New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Eve has always been a time of great stress and anxiety. The reason?  All those New Year’s Resolutions. If you really want to improve your life, you’ve got to have a plan. “Plan your Dive, Dive your Plan.” Without them, it’s just going to be one more year of being stuck with your same old boring self. And what are resolutions if not a list of little irritating mini plans. Let’s see. Got to lose those 10 pounds so you can go back to Goodwill and buy back those never worn, undersized clothes you donated last February after giving up on last year’s diet.  Stop watching the news… too depressing, and you can’t do anything about it anyway. Smile and say “Hello” to at least one stranger each day, preferably the one you see in the bathroom mirror each morning. And stop being resentful when the people you work with don’t agree with you and accept the fact they will always be just plain wrong. It’s a jungle out there, so stop trying to suppress your roar!

This year, I added yet another last minute resolution to my list… putting my eyes on whoopers #4-12, 3-14 and 30-16. And here’s why. The last day of 2016 began as usual… walking out to the blind to check the marsh for birds. This journey is always done to the accompaniment of beeps as the tracking receiver hanging from my shoulder scans through the list of bird frequencies. In “Whooper World” we see with our ears as well as our eyes. And more often than not, seeing what you can’t see is important. Very Zen. So far, the beeps of Henry (5-12), Peanut (4-14), Mack (4-13) and 8-14 were on my “December of 2016 Greatest Hits” Album. Yearling female #2-15 was also on the Charts but dropped off after two days when she departed the area due to territorial issues with Mack and 8-14. She was heard saying “Why can’t we just all get along?” as she winged her way north over the horizon.

Meanwhile, the transmitter beeps of 3-14 and Parent Reared crane #30-16 had been resting quietly in the receiver… patiently awaiting their cue. They knew, as did we, the real virtue of patience. Especially in “Whooper World.” The patriarch of their little “family” is #4-12 and his beeps were quiet for a different reason. His transmitter battery was dead. And as every whooper knows, when your battery is dead, it’s dead for a long time. Now, as many of you may remember, of the 12 parent reared chicks we released with older whoopers in Wisconsin this fall, chick #30-16 was the only one to actually be “adopted.”  Joe monitored them daily from release until they left on migration. So you can imagine my excitement when the receiver began singing out their beeps, announcing their arrival.

My walking feet became running feet and soon the blind shutters were thrown open revealing the familiar panorama of morning marsh… and the disappointing absence of the three aforementioned cranes. Mack and 8-14 were in their usual morning spots, beaking the soft marsh mud for each and every delightful morsel hidden within. Henry and Peanut were next door in the adjoining marsh doing their usual Henry and Peanut things. But NO “Royal Family”! Frantic fine-tuning of the receiver placed them in Goose Creek, about a mile or so away. Strange. Based on past year’s history, I would have expected 4-12 to have done his familiar “Attila the Hun” routine and taken over the pen area… kicking out Mack and 8-14. I had to remember, however, that he and 3-14 were only here for the first part of last winter, spending the second part up in Georgia before returning to White River Marsh in spring.

A frenzied hike, then drive, then another hike transported me on the other side of Goose Creek battling the mud and vegetation, trying to get a visual. The beeps from 3-14 and 30-16 were way up the creek but so loud I had to turn the receiver almost off to avoid waking up the neighbors two miles away. Or was it the sound of my pounding heart making all the racket? No matter. The excitement was almost more physically exhausting than the hike and I began to worry that I wouldn’t have any energy left for making my New Year’s Resolutions. Then there was the tormenting doubt that 4-12 might not be there. I mean, with no transmitter beeps or visual… and the fact he didn’t kick Mack and 8-14 out and take over the pen, how could I be sure? And if he wasn’t there, he was surely dead! Waaaaaaay too much stress!

However, it soon became clear that I was not going to make it far enough up the creek to see them. Just too inaccessible. I frantically reached into my pocket for my Swiss Army knife and my fingers fumbled futilely for the “drone” blade… that wasn’t there. “The right tool for the right job” as they say. Damn! It was then I heard the voice. “Patience, Grasshopper.”

So, after a few hours I made my way back to the tracking van at Wakulla Beach… and waited. It was then I began my list of six hundred and eighty seven and one half New Year’s resolutions, the first ten of which were, “I WILL get a visual.” Little did I know it was going to take me another week to scratch them off my list.

                                …to be continued.

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  1. Dorothy N January 11, 2017 1:49 pm

    Wonderful read!! The combination English Major-Comedian does it again!! Looking forward to chapter 2!!

  2. Richard P. Chase January 11, 2017 5:12 am

    …at least there is no snow too wade through or ice to slip on.

    The world needs a better battery built.

  3. Susanne January 10, 2017 9:20 pm

    What? A lot of your allusions I don’t understand, such as a drone blade on a pocket knife, and why are you are “grasshopper”… and what does it mean “dive your plan”?

  4. Vivienne Rimoldi January 10, 2017 1:37 pm

    What a joy to follow your writings, Brooke. Will be waiting for the next episode….

  5. Mindy January 10, 2017 12:36 pm

    Oh boy, another story from Brooke! A new mission! But did I miss something? I thought 30-16 was the only parent reared crane that was without a transmitter?

    • Heather Ray January 10, 2017 2:01 pm

      He has a VHF radio transmitter

      • Mindy January 11, 2017 11:49 am

        Oh, okay, good, at least he has that one…thanks Heather.

  6. Dora Giles January 10, 2017 11:13 am

    Another great write-up of our whoopers. Thanks for all the great visuals you create for us thru your writings. Love them.


  7. Jean P. aka CrabtowneMd January 10, 2017 10:32 am

    Broooooooke !!! another cliff-hanging installment. You have succeeded in tantalizing and then deflating the hopes of this whooper fan! Ah well—- there is the hope of pictures in the next few days. May you succeed in getting those visuals you have pursued so valiantly. Thank you for tracking all the WCs and keeping us informed ( and hanging…….)

  8. Marilyn Wanser January 10, 2017 8:40 am

    Brooke, your writings are not only informative, but, oh, so entertaining. What’s so special is how you make us feel that we’re right there with you. We see and feel the mud and vegetation, we can almost see the birds you’re so tirelessly following. Our hearts beat at FOR you, and pound just as loud.
    Thank you so much for your passion for these birds. We live “vicariously” through you!