Where does the Bewick’s Swan come from?

by Russ on October 14, 2015

The 'Cheese Wedge' pattern on the beak makes identifying Whoopers much easier.Sometimes with wildlife watching, it simply comes down to being in the right place at the right time to spot something very special.

Yesterday was one such day where we just happened to be birdwatching at the WWT Martin Mere Reserve near Southport – an excellent place for wintering waterfowl.

At this time of year thousands of Pink Footed Geese are arriving from the continent and icelandic Whooper Swans are close behind. Within the Whooper Swans though may be something much rarer to watch out for.

Whilst looking through a flock of recent arrivals yesterday, we were astonished to be told a Bewick’s Swan had just landed but had been lost sight of. Quickly scanning the water it seemed the newcomer had evaded us, until one bird stuck it’s head up and we were able to see the classic markings of a Bewick’s Swan, one of the earliest arrivals of the species ever recorded at Martin Mere.

The Bewick's Swan comes from the Russian tundra and often hails the start of the cold season.The Bewick’s is a smaller bird than the Whooper and lives in the Russian tundra, not Iceland like it’s cousin.

The beak is also different, on the Whoopers the yellow markings make a triangle shape, almost like a wedge of cheese. On Bewick’s, the yellow is more rounded, as if the tip has been cut off the wedge of cheese (see right).

With the forecast of a hard winter ahead in the form of an El Nino year, this very early appearance of the Bewick’s Swan in our region backs up the suggestion that we are in for a cold season this year. Bewick’s Swans migrate South to escape colder conditions in the North, perhaps they know something we don’t!

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Take care and remember, stay on the wild side!

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