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When do you think the first Bewick’s will arrive?

Bewick Swans at WWT Slimbridge

It’s that time of year when anticipation starts to build at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, as staff, volunteers and visitors await the arrival of the first Bewick’s swans of the winter.

And this year WWT is giving you the chance to guess the date the first of these majestic swans will touch down at Slimbridge Wetland Centre over the coming weeks in an online competition. The winner, to be drawn at random from those who guess the correct date, will receive a pair of tickets to WWT Slimbridge’s Winter Wildlife Festival in December.

Each year the arrival of Bewick’s swan from their Russian breeding grounds causes much debate because folklore suggests it can predict whether or not we are set to face a cold winter. If they arrive early then it could mean a harsh winter – or even a white Christmas - is in store for us but later touchdowns could indicate a milder few months.

The Bewick’s swan are loyal to their wintering sites so each year we welcome back 300 or so of the birds to Slimbridge, each of which can be identified from their unique bill patterns. Last year we speculated that the arrival of large numbers of Bewick’s swans early on in the season meant we could have snow in store and sure enough we were treated to a generous helping of the white stuff at the start of 2010!

Dave Paynter, Slimbridge’s Reserve Manager, said: “There is a certain element of truth to the assertion that they predict the weather because their migration depends on the weather conditions. 

“They need a north easterly wind and clear skies to arrive early, whereas wetter south westerly winds would slow down their arrival. My advice would be to weather watch when you make your guess! 

There are several swans we are particularly excited about welcoming back.  If Winterling makes it back she will be the oldest swan on record to have ever visited the reserve at 29 and I still have hopes that Crinkly, the swan with the crooked neck might return even though she failed to make it back here last year.”

WWT Slimbridge’s Winter Wildlife Festival runs from Monday 29 November to Sunday 5 December.   Visitors will have the chance to go to the commentated swan feeds as part of the day’s events which include den building, wildlife-themed stalls, talks, demonstrations and guides in the hides.

To be in with a chance of winning you simply need to guess a date from 15 October to November 5. You can enter the competition online at or submit your entry by post, detailing your name, address, email address and phone number to Swan Competition 2010, Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Slimbridge, Glos GL2 7BT. Once the swans arrive the draw for the prize will be made from the correct entries.

Explore Gloucestershire
7 October 2010

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