Bewick's Swans in flight © Boris Belchev
Bonn/Tartu 10 October 2016 – Today the “Flight of the Swans” sees events happening in Estonia. The campaign will track the Bewick’s Swan on its migration route from the Russian Arctic to Britain.
Flying a paramotor, British conservationist Sacha Dench is following the migration route of the Bewick’s swans to understand the challenges these waterbirds face. Although she has been making good progress on her travels through Russia, poor weather and other logistical challenges caused the expedition to run behind schedule. On her behalf, her colleagues from Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) will participate in a national action planning workshop and community events in Tartu organized by educational institutions and nature conservation agencies in Estonia.
The aim of the workshop starting in Tartu, Estonia today, is to take stock of and continue to strengthen national conservation efforts for the Bewick’s Swan in Estonia. The meeting will review the implementation of the Estonian National Action Plan (NAP) for Bewick’s Swans and will include Estonian hunters, farmers and NGOs, who will also plan future actions and help raise public awareness. At the Tartu Environmental Education Centre, school events will celebrate the Bewick’s Swan and its migration including a kite festival with swan-shaped kites.
Over the last two decades, the number of Bewick’s Swans migrating from Arctic Russia to northern Europe has almost halved. Although researchers have identified several threats to swans, the exact reasons behind their decline remain a mystery.
Dench’s expedition is the culmination of internationally coordinated conservation efforts for the Bewick’s Swan. In 2012, as the numbers of these waterbirds reached an alarmingly low level, an international action plan was agreed by countries along the birds’ flyway. This conservation strategy, which was adopted by the UNEP-administered Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), identifies threats to the Bewick’s Swans in different parts of their range, and outlines how each country can contribute to the species’ recovery.
With its efforts to support “the Flight of the Swan” campaign and the establishment of a National Action Plan for the Bewick’s Swan, Estonia demonstrates how these internationally agreed conservation measures can be successfully implemented at a national level. Estonia is situated along the “migration highway” of the east Atlantic flyway situated at a crossroads for seasonal migrations of several million migratory birds every year. Since joining AEWA in late 2008, Estonia has benefited from supporting transboundary waterbird conservation initiatives under the Agreement. Conservation workshops and awareness-raising activities taking place today and throughout the week will help deliver key actions to restore Bewick’s Swans to a favourable conservation status and promote the wetland habitats that migratory waterbirds depend upon.
“The Flight of the Swans” puts a totally new spin on the migration story of a single Swan species. With a record-breaking 7,000km paramotor flight following the migration path of the Bewick's Swans from the Arctic to their Western European wintering sites, the expedition will not only capture the story not only of the swans’ migration but also of the landscapes and the people along the way. It will highlight the importance of wetlands, of the many stakeholders along the route who help ensure the future of the Bewick’s Swans. The flight and associated events will attract significant publicity across national boundaries.
Since taking off on Monday, 19 September, Dench has been flying for around six hours a day and stopping to refuel every couple of hours along the way. Dench has also been visiting local settlements to present “the Flight of the Swans”. Twice a week she broadcasts video diaries, detailing her progress and encounters with the swans and the people she has encountered along the way. Her progress is being tracked by satellite which you can follow here.
Last updated on 08 November 2016