May 6, 2021 11.07 am This story is over 30 months old

Sadness as two rare crane chicks die at Lincolnshire nature reserve

The nature reserve remains closed

Nature lovers were disappointed to hear two especially rare crane chicks born in Lincolnshire have died.

The chicks recently hatched at Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Willow Tree Fen nature reserve.

Cranes returned to breed in the Lincolnshire Fens for the first time in around 400 years in 2020.

They returned to Willow Tree Fen nature reserve in January and a monitoring scheme was put in place to protect the birds and watch over the breeding activities from a safe distance. However, the reserve remains closed for the time being.

After the two chicks hatched, both parents were starting to feed them and move the family further from the nest to forage for food.

Both chicks sadly died and it is believed to have happened at some point between lunchtime on Bank Holiday Monday and the morning of Tuesday, May 4.

The cause is not known, but the tragic events follows a period of very wet and cold weather over the Bank Holiday weekend. This, and a lack of available food, may have been the reason, the Trust said.

However, young cranes are very vulnerable in their first few weeks and could have fallen victim to a predator.

John Oliver, South Lincolnshire Warden at the Trust, said: “Cranes are incredibly rare in the UK and we were delighted to welcome them back to the reserve for the second year in a row.

“However, it is not unusual for them lose chicks and only about 10-20% of crane chicks actually make it to adulthood.

“Whilst the whole team are incredibly disappointed, we understand that this is not unusual in the grand scheme of things and with such long lived birds, a survival rate of one out of every five chicks is more than enough to sustain the population. We are therefore confident that this is not the end of the story for cranes in Lincolnshire.”

When the cranes arrived back from their wintering grounds in January, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust decided to close Willow Tree Fen nature reserve. It was not large enough to safely accommodate visitors and cranes during the breeding season.

Head of Reserves Dave Bromwich said: “Following the loss of the chicks, we have taken the decision to keep the reserve closed for the time being. The adults are still on site and we are hopeful that there is still time for them to make a second breeding attempt.

“Our team of staff and volunteers will continue to monitor the situation and we will let people know more as soon as we can.”