Bird lovers everywhere were delighted this morning to wake up to good news—not one, but two crane chicks had hatched at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire. That might not seem like a big deal...it is spring, after all, and baby birds are everywhere. But these baby cranes could be something special.
For the past 400 years, no wild born crane hatched in Western Britain has survived. The population was nearly wiped out entirely in the 1600s when the cranes were hunted and lost much of their habitat.
A few years ago the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust started the Great Crane project, which set out to reintroduce cranes to the area. Last year, the cranes at the Slimbridge center did lay an egg—which had to be guarded around the clock to protect it from Britain's unusually enthusiastic illegal egg collectors. The egg did survive incubation and hatch a chick, but the hatchling died before it left the nest.
This year, the news is much better, and the little chicks have already left the nest and gone for a swim.
You can watch a live stream of the crane family on the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust website—the chicks can just barely be seen amidst the grass, following behind their parents as they look for food.