Last night saw the first mass departure from Slimbridge as large numbers of Bewick’s started their spring migration. The count dropped from 160 birds to 118 (including 31 cygnets) overnight.
With south-westerly winds and clear skies providing perfect conditions for migration over the weekend, most swans have now left the Netherlands with groups gathering in Germany and around 1,000 congregating in Denmark (W. Tijsen). Now is the time to catch one last glimpse of our winter visitors at Slimbridge and Welney, or pick up some binoculars and try your luck at identifying ringed birds as they make their way through Europe!
So where are the swans disappearing to? Their journey, which covers 2,500 miles, takes them to the wetlands of Estonia where up to ¾ of the population may be found for 2-3 weeks in April, and then onwards to the Gulf of Finland and Karelia. They then head to the Davina Delta and Divina Bay on the White Sea. This White Sea stop-off is crucially important for the swans as it provides their last big opportunity for them to feed on aquatic vegetation and lay down fat reserves before arrival on the arctic Russian tundra in May. Food intake at this stage of the migration is important not only for successful onward flight to breeding grounds but also for subsequent breeding success.