Julia Newth is a wildlife health research officer at WWT and is involved with monitoring the 300 or so wild Bewick's swans that spend their winter at Slimbridge.
The Bewick's swan study was started in February 1964 by Sir Peter Scott, when the first wild Bewick's swans were attracted to a lake in the Rushy Pen at Slimbridge. Peter and his family took a very close interest in the swans. By drawing each swan's bill pattern (which is unique to each individual), a detailed study of the species began which continues to this day, making it one of the longest running research projects of any single species in the world!
Julia's winter months at Slimbridge are spent identifying the swans by their bill patterns as they arrive. Once the individuals are identified and named, the behaviour and movements of each can then be closely studied on site. The Bewick's swans are particularly special in that they have great winter site fidelity and so over half of the swans that visit Slimbridge each winter are known to have visited us before.
It is always exciting to see who will be arriving next and whether they have brought any cygnets with them. Some of our swans are also ringed which enables us to track them on their Autumn and Spring migrations to and from arctic Russia. It is always lovely to receive news of old swan friends in foreign lands as they progress on their 3,000 km journeys!
Posted on 16th April 2013 by Julia Newth @ Slimbridge
Our last two remaining Bewick's swans have finally left on spring migration, drawing to a close another eventful swan season! Whirls and Alik stayed at Slimbridge until 11 April, before natural urges to migrate and breed[...]
Posted on 3rd April 2013 by Julia Newth @ Slimbridge
Not long after we waved goodbye to the last seven swans last week, two more reappeared! Whirls and yearling Alik had seemingly grown tired of the antics of the territorial pair of breeding mute swans on the main Rushy [...]
Posted on 19th March 2013 by Julia Newth @ Slimbridge
At last some south-westerly winds and clear skies! On Thursday there were 124 Bewick's swans at Slimbridge but by Friday there were only 35! The swans had been stalling - days of unfavourable north-easterly winds had [...]
Posted on 11th March 2013 by Julia Newth @ Slimbridge
A return to north-easterly winds has brought much colder air from Scandanavia and Eastern Europe causing the Bewick's swans to delay their migration back to Russia for considerably longer than usual. This morning, 179 [...]
Posted on 7th March 2013 by Julia Newth @ Slimbridge
No sooner had the swans departed, they had returned! After groups were heard noisily flying away from Slimbridge on Thursday night and fewer birds were found in the area the following day, swan researcher Steve Heaven was[...]
Posted on 22nd February 2013 by Julia Newth @ Slimbridge
Spring migration has officially started with groups of Bewick's seen making their way across the Netherlands! Ornithologist Martin Jansen sent this news from Holland: 'Yesterday morning and also this morning I have seen [...]
Posted on 18th February 2013 by Julia Newth @ Slimbridge
Over the past few weeks we have been able to catch 19 Bewick's swans wintering at Slimbridge. These are birds that have swum up a netted tunnel trap known as a 'swan-pipe' and once caught, have had a colour ring …
Posted on 5th February 2013 by Julia Newth @ Slimbridge
We were very excited to see the return of Caper to Slimbridge in December, who at the grand old age of 24 years, is the oldest known Bewick's swan in Britain this winter. We heard today that Caper is not …
Posted on 29th January 2013 by Julia Newth @ Slimbridge
As we lurch towards the end of January it seems unreal that the Bewick's will be with us for only a few more weeks before they start to head off back to Russia next month. It seems doubtful that we …