First there were none – now there are more than 50 cranes stalking the Somerset Levels after an absence of 400 years.
And in notching up the half century, bird experts are not counting the human beings dressed as cranes – they’re aviculturalists who have to be careful not to create an overly reliant human bond with young birds when introducing them to wild environments.
This week bird-lovers have been celebrating following the successful third release of young cranes on the Somerset Levels. This time around 19 youngsters, brought as eggs from Germany in April and May, are cautiously exploring their new home.
They join 33 cranes already out in the wild in the West.
The releases are being managed by the Great Crane Project, a partnership between the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, RSPB and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, with funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company. The aim is to restore healthy populations of wild cranes throughout the UK, so that people can once again experience these beautiful birds.
Project manager Damon Bridge said: “All went well – 18 birds left the aviaries straight away – one, however, was a little unsure and spent the night in the safety of the aviary but has since left and joined up with some of the older birds.
“Most have taken big flights up and above the pen – some landing outside and being led back in, and many flying out on their own accord and returning under their own steam. Also, all the older birds from previous years have shown great interest in the new ones – flying over, and landing nearby.”
Viridor Credits has confirmed further funding for the project which will pay for releases over the next two years. Mr Bridge and his colleagues are looking forward to spring: “The first birds brought over in 2010 will then be coming in breeding condition and might, just might, start to turn their attention to nesting.”