WWT Whooper Swan disappears into volcanic cloud


Whooper Swan Y6K, which is being tracked using satellite technology by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), seems to have flown into difficulty on its return migration to Iceland. It was last recorded at 10:46 on Friday the 16th heading towards the cloud of ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

Whooper Swan
Whooper Swan, Caerlaverock WWT, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Brian Henderson)

Researchers noticed the bird's position on the online tracking map. Y6K is approaching Iceland from the southeast, which is one of the main landfall areas for swans arriving in the country, but is also in line with the fallout from the volcano. The satellite transmitter attached to the bird is due to give a further reading in two days' time, so it will be an anxious weekend for researchers and enthusiasts following its progress online. Given that this is the main goose migration period, there is also concern for the welfare of Greylag Geese, Pink-footed Geese, Light-Bellied Brent Geese, Greenland White-fronted Geese and Greenland Barnacle Geese migrating to, or through, Iceland at this time.

On Iceland itself, the volcanic eruption is causing concern for returning waterfowl. A report from WWT's colleague Dr Olafur Einarsson in Reykjavik confirmed that that there is dense ash and total darkness to the southeast of the volcano, near the area dubbed 'Whooper Airport' because it is where most of the birds land after their migration.

Dr Einarsson reports that bird deaths have occurred during previous eruptions of other volcanoes in Iceland, when feeding areas were covered with ash, causing major problems for farmers and birds. Fortunately, at the moment the main area affected, between Vik (in the west) and Kirkjubaejarklaustur (in the east), is primarily an area of sand and gravel, leaving internationally important Whooper Swan staging or breeding sites still suitable for swans.

WWT's Richard Hesketh bringing in a group of Whooper Swans on Vatnshidarvatn in Skagafjordur

Y6K is being tracked as part of WWT's ongoing conservation work with Whooper Swans. The project aims to determine the migration routes that swans take, the heights and speeds at which they fly, and the effects of weather conditions on their flight patterns. The work is being carried out in collaboration with COWRIE (Collaborative Offshore Wind Research into the Environment) and DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change).

UPDATE 19th April: Y6K has safely arrived. Read more here.

COWRIE Ltd is a registered charity to advance and improve understanding and knowledge of the potential environmental impacts of offshore wind farm development in UK waters. It is governed by a Board of Directors drawn from The Crown Estate, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), and the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) and is chaired by an independent member. It relies on advice from several specialist working groups, comprising representatives of Government conservation agencies, non-governmental conservation bodies and the wind industry, in addition to the above organisations.

Related pages

Whooper Swan Whooper Swan

Related articles

WWT 'Headstarted' wader chicks released in the Fens in British first WWT 'Headstarted' wader chicks released in the Fens in British first
Black-tailed Godwits have been released into their new wetland home by conservationists from the RSPB and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. read on read on
WWT Stilts breed successfully at Welney WWT Stilts breed successfully at Welney
In a good year for the species, Black-winged Stilt has hatched chicks at Welney WWT, Norfolk, a first for the reserve. read on read on
WWT Godwit chick 'headstarting' represents UK first WWT Godwit chick 'headstarting' represents UK first
In a process known as 'headstarting', Black-tailed Godwit chicks have been hatched by conservationists for the first time in the UK. read on read on
WWT Gulls, mink and nutrients implicated in Pochard decline WWT Gulls, mink and nutrients implicated in Pochard decline
Reasons for the recent decline of Common Pochard have been scientifically investigated for the very first time by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) read on read on
WWT 'Human Swan' flies home WWT 'Human Swan' flies home
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) conservationist Sacha Dench flew into Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, on Friday in her paramotor, completing a record-breaking three-month journey following Bewick's Swans on migration from Russia. read on read on

The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (1)

Bravo Y6K! You can certainly teach Ryan Air a thing or two.
   Mrs Duck, 23/04/10 07:58Report inappropriate post Report 

Back to top Back to top

Latest edition Latest edition
Search articles Search articles
All articles All articles
Popular articles Popular articles
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Terms of Sale | Cookie Policy | About us | Advertise | Contact us
BirdGuides, Warners Group Publications PLC, The Chocolate Factory, 5 Clarendon Road, London N22 6XJ
© 2017 BirdGuides and Warners Group Publications plc. All Rights Reserved. Company Registered in England no. 2572212 | VAT registration No. GB 638 3492 15
Sales: or tel. 0800 919391 · International Sales: +44 (0)1778 391180 · Office: or tel. 020 8826 0934

Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites