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We put the Canadian canoe in the Thames in Lechlade, Oxfordshire, last summer. For the next couple of hours, we dabbled gently past fields of wildflowers and banks of dragonflies. And very relaxing it was, too.

Or it was, until we saw this.

Two male swans, who were steaming to and fro across the river, sizing each other up, wings half raised. This classic threat display is called ‘busking’, I’ve since discovered. We hung well back, and waited. Sure enough, a few minutes later, the swans suddenly exploded into action. Luckily, I’d got my old digital camera tucked away under my lifejacket.

It took a full 10 minutes for them to sort it out. Even then, as the weaker swan desperately tried to escape to the bank, the fittest one pressed the point home, holding its rival’s head right under water over and over. When he wasn’t under water, we could hear him rasping and gasping.

Eventually, the loser escaped with his life, but maybe only because he finally managed to scramble out of the water and collapse on the river bank.

Who needs the Serengeti when you’ve got the Thames?

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