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The Swans of Winter
Portsmouth, NH 

 Swans 
 Seacoast natives are used to seeing swans in Great Bay, but this frigid winter week they were flocking around the South End of Portsmouth. Spotters counted up to 50 birds who have moved closer to the mouth of the Piscataqua as their home waters have been freezing up as far as Adamís Point on Great Bay. Amateur photographers Norm OíNeill and Louise Giordani found this group nosing around for food outside their house with the temperature hovering at zero degrees and a wind chill factor at Ė20. Neighbors had been offering the swans, and accompanying ducks, up to 100 pounds of cracked corn a day.

We checked with the NH Fish and Game Department to see why these guys donít head somewhere warmer for the winter. Eric Orff told us that the Seacoast swans are descended from birds kept as pets and have lost their instinct to fly further than their home region. Like the ducks, they donít mind winter, but range further in winter in search of food and unfrozen habitat.

GOseacoast.com

There are thousands of swans, Orff says, along the New England coastline. Not a protected species, they are popular with residents and tourists, but troublesome to the environment. The swans dig up eelgrass, kill ducks that come within their two-acre territory and have been known to attack admirers. The male, or cob, will literally attack a canoe, crashing into it, if angered during the spring mating season. The population is currently monitored and kept at a minimum through "birth control" according to Orff, without which the species could quickly grow to hundreds, even thousands of birds, he says.

VISIT: Eric Orff's web site
VISIT: Great Bay web site

NHS

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All photos by Norman O'Neil and Louise Giordani
Copyright © 2004 SeacoastNH.com. All rights reserved.

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Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03802
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