In 2010 the Great Somerset Crane Project began. The idea was to reintroduce a bird that had been extinct in Britain for over 400 years, the common Crane.
The crane became extinct as a result of hunting and the subsequent draining of their wetland nesting sites.
It may have disappeared in the wild but it has always appeared in British folklore and history. Throughout history, they feature on British maps, manuscripts, and artwork and unfortunately were on lavish feast menus like that of Henry lll’s feast in 1251. During a feast to enthrone Archbishop Neville in the fifteenth century, the guests consumed 204 cranes along with a huge number of unfortunate wildlife.
Similarly, in the North of the UK, the old Norse place-name element ‘tran’ carries the same message.
The Great Somerset Crane project was set up to reintroduce the bird back into the wild
Eggs were transported to the UK from Germany.
The chicks were then hand reared and released in secret locations in Somerset. You can read more about the cranes and the project on their website: The Great Crane Project
There are now over 93 wild cranes in the wild.
Many of these birds have settled in the Somerset Levels, not far from where we are in Glastonbury. All the cranes have electronic trackers and are banded so they can be identified and followed. The mating pairs have moved around a lot and have spread across the UK.
This week we decided to head out to see the Somerset Cranes. We booked a tour with Stephen from Wildlife Somerset to take us out to try and spot the birds in their roosting location. It meant an early morning start as one of the best times to see them moving around is at dawn.
We managed to spot around a dozen birds. They flew over us in small little groups and settled down in the flooded fields to feed for the day. Unfortunately, they ended up a bit far away from us so could only spot them through the binoculars. Luckily they are huge birds, around 120cm tall so not too difficult to spot but they are skittish so you can’t get too close to them.
We then had a little tour through some of the Moorland around the area. We were mesmerized by the thousands of Lapwings and Plovers that we saw. There were a couple of Marsh Harriers hunting them so they were up in the air all the time trying to avoid being eaten.
Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get any good photographs of the cranes but Matt Baker, Anita Rani, and the crew of BBC Countryfile tracked down some of the cranes
To book one of the tours with Wildlife Somerset visit the website: http://wildlifesomerset.co.uk/