Borrego Springs, CA

Friday, February 25, 2011

How to catch a crane (or not)

Seems some gremlins had a hold of my computer last night, and I was unable to publish my post.  So, I went to bed and tried again this morning.  It worked this morning, so I guess I’ll have two posts for today.


Late yesterday afternoon, I headed out with four other people to try to catch one of the unbanded cranes.


We went to one of the two acre holding pens where captive raised young cranes are acclimated each fall to their natural habitat.  An automatic corn feeder has been placed there to attract in a mated pair where the female is unbanded.  We are running out of time to catch her, as breeding season is right around the corner.


A loop of these snares is placed in the ground about ten feet out from the feeder.


You can see that each thin stake is placed into the ground every few inches with a snare loop of fishing type line attached to each stake.


Each set of stakes is weighted down with a section of rebar.  There are 50-100 stakes in each set, and it takes several sets to surround the feeder. 


Setting the stakes is an exacting chore.  Here biologist, Lauren, and intern, Katy, work at setting them up while fellow volunteer, Jay, looks on.  The plan is for the cranes to come walking in to the feeder, and get one of their feet caught in a noose.  When that happens, Lauren comes running from a hiding place behind some shrubs on the outside of the enclosure to subdue the caught crane.

_MG_9297In the meantime, the interns, Jay, and myself will be watching from up in this blind.  If a bird is captured, the interns will also run out of the blind to help the biologist. 


Since the blind is about 10-12’ off of the ground, and these are the steepest, tallest steps I’ve ever climbed, you can bet I would exit sedately!  Smile


This was my view out of the slit in the blind.  Notice the corn feeder right in the center, and that’s Lauren heading to her hiding place.  It only took about twenty minutes for the pair to fly into the enclosure.  They usually come in to feed around 4:30 before getting ready to roost in the pond on the left hand side of the enclosure.


They came flying in to the far side of the enclosure and immediately began a round of raucous calling.  Then the male began dancing in front of the female.  She couldn’t resist the invitation, and responded with her own leaps, bounds, and bowing with wings up.  It was surely a sight to behold!  The dance of life!  (Just like on National Geographic!)  They were too far away to take a picture, and I didn’t want to spook them with my telephoto lens.


After the ritual was over, both birds began to slowly make their way toward the feeder.  We all collectively held our breaths, but it was not to be.  There was something about the new nooses that Jay had built that put them off.  Dang!  They then sauntered back to the other side to feed in the grass.  We thought we had a good chance of catching her since we’ve had false nooses laying around the feeder for a week.  Then they took off, so it was time to collect everything once again and hike the quarter mile or so back through the mud to the trucks before it was dark. 


Jay thinks the camouflage tape in the stakes may have put them off.  He plans to remove that and just die them a brown color.  Hope that works.  While I was disappointed we didn’t trap one of the cranes, it couldn’t take away the joy of seeing the beautiful dance of the cranes!


Thanks for stopping by…. talk to you later,  Judy


  1. crane catching!.what a interesting concept...we wish you luck with the 'hunt'!

  2. I just can't help myself. My thought when the cranes flew off was "YAY". I've never been able to figure out why we must band and tag every animal on the face of the earth, except us of course.

  3. And so goes the mating ritual...Dancing, jumping, yelping..and relaxing at last...We are not so different,....are we?? What a treat to see Nature doing it's natural attractions....That was surely worth the trip...

  4. In this case, it is to monitor the small population. Without bands and radio transmitters, we could not find the nests and help supplement their survival rate. Today, 90% of the Mississippi sandhill cranes that are in existance are either captive raised (by puppets) or their offspring. I am in favor of supporting the survival of endangered species so that they do not become extinct. These birds are truly wild, and not zoo specimens.

    Each time a species vanishes from earth due to man is a very sad day in my opinion. We still have so much to learn from them.

  5. I have always been fascinated with banding birds, there is such a technique to it.

    I'm not sure I would manage too well in a bind that far off the ground. I get a bit queasy with heights!

  6. Okay - what are puppets? I would love to have seen a picture of them banding the bird. Maybe tomorrow? I'm not sure I would have made it up into the blind to begin with.

  7. I'm a virtual fan of our local falcons that nest on the city hall. One of the big days each year is when a biologist rappels down the wall from the roof to the nest box and bands the chicks.

    Our falcon female laid her first egg last night.

  8. If anyone of us deserves to observe such an awesome spectacle of the beauty of nature such as that dance, it is you my Judy friend!

    Hope tomorrow is a better day and you also get to participate in the banding!

  9. What an interesting process. Good luck in future banding operations. Glad you got to see the mating dance.

  10. Thanks for explaining the process for capturing the cranes for banding. I had no idea what was involved.

  11. Thanks for sharing Judy. I love the work that you are doing to save these magnificent creatures!


  12. Always nice to see someone with the interest & concern that you do with nature. Takes a special personality & dedication to volunteer for these assignments which are not always in the best weather or locations. Keep up the good work Judy & hopefully others will be inspired by your efforts to follow in your footsteps.

  13. Yeah, why do we have to band them? I'm sure there's a good reason.

  14. I just adore coming here to learn something new. Thanks, Judy!

  15. I had the chance to see two cranes doing the mating dance last summer on our place in Montana--it was a joy to watch and hear!

  16. You have the most interesting "job duties" for your portfolio as a volunteer!
    Watching cranes dance must be one of the best!
    Better luck next time!

  17. Judy, that's what hunting is like except you don't have to shoot your prey, it's just a waiting game, and animals will always amaze you with their intelligence to avoid capture. Be safe out there. Sam & Donna.

  18. Good luck with catching the female. I would rather watch cranes dancing than people dancing. I totally understand the banding thing, and am a fan of it. A number of animals have been saved because of the studies done on them.

  19. Did you play soft music and light some candles for that beautiful "Dance of the Cranes?" Aww the wonders of nature~
    Your work does not go unnoticed...

  20. I also am so thankful for the programs that are helping the endangered species. Thanks Judy for all your work and the others at the wildlife refuges.

  21. Another great post on an unusual topic. Funny that the cranes were not fooled by the traps. Back to the drawing board.

    You are doing a great work helping these beautiful birds to increase their population numbers and thrive.

  22. I am so impressed with your work & love reading about it. I learn something new every time I read one of your posts. Keep up the good work but be careful out there.