19/09/2016
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Swan woman takes off

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Sasha Dench makes a short trial flight in preparation for her own migration following that of Bewick's Swans from the Russian tundra. Photo: WWT.
Sasha Dench makes a short trial flight in preparation for her own migration following that of Bewick's Swans from the Russian tundra. Photo: WWT.
Early this morning, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's (WWT) Sacha Dench took to the air above the Russian tundra in her paramotor, at the start of a 4,500-mile journey following the migration of Bewick’s swans.

A light tailwind gave Sacha Dench ideal conditions to start her journey from the Pechora Delta on Russia’s northern coast. Over the next 10 weeks she will fly across northern Europe and then cross The Channel and continue to the swans’ most westerly destination: Slimbridge Wetland Centre WWT in Gloucestershire.

At each point along the journey she will spend time with the people who live along the swans’ path, who may have clues as to the decline of the swan population. Over the last two decades, the number of Bewick’s Swans making the journey back across northern Europe has almost halved. Researchers have identified several dangers that the swans face, but the exact reasons behind their decline remain a mystery.


Bewick's Swans famously make Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, their home during winter, but no one yet knows quite why their numbers are declining. Photo: WWT.


Sacha Dench said: “I’m so excited to finally be off. I’ve been planning this expedition for two years. It’s going to be a real adventure. I love flying and I’m fascinated by wildlife. I’m filming the whole trip and I can’t wait to share my swan’s eye view with the world.

“My biggest hope is that we better understand what is going wrong for the Bewick’s Swans. They first make this long journey at just a few months old, and return to their birthplace every summer for the rest of their lives. It’s an extraordinary lifestyle, but sadly fewer and fewer are surviving.

“We’re doing all we can as conservationists to get to the bottom of this problem, but it’s not happening fast enough for the swans so it’s time to get on the road and in the air, to see the places and meet the people that might hold the key to this mystery.”

Her progress is being tracked by satellite at www.flightoftheswans.org and twice a week starting next Sunday she will broadcast video diaries, detailing her progress and encounters with the swans and the people along the way.

She is also collecting signatures to show the level of support for helping the Bewick’s swans. There is a petition page, also at www.flightoftheswans.org.
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