Night at the Museum

I am absolutely convinced that, for each of us, when the lights go out and the party is over and we’re standing at the Pearly Gates hoping to get in we’ll be judged not by all the good deeds we’ve done in our lives, but rather by what good movies we’ve encouraged others to see. “A Night at the Museum” is one such movie. The night before last, our seven little “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” not only saw the movie… they were in it. Or at least their version of it.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Wednesday had been unraveling itself just fine with lots of exuberant chick activities. Their first flight after release was to Henry’s Pond, a new destination of choice for them. Henry’s Pond is a beautiful little pond/wetland complex about less than a mile south of the pen. It was so named last year by Presidential Declaration because our little rascal, #5-12, hung out there last year with his sandhill buddies. He no doubt thought it was his and his alone secret place where he could loaf around in peace and no one would come out and try to replace his dead transmitter. He forgot about the CraneCam… aka “The Eye That Never Sleeps” and after we replaced his transmitter, the pond became his place of convalescence. I trekked out to check on him a couple of times and soon discovered why “Trekking Out to Henry’s Pond” will be a new event in the next Olympics. It was more than encouraging to see our chicks make such a great habitat choice.

Then they flew back to runway and walked out to the north pond where I was waiting, sitting in the little hunter’s blind…. the one only big enough to sit in, take notes and pictures in and occasionally pass wind in. They proceed to do their usual “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” kind of things… foraging, discovering, chasing the locals away until boredom set in and they flew off. All but #2, who somehow knew nature was calling me ever louder but that I couldn’t get out of the blind to answer until she left… which she didn’t. Later, the chicks returned and continued where they had left off.

Costumed-Reared Whooping crane cohort spent the day foraging in the marsh. Photo: B. Pennypacker

Until around closing time, that is. Then they did a strange thing. They began setting up to roost for the night. “Help,” I texted Colleen, using the same letters I had been texting Mother Nature all afternoon. And soon she appeared and the chicks followed her to the runway…. where they then took off and headed directly for Henry’s Pond! This was a surprise!

I would have gotten Colleen’s text earlier had I not been answering nature’s call and learning to walk again. Then it was off to Henry’s Pond for at a peek at the goings on.

As the sun was making its exit, I saw them…. happy as clams at high tide. That’s when #2 approached costumed me in full threat posture. That’s gratitude for you, I thought. In nature, it’s all about “What have you done for me lately” and I could hear #8 call over. She’s getting her adult voice and sounds very much like a bullfrog who’s had too much happy juice. It was definitely time to go… and spend the rest of the night marveling at their mini declaration of independence.

The next day, they returned to the pen, then to the pond and it was clearly “hangover city.” They spent the entire day in comparative slow motion, zombiefied. Their “Night at the Museum” had taken its toll.  Unable to resist the opportunity to impart wisdom, I sent up the thought balloon, “You can’t hoot with the owls at night and expect to soar with the eagles in the morning.” I would save the “Say No to Drugs” speech for another day.

When I texted Colleen to come and get them at five o’clock, I wasn’t sure they would have the energy to make it back to the pen. But they did. They reentered their world of calm familiarity and security and were soon preparing for a good night’s rest.  And that’s when I said it ….

“Anyone for some Popcorn?”

Roost time at Henry’s pond. Photo: B. Pennypacker

Share Button


  1. peter smith September 8, 2017 7:35 pm

    Professor! You have an incredibly rich gift for taking us into the world and minds of our colts. What a privilege! We are so blessed for your stories! Thank you.

  2. Mindy September 8, 2017 12:00 pm

    Spent the night at Henry’s Pond? Oh my…they are getting independent. Is there still a plan to release them near adult pairs this year? Great story Brooke. I could picture it all as you described, right down to the “not soaring with eagles feeling the next day”. lol

  3. Marilyn September 8, 2017 9:57 am

    You never cease to amaze. If you wrote 20 books, I’d read them all. Thank you, Brooke.