What the Heck is THAT?!

“So, I got to ask. What the heck is that thing on top of your car?”

“I heard there was a UFO in the area.”
“I’m with the NSA, watch what you say on the cell.”
“Dude! You know how many channels I get with this thing?”
“Its for tracking birds!”

I’m not used to people giving me a crooked, gaping stare when I drive by. Usually I just blend into the normal tide of traffic. I guess when you’re driving around in what looks like a rejected rendition of the ghostbusters’ vehicle you can expect a more exciting reaction.

I’ve been in the White River Marsh area this past month tracking several whoopers and its been a neat but challenging experience. For those of you who have never seen the vehicle I’m poking fun at it looks like a regular van with a giant antenna protruding from the top. To make it a touch more bizarre the entire antenna rotates 360 degrees. Quite a site if you’ve never seen it before. (Don’t get me wrong though, this van rocks! It got me out of some sticky situations with downed birds on migration.)

For the most part, tracking is pretty straight forward. I have a general idea where most the birds reside and I usually do my best to get a visual on the birds or triangulate their location. I’ve had reports of new birds flying into the area that I’ve needed to locate. I’ve had others go AWOL leaving their partners behind. I’ve been lucky enough to get visuals on at least one Whooper almost every day I track. Even though I’ve spent so much time inside the pen with these birds, I’ve almost never seen them in the wild after the release. It definitely has an impact on you.

It really is something else to be driving down the road chasing a flying radio beacon. Listening…


All of a sudden, before you realize what happened you are staring at the bright white bird across a field. They really are brilliant bright when you see them and there is something amazing about watching one of the few in the eastern flock. It is such a rare and unique experience. Sometimes I forgot I’m watching until Im whipped back to reality when a car drives up and I hear…

“So, I got to ask. What the heck is that thing on top of your car?”

“Oh, well, I’m kind of a protective parent and… uh this is sort of my… baby monitor… really…”


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  1. Sally Swanson June 2, 2014 12:14 pm

    It’s good to know that someone is checking on the “babies”!


  2. Cottonwood Fence June 2, 2014 11:03 am

    I loved this read! What a great opening…

    Please keep up the good work. Your adventures are inspiring.


  3. Gerald June 2, 2014 9:24 am

    LIKE! And enjoyed helping you on rare occasion. Was especially impressed when we were able to capture an errant juvenile a couple times with ease–you certainly know how to use that baby monitor.

  4. Kate Crook June 2, 2014 9:22 am

    I just read in the Florida Today/USA Today that the wildlife refuge in Stafford Kansas will be closed to hunters during the whooping cranes migration (western flock). WHOOP!!!!

  5. Janice June 2, 2014 8:34 am

    Ahhhh, baby monitor That’s so cute.

  6. MarkesanFollower June 2, 2014 8:13 am

    I think you were looking for cranes in my area! I saw van with a huge antenna on it about 2 weeks ago near the flooded ________ area. We have many sandhill crane pairs, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a whooping crane visit us. Did you find any when you checked?

  7. Warrenwesternpa June 2, 2014 6:38 am

    2 June 2014. What the Heck is That? Caleb Farfax

    A Baby Monitor? …That is so funny and a reality today. When our kids were growing we relied on ears and maternal instincts. But our Grandkids have the latest tiny cameras for observing them all night and giving a certain amount of comfort to the parents. When visiting, I am mesmerized watching the little rascals!

    Odd looking as it must be, the OM system sounds great and I’m glad it works so well. Caleb, a very interesting and detailed report.