The first migrating Siberian swans arrived in Britain today marking the official end of summer with experts warning their early appearance signalled a harsh winter ahead.
Every winter around 250 Bewick’s Swans arrive at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust nature reserve at Slimbridge, Glos., after flying 2,500 miles from Arctic Russia.
The swans’ arrival generally signals the official start to the British winter as the birds head south to escape the Arctic winds following behind them.
They touched down at dawn yesterday — three weeks earlier than last year – the earliest arrival since 2003 when they flocked in on October 18.
Eight of the magnificent birds swooped into the reserve on Monday morning – including five yearlings which were last year’s juveniles.
Two of the flock, Riso and Risa, are among those to return and have been doing so for the last 13 years.
James Lees, Reserve Warden at Slimbridge, said: ”They have flown 2,500 miles from their breeding grounds in Russia, so will probably rest for most of today.
”It has been widely reported in the news that forecasters have predicted it will be just as cold this winter as last and the Bewick’s early arrival could support this, and could even mean we are in for an even colder winter this year.
”If nothing else they have brought the arctic weather with them as this week is set to be fairly chilly.
”Every year we look forward to the arrival of the Bewick’s swans and starting our public swan feeds towards the end of November.
”They are amazing birds to watch and it is fascinating studying their bill patterns and keeping track of the different families through generations.”
The Bewick’s, the smallest and rarest members of the swan family, live in Siberia during the summer.
In winter they migrate west – aided by chilling easterly winds – to escape winter temperatures of -25 degrees C.
They normally arrive at Slimbridge in a steady stream between October and January.
Bewick’s have migrated to Slimbridge every winter for 60 years and adult swans teach their signets the route.
Reserve bosses are hopeful that Crinkly, who suffers from a wonky neck, also returns to Slimbridge this year.
Visitors flock to see the now iconic bird, now seven, which found love in 2007 after years of being alone due to her deformed neck.
And, if Winterling arrives this year, she will become the oldest bird at 29 to regularly visit the reserve – clocking up a staggering 170,000 km in her lifetime.