Four adult cranes that were reared at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre (WWT Slimbridge) have made a surprise return to the site in Gloucestershire.
After being reared in 2010 and 2011, the birds were released into the wild on the Somerset levels. This was part of the Great Crane Project, where each year, staff collected wild eggs from Germany to hatch and raise them at WWT Slimbridge. The young birds are then released three months later into an undisclosed location in Somerset.
This is the third year of the project and the first time that the birds, known as Monty, Sedge, Ruby and Beatrice, have returned to Slimbridge.
Nigel Jarrett, head of conservation breeding, said: "When our staff realised that some of the adult cranes had returned, they were overcome with joy. Amy King, who looks after the baby cranes, did not believe it when she first heard, then saw, four cranes flying overhead as she walked the youngsters.
"Time will tell how long they stay here. It is natural for young adult birds to explore, so even though we are 70 miles away from the release site in Somerset, it isn't a great distance for them to fly."
The main aim of the Great Crane Project is to restore healthy populations of cranes throughout the UK. They hope to have released 100 birds by 2015.
The project is a partnership between WWT, RSPB and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, with major funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company.
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