Since the early 2000s, each time we asked residents of Shashe village about the direction from which Grey Crowned Crane flocks came from every morning, they would point towards the two dams on the Shashe River. They believed the flocks had a special place where they spent the night. They were absolutely right because during my last visit to Driefontein in July 2010 we identified exact location of the roost site. Upon checking the site this year, there were no cranes in sight. However, on the 13th of July, as we were driving back to our camp site we observed a large flock of Grey Crowned Cranes landing a few metres from the shore of the Old Driefontein Dam, about 5km from where we saw them last year. The time was 5:47pm and for more than 40 minutes we waited patiently so that we could verify whether it was indeed a roost site. Indeed it was! Thirty more Grey Crowned Cranes arrived a while later and as if to put us into the celebratory mood for discovering their roost site, they started performing the world-famous “crane dance”.
Just when everyone thought Wattled Cranes had permanently abandoned Widgeon Pan because of incessant human disturbance and trampling of the wetland by livestock, July the 17th 2011 saw us make an interesting and encouraging discovery. At 5:39pm, we unexpectedly sighted 20 Wattled Cranes preparing to roost at the site. There had been no reports of either Grey Crowned Cranes or Wattled Cranes roosting there. Prior to the year 2000, Widgeon Pan was known to be a site where one would almost always be assured of seeing at least a Wattled Crane breeding pair but in recent years sightings became rarer. During the day, Widgeon Pan is usually a hive of activity with cattle feeding on lush green grass and villagers walking on the paths that criss-cross the area. In recent years, Wattled Cranes have generally avoided the site, a phenomenon that has largely been attributed to the cranes’ intolerance for human presence when they are foraging. On that day, we observed the flock from a distance and we could easily tell that the cranes felt safe as they were preening themselves gracefully. It was heartening to note that Wattled Cranes now roost at Widgeon Pan as they know that the site is tranquil at night.