Birdwatch: the stately water bird that is the largest species in Europe | birds - petsitterbank

Birdwatch: the stately water bird that is the largest species in Europe | birds

The crane (Greetings Greetings) is a very large bird – the tallest species in Europe – so you might think it would be easy to find. But the RSPB reserve at West Sedgemoor is not only very large, but it is also closed to visitors, making my task that much more difficult.

Luckily, the lookout at nearby Swell Wood Preserve allows me to look out over this vast wetland. And usually after a few minutes I can pick up one or two of those stately waterfowl feeding in one of the sodden fields below.

They stand erect and proud, their feathers sticking out backwards like a Victorian lady’s flurry, they look almost human. Perhaps that is why cranes are so revered in cultures around the world.

For more than four centuries, after being driven out by wetland drainage and the hunt for medieval festivals, cranes were just an occasional visitor to Britain. But in the late 1970s they returned to the Norfolk Broads and established a small breeding population.

Cranes here in Somerset were reintroduced a decade ago and are thriving. Seeing them soar into the air while emitting their haunting, echoing calls reinforces the importance of restoring these wetlands and bringing back the birds that lived here so long ago.

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