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Somerset

Tamsin

A few weeks ago Tamsin, one of our female birds disappeared for two days. This was a real worry to us and we were relieved to find her again. However, when we did find her she was in a bit of a sorry state sitting down in a watery ditch. We managed to pick her up and transfer her to our recuperation facility, and after giving her a check discovered she had a large tear down her wing accompanied by swelling and bruising. This indicated she had flown into something meaning she could not fly and stay with the others.

Cranes in the Community

crane decoys

The Great Crane Project has just hosted two fabulous Nature in Art Community days, where people from the local community came together with local artists and volunteers to get inspiration from the wildlfie and habitats on the RSPB's wetland reserves and then create their own painted wooden cranes.  This is part of an intergenerational project, run by Somerset Art Works. 

Missing Crane - Press Release

Conservationists in Somerset are growing increasingly concerned about the whereabouts of a crane recently re-introduced to the county as part of the unique Great Crane Project and are appealing for the public to look out for the missing bird.

The tall waterbird, carrying distinctive yellow-blue-red identification rings, was last seen on Friday evening (5 November).

Frosty mornings and winter flocking

The last two weeks have brought us some hard frosts, with temperatures in the mornings below zero. Not only did the crane monitoring team notice this change, due to chilly hands and noses, the cranes were also feeling the cold. This was visible in the changing behaviour of the separate cohorts that had formed, which now started to fragment.

A tough Decision

From time to time tough decisions have to be taken for both the good of a bird and the good of the group in general. Last week we had to make such a decision regarding Dennis. Unfortunately Dennis had not been joining in with the other birds from the start of the release; initially he did not come back to the pen to roost with the other birds, preferring to wait the wrong side of the fence in the perfect position to get taken by a fox.

Watch the Crane Release Videos!

You can watch some fantastic footage of the recent crane release, captured by the RSPB film unit

Forty Days and Forty nights

crane in flight photo credit Richard Austin

The cranes have now been 'out' for around forty days and all is going well.  All but three of the cranes are still roosting at night within the release enclosure pool, with Sedge, Reg, and Black-Green now roosting separately to the other birds, in a small body of water about half a kilometre away.  The cranes are flying out to the surrounding fields to feed during the day and are making the most of the millions of newly emerged craneflies that scramble clumsily through grasslands.  We have been using wooden painted decoys to lead the cranes out to suitable habitats, and the cranes have already discovered that wheat stubbles make good feeding, and in the next few weeks they should also discover the maize harvest stubbles that are popping up all over the place.  They are currently travelling up to 3km from the pen and the area over which they can be found feeding is rapidly expanding.

Finally, the day of release arrived!

So, the day in question finally arrived and it was time to release the cranes. Although it was a bit more blustery than we might have liked, we decided that because of the nature of the release site and the bird’s clear attachment to their grey suited parents and release site that things would be ok. Compared to other releases this was always going to be different, for the main part I am pretty sure that no other UK releases have costumed handlers leading the birds in question out of their pen.

Exploring, foraging and roosting

cranes crusing round the pen

An exciting week has seen the young cranes continue to explore their two heactare release enclosure.

It has been wonderful to see them foraging for themselves, picking off craneflies, grass moths, orb spiders and other tasty snacks in the grass, digging for roots and worms in the soft peat, and picking off insects from the surface of the pools.  They are taking short flights around the pen - and when they open their wings and take to the air it takes your breath away - they really are the most incredible and impressive of birds.

All quiet on the western front

After just over a week in their new home one the Somerset levels, the cranes seemed to have settled in to the swing of things nicely. Any worries that Amy and myself might have had about the move have dissipated and we are now into a quiet period over the next few weeks whilst the cranes adjust to and imprint onto the new area. This quite period before the release proper starts in earnest is very convenient as it not only allows the birds to settle in but also ourselves as we have also moved to Somerset from Slimbridge.