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Exploring, foraging and roosting

cranes crusing round the penAn exciting week has seen the young cranes continue to explore their two heactare release enclosure.

It has been wonderful to see them foraging for themselves, picking off craneflies, grass moths, orb spiders and other tasty snacks in the grass, digging for roots and worms in the soft peat, and picking off insects from the surface of the pools.  They are taking short flights around the pen - and when they open their wings and take to the air it takes your breath away - they really are the most incredible and impressive of birds.

Clarence Foraging Photo left: Green Black Red foraging for insects.

The cranes are still very attached to their grey, suited  mum and dad and get very excited each time we visit the pen to check on them and to teach them new skills.  In particular we have been continuing to reinnforce and instill a fear of un-suited humans, vehicles and potential predators and this avoidance training will continue for a a week or so more.    

One thing we didn't have to teach the birds which we thought we would, was to roost in shallow water at night.  They walked to the pool as darkness fell, had a bit of a squabble and sorted out their pecking order - and went to sleep, standing in the safety of the pool.  Perhaps this is innate behaviour - or perhaps the presence of a rather ghostly manequin in a grey suit within the pool caused them to go to it for security.   Either way we were all very pleased about this stage and it bodes well for the future. 

Flying around the pen Photo left: Flying around the pen.  Note the spooky grey mannequin in the background within the night time roosting pool.

We are now starting to put out decoy cranes in suitable feeding areas in readiness for the next stages of release and the birds leaving the pen and moving further afield - so you may spot crane decoys out an about across the Levels and Moors within wheat stubbles and soon, following the maize harvest, within maize stubbles too.    For the time being the cranes are being fed from a large automatic feeder within the pen which is acting to anchor the birds and continue to keep them in tip top condition prior to the next stages of release.

crane decoys
Crane decoys with the enclosure by the automatic feeder.

And with seven of the cranes!

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About the author
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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.