Bewick's swan heralds the arrival of spring

The first Bewick's swan of the season has set off for the Arctic, signalling that spring is near in the UK.

Leho arrived at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in Welney, near Wisbech, on December 15 but has now begun the 2,500km trip back to his summer dwellings in arctic Russia.

He left the reserve at 7am on Tuesday and crossed over the North Sea in two and a half hours, then spent the afternoon in the Netherlands before continuing on to Germany.

At this stage of the year, swans begin preparing for the tough journey ahead by resting, feeding and making practice runs.

Julia Newth, principal ecosystem health monitor at WWT, said: "The build up to final departure can be prolonged, involving resting, some last minute feeding and various dummy runs.

"The swans need to ensure that they are in good shape to survive this long journey that will take them through 11 countries over a period of up to 10 weeks.

"But Leho obviously felt fit and ready and that the time was right to head back to the breeding grounds for another summer in the tundra."

Every year, Bewick's swans fly to the UK to shelter for the winter, returning to arctic Russia to breed every spring.