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Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Spot Crinkly, the odd-necked swan
By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

Crinkly the Bewick swan
Crinkly in full flight

Members of the British public are being asked to keep a keen eye out for Crinkly, a rather unique, wobbly-necked swan.

Crinkly acquired her name due to her unusual disability; she has a long neck containing distinct kinks.

Yet despite this apparent handicap, Crinkly is expected to arrive in the UK any day, to spend the winter here with 3,500 or more other Bewick's swans.

If you spot Crinkly, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust asks you get in touch.

Bewick's swans (Cygnus columbianus bewikii) are the smallest of three types of swan found in Britain.

It would be a major achievement if a swan so un-aerodynamic collects 20,000 air miles
Julia Newth
WWT wildlife health research officer

Each year, a few thousand return to British shores to spend the winter, in an event often described as a "swan fall".

Many arrive at reserves curated by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), a conservation charity with headquarters in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire.

After a 2,980km (1,850 mile) flight from Russia, the swans alight at wetlands including WWT reserves at Slimbridge, Welney in Norfolk and Martin Mere, Lancashire.

Many birds return to wetlands they first visited as cygnets, according to the charity.

Among those could be Crinkly, a bird that has so far survived her condition in good health.

If she does arrive, researchers will have recorded her flying more than 20,000 miles in total.

Bewick's swans usually mate for life, with each pair spending their summer in nesting sites in Russia
As the Arctic winter begins, large family groups move across northwestern Europe, seeking warmer weather
Most settle in The Netherlands, but 3-5,000 travel on to the UK

"This year, we're especially keen to know if Crinkly is on her way," says Julia Newth, WWT's wildlife health research officer.

"Given her deformity, it would be a major achievement if a swan so un-aerodynamic collects 20,000 air miles, a feat we have never witnessed before during studies of more than 10,000 swans dating back nearly 50 years."

"We're hoping the public will keep a look-out and let us know if she's spotted."

The imminent arrival of the Bewick's swans will trigger the next stage of an international study by the WWT and partner organisations into why fewer Bewick's swams appear to be completing the journey from Russia to the UK.

"Numbers are dropping at traditional overwintering sites, both in the UK and in northern Europe," says Ms Newth.

"The suspicion is that this may be due to falling birth rates, habitat loss, pollution and threats, such as illegal hunting. Climate change may also be a factor, with warmer continental weather shortening migration routes. But we need to know more."

If you spot Crinkly, the WWT asks that you post a comment on its website, where Ms Newth is writing a regular swan diary.

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