I have always been a great admirer of Brooke and sometimes I am even envious of him. He gets to stay with the birds over the winter while the rest of us head north into the cold. He is also the person who witnesses the birds’ transition into the wild and gets to say goodbye as they disappear over the horizon in the spring, never to be dependent again.
The downside of being Brooke is that he was the first on scene to discover that Number 6-12 was predated by a bobcat early Sunday morning. He and Walter Sturgeon were doing the early morning checks. When they got to the pen, they heard the birds calling from a place in the marsh they often visit, but it was apparent something was bothering them. Then they saw the birds airborne but only four were visible. Shortly thereafter they found number 6 with a broken neck.
Brooke has never seen evidence of bobcats in that area before but it was obvious what killed the bird. It is likely that his approach, along with Walter’s is what scared off the attacker leaving number 6 almost intact. Because the bobcat came so close to eating his prize, it likely means that he will be back, so live traps were placed around that area. Anything they catch will be relocated.
Number 6-12 is the bird that dropped out of the flight in Illinois and that John Cooper and I pursued through the corn field for almost an hour. In fact number 6 was the only bird to drop out during the entire migration. She was slow to get the idea during early training but soon caught on and followed perfectly for most of the migration.
For some reason these birds seem to have more value when there are so few. I suppose one bird represents a larger portion of the flock when there is only five and maybe you have an opportunity to know their personalities better. Whatever the reason, it’s a hard loss and one we won’t soon forget.
We will redouble our efforts and examine our protocol to see what can be modified so it doesn’t happen again. It is hard to see the silver lining in any of this but maybe the other birds learned a life saving lesson.
The temperature is well below freezing up here in the north and it feels even colder with the loss of number 6. Despite my envy of the 80 degree weather in Florida I am glad I wasn’t Brooke yesterday.
(if you’d like to read more about this special crane, please visit her bio page on Journey North)