Chill­ing warn­ing from early ar­rivals

At­ten­bor­ough Na­ture Cen­tre man­ager TIM SEX­TON won­ders whether sight­ing of swans means we are in for a se­vere win­ter

Nottingham Post - - WILD LIFE -

WHILST the UK en­joyed the warm­est Oc­to­ber day for seven years, and much of the last week has felt more like sum­mer than au­tumn, signs of the ap­proach­ing win­ter have been no­ticed at the At­ten­bor­ough Na­ture Re­serve. De­spite the glo­ri­ous weather of late, we have wit­nessed a num­ber of early ar­riv­ing win­ter birds on the site.

Over the last week, it has seemed as though, al­most overnight, the num­bers of mi­gra­tory wild­fowl on the ponds across the Re­serve have in­creased dra­mat­i­cally. How­ever, it was the ap­pear­ance of 17 whooper swans on Clifton Pond on Mon­day af­ter­noon that has sur­prised us the most.

Whooper swans usu­ally ar­rive in Not­ting­hamshire in mid to late Oc­to­ber, yet this year we wit­nessed one of the ear­li­est ar­rivals of whooper swans in Not­ting­hamshire since 1995. Four birds were seen at Budby Pump­ing Sta­tion on Septem­ber 23, just three days short of the all-time ex­treme record date for whooper swans ar­riv­ing in the county.

Whooper swans ap­pear here in the UK hav­ing flown from their breed­ing grounds in Ice­land and Fennoscan­dia. They join the large flocks of over-win­ter­ing ducks and geese on the Re­serve, al­though they do not al­ways stay around for long.

One of the rea­sons that At­ten­bor­ough Na­ture Re­serve holds the ti­tle of Site of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est (SSSI) is due to its over­win­ter­ing wild­fowl pop­u­la­tions, ducks, geese, swans and grebes. The deep filled lakes within the Na­ture Re­serve com­plex pro­vide an abun­dant source of food for many species of wa­ter­fowl and they rarely freeze over, mean­ing they at­tract birds in even the cold­est of win­ter months.

As Mon­day’s birds rep­re­sented one of the ear­li­est ar­riv­ing whooper swans at At­ten­bor­ough, they have prompted spec­u­la­tion in the of­fice that we might be in for a cold win­ter this year.

Whilst that is yet to be seen, it may be worth not­ing that the record for the low­est tem­per­a­ture ever recorded in the UK fol­lowed the early whooper swan ar­rivals in 1995. That year, on the 30th De­cem­ber in a small vil­lage in Scot­land, the mer­cury dropped to a bone chill­ing -27.2C!

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