Skip to Main Content

Catchers in the Rye

I have just returned from a wonderful week in the Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve, Brandenburg, Germany  - helping the team there to catch and ring wild crane chicks. 


Eberhard and myself with a young crane            Cornflowers in the Rye crops

The Scofeheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve is a beautiful place to be at this time of year – with an incredibly diverse mix of land-use and rich biodiversity – the place is just teeming with wildlife.  Yellow hammers and Cornbuntings were singing in every bush, and there were plentiful Red Backed Shrikes, Thurshes, Black Woodpeckers, Thrush Nightingales, and many raptors too - Red & Black Kites, White Tailed Eagles, Ospreys, Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, as well as other wonderful birds such as White Storks, Golden Orioles, Wood warblers and Crested Tits.   Both Roe, Red and Fallow Deer were common-place, along with Wild Boar, Foxes, Red Squirrels, Hares, and we saw signs of Beavers in many locations.   Fire-bellied & common toads and at least 3 species of Frog were in abundance along with lizards, slow worms and grass snakes too.  It really is a stunning place... and all only 1.5hrs from Berlin.    


Poppies in the Rye                                         Flowering plants in the arable crops

Part of the sheer abundance of wildlife can undoubtedly be attributed to that fact that there are nearly 30,000ha of organic arable crops (mainly a mix of Rye, Spelt, Barley, Peas, Lucerne) all of which provide a home for wild plants like cornflowers, vetches and poppies, which in turn provide food for a host of invertebrates and associated birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.  Mixed in amongst this organic arable are deciduous & coniferous forests, hay meadows  & pasture land, alderswamps, reedbeds,  & large lakes and thousands and thousands of smaller swampy water bodies (remnants of the last ice-age) pock-marking the landscape.   It is in these waterbodies that most of the cranes nest. 


Alison putting on the metal leg-ring                  And the full 6-colour combination

I travelled over there with Alison , a local ringer so that we can build up local experience in capturing and ringing crane chicks so that one day – hopefully this time next year –we can catch and ring our very own  home-grown crane chicks.  We worked alongside Beate & Eberhard from the Biosphere, and a local German ringer – Joachim.  They were a great team to be with - their intimate knowledge of the cranes is unsurpassed, and it is an essential part of our learning process to experience first hand their field-craft and crane-capturing techniques.  


Measuring bill length ...                                       ...and wing length   

Capture methods were varied but generally involved either a stake-out  (hiding out from dawn in woodland edges and field crops waiting for the birds to emerge from their night-time sleeping places) and surprise attacks (driving along small tracks and lanes early morning and surprising the adults feeding in the hay meadows and arable crops).  Once located -  the basic method is to run after the chicks before they make it to dense cover to hide.  They are pretty quick – but not as quick as a reasonably fit human being!   After approx 32 hours of work over 4 days we managed to successfully  capture and ring eight young cranes  - all aged 6-9 weeks old.  These were weighed and measured and fitted with 6 colour-rings above the ‘knee’ and a metal ring below the ‘knee’ before being released back into the landscape. 

  Blue Blue Yellow, Yellow Blue Red running for safety!

%s1 / %s2
About the author
User picture

Damon’s role is to act as the hub of the project - making sure everyone involved knows what is going on and that it is all running smoothly. He is also responsible for project community awareness work in Somerset, construction of the release enclosure, and running the post release monitoring work in Somerset.  Damon works alongside the RSPB reserve teams in Somerset.