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Mistral the Harwich Mute Swan's Love Triangle

Updated on June 4, 2017
Nathanville profile image

To me all life is precious; even garden pests, until they start munching too much veg. I find nothing is more wondrous than nature itself.

Mistral the swan and her family.
Mistral the swan and her family.

Mistral the Mute Swan from Harwich, Essex, England

The true story of Mistral the Essex Swan and her love triangles over ten years in Dovercourt, Essex. Mistral is a Mute swan who flew into the neighbouring village of Harwich one windy day in March 1999. From where she came no one knows but for the next ten years of her life the Harwich Environmental Action Team (HEAT) became her guardian angel; watching over her and telling her story as it unfolds.

The story starts with her first two years where she losses two mates so for her own safety the Harwich Environmental Action Team move her to the ponds in Dovercourt.

All photos in this lens were taken either by me or for me by the Harwich Environment Action Team and I either own copywright or have permission to use them.

Mistral and Liberty

Dovercourt, Essex, England

During her first two years in Dovercourt she has two mates but unfortunately both are killed and therefore for her own safety HEAT move her to the Dovercourt ponds in the summer of 2001 in the hope that after raising her five young safety she may naturally leave in the autumn months to look for a new home and new mate so as to make a new and hopefully happier life for herself.

In the event Liberty arrived in the October of 2001 and immediately struck up a relationship with Mistral, adopting her young until they naturally leave to find pastures new. In the January of 2002 Freedom, a Whooper swan, settled in the area; which is unusual as he should have been making his way from Scotland, where they often overwinter back to the Scandinavian countries or Baltic area from where they come.

Mystral the swan with her mate and offspring.
Mystral the swan with her mate and offspring.

Mistral and Freedom

A Whooper Swan

Freedom hung around making advances towards Mistral who would put Liberty between herself and Freedom. Liberty tolerated him but would occasionally and half-heartedly get Freedom by the neck. During late winter and spring Mistral and Liberty would fly off together and disappear for weeks on end sometimes returning for brief periods, and with them a much older swan turned up who chased Liberty off and in May 2002 Mistral returned with the older male who tragically died from a fatal accident shortly afterwards when he misjudged a landing and overshot the pond.

The Mystral family
The Mystral family

Mistral and Braveheart

A Mute Swan

Freedom then formed a relationship with Mistral adopting her young and bringing them up as if they were his own, although it is unknown whether he is the father and a union between a whooper and mute swan is a little unusual. That year Braveheart (a mute swam) arrives on the scene to become a rival to Freedom with for a while Mistral spending time with each. If Freedom chases Braveheart away he doesn't go far and it's not long before he's back with Mistral. Eventually Mistral leaves Freedom and Freedom brings up their young on his own until January of 2003 when they are old enough to look after themselves at which point he returns to the dyke to be with Mistral and her other mate, Braveheart. By the June of 2003 Freedom has muscled himself back In with Mistral and pushed Braveheart to one side, but not far as he tags along behind them all summer. All through the summer of 2003 this love triangle continues with neither Freedom nor Braveheart far from Mistral although it is suspected that Braveheart is the father of her young.

Over the coming years the three swans continue this relationship with Freedom often having the upper hand; helping Mistral make her nest and sitting with her on the nest leaving poor Braveheart on the water at the edge of the nest; until Mistrals eventual death from old age in the summer of 2007.

After Mistrals death Freedom (the Whooper swan) disappears, presumably he finally migrates to Scandinavia where he should have gone in the first place, and Braveheart settles down to a new life with a new mate on the ponds and dykes of Dovercourt

Mistral the Swan Video

A Touching Story of a Very Unique Swan and Her Family

This is a short video I put together in honour of Mistral from old video footage I took of Mistrals early life in Dovercourt, Essex, England. We use to make annual trips to Dovercourt to visit my wife’s relatives; usually staying there for the week as a cheap holiday. And while staying in Dovercourt, a small town adjoining Harwich, in between spending time on the beach and walking the promenade we would make a point of stopping by the boating lake to visit Mistral and her young. This short video shows my son feeding Mistral’s young followed by a selection of photographs of her and her family in later years.

Mistral and Family Photos of Her Life in Dovercourt

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Dovercourt Pond Revisited

Descendants of Mistral

We recently returned to Essex for a week as a pilgrimage for my wife to retrace her family roots; and while in the area we made a special point of stopping by in Dovercourt to see how the swans were doing on the boating ponds.

On a return visit to Dovercourt after many years it is good to see a thriving swan population. No doubt many of these swans are descendants of Mistral.

Do Swans Mate For Life

And the Difference between Whooper and Mute Swans

Yes, generally swans do mate for life. However, in Mistrals case she lost a lot of her mates so it's not surprising that under these circumstances she will look for new mates. What is surprising is her rather tenuous relationship with a Whooper swan.

Whooper and Mute Swans as a family
Whooper and Mute Swans as a family

Mute swans have Orange beaks, what else do you know about the features and habits of swans. Share your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page.

What colour is the beak of Whooper swan?

See results

The Queens Ownership of British Mute Swans

Historically, all wild mute swans in open water in the UK are the property of the Queen. They come under the Crown’s protection and by Royal prerogative a responsibility that since the 16th century has been shared with the Vintners and Dyers Companies.

To monitor the health and population of mute swans in Britain, an annual event, called upping, is carried out by the Vintners and Dyers Companies on behalf of the Queen; as a representative sample. Upping being where all mute swans on the River Thames are captured and ringed (and then released back to the wild).

Swan Upping on the River Thames

Swan Knowledge - Share your knowledge and views here

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    • Nathanville profile image

      Arthur Russ 9 months ago from England

      Thanks for all your feedback, it's been a pleasure reading your comments.

    • profile image

      Nicole 3 years ago

      I never seen them in germany. I also thhogut they are only white. Looks like the darker swans are called Trauerschwan (Cygnus atratus). After researching I found out their natural habitat is in australia, tasmania and in new zealand this swarn is naturalized. They are also seen in netherland and nordrhein-westfalen but they are set out there and savaged. Thats what I found on wikipedia :)

    • marigoldina profile image

      Heather B 5 years ago

      I don't know much about swans except that they are very territorial and mate for life as most birds do.

    • getstuffed profile image

      getstuffed 5 years ago

      great lens enjoyed it

    • imolaK profile image

      imolaK 5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this story with us. Blessed!

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your unique love story and all those wonderful photos.

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 6 years ago

      Ahh swans.. sooo romantic. Beautiful lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      enjoyed my visit today, this was fun to see.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 6 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      wonderful photo journal on swans - I loved it

    • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

      Ram Ramakrishnan 6 years ago

      Delightful story.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 6 years ago

      A beautiful love story indeed. Thanks for the introduction to Mistral and the brave "men" in her life.