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24 May, 2024
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UK's tallest bird, cranes, thrive with 80 pairs

Cranes make historic comeback, breeding in UK after centuries


In a remarkable resurgence, Britain's tallest bird, the crane, has notched up its highest breeding figures since their disappearance from the UK landscape back in the 16th century.

According to a report on The Guardian, last summer witnessed a notable rise in crane breeding activity, with a recorded count of at least 80 pairs in 2023, a significant leap from the previous high of 72 pairs documented two years earlier. Despite their distinctive bugling calls, cranes prove elusive during breeding seasons, often concealing themselves in reedbeds. This year, their efforts yielded the successful fledging of at least 36 chicks.

Originating from Scandinavia, these elegant birds first reestablished themselves in east Norfolk in 1979, marking a pivotal moment in their return to British shores. The population, initially kept under wraps, gradually expanded over the years, bolstered by initiatives such as a reintroduction project in the Somerset Levels, where hand-reared cranes were released into expanded wetlands.

Despite the widespread drainage and development of marshlands, recent efforts to restore wetlands have facilitated the recolonization of cranes across Wales, Scotland, and nature reserves in England, including Lincolnshire.

Damon Bridge, chair of the UK Crane Working Group, expressed optimism about the continued success of these avian wonders, emphasizing the efficacy of conservation efforts. Bridge urged for the safeguarding of protected sites and the creation of larger, interconnected wetland areas across the UK, underscoring the invaluable benefits such habitats offer to both wildlife and people.

Andrew Stanbury, a conservation scientist at RSPB, hailed recent governmental commitments to allocate £16m towards rewetting peatlands and supporting initiatives like the Landscape Recovery Fund. Wetlands not only serve as effective carbon sinks but also harbor a wealth of biodiversity under threat of extinction.

However, Stanbury stressed the urgency of intensifying restoration efforts, calling for accelerated action to restore protected sites and landscapes by 2030 to ensure the flourishing of both wildlife and human communities.

While cranes remain elusive during breeding seasons, their winter presence paints a different picture. With Britain's crane population soaring to 250 individuals, sightings of these majestic birds flocking and gliding to roost within reedbeds at dusk have become a common spectacle across the country.

John Blackburn, warden at Hickling, a Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve near the cranes' initial reestablishment site, extolled the allure of witnessing dozens of cranes converging at twilight—a breathtaking wildlife display that draws visitors to the Hickling Broad nature reserve each winter.

[With information sourced from The Guardian]

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