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There are fears that Ireland is heading for its worst winter in 50 years


We could be heading for a long winter

We could be heading for a long winter

We could be heading for a long winter

There are fears that Ireland could be heading for a very long winter after the early arrival of migratory birds from Siberia.

A 300-strong flock of Bewick swans migrate 2,500 miles from Arctic Russia to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Slimbridge, Gloucestershire each year and their arrival is used as a sign to say that winter has arrived.

It is the earliest arrival of the birds since 1963 and their presence has led many to believe that western Europe is in store for a long, harsh winter.

The first of the birds began arriving on Monday, 25 days ahead of this time last year.

Bewick swans are red-listed in Ireland due to a severe decline in the number of the birds wintering in Ireland.

Slimbridge swan expert Julia Newth told the Daily Telegraph: "Apparently there's a Russian saying that 'the swan brings snow on its bill', because they tend to move just ahead of the cold weather.

"Of course, we can't infer much from the arrival of a single swan but it's certainly exciting this bird has arrived so early.

"It's only a year old and, because it's made it all the way here on its own, we assume that it must have come to Slimbridge last year as a cygnet with its parents.

"We record all the Bewick's swans that come to Slimbridge each winter by their unique bill pattern as part of our study and give them a name.

"This one needed a name, so we've called him Record Breaker."

El Niño is also underway in the tropical Pacific, which has further fuelled speculation that Europe is in for a longer and colder winter than usual.

Met Eireann are expecting ground frost in places throughout this week as our spell of settled weather continues. It should be dry until the weekend but they are warning of fog and frost developing overnight.

A polar continental air mass will make it feel very chilly all week.