WAKKERSTROOM’S BIRD – GREY CROWNED CRANE
Not many of the “new” Wakkerstroomers may know that our wetland was given a high rating as an important wetland because of the number of Grey Crowned Cranes that annually nest along its length and breadth.
Cranes return to historic sites year after year and so we know that between 9 and 11 pairs nest here and probably have done for countless generations.
When I relocated to Wakkerstroom from the big J, my good friends Warwick and Michele Tarboton asked me to take on the monitoring they had been doing for years of the Crownies and in the grasslands, the Blue Cranes – which I did, little knowing that it would lead to a passionate love affair with those splendid birds.
So now 18 years down the line, the monitoring of our comic and lovable Crownies has been the longest ongoing monitoring programme – and what has it revealed? As Pat Benson who has been monitoring Vultures for 30 years says – “the longer I monitor and the more questions I ask, the less I feel I know” – and I say “hear hear” to that sentiment! Obviously there is a lot that one discovers and knows but the number of questions that will forever remain unanswered swell by the year – and unless someday cranes learn to talk – I doubt they will ever be fully and conclusively agreed upon.
Our Crownies have had up years and down years and at present, the past couple of seasons have been a bit of a worry as few chicks have fledged. We all want to know “why” but how do we find out barring sitting near a nest in the reed bed (which no self respecting crane would put up with) for 30 – 34 days x 24 hours a day so see what may take the eggs. Then once the young hatch, they are off with their parents to begin life in the tall reed beds – and they do not go back to that nest again, rather building rough “over-night” nests each evening. Thoughts go towards otters; snakes; ferrel cats; Servals – and perhaps a very young chick may be taken by a Harrier – never seen but who knows. People? Definitely a good possibility here but there it would be half to three-quarter grown chicks. Dogs? Could be but again, except for disturbance, not seen. Cattle? Not very likely but again a very small chick tangled in the grass or mud I suppose could get trampled but probably a very small chance.
What I would love to have is a cam-camera at a nest site. How this would work would also be a huge challenge and the possibility of badly disturbing the cranes is real. As one has notidea where they will make their nest, a camera could not be placed before they nest.
IF anyone sees anything that may give some valuable information to the question, please, please let me know. I am in constant contact with my colleagues and other internationally known and respected crane experts many of whom have been approached – and no one has any positive ideas.
The Wakkerstroom wetland without Grey Crowned Cranes would be unthinkable.