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December sees “Swanfall” at Slimbridge Wetland Centre

Written by on 17th December 2020

The beginning of December has brought about the first ‘swanfall’ after a steady start at WWT Slimbridge.

Overnight on 30 November, 26 majestic Bewick’s swans arrived at Slimbridge, after completing the final leg of their autumn migration. Encouraged by the onset of winter conditions to their breeding grounds in Arctic Russia, the Bewick’s swans began their journey back in September and have since been enjoying the comforts and plentiful feeding opportunities at wetlands across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Hence the slow start to the Bewick’s swan season at Slimbridge. 

The appearance of so many swans in one go is called a ‘swanfall’, and marks the final stage of their epic 2,500km journey from Arctic Russia to the comparatively warmer weather of the UK. This year’s first ‘swanfall’ came almost a month after first arrivals Primero and Piquet touched down at Slimbridge on 5November.

Sir Peter Scott the founder of WWT dedicated much of his time to watching and studying Bewick’s swans. He was the first person to recognise the value of bill pattern identification as a research tool. The WWT conservation team who are based at Slimbridge have been using this technique to identify and record individual Bewick’s swans for more than 50 years, which is one of the largest conservation studies for a single species. Over that time, the comings and goings of individuals and family dynasties has led to over 10,000 swans being recorded, one of the longest-running studies on a single species in the world.

For information on the Bewick’s swans at Slimbridge and the swan team’s conservation work, visit:

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