Rare Bewick’s swans fitted with GPS trackers to chart migration from Ouse Washes to Arctic Russia

GPS tagged swans aid species research at the WWT Welney Wetland Centre.

GPS tagged swans aid species research at the WWT Welney Wetland Centre. - Credit: Archant

Ten rare swans have been fitted with GPS trackers at Welney Wetland Centre to track their 2,500 mile journey from the Ouse Washes to their breeding grounds in Arctic Russia.

The Bewick’s swans are some of the first of their species to be tracked from Britain in a study which aims to identify the threats facing them during their migrations.

The data gained from the tracking study will be used to advise wind farm developers on the appropriate locations of turbines in large offshore wind farms to reduce the collision risk for migrating swans.

Assistant warden Katy Smith said: “Bewick’s swans are a fantastic wetland species and this is a really exciting project to gain insight into their lives whilst providing some essential data to help the populations’ survival.

“Cannon-netting looks like a very dramatic approach to catching swans, but the swans’ safety is the top priority for the team of experts involved.

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“It is a privilege to see the Bewick’s so close at a catch and to work alongside so many people who are dedicated to the conservation of this species.”

Farmer Tom Clarke said: “We were blown away to discover the flock of swans feeding on our field represented about five per cent of the entire European population.

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“We were very proud that they chose our farm after flying all the way here from Russia. They’ve been coming here for the past few winters, but now we realise how special they are and how endangered.

“The WWT came and tagged the swans so they can be tracked on their migration back to the Arctic, and as a thank you asked if they could name one of the females after my year old daughter Daisy Clarke.

“As she grows up it will be fun for her to be able to check on the progress of her airborne namesake.”

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