THREATENED Bewick’s swans are returning to WWT Welney from their Russian breeding grounds with the most young that ornithologists have seen in more than a decade.

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Following a bumper breeding season, surveys of the swans’ UK wintering sites have found 17.6 per cent young among the flocks - compared to an average of about 10 per cent over the last 10 years.

Julia Newth, a Wildlife Health Research Officer at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, said: “We still need to find out what is driving down Bewick’s swan numbers and reverse this worrying decline, but this year’s good breeding season is very welcome news.

“This is their best breeding season since 2001 and the higher number of cygnets this year will hopefully boost their numbers.

“At the same time, WWT is tackling the things we know affect the swans: illegal shooting, flying collisions with pylons and wires and poisoning from spent lead gunshot.”

The factors behind this year’s breeding success are not fully understood, due to the remoteness of the swans’ breeding grounds in Arctic Russia. It is likely that weather, particularly a cold snap at the start of the breeding season, is significant and conservationists are concerned that climate change is partly behind the recent decline.

WWT provides safe roosting for Bewick’s swans at WWT Welney on the Ouse Washes, WWT Slimbridge and WWT Arundel in Sussex.

To donate to WWT’s swan appeal visit www.wwt.org.uk/swans

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