Britain is apparently facing the longest winter in 50 years after the earliest-ever arrival of the Siberian swans which traditionally heralds the start of the season.

The swans have arrived two weeks earlier than last year at Welney Wetlands Centre as they migrate east to escape the cold weather of northern Europe and the Arctic, which usually follows behind them.

Up to 5000 Bewick's swans spend the winter at Welney Wetlands Centre in Norfolk where the landscape and plentiful food left over from the potato and sugarbeet harvest provides them with a perfect habitat. However, their number has nearly halved in the last decade, down from 30,000 to around 17,000, and the Wildlife and Wetlands Trusthas tagged some of them with GPS tags to monitor their movements.

"There are sites in Europe which are small lakes and ponds. And if that got taken away that could really crush the Bewick's population and their migration. It's probably very similar to driving to a garage where you always buy all your food, drink and fuel and one day finding it's gone and what do you do? It's that similar importance to the swans and the wetlands around Europe."

Leigh Marshall, Centre Manager, WWT Welney

The last time the Bewick's arrived early was in 2010 when we had the coldest December on record.