THERE’s a clear-cut case of swan-upmanship down at the WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, where one of the mute swans is rearing a special baby . . . a gosling.

At first glance the youngster looks similar to a cygnet, but its yellow-brown down gives the game away: it’s a greylag gosling which seems to think it’s a swan.

James Lees, Reserve Warden, said: “Either the swan took over the nest of a goose and started to incubate the egg, or a greylag goose laid an egg in the swan’s nest. I saw the swan on the nest incubating eggs over the last few weeks but this was the only youngster to emerge. What is clear is that the goose has imprinted on the swan and thinks it is mum, and vice versa.”

WWT Slimbridge is home to as many as 35,000 wild ducks, geese and swans at any one time, but this is the first time that staff have ever seen a swan rearing a goose.

In the first few weeks goslings and cygnets rely on their parents for warmth and protection, but they are good at foraging for food and swimming from day one. This gosling is sticking close to the swan, which is chasing away any birds which come close to it. The swan’s partner is also helping to protect the gosling.

James added: “Visitors are finding it very intriguing but most are assuming it is a cygnet until we encourage them to take a closer look.

“The swan has invested so much time already in hatching the gosling that we think she will continue to care for it over the weeks to come.”