Some random photos of cranes, because, hey, that's about all I got.
Sometimes you just can't help but take pride in your work--I had that moment in spades yesterday. I really enjoy leading bird trips, they are exhausting but it's so much fun. It's kind of like hosting a mobile party that lasts all weekend. Many people don't realize that bird identification is the smallest part of the job. A more important factor is customer service and anticipating the groups needs and being sensitive with their comfort. The number one priority is not the bird, it's food. People will be forgiving if a target bird doesn't show or if you were planning on seeing 600 swans and only 4 are present. They know that you cannot control the birds. However, you can control food and if you don't have enough and people get hungry. If they don't get fed soon they get hangry (deadly combo of hungry and angry).
Having led a fair share of birding tours of the years, I've picked up on some little tricks and tasks that need to be done. I usually lead tours with my friend Amber and she is the best organizer. We have our trips planned down to the minute. Doing this trip with Stan has been very different, he's very...shoot from the hip, keep the schedule flexible and just do whatever. I think we're making a good combo as I play Julie to his Gopher (yes, that was a Love Boat reference).
The breakfast situation on Friday morning was up in the air, I knew we were going to Perkins, they don't really do reservations and I wasn't sure of our exact arrival. We have to stay in the crane blind until all the cranes take off which can be anywhere from an hour to two hours. I did call Perkins last week and say "Hey, sometime between 8:30 am and 9:30 am nest Friday you will have a group of about 13 people come in for breakfast. I'll give you a call a half hour before we arrive so as not to overwhelm your staff."
They appreciated the heads up. Yesterday we left the blind, I called, they said the were ready. As soon as our group arrived we were whisked away to a table and the waitress was pouring the coffee--and they were busy too, almost all the tables were full. Just as the last of our group came in, another tour bus arrived with 21 people who had been to a crane blind and they were ready for breakfast--but the tour leader had not called ahead and they were turned away. I smiled to myself and thought "Amateurs." I pitied the tour guide, the bus was looking a little hangry and restaurant options for a large group with no reservations are tough. We've seen the group a few times and they've been having a few glitches here and there. Even if you get great birds, a hangry group can be brutal.
As I'm typing this, it's pouring down rain--the worst weather for bird watching on minimum maintenance roads. According to Weather Underground it's not going to stop until tonight. Prairie chickens are not Gene Kelly and will not be singin' and dancin' in the rain. We're contemplating canceling the dawn prairie chicken watch this morning and perhaps even heading back to Minnesota today instead of tomorrow. From my table in the hotel lounge I can see the group with the glitches loading onto their bus...surely they are not going out birding in this weather? Not only is it hard to see the birds, but the gravel roads are much too dangerous and slick. Another part of being a tour leader is to "know when to fold 'em" as Kenny Rogers is known to sing.