As the Crane Turns

Monday was predicted to be a good migration day so I got to the St. Marks blind a little before 9 am.  

I have been watching the birds for a few days while Brooke is down south visiting his mom, and had not gotten a visual on all four so I was getting a bit antsy. The signals had been strong and in different spots so I was not overly worried, but I love a nice solid head count and really wanted to see everyone.
A little after 10 am all four wandered into view and I gave a quiet sigh of relief. They were too far away to see bands, even with the scope. I wish I had been able to tell which one stood so still, almost like it was listening, while the other three foraged. For 10 min I watched, then the bird that had been so alert leaned forward in a pre-flight position and took off. The other three followed.
They circled to the north and flew over the blind calling like crazy. I quickly lost sight of them. For about a half hour I scanned the three frequencies as the beeps got fainter and fainter. Every time I changed frequencies I spun in a circle to make sure they were indeed going to the NNW. Yep they sure were. Then just static for all three. For another half hour I listened. Nothing, so I put away the scope and binoculars and locked up the blind. 
I let Brooke and Heather know and then headed to 5-12’s favorite hangout, just to double-check and, sure enough, I got a beep on him out in the swamp, but no visual. No beeps on 4-13 or 8-14 though. I was pretty confident they had left, but with no visual I did not know if Peanut (4-14) had stuck with his new best friend (5-12) or left with 4-13 and 8-14. At this point I had to take a friend to a Dr. appointment so I headed to town.
The suspense was killing me! I finally got back to the blind at about 5:45 pm and there two big old White Birds were, right in front of the gate! Peanut DID stick with his buddy, which makes me really happy – 5-12 needs a friend.
Early yesterday morning we got a PTT hit on 8-14 (presumably 4-13 is with her) – they were in central Alabama, four miles from one of our stopover spots! Peanut and 5-12 were still at St. Mark’s as of 11 am that day
So the avian soap opera continues. How long will these two stay? Will Peanut go to WI this year? Last spring he did not, he was MIA until he showed up back at St Mark’s one day in December, much to Brooke’s delight. (We think he went back to S Illinois and the Ohio River where he was caught the spring before, but don’t know for sure.) Or will 5-12 stay with him and go to the Ohio River? Or will they split and each go to last year’s summering territories? Will 8-14 and 4-13 nest? Hatch chicks? In sight of the camera so we can watch and learn?!
Stay tuned for the next installment of our favorite show! In the meantime, here are two photos I took with my phone peeking through the scope:

Peanut (4-14) and 5-12 seen through the scope

Peanut (4-14), 5-12, 4-13, and 8-14 at St. Marks

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  1. Marilyn March 15, 2017 4:49 pm

    thank you so much for keeping us posted, and thank you for the important work you do – I hope the whoopers appreciate it as much as we do!

  2. Glen Brereton March 15, 2017 2:13 pm

    Are there any whooping cranes in southern WI today 3/15? I saw 2 large birds with pure white plumage and legs trailing behind flying over hwy 14 west of Janesville WI. Definitely not pelicans no black trim on wings.

    • Heather Ray March 16, 2017 6:41 am

      There are, however, Whooping cranes have black on their wings as well so if the birds you saw had none, they were likely egrets or swans.

  3. Dorothy N March 12, 2017 12:51 pm

    Persistence once again pays off!!! Brooke will be jealous. Thanks, Colleen

  4. Cheryl Murphy March 11, 2017 7:59 pm

    Whew! Awesome pictures. Thanks for those and for for the update. Always greatly appreciated.

  5. Grandma March 11, 2017 6:37 pm

    Hi Colleen Thank you for the update and photos. Thank you for being out there to check on these wonderful birds. Everything you do is appreciated!

  6. Richard P. Chase March 11, 2017 4:54 pm

    Good report Mrs. Chase.

    One “situation” y’all could add to the drama book is if Peanut flies south to winter in sunny Florida. 😉

  7. Dorothy N March 11, 2017 3:13 pm

    Persistence once again pays off!!! Brooke will be jealous. Thanks, Colleen.

  8. Maggie March 11, 2017 11:22 am

    Peanut certainly has become a beautiful crane so I hope for the very best for him in the future. Colleen, you have been a “Godsend” to the OM team. Thanks for the info as us “frozen” people up here in Wisconsin envy the Floridian’s winter weather. Lucky you!!! Take care.

  9. Barb March 11, 2017 9:08 am

    Great photos. I love a good soap opera. Keep the installments coming!