Spring has arrived along with the pitter patter of tiny feet at WWT Welney Wetland Centre, where the common crane has bred successfully for the first time.
These scarce birds are shy and secretive during the breeding season, but to the delight of staff and visitors two chicks arrived on March 21.
The baby birds are just six inches tall (15cm) when they hatch, and are quickly able to walk, swim and run. Over the next 10 weeks both the parent birds will protect these precious chicks from predation and teach them how to find the food they need to grow.
Leigh Marshall, Centre Manager, said:
‘The area of wetlands that the cranes have chosen to nest on is less than ten years old, and was previously arable farmland. The development of this habitat was specifically for wet springs, such as the one we have experienced this year, when the Ouse Washes are storing water to protect the surrounding land and communities.
‘This most recent breeding success is adding to an increasingly impressive list of species which include the black-winged stilt and black-tailed godwit.’
Mum and dad both take an active role in the incubation process, sharing the responsibility of brooding the eggs, swapping over every couple of hours.
Hetty Grant, Warden, said:
‘The cranes have done well to protect the eggs from the cold, wet weather we have had this spring. Staff and volunteers monitored the cranes and their nest, this meant we could glean insight into some of their most secret behaviours, ensure that they weren’t disturbed, and react quickly to prevent the nest from flooding.’
In recent years crane sightings have become more regular at WWT Welney as the Fens population increases and begins to expand across the region. Up to 30 cranes gathered in a post-breeding flock last autumn, feeding on the Ouse Washes right in front of the birdwatching hides. This may mean that the family group will stay close to the wetlands at WWT Welney even after the chicks have fledged.