Leho, who arrived at WWT Welney on December 15, has called time on his winter holiday and begun the 2500km epic trip back to his summer dwellings in Arctic Russia.
After leaving the reserve at 7am, the enthusiastic swan crossed over the North Sea in two and a half hours, then spent the afternoon in the Netherlands before continuing on to Germany where he remains for now.
At this stage of the year swans begin preparing for the tough journey ahead, resting, feeding and making practice runs to build up enough strength to fly across continents.
Julia Newth, Principal Ecosystem Health Monitor at WWT, said:
“And he’s off! The build up to final departure can be prolonged, involving resting, some last minute feeding and various dummy runs. The swans need to ensure that they are in good shape to survive this long journey that will take them through 11 countries over a period of up to 10 weeks.
“But Leho obviously felt fit and ready and that the time was right to head back to the breeding grounds for another summer in the tundra.”
Every year, Bewick’s swans fly to the UK to shelter for the winter and every spring they return to Arctic Russia to breed.
WWT has expanded its swan research over the decades and linked up with researchers throughout the migratory swans’ range in northern Europe and Russia. Together they have managed to get international protection for a chain of wetlands along the way that are vital for the swans to feed and rest.
For information on swans and where to see them, or to read Julia’s blog about the Slimbridge swans and her research, visit wwt.org.uk/swans