‘Swanvasion’ strikes Cambridge

Sam Harrison 18 May 2016

The organisation Conservators of the River Cam have warned that Cambridge is facing a worrying “further increase” in the number of swans in Cambridge, in what has already been dubbed a ‘swanvasion’.

The organisation’s river manager Jed Ramsay warned that the city could be plagued with as many as 108 swans, between five and ten times as many as normal, as tourists entice them into the city centre with bread, and urged tourists not to feed the birds. The RSPB advises that aquatic birds should not be given bread, as it can cause ‘angel wing syndrome’ in the birds and algal blooms in the water, and attract disease-carrying vermin to the waterside. Wheat grains and lettuce are considered more beneficial for swans.

Fears have been raised that the swans will disrupt forthcoming rowing event the Bumps. There are signs that swan-Cantabrigian relations have already soured, with one swan perpetrating two attacks near Baits Bite lock. Conservators have reassured the public that they are “keeping an eye on that particular swan”, and plan to corral swans into a side channel during the Bumps. Earlier in May, it was announced that Conservators would station a patrol boat on the Cam, partly in response to “aggressive swans”.

One student at Emmanuel College spoke to TCS of the hazards swans can present to rowing boats. Last term, a swan attacked the blade of one of her oars, an incident which nearly led to its inadvertent decapitation. Swans also fly low over the river and alight immediately behind boats, causing momentary panic in the boat which can be dangerous when travelling at speed.

This ‘swanvasion’ follows a similar episode in September and October of last year in which a number of rowdy swans repeatedly assaulted punts on the Cam. In 2012, one swan earned himself the nickname ‘Mr Asbo’ after being implicated in 25 reported incidents with vessels.