Catching Cranes

On Tuesday, we managed to capture three previously tagged Sandhill cranes, which are part of our Sandhill crane mortality study. One of them was BP2.1 – one of a set of twins, whose original tracking device had fallen off after a couple of weeks.

Brooke and Colleen approached the roosting pond from the south, while Joe and I approached from the west and as soon as we neared the pond, the two adults flushed while the two chicks hunkered down in the grass as they are still incapable of flight.

Naturally, the first chick we found was the one that had the transmitter still attached. We took the opportunity to check the device and found it still functional and securely fastened so we released him and began looking for the colt with no tracking device. 

Finding a chick hiding in 4 foot tall grasses is not easy. They have this incredible ability to get under the vegetation and ‘combat crawl’ their way across a field. It’s easy to step on one so every step we make has to be calculated so we avoid hurting a crane.

The one we looked for turned out to be 2 feet to my left and as I approached it bolted, allowing Brooke and Joe to grab it.

Joe holds the young colt while Brooke applies the transmitter patch. Photo: C. Chase

Next on the target list were a set of twins whose transmitters had fallen off a couple of weeks ago. Colleen and Brooke were still able to keep track of them because they were the only set of twins in a known territory and were always seen with the adults.

The pasture is used by cattle and is not at all easy to navigate. Hummocks can be used to walk on but they vary in size and move when you step on them. The muck between them is almost knee-deep so one must concentrate on where you place your feet.

We were able to use a small island of trees as an approach blind and as soon as we came around the island, the two adults flushed, leaving the chicks to hide. Joe spotted the first one sitting in the tall grasses and grabbed him.

Joe and Heather hold the wings out of the way while Brooke prepares the transmitter patch. Photo: C. Chase

Within minutes it was tagged and released and it was only a couple minutes later when Colleen located the second colt about 10 feet from where we had tagged its sibling. It too, was tagged and released and we left the field as quickly as possible so the family could reunite.

All in all a great day capturing and radio-marking three crane colts!


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  1. Dorothy N August 2, 2018 10:32 pm

    As they say, “Mission Accoomplished”!

  2. Barbara August 2, 2018 9:28 pm

    It great to see that successful tagging is happening for the Sandhill chicks. But when will the Whooping Crane chicks be tagged? How many chicks are there still alive? Will the OM team do the tagging?

  3. Cheryl Murphy August 2, 2018 10:32 am

    You have very interesting “good days.” And we are grateful for your wonderful work and dedication and tolerance of balancing on hummocks and walking in the muck.