A Siberian swan has flown to the UK nearly a month early - and the earliest since 1963 - sparking fears Britain could be facing the longest and coldest winter in 50 years.
The arrival of the Bewick's swans at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, usually heralds the start of winter, with around 300 of the animals migrating every year.
The first bird arrived on Sunday 11 October, a month earlier than last year and the earliest for 50 years since records began in 1963.
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Unusually cold weather is currently sweeping parts of western Russia and eastern Europe, with temperatures are 5C to 10C below average.
The low temperatures, snowfall and north easterly winds have encouraged Bewick's swans to press on with their westwards migration through Europe.
El Niño is underway in the tropical Pacific, prompting speculation that Europe is in for a long, cold winter.
And the early migration of Bewick's swans reflects that winter has kicked off earlier than usual in many countries, says WWT.
WWT's expert Julia Newth said: "Apparently there's a Russian saying that 'the swan brings snow on its bill', because they tend to move just ahead of the cold weather.
"Of course, we can't infer much from the arrival of a single swan but it's certainly exciting this bird has arrived so early.
"It's only a year old and, because it's made it all the way here on its own, we assume that it must have come to Slimbridge last year as a cygnet with its parents.
"We record all the Bewick's swans that come to Slimbridge each winter by their unique bill pattern as part of our study and give them a name.
"This one needed a name, so we've called him Record Breaker."
The public can see the Bewick's swans at WWT Slimbridge where they are fed daily from 1 November to the end of February. They can also be seen via the webcam at www.wwt.org.uk
Looking at this week's weather and into the weekend, Richard Chapman at The Weather Network told Aol Travel: "The chill continues across the UK – with only minimal rainfall amounts in the forecast.
"High pressure is set to stay in control of the weather through the coming week. This brings plenty of dry weather but cold conditions too.
"Coats will be needed by most of us this week, although the brollies can probably stay in the bag for the time being - at least away from the east!"
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