One of Scotland’s rarest birds has paired up with a mate born of a pioneering project which helped reintroduce Cranes to the UK.

The English Crane – known as Sherry – is the offspring of birds that were released on the Somerset Levels and Moors.

RSPB Scotland volunteers have now witnessed her and her new partner performing their high-pitched duet call at a location in Aberdeenshire, marking the first time a colour-marked bird from England has been seen in Scotland.

RSPB Scotland volunteer Amanda Biggins has been monitoring the Scottish Cranes since they were found breeding in 2012. Amanda commented: “It’s wonderful to see mixing of the UK’s Cranes to increase the genetic diversity of our small population.

"Since most of the Scottish young fledged have been produced by just one pair, it’s a pleasant surprise to welcome Sherry to Aberdeenshire. Our Cranes are migratory and we suspect that they leave the UK every autumn. Sherry’s movements suggest that they spend the winter in France. We’re hopeful that the pair find a peat bog to call home and return next year when they should be ready to begin nesting.”

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Once widespread across the UK, Cranes disappeared from our shores about 400 years ago, primarily due to habitat loss. However, a single pair – believed to have travelled here from mainland Europe – successfully bred in Norfolk in the 1980s and the species has slowly re-established itself since, including several pairs now breeding in Scotland.

The recolonisation was given a boost in 2009 when the RSPB, the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust and the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust joined forces to set up the Great Crane Project. The project brought eggs from Germany and released nearly 100 chicks in Somerset, with the introduced birds now making up almost half the total UK population.

Sherry hatched in summer 2021 to her parents Cherry and Soar, two of the original birds released as part of the Great Crane Project. She was fitted with colour-rings by RSPB and BTO volunteer Alison Morgan, which has allowed conservationists to track her movements ever since. After remaining close to home for the majority of her first two years, including a first winter with her parents, she spent several months in France and was expected to join up with other Cranes on mainland Europe.

However, it seems that at some point on her travels Sherry met up with a Scottish Crane and has now returned with him to Aberdeenshire.

Damon Bridge, Chair of the UK Crane Working Group and former Project Manager of The Great Crane Project, said: “It was always the ambition of the Great Crane Project to help secure the future for Cranes across the whole of the UK, so it’s exciting to see Sherry make quite a leap from the lowland wetlands of Somerset to the peat bogs of Aberdeenshire. We’re delighted that she has returned to the British Isles from her winter spent in the west of France and can’t wait to see what comes next for the new pair.”

2023 saw five Crane pairs attempting to breed in Scotland, the highest number on record. Between them, they successfully fledged four chicks, bringing the total number of Scottish young up to 25.

Cranes start breeding at four years old, so it’s hoped that Sherry and her partner can add to this number in future and continue the species’ remarkable recovery.