RICHARD WILLIAMSON Nature Trails January 27

Funny birds, swans. If only eagles were so tame. Everybody wants to see a golden eagle. But if they sat on our doorstep we would ignore them.

I guess we’re the funny ones. Why do we ignore swans, these huge, majestic, beautiful, pure-white, pristine birds that grace just about every lake, river, mere, pond or zoo in the country?

Just look at these two people along the tide edge in Bosham harbour. They aren’t looking at the swans. They’re taking them for granted. Walking right past them. There might as well be nothing there.

The swans are putting on their best show too. They are, some might think, even more lovely than the corps de ballet strung out across the stage in Covent Garden giving the Wilis to poor old Albrecht or as swan maidens in Swan Lake tricking Siegfried into thinking he has the perfect woman in his power. He has not discovered his perfect woman is about to turn into a swan during the hours of daylight.

Do these two people along the bottom of the seawall realise what a magical bird the swan once was? Do they know anything of the legend that held the world in thrall for millennia when Zeus seduced Leda when she had been turned into a helpless swan?

Do they know that Adonis and Aphrodite departed on their honeymoon in a chariot pulled by two swans, an idea adapted by Tchaikovsky for Swan Lake?

A hundred years ago a swan in Bosham harbour meant only one thing. Shoot it, and sell it.

Thirty seven full-time fowlers in Chichester harbour would have been after it and some wealthy family would have eaten a tasty-enough meal, something akin to gamey corned beef.

Six hundred years ago these swans would all have been owned by bishops, earls, legal-eagles who had made themselves indispensable to royalty, and their beaks would have been marked with the correct ownership logo.

Mute swans are wild here and there in the world, mainly the Baltic, the Black Sea, the Caspian, and Lake Baykal, but with us they are content to swan around looking regal not to speak of mythological. So do all the 21,000 mute swans in Britain; there may be many more than that WEBS count figure.

Last thing: I have not been fair to the walkers in the picture. One is my wife, the other my son. They have just taken a dozen photos of the Bosham swans and are on their way for a cup of coffee in the Craft Centre.

And son Brent has danced both Albrecht and Siegfried on stage in his time and knows far more about balletic swans than I. So I shall probably get into trouble for my opening remarks.