- Narration in Bold type – written by Nick Upton.
- Voice over / sync elements in italics:
NJ - Nigel Jarrett, DB – Damon Bridge, JB – John Buxton, SA Sarah Aspden – WWT Educator, CHILDREN – Crane school volunteers.
- Subtitles: in bold italics
- Each section starts with minutes and seconds timing matched to the timing in the video.
Opening statement Text
00.04 The Great Crane Project comprises the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), the RSPB, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Viridor Credits Environmental Company, and was set up following an initiative by the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust in 2004.
Our aim is to restore a healthy population of wild cranes throughout the UK, so that people can once again experience these beautiful birds.
00.21 Cranes are perhaps Europe’s most charismatic and spectacular birds. They’re famous for exuberant dancing and for remarkable mass migrations between breeding sites in northern Europe and the warm south.
00.38 – 00.42 Title: CRANE COUNTRY
00.44 In late autumn, around a hundred and fifty thousand cranes cross the Pyrenees to reach their winter headquarters in central Spain.
00.55 Wherever they are found, these intelligent, highly sociable birds are well known and much revered……
01.03 Cranes are not just continental though: they’ve been making a slow but steady comeback to East Anglia, and cope with the worst of British weather, year round…….
01.15 But as their future success is far from assured, plans are in place for a major reintroduction scheme - The Great Crane Project - in the West country…
01.28 Nigel Jarret has honed techniques for rearing healthy cranes at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge.
01.37 NJ: The aim of the Great Crane Project is to establish at a new site a resident population of at least 25 breeding pairs of cranes, to give the birds a much stronger chance of continued survival in the UK.
01.41 – 01.45 Subtitle: Nigel Jarrett Head of Conservation breeding, WWT.
01.52 The partnership comprises WWT, the RSPB and the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and we're bringing all of the skills of the different organisations together to bring back an iconic species.
02.07 With major funding from Viridor credits, Damon Bridge will oversee crane releases in Somerset, liaising with the project’s partners…..
02.19 By late Spring 2009, detailed plans for a pre-release enclosure are taking shape.
02.30 DB: Returning cranes to the Levels and Moors is very significant. To get this bird back and breeding in Somerset will be an incredible achievement and hopefully will reconnect a lot of people with their environment and with this wetland habitat.
02.39 – 02.43 Subtitle: Damon Bridge Great Crane Project Manager.
02.45 Crane remains have actually been found in the lake villages at Glastonbury and Meare. It’s incredible to think that cranes have been here from pre-history right up to four hundred years ago and this project’s going to put them back, bring them back where they used to be.
03.01 NJ: We know that cranes were widespread in our country, they disappeared as a result of hunting, but also at that time a lot of our wetlands were lost.
03.09 The Great Crane Project plans to add momentum to a natural return that began in the Norfolk Broads. John Buxton nurtured the return of wild cranes here, and he’s been filming their progress ever since the first ones arrived some 30 years ago.
03.25 – 03.38 Subtitles: JOHN BUXTON FILM ARCHIVE 1979-1989
03.41 – 03.44 John Buxton – Crane enthusiast.
03.26 JB: I think when the first ones came in ’79 they didn’t actually nest or look like it the first year, but they went through the motions of reacting to each other and the excitement of seeing them courting, which they did, from here was very exciting indeed. I was thrilled.
03.50 This was the first crane pair that attempted to breed in the UK for four centuries.
03.57 They first nested in 1981 but - as in many future years - no chicks survived……..
04.05 But in 1982 one chick made good progress and reached full size.
04.12 JB: I think the most exciting thing, that I saw here, was when the first chick actually flew and my feeling was that you know this is marvellous!
04.24 This small Norfolk population, though, grew very slowly and only 4 young fledged in the first 16 years of breeding attempts……
04.34 Today, their range is gradually expanding in the East with the help of many conservation bodies, and small flocks now feed on Norfolk marshland in winter. But with just a dozen or so British breeding pairs in total, the Great Crane Project is needed to boost numbers to a secure level.
04.56 Captive rearing techniques for cranes were perfected at Pensthorpe Conservation trust in Norfolk and here at WWT in Gloucestershire.
05.07 NJ: For the last 3 years the pupils that have been reared in Crane Schools have actually come from private collections. We collected them as eggs and then we transported them in portable incubators to Slimbridge. We’ll be doing the same thing, for real, rearing birds for release but those eggs will come from wild nests.
05.24 Wild eggs will be sourced in Germany where the last batch of captive eggs came from, which gave Nigel a long road trip.
05.33 NJ: I think it took us about 14 hours to travel those six or seven hundred miles over land and sea.
05.40 And just to come back to Slimbridge and just know there was a nice warm incubator waiting was a great relief.
05.41 – 05.44 Subtitle: June 2009.
05.49 This egg has been incubated for 28 days and as you can see, it’s starting to hatch! It’s really important that I get it to a very humid incubator.
06.00 This egg will probably hatch in the next 24 hours or so.
06.07 Wild cranes are truly devoted parents and even help their young to hatch if necessary.
06.17 Safe in cosy incubators, captive chicks emerge under Nigel’s care.
06.25 NJ: Normally the birds would be under their parent’s wing and the physical contact between mum’s feathers and its down will cause it to fluff up and then it can start keeping itself warm.
06.35 With artificial heat, captive birds also perk up quickly.
06.41 NJ: When a crane chick is hatched, it doesn’t really feel hunger, it has got a belly full of yolk. The parents, however, have to start teaching the animal to feed and they show extreme patience in offering food morsels to the baby including fragments of eggshell, full of calcium and what better can you really offer a young animal that needs to grow long, straight and strong legs.
07.04 At WWT’s breeding centre, Nigel is joined by Damon, and both wear grey smocks to hide their human body shape from impressionable young cranes.
07.16 DB: “Oh Wow” That’s amazing.
07.18 NJ: This is the chick that hatched this morning.
07.20 DB: Oh right, yes!
07.22 Perhaps you can give it its first feed?
07.29 NJ: “Excellent! Fantastic, Damon! You’re a natural! A natural crane mum…you’ve got the legs for it!”
07.38 DB: I just think they are so vulnerable
07.41 NJ: "Just imagine seeing something like this that size on the Somerset Levels and Moors in four or five year’s time!”
07.49 The challenge is to ensure that chicks survive and grow, but there’s still a long way to go …...
07.58 At Slimbridge wetland centre, healthy captive reared chicks are soon ready for a big learning experience.
07.58 - 08.01 Subtitle: Summer 2009
08.06 NJ: Today is the first day that the chicks, now aged two weeks, are in crane school.
Their universe has just exploded to the size of a natural wetland.
08.17 NJ: They'll be seeing insects escaping from them for the first time. They'll be hearing all of the birds that we can hear now and perhaps they'll be able to see buzzards flying overhead: predators of baby cranes.
08.29 Just a week later, the chicks have grown in size and self confidence, which creates a new problem.
08.36 NJ: At this stage it's very labour intensive rearing the cranes. They need one on one attention, and that's not just to direct the feeding, but actually to break up the fights and to take them in opposite directions. Otherwise there could be serious injury caused by those ever sharpening beaks.
08.52 So we're constantly looking at this thing that we call sibling rivalry.
08.57 Its something that's common to cranes in the wild. It's very often that cranes will hatch two chicks but only one will survive.
09.05 In future years, young cranes will be released on the Somerset Levels and Moors. Much of this vast area of wet grassland and fen is managed for wildlife alongside farming and this landscape offers all that cranes will need.
09.22 DB: The extensive moors and the hay meadows and pasture lands are absolutely stuffed with lots of spiders, grasshoppers, worms, all sorts of things during the crucial period, the spring and the summer.
09.36 Back at crane school, Nigel’s eight week old charges are barely recognisable.
09.43 NJ: The birds have tripled their body weight in the last month. With a lot of feeding and exercise we've actually managed to build up their strength.
09.54 Surprisingly, younger crane chicks can be very wary of water.
10.02 NJ: Now, they're much more confident. They're coming into the water body looking for insects that get trapped and float on the surface. They're certainly much happier. They're becoming water birds now.
10.12 We've worked hard on their social interactions – we've been bringing birds out two at a time. They've become tolerant of each other and now you can see there's four birds together, quite comfortable in each other's presence. No aggression.
10.27 I suppose you could say we're in the second term at crane school. First term was all about exercise about physical education, getting the birds on their feet and running around.
10.38 In the wild these crane chicks will have walked about 50 miles by the time they can fly. So its really critical that the birds walk perhaps 200 metres a day for the first week of life or so, then that's going to increase to perhaps a mile a day, so they will be super fit.
10.56 We're trying to encourage the birds to find food for themselves, so we’re hiding food around the place. It's really all about encouraging the birds to exercise as they search for food.
11.07 And Nigel’s team mirrors what wild parents do, continuing to feed growing chicks as they learn to forage for themselves.
11.18 In Somerset, Damon wants the crane enclosures built, as soon as wading birds finish nesting and while conditions still allow.
11.27 DB: The autumn is the only time we can really get on and start to do this work. But by October, November, things are getting too wet. The whole site can go under water.
11.28 – 11.31 Subtitle: August 2009
11.37 We need to get on with this work now and then we’ll be all set for the birds’ arrival next August!
11.42 Meanwhile, at WWT Slimbridge, children are meeting cranes.
11.48 SA: If you’d like to come quickly in…. Come and take a seat, that’s fine.
11.55 Ok, now these volunteers bravely volunteered to join Nigel and help him exercise and feed the cranes.
12.02 NJ: Now that’s what its all about, caring for these animals.
12.06 Touch it there, it’s really soft.
12.11 CHILDREN: "They're really amazing birds, they're just like, they grow so much in a couple of weeks – its fascinating”
12.17 I learnt a lot more than I knew already. So did I, so did I…it was great seeing the birds.
12.22 Lovely creatures.
12.25 Wild predators also find crane chicks attractive, but adults look out for danger and teach their young to react and escape.
12.38 Again, Nigel’s training programme does the same thing: …………
12.42 Full-grown chicks aged 12 weeks meet a fox-like predator and hear crane alarm calls…..
12.52 …and they learn to follow their surrogate parents to safety.
12.58 Remembering such experiences will be crucial for cranes that are released, so they’ll react swiftly and avoid predators.
13.10 NJ: “That was amazing, they’re not as stupid as they look”
13.20 When we come to reintroduce cranes, the birds will be reared much the same way, but they won't have any contact with humans. We'll keep them in a protected environment where they won't hear the sounds of humans and farm vehicles.
13.35 Damon’s plans are now fully approved and construction can begin…
13.40 Starting with a virgin area of wet pasture, the mission is to excavate a pool area with small islands for cranes to roost on, and to build a secure fence to keep young cranes in and predators out………
13.48 – 13.53 Subtitle: Autumn 2009
13.55 After 6 weeks, the building work is largely complete before winter rains set in.
14.03 DB: The plan for next year is to bring birds down to Somerset when they are about 10 weeks old. Then at some point about two months down the line, so about November… they will be free to come and go.
14.17 Wild cranes are truly inspiring, as John Buxton knows from 30 years of watching them.
14.24 JB: I think Cranes are the most spectacular bird. I don’t know any bird that actually has this extraordinary way of enjoying life. They dance, they do all sorts of things that humans do when they’re feeling happy and I think this is a great attraction of them.
14.45 DB: We are hoping to be able to get people to places where they can see these birds without disturbing them. We can provide viewing opportunities that will feed into the local economy. We’ll be doing projects with schools, projects with the communities around cranes where people can really connect with the birds.
15.03 The Great Crane Project will boost the return of these remarkable birds to traditional British haunts and should help secure their future across the UK.
15.14 NJ: We don't want to put all our eggs in one basket. We want populations of cranes widespread throughout the UK as they once were.
15.23 We need to have lots of satellite populations that will ultimately join to ensure long term survival.
15.32 DB: It’s a historic project, really. We’re hoping that this will leave birds back in the country indefinitely, into the future…so, it’s an incredibly exciting thing to do and a real privilege to be involved in the project.
15.46 – 16.08 CREDIT ROLL