It was the happiest start to the year, after the most miserable of Christmases, for a large group of swans, finally released back into the wild in Somerset.
Thirty-five of the birds were rescued on Boxing Day, after they were found close to starvation on frozen waterways near Burtle, Somerset. The rhynes – man-made canals built to help drain wetlands – that make up their natural habitat had been ice-bound for several days, preventing the animals from feeding.
Volunteers from Secret World Wildlife Rescue retrieved them by boat, and after spending a fortnight being nursed back to health at Secret World in East Huntspill, Somerset, the birds were released back into the wild on Saturday.
"It was a wonderful sight to see the swans running out of our vans towards the water," said Secret World's Pauline Kidner. "All but one has made a full recovery and has now been released, with one getting further treatment for lead poisoning. It's been a busy winter for us," she added.