Rare common cranes breed for first time at WWT Welney Wetland Centre

PUBLISHED: 12:13 19 April 2018 | UPDATED: 12:13 19 April 2018

A crane chick shortly after hatching. Picture: Mark Hughes/WWT

A crane chick shortly after hatching. Picture: Mark Hughes/WWT

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Common cranes have bred for the first time at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust’s Welney Wetland Centre.

Cranes at Welney. Picture: Roger RawsonCranes at Welney. Picture: Roger Rawson

The rare birds arrived on March 21 and nested within sight of the reserve’s visitor centre.

At 4ft tall, the adults can easily be seen with binoculars.

The pair have been seen sharing the responsibility of brooding the eggs, swapping over every couple of hours.

The chicks are only about 6ins tall (15cm) when they hatch, and are quickly able to walk, swim and run.

Cranes have bred for the first time on the reserve. Picture: Kim TarseyCranes have bred for the first time on the reserve. Picture: Kim Tarsey

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.”

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 population in the Fens 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.

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