This autumn, an extraordinary awareness-raising campaign will track the Bewick’s Swan (Cygnus columbianus bewickii) on its migration route from the Russian Arctic to Britain. The so called “Flight of the Swans” expedition hopes to uncover new science and help raise awareness about these graceful waterbirds, whose population numbers have halved over the past 20 years.
Led by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in cooperation with a number of international partners, the campaign will see conservationist Sacha Dench flying over 7,000 km, thereby crossing 11 countries together with the Bewick’s Swans on its migration route. The paramotorist will be using just a parachute wing with a small propeller engine strapped to her back.
On the way, Dench will face many of the same challenges as the migrating swans, from extreme weather to a hostile landscape of pylons and tall buildings, as well as struggling to find safe places to land, rest and refuel. She will film and make live broadcasts along the way. It will be the first time anyone has attempted to follow Bewick’s Swans on their annual migration.
The north-west European population of the Bewick’s Swan has declined by 40 per cent since the mid-1990s due to many different factors such as impacts of climate change, changing land-use, illegal and accidental shooting as well as lead poisoning across the range of the bird’s migration.
In 2012, as the numbers of Bewick’s Swans reached an alarmingly low level, an international action plan was agreed by countries that lie beneath the birds’ migration path. Dench’s expedition is the culmination of that effort.
The expedition will help to raise awareness for the plight of the Bewick’s Swan and will try to stimulate support for its conservation among a wide audience, including local people, hunters, farmers, conservation organizations, authorities, decision-makers and the wider public.
Follow the links below to find out more about the Flight of the Swans project:
- AEWA news article on the "Flight of the Swans" campaign: http://www.unep-aewa.org/en/news/new-flyway-campaign-highlight-plight-swans
- Official Website of the expedition "Flight of the Swans": https://www.flightoftheswans.org/
- Short visual summary of the campaign: http://www.unep-aewa.org/sites/default/files/flight_of_the_swans_introduction.pdf
- AEWA International Single Species Action Plan (ISSAP) for the Bewick's Swan: http://www.unep-aewa.org/sites/default/files/publication/ts44_ssap_bewicks_swan.pdf
- Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) Waterbird Monitoring: http://monitoring.wwt.org.uk/our-work/goose-swan-monitoring-programme/species-accounts/bewicks-swan/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/WWTSwanFlight