New Year surprise for bird-watchers at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve

PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 January 2012 | UPDATED: 12:46 08 January 2012

Some of the cranes flying over Pensthorpe Nature Reserve at the start of 2012.

Some of the cranes flying over Pensthorpe Nature Reserve at the start of 2012.


Twitchers and nature enthusiasts received a spectacular New Year treat after a flock of wild cranes were spotted above the Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.

Facts about Common cranes in Britain

-More English place names are named after the Common crane than are named after any other animal.

-Cranes were one of the first migratory birds to fly back into Britain at the start of spring, giving them special significance to people who relied heavily on subsistence farming.

-Cranes were widely hunted in Britain. Henry III “partook of crane” as part of his Christmas menu, with Sir Thomas Browne noting that cranes also appeared on the menu of the Mayor of Norwich’s Guild Day banquet in June 1663.

-In 1979 Common cranes recolonised the Norfolk Broads; where it has now established a resident population of between 25-35 birds. This population is centred on the north-eastern part of the Broads, in the Horsey / Hickling area.

The nine birds were seen flying on New Year’s Day before landing in a nearby field to the popular tourist attraction, near Fakenham.

Then on Wednesday, a group of seven cranes, expected to be from the same group, were spotted in the air above the nature reserve.

Deb Jordan, trustee of the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and co-owner of the reserve, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have seen such a large group of cranes in the wild.

“Cranes are extremely close to our hearts and, as many people are aware, we’ve worked hard to try to protect this species and the habitats they rely on by raising their profile and through our work as members of the Great Crane Project.

“The visit on Wednesday was much to the delight of our visitors as it really is a spectacle to see their huge wing spans and hear their loud calling, which was returned by Pensthorpe’s own Eurasian Cranes.”

It is expected that the wild cranes had travelled up the natural corridor of the Wensum Valley and were drawn to the reserve by Pensthorpe’s resident Eurasian Cranes.

Their calls, along with that of a wild male crane who spends much of his time at Pensthorpe, would have attracted the birds’ attention and called them over.

None of the cranes that flew over had any rings to identify them, which would indicate they were wild birds and most likely to have come from the flock more usually seen on The Broads.

Cranes are attracted to the Wensum Valley because it is an unspoilt habitat with areas of water and wet meadows which are not easily accessible by people. The valley also acts as a corridor for the birds to travel across Norfolk.

Over the past decade the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust has been working with Eurasian cranes and has a small population of wild cranes, which visit the 500-acre nature reserve.

These birds are monitored by a satellite tracking system as part of the Great Crane Project.

The project is a partnership between the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, RSPB and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, and it hopes to restore the population of wild cranes throughout Britain.

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