Introduction

Wild Time

Spring

Feel the beat of spring

Be dazzled by bluebells

Harken to a bittern's boom

Seek a swooping sand martin

Pen poetry among daffodils

Sway with dancing grebes

Get sent packing by a grouse

Take a ringside seat

Track down a tiger

Watch a rare sky dance

Chatter with a natterjack

Enjoy the great rush north

Look up in awe

Shine a light on newts

Eavesdrop on a nightingale

Go spotting early orchids

Follow a sat-tagged osprey

Gape at hunting hobbies

Nurse a passion for purple

Scour riverbanks for Ratty

Tip-toe among fritillaries

Summer

Hail the success of avocets

Go batty as night falls

Bewitched by a buttercup

Play the summertime blues

Thrill to damsels and dragonflies

Go after Dartford warbler

Make a splash with gannets

Stake out a badger sett

Hurrah for the king

Rejoice in Manxie's chorus

Delight in a glow worm

Fall for THE fastest bird

Be spellbound by orchids

Journey to a seabird city

Exalt at a skylark's song

Party with the puffins

Lounge with a lizard

Haunt a churring nightjar

Head seawards on safari

Discover the rare spoonbill

Join the toadlet exodus

Spot our largest butterfly

Wear a hat for terns

Hunt woodland beauties

Autumn

Admire our eager beavers

Marvel at migration

Forage for Autumn's bounty

Go nuts over squirrel nutkin

Ramble through purple

Gaze in awe at reds' rut

Wander in the wild wood

Cheer on the salmon run

Try a wild goose chase

Foray for fungi

Winter

Pay homage to the Russians

Go on a winter ghost hunt

Wonder at wintering waders

Fall in love with a seal pup

Hear Britain's tallest bird

Revel in roosting wagtails

Kiss beneath mistletoe

'Ooh' & 'aah' at murmurations

Lie in wait for an otter

Rock 'n' roll with geology

Wrap up for a raptor roost

Hear Britain’s tallest bird

Crane © Stefan Johansson

The mournful bugling of the common crane can be heard again in Britain after 400 years.

Take our word for it: waiting for cranes to come in to their roost is a chilly business. Wrap up warm, with thick socks, gloves and a hat

Standing on a chilly bank in the flatlands of Norfolk on a winter’s day, as the sun drops towards the horizon may not sound like much fun.  And then, the cranes arrive… a family group of two vast adults and their ginger-headed youngster fly low and slow over the field, bugling as they come, before dropping on the edge of a patch of reeds.  The adults throw their heads back, flap their wings at each other, their curly tail covert feathers fluffed up, and stamp their feet as they reinforce their pair bonds.  The dance of the cranes makes the cold wait worth it.

The common crane was once just that: common.  So common were they that at the banquet for the investiture of the Archbishop of York in 1465, the gathered bigwigs ate 204 roast cranes.  We can only assume they tasted good; not good news for the cranes.  Overhunting along with the draining of the great marshlands led to their disappearance as a breeding bird about 400 years ago.

In 1979 a trio of birds were blown off course from their migration across mainland Europe, and ended up in Norfolk, and there they and their descendants have stayed ever since.  From tiny acorns… thanks to careful protection of those first nesting birds and some landscape-scale habitat restoration projects, there are now thought to be around 75 cranes in Britain, with birds taking up territories at several wetlands in the east of the country, and a reintroduction project currently underway in the Somerset Levels.  For the common crane, things are looking up.

How to do it

If you can’t get to the special places listed below...there are some great film clips of common cranes in the Wildscreen Arkive.

Special spots

Your best chance of seeing and hearing common cranes is at their winter roost at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Hickling Broad reserve - head for the Stubb Mill raptor roost viewpoint. Up to 20 cranes gather here on a good night, sometimes more. Arrive an hour before dusk, and watch out for marsh harrier, hen harrier, barn owl and bittern, as well as the chance to see Chinese water deer grazing in the fields.

Cambridgeshire,  The Great Fen

Crane © Neil Aldridge

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