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The Cranes of Lakenheath Fen is the title of a paper by Norman Sills in British Wildlife, June 2017. The story starts with the cranes' arrival at this newly created RSPB nature reserve in 2007. That was during a UK-wide influx, with two pairs on territory here then and every year since. Choice of nest area, incubation and foraging areas are described. A section on management stresses the risk of disturbance for this sensitive species and the value of predator control.

Signed copies of The Norfolk Cranes' Story: copies signed by the late John Buxton as well as Chris Durdin have re-surfaced - we'd previously run out - from stock returned by Subbuteo, who have taken the book off sale. Offers are invited (to Chris). The book is presently on sale directly, online via NHBS and WildSounds, and in Jarrolds (Norwich) and Norfolk Wildlife Trust shops. See buy the book for more information.

Record number of cranes in the UK: 2016 is the best year ever for cranes (well, at least for several centuries) with 48 pairs and 160 birds, and 14 chicks were fledged. News story in full on Birdguides here. "The population is now roughly half from the Great Crane Project's reintroductions and half from the natural re-colonisation that has been occurring in the east of England for the last 30 years." November 2016.

Hickling nature reserve appeal: Norfolk Wildlife Trust today (2 November 2016) launched a £1 million appeal to buy the freehold of Hickling nature reserve. Hickling is, of course, a regular site for cranes - they've bred there since 2003 - plus so much more. More here.

Heading south: The annual autumn sight of flocks of cranes moving through the Dordogne, France, started on 5 October, reports Keith Parker from the Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays base at Castang ... and it was all over by 7 October. They hadn't reached Extremadura in time for the Honeyguide group there in early October, but I don't think we can blame French air traffic control this time ...

Common crane fledges in Wales after a four-century absence

The good news is that cranes nested on the Gwent Levels, and come from the reintroduced birds of the Great Crane Project based in Somerset. More here. The bad news is that the project's "best breeding female" has been found shot dead on the Somerset Levels. Details here. October 2016.

Breeding success at RSPB Lakenheath Fen

For the second year running, two pairs of cranes have successfully raised three crane chicks between at the RSPB's Lakenheath Fen nature reserve on the Suffolk/Norfolk border. The RSPB is highlighting that this occurred close to the railway line that runs alongside the reserve. More here.
August 2016

The Norfolk cranes' story on BBC Countryfile

The BBC Countryfile team was in the Broads on 28 and 29 January, and the programme they filmed featured the Norfolk Cranes' Story as well as other stories from Hickling and Berney Marshes. It was broadcast on 14 February 2016 and repeated on BBC2 on 21/22 February. It's on YouTube here. Photos from the day of filming here on Facebook. Read the story behind the filming in this PDF here.

blue crane

Blue crane in South Africa's Southwest Cape, enjoyed by Chris Durdin and a group in October 2015.

More photos from SA on Facebook here.

 

Photo by Geoff Crane
. . . no, I'm not making it up.

Cranes fledge in Somerset ...

Young cranes have taken the wing in western England for the first time in four centuries. One young was raised at WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire and two on the Somerset Levels. These are birds from the successful 'Great Crane Project' reintroduction scheme. Source: WWT (more here), August 2015.

... and the Broads, 2015

In the Broads, nine pairs fledged four young in 2015, with 1-3 other pairs possibly breedings.

Three cranes fledge at RSPB Lakenheath Fen

The RSPB nature reserve on the Suffolk-Norfolk border is celebrating its best year for cranes. Three young reached the flying stage during July 2015, when they become fairly safe from being lost to predators. One pair fledged two young and a second pair one. The success is all the more remarkable as it's a wetland created from former arable land, now in its 20th year. Source: RSPB (more here), July 2015.

139,000 cranes in Extremadura

The results of the January 2015 Extremadura crane census are now compiled: a new record with a total of 139,101 birds counted.
Source: Martin Kelsey in Extremadura.

Cranes in Gallocanta

This picture is of cranes flying to roost in Gallocanta, Aragón in Spain, and was taken on 24 January 2014 by Pau Lucio, Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays leader in La Mancha. Pau says: "The number of cranes was between 17,000 and 18,000. Apparently there are more cranes than in previous weeks as a result of cold weather in France. Nevertheless, that is nothing compared with the 48,663 cranes than wintered last year in Gallocanta (a record); a hailstorm damaged many of the crops so there was a lot of food for them."

This comes shortly before a Honeyguide group goes to crane country in Extremadura, where last winter (2013/14) there was also a record count of 140,000 cranes (see story below). This is all linked to the steady growth in crane numbers and their westward spread as a breeding bird, recolonising parts of their former range, including the UK.

Breeding season 2014

It was a good season for cranes in the Broads: final figures were 9 pairs raised 8 young, plus two probable and one possible breeding pairs, plus a further two non-breeding pairs.

The overall total for the UK was 21-26 pairs with 11 young fledged. Four of these pairs were from the Great Crane Project reintroduction scheme in SW England. Source: Rare breeding birds in the United Kingdom in 2014 in British Birds, September 2016.

Horsey cranes 2011 — 2013

The Norfolk Cranes’ Story book tells the Horsey cranes’ story until 2010. Click here to read what happened at Horsey from 2011 to 2013. This includes a story from the early days that has come to light since the book was published.

Record count of cranes in France

Co-ordinated counts at le lac du Der-Chantecoq recorded 84,100 cranes on 27 October 2013. That's a record for the area, a regular stop-off for migrants on their way towards SW France and Spain. Normally between 10,000 and 20,000 winter in this area, too. Last winter there were more than 40,000 — another record. A mild winter, unfrozen soil and lack of snow meant fewer needed to go farther south — making the record count of cranes in Extremadura (news item below) all the more remarkable.
Source: LPO's L'OISEAU magazine no 114, spring 2014.

130,000 cranes in Extremadura

In March 2014, the group from Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays met Marcelino Cardalliaguet from SEO/BirdLife in Extremadura. Marcelino told us that last winter's co-ordinated count of cranes in Extremadura found a record number — 140,000* birds in the winter of 2013/14, roughly three-quarters of the cranes in western Europe. His view was that the increase was partly real, partly from an improved census. * The 'official' figure released later was 128,821.

cranes on maize stubble

it's all a reminder that crane numbers are growing and their range is moving westwards, leading to the re-colonisation of many parts of their former range, including the UK. (Photo: Nick Upton)

February 2014: more than 100 cranes in the UK

Counts coordinated by the UK Crane Working Group in February 2014 found 31 cranes in the Broads and 21 in the Fens. In addition to these in East Anglia, there were four elsewhere in the UK. Add in 64 birds in the Somerset area - one a wild bird with 63 released by the Great Crane Project - and that's a minimum of 120 cranes in the UK, plus two in Ireland. The East Anglia count is slightly up on 51 in November 2013.

John Buxton 1927-2014.

John died peacefully at Horsey on 11 January 2014, surrounded by all his family, aged 86.

"Adored husband of Bridget and much-loved by all his children and grandchildren."

Eastern Daily Press obituary here.

Some 500 people celebrated John's life at Winterton-on-Sea church on 24 January.

Obituary by Chris Durdin here, published in British Birds, May 2014.

 

John Buxton (Natural England)

John Buxton

Cranes nest successfully in Scotland

One young crane was raised at an undisclosed site in Scotland in both 2012 and 2013, says the RSPB — the first time since the Middle Ages. More here. September 2013

Cranes nest near Slimbridge

Two of the re-introduced birds in the Somerset Levels & Moors have made a nest. Will eggs be laid, or are they too young? More on the Great Crane Project website or on bbc.co.uk. April 2013

100 + cranes in the UK

A co-ordinated count of cranes on 18 November 2012 found a minimum of 63 birds in the Broads and Fens, plus 52 released birds in Somerset/Gloucestershire.

Results from the national count on 12 February 2013 were a minimum of 53 birds, mainly in eastern England, though five were in the republic of Ireland. (Source: UK Crane Working Group.) Breeding numbers in 2012 — see right.

Record crane count in Extremadura

Co-ordinated roost counts in Extremadura in late December 2012 recorded 110,000 cranes. The region is a key wintering area for cranes, in the Spanish dehesa (wood pasture) and rice fields, and this count shows that numbers continue to rise.

Crane film in Woodbridge, 25 November.

Born to Fly (see below, or Cranes on film), is part of an 'RSPB Gala Film Evening run by the RSPB Woodbridge Local Group on Sunday 25 November.

Venue: The Riverside Theatre, Woodbridge. Doors open 3pm. Cost: adults £6, under 16 years £3.

Chris Durdin from The Norfolk Cranes' Story will be there, with books for sale.

Return of the cranes to Somerset

There's a new 30 minute film — view it here — on the reintroduction project in Somerset. The film is produced by Nick Upton, who wrote part three of The Norfolk Cranes' Story. The natural recolonisation of the Broads some three decades earlier features for about a minute in the film, including some of John Buxton's film archive of the early days. September 2012

Habitats for Common Cranes - British Wildlife paper

The August 2012 British Wildlife leads on this paper by RSPB researcher Andrew Stanbury and Norman Sills, site manager at RSPB Lakenheath Fen nature reserve until his retirement in 2011 (though he's as busy as ever). Read or download the paper here.

The Changing Status of Common Cranes in the UK was published in the August 2011 edition of British Birds. More information at the bottom of the right hand column.

Born to Fly - RSPB crane film by Nick Upton

If you've enjoyed the book you'll love the film. Part three of the book is Cranes in Europe, where Nick Upton tells the story of cranes from Scandinavia to Spain, weaved into his film-making. 'Born to Fly' is the result, and it's very good. More information, including how to order, on the RSPB's website.

Posted 19 December 2011

cranes crane
Cranes in Extremadura by Steve Fletcher. Find out here how the Honeyguide group fared for cranes in Extremadura in February 2012.

2011 update - a record year

There were about 16 pairs of cranes in England in 2011, according to figures collated by the UK Crane Working Group in November 2011, though information gathering is still under way. This is the highest number since their first nesting attempt at Horsey in 1981 after a gap of some 400 years.

Half of these nesting pairs were in the Broads, with the others in the Fens, Yorkshire and elsewhere. Five or six young were fledged. Several other birds spent the summer but were not known to have attempted to nest.

At Horsey, there were three pairs. The easiest pair to observe at Horsey had a "lazy" male, according to John Buxton, though reached the chick stage. There were probably two pairs out of sight in the fen, and a fledged, juvenile crane that appeared on the adjacent marshes at the National Trust's Heigham Holmes is though to have come from here.

Total numbers of cranes in the British Isles are much higher than the figure for nesting pairs might at first suggest. There are non-breeding birds, number uncertain but in low double figures; 34 birds in Somerset released as part of The Great Crane Project; and there's been an influx of migrant cranes this autumn, notably into Cornwall/Devon and the Republic of Ireland.

East Anglian Book Awards

The Norfolk Cranes' Story was shortlisted, though not a winner, for this year's Eastern Daily Press / Jarrold East Anglian Book Awards. The winner in the category 'Places and Nature: for books about the nature or landscape of East Anglia', announced at an event on 3 November 2011, was This Luminous Coast by Jules Pretty. But it was fun to be involved and nominated, and all part of the learning curve about the world of books. More here.

Let's Talk magazine,
November 2011

The book features in 'Roy's Reads' (extract, right).
Roy Futter of Jarrold takes a look at what's on the local book shelves.

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See praise by Richard Mabey in BBC Wildlife magazine on our reviews page.

Top of Jarrold chart

The Norfolk Cranes' Story was top in the Jarrold's list of local best sellers list in the Eastern Daily Press 24 September 2011 (having been no. 5 the previous week). That was a one-off, helped by a Jarrold customer evening at which John was signing books, but a nice moment.

John and Chris would like to say thank you to Jarrolds for their support and encouragement of the book. It remains an excellent place to buy it: signed copies are in stock. April 2013

Norfolk media launch

The Eastern Daily Press's Weekend paper carried a double page spread about the book on 13 August 2011, by EDP Agricultural Editor Michael Pollitt. BBC Radio Norfolk - see right. The big EDP piece is too big to show here, but here's an extract with 'strange observations': two from the book, one not.

Eastern Daily Press 13 August 2011

Crane blogs

Heading north-east - a blog by Martin Kelsey in Extremadura, Spain (March 2017), including tracking a crane from Spain to Hungary.

'Cranes and Hickling Broad' - a Norfolk Wildlife Trust blog by Chris Durdin (November 2016).

Talks on cranes

Up and coming talks on The Norfolk Cranes' Story:

20 September 2017: Ipswich Suffolk Wildlife Trust group.

1 November, 2:30: Friends of Norwich Cathedral.

7 September 2018: Lowestoft & District Local RSPB Group.

Half of the proceeds from book sales at three talks in November 2016 went to NWT's Hickling appeal. Result: donation of £200 made on 1 December 2016. NWT thank-you letter here.

Cranes on BBC Countryfile

Ellie Harrison on BBC Countryfile, February 2016, introduces the Norfolk Cranes' Story. Click on the picture to see this on YouTube.


Crane on Amber List

Cranes remain on the 'amber list' in the latest 'Birds of Conservation Concern'. Published in British Birds, December 2015, this is the fourth review of the status of birds in the UK.

Not surprisingly, crane is noted for both breeding and non-breeding rarity in the amber-list criteria, namely fewer than 300 pairs breeding and 900 non-breeding individuals.


Wild and captive-bred cranes mix

For a long time there has been a clear distinction between the two centres for cranes in the UK. East Anglian cranes are a natural recolonisation; Somerset area birds are a reintroduction.

That distinction is becoming blurred in the Fens. One of the Fens pairs for several years has included an escapee from Pensthorpe Norfolk: the only East Anglian crane to now (2015) to have a colour ring.

Now there's a second mixed paid. In 'Finding Love in the Fens' you can read about a bird from the Great Crane Project paired with a wild bird in the Fens.

Cranes in the Broads remain all wild birds. Oct 2015


Final graduates from 'crane school'

Sixteen young cranes are the fifth and final class of young cranes to leave the 'crane school' at the Great Crane Project in Somerset. More here. August 2014

Crane webcam at Slimbridge

There's a camera on a nest at WWT Slimbridge where a pair from the Great Crane Project - the crane reintroduction project in Somerset - can be seen. View them here. May 2014


Crane poo study

UK Crane Working Group members met vet Rachel Stanyer, who is studying parasites in captive and wild cranes. We then went out and found some crane poo for analysis!

crane poo

Above: crane poo in the Broads - the 50p shows it's big. Late April 2014


2013: four pairs at Horsey

Three of four pairs at Horsey in 2013 failed to fledge young. The fourth raised one young, having walked as a family party off the Horsey Estate.

Two pairs at RSPB Lakenheath Fen produced no young.


Bumper breeding season in 2012

2012 was an excellent cranes' breeding season in the UK. Several pairs produced young, in the Broads and beyond, including sets of twins successfully fledged.

That's true for Horsey. When I visited John Buxton on 14 November 2012 (writes Chris Durdin) there was a family of four, including two juveniles, visible from the coast road, not far from Horsey Mill.

Final figures were:
total number of pairs: 22
minimum no. of breeding pairs: 14
max no. of breeding pairs: 18
minimum no of young fledged: 13

Source: UK Crane Working Group


Birds magazine, spring 2012, letters page.

Birds magazine letters page

John Buxton with Ray Mears

John featured on Wild Britain with Ray Mears, in Broadland. It was on Friday 02 December 2011 at 8pm, ITV1.

Sandhill crane in Suffolk (and elsewhere)

This was on Anglia TV (filmed 3 October 2011), with interview by Ian Barthorpe from the RSPB and Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays; Ian's RSPB blog here.

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About the book on the Hoopoe, the blog by NHBS here. I think of NHBS as natural history books: they prefer "Everything for wildlife, science and the environment". Published 1st September 2011.

book signing at the Birdfair

Book signing with WildSounds at the Birdfair (Chris Gibson)

Book signings have come and gone, as below, plus several visits to local societies. We are open to other invitations/ideas.

· 22-23 November 2011: Barnham, Broom country club, charity event.

·Sunday 23rd October: RSPB Titchwell Marsh nature reserve shop, 1 - 4 pm.

· Friday 19th August: The British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water on the WildSounds stand - pictured above.

· Tuesday 13th September: Jarrold's Department Store customer evening, Norwich.

We are happy to come to local societies with a supply of books for sale/signing - please contact us.

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In Extremadura, the winter cranes have arrived. Martin Kelsey writes: "Autumn is marked by the arrival of the common cranes, which in their own way transform the landscape, or rather soundscape, with their gorgeous and evocative trumpeting an almost constant sound whenever one is close to the their feeding and roosting areas." More in Martin's blog or come with us to see them next February.

Posted 2 November 2011

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BBC Radio Norfolk

John Buxton (right) with BBC Radio Norfolk's Matthew Gudgin on Monday 15 August. John and Chris this time, then Chris again on 22 August.

Black-bustled crane (Nick Upton)

Paper on cranes in British Birds

The Changing Status of Common Cranes in the UK was published in the August 2011 edition of the respected journal British Birds (more here). The paper is by the RSPB's Andrew Stanbury and the UK Crane Working Group.

In a way it's a companion publication to The Norfolk Cranes' Story book. The Horsey data set is a key part of the paper's analysis; Andrew and Chris exchanged drafts as each publication was in preparation and collaborated to check and agree information.

The 'BB' paper has five graphs and number-crunching on population trends and breeding productivity, in particular covering cranes away from as well as at Horsey.

The book tells the Horsey story, of course, including the challenges of protecting the cranes, but also looks at cranes' behaviour and much more. The paper is summarised here (on BB's website) or can be read or downloaded here.

Naturally, we think both book and paper are essential reading!

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The book is in various shops: more here.