The first wild storks to hatch in the UK since the Middle Ages have emerged.
Rangers at Knepp Estate near Horsham waited with baited breath after nine eggs were discovered in two nests in March.
Finally last week one happy white stork couple welcomed its chicks into the world, though rangers do not yet know how many of the five eggs have hatched. “These are early days for the chicks and we will be monitoring them closely, but we have great hopes for them,” said Durrell Wildlife Trust officer Lucy Groves.
“This is just one step towards establishing this species in the South of England.
“It may be a small step, but it is an exciting one.”
The stork couple had fostered three eggs last year but none of them hatched.
In European folklore, the stork is said to be responsible for bringing babies to new parents. On this occasion though, the White Stork Project is delighted to announce that wild storks at the Knepp project in West Sussex have had their very own babies. In early April it was confirmed that there were five eggs in the nest and in the following weeks the birds were regularly observed taking great care to incubate the eggs. The nest is in a large oak tree, making viewing difficult but despite this, in the last week, the Project Officer watched as eggshell was removed from the nest and the parents were seen regurgitating food for the chicks to eat. More recently a few lucky people have had glimpses of the chicks.
It is believed that the parents are the same pair that attempted to nest at Knepp last year, when the eggs failed to hatch. The female is a ringed bird from the project, which came to Knepp in 2016 from Poland. The male, however, has no identifying ring, so this is likely to be one of the twenty or so vagrant storks which visit the UK each year.