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The best laid plans…

Grounded by weather and slowed down by airspace restrictions it has been a frustrating week for the Flight of the Swans team.

After a speedy crossing over the tundra at the start of the expedition, it was with some frustration that the team were forced to inform supporting partners along the flyway that the expedition was now running 10 days behind.

Weather had grounded Sacha and her paramotor partners, Dan and Alexander, for a few days but as they set off from Arkhangelsk they were hopeful of making up their time. All seemed to be back on track for the first few days but then they hit an unforeseen problem with airspace restrictions. This forced them to take an unplanned and much longer route than had originally been mapped out.

With landing such a challenge as she flies over the taiga forest, Sacha has been forced to fly higher to make sure she always has a landing site in view. This rise in height not only takes extra time but brings with it a drop in temperature too.

“I’m flying in six layers of clothes as well as heated gloves and my visor is leaking air so it can get pretty cold. It’s physically and mentally demanding,” said Sacha.

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Held up

As the week went on it became clear that Sacha was not going to make it to some of the pre-planned events and meetings that had been set up along the flyway. The team always knew this was a possibility and have tried to plan for any delays but with so many variable elements at play it’s not always easy to predict.

The ground crew estimate that Sacha is around 10 days behind schedule and so have, for the first time since leaving Slimbridge together last month, separated.

Leaving the paramotorists with two support vehicles, the media crew made their way to St Petersburg. They will be filming along the way and meeting people who live and work in the area. They will also attend any events Sacha is not able to make because of her delayed flight.

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The Swans

Meanwhile the Bewick’s, who are so well equipped for migration, are making an apparently effortless journey through Europe. Unlike our human swan, impassable roads, fuel stop-offs or issues with airspace don’t concern them.

According to partners in the Netherlands and Germany the Bewick’s are arriving earlier this year. We’ve heard that 22 Bewick’s have landed on Lake Lauwersmeer in the Netherlands and that a flock has been spotted in Scleswig-Holstein in northern Germany.

As for our tagged swans, they are making impressive progress too. Leho is in Latvia, having apparently bypassed Estonia and Daisy Clarke, although making good progress, is taking her migration a little more sedately and is hanging out on the Latvia/Estonia border. Charlotte, another of our tagged Bewicks, took off on Thursday and is making swift progress through Russia. We’ve just heard that Maisie has made her first appearance and is up near Naryan-Mar in northern Russia.

Spreading the word

While Sacha continues to make slow but steady progress our conservation team from WWT Slimbridge have flown out to Rakovie Lakes in Russia to take part in meetings with some of our partners along the flyway. Together they will discuss future collaborations for Bewick’s swan conservation and nature protection. Next they will head to Tartu in Estonia, where they will run a conservation workshop with the aim of checking on progress with implementation of the Estonian Bewick's swan action plan. With many of the threats the swans face man-made, these types of events could make all the difference to the future of the Bewick’s.

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