A day in the life of a craniac

Getting back into the field for cranes after the easing of lockdown

Bradley Gibbons, Highlands Grassland Field Officer, EWT African Crane Conservation Programme

In the first week of June, I was able to return to the field following the easing of the national lockdown restrictions and it was a priority to drive some of the fixed monitoring routes that are driven every two months. These routes give us an understanding of the crane population in two regions of Mpumalanga and one in the north-eastern Free State. I first drove a fixed route near Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga, and I was very excited to see the a group of cranes for the first time after a period of two months! I really do fit the description of a Craniac – that is a name given to a person with a passion for cranes. The first group had eight Blue Cranes in the small flock and thereafter two Grey Crowned Cranes were recorded and were in fact dancing on the edge of a dam towards the end of the route.

While driving the Free State routes, the numbers of Blue Cranes were typical for this time of the year, with some pairs still in their territories and small flocks moving around together. The first Blue Crane pairs were seen on either side of the road, followed by a flock of 10 Blue Cranes and 10 Grey Crowned Cranes during the second Free State route. Towards the end of this route, nine Blue Cranes were seen flying towards a dam and with it being later in the afternoon, this suggests that this dam is probably a roost site for them. Blue Cranes roost in dams at night and it’s also a common occurrence to see them in the late afternoon moving closer to dams.

When I saw three Blue Cranes flying over towards the end of the first route in Wakkerstroom, I realised that it was just like a normal day for them. Farming practices in these grasslands didn’t come to a halt, therefore there were no notable differences observed compared to when the route is driven under normal circumstances, unlike towns that look completely different during lockdown. Therefore, it’s business as usual on the farms and of course for the cranes too, however it was certainly a good experience for me to be back in the field to monitor them!