Although the migration was hanging in limbo, thoughts about the end of the journey in Florida, and the people waiting there for the Class of 2011, weren’t far from our minds. We were all too conscious of the teams of dedicated people waiting anxiously at the Class of 2011’s two wintering locations; the St. Marks and Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuges.

One of those people, in the person of Chassahowitzka Intern Olivia Bailey, was able to take advantage of our time on the ground in Franklin County, AL. With the blessing Deputy Refuge Manager, Boyd Blihovde, Olivia drove up for a several day stay with us in Alabama.

During her visit, along with a ‘Whooping crane 101 orientation’, we were able to introduce her to the young cranes, some of which she would soon be helping to tend to as part of her winter monitoring duties. Olivia, whose field of education is ornithology, caught on fast, and quickly convinced us that the cranes will be in good hands at Chass over the winter.

Being the ‘new costume in the pen’, Olivia was given much the same treatment that Gordon and Christine experienced until the birds became accustomed to them. Some of the cranes, particularly 10-11, went after her a few times and tried to beat her puppet down. Luckily for Olivia the onslaughts were not as aggressive as a couple that Christine was on the receiving end of.

When we conducted the usual pen check this morning, (Olivia’s last chance to work with the cranes before returning to Florida), I managed to snap a few photos of our cohort hanging out and interacting with the costumes. We fortunately timed the morning pen check for between downpours which, as you can see left the pen somewhat muddy – much to the joy of the birds who were happy as clams, enthusiastically poking and probing to find the odd goodie.

Here you can see 1-11 is not too impressed with the new costume. He gives her a textbook crown display.

This photo is a close up of the debonair 5-11 with his puffy-as-ever cheeks.

Saying hello to Brooke via a few pokes to his helmet is 7-11.

It’s amazing how noticeable the birds mustaches are now. The first hints of black began to appear at our first stop in WI, but now they are really established.

Lately, with pumpkin season over and watermelon unavailable, we’ve been treating/entertaining the cranes with corn cobs and different varieties of squash. Brooke tossed an acorn squash across the pen and the excitement was on!

Finally, I can’t show pictures of the cranes in our cohort without including a shot of my little baby girl 12-11. Too cute.

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