I have a little over an hour’s drive to reach the wetland in Dodge County where this young Parent-reared whooper was released last Wednesday.
Since his release near the adult female number 66-15, I have seen him three times. The rest of the time I spend listening to beeps on a handheld receiver that detects his VHF transmitter on his leg.
Two of my three sightings have been watching him fly and for a crane raised in captivity, he does pretty well. The third visual was yesterday when I arrived just before 7am.
I parked on a hill, which gives a decent view of most of the wetland.
I could tell by the beeps he was still there and by the lack of beeps that the adult female had already left for the day.
Through binoculars, I watched as the Sandhills began leaving in pairs and groups of there’s – no doubt Mom, Dad and a young-of-year chick… wait! A flash of white with that trio!
Sure enough it appeared that #24-17 had roosted near a family group of Sandhills cranes. I watched as he flapped and lifted off to fly a circuit over the marsh behind the Sandhills and wondered if he would attempt to follow them to a nearby field to spend the day foraging.
While the trio veered to the north and then west, my little guy settled back into the marsh; perhaps not quite confident in his flying abilities just yet to venture away from the safety of the water.
** Addendum – Two days after writing this post, this young male Whooping crane did indeed fly out of the marsh to spend the day foraging with a Sandhill pair. He flies about a mile to a nearby alfalfa field and returns to the safety of the marsh at night. He has not been spotted with the female Whooping crane yet.