A magnificent Fenland sunset was the backdrop for the first of this year’s evening swan feeds at the WWT Welney Centre.
Dafila Scott, daughter of wildlife pioneer Sir Peter Scott, who set up the wetlands and wildfowl trust, was on hand to serve up the meal of grain to the dozens of whooper swans who have already arrived at the Welney site.
Visitors were treated to a close view of the birds, which have been arriving in recent weeks from their summer home in Iceland, as the water levels at Welney are currently low bringing the swans in nearer the hide.
Emma Brand, of WWT Welney, said the evening saw a good attendance of both visitors and swans.
She explained the whooper swans are always the first guests to arrive for the winter months with their cousins the Bewick swans arriving later as they have further to travel from the Russian Arctic circle.
She said the arrival of the first Bewicks is expected any day with some already waiting across the North Sea in Holland for the wind direction to change to a more favourable easterly to help them on their final leg of their 2,500 mile journey.
Emma said the earliest a Bewick has been recorded arriving at Welney was October 1 1978. The latest date for the first arrivals is the second week in November.
“The wind direction makes all the difference to the swans, at the moment we have had a lot of westerly winds, which makes it head wind for the birds heading our way. We know from GPS on some of the swans that some of our birds are still as far away as Estonia and Latvia, but we have also heard from bird spotters in the Netherlands that there are good numbers there waiting to come across.
“The Bewicks like coming to the UK for the winter because we are warmer than many countries that are on the same latitude as us and that helps get them through the winter. They spend the summers in the Russian Arctic because there is plenty of wetlands for them there as well as a good supply of bugs to help the chicks to grow from fluffy balls to birds capable of flying 2,500 miles for the winter.”
The night feeds are held at Welney every Thursday to Sunday at 6.30pm until the end of February. The largest numbers of birds are at Welney in January, but the water levels may be higher then which spreads them out more.
At the moment the water levels are quite low which means the birds are more concentrated and closer to the hide.
For further details contact: 01353 860711.