What a TREAT!

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!

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  1. Margie Tomlinson September 24, 2014 1:25 pm

    Absolutely love your reports, Jo! You get right down and close and share with us. This is soooo especially great for those of us on the other side of the country! Thank you so much for all you do for OM!

  2. M L Walsh aka maxgreenwing September 22, 2014 5:29 pm

    You look so natural !!

  3. M L Walsh aka maxgreenwing September 22, 2014 5:28 pm

    We love to see you in the pen 🙂

  4. Kathleen Kaska September 22, 2014 12:19 pm

    I enjoyed reading your account of time in “the pen.” And I’m especially happy that Peanut is coming along. Thanks for sharing.


  5. Lindi Allen September 22, 2014 10:50 am

    thanks for telling us things we didn’t know, like how you can see the grape go down or that they don’t open their mouth to peep. It is so interesting to read each persons journal and their experience. Enjoy your time with them 🙂

  6. Sally Swanson September 22, 2014 10:13 am

    Thanks, Jo-Anne! I can just see you squatting there getting pecked on the head by 7! They really have personality, don’t they! You are very fortunate. The colts are fortunate to have such dedicated tumes!


  7. Patricia Ewing September 22, 2014 8:00 am

    What a wonderful experience <3

  8. Ruth Mitchell September 22, 2014 7:43 am

    Jo, I am officially DYING of jealousy!!! What a wonderful experience you are having and THEN to see your name on YM!!! What a great , well deserved, honor!!! I am looking forward to all of your reports as migration begins!!! Have fun!! ( as if you need to be told to do that!!)

  9. Patti September 22, 2014 7:09 am

    How awesome for you Jo! We watched as you enjoyed your tume time with the colts 🙂 What a wonderful treat for us-and you! Congrats!!!

  10. eugenia September 22, 2014 7:03 am

    They may have gotten grapes and mealworms, but you got the REAL treat! How very, VERY special! Thanks for sharing with us.

  11. Shepherd September 22, 2014 7:02 am

    Jo-Anne Bellemer report is interesting, fun and informative.
    Glad all is well. Hope for a training and a goodbye marsh soon.