Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Slimbridge Bewick's Catch.

A planned swan pipe catch at WWT Slimbridge on Tuesday ended up being cancelled due to an unusual reason! Although there were plenty of ducks, geese & swans up the pipe, our Wildlife Health Research Officer – Julia Newth, was keeping a close eye on the age & sex of each Bewick’s Swans that entered the swan pipe. The reason the catch was cancelled was due to the lack of adult male Bewick’s Swan going up the pipe. So a decision was made to try and attempt a catch today, again depending on the number of adult males entering the pipe.

So why did we want adult males? The reason being is that we had four GPS neck collars to fit and it is thought that the males would ‘‘carry’’ the collars better, with them being bigger than the females. The purpose for these GPS collars is to provide detailed information on the swans’ flight-paths when moving between Britain and the Netherlands. This information will be used to inform the location of wind turbines within the large Round 3 offshore wind farm sites scheduled for development off the coast of East Anglia.


So we met at 07:30 this morning & the swan feed went ahead as normal at 8am, with Julia in place, hidden at the pipe – ready to count the swans in! Julia got to 30 birds, which included a good selection of adult males & decided to pull the door on the pipe, safely capturing the birds. It’s at this point the rest of the team enter the pipe in order to form a line in the water, to drive the birds up into pens, where they patiently wait to be processed!

P1080977Along with the Bewick’s a good selection of other wildfowl including Pochard, Pintail, Gadwall and Mallard were also captured – along with tons of Greylag & Canada geese!


It was nice to see and catch up with our friends Wim & Otto from the Netherlands – who are currently in the UK to read Bewick & Whooper Swan rings over at our Welney centre. Both Wim & Otto were invited to the catch at Slimbridge & were especially made up when we controlled two of their Dutch ringed Bewick’s in this mornings catch!

P1090016 Bewick’s Swans have been well studied using ringing, colour marks and neck collars and, on an unusual basis, by variations in their yellow and black bill patterns. Sir Peter Scott, his family and colleagues compiled a huge amount of detailed information on the Bewick’s Swans at Slimbridge. This is now the job of Julia Newth & she was able to identify all the birds caught today & recall their names back to us at the ringing table!

P1090042 Bewick – Amuoet


Bewick – Pogues

We also caught Slimbridge’s oldest known swan, Winterling. She first arrived at Slimbridge as a cygnet in 1982 with parents Albert & Rachel, making her a wise 29 years of age! She’s already been ringed before, however managed to shed both her darvic & BTO ring and it’s only due to her bill pattern that we’ve managed to keep up-to-date with her regular check-ins at the feeds.

P1090101Julia & Winterling.

P1090102We thought it was only appropriate that Winterling would be ringed with this darvic ring!

So all in all a very successful catch – catching 30 Bewick’s Swans & around 300 ducks & 100 geese. We managed to fit all four collars onto the male Bewick’s and also retrieved a data-logger that we previously fitted at Slimbridge several years ago – which we’re very much looking forward to downloading the data from.


For me the highlights of today’s catch were being able to handle & ring the Bewick’s. Being a Whooper man from the north, it was great in seeing their smaller cousins up close and personal!

P1090082Neck collars do look invasive at times, however they are a crucial bit of equipment if we're to safe guard the future of the Bewick’s Swan.

Any sightings of colour ringed wildfowl can be sent to colourmarkedwildfowl’@’


  1. How I wish I could do the amount of travel and ringing you do Kane, you're a lucky man!

    Bewicks and Pintails...... one can only dream!! ah well back to the blue tits!

    All the best


  2. Thanks for the link and the Bewick's Swan info... very informative.
    Cheers! Tommy from Fair Isle.