Dave and I travelled down to Gloucester on Sunday, on our way to photograph some Hawfinches, and with time on our hands we decided to call in at Slimbridge in the hope of seeing free flying Common Cranes.
Slimbridge on a Bank Holiday Sunday sounds a bit risky and having found the car park nearly full when we arrived, things did not look very promising. Fortunately most people were in the visitors centre or around the captive birds area. We headed for the Martin Smith Hide and had only one other person sharing it with us. After scanning the distant fields we thought we had dipped the cranes but then Dave spotted them about thirty yards from the hide. These are not small birds and I am not sure why it took us so long to find them. Still three birds, two adult and one juvenile was a good start.
A quick check on the project website (The Great Crane Project) enables to you identify the individuals from the colour rings on their legs. The two adults are Willow the male and Buttercup the female. This looks like a new pairing with neither of them having bred before. They usually start to breed at about four years. Willow is four but Buttercup is a 2013 bird so may be a bit young. However whilst we were watching she was having a good go at nest building, in the reeds, in front of the hide.
That leaves the question of who the Juvenile is. It is probaly a 2016 bird and as such could be one of the first chicks born in the wild in this country for about 400 years. It's just a bit odd that it hasn't been caught and ringed yet.
|Willow stretching his wings They can have a wingspan of eight feet, even bigger than a White-tailed Eagle|
|And patrolling the nest building area|
There was also a slightly alien looking Little Egret in the pond.