I have been in Wisconsin for two weeks and the crane chicks have been here for a week and a half. We are developing a routine.
On weekdays Brooke and I go out early, 6 am-ish. We open the doors, cross our fingers that numbers 2-17 and 7-17 will cooperate today, and out they come. The other five are pretty trustworthy and happy to follow us. Cranes 2 and 7 are getting better.
These birds prove the old cliche “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence” like it’s their job. Number 1-17 will follow us for a bit then you can see his head turn and look longingly toward the marsh. He sees us waving, flapping and bobbing our puppets and decides “screw it” and off he goes. Soon others follow.
There are somethings that Whooping Cranes need to be taught, like a migration route and maybe even to roost in water. That’s why the decoy lovingly known by craniacs as Dummy Mummy hangs in the shallow water near the dry pen. One thing they don’t need to be taught is to forage. The first walk #1-17 went on when he was about 5 days old, he found every earthworm in his path. He can now sniff one out at 50 yards. They all look at that marsh as a giant treasure hunt!
We keep our eyes on them, counting over and over. So far, last Friday is the only time we got a bit sweaty, thinking #7-17 had slipped away behind some willows and out of sight. Brooke found her in the cattails and it sure looked like she was happy to be found. She followed him back to the pen area as fast as those long legs could go.
After we get them back into the pen we give them the once over and make sure they have food in the feeders. We then turn on the hot wire and leave them to forage in the huge new pen. With two ponds and lots of vegetation to explore they are happy colts.
After we leave the chicks we track the adult whooping cranes in the area, 5-12 is with 30-16, 4-14 (aka Peanut) and 11-15 are chums and 4-13 is with 10-15 are all nearby. A few times a week we go further and check on 42 & 24-09 and their chick W3-17. Brooke has had to haze them away from a busy road a few times. I know I hold my breath every time we go there and Brooke turns a pretty shade of blue till he spots the chick and finds it still alive. This pair has never fledged a chick before and all of us love it, it’s nearly the same age as our chicks. When we can’t spot it there is more breath holding till Bev does her crane flight and Brooke gets the phone call or I get a text saying she has seen it and it’s alive. Then, you can feel every muscle in your body relax… till the next time.
The wildlife between the pen and camp makes the drive back and forth really enjoyable. We have a Sandhill family close to camp and one near the pen.
There are tiny rabbits everywhere right now. Turtles are nesting and have to be helped to the other side of the road on occasion. Goldfinches streak around like liquid Sunshine.
And then, there is the wildlife in camp. I put a bird feeder right by the front door in the hopes of bird watching from my trailer. The cats and I both love watching out the window or screen door. I was hoping for Brooke’s Pheasant Phred. So far I have not seen Phred, but have attracted the cutest Chipmunks and a mama Skunk and her 5 kittens.
The bird feeder has now been moved away from my front door! I look around very respectfully when I open the door and so far so good, I have not gotten sprayed.
And last but not least, since this is a bird project, we are also monitoring the Robin family and her little ones who’s nest is on the power pole in camp.
It’s been a nice first week!