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Hope floats for Irish lovebirds 25.05.15

A PAIR of Irish swans have mated successfully for the first time thanks to a special man-made raft built to prevent their nest washing away.
The mute swans, who have been together for eight years, lost all their clutches of eggs to high tides and flooding in Oranmore, Co Galway since 2007.
But against all the odds the 12-year old waterbirds are now first-time parents to five fluffy cygnets thanks to a team of volunteers led by mechanical engineer Peter Butler, who built them a floating love-nest.
The swans' nine eggs began hatching last Wednesday with the little family of five cygnets born by Friday - the day Ireland historically went to the polls to vote Yes in the Marriage Equality Referendum.
Mother swan watches over her five cygnets which hatched last week.
Swans famously mate for life but the Oranmore lovebirds’ efforts were thwarted year after year due to relentlessly high tides at their favourite nesting spot - a small, grassy island in Oranmore estuary.
Mr Butler, who works at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, said he had been saddened at the swans' repeated and failed attempts to have a family.
"I couldn't sit back and watch these swans fail again this year. They have repeatedly lost their nest and eggs to storms and rising tides every year for about eight years," said Mr Butler.
"They would attempt to build on a small island which was originally a mill race but it got totally swamped by high tides so every single year their nest would collapse and their eggs would get washed away. I spotted the problem last year and decided enough's enough."
Mr Butler, a life-long nature lover and conservationist, did not want to unduly interfere with the laws of nature.
 Mechanical engineer Peter Butler.
Environmental and planning regulations also had to be considered as the swans' nesting area lies in a Special Area of Conservation.
But with help and advice from his friends in Galway Conservation Volunteers and Oranmore Development Association, he set about building the raft in his back yard.
Putting his engineering skills to good use, he created the structure using €115 worth of recyclable materials including four wooden pallets and builders’ planks. The raft had to be light enough to float but heavy enough to withstand strong currents and high tides during the swans’ February to May breeding season.
The birds’ favourite nesting materials including seaweed, grass and branches were then placed on top of the structure.
It was subsequently launched into the middle of the estuary and moored into position to allow it to bob and flow, pontoon-like, with the tide. After a number of days, the cob (male swan) accepted it as his own and breeding began.
The Bray-born engineer admits the project was not without its detractors with some people describing it as an "eyesore".
But his efforts were rewarded and he now hopes Oranmore’s newest swan brood will thrive to grace the town’s waterways long into the future.
“This was always a gamble and I am elated that it has paid off,” he added.
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