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    Tweet of the Day - Recording the Common Crane Chick


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    Tweet of the Day - Recording the Common Crane chick

    At one time Common Cranes were abundant in British wetlands across the country but by the beginning of the 17th century they had ceased to breed in Britain - persecuted by hunters, and prey to the drainage of wetlands for agriculture. So, the Common Crane is the subject of a re-introduction project to bring them back to the West Country and in particular, the Somerset Levels and Moors.  

    One of the chicks

    The rearing of Common Crane chicks is being undertaken by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge. This is the third year of the project, which began in 2010 with the aim of releasing one hundred birds over five years. It is hoped that by 2025 there will be 20 breeding pairs on the Somerset Levels and Moors. 

    The Tweet of the Day team meet those who care for the chicks and walk the bio-secure compound twice a day for 15-20 minutes encouraging them to forage for food. Crane chicks have to put on no more than 10% of their total weight every day in the first thirty days of their lives. The growth plates at the end of their long leg bones are stimulated by walking so the birds need lots of exercise in order for their legs to grow properly. With too much food and insufficient exercise their legs can bow and collapse under them. 

    Tweet of the Day - The crane suits

    Anyone who has any contact with these birds has to de-humanise themselves by putting on a ‘crane suit’. It’s light grey in colour, the same colour as the plumage on the adult birds, with an attached cotton helmet and black visor through which to view the world as a crane. It’s hot too. Every crane project member also holds a metre long ‘puppet’ stick with a coloured plaster cast moulding of an adult crane’s head at the end of it. This model has a small spoon attached to the end of it where the food is scattered on the ground to encourage the chicks to forage. 

    Sound Recordist Gary Moore with the crane's head microphone

    We're happy to be recording their delicate sounds for Tweet of the Day listeners. Sound-recordist Gary Moore, has the excellent idea of taping a tiny microphone to the model head so he can get some very close up sound from the chicks. He also puts another microphone at ground level so he can record the general atmosphere around them. There are two calls we can distinguish, the call to attract the attention of the parent which is high pitched and insistent and says "feed me" and the soft purring "content" call which says "I'm happy". 

    As we creep mysteriously about lifting our feet higher and extending our stride as well as slowing down every particular movement, the sense of a sci-fi world fades away and turns into a magical experience. Being human doesn’t count here, humans have become invisible. Our noises, actions, language and preoccupations have given way to another, simpler, and largely silent existence. Just for a moment I sense what it feels like to be a crane and the peace of it overwhelms me.  

    Listen to Tweet of the Day - the Common Crane from Thursday 14 November

    Tweet of the Day - Full details

    Tweet of the Day - Presenters and Recordists

    See photos of all the birds featured in November (images courtesy of the RSPB)

    BBC Nature

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