Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Meet the Cranes

Conservation, Critters, Prescribed Burns, Sandhill Cranes, Trail Camera, Reader Contributions

Meet Grus canadensis - the Sandhill Crane. 

Photo Credit - Eileen Worman

The Sandhill is amongst the tallest of birds in the world sporting very long legs and a gray to rusty-red plumage.  And they announce their presence with a distinctive cronkling call.  In a word - they are magnificent.

We're fortunate to have some naturalized habitat out behind our house on the peninsula.  There is a pond and scrape constructed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service many years ago and a half dozen acres or so of native grasses and forbs that we added.  And early spring we enjoy the arrival of the cranes.  Amazingly they appear before the snows recede and the ice melts from the pond.  With a pair of binoculars we can observe their courtship ritual of posturing and dance.  It's rather spectacular if you ever have an opportunity to watch it.  In any event we never observed whether or not any of that elaborate courtship bore any results.  The problem was both we weren't paying close enough attention and over the last half-dozen years the native plants have accumulated a thick thatch and the invading woody shrubs contributed to obscuring what might be going on down at the big pond. 

In any event this spring we conducted a prescribed burn.  A most excellent way to remove all of that built-up fuel and shrubbery.  Left behind was scorched black earth allowing the native plant life to spring-forth and get a jump start on the undesirable species.  One of the up-shots of the burn was that for the first time in many years we had a clear view of acres of unobstructed landscape.  Contrary to popular belief the fire didn't chase away the mallards or the meadowlarks.  No reptiles and not even the amphibians.  As a matter of fact the frog chorus grew louder as the sun set every night. A humongous snapping turtle laid her clutch of eggs amongst the ancient lilacs surrounding the foundation of the original homestead.  And lo and behold the fire didn't chase away or harm the cranes.  We were able to enjoy an unobstructed view of them.

We observed them walking from the pond and south west to the hay field across the road and back.  And wouldn't you know it - a visiting turkey hunter and his girlfriend spied a couple of little ones.  Baby cranes.  Following this news we all celebrated like grandparents!

Newborn cranes are called colts.  In-part due to their long and gangly legs.  Like any young colt they totter-along on their outsized legs following their parents.

Almost immediately I positioned a motion activated trail camera in the vicinity of where I presumed their travels might take them and from time to time I was able to upload some pictures of the parents and one colt.  Then the pictures came fewer and further between.  Followed by no pictures at all.

Did a predator take down one of the youngsters?  Then the second one?  Did the parents subsequently leave having unsuccessfully fledged a family?

Just this last Friday the dogs and I ventured-forth and made our circuit of the four trail cameras now on silent and patient year-round sentinel duty.  Two cams required fresh batteries.  After a long fall, winter and spring of silent observation they were dead.  All the cams had photos.  The ubiquitous whitetail deer, turkeys and an occasional nocturnal raccoon.

Then this...

Looks like the family is intact.  At least as of a week ago.  Both colts and parents.  And the little ones are growing like weeds.

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