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The second collection day - Richards Diary part 8

Thursday 22nd April

On the second collection day we return to the northern part of the biosphere. We pass through a very intensive dairy area to get there, and Lutz points out huge maize fields, all waiting to be ploughed and planted. The maize is very attractive to cranes, especially in the autumn, but there’s very little other food once the maize has run out.

Our first stop is at a long beech wood, where we spot a pair of red kites circling overhead. Preparations made, we walk through the dry beech litter down to a small feldsolle about 0.5-1ha in size. A crane nest had been located in pond sedge on the edge of a reedbed in about 0.5m of water. Here Beate is able to quickly collect eggs 13 and 14 and we leave promptly. A similar nest site is located on the other side of the wood, again in a small open reedbed. The two eggs don’t look very old so we leave them.

The second stop of the day takes us through a ploughed field to a small reedbed hidden by a bank of blackthorn scrub. The nest is situated only about 20-30m from scrub in an area of short reed. Beate takes eggs 15 and 16.

Collection proves to be slower after this and by 1pm we are getting anxious because the vet is due to arrive at Glambecker Mill for 2pm to inspect the IR. At one site, Lutz and I hear the nasal buzz of a willow tit in an alder copse. We stop at a pine grove and Beate and Nigel charge off to a final site. They return quickly with a further two eggs – eggs 17 and 18, the final batch from the first collection period. We return to the mill to clean and weigh the eggs and put them in the static incubator.

the long walk back
The long walk back from an unsuccessful feldsolle visit

Mr Ventland the vet arrives at 2pm and is shown around the IR. We share lunch and conversation is relaxed despite the importance of the occasion. He is happy to sign the papers which allow us to take the eggs to the UK and there’s sighs of relief all round.

Late afternoon, Roland and I go to the Schorfheide-Chorin biosphere building in Angermunde and spend some time with Beate in her office, which is lovely, despite the stuffed hazel hen which peers down on us. Afterwards, we collect Nigel and return to Beate and Eberhard’s farmhouse for a meal, looking in on one of the several restored marsh areas. It’s an inspirational swamp restoration, and includes an area of extensive grassland for feeding lesser spotted eagles (‘schreiadler’), a species which breeds in small numbers in undisturbed parts of the biosphere.

We get back to the mill and ‘candle’ the eggs. This is a technique where a bright torch light is held close to the pointed end of the egg to assess the amount of air space, and to see whether the chick has moved into it in readiness for hatching. We know that several of the eggs are close to hatching, but candelling shows that the most advanced chicks are still 2-3 days away.

This 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. You can read all of Richards Diary here.

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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.