IRELAND'S Bord na Móna has announced the birth of two baby crane chicks - making them the first to be born in the country in over 300 years.
The semi-state organisation has revealed that a pair of common cranes which set up home on a rewetted peatland earlier this year successfully hatched two baby chicks in May, the first recorded birth of crane chicks in Ireland in three centuries.
Pairs of common cranes usually take several years to successfully fledge chicks and two previous breeding attempts in 2019 and 2020 were ultimately unsuccessful, so there was much rejoicing when the chicks hatched.
However one chick disappeared shortly after first being seen, which is not unusual in cranes, and the second chick has not been seen since late June, suggesting it may have gone missing or been predated.
Elusive by nature, Bord na Móna ecologists believe there is still a chance that it may have survived and fledged.
It is, however, thought more likely that a predator such as a fox may have carried off the young bird, or it died for some other reason.
“We are absolutely delighted that the Cranes hatched two young this year, unfortunately, on this occasion it looks like nature took its course and the young may not have survived,” said Mark McCorry, Lead Ecologist at Bord na Móna.
“Still it shows that we are creating the right conditions in our rewetted peatlands for these magnificent creatures to thrive," he added.
"This is the third year that the Cranes have nested here and the first time they have produced chicks so there is every chance they will return next year with hopefully a more successful outcome.”
McCorry says there may be more than one pair of Cranes on the rewetted peatlands.
“We’re getting reports of sightings in other areas which lead us to believe that there may be more than one pair of Cranes on our peatlands," he confirmed.
"If that is the case, it is absolutely fantastic and shows what we can achieve when we enhance and protect our natural habitats and that Common Cranes have a real chance of re-establishing as an iconic wetland bird in Ireland”.
Though Cranes have been extinct in Ireland since the 1700s, there have been increased sightings of them in Irish skies in recent years during migration and over-wintering.
This may be due to ongoing conservation works in Britain which has seen numbers of the birds located there rise from zero in the 1970s to over 200 today, as well as increases in its European population.
The crane is deeply connected to the culture and history of Ireland.
They have been central to folklore tales such as Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the druids, St Colmcille, and the Book of Kells.
Their Gaelic name, corr, can be founded in hundreds of place names, such as the Curragh in Kildare which means ‘Crane meadow’.
They were even kept as pets, and records show they were the third most popular pet in medieval times.
Unfortunately, they were also a popular food item for people at the time, and their ease of capture by foxes and the draining of wetlands resulted in their demise some time between 1600-1700.
Bord na Móna is now a climate solutions company, using its land for renewable energy generation, carbon storage and recycling, to support key environmental objectives.
Bord na Móna has already rehabilitated nearly 20,000 hectares of these bogs, resulting in the return of indigenous flora and fauna to vast tracts of the Irish countryside.
Last year the company also announced that 33,000 hectares is to be rehabilitated as part of its Peatlands Climate Action Scheme that will operate with €108million in Government funding and €18m from Bord na Móna.
"This will also result in even greater biodiversity, health and environmental benefits, and more wetland habitat for this majestic species," they explain.