Two years ago we started a small project to study the fascinating migrations of the whooper swan, with the help of satellite transmitters. Nico Stenschke, the man behind the receiver, sent us a short note to report on progress this winter. And wow, look at these Whoopers!
The season is drawing to an end – nearly all Whoopers are on their way back to their breeding grounds. Five out of 12 marked swans supplied us with amazing data on their migration routes, moulting areas and roosting sites (see the map). The map shows the migration tracks of five swans from Germany (where we caught them in winter), through Scandinavia and the Baltic states, all the way to the river Ob in Siberia, east of the Ural Mountains where one of our females (Ilfa) bred. On the next autumn one of her sons flew to Germany reaching up to 120 km/h and covering daily distances up to 1150 km!
On a local scale we did regular counts at the gravel pit “Dixförda” where about 400 whooper swans roosted throughout November-January, with a peak of 900 birds on 11.01.2015. During the day most swans searched for food near the gravel pit (< 10 km) but where exactly depended on different factors such the level of the river Elbe and food availability. Swans grazed on fields with maize or oilseed rape.
New information revealed by our data pointed us to unknown before moulting stop-over sites and many more unique details of Whooper Swan migration. We implemented the first telemetry study of northeast European Whooper Swans! We are looking forward to the next field season – the data loggers should work up to 3 years. Final results will be published in my MSc thesis.