The State of Wisconsin is contemplating opening a Sandhill Crane season. Cranes are said to be tasty – they have been dubbed the “ribeye of the sky” and “quite the prize for the savvy hunter”. Since I have been within 5 feet of them, I don’t think it takes a lot of savvy.

Sandhill Cranes outside a hospital in Madison WI

I live near the International Crane Foundation, where they have been working for years to bring the Whooping Crane back from the brink of extinction. The work has included humans in crane costumes raising chicks to avoid imprinting on humans, and acting like cranes to teach them crane behaviors. Ultralight aircraft have led new flocks to teach them their ancestral migratory route.

Image from US Fish and Wildlife Service

The Whooping Crane population has dipped as low as 16 birds and was up to 826 in February, 2020, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. While Sandhill Cranes are not currently endangered, will hunting them endanger the rare Whooper?

Whooping Crane image from International Crane Foundation

In the news today, hunters in Oklahoma killed four Whooping Cranes. Speculation is that they misidentified them as Sandhill Cranes, for which Oklahoma has a season. We don’t really know how many have been shot. We just know that these four were shot, abandoned, and found by Game Wardens. At least a dozen have been killed in Louisiana, according to the Times-Picayune. The International Crane Foundation identified 15 shootings from 2010-2014.

Are poachers shooting Whooping Cranes deliberately? Are they shooting them by mistake, thinking they are Sandhills while hunting legitimately? Do they think they are poaching Sandhills and getting Whoopers accidentally? If legal hunting of Sandhills further endangers the nearly-extinct Whooping Crane, is it worth it? I just want to see and hear Sandhills on bike rides in the country. I hope to live long enough to see a Whooping Crane in the wild. If you really want a ribeye, I’ll buy it for you.

New brakes, new year

Happy 80th birthday, Joe McDonald! I wasn’t going to write a new year post, but this seems a fitting question to start the year.

It was time to change to the studded tires for winter. The day I would have spent doing that, I was working on my daughter’s bike. Its needs were more pressing. Ice arrived this week. Since the wheels were coming off anyway, I checked the brakes. The front disc pads were worn so I put on a fresh set. There was no space between the pads. I lubed the hydraulic pistons and reseated them. There was barely space for a putty knife, much less the brake rotor.

I decided to sand the pads to try to make space. Hand sanding had no effect. I wore the first pad on the power sander smooth with no effect so I switched to a coarser grit. I could almost mount the wheel. I moved on to a mill bastard file and could mount the wheel but not turn it. The angle grinder finally removed enough material for the brakes to work. The space was still minimal, but I was tired of futzing. A test ride was in order.

I started out thinking I might ride around the lake. I realized it was 56 years ago today that I started my first every day job. 358 days later I had my first day off. To commemorate the day, I rode to my childhood home, then to the start of my paper route. I rode the route, surprised by how much quicker it was without having to deliver 100+ papers along the way. I found one of the streets had been renamed. To come home I completed the circumnavigation of the lake. The shallow bays are frozen. Tundra swans swim in the open water. While I had filled my bottle with warm water, it was frozen before I got home.

I’ve replaced pads on these brakes a few times. This was the first time that the pads were the same brand as the brakes. I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again.

By the way, I did celebrate the new year with a glass of champagne at midnight – GMT.