A VERY exotic visitor splashed down in a council-run park this week.
A black swan, believed to be a young female, has been spotted swimming and waddling around the Waterworks park in Belfast.
It is understood there had been a sighting of one of the creatures in Strangford Lough about two days earlier.
The RSPB confirmed it is indeed a black swan and said it was probably the same bird as the Strangford sighting.
Belfast City Council parks manager Liam McKinley said this would mean that, for some reason, the creature has opted to leave a renowned beauty spot behind in favour of a highly-urban north Belfast neighbourhood.
The species originally hails from Australasia, and are sometimes kept as collectors’ items because they are so uncommon.
But for the time being at least, Ulster park-goers can enjoy the privilege of seeing one at close quarters – and feeding it too, although it is recommended that they give it only bird seed, rather than nuts or bread.
The animal was spotted by park warden Krzysztof Wolynski at lunchtime on Wednesday, before it was reported to Mr McKinley.
Mr McKinley, a 38-year-old Randalstown man who has worked for the council for 22 years, 11 of which have been as manager of the Waterworks, said it was the first such sighting of the species in any of the city’s parks.
The park’s usual inhabitants are mallards, coots, herons, tufted ducks and goldeneyes, as well as cormorants and gulls.
“I’ve never come across a black swan before,” said Mr McKinley.
“It’s a great additional attraction to the park and we encourage everyone to come down and see it.
“But treat the park with respect – we’re encouraging all dog walkers to keep the dog on a lead. We’d like it to stay as long as possible.”
He added: “There was a sighting of a black swan in Strangford Lough two days ago. It’s a world heritage site. Instead of staying in Strangford it’s decided to come to north Belfast.”
Asked if the creature is valuable, he said: “She’s valuable in that she’s unique. No other park within Belfast – within Ireland at this current time – has got a black swan.
“You can go to the zoo and see all these exotic creatures. But here in Belfast, on our doorstep, we’ve got this.”
He pledged to “treasure” the swan for as long as it stays.
The park itself, close to the Antrim Road and just north of the New Lodge area of the city, won a “green flag” award in July for the first time.
The award recognises top quality parks and open spaces, and at the time the News Letter noted the park’s considerable improvement over the years.
The RSPB’s Suzanne Irvine said she was not aware of any black swan sightings, except for the latest, in at least the last couple of years.