The First Steps towards a Flyway Action Plan for the North-West European Population of Bewick's Swan 

 On 25-28 September 2009, 30 experts met at the workshop in Saint Petersburg, Russia, organized jointly by Wetlands International, the WI-IUCN SSC Swan Specialist Group and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (UK) and hosted by Lenoble Priroda, the St Petersburg based project partner, to develop an action plan for the conservation of the Bewick’s Swan (Cygnus columbianus bewickii) population which breeds in the Russian Arctic and spends the northern winter in NW Europe. After an increase in the 1980s, the population has declined rapidly (by almost 40% according to the data from the International Waterbird Census) since the mid-1990s.

The experts agreed that the conservation of this species depends on the management of all the sites used by the birds along the entire flyway during their annual migration. The most important sites are about a dozen of key stop-over sites along the migration route between the breeding and wintering places that need to be better managed and to maintain their protection status. Although most of the key sites are already legally protected under the European Union’s Birds Directive as well as Ramsar sites and federal or regional reserves in Russia, it is essential to maintain good feeding conditions within and in the vicinity of these sites. The key conservation gap for this flyway population appears to be the White Sea as at least 60% of the birds depend on it during northward (spring) migration to replenish their reserves before the start of the breeding season.

Based on the results of the workshop, Wetlands International will develop and submit for approval a Flyway Population Action Plan to the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement which will trigger further coordinated actions led by the WI-IUCN SSC Swan Specialist Group in collaboration with the relevant governmental organizations, research institutes and non-governmental organisations.

Bewick's Swan Workshop Participants

Complementing actions taken by wintering states, Wetlands International initiated the UNEP/GEF Wings Over Wetlands project (implemented in partnership with BirdLife International) that contributes to the conservation of important staging sites in the Baltic States such as the Nemunas Delta in Lithuania and the HaapsaluBay in Estonia. The Long Journey project, under the framework of which this workshop has been held is funded by the BBI MATRA programme of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Nature Management and implemented by DLG, Wetlands International HQ and its Russia Programme and the Leningrad Oblast regional authorities in Russia. The two year project (November 2008 - November 2010) aims to demonstrate the flyway conservation approach for a threatened waterbird population, through coordinating actions under the framework of a flyway action plan and through demonstrating specific site management activities (key sites in the vicinity of St. Petersburg). In addition, it will establish closer collaboration across the flyway through a study visit for Russian site managers to wintering sites inNetherlands this November.  

 For further information please contact Szabolcs Nagy