Hamburg rounds up Alster swans
In a centuries-old ritual that signals chilly weather is officially on the way, Hamburg’s famous Alster swans were rounded up from the open water on Monday and transported to their winter quarters where they will be held until spring.
The port city’s “swan father” Olaf Nieß and a group of helpers plucked some 35 of the 120 snowy white birds from the outer Alster Lake with a flurry of plumage, binding their feet and wings for the trip before a large group of observers.
“This year hasn’t gone without problems,” said Nieß, who 15 years ago inherited the post from his father Harald, the swans’ caretaker for 40 years.
On Monday only a fraction of the swans could be picked up thanks to a recent storm that pushed the birds into outlying canals, said the younger Nieß.
“But no worries, I’ll get them still,” he said.
In the coming days Nieß and his assistants will continue wrangling swans until they’re all safely housed in the Eppendorf district’s mill pond, which is kept free of ice year round.
“When I meet a swan, I very nicely convince him to accompany me,” he added.
The birds have been a part of the city landscape since the 11th Century, under the care of a “swan father” - Hamburg’s oldest municipal post - since 1674.
The birds now grace the Hamburg city emblem, with their seasonal migrations between the mill pond and the Alster lake heralding both winter and spring.