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Muddy feet and ice skating practise!

In the last month the water levels have risen bringing an expansion of the watery areas the cranes like to hang about in. As the landscape changes due to wintery weather the roost areas chosen by the cranes are moving about a lot. The cold must be a lot to get used to for a young crane, alongside having to suddenly share the Levels and Moors with an increasing number of wintering wildfowl and flocking starlings!

Before the weather got icy, it was quite muddy everywhere, especially in the stubbles the birds love so much. Whilst foraging during the day, we could see large amounts of mud building up on their feet, similar to us getting clogged up wellies! They certainly seemed annoyed at having this extra weight on their feet, constantly having to shake their legs to get it off, only to pick up another lump. However, it was not enough to put them off their favourite food!

Another new test for the birds is their ability to ice skate! The birds seem to be a little confused by the slippery areas which used to be common roost sites for them. We have noticed a few of the birds have slight limps and this could be due to slipping on the ice as they come into land. After a few skids from some of the members of the group they seem to have developed a new walking technique which involves stretching out their legs and feet in front of them slowly and carefully, instead of their usual marching about. It looks a little odd but stops them from taking an icy tumble!

  Crane footprints in the snow
Crane footprints in the snow

During one of this weeks really wintery days some of our volunteers were lucky enough to get some pictures of the birds foraging in the mist and snow alongside the river. The birds use this area quite a lot at the moment as they need the flowing water to drink. All their usual spots are completely frozen over.

  Chris in the snow
Chris the crane (Derek Stevenson)

  Flock by the river bank
The flock near the river bank in the morning mist (Derek Stevenson)

Amy

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