Monday 18 December 2017

Arrival of swans sparks winter fear

Riso and Risa, two of the Bewick's swans which have returned to Slimbridge
Riso and Risa, two of the Bewick's swans which have returned to Slimbridge

Some of the first migrating Siberian swans have arrived in Britain, marking the official end of summer - with experts warning their early appearance signals a harsh winter ahead.

Every winter around 300 Bewick's Swans arrive at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust nature reserve at Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, after flying 2,500 miles from Russia.

The swans' arrival generally signals the official start of the British winter as the birds head south to escape the Arctic winds following behind them.

According to folklore, if the Bewick's swans arrive early then Britain could be in for a cold winter.

They touched down overnight - three weeks earlier than last year and the earliest arrival since 2003.

Last year, the swans arrived almost two weeks later than this year - but in larger numbers - and it turned out to be the coldest winter for 31 years.

At dawn on Monday morning, staff saw that eight of the birds had landed at the Rushy Lake, including five yearlings which were last year's juveniles.

Two of the flock, Riso and Risa, are among those to return and have been regulars at Slimbridge for the last 13 years.

Reserve warden James Lees said: "They have flown 2,500 miles from their breeding grounds in Russia so will probably rest for most of today.

"It has been widely reported in the news that forecasters have predicted it will be just as cold this winter as last and the Bewick's' early arrival could support this, and could even mean we are in for an even colder winter this year."

Press Association

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