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A Leap into the unknown

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A busy week catching up after the excitement and travel of the last fortnight.  It really feels that there has been a quantum leap forward in the project now from what was a very long and sometime arduous and circuitous planning phase into new territory,,,,an unstoppable straightline phase with only one outcome.  The birds are growing at a phenomenal rate and the regular updates from Nigel and the team are incredible....hearing mid week that the largest chick was now over 500 grammes...or a pound (half a bag of sugar) in weight....was really unbelievable. These birds really do know how to grow.

Consequently, it won’t be long till the birds are in Somerset - just a matter of a few weeks - and there is still a lot of work to do!   Spent time this week  sorting out suppliers and ordering some of the remaining items for the release enclosure – heavy duty rabbit wire, hanging kit, heavy duty cable ties, blacksmith designed pole sheaths, two 36m2  top nets (actually sold as golf netting for driving ranges as well as partridge rearing) , electric fencing units, electric fencing insulators,etc etc.   Also paid a visit to the release enclosure to measure up and prepare it for grazing – to find a couple of lapwings displaying there.  The finishing off of the enclosure will take a couple of weeks with a helpful gang of crane volunteers but we can’t make a start until the wader breeding season is over.  We will just have to get the materials in, get prepared and wait till mid June to start.  
Unfortunately though, the growing chicks at Slimbridge won’t wait, as they need to be brought into the habitat that will become their future home as soon as possible - so am already anticipating a last minute rush to get things finished off.

I also met up this week with NE and RSPB staff to discuss the crane championing scheme – prior to a meeting next week with around 30 volunteers who have all contacted the project to offer their help. I am bowled over by how much this project has already grabbed the imagination and attention of so many people- and also how many people are so keen to see cranes back in their environment. The championing scheme aims to link up school and community groups with a particular crane.and become that bird’s champion.

All the cranes will be individually identifiable through a unique combination of coloured leg rings so the birds will be able to be tracked and followed and their movements recorded on the website. A number of birds will also have satellite tags fitted that will give us a real wealth of data on their movements, roosting sites and  feeding areas. All will be fitted with radio tags so we can track them down if they are hiding in long vegetation or in inaccessible areas where we can not physically see them. The monitoring of the birds will be almost as full on as the rearing as we are aiming to actually see each bird at least twice a day to start with to check that all is OK and to pickup on any potential problems as early as possible.

We plan to upload their locations regularly to the website so you will be able to follow where each bird has been – and if you are a champion – then you can find out the latest on ‘your’ bird.  Where its been feeding, who it has been hanging around with, where it spends the night, along with of course all the background information on when it hatched, photos of it as a youngster and at various stages of its growth. If you manage to catch sight of your bird and have a camera to hand, you will also be able to upload your own photos to the website.

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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.