- The Project
- The Partners
- Seeing Cranes
- The Cranes
- Nature Calendar
From Brandenburg to Somerset 2010-2014
Cranes start to nest in Germany. Nest searches are made in Brandenburg by local team of crane workers from the Biosphere Reserve “Schorfheide-Chorin” and date of start of incubation is carefully noted.
Mid April - a specialist team from UK drive out to Brandenburg. At around day 15 of incubation, eggs are removed from selected nests by hand, and incubated artificially in portable incubators housed in an old mill near Angermünde. After sign-off by a local vet, eggs are transported back to the UK in batches for hatching at the Slimbridge wetland centre by Amy, Harry and Nigel.
This is an eighteen hour, non-stop road trip.
A second period of collection in Brandenburg a week later sees the last eggs collected by the end of the month– leaving the cranes time to lay a replacement clutch and go on to have a successful breeding season.
The first eggs have hatched in the last week of April at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre and are reared by Amy and Harry and seasonal crane workers with support from the WWT veterinary team.
The chicks require continuous care, and this care has to be given dressed in a special costume that covers the carer’s from head to foot, hiding the human body form and preventing the birds ‘imprinting’ on them. This is necessary in order to produce birds that will react appropriately to human beings once released.
The team in Germany monitor the German birds. Cranes that have had their eggs removed start to re-lay.
The chicks are growing fast! Special diets and constant exercise are the order of the day. Crane chicks have special growth plates in their feet that need stimulation in order for the legs to grow properly. They can be quite aggressive to each other in the early stages, so they are reared as single chicks and then slowly introduced to each other to form a loose social group known as a cohort.
The Cranes are now really quite big, their need for exercise is even greater and their appetites huge. They are given some 'aversion training' during this period so that they learn to be wary of predators and humans.
They are also blood-tested at this time to ensure that they are healthy and fit, colour ringed (individually marked), and have their monitoring kit (sattelite tags, radio tags and GPS backpacks) fitted in readiness for their move to Somerset.
The Cranes are now between 10 and 16 weeks old and are carefully put into special crates for transportation by road to a release pen, constructed at a secret location in the Somerset Levels and Moors.
Amy and Harry – their constant companions and effectively the young cranes' parents come with them – their help is vital in the next stages. The pen is around two hectares in size and to start with the birds are housed in some smaller netted aviaries within this enclosure. This period of three weeks within the aviaries is necessary in order for the birds to get used to their new home - and to feel anchored in the Somerset Levels and Moors. The enclosure is predator proof to help protect the flightless young birds.
During this period the birds are again taught how to react to ground predators such as foxes and to avoid human beings and vehicles. This is achevied by using a recording of adult crane alarm calls in conjunction with Amy and Harry in costume, who react as an adult bird would to the presence of potential danger. The young cranes pick up on this an react appropriately too.
Training continues and some birds are now regularly leaving the safety of the pen and finding new areas to feed and roost in the Somerset Levels and Moors. In the wild they would be accompanied by their parents through this critical first winter, learning where to feed and where to roost.
Supplementary feeding helps keep the birds in tip top condition through the autumn and winter. The sites are marked with wooden crane cut-out decoys that lead the birds into appropriate habitats where they can forage naturally too. Some unharvested 'sacrificial crop' areas are also established for the birds to feed on over the winter. All of these techniques ensure that the birds chances of survival are maximised through this tricky, parentless period of their lives.
October and November-
By the late Autumn the cranes are well established on the Levels and Moors of Somerset, sometimes still using the pen to roost at night , but roaming throughout the landscape during the day and often finding safe roost sites on flooded fields. Monitoring of the birds becomes essential, with information gathered on the birds feeding habits and whereabouts that helps to ensure the project’s success and inform future years of release. A local team of volunteers is established to help in the monitoring process and Amy and Harry start to have some time off at last!
By now the release site, as well as large tracts of the Levels and Moors are often innundated by flood water and the cranes will have a wide choice of suitable roosting sites. By now they are full size and are a rather formidable prey item for a fox.
Monitoring continues with the help of local volunteers.
January / February -
More monitoring -
Preparation for the next year’s release – the Crane School gets a full clean down and spruce up, consents are sought again, travel plans made……and the team prepare for another spring of journeying to Germany, collecting, hatching, rearing, and release.
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