Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Growing Up

Last night was a milestone for the chicks.

The oldest, Nacho, was given access to a protected yard outside for the night! I'm not sure how much he was really out in the yard, but he could've gone out there at any time he wanted. He's all grown up!


On a side note, it's time for us to stop babying these chicks! We're leaving for Necedah in 2 weeks, this means that they have to be able to eat outside, forage for real (not just peck the ground beside us to imitate our actions), sleep outside in July weather, and start exhibiting crane behavior.

It's so exciting!

Setbacks and silver linings

I have officially lost my camera. Well, I didn't lose it... but I DID drop it in the water. I dropped it by accident, I swear!

I was trying to take a cute video of little Saganaki foraging. Imagine his surprise when a huge silver object comes falling out of his parent into the water a few feet away. At that moment I had conflicting needs to act: 1. hide the camera from the crane, and 2. remove the camera from the water. So acted in the above order. I stepped in front of it, then picked it up.

At least now I have a justifiable reason to get a new/better camera!!!!! Hooray!!!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Roquefort cuteness

I was watching Roquefort eat food in the yard from behind when I saw a slight movement in his tail feathers. He was pushing out his butt every time he took a bite! So of course I had to take a video!!!! enjoy :D

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I was sitting in the yard with baby Saganaki (see sleepy time chick), feeding him. I was sitting with my legs tucked under me and my left arm supporting my weight behind me.

I felt a brief touch on my left hand, but I didn't worry about it, it could be a grasshopper landing on me or something like. Maybe I just imagined it...

I was offering a pellet to Saganaki when I DEFINITELY felt a nudge. It was kind of like I was being nosed/investigated, because it was kind of like a double nudge and a little nibble. I started, scaring Saga a little. I looked around, and this is what I saw:

He didn't run away from me! He just stood there as though trying to figure out what I was. I'm sure if I wasn't in the crane costume, this would never have happened.

Or maybe he saw that I was handing out free food to the little chick, so maybe he'd get in on the action.

I don't know. Either way, it kind of made my day.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

MMMM raspberries....

The road to ISO just got a little sweeter. :D

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

sleepy time chick

Our youngest chick (4 days) was so sleepy this morning when I tried to feed him in the yard. I HAD to take some pictures.

He took about 6 bites of crumbled food, and just sank slowly to the ground, his eyes lowering, his beak dropping into the grass.

He kept trying to stay awake, but he couldn't, so his head would fall left, then he'd pick it up so the beak would point down, then it would fall right, and he'd pick it up again. So cute. Even cuter was the little sleepy peeping.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Crane-baby update

Nacho is getting HUGE!!! He looks like a little turkey. Taffy, an aviculturist here, thinks they look like dinosaurs. I guess I can see that. Anyway, he is definitely as tall as my mid-thigh.

You can see here, he LOVES spider-wort. Once you introduce them to the fence-line of spiderwort flowers, they don't stop until they have decimated the entire population (it comes back daily because there are so many buds on one stalk). We are also doing a good job ridding the plains of what looks like Japanese beetles (no natural predators, my butt).

Nacho is 4 weeks old, but he seems so huge! We still have chicks hatching and they are so tiny by comparison.

Enough talk, here are the pictures! All the pictures are shot from behind so the chicks don't see the camera.

Nacho and Spiderwort!

Pepper Jack taking a 5 minute break in the field.

Here's a video of Nacho taking a bath, it's SO cute. The black stuff is my sleeve blowing in the wind.

Friday, June 18, 2010

directions from the management

We have been told to step-up our responsibility. While I had been working on that since the beginning, now I will be an unstoppable responsibility machine. Each chick is MY ward and I will personally ensure their safety every day that I work. This is my promise.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Why is it that I believe tadpoles have the texture of tapioca beads?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's gettting busy!

We've got 10 crane-babies right now and one on the way.

Nacho, Pepper Jack, Gouda, Roquefort, Brie, Havarti, Ricotta, and Fontina. The last two will be named today or tomorrow... I'm voting for maybe bleu or goat.

It's crazy to see the size difference between the oldest (3 weeks old) and the youngest (2 days old). Nacho is the height of my hand and forearm and little bleu is only as tall as my fingers! So itty bitty.

We spend time with each of the chicks walking around the yard so they get exercise 2x daily. Usually the chicks are out there separately so there won't be any altercations (they fight for dominance as the dominant chick usually gets more food from the mother). Nacho gets 2 hours 2x daily, PJ gets 1.5 hours 2x, and so on. This means a LOT of time out in the yards with each bird. We usually only have 4 people available to work, so that keeps everyone constantly busy. I'm glad I found a good costume (lightweight, good visibility, short so the bottom doesn't get too wet), because I've been spending a lot of time in it.

Unfortunately, I submerged my boots yesterday, so they are still wet. My feet are starting to smell from being in the boots so often. I wash them when I can, but it's unavoidable. I'm thinking about getting some dr. scholls for them.

This morning, I fed bleu, walked outside with fontina for 20 minutes, recorded my notes, cleaned runs, walked outside with Gouda for an hour and a half (he's bigger, so I kept him walking the whole time), recorded notes, then fed goat.

Blessed lunch, gives time for my feet to breath.

I'm going back right now, probably to spend 2 hours out there with Nacho and a few smaller intervals with the littler guys. Wish me luck! Hope it doesn't rain.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Roquefort the crane

I got to name a crane Roquefort!

Here he is making that cute whiiirring contact call.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tracking Wild Cranes

Yuppers! I finally got to go out on my own to track down wild cranes. I'm walking through Juneau Forest a this point, hauling: camera, notepad, pen, receiver, antenna, scope, and don't forget, steel-toed hip waders!

I definitely needed the hip waders. I was sent out on my own to track this nest, so I started out going directly south of the nest (yes, those were the directions. other directions included, follow the trail until the big puddle and the downed tree :/... anyway...). Directly south of the nest is a series of marshes separated by lines of trees. I quickly discovered that walking through woods is much faster than wading through marsh. Why is there so much downed wood underneath the water!?!

I had to keep reminding myself that I wanted to do this. I wanted to do this. check compass... shit! how did north get to be that way??? Is the compass wrong? no, it can't be wrong. Great, now my phone's dead, and I'm potentially lost in the woods. I wanted to do this.

There were waaay to many mosquitoes. I wasn't armed with bug spray this weekend, but I managed to escape with few bites and no ticks (so far...).

I have to say. I LOVED it! I loved every minute of that grueling hike.

Here are some pics from this weekend!

Got my gear.

Got my boots.

Hiked through all kinds of sludge.

Got the money shot, can you see the bird?

This is a great photo of this nest taken from the Ultralight that flew over earlier in the day!!!

Below is a video of the receiver picking up a signal from one of the bird's transmitters in the field. You can't see the bird at the time of the vid, but she's there, probably low in the grass, brooding her chick. This was what it was like out there (with a whole lot more swarming mosquitoes you can't see).

Chicks in the yard

I thought I'd post a pic of Nacho going-to-town on some wild irises. I guess they are like crack. When he sees one, he chirps like a squeal of delight, then starts screaming out that little whiiirrr!! while he rips the flower to shreds, savoring every last purple petal.

the picture is grey because I took it behind the costume's screen mask. Feel free to click to enlarge.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Intro to Necedah

The 4 hours between these 2 photos held rains and storms.

This weekend I took a trip to Necedah. Dr. Urbanek gave me an introductory tour, trained me on how to observe the wild cranes, and showed me what to record while I observe them.

So far there is one pair of cranes on the Wildlife Refuge (the Refuge is what I mean when I say I went to Necedah) who have 2 baby cranes. I actually got to see the babies at one point in my observations! They were so far away, they were little brown blobs in the microscope, but I definitely saw them!

I also saw lots of Sandhill Cranes, swans, Canada Geese, deer, ducks... well you get the picture. Since I was observing from a public observation tower, I wonder how many visitors who go up there actually know they can see a whooping crane from that vantage point. If I was to go up there, I would never have known.

This is a wild Sandhill Crane on the plains. A whooping crane had been foraging around that scraggly tree you see in the picture not 5 minutes earlier.

There's a dam that creates the wetlands.

Richard, my boss (pictured below), took me to see the dam.

Part of his job is to make sure the water level doesn't move too high or too low, so he opened the grates, and pulled up some of the heavy railroad ties they use to block up the water (pictured below)

I'll leave you with a few more pictures of the whooping cranes from my scope (sorry they are so blurry).

Crane-baby Exercise!

Yes, we have a swimming pool for the chicks. That's me in the costume, encouraging little Nacho to swim faster.

They make little contact calls while in the pool (the same calls they make when they are being fed). It kinda sounds like a little "whiiirrr". It let's me know they are happy, and feel safe.

We reward them for all their efforts during the exercise, but the ultimate reward is the proper development of the chick's legs.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Still being a crane

Walk outside, summon baby to follow.
We emerge from the sand into bright sunlight and fresh grass.

I scope for bugs and edible plants,
the baby beelines for the pond.
I summon louder for the baby. We're not going that way!
we're going to find bugs!

Found a moth! Snap!
snap Snap! Take it to the baby.

I preen a little while he's eating, watch the sky and scout for more moths.
It's hot, must be time to go to the pond...

I walk stately towards the pond,
He runs, wings open, mouth agape, almost tripping over his feet

I forage in the water, he swims.
I forage some more, he goes to shore to forage.

the other crane watches. I watch her
and she notices. She begins to dance,
wings open, bobbing her head, asking me to join her in her dance.

I sadly pass. and purr to the baby to come back inside.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Being a Crane

So now that I am a crane "mommy," I can tell you what it's like behind the costume.

Yes, it's hot under the white burka, but not as hot as you'd expect. Sometimes there's a nice breeze that will cut through the mesh that hides my face, and it's so cool. It smells good like nature and cut grass. We wear rubber boots so that we can wade into the pond and encourage the chicks to go swimming. The rubber boots get hot in the sun, but when we get a chance to wade in the pond, the cool water presses in around our feet. The bottom of the burka gets a little wet, but it hasn't wicked up past my knees, yet.

The time I spend as a crane is mostly quiet time. I may have to communicate by hushed whisper with other crane mommies at times. Sometimes I lead the chicks near Faith's yard. Faith is a real crane, and she's so good with the babies. She purrs to them, and I hear them chirrup back. Today, I saw Pepper Jack look at Faith, then back to me, then back to Faith....

I moved along, so he followed me. I know it won't be long before he decides not to follow me. They have such different personalities. Nacho (the oldest) is a little obnoxious, and a little bit whiney. He has never really liked following the costume, he never really liked swimming, he doesn't seem to like trying new things. However, I caught him a June bug today, and he seemed very interested in trying to eat it.

Pepper Jack, however, has been a little charmer. He eats with enthusiasm, he's always trying new things, he'll swim circles around me, foraging in the water as he cheeps happily away. It's fun to watch.

I try to watch, but sometimes it's hard because the little square of mesh doesn't always line up with where I want to see. I have to watch where I step, you never know if the little guy has scooted under you. Many times have I performed the "crazy crane mommy," where I use my left hand underneath my costume to adjust the hood. There's also a pocket in the front where we have a recorder that plays brood calls. I'll increase the volume of the brood call to summon them, or decrease the volume of the call when we're just playing in the grass. Moving my hand around in the pocket doesn't look very crane-like, i'm sure.

One thing I do know for sure. We have faith convinced we're real cranes. She tried to solicit me this afternoon.