Posted on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
Two cranes released by the Great Crane Project. Photo © Nick Upton (rspb-images.com)
We have taken the opportunity provided this autumn by the absence of released great bustards in Wiltshire to visit and learn from a range of similar translocation projects. The last in that series of visits was to the closest and most similar project in the UK - the Great Crane Project in Somerset.
This project is a partnership between the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the RSPB and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, with funding from Viridor Credits. It has been hugely successful, with over 60 surviving birds from just four years of releases. Cranes do occur naturally in other parts of the UK, but over half of the British crane population is now found in Somerset. One more year of releases is planned to help ensure that a sustainable population is founded.
The only remaining hurdle for the project to cross is successful nesting, and after an unsuccessful attempt in 2013 at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, 2014 could be a big year in this respect. Cranes need to be at least three years old to nest, so increasing the number of nesting birds is a long term target, and the project is working hard on the creation of good nesting habitat.
There are similarities but also big differences between the crane project and our bustard project. Both use dehumanisation suits and puppets during rearing, and both are working with large and fairly closely-related birds. On the other hand, the cranes have very different habitat requirements centred on wetlands, and form a very tight flock, without wandering individually in the way bustards do.
To keep up to date with the latest on the Great Crane Project, visit their website at http://www.thegreatcraneproject.org.uk/