Common Cranes at Forvie

Ron Macdonald, local photographer, birder and former SNH staff member writes about the increasing sightings of Common Cranes on Forvie NNR. All the excellent photographs are his and taken at Forvie.

Common Cranes have been regularly seen on the Reserve over the summer, chiefly in the area between the Snub and Waulkmill on the Ythan estuary.  Up to 11 birds have been seen in August but most often it’s a party of three, two adults and a sub adult, that are present.

Keen to know more about how many birds there are and their movements,  we asked Amanda Biggins, formerly the RSPB’s Assistant Conservation Officer for the East of Scotland and Hywel Maggs, Senior Conservation Officer for the East of Scotland.  The RSPB East Office has been monitoring breeding cranes since they first successfully recolonised the North East, successfully fledging a chick in 2013.

Here is what they told us. In 2019 there was a minimum summering population of 17 breeding and non-breeding birds. This includes 2 confirmed breeding pairs, one possible breeding pair and 2 apparently non-breeding pairs. Each of these pairs involve birds of a breeding age (>3 years old). Many of the other sightings are of birds that show signs of immaturity or appear to be unpaired. During periods of the summer, some of these birds have joined up as a flock which probably accounts for the August observation of 11 birds, but for most of the summer, they have been present as smaller groups or pairs. These larger counts do not include the confirmed breeding birds, as they remain on/around their breeding sites through the summer until they leave around about now.  Non breeding birds will continue to be seen in the area through October, feeding on the stubble grain and occasionally visiting the estuary to bathe. So keep a weather eye  open for them and please report any sighting to the RSPB at this email address esro@rspb.org.uk. Also included is a more comprehensive blog that Amanda wrote in 2018 https://community.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/b/scotland/posts/crane-spotting

Our thanks to Hewel Maggs and Amanda Biggins for providing the information.

Common crane (a sub adult) chasing mallards at the Snub!