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Great crane reintroduction update – One crane missing, others flocking

11/11/2010 14:40:53

The flock foraging around a ditch as the day is warming up (Copyright Nick Upton)

Great crane project update.
November 2010. The last few weeks have brought some hard frosts to the Somerset Levels, 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.

Cranes flock together in winter
The smaller groups which were exploring new territory in separate directions joined forces once again, and now not only are they roosting together, but they are spending most of the day flying and foraging about the Levels as a group of 20. This behaviour reflects that of wild cranes which flock together for migration during winter, so we think this could be one of the reasons this has occurred.

Conservationists are increasingly concerned about
the whereabouts of a crane recently re-introduced
as part of the unique Great Crane Project and are
appealing for the public to look out for the missing
The bird, carrying distinctive yellow-blue-red id
rings, was last seen on 5th November.

Damon Bridge, Great Crane Project Manager said;
"The bird was last seen during routine monitoring
of the birds, but has not been seen with the
regular groups since then."

Damon Bridge: "Interestingly we have not been
able to pick the bird up via its radio tracker. This
means it may simply have flown out of range, and
there are plenty of attractive places for cranes
further afield. It's odd that it's not returning to the
group in the evening as normal - but then this
individual has always been a bit of a loner."

To help in their search the Great Crane Project is
appealing for the public to call in sightings.

Damon bridge "We'd really love to hear from
anyone who's seen this bird, she has a unique
combination of yellow blue and red rings on her
right leg. These should be reasonably visible from
a distance.
"Naturally everyone on the Great Crane project team
is hoping the bird is found safe and well. Sadly
though, if she is not found soon we may be left
fearing for the worse. Like any wild bird these cranes
are at the mercy of both the elements and even the
possibility of collision with man-made structures
such as power lines.
"Once we know one way or the other though, we'll be
able to take what we find and feed the knowledge
back into the project to make sure the rest of the
group don't face the same issues."
Members of the public seeing the missing crane
should call 01458 254414

Whereas before they would fly throughout the day at various times in different groups, their daily behaviour is now a little more predictable. Their flights are mostly taking place as dawn breaks, where they will visit favourite foraging areas and decoys we have set up, and also during the few hours before dusk. The afternoon flights are amazing to watch as the birds are really travelling quite a distance and are often seen in a large ‘v' shape formation either soaring over the landscape slowly taking their surroundings or, on a windy day, flying so fast you might miss them as they dip behind groups of beautiful autumnal trees. They really are unmistakable, and once you have seen them you never forget it!

Many of these large flights are taking the birds to winter forage and we are excited to see them finding their own food sources as well as those which we provide. Maize and wheat stubble is attracting them and continuously taking them to new places!

Starting work as dawn breaks, watching the flocks of wintering birds building and creating different patches in the skies as they get ready for a new day is magical. Then joining these, a flock of 20 cranes appear, rising out of the mist, on their way to their first morning stop off and suddenly the cold biting at your fingers is forgotten. We have managed to get some lovely images of the group during one of these frosty mornings.

Go to the Great Crane Project website 



Coming into land at a daily foraging spot 

(Copyright Nick 


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