Historic Easter egg laid at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre

WEB cranes at WWT Slimbridge 2 (c) Derek Cropton
Crane pair - Monty and Chris - at WWT Slimbridge (c) Derek Cropton

A pair of four-foot high Eurasian cranes has nested at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire, raising hopes they could rear the first successful chick hatched in the wild in the west of Britain since the 1600s.

The nest is in front of one of WWT Slimbridge’s public hides allowing visitors unparalleled views of this normally unseen episode in the life of the UK’s tallest bird.

The pair’s behaviour suggests they’re incubating an egg out of sight in their nest. It’s the latest instalment in a dramatic breeding season that’s seen daily fights and courtship displays as cranes have paired up on the wetland reserve.

The adult cranes were released as fledglings in Somerset by the Great Crane Project, a partnership between WWT, the RSPB and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust with major funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company. The birds’ have extended their range up the Severn Vale to WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire where the public have a unique opportunity to see their breeding behaviour up close.

Visitors to WWT Slimbridge are getting unparalleled views of cranes (c) Graham Hann
Visitors to WWT Slimbridge are getting unparalleled views of cranes (c) Graham Hann

WWT Reserve Manager Dave Paynter said:

“Breeding cranes is one of the most exciting changes to Britain’s wildlife right now and it’s playing out right in front of the hides here at Slimbridge. They’re big wetland birds, standing four foot tall with long bills, and they’re social creatures so we’ve been seeing plenty of interesting interactions between them out on the reserve.

“The pair that has already nested – Monty and Chris – tried last year but sadly lost their chick at just a few days old. We’ve got our fingers crossed that they’re that little bit wiser and more experienced this year and will successfully rear the first fully-fledged crane in the west of Britain for over 400 years."

If an egg has been laid now, it will hatch in mid-May. The month-long incubation period will be tense for Monty and Chris and for the staff at Slimbridge who will be closely guarding the nest site in case it is disturbed by egg collectors.