Wildlife lovers have blasted young hooligans who frightened a nesting swan by kicking a football at her.
The teenagers, believed to be around 16 years old, kicked their ball repeatedly into Ashland lake and laughed when it hit the terrified swan.
They only stopped when nearby householders challenged them and ordered them to leave.
“When approached, these idiots had absolutely nothing to say to defend their actions...They thought it was funny to kick balls at a swan,” said one furious neighbour.
“The swan had been sitting peacefully on her eggs in her nest for a while, but after this attack she was really agitated,” he said.
“She and her mate were so disturbed that they left the eggs unattended and swam to the other side of the lake for several hours.”
Now the Ashland residents are worried the cygnets, due to hatch any day, will not survive.
Last year, after similar disturbances, the Ashland swans took the rare step of abandoning their nest and the eggs never hatched.
But on Tuesday residents were given a ray of hope when the swan returned to her nest to guard the eggs while her mate brought her food.
Neighbours are now urging people to leave the pair alone – and warning any would-be hooligans that they will be watching them closely.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is a criminal offence to intentionally injure, kill or steal a wild swan.
“We will make sure anybody who disturbs our swan is prosecuted,” said one resident.