As I mentioned before, Lake Bled (Blejsko Jezero) is one of Slovenia’s most popular and well-known spots on the edge of the Julian Alps. The lake—deeply blue and surrounded by forests and idyllic snow-capped mountain peaks—is dominated by a church on an island, and a castle on an almost sheer craggy hill on one side.
The Lake has much to offer and one interesting feature is the SWANS.
Mute Swans (Cygnus olor)
An obvious feature of the lake is its bird life, especially swans and Mallard ducks. We saw some of these graceful, beautiful birds swimming on the lake, and many swans are also on land at the top and bottom ends of the lake, where there are most people. The swans waddle around, apparently unconcerned about people unless someone approaches them, which mostly people do not. Some young kids did get too close and the swans hissed, straightened their necks and looked very menacing. The same for Sonya, who beat a hasty retreat! Mute swans are actually not mute, but are less vocal than other types of swans.
We also saw a couple of pairs of swans with cute fluffy babies (cygnets) at the bottom end of the lake (near Mlino village). One lot was very near the road and all the traffic, which seemed very dangerous, but traffic slowed and we didn’t see any swan get injured. The local people seem rather fond of the swans and the birds have become one of the symbols of the area—there are swan-shaped boats for rent, a swan statue at the bottom of the lake, and all kinds of swan souvenirs.
We wondered about this bird, so I looked up some more information. The Mute Swan is native to much of Europe and Asia and has been introduced to many other parts of the world, to parks and gardens. In addition to the characteristic black hump at the top of the swan’s orange beak, this swan is well-known for its elegant posture and its S-shaped neck. The swan is one of the largest and heaviest flying birds, and due to its size and weight it needs a large area to be able to take off. The swan obtains sufficient momentum for take-off by powerfully beating its wings, which can be over 2 meters in length, and by pushing its feet across the water’s surface. We didn’t see a swan take off unfortunately—that must be an impressive sight.
The swan’s nest is carefully constructed with vegetation from the surrounding area and is lined with feathers. A typical clutch is 5-7 eggs, which the swan sits on for 34-38 days. The newly-hatched chicks (cygnets), covered in greyish down, take to the water immediately. During the first months of their lives they are easy prey for birds of prey and larger lake fish (like the one we saw being caught—see next post).
The Mute swan belongs to the group of birds that migrate. However, if conditions are suitable, it may choose to over-winter in one place. The swan breeds successfully in Slovenia and the population is expanding in general. But, the conditions for breeding on Lake Bled are deteriorating and the bird may even be endangered here due to excessive human disturbance—Lake Bled is one of the most popular places in Slovenia, both for locals and for foreign visitors.
There are numerous signs posted around the edge of the lake. They read: “How can we improve the conditions for swans on Lake Bled?
–Permit the birds their own space and observe them from a safe distance.
–dogs should be kept on a lead.
–Feeding of the swans is neither helpful nor welcomed as there is a serious risk of poisoning. However, should you wish to feed them, the food should be neither salted nor sweetened. Vegetables are a good idea, particularly dandelion or other salads.”
I hope people actually take heed of this. I wonder how many do?