Winter Swans Begin their Migrations

As the first flakes of snow fall in Arctic Russia, migration has begun for the Bewick’s swans, but how many of them will make the journey all the way to the UK? 

Whilst the birds move south through Russia they are at the very start of a 2,500 mile journey which will take them weeks, if not months to complete.  Fewer numbers of Bewick’s swans are arriving in the UK as warmer winters allow them to survive through the bleakest months in countries like Germany, Poland and even Estonia where fresh water and food is available.  

Whooper swans have already started to arrive at WWT Welney, departing from Iceland where they have spent the summer breeding.  The whooper swan migration involves the longest sea crossing of any swan species as they travel across the North Atlantic Ocean.  This results in very few stops throughout their 1,200 mile journey as the birds cannot refuel on the open sea. 

Hetty Grant, warden at WWT Welney said, ‘ Winter may not seem like the obvious time to get outside and explore, but some of the UK’s best wildlife spectacles take place at this time of year.  Thousands of birds are making their way south to escape cold weather further north and take advantage of the relatively mild conditions found in the UK. 

‘We always look forward to seeing the first flocks of whooper and Bewick’s swans returning as autumn progresses.  These birds are joined by flocks of wigeon, teal and black-tailed godwit that fill our wetlands and provide inspiring views, whether visitors want to see each individual species or take in the whole spectacle.

‘Despite their winter range of Bewick’s swans moving West, Norfolk is still a stronghold for this species with over 1,000 of these beautiful birds joining 10,000 whooper swans here each winter.’ 

This winter WWT Welney has new opening times to allow visitors to enjoy the swan feeds we are known for but also allow for some new swan experiences.  November to February will see the visitor centre and reserve open for evening, floodlit swan feeds on Saturdays and Sundays each week, to allow for new swan supper evenings on selected Fridays each month.  Whooper swans are the stars of the show for these events, but our team of staff and volunteers are also looking forward to the early morning swans awake events we put on, as a chance to show visitors Bewick’s swans alongside the whooper swans and our resident mute swans. 

Bewick’s swans flying at Welney Credit: Julia Eyles; Map of GPS tagged Bewick’s swans Credit: OpenStreetMap/WWT; Whooper swans in flight Credit: Kim Tarsey (Header Photo), whooper swan migration illustration Credit: Google. 

New Winter Opening times:

November – February
Mon – Fri 10am – 5pm (last admission 4pm)
Café 10am – 4.30pm
Sat & Sun 10am – 8pm (last admission 6pm)
Café 10am – 6pm

Events:

Swan feeds
12noon daily Boxing day to Sun 8th March
3.30pm daily Sat 19th October to Sun 8th March
6.30pm Saturday & Sunday only Sat 2nd November to Sat 29th February

Swan supper evenings
Fri 22nd November
Fri 10th January
Fri 7th February
5.30-9.15pm, £27.95 per person, booking essential through wwt.org.uk/welney

Swans awake mornings
Sun 17th November
Sun 8th December
Sat 18th January
Sun 19th January
Sat 15th February
Wed 19th February
Fri 21st February
6/6.30am – 9am (check website for start time) £12 per adult, £5 per child, booking essential through wwt.org.uk/welney

Press release from WWT Welney Wetland Centre

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