Chilling warning from early arrivals
Attenborough Nature Centre manager TIM SEXTON wonders whether sighting of swans means we are in for a severe winter
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!