Those of you who watch Operation Migration’s live CraneCam are probably aware that I got to don my costume several times this past week and enter that most hallowed ground that is called simply “The Pen.” What an experience!
The first time was the day after the birds had been dressed out in bling: leg transmitters for all but Peanut (#4-14) and backpack transmitters for three birds (2, 7, and 9). Heather and I released the birds for Joe who conducted runway training, meaning he just ran the trike back and forth up the runway without taking off. For the most part they followed, although #7 was highly insulted by her ordeal and took several days to get over it. And #10 was so obsessed with her leg antenna so she pretty much preened it for the whole time.
The top of the antenna is a spring so that it doesn’t break when it is bent this way and that, and I was taken by the sound when they preen it – it’s a sound like running your thumb across a comb. That’s something I never heard on the cam.
Another thing I noticed was how, when they peep, you cannot tell which bird is peeping. The don’t open their beaks and it almost sounds like they are ventriloquists, throwing their peeps all around the pen.
For at least two days of my visits, #7 stayed at the back of the wet pen. She wanted nothing to do with costumes! On the way to the site each day, Brooke said we would stay in the pen and feed grapes and mealworms so that the birds would again warm up to the costumes. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
Finally, on Friday (I think – it’s a blur) I strolled over to the far side of “the beach” (far from the cam, that is) and all the birds followed me. I mean ALL! #7 nonchalantly strolled up from her staked out position in the wet pen to visit. She quickly returned to the back, but at least she was coming around!
Bonding with Peanut has been, how should I say this… interesting. For a few days Peanut hated my puppet or me or both. He wailed on my puppet, bit it, poked my head, and bit my arm. Now don’t get nervous – the pokes can hurt, but the nips do not. They are gentle, kind of like when your dog (if you have one) mouths you in play. Regarding the pokes, I’m glad I was wearing a helmet!!!
Yesterday I was watching them eat grape-treats and noticed that you can see the entire grape go down the side of their neck – whole! A big bulge travels down the right side of the neck with each grape. It was fascinating to watch! I’ve heard Heather and Colleen mention this in the past, but had forgotten about it until I witnessed it with my own wide-as-they-can-be-open eyes.
As I write this, I just returned from doing “roost check” with Colleen. All is well with the birds. #7 is no longer shy; #10 is no longer obsessed with preening her leg antenna; Peanut is no longer wailing on me, and he’s walking great with his new leg brace.
It was just grapes and mealworms all around. What a TREAT!