.

We are working on a daily lunchtime feed by the bell so do stop by and hopefully you’ll be able to see Grace ringing the bell by the drawbridge – I will say this is a work in progress!   We are aiming at 1.30 – but it can be between 1 and 2 depending on Grace!

4th June 2019
It looks like Grace and Gabriel are now sitting on the eggs – so fingers crossed in about 5 weeks we should see some cygnet movement in the nest!     It looks like there are 4 eggs in total.

Great news – after a few days of sorting out cables, connections and power SwanCam has been moved and connected!    It will be on our website this week.  Here is Gabriel being a very good dad and keeping the eggs warm (while sort of letting me see that he has 4 there!)

30th May 2019
Egg update – 4 eggs are in the nest today.  One egg is quite white and partly hidden which is probably the latest one to be laid.

I will leave them for a few days before checking again so will update at the start of June.    Once Grace has laid all of the eggs she will then sit on them and remain on them most of the time for approx 5 weeks.    She will leave the nest for brief periods during this time to feed and to clean herself, but Gabriel will probably remain by the nest to watch over it.     Below is Grace watching what I am doing by her nest!

29th May 2019
There now appear to be two eggs. Grace is on the nest and quite protective of them, so we will try to disturb the nest as little as possible just at the moment.

23rd May 2019
Goodness what I couple of weeks… these swans are just amazing.   I am still working on getting Gabriel to ring the bell, but he does come to the window when the bell is rung so that’s a positive!   Bell ringing training maybe a little interrupted over the coming weeks though…..

The latest news is that an egg has been laid!

Grace and Gabriel have been busy building a nest over the last few days on the swan bank at the corner of the moat (by the top of Silver Street).  Today I was able to take a photo of the first egg, with Gabriel.

Mute swans will lay one egg every 12 – 36  hours until they have a clutch of eggs, then they will be incubated.    The cygnets usually hatch around 5 weeks after the last egg has been laid.      We will leave them in peace now to complete their nest and will be keeping our fingers crossed that all will be well with the eggs.

22nd May 2019 
Welcome to Gabriel and Grace.    Thank you to everyone who made a suggestion for the names of the swans, we had around 500 suggestions!

Gabriel was suggested by several people and has echoes of the angel Gabriel which fits in nicely with the comparison often made by Palace visitors between angel wings and swans wings, also depicted in the beautiful stained-glass sculptures in the Palace Gardens by artist Edgar Phillips.

The name Grace, which was an extremely popular suggestion, could remind people of the title style used for royalty, some bishops and archbishops; or of the state of Christian grace, or indeed, just the graceful movements of these lovely swans.

I am pleased that I have names to call them by now.    They seem to be extremely settled and happy.

20th May 2019
Swan training is coming along well!    I have been running to the gatehouse every time the swans are close by and they will now come to the bell window when encouraged by either the bell or shaking the food.    Mrs Swan is amazing at ringing the bell.   Mr Swan is still not too sure about the whole ringing a bell for food – but I’ll continue to encourage him and hopefully he will be bell ringing over the coming weeks!     Moira

Don’t forget tomorrow is the deadline for name suggestions for our swans.

Watch this space for the announcement of the names on Wednesday.

16th May 2019
Exciting news – the female swan rang the bell for food for the first time last night!  Moira has been ‘training’ the swans since Sunday and Mrs Swan is obviously a quick learner. The behaviour will be continually reinforced by Moira over the next few days, and maybe Mr Swan will get the hang of it too!

14th May 2019
We’re holding a public naming competition to find names for the new pair of swans. The new swans arrived at the Palace last Thursday 9th May, having been re-homed by the charity Swan Rescue South Wales. They were blessed by The Right Reverend Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton, before being released into the Moat.

We are inviting the public to send in their suggestions for swan names via our FacebookTwitteror Instagramaccounts, by email [email protected] or at the Palace Shop.

The winning names will be announced on Tuesday 21st May.

12th May 2019 
We still have swans!    Our new arrivals have spent a couple of days exploring the moat and seem to be settling in really well.       They have found a couple of places to sit out of the moat and have even discovered the nesting area.

Day one of training – two successful feeds from the bell window today.     They were both coaxed over and spent about 5 minutes eating.     To get them used to the bell I am ringing the bell just before throwing some swan food out to them.    Fingers crossed they will soon associate the bell ring with food.

A great start and all the visitors who were on the drawbridge and Palace Green got to see the swans by the bell!

The second bell was put up on Thursday, which can be seen from the drawbridge.   The original bell is still on the other side of the gatehouse and will remain in use, once the swans are used to the new bell.

The new bell being installed by Jane and Allen, from the boat on the moat.

9th May 2019
Hello, I’m Moira and I am the Administrator here at The Bishop’s Palace.  I have worked at the Palace for eight years and probably have one of the most varied role descriptions at the Palace.

Over the years I have become more involved with the swans who live on the moat, and my desk is right next to a door that leads to the moat.   Over the years I have learnt more about the swans and how to care for them.  This has included spending a day with the Swan Herd Manager at Abbotsbury Swannery.

The last pair of swans, Wynn and Bryn, lived on the moat for about 6 years and successfully raised around 45 cygnets while living at the Bishop’s Palace.   Each spring they would bring the cygnets to the office to show them off, and I have been very privileged to be able to sit with the tiny cygnets while their parents kept a careful watch!

Bryn unfortunately died in spring 2018 leaving Wynn to be the sole parent of 5 cygnets that hatched in May 2018.    Wynn did an amazing job on her own and flew off with the cygnets in the Autumn, leaving the moat without its familiar swans.

Following advice from swan experts/sanctuaries, we waited to see if Wynn would return once her cygnets were settled elsewhere.   Everyone’s patience was rewarded in January when a lone swan appeared on the moat.   It was with great excitement that we confirmed this swan was indeed the wandering Wynn.    However, Wynn only stayed for a short time, leaving the moat swanless again.

Swans have been a familiar sight on the moat for many years, and the Swans of Wells are world famous for ringing a bell at the gatehouse for food.    This tradition began in the 1800’s – probably with one of Bishop Auckland’s daughters.

Several months have passed since Wynn’s second departure, so I have recently been in touch with my contacts and I am delighted to say that a new pair of swans are now rehomed on the moat.

The swans were welcomed by staff and volunteers – and Bishop Ruth.  I will post updates on how the swans are settling in over the coming weeks so that you can share in their journey, and the challenges of bell ringing!

We will all be keeping our fingers crossed that they will settle well on the moat and decide to make it home!

The new swan pair, resting on the moat island.

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