Bewick’s swans return to Slimbridge Wetland Centre in rare reverse migration

Slimbridge’s famous Bewick’s swans have returned to the wetland centre in February 2021, just four days after leaving for Arctic Russia, taking refuge from the Beast from the East in Gloucestershire.

By Annabel Lammas  |  Published
In an extraordinary act of reverse migration, the Bewicks swans are back at Slimbridge Wetland Centre.
In an extraordinary act of reverse migration, the Bewick’s swans are back at Slimbridge Wetland Centre.

After beginning their annual journey from Gloucestershire to the Arctic tundra, a number of Bewick’s swans have aborted their migration plans and returned to Slimbridge Wetland Centre to sit out Storm Darcy.

WWT conservationists have reported that 12 birds are back at Slimbridge, just four days after the flock of 20 spread their wings and set off for Russia to breed.

With each individual swan identifiable by the pattern on its beak, it’s been noted that one of these arrivals is brand-new to Slimbridge – and has affectionately been named Darcy, after the storm that caused the extraordinary migratory U-turn.

While Bewick’s swans are used to facing extreme climates and the chilliest of weather, freezing conditions such as those caused by the latest Beast from the East have a huge impact on food availability. With blizzards reducing visibility for migration, too.

Kane Bridges, research officer at WWT, said: ‘With the easterly wind direction against them for their onwards migration to Russia, they are very sensible to sit this out!

‘The Bewick’s swans at Slimbridge are lucky they have a comfortable B&B to shelter at until the cold weather period passes.’

Providing the perfect habitat for the visiting swans, the reserve at Slimbridge is well-maintained and frequently visited by warden staff, who feed the guests three times a day.

WWT has been studying the Slimbridge Bewick’s swans for over 50 years and is committed to protecting this endangered species both in Gloucestershire and across the great migratory path.

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