GALLERY: Romeo and Julietta amaze WWT staff by rearing three more cygnets at Welney

10:25 03 November 2012

Swans Romeo and Julietta  at  WWT Welney with their three cygnets. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Swans Romeo and Julietta at WWT Welney with their three cygnets. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2012

WHEN she was injured and couldn’t fly out to spend the summer in the land of her birth, he stayed with her - never more than a heart-beak away.

Together, love conquered all – and despite a serious injury which later befell the loyal male, family life began in Britain, when normally it should be in Iceland.

Now whooper swans Romeo and Julietta have astonished wildlife experts by rearing three more cygnets at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s reserve in Welney, to add to their first chick.

The story of Romeo and Julietta began two years ago when the female of the pair of swans sustained an injury which meant she was not going to migrate back to Iceland for spring breeding.

Her devoted mate stayed with her, despite the strong urge to join the thousands of birds heading north once more.

But fate is always prone to being fickle and Romeo himself was injured and became Welney-bound along with his mate last winter.

In the meantime, they excelled themselves and reared a cygnet – the first in Norfolk since the 1920s.

This year they have gone one better – well, two better – and raised a brood of three youngsters.

Staff were surprised to say the least, as the pair had not been seen much over the summer and have only now headed back towards the main observatory areas for the winter feeding – with three youngsters in tow.

Emma Brand, of WWT Welney, said: “We had no idea until they arrived back in front of the hide this week. It was a real surprise, but they all look very healthy.

“Because there was a lot of water all summer we didn’t really see much of them as they were elsewhere on the reserve so we had no idea.”

It’s not clear how the birds injured their wings. They could have flown into an obstacle or been the victim of a fox which fancied its chances.

They are both otherwise healthy and will spend the rest of their days on the reserve - which obviously suits them as their breeding has proved.

But when it comes to producing offspring, the pair have nothing on Bladur and his mate.

They arrived at Welney this week complete with seven cygnets who all made it safely from the Icelandic breeding grounds to Norfolk. Over the past five years the pair have brought a total of 31 young back to the reserve and it is the third time they have raised seven young – the maximum number in a whooper brood.

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