In medieval times, the giant crane was kept as a pet in Ireland and a part of its folklore. But some three hundred years ago, a combination of artificial landscaping, the hunt for protein, and a sharp incline in natural predators culminated in their disappearance, and the only cranes that could be found in breeding season were the hulking machines used in construction and those little paper mache things that I could never get the hang of. Recently, however, several of them have been seen in Ireland––in breeding season––and experts are optimistic about a return.
The first sighting was of a pair of cranes nesting in the Republic of Ireland’s midlands, on a patch of land owned by former peat (some kind of moss? I have no idea why they would be mass producing the stuff) producer Bord na Mona. The picture was tweeted out and spread like wildfire. Said the company’s lead ecologist, Mark McCorry, “While we have these birds coming to Ireland during the winter, we generally haven’t seen them in the breeding season. So last year, when they were discovered, they were the first pair that were in a nest during the breeding season. So it’s really a great indication that they look like they’re ready to re-colonize Ireland again.”
There are already signs of a potential recolonization. Last autumn, a juvenile crane was seen at an estuary in County Dublin––and that’s indicative of localized breeding. McCorry voiced that it wouldn’t be “beyond the bounds of possibility.” He is optimistic about it all.
Reported Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland, “We’re hoping that as conditions improve in Ireland perhaps we’ll see more of them come back, especially if they do breed and rear chicks. The hope would be that those chicks in future years will return and start to breed in the same areas as well and the population might build up.”