Saturday, 11 September 2010

Patch-birders everywhere grateful to ‘little and large’ (as long as they didn’t see their legs).

Little and large at large in Bedfordshire (Steve Blain).

One particular pair of Cranes, ‘little and large’, have done much to make patch birders happy this year, from North Norfolk down to Sussex, across to the midlands, and back to Fakenham. However, a close view reveals an inconspicuous ring on one bird, revealing a captive origin.

Most would agree that Cranes are spectacular birds, well worth having roaming around the countryside. With a combination of human tinkering (a small handful of these birds have a captive origin) and a westward expanding European population, Cranes now seem to be finally getting a grip in the UK with around 15 breeding pairs this year, rearing 6 youngsters. Now splitting into several sub-groups in the UK, the total number of birds is close to 60.

Despite their size, Cranes can be remarkably elusive when nesting. They appear somewhat unfussy in choice of nesting location given a few basic parameters – the nest is usually in shallow water and some peace and quiet is near the top of their list (ie a large wetland habitat). But perhaps it is the quality of the chick-rearing habitat that is more important. Predation by Foxes has proved to be a key constraint in the UK. For the first few weeks of life, the chicks forage close to the nest. However, as they then start to roam wider, they become more vulnerable and many chicks succumb before they reach the end of the 10 week fledging period.

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