3 of my babies were found dead on December 30th in southern Georgia. They were shot by hunters while foraging in a field. Gouda, Fontina, and baby Saganaki (20, 24, and 28-10) are a huge loss to the program. The perpetrators haven't been found, but the investigation is ongoing. Thankfully, the other 2 cranes with them, Ricotta and Goat (23-10 and 26-10) have been seen alive in fields nearby.
This is the last picture I took of the group when they were still together near Snow Hill, TN. They were with their adults: 6-05, 6-09, and 38-09.
That day, December 13th, they all flew off to the South, but I lost their signal in Chattanooga. I wish I was able to follow them that day. Maybe we could have monitored them a little better. Maybe the presence of my van would have warned away the hunters. I also wish the young ones would have stayed with the adults. When the adults (all bachelors) reappeared at Snow Hill a week later sans juveniles, I was a little worried that they got into trouble.
They were all good cranes. Fontina most of all: one of our best flyers. I know they've changed and grown since beginning their migration. But you tend to keep some personality traits. She was not only valuable because she was a female, but also because it seemed she kept the group in line. She didn't take unnecessary risks. I always thought she'd make a good momma crane: responsible, strong, and just social enough to know to find a mate. I'm projecting a personality on to her, so I'll stop. But I really liked that crane.
Goodbye baby Saga. You had so much youthful joy. I will miss your enthusiasm for life.
(thanks, Aubrey, for the pictures of Saga)
Goodbye Gouda. I always thought of you as a goober when you were young, but you turned into quite a charming young crane. You will be missed.
And goodbye Fontina. I had trouble finding good photos because you were always close by our side. But you were beautiful and your memory will be cherished.