More Nesting News

L7 or 8-11 standing next to nest containing 2 eggs.  Sorry, not the best photo, it was bumpy & hard to get the camera to focus.
L 2 & 13-11 at/on their nest, in red.  Other platforms outlined in squares (yellow boxes are platforms that are under water).
L2 or 13-11 sitting on their nest with other bird standing nearby.
L3-11 standing on nest adjusting eggs with mate, L1-13 standing nearby.

After the eggs from L7 & 8-11 failed to hatch and the nest of L1 & 6-11 flooded things were quiet and honestly a tad disappointing for several weeks, and then the LA whooping cranes surprised us with a few more nests.

We expected L7 & 8-11 to renest, or at least we thought it was likely since they had renested last year even after their first nest went full-term.  Sure enough, about 2 ½ weeks after we collected the eggs they renested and have been faithfully incubating their new eggs.  Unfortunately, the time for the eggs to hatch has come and gone so it seems once again these eggs are not viable and are likely infertile as all their previous clutches have been.  As with their previous clutches we’ll give them several extra days just to be sure but are planning to collect the eggs later this week.

Now for the surprise nests!  L2 & 13-11 originally left the release pen back in spring 2012 with five other birds and all seven were a tight group for the next year and a half.  By late 2013, two of the group of seven had split off and there was a pair forming within the group of five that remained but all five still associated off and on for the next year.  Finally this winter, the pair L1 & 6-11 completely separated from the others, leaving the trio of L2, 3, & 13-11.  These birds were 4 years-old this spring and frankly I was surprised the trio had remained as closely associated as they had for as long as they had.  I kept waiting and waiting for the extra female to get booted and leave us with a new 4 year-old breeding pair but I was starting to give up and think it wouldn’t happen until next spring.  Then in mid-late April, two 2013 males encountered the trio and this proved to be the catalyst that finally caused the trio to separate.  L3-11 (a female) left with the two males, leaving L2 & 13-11 to hopefully turn into a breeding pair, and they didn’t disappoint!

On 29 April, I flew over the area to check on L2 & 13-11 and though they were in the neighboring pasture, both Michael, the pilot, and I spotted four nest platforms in the wetland area used by them.  The next week, the cranes were in a different area so my colleagues, Charles and Phillip investigated from the ground and confirmed the four platforms we’d seen plus two more that we’d missed because they were flooded and under water.  There was no evidence of eggs but it was encouraging to see that some reproductive instinct had kicked in!  The following week Charles went to check them again and found them sitting on a nest!  L2-11’s PTT failed last year and we were missing some data from L13-11’s transmitter so we’re not exactly sure when the egg(s) (we haven’t been able to see the eggs so we don’t know if there’s 1 or 2) were laid but, if fertile they could hatch as early as this weekend (but it might not be till next weekend)!

And finally, L3-11 was apparently eager to get in on the nesting action as well, because although she initially left and was associating with both L1 & 6-13 and sometimes also L3-13 (another male who was close by) she ultimately paired (very quickly!) with L1-13 and I found them with a nest containing two eggs during a flight last week!  In this case we do have better data from their transmitters that indicates when the pair likely started incubating and, if fertile, these eggs should hatch in about two weeks.

We’re trying to be patient as we monitor these nests and wait to see whether either of them will produce a chick but even if they don’t we’re pleased to have all of our 2011 birds, except one, paired and to have had four pairs produce and incubate eggs this spring!

Update and photos by Sara Zimorski

Photo captions from upper left to right and then below:

L7 or 8-11 standing next to nest containing 2 eggs.  Sorry, not the best photo, it was bumpy & hard to get the camera to focus.

L 2 & 13-11 at/on their nest, in red.  Other platforms outlined in squares (yellow boxes are platforms that are under water).

L2 or 13-11 sitting on their nest with other bird standing nearby.

L3-11 standing on nest adjusting eggs with mate, L1-13 standing nearby.