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Catching cranes!

The crane project is unlike other reintroductions in the sense that we acted as parents for a long time working closely with individuals, meaning that the birds imprinted onto the heads we used so we could get close to them and teach them various things. We didn’t just rear them and let them go straight away.

Since October, the grey suit look we were sporting throughout the initial rearing period has been abandoned and we left the youngsters to their own devises, monitoring them from a distance instead.  This week we had to don our outfits again in order to attempt to catch two of the birds.

One of these birds (Vince) has had a limp for a few months which got much worse in the last few weeks and the other (Michael) has had a strange gait perhaps relating to the satellite tracker on the leg. We wanted to check these and if there was a problem treat them suitably. It would also allow us to get a better idea about the bird’s condition as a group, to see how they fared through the cold winter.

Satelite tag on michaels leg
The offending satellite tag on Michaels leg.

Hopefully the fact that we reared and released these birds in a slightly different fashion was about to pay off.  We were not sure how they would react to ‘mum and dad’ suddenly appearing after a long time with no contact in the suits.

So on Monday morning we found ourselves dressed in costume again, walking down a drove towards the group of birds feeding around one of the decoys. Initially we got to within about thirty meters of the birds before they began to look alarmed and we had to stop for fear of flushing them. Perhaps too much time had elapsed and the birds had lost their attachment to the suits? However, after a minute or so the birds relaxed and became curious moving towards us although we could see they were still quite wary, keeping at least five meters from us at all times. We had to make sure we moved slowly and deliberately so as not to make them flush, although we could see the birds still had an attachment to the suits, they were a lot different to the silly and naive birds we had released in the autumn.  

Eventually after ten minutes the birds began to relax and feed around us and we where able to gets some good observations, not just of Michaels leg mount (Vince unfortunately was not with the group), but also of the other birds. This was especially useful because none of us had been closer than one hundred meters to the birds since before Christmas and the opportunity to give the birds a quick visual health check was a real bonus. Unfortunately, for us just as we were getting into position to catch Michael, a low flying helicopter flew right overhead causing the group to flush and fly to the other side of the moor.

Removing the satelite from Michaels leg
The crane team removing the offending satellite tag from Michaels leg.

Although not exactly successful, the encounter with the group showed that we could still get really close to the birds when in costume and later that morning we were able to approach close enough to Michael to be able to capture it and remove the offending satellite tag and release it without any problems.

replacing the leg rings.
Replacing the satellite tag with leg rings and a radio transmitter.

Next, how easily would we be able to catch Vince?

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