Howdy folks! It’s been a while since I’ve checked in with you all. My last recollection of my previous update was back in Patuxent. Seeing as we’re in White River Marsh, dealing with young Whooping cranes that are so close to flying they can taste it, that might as well be a million years ago. So where are we now?
Our birds are nice and comfy here and White River Marsh. Our pen’s still in tip-top shape. Our wetpen is still nice and wet. I haven’t had to fire up the pump to maintain the water level once this season. I imagine that day will come soon. But not today, and probably not next week. Runway could use a little mowing. But we’ll get to that.
But how are the birds holding up? To be honest, I could wish they were a little more enthusiastic about training. The birds are pretty slow coming out of the pen, and we’ve got two birds, 8-14 and 10-14 that won’t come out even if you give them a million dollars. That isn’t to say they haven’t been out for training since they’ve arrived. But RIchard has to lead them out, first. Add to that, it’s not uncommon to see them wander off the runway away from the trike. Last Thursday when we trained, they were halfway down the path leading to the pond where we’re going to take the birds when we mow the runway. Richard and I agree, we’ve never seen birds this uninterested in the trike. At least not since 2011.
The funny thing is, they come to the costume just fine. When I come into the pen every evening at roost checks, all I have to do is stand at the gate, and all the birds will start heading towards me, including our two delinquents. We’ve tried lots of tricks to get them interested in the trike. We’ve had all the costumes sit by the trike once the doors were opened and just wait for all the birds to come out. it worked for the first few training sessions. But after the third or fourth day, that’s when they started losing interest. We’ve tried leading them out of the pen during training, locking them in the dry pen before training, standing in the doorway and just wait for the birds to come to us, like we were doing roost checks. The last one was particularly enlightening, as 8-14 and 10-14 were right in the dry pen, ready to say hi to us. But as soon as we opened the door and they saw the trike, they stopped dead in their tracks.
Now, those two have seen the trike just as much as any other bird back in Patuxent. But the X variable in all of this is that this is the new trike we’re using, which they weren’t exposed to back in Patuxent. But to be fair, they do eventually start following the trike after the first five or ten minutes they’re out the gate and then they follow okay, at least. But still, every morning it’s like they’ve seen the trike for the first time.
However, I’m sure this is just a phase. New trike or no, we always have birds that don’t like to come out for training for the first few weeks. They don’t always take this long to come around, nor or they this uninterested but as soon as they start flying, they’ll have a new outlook on life. Just ask 2-14 and 3-14. They’re already flying in ground effect after the trike, at least for a few seconds the last few training sessions. It won’t be long before 4-14, 7-14 and 9-14 start catching on, as well. And I think we can expect the same thing from 8-14 and 10-14. As long as we can keep getting them out, they’ll figure it out, eventually. It’s the moment they never knew they were looking forward to and it’s the moment we all wait for. The moment when these birds start flying with the trike. Because that’s when the game starts to change and it’s coming sooner rather than later.
Now, there’s been a lot of buzz about me going to see the birds with no pants on. Shoot, I’ve been leaving my pants on the runway right in front of our loyal CraneCam audience. For a while, I didn’t think that got on camera since I was expecting my phone to be buzzing with texts. But to answer everyone’s question about that, both times that happened, I needed to get into the wetpen to stand up a few t-posts that fell over but the wetpen is still fairly deep and I didn’t want to get my pants wet. Both times, I had plans to go jogging, and I didn’t want to do it in wet pants. Especially since I’ve been jogging right after I get done with roost checks.
But there you have it. Nothing kinky. Just a newfound sense of expediency. Enjoy it while you can, because once the water level goes down, I won’t have to strip down to get into the wetpen. But next time I go in there and see a t-post knocked over, I’m going to assume one of you did it.
This update is brought to you by your favorite sitcom and mine: Where are My Pants?