Thousands of swans make Washes their winter home

Record numbers of whooper and Bewicks swans have been feeding on the Great Ouse Washes in West Norfo

Record numbers of whooper and Bewicks swans have been feeding on the Great Ouse Washes in West Norfolk. Pictured: Visitors watching the WWT Welney swan feed. Picture: Sacha Dench - Credit: Sacha Dench

Bumper numbers of whooper and Bewick's swans have been feeding on the Great Ouse Washes in west Norfolk this winter.

As part of an international swan census, 10,832 swans were counted by staff and volunteers from the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust Welney centre last Friday.

Staff said the numbers had reached their peak this winter, and Louise Clewley, WWT Welney warden, said: 'This time of year is just amazing, with thousands of swans making this area their winter home.

'It's a real privilege to go out and monitor these birds, getting a glimpse into their lives.

'From watching pairs of whooper swans bugling to warn others off their food to listening out for the contact calls of adult Bewick's swans, softly talking to their young.


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'It is amazing to think that they travel such vast distances. One particular Bewick's swan named Madame Cholet was ringed in Russia in 2005 and has been spotted in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and East Anglia throughout her annual migrations.'

Throughout the winter, staff and volunteers at the centre work together to count the swans, as part of ongoing monitoring work. An additional 2,436 Bewick's swans arrived in the UK over the colder Christmas period as numbers were at only 800 in December.

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During the day the swans are busy feeding in the fields on sugar beet tops, waste potatoes and winter wheat, but as dusk draws in they return to the Ouse Washes to roost on the water.

At Welney, the feeding of the swans by the staff and volunteers helps bring these birds close to the main hide while providing the birds with some extra winter food.

Have you got a story about wildlife in west Norfolk? Email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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