Different class of crane

CRANES are not an unusual sight for birdwatchers on Trimley nature reserve.There's the very striking quayside gantry crane, one of the biggest of its type in Europe, and which tend to stay very close to the water's edge.

CRANES are not an unusual sight for birdwatchers on Trimley nature reserve.

There's the very striking quayside gantry crane, one of the biggest of its type in Europe, and which tend to stay very close to the water's edge.

Observers have noticed that these blue giants are always far more active when there is shipping around.

Even more prevalent is the rubber tyred gantry crane, a smaller specimen and which tends to stay a little way inland and can be seen strutting around the container storage parks of nearby Felixstowe port.

But this week the twitchers have had had another crane to look at - the common crane, which despite its name, is actually quite uncommon.

The bird - yes, it's a bird, unlike its like-named neighbours at Britain's biggest container terminal - has dropped in at the 250-acre Trimley Marshes nature reserve after being blown off course.

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Experts at the reserve on the banks of the River Orwell say the common crane was heading for its usual breeding site in Siberia and is now taking a breather to rest and refuel.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserve warden Mick Wright said: "This bird is large - bigger than a heron - and grey with a distinctive flight.

"An uncommon long distance migrant for the UK, common crane winter in Spain and North Africa and travel north to breed.

"This individual must have been blown off course and is currently replenishing its reserves before continuing its trek to breeding grounds in Siberia.

"They are strong birds and good fliers so I think the chances of it reaching its desired destination will be good."

Wardens do not know how long the bird will stay at the reserve before continuing on its northward journey, but already it is causing a lot of interest.

Despite the appalling weather of the past two days, ornithologists have been trekking down to the reserve to see the crane.

Mr Wright said: "It's been with us three days and there has been quite a lot of interest.

"The bird has been feeding on the field of oilseed rape on the hill and then flying back to the reserve and can be seen quite clearly from our viewing platform."

The man-made reserve -created as a compensatory measure to offset the expansion of the port - is a feeding and breeding point for many migrating birds, and has been extremely successful in recent years.

Its hides offer excellent views across its reed beds and lagoons and a large new one was added last spring.

Factfile:

n The common crane is a huge, graceful, mainly grey bird with long legs, a long neck and drooping, curved tail feathers.

n Small numbers - around 40 birds - pass through Britain in spring and autumn, and there is a tiny breeding population in eastern England but its location is a closely-guarded secret.

n Numbers in Europe have declined over the last 300 years because of disturbance, shooting and drainage.

n The crane's wingspan can be up to 245 centimetres and they weigh up to seven kilogrammes.

n The birds eat seeds, crops, insects, snails and worms.

n Forest clearings, bogs and other wetlands, fields and meadows with ponds are its usual breeding grounds and it overwinters on open arable land or grassland with scattered trees.

Source: www.rspb.co.uk

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