Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Bewick's Swans In The UK.

The Bewick's Swan in Eurasia - race bewikii - is a high Arctic breeder, nesting on the Russian tundras from the Kanin Peninsula across to the Chukchi sea.
Bewick's Swan. Marc Heath.

Given the mild temperatures, many Bewick's Swans (BS) have stayed further east this winter, mostly in Germany an important staging area for the BS since the 1950s, mainly in the Baltic region in the north-east on autumn and spring migrations. It's not uncommon to see between 2,000-4,000 BS wintering in Germany, but counts indicate that there are at least 5,000 in Germany this winter, some BS have not even made it to Germany with around 300 remaining in Poland. 

To date this winter the lowest number of BS are recorded at Slimbridge since 1965, with around 1,000 on the Ouse Washes when 5,000 might be expected. The Netherlands is encountering similar to the UK and there appears to be no more than 4,800 BS wintering there at the moment, a country that can host up to 13,000 BS every winter. 

The BS is a wintering bird to be found in Lancashire annually and, although it's difficult to know how many individuals are involved, this winter has seen more BS in our own recording area of Glasson/Cockersands than ever before, and I have recorded them on 14 occasions since my first sighting of 4 Cockersands 4 November, and I have seen BS during December and January since, the peak count has been of 22 on 25 November when I found 6 on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock, and 16 at Cockersands later the same day, my last sighting to date was of 13 Cockersands 20 Jan, this group included 3 juveniles making the record an even more interesting one.

Historically, Clifford Oakes recorded the BS as....'on the whole a more regular immigrant than the Whooper Swan, and more widespread'....whilst in earlier years F.S.Mitchell writes of it being....'rarely seen'....Oakes lists low number records, and ends his account with a solitary mid-winter bird at the mouth of the River Douglas near Hesketh Bank in 1938.

The Bewick's Swan was first recognised as having visited Britain in 1829 when English ornithologist William Yarrell noticed the bones of a swan corpse found during the winter of 1823-24 to be different from those of the Whooper Swan, following research on this discovery he eventually claimed and named the bird as a BS in memory of Thomas Bewick who died in 1828.

Some interesting data came to light in a Bewick's Swan census conducted in 2005, which resulted in a record of 7,216 birds in Britain and Ireland combined. However, two weeks later nearly 300 more than this total were found in a roost count of 7,491 on the Ouse Washes alone.

An Exceptional Record was of a British ringed BS which was re-sighted in Iceland a winter destination for the Whooper Swan. This bird was marked at Welney in Norfolk and is presumed to have joined the Whooper Swans on migration in the spring.

Thanks to Marc Heath for the Bewick's Swan image.

And finally....

In relation to the mention above of the Chukchi Sea, read this about the giant....'Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea have been handed a major setback' more

1 comment:

Noushka said...

Hi Pete,
The Bewick's Swan is gorgeous, what lovely pic from Marc!
One swan I would be thrilled to get close to!
I hope you are well,
Kind regards