As you know, BPS are proud sponsors of Flight Of The Swans (a conservation project where Sacha Dench will fly via paramotor for 4,000km to raise awareness & find out about the rapid decline of the Bewick’s Swans).
So, what’s been going on?
Well, it’s been 15 days since Sacha took off from the tundra in Russia. Her journey however, has not been easy. After a paramotor was down, the team were out on the tundra with half of their survival kit! They were luckily helped by reindeer breeders so they were okay. After the first long two weeks, the ground-team that finally met with Sacha in Mezen, we’re told it was an emotional reunion. Sacha and her paramotor partners, Dan Burton and Alexander Bogdanov, had made great time flying the 600km over the tundra and arrived in the coastal town first. The ground crew arrived soon after, having found the Russian roads challenging.
Seeing the paramotorists complete what many considered the most challenging part of the expedition was a relief all round, but the physical challenges, the extreme cold and a few hiccups with the paramotor had all taken their toll. So just like the swans the team needed time to rest and refuel after the gruelling flight.
“I have found it very physically challenging. The flying’s been tough, I’m carrying a heavy weight and my face particularly has been getting a battering from the cold, but I can feel that my body is slowly adjusting,” said Sacha.
Engine failure as they were crossing the tundra meant a helicopter rescue and then the help of local reindeer herders to get them to safety.
“We were stranded with little kit and no food,’” said Sacha. But local people helped them out and they were given food and shelter.
After a weekend of resting the Flight of the Swans team set off together for the first time with hopes that it would all be easier as a unit. But crossing the dense taiga forest that lay ahead was not without its challenges.
The main issue for Sacha was finding somewhere to land. The swans tend to do this part of their migration in one go but Sacha has to land and refuel every few hours. The only possible landing spot in the acres of dense forest was the dirt road winding its way through the trees.
The risks of landing on a road are probably obvious but a convoy of Mitsubishi 4x4s has its uses and acting as impromptu roadblocks would prove to be one of them.
The crew arrived in Arkhangelsk on Thursday, the journey had taken longer than they expected and the road through the forest had proved a difficult and challenging route, even for the 4x4s.
For the swans the migration has just one focus, to get to their overwintering grounds safely. But Sacha, who has events to attend along the way and a serious conservation message to get across, has to consider other things too like whether there’s anything suitable to wear when you’re invited to a local opera, or the challenges of addressing a conservation conference in your flying gear.
In Arkhangelsk, Sacha has been speaking about the challenges the Bewick’s face along the flyway to school children as well as addressing officials and the press at a conservation conference. The ground crew have been teaching the local children how to play frisbee (and doing some filming).
Today (Friday 30/09) the weather has become the biggest challenge and we are told there will be no flying. The team are on a tight schedule to get to pre planned events in Olonets, so we hope they are not going to be grounded for too long.
And the swans?
Leho, another of our tagged Bewicks has joined Daisy Clarke on migration and Sacha has reported seeing groups of swans – both Bewick’s and Whoopers – gathering for migration so we expect more birds to be on the move soon.