Spring migration after the snow!

The 1st of March is the official start of spring here in the UK but last weekend told a rather different story! The Bewick’s swans were forced to stay where they were and hunker down as an unusually late cold snap brought blizzards from the south-west. With the wind in the opposing direction needed for a smooth migration to the Russian Arctic and a frozen landscape further east supplying limited food, it was probably a wise move. The reserve team continued to feed the swans at Slimbridge and Welney and the swans continued to stay!

However, they must have been itching to leave…. Although the precise timing of migration is influenced by weather conditions, increasing day length serves as a key trigger for migration. The weather was poor but the days continued to lengthen. It therefore came as no surprise that as soon as the temperature rose again, we saw a mass departure of 70 birds on one night (the 4th/5th)! They moved quickly and within days, all of the Slimbridge Bewick’s had departed on spring migration.

Maisie's migration route on 5 March 2018

Maisie, one of our transmitter swans, was among those making great headway and catching up on lost time. She was tracked flying over Gloucester at around 03:00 on the 5th and was still continuing her journey across Schleswig Holstein in Germany at 10:30! Hans-Joachim Augst reported thick snow cover (up to 30 cm!) in Germany at around the time she crossed the border and so she speedily pressed on without stopping to rest, heading instead for Denmark where she is currently! We look forward to keeping track of their journeys over the next eight weeks as they head back to their tundra breeding grounds in the Russian Arctic….