A wildlife writer and photographer's celebration of the mute swan, Britain's most iconic breed, exploring the bird's significance across myth and history alongside vivid observations on its habits and habitats.
The swan is both a lover and a fighter. A graceful angel and a clumsy oaf. Immortalized by artists over the ages yet misunderstood and threatened in the present day. The mute swan – with its orange beak and aura of stately silence – is the breed we know best in Britain.
Dan Keel has been captivated by these birds since boyhood, studying their contrasting qualities over more than three decades. He's spent countless hours documenting their power, beauty and vulnerability as a writer of nature journalism, as a wildlife photographer looking for the perfect shot, and as a pilot sharing the skies.
In this labour of love, Dan speaks up for the mute, answering the essential questions about its nature and its future. Along the way, weaving his first-hand observations into the narrative, he shows us how swans have been portrayed in myth, art and culture for millennia, and how they have been venerated and imitated as well as harmed by humans.
Does anybody still eat swan? Can a swan really break your arm? Does the Queen own them all? With an eye for the humour as well as the tragedy of the swan's story, Dan lays out the facts, guides us to our lakes and riverbanks, and urges us to see these familiar creatures in a fresh light.
Dan Keel is a lifelong birdwatcher who has written for The Guardian, the Daily Mail and Birdwatching Magazine, among other publications. More recently he has worked at the Home Office and the Commonwealth as head of media, working on environmental issues. Dan is a qualified private pilot, runs www.ilikebird.uk and organizes bird-related “walk and talks”.
– Book of the Month, Countryside magazine
"[this] fascinating new book [...] provides a detailed insight into the snow-white species"
– Waterways World
"I was totally engaged by the book: fascinating, revelatory and delightfully penned. An inspiring and eye-opening account of one of our best-loved birds, Swan is totally compelling."
– Alan Titchmarsh, gardener, broadcaster and presenter
"Swan is a love letter to one of our most enigmatic birds. Dan lifts his readers into the clouds to see the world through the eyes of these iconic creatures, and in doing so, sifts through the myths, legends and facts to give us a soulful, joyous and well-rounded portrait of this fierce and enchanting bird."
– Tiffany Francis-Baker, illustrator and author of Dark Skies: A Journey into the Wild Night