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When Magic Happens

On May 23, 2011, in Nature, by Meghan
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After 30 or 31 days of egg incubation in one of the wettest springs on record in Park City, Utah, magic happened. Over the weekend, the beloved Sandhill Crane of Highway 224 hatched a baby!

On Saturday at about noon, mom and pop Sandhill Crane (Mom's on the left and pop the right.) family showed off their brand new little one in Park City, Utah (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit).

Friends called on Saturday morning to say they believed, by the veritable traffic jam taking place on Highway 224, that Momma Sandhill’s eggs must have hatched. I rushed over quick-like and joined the roadside party of nature lovers. Together, we all watched and giggled and ooh-aah-ed as one wee colt, as baby Sandhill Cranes are called, explored its new world.

“There’s a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out.” (Unknown)

As of April 24th, when I snapped photos of Momma Sandhill off her nest, she was brooding two eggs. For the first few minutes of watching the Sandhill Crane family, I craned my own neck around for a glimpse of a still-unhatched egg or a second colt playing just out of sight. There was no second baby, though, and I couldn’t help but mourn the little bit of tragedy amongst the magic.

The modus operandi of a one-day old Sandhill Crane colt: walk, flap wings, and eventually fall over. Squeeeeee (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit)!

(Meghan M. Hicks photo credit)

But, when the world is this adorable, you can’t stay sad for long. The little guy/gal had a penchant for rolling off the flat nest, usually backward and heels over head. Momma Sandhill didn’t seem worried, and the colt hopped back up onto the nest after each roll-off.

(Meghan M. Hicks photo credit)

(Meghan M. Hicks photo credit)

(Meghan M. Hicks photo credit)

I watched for about 90 minutes, as sun and clouds danced their way over the wetland. Momma Sandhill stayed on or near the nest the whole time. Poppa Sandhill hung out mostly nearby, playing nest defender. At one point, a nature photographer crept too close to the nest (Why? I don’t know, he had a 600mm long lens on his camera!), and Poppa Sandhill came flying at him, jumping, wing-flapping, and making a Pleistocene-worthy alarm call that sent the photographer back up onto the highway.

I suspect that, by this look, Momma Sandhill could put up a pretty fierce defense of her colt, too (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit).

Baby Sandhill Crane tried out his/her vocal cords for a spell, sounding just like a baby chicken in the process (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit).

A sleepy Sandhill Crane colt almost fell asleep in the warm sun (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit).

Check out the following three-photo series to see how a Sandhill Crane colt moves. It’s so cute I want to cry.

(Meghan M. Hicks photo credit)

(Meghan M. Hicks photo credit)

(Meghan M. Hicks photo credit)

I returned in the evening to watch for about 20 more minutes. The evening light made the colt’s down look especially fuzzy and squeezable.

(Meghan M. Hicks photo credit)

Sandhill Cranes do not raise their babies in nests. Rather, the babies are born fully-able to navigate the world. After a day or two on the nest, the family ventures onward. I went back to the nest on Sunday morning and found it already empty. Mom, Pop, and baby Sandhill Crane were in a mostly dry field about 50 meters from the nest.

Sandhill Crane mom and colt in Park City, Utah field (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit)

(Meghan M. Hicks photo credit)

Magic happens everywhere, sometimes, even, right next to the highway. Little Sandhill Crane: it’s a big, mysterious world and I wish you all the best.

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8 Responses to “When Magic Happens”

  1. Ewa says:

    Meghan, this is magic! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I wish I were there to watch and help chase nasty photographers away. 🙂
    Crane babies are called colts? I had no idea.

  2. Jo Gabrielson says:

    Magic indeed! Thanks for sharing!

  3. […] Blog When Magic Happens […]

  4. The End says:

    […] a link to my blog post from just after the Sandhill Crane pair began incubating their eggs. This is the post in which I document the birthday of the pair’s colt. And, this post notes the disappearance […]

  5. Meghan says:

    Ewa, Jo, and Lee, thanks for following along on the adventure!

  6. JeffO says:

    Thanks for the photos! Wish I could see and hear such a process “live, in 3D, and SenSurround.”

  7. […] about some of my experiences with a nesting pair of sandhill cranes here, here, and (sadly) here. Tagged with: Alaska • book review • Faith of Cranes • […]

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