Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cranes leave the nest but find new dad

By David Horst

FREMONT, Wis -- For a short time on a recent Sunday, I felt a little like Father Crane.
It was a natural reaction to the following situation.
Chuck leads crane #302

I am running through a cut hay field. My arms are … well … flapping.
Running behind me are four sandhill cranes. I begin to separate from them and one or two of the cranes open their 5-foot wingspan and float up and over my head, landing slightly in front and on either side of me.
It sounds like I’m describing some strange nature lover’s dream – and it would be a good one – but this was reality. As pleasant a reality as it might have been, it was not what we wanted to have happen.
We were on a dead-end farm road south of Fremont to release these young cranes back into the wild so they could link up with their peers before the migration south. They had been in the care of The Feather Rehabilitation Center near New London, which is to say they were in the care of Pat Fisher. She is a one-woman nonprofit operation.
The cranes had come to her from around the state, not injured but kicked out of their nests, probably by their siblings.
Female sandhill cranes typically lay two eggs, though normally only one of the young makes it to maturity. It may be predation of the egg or young bird by skunks, raccoons, foxes or coyotes. Or it may be the smaller of the two coming up short in survival of the fittest.
Nature may be beautiful, but she often is not kind.