Attack of the Killer Swans

On Friday Bojan and I had arranged to meet before work for a swim from the Riverbank Club.  At 6.30 we met, ready to take the healing waters of the Cam at about 6.40.

The water temperature had been struggling to make its mind up for a few weeks, but hovering within a degree or so of 12C (54F) all the while.

The picture sums it up: it was an idyllic morning for a swim.

Early Morning Cam

Early Morning Cam

I had been planning an hour, before the wheels fairly quickly fell off our swim.  As we swam upstream and around Deadman’s corner, a swan sailed serenely past me.  I had never had any issues with swans before, and had been somewhat dismissive of the other ‘scaredy cats’ (Helen L step forward!).  But as I carried on upstream, leaving Swan Number 1 behind, another swan appeared in my sight line, heading straight towards me with ill intent obvious from its body language.

Instinct kicked in.  I knew I was not being welcomed with open arms.  I turned tail and fled back towards the Corner, and the approaching Bojan.  Not content with my yellow-bellied submission, the swan pecked me several times in my retreat, before Bojan stepped in and started rearing up in the water, splashing the swan in the face.

This was one realy p***ed off swan, rearing up to its full intimidating height, attacking with wings akimbo.  Bojan and I took it in turns to draw its fire, rearing up, or lying back in the water and splashing it with our feet as it launched attach after attack.

It just wouldn’t let it lie!   For fully 5 or 6 minutes it kept us occupied before finally letting us scuttle off with our tails between our legs.  We had managed to get a little cold during the contretemps with the occupant of the Cam, so the rest of the swim ran a little short.  We had a good 50 minutes, and a story to tell.


6 thoughts on “Attack of the Killer Swans

  1. Ah, I had the same thing last night as I came around Deadmans Corner. As the aggressive swan came at me I got on to my back and kicked furiously as it reared up at my feet. The splashing seemed to effect a retreat but it came at me anther few times, by which time I was close to the bank and able to scramble out. Subsequently instead of upstream we went down as far as the canoe club then back to the swim club.

  2. Sounds like the same one Andy. We ended up swimming the other way as well, which while pretty is not ideal, as it is always better to go out against whatever flow might exist. Can’t really grumble I suppose as it is their habitat not ours. At least you were neoprened though, which offers some protection!! I will be back there tomorrow morning I think. Hopefully he will be asleep!

    • Hi Jason, once I got onto the bank a hire-canoeist told me he’d been unable to pass that stretch of the river. Although the wetsuit would afford skin protection I gather they can strike heavily with beak and bony parts of the wing; take care!

      BTW, it’s almost exactly 1 mile from swim club to the first bridge by canoe club, according to gmap pedometer, and 1.25 mile from swim club to Grantchester fork.

  3. Correction, 0.5 mile from swim club to the first bridge by canoe club.

  4. I was swimming up the Cam today and had the same experience around the same place I think. Had just come out of the more woody section into the meadows heading to grantchester when I spotted the swan. Switched to breaststroke to see it better and tried to give it a wide birth, but came straight at me, butting me with its beak and wings. Every time I got past it would fly in front and set at me again. Eventually just headed in and some passers by helped drag me up. Think it had a nest somewhere close -definitely a stretch to avoid for a while!

  5. Same happened to me this morning – I was alone but called a pair of passing canoeists for help. They completely ignored me!

    It would be good if the Club would put a warning on the board to let people know, now that there are more people going in.

    I guess we have to forego the pleasure of long swims upriver this year ?

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