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Flight of the swans: bringing it home

After weeks of battling extreme cold and poor flying conditions across Europe, and making an intrepid flight over the channel, the team find themselves grounded once again due to bad weather and unable to progress for a few days towards the final destination, WWT Slimbridge wetland centre in Gloucestershire.

The team are just days away from returning to Slimbridge, where they can begin consolidating the wealth of footage, information and contacts which they’ve built up over the expedition.

Watch this space to find out more from Sacha and the team about their experiences all along the flyway, and what the expedition has achieved for swans, wetlands and people.

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Back in the UK

The expedition has been a great opportunity to look at the threats Bewick’s face in each country along their migration route, and to find out more about the actions these countries are taking to tackle these threats, as well as how we can work with them. And the UK can be no different.

WWT’s Bewick’s monitoring programme, one of the most intensive behavioural studies of a group of birds in the world, has paved the way in the monitoring and protection of these birds. Since the programme started in 1964, WWT has gone on to monitor and protect many other wetland species, running nine wetland centres which draw in millions of visitors, and managing 3,000 hectares of prime wetland habitat, much of it designated as nationally or internationally important for wildlife.

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Continuing our work

The UK is a key wintering site for around one third of the population of Bewick’s. Open water and wetlands cover just three per cent of the UK’s area, but provide many vital services to people, as well as important habitats for wildlife. The 2016 State of Nature report concluded that 13 per cent of freshwater and wetland species are threatened with extinction from Great Britain. It’s clear that we need to do more to protect them.

Unlike ancient woodland and rainforest that take centuries to regenerate, new technology means WWT can create new wetlands in a matter of months and years.

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In 2015 we created our first working wetland, Steart Marshes. Hundreds of hectares of saltmarsh and freshwater wetlands buffer homes and businesses from rising sea levels, and provide habitat for a rich mix of wetland wildlife including otters, egrets, owls waders and wildfowl – it is one of the UK’s largest new wetland reserves.

Read more about how our work supports the Bewick’s swan and their wetland habitats here

And click here to read what Geoff Hilton, WWT’s Chief Scientist, has to say about wetlands and the crucial role they have to play in our future.