Hart Beat by Hart Rufe

First published March 19, 2012 ... Contact Hart at hartrufe@gmail.com

If the video does not appear, go directly to YouTube youtube.com/watch?v=7aQar1R9h0w

Sandhill Crane baby update. Sad news to report. Baby No. 1 was hit and killed by a hit and run driver yesterday. I understand there were no witnesses. It is believed that the driver must have been a visitor.The baby was almost full grown and just about the same size as the parents, and could only be distinguished from the parents by its different feathering. It was badly smashed and could not possibly have survived. It was given a proper burial. I am also told that many residents of the condo complex have cried almost as though the baby was a family pet. The parent birds appear devastated and frequently come right up to complex residents almost seemingly to ask, "Do you know where my baby is?" It is heart wrenching.

Further news: Baby No. 2, in rehab, was discovered to have a bad leg, which has been fitted with a splint and the rehab facility is cautiously optimistic that it will recover and survive. The bad leg may explain why the parents were not as attentive to it, and why Baby No. 1 picked on it. However, it does not appear that Baby No. 2 will ever be able to return to the wild. Nevertheless, only time will tell and we can only be hopeful.

Sandhill Crane Mystery at High Point

What happened? At approximately 10 a.m. on March 7, after watching and videoing the Sandhill Crane babies for over an hour, we packed up our binoculars and cameras and returned to our condo to review the morning photography and video results. When we left the babies we were satisfied that they were doing well and were going to thrive. An hour later we received a frantic call that there was now only one baby Crane. We rushed to the nesting area and confirmed that there was indeed only one baby, but the entire Crane family was now off the nesting island and on the mainland.

OK, so what really HAPPENED? When we saw the family off the island, visions of wildebeests in Africa crossing the Zambezi River while a gauntlet of hungry crocodiles awaited an easy meal, immediately came to mind, for there are turtles and a small alligator in the lake where the nesting island is located. Or the second baby might have simply drowned while attempting to make the water crossing. Also, there are both a resident Kestrel and a cruising Cooper’s Hawk that we see in the vicinity almost every day. Either would have loved baby crane for breakfast.

How about possible human intervention? We know the Cranes are not universally loved in High Point. One resident walking by the assembled Crane watchers complained, “Those f---in’ birds create a traffic jam every year.” That sounds like Yogi Berra’s famous comment, “That restaurant is so crowded, nobody goes there anymore.”  The High Point equivalent would probably be, “So many people watch the Cranes, we should get rid of them.” And the care-taker of the bocce courts constantly complains that the Cranes dig in the clay and ruin the smooth bowling surface. But most High Point residents have a positive, and even protective, feeling about the Cranes. This is regularly confirmed when one watches residents rush out of their homes, cameras in hand, to photograph the birds as they wander across front yards through-out the complex. We just don’t believe humans harmed the baby Crane.

Epilogue: Eight days after the disappearance (and after our video had been made and posted) we learned that a licensed wild-life rehabilitator took the second baby Crane into protective custody because the older sibling had begun pecking at the younger, weaker baby and had actually drawn blood. Apparently such activity is an occupational hazard for younger Cranes exposed to an older stronger jealous sibling. The rehabilitator, a resident of High Point, was aware of this potential and watched closely for it to happen. When it began she intervened quickly and placed the baby in appropriate foster care. The baby should be returned to the area of its birth in four to six weeks. Hopefully there will be a future for the second Crane baby.