March 3, 2015

Rare swans fitted with SAT-NAVS in bid to stop wind turbine horror smashes

By Sarah Ann Harris | March 3, 2015 |

Rare swans have been fitted with their own SAT-NAVS in a bid to stop them smashing into wind turbines.

Offshore wind farms are feared to kills thousands of birds and fowl every year – but experts have come up with the new technology to try to avoid further deaths.

The Bewick’s swans, currently residing at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) centre at Welney, Norfolk, are set to make an epic 2,500 mile journey to Arctic Russia.

The birds will gather data through specially-fitted GPS devices, which will then be used to ensure that new wind farms are erected away from their flight paths.

WWT assistant warden Katy Smith said: “Bewick’s swans are a fantastic wetland species.

“This is a really exciting project to gain insight into their lives whilst providing some essential data to help the population’s survival.”

The swans arrived at the Fenland reserve in November and were captured by a method known as cannon-netting, where the net is fired at a high speed.

Ms Smith explained: “Cannon-netting looks like a very dramatic approach to catching swans.

“But the swans’ safety is the top priority for the team of experts involved.”

More than a third of Bewick’s swans have disappeared since 1995, with number plummeting from 29,000 to 18,000 in 2010.

Fenland farmer Tom Clarke said: “We were blown away to discover the flock of swans feeding on our field represented about five per cent of the entire European population.

“We were very proud that they chose our farm after flying all the way here from Russia.

“They’ve been coming here for the past few winters, but now we realise how special they are and how endangered.”

He added: “The WWT came and tagged the swans so they can be tracked on their migration back to the Arctic, and as a thank you asked if they could name one of the females after my one-year-old daughter Daisy Clarke.

“As she grows up it will be great fun for her to be able to check on the progress of her airborne namesake.”

Around 3,000 of the swans migrate to the area before travelling home to Russia in the spring.

Two of the GPS-tagged birds have already left for the Netherlands, where they will continue their journey via Germany.

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