Festival of swans at Welney reserve between Wisbech and Littleport.

Whooper and Bewick's swans arrive in the Fens for winter

It is often said that winter arrives on the wings of a swan - and if that is true then wrap-up warm this weekend when thousands of the beautiful birds will be celebrated in the Fens.

A swan festival will be held at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT), Welney, near Wisbech, and it will include art, family events and the popular feeding sessions.

Thousands of migratory swans are currently roosting in front of the WWT's main observatory each night and the flight in at dusk and the floodlit feeds are popular spectacles.

Celebrating the return of the whooper and Bewick's swans, the festival includes tours with WWT wardens and demonstrations by some of the artists inspired by the birds.

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The recent arrival of a second wave of whoopers from their breeding grounds in Iceland has ensured good numbers for the festival.

Each day at dusk visitors are able to watch the majestic birds fly onto the reserve to roost, and at 6.30pm every Thursday to Sunday, the floodlit feed can be enjoyed from the centrally-heated observatory.

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A count this week has revealed that 4,739 whooper swans are now on the Ouse washes. Recent arrivals can sometimes be identified by the rusty red colour to their head feathers and can often be seen resting on the lagoons during the day before the start to venture further afield.

They will shortly be followed by nearly 4,000 Bewick's swans migrating to Welney from Arctic Russia - so far only a handful have arrived when normally around 600 would already be at the reserve.

Mild weather has a part to play this year although more than 3,000 of the Bewick's are in the Netherlands ready to head this way.

'The reserve is looking fantastic at the moment, thanks to the hard work put in during the summer by our staff and volunteers,' said reserve manager, Leigh Marshall,

'When everything comes together like this, with the reserve it top condition and perfect water levels, the swan spectacle is at its best. Hopefully the Bewick's swans will arrive in large numbers soon to make this picture complete,' he added.

The WWT reserve offers a number of activities while the swans are here - including daily feeds, Swan's Awake and Bewick's Flight events. These need to be booked in advance and for full details contact 01353 860711.

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