|His ears are a little askance, but the hood serves its purpose|
|Nicole, Jamie, and Eva diligently watch the Sandhill family for two straight hours|
We waited for 2 hours while the Sandhill family slowly (I would like to emphasize SLOWLY) walked into position for our ambush team on the ground. As soon as the family was far enough away from the marsh and protective cover, the ground crew made a run for them. I do NOT look away from my scope. My job is to keep an eye on the young cranes while the adults are flushing because the young may drop out of sight and hunker down in the grasses at any moment. It didn't take long. The whole thing took 2 seconds at most before there were no more cranes in view. The adults had flown off and the chicks had hidden in the grasses. The ground crew reached location at about 3 seconds in.
|A frustrated Ground Crew with no chicks in sight|
Well all that excitement was for naught. We didn't find the crane babies. They hid very well. Sometimes the young will poke a head up to see if the danger is gone, so we waited for another 30 minutes. Nothing.
It's strange how somethings work out, though. As we were exiting the scene, we happened to see one of the juveniles pretty far away, right on the side of the road! I see the car in front of us pull off the side, 3 men spill out of the car and RUN. They caught the chick before we even managed to park the car. As I walked up, the chick was already hooded (see above; a nice volunteer sewed these cute hoods for the cranes), and securely wrapped up in Dan's arms.
What we do:
Age estimate (based on eye color because they change from blue to slate grey to orange or yellow)
Check feather growth on the wings (make sure those blood feathers are ok)
Blood sampling (for gender and other health reasons)
Measure the beak and legs
Weigh the bird
Band the bird; USFWS silver, colored bands, and numbered band
|Andy Measures the Beak|
Population monitoring; by tracing how many times we see marked birds we can estimate population size, population age, survival, habitat use, etc.
By sampling blood and taking physical measurements, we can estimate the health of the population or the suitability of the habitat the cranes are using.
|Matt takes the weight while Dan is close by for safety|
This chick was in hand a total of 20 minutes, which is pretty fast for all the analysis we do. Dan and Anne released the chick, who calmly ran towards the safety of the marsh and the reassuring presence of his parents.
|Dan allows the chick to gain his footing before release as Anne supervises|
|The expert stops a hematoma from forming while ensuring no pressure on windpipe/esophagus|
|Mike and Matt release the second bird|
|There he goes, "Catch ya later!"|
|Eva and I watch in fascination as Matt tries to warm up the BIG band.|
|Second chick, second hood :)|