Tracking a declining migration

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Between 1995 and 2010 the number of Bewick’s swans making the migration from arctic Russia to northern Europe plummeted by more than a third – from 29,000 to just 18,000.

By joining the graceful birds on their migration between September and December 2016, Sacha Dench and the expedition team got to see for themselves just why so many are unable to survive the journey, with hazards including illegal hunting, an increase in power lines, and lost of their wetland habitat.

Flight of the Swans gathered first-hand evidence and information that, combined with existing research, will contribute to life-saving conservation action right along the Bewick’s migratory path.

Starting at the swans’ summer breeding grounds of high arctic Russia, paramotor pilot Sacha set out on a journey lasting 10 weeks, covering a distance of over 4,500 miles (7,000 km), at altitudes as low as 100 metres (328ft).

The migration took her over Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium and France, before she became the first woman to cross the Channel in a paramotor on the last leg to England.

Keeping the conservationists, supporters and schools which are following the challenge up-to-date with findings was an essential part of the challenge, and so the expedition team travelled with two BGAN terminals and six IsatPhone 2 satellite phones supplied by Inmarsat so they could stay in touch, transmit reports, video and photographs and post on social media, no matter how remote their location.

For live media interviews, Sacha was able to access BGAN HDR, for superior video quality that captured the beauty and drama of her surroundings.

About the pilot

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Sacha Dench is the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s Head of Media. With four years’ paramotoring experience and eight years’ paragliding expertise, she is at home in the skies. She is also a British national free-diving champion, able to hold her breath for an astonishing 6 minutes and 22 seconds.

She was joined on the journey by an experienced team of scientists and researchers from the WWT.

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