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Bewick’s Swan

Within the range of Tundra Swan, Bewick’s Swan breeds across the coastal lowlands of Siberia, from the Kola Peninsula east to the Pacific. They winter in Denmark, the Netherlands, the British Isles with fewer in France. Those breeding in eastern Russia winter in the coastal regions of Korea, Japan, and southern China, south to Guangdong and occasionally as far as Taiwan. (see map)

Once a common sight, Bewick’s Swan is now rare in Scotland. This change in status has been attributed to the drainage of the Zuider Zee in Holland that occurred in the 1920s but could also be indicative of the peripheral nature of Scotland within its wintering range. Climate change, resulting in milder winters may also be responsible for them remaining in continental Europe following their migration from Siberia.

Prior to the 1920s Bewick’s Swan was considered to be a common winter visitor and passage migrant to the Uists and Benbecula. At this time the species wintered in Ireland in large numbers, and they passed through the islands in both spring and autumn heading to and from their Siberian breeding grounds.

There are few counts available for this period, however, Peel referring to the late 1800s mentions passage through Benbecula in early to mid-November with flocks of up to 50-60. In 1918 it was stated that flocks of 100 or more wintered in North Uist mainly in the Locheport and Lochportain areas, and that similar numbers were present on South Uist. The only reference to birds being seen north of the Sound of Harris is an undated note, probably referring to the mid-1800s by Harvie-Brown they had been seen at Gress, Lewis. (Harvie-Brown (1888): 102)

Since the 1920s the species has become very scarce, with only 16 records, and none since 1998.

1969Family seen Balranald, North Uist, December. (Cunningham: 46-47)
1974Benbecula, five, 10th – 30th February. (Stevenson A. unpublished)
1978West side of North Uist, adult  10th – 18th October. (Scottish Bird Report 1978: 14; Cunningham: 47)
1979Loch Torornish, South Uist, adult (thought to be same bird as North Uist 1978). 11th February & 26th April. (Scottish Bird Report 1979: 14; Cunningham: 47)
1980Loch Hallan, South Uist, two, 23rd February. (Stevenson A. unpublished)
1981Sound of Harris, three (two adults, one young),  22nd October. (Scottish Bird Report 1981: 15; Cunningham: 47)
1985Benbecula, one, 3rd – 18th May. (Scottish Birds (1986) 14: 85; Stevenson A. unpublished)
1986Benbecula, one, 1st June, apparently summered. (Stevenson A. unpublished)
1988Taransay, one, 28th  March. (Hebridean Naturalist No10: 57)
1989 Baleshare, North Uist, nine, 18th November, same, Loch nam Faoileann, Benbecula, 19th – 21st November. (OH Bird Report 1989 and 1990: 27)
1991Loch an Ose, South Uist, four,  7th February. (OH Bird Report 1991: 17)

Loch Bee, South Uist, five, 7th – 17th February at least. (OH Bird Report 1991: 17)

Balivanich, Benbecula, five flying south, 22nd April. (OH Bird Report 1991: 17)
1992Kyles Flodda, Benbecula, adult, 1st June. (Scottish Bird Report 1992: 11; Stevenson A. unpublished)
1995Blashaval, North Uist, four adults, 2nd February. (OH Bird Report 1997:15)
1995 record previously published as 1996 in Scottish Bird Report (Stevenson A. unpublished)
1998Aird an Runair & Loch Eaval, North Uist, adult, 26th February to 18th March. (OH Bird Report 1998: 18)