Class of 2008 in Florida
Adapted from Bev Paulan's O.M. Field Journal Entry
March 6, 2009
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St. Marks NWR
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 DID march right 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 night. 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:

"Everything was going well. The birds all had their last go at the feeders and water 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 a short little hop across 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 golden birds. 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 the brood 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 the oyster bar.

"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!"

*Loud hailer - a hand-held loud speaker that amplifies whatever is fed into it, whether a voice, or the mp3 player broadcasting the cranes' contact call.

Photo Mark Chenoweth,
Whooper Happenings

Operation 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