WWT’s own human swan, conservationist Sacha Dench, has been welcomed back to Slimbridge as she nears the end of her epic 7,000km Flight of the Swans journey.
Poor weather conditions have meant that Sacha’s not quite managed the final leg of her paramotor flight yet, but yesterday (Tuesday December 13) a special day of celebration was held at the Wildfowl & Wetlands centre to welcome her home.
Supporters and partners involved in the ground-breaking project, which followed the migration of the Bewick’s swans from arctic Russia to Gloucestershire, assembled at Slimbridge to congratulate Sacha on her achievement and to find out more about her adventure.
Guests included representatives of the Baltic Fund for Nature, one of the project’s Russian partners who flew over specially to attend the celebration, a representative from the Embassy of the Russian Federation, plus team members who accompanied Sacha on her three-month expedition.
TV naturalist Mike Dilger hosted the ceremony which included video messages from international partners plus some stunning aerial footage of the tundra, the taiga forest, the wetlands of northern Europe and finally the English Channel, which Sacha crossed on December 5. In the process she became the first female paramotor pilot to fly across the stretch of sea that separates England from the continent.
Sponsors – including Mitsubishi, Páramo Directional Clothing System, and Dudek UK – donors, volunteers and partners of the project were thanked for their contributions, while the event also focused on the achievements and legacy of the Flight of the Swans.
The presentation event included a Question and Answer session with Sacha, and the proceedings concluded with guests moving to the Peng Observatory to watch the 4pm feeding of the Bewick’s swans and other birds on the Rushy Pen.
Speaking after the event, Sacha said:
It’s a fantastic feeling to have touched down safely back in the UK, and to have been part of the incredible team that’s seen this project through from start to finish. I couldn’t have done it without the support of so many others. The Bewick’s really are amazing birds and it’s been an absolute privilege to accompany them on their annual migration, and to play a role in finding out how we can help more of them to make that journey.
Safely back home, Sacha hasn’t yet had time to put her feet up – she plans to complete the last leg of the journey when the weather permits, and she’ll be heading to 10 Downing Street on Tuesday next week to hand over the petition signed by 13,200 individuals asking for more protection for the Bewick’s swans along their flyway.
Video and reports from the expedition are available to view at https://www.flightoftheswans.org/