Plans to re-introduce a species of rare bird from Germany to the UK finally got off the ground over the weekend – after the project was stalled by the volcanic ash crisis.
Eight common crane chicks hatched on Saturday at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire – the first successful ”herd” of the ”Great Crane Project”.
The eggs, which were meant to arrive by plane in the UK early last week, had to be driven in an emergency mission for 17 hours from a wetlands centre just north of Berlin on Friday because of the flight ban.
And they made it just in time – the eggs hatched only hours after their arrival at Slimbridge and the chicks are ”doing well.”
Head of Conservation Breeding for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), Nigel Jarrett headed the road trip to get the precious cargo back to the UK just in time.
He said: ”We knew we would be cutting it fine, but we didn’t know quite how close it was.
”It really was a privilege to bring back such an iconic bird to Britain, they are back where they belong almost like a long-lost friend.
”This is the start of a new generation of British birds and I can’t wait to see these newly hatched cranes gracing our skies this autumn.”
Nigel drove 18 of the carefully collected eggs from Germany in portable incubators with fellow project worker Roland Digby.
More of the eggs are expected to hatch over the next few days.
The chicks will then go to ”crane school” where they will be taught by handlers disguised as cranes how to forage for food, swim, socialise and protect themselves from predators.
The birds will then be transferred to a temporary release enclosure on the Somerset Levels and Moors later this summer before they are released into the wild.
The project is run in partnership by the WWT, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust.