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WWT Latest: News and video of what's happening at Slimbridge


WWT Slimbridge

Easterly winds bring cold weather, frosts and … swans!

More than 50 wild Bewick’s swans flew into WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire last week, marking the start of winter for many UK wildlife lovers.

The swans famously return from arctic Russia each year to the wetland reserve established by naturalist Sir Peter Scott.

The arrival of lots of swans – dubbed a ‘swanfall’ – coincides with the week’s sudden cold snap. It regularly leads to speculation on the coldness and length of the winter to come.
WWT Wildlife Health Research Officer, Julia Newth, records the swans’ movements throughout the winter and knows each one individually. She said:

“The mix of clear skies and a north easterly wind at this time of the year is a sure bet to bring frosts and swans. It’s a magical time at WWT Slimbridge. Many of these swans have been visiting for years and it’s great to know that old faces have made it safely, and to see the young that they have brought back from the breeding grounds.”

The arrival of swans and cold weather is closely linked. The swans’ autumn migration is broadly prompted by the shortening days, but changes in the weather influence the precise timing of their movements from Russia to the UK. While the weather is autumnal on the continent, they wait in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, until a cold north easterly wind gets behind them.

The Slimbridge Bewick’s swans have been the subject of one of the most intensive wildlife studies in the world. Each individual is identified by the unique pattern of yellow and black on its beak and its life history recorded. The study will celebrate its 50th anniversary this winter and WWT researchers are expecting to enter the 10,000th swan on their database.

Julia Newth added:“Sadly Bewick’s swans have been in serious decline for the last twenty years. They have suffered some poor breeding seasons in recent times and the long migration from Russia is fraught with dangers. Anyone who comes to see them at WWT Slimbridge, should know that their visit helps support the conservation of these beautiful wild birds.”

With winter in full swing, it’s a beautiful time to visit a Wetland Centre as the landscape becomes a winter wonderland. WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre is holding wild bird feeds every day at 4pm until the end of February, so you can get up close and watch these beautiful creatures being fed, from the comfort of a hide – a truly unforgettable experience. 


Explore Gloucestershire
28 November 2013


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