The first birth of crane chicks in Ireland for more than 300 years has been recorded.
Sadly, one chick disappeared shortly after first being seen in May and the second chick has not been seen since late June.
Ecologists have said that cranes are elusive by nature and that there is still a chance that the second chick may have survived and fledged. It is thought more likely that a predator such as a fox may have carried off the young bird, or it died for some other reason, but the births have been praised as it shows the conditions being created for cranes are suitable.
Common cranes had set up home on a rewetted peatland in the Midlands and two previous breeding attempts in 2019 and 2020 were unsuccessful.
It can take several years for cranes to successfully fledge chicks.
The chicks hatched on Bord na Móna peatlands and their lead ecologist said that despite the potential demise of the chicks, it is good news.
“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.
“Still it shows that we are creating the right conditions in our rewetted peatlands for these magnificent creatures to thrive.
“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.”
Ecologists also believe that there may be more than one pair of cranes in the peatlands, due to reports of sightings in other areas.
“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,” said Mr McCorry.
Cranes have been extinct in Ireland since the 1700s, but they are connected to Irish culture and history.
In medieval times, cranes were the third most popular pet in Ireland.
They have played a part in Irish folklore, being linked to tales of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and featuring in the Book of Kells.
Sightings of cranes in Irish skies have increased in recent years, which ecologists say may be due to conservation works in the UK.
That work has seen numbers of the birds there rise from zero in the 1970s to over 200 today, as well as increases in its European population.
Bord na Móna has rehabilitated nearly 20,000 hectares of bogs, resulting in the return of indigenous flora and fauna to vast tracts of the Irish countryside.