New sandhill crane introduced to Fermilab site

Fermilab welcomed a new sandhill crane to the site on Saturday. Photo: Dave Shemanske

Fermilab welcomed a new sandhill crane to the site on Saturday. Photo: Dave Shemanske

The diversity of bird species at Fermilab is one of the most celebrated aspects of the lab’s world-class natural environment, drawing birders to the site from surrounding areas. When a pair of sandhill cranes appeared at the Village about two years ago, it seemed everyone — even non-bird-enthusiasts — took notice.

So it was a tragedy when, earlier this month, one of the cranes was struck by a car. It did not survive, and its mate has been calling for its missing partner.

We have taken steps to make this sad situation a little better for the surviving mate. Members of the Fermilab Roads and Grounds Group, local birding experts and other concerned individuals met to discuss a wonderful offer: We decided to accept a recently rehabilitated crane that had been under the care of a local, state and federal licensed USDA wildlife rehabilitator, Vicki Weiland of St. Charles.

We informed Vicki of the advantages and disadvantages of introducing the bird to the possible new environment and avian friend so she could do what was in the crane’s best interest. What’s best for nature is in the best interest of us all.

Fermilab physicist and birder Peter Kasper noted, with a big smile on his face, that it was “a kind and very positive offer.” And Denis Kania, St. Charles Park District manager of natural areas and a longtime birdwatcher at Fermilab, advised us to “go for it.”

On Saturday, Sept. 15, we released the rehabilitated bird near Lake Law to meet our beloved and recently bereft resident crane. We can only guess what this introduction will bring for the old friend and the new visitor.

The new crane walks with a limp, but it is not injured, so readers should not worry if they notice the new crane’s uneven gait. Please use caution when driving near the Village and Eastern Lakes, on Batavia Road, for our new guest.

One of our local bird monitors, Dave Spleha, has expressed a hope that both sandhill cranes will migrate with the larger groups of sandhill cranes that will pass over in next month on their yearly migration southward.

And we all hope is that the pair hit it off, or at least keep each other company.

Dave Shemanske is the head of Fermilab Roads and Grounds.