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Migration – a death defying feat

The challenges of migration have been brought firmly to our attention this week with news of the death of Charlotte, one of our tagged Bewick's.

Charlotte has been part of WWT's tracking programme for the last two years and has given the team an invaluable window into their world.

WWT researchers have been tracking her progress online alongside Sacha and the other tagged swans. Both Sacha and Charlotte faced the challenges of bad weather in Estonia, but Charlotte never made the onward journey.

Members of the ground crew ventured back to Estonia where Charlotte had last been spotted to try and find her body but bad weather eventually forced them to abandon their search and so we will never know for sure what happened to her.

“This is such sad news. Looking at a beautiful Bewick’s swan, you don’t appreciate how incredibly tough they need to be to complete this gruelling journey. I have an engine and a support team and, even so, it’s without a doubt the most physically and emotionally challenging thing I’ve ever done," said Sacha.

To read more about the dangers facing Bewick's read our "Mystery of the Dying Swans" blog here

Home at last

In happier news, we were very excited to see our first tagged swan, Daisy Clarke, arrive at WWT Welney on Wednesday.

If you remember it was Daisy Clarke that Sacha found sleeping on a fish pond in Lithuania. She has covered around 1,386km in a week.

We now have 30 Bewick's back at WWT Slimbridge. Among those to arrive this week were old friends Croupier and Dealer.

We have known Croupier for 25 years now - he first arrived at Slimbridge as a cygnet with his parents Casino and Punter in 1992 - he and his mate Dealer usually rule the roost. Between them they have brought 32 cygnets back to Slimbridge over the years.


On their way

Hope was last picked up on our tracker outside of Estonia, over the Baltic Sea heading for Latvia. Eileen seems to be taking a more northerly route and is now in Sweden. Leho is in Poland and Maisie is now in the Netherlands.

You can follow their progress live on our expedition map.


And the human swan?

After a challenging week last week, with the weather making flying difficult, this week Sacha has been flying the paratrike and the team made good progress across Poland, visiting the amazing wetlands of Biebrza and around the region of Schwonsk.

Sacha has been flying with paramotor partners, Iwona Kwiatkowska and Krzysztof Wieczorek, from Polish paramotoring team, Black Wings.


With 13 Ramsar sites, Poland is an important area for Bewick's and other migrating birds. Although conservation is not high on the political agenda in Poland at the moment, Sacha and the team have been impressed by the response the project has had from the Polish national and regional media (5 pieces on national television, an hour long documentary on national radio and regional press). There has also been a really productive meeting with the Polish Hunting Association and a hunting TV program about lead shot and relations between conservation and hunting.

“We’ve been brought to tears on several occasions by the reception we have had in Poland, from kids that sang to me and people offering to take up issues in their country, to fish farms making space for swans and other waterbirds and the frank conversation with hunters now open to a demonstration on non-toxic shot. Even the beauty of the wetlands here is breath-taking," said Sacha.