With the country in the grip of arctic conditions from Russia, there’s an old Russian saying tthe swans bring winter on their wingst. So are the Bewick’s swans migrating from arctic Russia to winter at WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire accurately predicting a white Christmas – like they did back in 2004?
After a milder autumn initially delayed the exodus of wintering Bewick’s making the 3,000 km flight into the UK, the recent colder weather has seen an influx of swans arriving at WWT Slimbridge in numbers not witnessed since the winter of 2004. Back then, media reports of the sudden influx of Bewick’s at Slimbridge hinted at the possibility of a white Christmas – and they were right. Back in 2004, 53 Bewick’s swans arrived at Slimbridge during the first 17 days of December, but this year 138 Bewick’s have touched down at the WWT reserve – 74 of them in the last week alone. In 2004, the numbers went on to double just before Christmas Day, which saw the UK’s first official white Christmas in years.
WWT swan researcher Julia Newth said: “Maybe it’s just an old wives’ tale, but it certainly seemed an accurate prediction when the last white Christmas occurred in 2004. The weather really does play a part in the timing of migration, so perhaps the Bewick’s sense the colder weather ahead? “With freezing temperatures and north easterly winds predicted over the next few days, we are expecting more Bewick’s swans to pile in to WWT Slimbridge, so it will be a white Christmas for us regardless!”