No, not a recipe, you’ll be pleased to hear. But the nature reserve where the other half volunteers was having one of its winter ‘swan uppings’ and we both went along to lend a hand. The other half, being the sort to look a swan in the eye without flinching, got to put them in their natty little jackets while I – who once failed to cover myself with glory at a toad-crossing-the-road day by being incapable of picking up a live toad and had to content myself with counting the squashed ones, a job that involved a shovel and a bucket – was writing things down.
Curiously enough, given how famously stroppy a swan can be, the birds were, on the whole, pretty calm about the whole affair and submitted to being weighed, measured, ringed, sexed and swabbed with reasonably good grace. It helps that the whoopers have slightly smiley-looking beaks and a general expression of mild curiousity on their faces, which I’m sure is entirely misleading given how rudely their elevensies had just been interrupted. I know that if I had been lured into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and biscuit and ended up netted, herded, grabbed, strait-jacketed and then – the final indignity – forced to wait in a queue to be weighed, I’d have been spitting feathers. As it was, they simply reserved the right to squirt evil-smelling liquid poo on anyone who got in range. And, frankly, who could blame them?