Winter is slowly creeping across Europe and this week its icy fingers have caught up with the Flight of the Swans team.
While some of the media crew have been filming in 20 cm of snow at Lake Lubans, a Ramsar site in Latvia, Sacha and the rest of the team finally caught up with Daisy Clarke, one of our tagged swans, sleeping on a fishpond on the Nemunas Delta in Lithuania.
After finding Daisy Clarke, Sacha travelled back to Tartu in Estonia to continue on her own migration. But weather conditions were poor and with the trike unable to fly in wind speeds above 10mph and the bracing Arctic winter catching up with her, Sacha needed to keep moving.
Sacha’s secret weapon
Enter the microlight. It’s bigger and more robust than a paramotor and was brought along on the expedition as a back-up option in bad weather. In the microlight Sacha can travel at speeds of around 60mph and in wind speeds of up to 20mph.
It’s an option that the swans don’t have as they continue their migration in the same weather conditions that the Flight of the Swans team is facing, so Sacha is keen to get back on the paratrike as soon as possible. It’s the closest she can get to flying at the same speed and height as the swans.
The weeks of microlight training in the summer at Over Farm in Gloucestershire, under the expert tutorage of Rob Keene, paid off as Sacha flew tandem with Rob across Latvia on Monday, making it into Lithuania by sundown.
They made it just in time because the next day the weather closed in and they were grounded for two days. They used the opportunity to talk to local farmers and meet with conservationists and researchers.
Yesterday (Thursday) they managed to continue flying but again were restricted to the microlight. Today (Friday) the weather has improved enough for Sacha to get back in the paratrike and she has made it to Poland.
Bewick’s at Slimbridge
It’s not just the weather that is forcing Sacha to keep moving, as the cold weather spreads across the continent, migration is picking up pace too and she needs to keep up with the swans.
Our first arrivals at WWT Slimbridge touched down yesterday (Thursday), a pair with a cygnet. They were quickly identified as Times and Tool, a pair well known to us, as they have been overwintering here since 2008. This is the seventh cygnet they’ve brought back with them. After so many years migrating back to Gloucestershire these migratory experts have clearly got their route worked out.
Another of our tagged swans joined the party this week. Hope appeared in Estonia on Tuesday, although we haven’t heard from her since. Our conservation team suspect her tracker might be a little bit temperamental as it was one of the first trackers fitted.
And the others…
Since being spotted by the team, Daisy Clarke has continued on her migration, crossing Poland and is now in Germany. Maisie has finally left her lake in Estonia and crossed Latvia, Lithuania and Poland and is now in Germany, presumably feeding and resting after a very busy week. Charlotte is still in Estonia and Leho is hanging out in Lithuania. There are now 20 Bewick’s at WWT Welney and with the weather turning increasingly wintery, we expect to see plenty more soon.
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