Steven Segang (ACCP Field Officer) and I had every reason to
celebrate on the 29th of September 2011. We discovered a new Blue Crane
breeding site and also confirmed that the pair that lost its eggs last season
due to flooding had two eggs. Those that are familiar with the landscape and
the distribution of Blue Cranes in the Barberspan-Sannieshof area know that
searching for a Blue Crane nest is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Blue Cranes in that area are known to be very mobile and sparsely distributed.
Locating them is therefore a tall order. This, however, did not deter us from
combing the farms near the towns of Sannieshof, Schweizer-Reneke, Amalia and
Delareyville despite the searing heat.
As usual, success came when we had lost hope of finding any
cranes. It so happened that Steven had previously been informed by farmworkers
from Kipdrift Farm that Blue Cranes frequented one section of the farm covered
with green grass next to a livestock watering point. Instinctively, we decided
to check the site and to get a better view of the landscape, Steven had to
climb up a windmill supporting structure. This proved to be a wise decision as
from that vantage position, he managed to spot a pair of Blue Cranes foraging
in a grassland close to what appeared to be a quarry. We could tell from the
behaviour that the pair had a nest because on approaching them, they did not
walk or fly away from us as they would do if they were not breeding. Walking
stealthily to avoid trampling the eggs, we searched for the location of the
exact location of the nest. Despite the fact that the single egg on the nest
was camouflaged by rocks, Steven managed to spot it effortlessly. After taking
few pictures of the nest’s environs and recording the GPS coordinates, we left
so that the cranes could come back and incubate their egg.
We then decided to drive to Mr Buks Du Toit’s Farm, where a Blue Crane pair
lost two eggs when its nest was submerged by floodwaters last season. While we
were still excited about discovering the first nest, we spotted a crane sitting
at the exact spot where the pair had nested last year. We knew straightaway
that it was incubating. The nest was located on an island at the centre of a
pond used for livestock watering during the dry season. The crane on the nest
seemed unperturbed despite being surrounded by a host of waterbirds that
included Spur-winged Geese, Blacksmith Lapwings and different species of ducks.
When the crane stood up, we noted that there were two eggs on the nest. We took
some pictures and recorded information that we later entered into standard
field datasheets. As we drove back to Barberspan Bird Sanctuary that evening,
Steven was visibly happy and confident that he would find more breeding sites
before the onset of the rainy season.
We hope that there will be many breeding success stories this season.