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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 09:32 GMT
Swan lake gets crowded
A busy winter is expected at the Slimbridge swan lake
Cold winter is attracting high numbers of the world's smallest swans to Britain.

Slimbridge Wildfowl Centre in Gloucestershire has seen double the normal number of Bewick swans arriving from Siberia.

The Wildlife and Wetlands Trust puts the high migration down to cold weather across Europe and easterly winds.

Bewicks are the rarest members of the swan family.

Bewick swan at Slimbridge
Bewick swans are the world's rarest breed
They fly about 2,500 miles from Siberia every autumn and winter, stopping across Europe before arriving in the UK.

More than 300 of the swans have already arrived at the Slimbridge centre, close to the River Severn, compared with 141 this time last year.

At least 100 more are expected as temperatures fall.

About 20% of this year's arrivals are cygnets, compared with only 3% in previous years.

Most hatched only 12 weeks ago, before making the long migration from Siberia.

Oldest flier

More than 9,000 of the swans have been recorded at the centre in the past 38 years.

Each is recognisable by its individual bill pattern and is named by staff as part of continuing research into the birds' behaviour.

The oldest of the returning birds is Windfall, a male spending its 21st winter at Slimbridge.

A pair called Laugh and Chirpy have arrived with new cygnets, as well as those born last year.

See also:

27 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Feathers clue to warbler's travels
29 Dec 01 | South Asia
Birds 'missing' after US bombing
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