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50 years of studying swans

Bewick swans at Slimbridge Credit: Wetlands & Wildfowl Trust

One of the longest-running animal research projects in the world is 50 today. The Bewick's swan study was started at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire by Sir Peter Scott in 1964.

He noticed that the birds have unique bill patterns, which researchers have to learn before they can take part.

More than 9,000 different swans have been identified. The work has provided data on survival rates and meant breeding sites in Russia have been protected.

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Slimbridge's newest visitor

Staff at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Gloucestershire say visitors are loving seeing a seal at the reserve.

A harbour seal has been making the River Severn near the Slimbridge reserve its happy hunting ground for the last 2 months.The harbour seal is usually found on the east coast, in Northern Ireland and in Scotland.

It presumably comes in with the tide each day and has chosen to hunt just off our reserve.

It is very specific where it hunts as it seems to have learnt where the fish will be at a certain state of the tide.

It likes to feed between the land and an island in the river.

It is also quite a prolific hunter and seems to catch at least four or five large grey mullet every day.

We have also seen it take and eat a gull from the surface of the water.

– James Lees, Warden at Slimbridge Reserve

The flamingo that thinks he's a swan

The 52-year-old Andean flamingo began floating when temperatures first soared a few weeks ago. Credit: WWT Slimbridge

A flamingo in Gloucestershire has shunned standing on one leg for floating in water in an effort to cool down.

Experts at Slimbridge Wetland Centre say they have never witnessed the "unusual" behaviour before.

The 52-year-old Andean flamingo began floating when temperatures first soared a few weeks ago.

He now regularly indulges in a mid-afternoon float, with his legs outstretched behind him.

Paul Rose, a flamingo expert at WWT Slimbridge, said: "Lots of flamingos go for a quick paddle around but I've never seen anything like this.

“I first noticed the unusual behaviour as the weather warmed up a few weeks ago so I think it is his way of keeping cool in the heat of the day.

“He floats with his legs outstretched behind him for long periods of time.

“I think it is his way of relaxing, as he seems very content. It is presumably the equivalent to a human floating in a swimming pool on a lilo.”

Round-the-clock guard for rare crane egg

The adult cranes are doing their best to protect their egg but Slimbridge has brought in extra security because it is so precious Credit: ITV News West Country

Conservationists at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire have set up a round-the-clock guard to protect the first crane egg laid in the South West in over 400 years.

Hunting and the loss of wetlands drove cranes to extinction in Britain.

For the last three years, the Great Crane Project has been rearing the birds in captivity and reintroducing them to the West Country.

The egg at WWT Slimbridge is the first known to be laid by cranes released by the project.

Bird spotters are able to see the male and female cranes taking turns at sitting on the nest.

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First cranes in 400 years nest at Slimbridge: full report

A group of young cranes have started building nests in our region - the first time they've done so in 400 years.

They were hatched and reared by people dressed as adult birds. They taught the birds skills to survive in the wild at Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, then they were moved to a temporary enclosure on the Somerset Levels.

Now some of them have flown back to Slimbridge, from where Ken Goodwin reports:

Eight swans-a-swimming at Slimbridge

The largest Bewick's swan family ever recorded has arrived at the Wildfowl and Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire.

'Everton', and his new mate 'Rovers' have brought their six cygnets with them. They've joined 200 more of the threatened wild swans after a 2,500 mile journey from arctic Russia.

It may be "seven swans-a-swimming" in the carol but Slimbridge has gone one up!

Everton is on the left and Rovers is right of the six youngsters. The swan in front is just a passer-by Credit: James Lees
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