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Roland reporting from Brandenburg

Nigel's finally arrived (at 3:00 am in the morning), after his epic journey across Europe and we're finally ready to start looking for some crane nests (just in case your thinking that's a bit early, it's now 10:00 am).

EggsLuckily for us we have some really dedicated German colleges who are really passionate about the project and they have done most of the leg work, monitoring the breeding cranes and their nests since the end of March. The cunning plan is that we only take eggs from nests that are badly situated and therefore likely to get robbed by the large numbers of wild boar that inhabit the area.

Beate after the collectionThe crane nests are located in feldsols which are boggy depressions left behind after the last ice age consisting of reed beds often surrounded by willow scrub. The area where we are collecting the eggs from is full of these unique features and it's because of them and the fact that their impossible to cultivate, that there are such large numbers of cranes breeding in the area.

The nests we are going to take from as already said are those badly placed usually in too shallow water so as the boars can easily find them, it appears that wild boar don't seem to like to swim or wade through too deep water or mud for a nice breakfast of crane eggs.

As we approach the first nests we can see the male crane standing guard close to the reed bed, only flying off a short distance once we have approached within thirty meters or so. Once we get within ten meters of the nest the female flies away and Beate (our German college who has the licence to disturb the nest), is able to approach it and collect the first two eggs which are immediately placed in a portable incubator so they don't lose any heat and become damaged. Although this is clearly a badly placed nest by a young and inexperienced pair, this is a bitter sweet moment and every one fells pangs of guilt for taking the eggs.

However it should be remembered that this is an early clutch and the birds will lay another and the eggs and subsequent young from the eggs that we're taking, will go on to form a new population which will not only be good for the European crane population, but will also act as a flagship species that will promote and aid conservation and protection of the Somerset levels and the many unique species that inhabit the area.  

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