Sandhill cranes #7, what next?


I have to laugh at myself. At my disappointment over the cranes being off the nest and ending a major source of my own entertainment.  And purpose if you will, since I was so emotionally invested in their story. But despite the absence of ‘my’ family there seemed to be even more crane activity than ever on the lake. I saw single cranes, pairs of cranes, groups of four, which always sent me for my camera so I could look through the zoom lens and see if any of them were still yellow-headed. Even six at once. And it wasn’t a challenge to know there were cranes out there because they made a lot of noise, they weren’t shy. I suspect that a lot of these cranes hadn’t mated yet, but they were definitely interested. Things were hopping out there.

Turns out the family might be off the nest but they were not out of the neighborhood.  It took a week, but they came back, coming down from the pond on the next street as if they hadn’t missed a beat.  It was good to know they were together, and I hoped that even if I didn’t see them daily that I’d see them enough to know that they were okay.  Which is what happened.  Over the next two weeks or so I’d see them here and there, in a yard up the street, or on a corner, and I’d take a quick picture with my phone so I’d remember when and where I’d seen them last.  The most common place to see them was on the corner of a busy street, of all places, so I tried to get a photo and then move on so they didn’t cross that street because of my interest in them.

They came back to the lake on April 15th, and the bottom left photo is from May 7th.  I saw them on the lake again on the 9th, but then I saw two adults with one colt on each of the next three days.  I told myself it was a different family.  I hoped it was a different family.  threeonly

Now comes the part of the story that I’ve wondered how I’d write.  There is no way to know what happened, or when, but on May 13th I was merrily taking photos of the family back on the lake when I saw that one of the colts had injured his left wing.  It appeared to be dragging, or at least drooping.  And he was in the vicinity of the other three, but not really with them.  He had been splashing in one of the pools of water out there while I was watching the other three, so when I saw the drooping wing I hoped it was just wet.  I quickly realized it wasn’t just wet, and when my neighbor came out I asked her what she thought, and we contemplated trying to ‘help’ in some way.  Then I saw one of the adults try to chase off the wounded colt.  I had seen them clear the nest enough times to know what was going on.  It was heartbreaking to watch the colt trudging up the usual path to leave the lake, but then I saw that the rest of the family was following not too far behind…

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