Swan found dead sparks nature alarm

The dead swan and its mate on the nest at Pennington Wharf
The dead swan and its mate on the nest at Pennington Wharf

A Wigan nature enthusiast is calling for the borough to become a more wildlife-friendly place after spotting a dead swan on its nest.

Fiona Smith saw the mute swan and its devastated mate on the canal near the Pennington Wharf housing development in Leigh at around 7.30am on Saturday.

Local wildlife experts say there is no evidence of any foul play and there have been no reports of people attacking animals or acting suspiciously in the borough’s green spaces recently.

However, Fiona says she is concerned about the long-term difficulties wildlife faces to survive in an increasingly-crowded borough.

She said: “I was just walking on the canal towpath from Plank Lane towards Leigh and the nest was just a couple of minutes along from the swing bridge.

“The swan was dead on the nest and its mate was swimming about nearby. It’s the first dead swan I’ve seen this year but I feel I’ve seen this too many times before now.

“I just feel wildlife is generally under stress in our area. The swans had probably nested there since before the housing was built and the environment is just getting more crowded. It’s harder for wildlife to find a place.”

Fiona reported the incident to Wigan Council and it has been passed on to the Canal and River Trust which looks after the waterway.

Although air rifles and fishing tackle can cause fatal problems for swans local conservationists say there is currently no reason to suggest anything other than natural causes for the Pennington Wharf incident.

Graham Workman, biodiversity manager at Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles, said: “We would normally expect to hear about this if it was anything sinister. A swan dying on the nest could be due to a number of things but without a post-mortem it’s going to be impossible to work out.”

With the breeding and nesting season under way Mr Workman reminded Wiganers not to interfere with nature if out in the countryside.

He said: “If you find a young chick or animal and you think it has been abandoned 99.9 per cent of the time the parents are about and feeding it.

“People try to be good-natured and think they are doing their bit but they can do a lot more harm than good.

“Many birds leave the nest and are hidden and fed by parents even if they can’t yet fly, and young deer also lie low. Their defence strategy is to freeze so you see them lying completely still.

“Unless an animal is clearly in distress with a broken wing or damaged limb just step back and leave them alone.”