The first migrating Siberian swans landed in Britain – heralding the belated arrival of winter.
Each year around 300 Bewick swans flock to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Slimbridge, Glos after flying 2,500 from Arctic Russia.
This year’s arrival – coinciding with the first cold snap of the season – is the latest for 45 years and more than two weeks later than usual.
It traditionally marks the beginning of winter as the birds head to Britain to escape the Arctic weather which follow closely behind them.
The first family of two adults and two cygnets touched down at 7.15 on Thursday morning (06/11/14).
The adults were identified as regulars Nurton and Nusa who have been coming to the spot for the last five years.
Slimbridge swan expert Julia Newth said: “This is the latest arrival date since 1969.
“It is no coincidence that their arrival has coincided with a change from the mild temperatures and south-westerly head winds that have dominated in recent weeks.
“We are excited to see that the first arrivals are a family because the swans desperately need more cygnets to bolster the dwindling population.
“Swan volunteer Steve Heaven quickly identified the adult pair from their distinct bill patterns as regular WWT Slimbridge visitors Nurton and Nusa.
“They are familiar with the reserve as they have spent the last five winters here.
“Their cygnets have now learnt the migration route from their parents and we are hoping that they will also become regular fixtures here.
“At the daily Wild Bird Feeds at WWT Slimbridge we really enjoy pointing out the swan families to visitors as they have such interesting histories and interactions on the lake.”
The Bewicks – 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 young the route.
Their arrival comes after weather experts predicted the harshest winter in 100 years.
James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather, said last week: “The worst case and more plausible scenario could bring something on a similar par to the winter of 2009/10.
“That was the coldest in 31 years, or an event close to 2010/11 which experienced the coldest December in 100 years.”