A swan guarding her eggs defiantly refused to move despite being shot by thugs and suffering appalling injuries.
The female swan was attacked with an airgun but remained sitting on her eggs, which were about to hatch, despite an ugly wound in her neck. Distressed members of the public contacted volunteers from Swan Lifeline, a swan rescue charity, after they spotted the injured bird. The vicious attack happened on the River Thames near Slough, Berks.
Wendy Hermon, the charity's treatment co-ordinator, said: "Five volunteers went out in canoes to rescue the swan. "The female swan was badly hurt and her chicks were about to hatch - we could hear one tapping inside the egg. "One egg was already cracked from the inside." Wendy's husband Steve managed to lift the reluctant swan off her eggs so she could be taken to the charity's headquarters to be treated.
She was put on a drip and the dedicated team at Swan Lifeline placed her four eggs under a heat lamp - all of them successfully hatched soon after (image 2).
Their mum remained poorly though and the chick's father had also been targeted by the thugs and had two holes in his neck. Wendy said: "It took us ages to catch him - about two hours. He is not as badly hurt as the female and we reunited them.
"Both had bashes to their beaks which suggested catapults had been used on them. I would like to sit the people who did this down and ask them what it feels like to shoot a swan that was just sitting on her eggs to protect them."
Thankfully, the two adult swans are making steady progress and staff at the charity are hopeful they will make full recoveries.
Airgun attacks on swans on the River Thames and are treated very seriously by police.
Killing a swan is an offence under UK law - the graceful birds belong to the Crown under an ancient charter. The birds are also protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Swans are the property of The Queen and anyone who harms one may be prosecuted for criminal damage.
Killing or injuring a swan carries a £5,000 fine or six months in jail, while stealing a swan egg also carries the same maximum penalty.