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Forty Days and Forty nights

The cranes have now been 'out' for around forty days and all is going well.  All but three of the cranes are still roosting at night within the release enclosure pool, with Sedge, Reg, and Black-Green now roosting separately to the other birds, in a small body of water about half a kilometre away.  The cranes are flying out to the surrounding fields to feed during the day and are making the most of the millions of newly emerged craneflies that scramble clumsily through grasslands.  We have been using wooden painted decoys to lead the cranes out to suitable habitats, and the cranes have already discovered that wheat stubbles make good feeding, and in the next few weeks they should also discover the maize harvest stubbles that are popping up all over the place.  They are currently travelling up to 3km from the pen and the area over which they can be found feeding is rapidly expanding.

crane in flight photo credit Richard Austin
Flying above the Levels and Moors  (Photo © Richard Austin)

We have carried out some 'aversion' training over the last few weeks, making sure that these naive, parentless birds behave appropriately to encounters with people, vehicles, and  dogs.  This seems to have been very effective with the majority of the birds.    Blue-Green has occasionally made some errors of judgement in how to react to the presence of people, as has Black-Blue (Chris), but this is very much a symptom of the birds having to learn much of their behaviour, and no role-model parents (other than Roland Amy and me) to learn it from. 

We have cut the amount of time in suits that we spend with the cranes to only once a week (a neccessary visit to the enclosure to check on the  electric fence and top up the automatic feeder) and the more time that the birds now spend in the presence of each other the better.  They are now learning to react as wild birds rather than as humans dressed in grey, imitating cranes.  As the autumn draws on and the cranes find themselves amongst the thousands of wintering ducks and waders that arrive on the Levels and Moors, these 'wild' behaviours will be further reinforced.

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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.