I had a few close encounters with a pair of wild whooping cranes today. I don’t know whether they like our chicks or they are worried about us usurping their territory. First thing in the morning, I saw the wild whoopers right outside of the fence on the chick pen. The adults were brood calling our chicks!
Next, I was out with a group of 5 chicks in the marsh. We were having a good time foraging around. We went up to the old oak tree (which is very peaceful: grass, breeze, raspberry bushes) and continued on to one of the pool marshes at the southern extent of our designated site. When I emerged from over the hill, right in front of me was the male adult whooping crane! I try not to freak out. The adults have been known to stomp on chicks in the past. I simply move quickly out of his range and try to hurry my chicks along with me. All of a sudden, in front of me in the pond a duck starts splashing about. He’s screaming and splashing and making so much of a ruckus that the adult male whooper comes over to check it out! Oh no! Now my chicks are back in harms way. So I turn the crew around and go back the way we came, back through the ditch, back up the hill, back along the bank to the old oak. It seemed as though we had lost site of the crane, and we were safely out of his territory. So I take my chick down into the marsh we started at. We’re having a good time foraging for bugs, taking baths, forging new paths when all of a sudden, I see a spot of white at the top of the hill (insert Jaws music).
He’s investigating my back trail. I start moseying forward to get out of the marsh. I look behind me, he’s under the old oak tree looking directly down onto my trail in the tall grass… and he’s stalking down the hill (jaws theme gets louder).
I freak (calmly, of course). I turn up my brood call, start jumping to get my chicks’ attention and move very swiftly and emphatically forward. The one near me seem to understand my urgency, but the ones further back are distracted by the wonderland of bugs. As the group is moving forward, I look behind me, and he’s caught up with my last chick. He’s in the pack we’re all moving very fast, and I have no help. I pray that someone has seen what’s going on and will come out to help.
I clear the marsh. One, two, three…. Where’s four? There. Ok, four. Where’s five? Who’s missing?
The adult clears the marsh. He doesn’t count. Where’s five? Feta. Where’s my little girl, Feta? She’s the smallest, I hope she’s not dead in the marsh. We gotta get out of here, I’ve still got four! I’ll go back for her later.
Finally, 2 costumes come out to help me. Safe. One costume gets between the adult and our group. The other costume helps me to usher the chicks to the night pen. All of a sudden, Feta comes out of the marsh! Oh, thank goodness!!! We go back and get her. Five. Five chicks alive and safe.
What a day.