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Living ‘La Deutsche Vita’ with the Great Crane Project in Germany - part 1

Richard Archer in GermanyThis is the diary of Richard Archer, RSPB Conservation Officer for Somerset.

In mid April, Richard spent three weeks as part of the RSPB/WWT/Pensthorpe crane team collecting crane eggs in Eastern Germany. These are his personal
reflections on the successful German visit.

Saturday 17th April

It’s 11 am on a lovely spring morning in Devon. The hedges are full of primroses and the blackcaps are singing. It’s hard to believe that the Great Crane Project team is finally off to Germany to collect crane eggs for the Somerset reintroduction.

I arrive at Slimbridge with the project truck just before 1pm, where new boy Roland gives me a tour of the rearing facilities: ‘en suite’ rooms for 24 young cranes with nice views over a wetland area where birds will feed and exercise until they’re ready to be transferred to Somerset.

Nigel arrives and we gather kit for Germany: portable incubators, batterie,s and a whole array of callipers, weighing machines, cleaning solutions, waders, cameras, laptops and notebooks. I take a few photos for posterity, hoping it’ll all fit in the back of the truck (it does).

At slimbridge before departure filling the van with all the kit
Some of the kit we'll be taking to Germany

Roland and I leave Slimbridge mid afternoon, driving to Hull to catch the overnight ferry to Rotterdam. The Icelandic volcano has frustrated Nigel’s plans to fly out after us, so he’ll now follow by car. We arrive in Hull where the ferry waits for us. We check into our cabin then go out on deck. I was RSPB Conservation Officer for the Humber Estuary in the 1990’s and it’s is good to see my old friend again. Memories come back of autumn days at Spurn chasing rarities and winter’s days counting tens of thousands of golden plover at Thorngumbald. Roland and I go downstairs for steak and chips in the restaurant, then back to the cabin for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we have a 700 mile journey ahead of us across Holland and Germany. Our destination is the town of Angermunde in the Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve, about 110km north east of Berlin and close to the Polish border.

Roland and the truck at Hull Docks
Roland with the crane truck at Hull Docks

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About the author
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Richard Archer is RSPB’s Conservation Officer for Somerset, and took his sabbatical in the of Spring 2010 to help with the collection, incubation and transport of the first year’s eggs.