This week Brooke and Bev we tried a little experiment. They didn’t
go in the pen with the birds for roost. They wanted to see if the
young cranes would go to bed on the pond's oystershell
bar without being led to roost. They made a back up "rescue" plan
in case the birds decided to take off. Then, hidden in the blind,
costumed Brooke and Bev watched. The chicks
out onto the oyster bar and perform their nighttime preening
routine. Through the scope, Brooke could see the 'Harley
leg' pumping away as each bird tucked itself in for the
next night they tried it again. Bev observed from the blind, while
Brooke was ready to play Swamp Monster in case the birds
took off. Bev tells the rest:
was going well. The birds all had their last go at the feeders
guzzlers. They all
ambled over towards the oyster bar, and I made the mistake
of thinking we were good to go. Then exactly at sunset (6:37PM),
the little beggars took to the wing — and not just for
the pen. They flew. And flew. Those mere 6 minutes seemed
like an hour and a half.
"The last of the golden light that happens just before sunset
illuminated the flying chicks as they went past the blind. Seven
Imagine. Their beauty
took my breath away.
"Then I snapped out of my spell and realized that they really
needed to be landing back in the pen. With the loud hailer* blaring
call, the chicks came back toward the pen,
circled into the wind and 4 of the 7 made a perfect beach
side landing just off
"But #805, 812, and newly
corrupted 826 decided they weren’t quite ready for
bed and kept flying. Then they decided it would be more
fun to land
outside the pen.
I waited and waited. When they made no move toward the
pen, I costumed up and headed to the pen.
"Being new to the bad boy club, 826 trotted over to me and
followed me right into the pen. No jail for him. But #805
and 812 acted like fugitives. After much grape tossing (although
by now it was
actually so dark the chicks could not see the grapes), I
very quietly radioed for back-up.
Brooke made a record-breaking half-mile
dash to the
blind, changing into his costume on the fly. Soon he was
helping to escort
the bad boys into the pen. Soon he was helping to escort
the bad boys into the pen. 812 went with much grumbling. And
805, after seeing his cohort-mate being herded in, decided
to give himself up and followed 812 inside. Before Brooke and
I could walk out onto the oyster bar, both birds made
a bee-line for it, settled in, and
pulled up one leg. I guess
they are really not such bad boys after all!"
hailer - a hand-held loud speaker that amplifies whatever is fed into
it, whether a voice, or the mp3 player broadcasting the cranes'
Migration's Brooke and Bev are
winter monitors for the 7 young cranes in the flock's first year
using St. Marks NWR in Florida.
Bedtime drinks of water. (These are the Chass chicks, not
the St. Marks chicks.)
Photo Eva Szyszkoski, ICF