UK CRANE POPULATION HITS RECORD HIGH
Common Cranes (RSPB Images)
Crane numbers have hit record levels after becoming extinct in the UK nearly 400 years ago. Thanks to the efforts of conservationists 64 pairs were present in 2020.
- The latest common crane survey reveals a record-breaking 64 pairs of cranes in 2020, bringing the total population to over 200 birds.
- Cranes became extinct in the UK around four hundred years ago but following the natural recolonization of a few birds and extensive conservation work, including a reintroduction programme, these amazing birds are making a return.
- Cranes are the tallest bird in the UK, standing at 4ft. They are fabled for their dances; complex displays with bows, pirouettes and bobs, which take place every year between the male and female.
These birds, the UK’s tallest at 4ft, used to be quite common but a combination of hunting and wetland decline led to their extinction in the 1600s.
In 1979, a small number of wild cranes returned to Norfolk and conservation groups have been working together to encourage more and more of these birds. They have now spread to other areas of the UK, benefiting from improved habitat such as at the RSPBs Lakenheath and Nene Washes reserves. Over half of all the cranes fledged in the UK since 1980 have fledged since 2015 – so the last five years have been incredibly productive.
In 2010, the Great Crane Project; a partnership between the RSPB, WWT and the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, and funded by Viridor Credits Environmental Company; began creating and improving existing habitat, as well as hand-rearing young birds for release on the Somerset Levels and Moors.
All the conservation effort on peatland restoration and wetland protection has yielded impressive results, with 64 pairs across the UK last year, producing 23 chicks. Nature reserves have played a vital role. At least 85% of the breeding population are found on protected sites, with a third on RSPB reserves alone. The total population is now believed to be over 200 birds – a new record.
Damon Bridge, Chair of the UK Crane Working Group said: “The return of cranes to the British landscape shows just how resilient nature can be when given the chance. If we want to see this success continue then these sites that cranes use and need must get adequate protection”.
Andrew Stanbury, RSPB Conservation Scientist said “Thanks to the dedication of individuals, the UK Crane Working Group and conservation organisations, we are delighted to see crane numbers continuing to grow. Government has already highlighted cranes as one of a number of species which have yet to receive strong protection for the areas, they make their home. If we want to see this amazing achievement repeated across the UK, Governments must take action to designate the most important sites for this iconic species as part of the UKs protected area network”.
John Blackburn, from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust said “This is a result of the improvements and expansion of important wetland sites. The Norfolk Wildlife Trust is proud that our Broadland reserves, are not only the cradle of our growing crane population, but still their favoured stronghold, and is testimony to NWT’s staffs’ commitment.”
Stephen Prowse, from the National Trust said: “This is a significant milestone for cranes in the UK. The first wild breeding pair since the reign of Henry VIII was recorded on National Trust land in the Norfolk Broads. Careful protection has allowed their spread to surrounding counties, with a significant breeding population now located in the Broads. With a focus towards more habitat creation in the future, we hope to see the fortunes of these amazing birds continue to improve”.
February 2nd marks World Wetlands Day, with the focus this year being on wetlands and water. Wetlands provide protection from floods and storms with each acre of wetland absorbing up to 1.5 million gallons of floodwater. These important places not only help regulate the climate – peatlands store twice as much carbon as forests, with saltmarshes, mangroves and seagrass beds also holding vast amounts of carbon; but also provide a home for thousands of species including cranes.
Isle of May – National Nature Reserve
The Isle of May National Nature Reserve (NNR) lies on the east coast of Scotland, in the entrance of the Firth of Forth. For its small size it has a tremendous variety of wildlife and is renowned for its rich bird life, seals and reefs. During the summer months the cliffs on the Isle of May are home to spectacular seabird colonies, and in the autumn the largest Atlantic grey seal colony in eastern Britain breeds on ‘the May’, as it is known locally. In the spring and autumn, the island is an important site for migrant birds passing to and from their breeding grounds.
It is one of over forty National Nature Reserves (NNRs) in Scotland. Scotland’s NNRS are special places for nature, where some of the best examples of Scotland’s wildlife are managed. Every NNR is carefully managed for both nature and people, giving visitors the opportunity to experience and enjoy our rich natural heritage.
The island is managed by NatureScot as a National Nature Reserve for wildlife and people.
Professor Sarah Wanless BNA Vice-president and recipient of the Peter Scott Memorial Award in 2019 has been doing research into Puffins on the Island.
Visit this link to find out about the animals on the island and how to visit. https://isleofmaynnr.wordpress.com/
Help Hedgehogs in Sussex
Hedgehogs have had a hard time lately.
These days many children have never seen a hedgehog, in fact numbers are so low that one of our favourite garden animals is now at real risk of extinction.
Let us know when you last saw a hedgehog
It takes just 30 seconds to fill in our hedgehog sightings form with the details we need. Your sightings will help us understand more about Sussex hedgehogs and how we can best help them.
Your hedgehog sightings will be kept by the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre here at Woods Mill, and we’ll email you the results once they are collated.
Photo © D. Farrar
Scotland’s Largest Conservation Charity Supports New Marine Protections
Conservation charity The National Trust for Scotland has welcomed the announcement by the Scottish Government and Marine Scotland that an additional 12 marine sites around Scotland have been given Special Protection Area (MPA) status.
The charity, which cares for significant stretches coastlines and islands such as Fair Isle, Canna and St Kilda has long advocated additional protections to ensure the wellbeing and recovery of Scotland’s sea habitats in order to sustain the marine and avian species that depend upon them and, ultimately, to mitigate against climate change.
The seas around St Kilda are one of the new areas receiving special protection status.
The National Trust for Scotland’s Head of Conservation and Policy, Stuart Brooks said:
“The National Trust for Scotland welcomes the announcement of 12 new marine Special Protected Areas (SPA) and four new Marine Protected Areas. These will help protect and conserve our marine environment and bird populations. For example, the new Seas off St Kilda SPA will strengthen protections for the marine foraging area and prey on which the millions of seabirds that St Kilda is famous for depend upon. The new MPAs will also enhance protection for species like basking sharks and Rosso’s dolphin’s, as well as protect marine geological features. However, we strongly encourage the Scottish Government needs to go further to fully protect our seas and wildlife for current and future generations. To function effectively, SPA and MPA designations must be supported by strong management plans and appropriate investment. There must also be adequate enforcement of existing restrictions in protected areas.”
“The Trust is also concerned that the proposed SPAs around Scapa Flow and the area north of the Orkney mainland have not been taken forward. We encourage the Scottish Government to work to progress these sites to protect wintering bird populations as well as the feeding grounds of bird populations in the North East. We’re acutely aware that existential threats still exist to protected areas – such as the proposals by MOWI to establish a potentially damaging large-scale salmon farm in the Sound of Canna – and we hope today’s announcement heralds a new determination to ensure such threats are minimised.”