Lisa G Saw
Click on any image to see full version, or click on first one and use the arror keys to go through the slide show
The White Stork Project has been on-going over the last few years at the Knepp Estate, West Sussex. It's a reintroduction programme in the UK following the success of similar projects in other parts of Europe. This summer, the first pair of storks, one from the project and a migrant visiting the UK, have successfully raised three young chicks, ready to fledge (as seen on Springwatch). It's the first time in 600 years that this has happened here. The last known recordings date back to Edinburgh in 1416!
This year Knepp became my second home, as I spent so much time there, watching as the story unfolded. It's the numerous visits and being patient that has allowed to see such a variety of moments and encounters, some of which were surprisingly close, so I can now share the photos with you. The last few below were taken very early one morning when I was driving to the estate and happened to see the wing flapping of a stork just by the side of the road. It was perched on a dead tree, not very high up. I was able to pull over and park off the road and very, very slowly I walked along to photograph it. For about 10 glorious minutes it was just myself and the stork. That will be the encounter I remember the most.
Hearing the sound of the storks clicking their beaks across the field is quite amazing, as the monogamous pair reaffirm their bond. Both adults will take on the responsibility of feeding their young chicks as they grow and develop until they're ready to fledge and feed themselves on the ground. When it's nearly time, there's plenty of wing flapping and jumping up and down on the nest, so they can build up the strength in their wings and take that first daring flight from the nest. That doesn't mean they have the strength to fly back up to safety if predators lurk in the fields, so fledging is not the end of the story, but it's a great start and I hope these three young storks get to migrate to West Africa with the rest of the adults, where they'll stay until they're ready to come back to Knepp, in about 4 years, to have their own young.
I didn't get to witness the first stork fledging. In the video (click on link), I've only recorded its second flight from the nest. However, I did get to see both the second and third storks fledging, which was such a privilege. They didn't give us much warning and just went! You can tell them apart from the adults, whose bills are a far brighter red than the juveniles.
White Storks Video