As I write, thousands of Bewick’s swans are making their way across Europe en route to the Russian Arctic. This 2,500 mile journey is a remarkable feat of endurance, particularly for such a big bodied bird, and is surely enough to capture anyone’s imagination. Their flight takes them across stretches of ocean and a number of countries. The swans, of course, are more likely to differentiate between different habitats than different national boundaries. As they fly, they are unknowingly bringing together communities along their migration route, from the UK to Russia. Perhaps it’s their grace and elegance, perhaps they are enshrined in local folklore and traditional song or perhaps their arrival and departure signals the start and end of a season or a phase of weather. Interest may be sparked by concern for their dwindling numbers or by stories of their loyalties to one another and certain places. Whatever the reason, the Bewick’s swan holds a special place in many peoples hearts and are duly celebrated.
We have been following the progress of our migrating transmitter swans in recent weeks and have been heartened by the interest that their individual journeys has generated. Enthusiasts have helped us to spot these swans in fields across Europe and check that they are in good health. So far this spring, our swans have been seen in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Estonia! We hope to bring you some first-hand accounts from these swan spotters over the coming weeks.
One of the highlights for me last week was to hear that BEWI01, the first swan that we caught in the UK this winter, had been named Leo by a pre-school class of children from Beringstedt in Germany. The opportunity was taken to host a swan event around the naming ceremony which was organised by Stefan Rathgeber and facilitated by Stefan Wolff. The children made a swan sign before taking a short drive to the area where Leo had been roosting. The children then sang the folk song "Alle Vögel sind schon da", Stefan Rathgeber spoke to them about the biology and migration route of the Bewick’s and they then received a special certificate. The children performed another song which rounded off a lovely and memorable event.
As the swans edge closer to Russia, we are looking forward to working with more schools and communities across their migration route to raise awareness about this remarkable intrepid traveller!