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Wild Life Leaflet
Vipers Bugloss
Egyptian geese
Pine Martin
Colney Nature Watch
A series of articles on the wild life in London Colney

I was reading a fine ornithological guide which told me the Common Crane was a rare vagrant in Britain. This meant - if you saw one, it would be alone, and had probably been blown here by strong winds, so the bird was not a willing visitor! The same book made similar remarks about the Little Egret. However, on a recent trip to Cornwall I saw Little Egrets in two different places.
The book was published in 1987, and things change. The weather is warming up. Farmers no longer get planning permission to drain marshes and extend their farms. Established reservoirs and disused gravel pits are made friendly to wild life. The area round Pensthorpe Lake in Norfolk is being prepared for the reintroduction of cranes.
Cranes are large grey birds with black wings. They have a red cap atop their heads and fly with their necks outstretched. As they fly, they let out a shrill, bugle like cry which carries for miles. They sometimes fly in a line, but more often in a “V” formation, which cuts down their aerodynamic drag, and helps them fly further for a given food intake.
Summer time, cranes like to live in swampland, preferably in an area interspersed with small trees. Cranes eat grasses, seeds and leaves, but like to vary their diet with small fish, frogs and small birds and mammals. When winter comes they like to move to large, shallow lakes, which are interspersed with low islands, and surrounded by flat, open fields. Each winter, thousands of them fly to Lac du Der in France and Horlobagy Lake in Hungary.
When spring comes, cranes look for a mate. Before the mating act takes place, there is an elaborate nuptial dance. Cranes seek low mounds in boggy areas on which they build their nests. They lay a couple of yellowish green eggs which are flecked with russet splodges.
Worldwide there are fourteen different species of crane. In southern Africa lives the Crested Crane, which lacks the red cap of the common crane. Instead it has a plume of yellow feathers atop its head. The Crested Crane is Zambia’s national bird, and several times the Zambian post office has issued stamps portraying this bird. I saw some Crested Cranes in a Norfolk zoo. I asked the keeper the price of these birds, and he told me that to replace each bird would cost £3000.
Afficionados of art know that cranes are common in Japanese and Chinese art, and many will have heard the story of the Japanese schoolgirl who made hundreds of origami cranes as she lay dying after the Nagasaki bomb.
An ever warming climate, and a more enlightened attitude to the use of wetlands mean that more species that gave up living here will return. I look forward to the time when the crane is again a common sight in Britain.