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The End

On May 25, 2011, in Nature, by Meghan
4

Friends and I took to watching the fields around the Sandhill Cranes’ nest off Highway 224 in Park City today, but we came up empty-handed. Momma and Poppa Sandhill, their natural colt, and the baby the crane family purportedly adopted are all gone.

(If you’re just joining in, here’s 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 of the colts.)

The natural baby was born just five days ago, and though they hatch strong and tough and able to walk on land and float in water, the colt and his/her family shouldn’t be too far from the original nest. We’ve scoured the wetland and the fields with binoculars and telephoto lenses and, simply, no one of the Sandhill Crane kind is home.

I last saw Momma and Poppa Sandhill yesterday afternoon, several hundred meters away from the nesting site, wandering and feeding in a dry field. I suspect that sometime between then and today, the pair, without young to care for, has moved physically on.

This is the last time I saw the Sandhill Crane pair on Tuesday afternoon (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit).

Momma Sandhill's on the right and Poppa on the left (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit).

With their massive size and intricate plumage and vocal chords pulled straight from the Age of Reptiles and a mating dance fit for royalty, Sandhill Cranes are a miracle unto themselves. Add to that miracle the grace of a mated pair nesting in full view of a small city’s thoroughfare, allowing everyone, not just the birders with the big binoculars and the Sibley Guides and the free time to wander silently through swollen wetlands, access to one of nature’s finest moments. Pile on the birthday of a Sandhill Crane colt with its fuzzy down and pink legs and chicken-like chirps and my-oh-my, the world becomes magic.

This, the place where the miracles and the magic stop, I begrudgingly suppose, is the end of the story. Too soon, it feels, as my heart remains embedded in it all. The Sandhill Crane pair has moved on, it seems, so I suppose I’ll follow in their figurative footsteps.

To my fellow members of the animal kingdom: I wish you peace in death and in life.

Rest in peace little Sandhill Crane colt (Meghan M. Hicks photo credit).

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4 Responses to “The End”

  1. Ewa says:

    Moving on can be the most difficult thing one can do. Nature teaches many life lessons.
    Thank you for these posts.

  2. Lisa says:

    This is pretty depressing – I’m sure it was all the human interference that caused it.

  3. Meghan says:

    Ewa, thanks for your wise comment.

    Lisa, I, too, wouldn’t be surprised if stress due to human interaction was at least a contributing factor. Though I’m sad to see the babies go, it’s heartening to know that the adults both seemed fine and that they’ll probably go on to parent/have already parented other babies in their long lives.

  4. JeffO says:

    What a mystery! It’s hard to imagine a fox being willing or capable to risk a fight with the parents.
    Maybe the colts crossed a fence? Sometimes birds forget they can fly so maybe the colts went where the parents couldn’t walk? I’ve seen comical bird-panicks from not being able to hop up a high curb. Seems someone would find the colts, unless a fox, coyote, cat, or dog found them first.
    Even if a natural predator got an easy meal, something like a man-made fence could be a factor.

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