Join Waukesha resident Brien Lee and his blog, Sir Fido, as they explore the city and report on the interesting things they find.
Email Brien at email@example.com.
There's three things I look forward to at 5:00 in the morning, but it's rare I'm given the choice of all three at once.
Like most people, I look forward to being asleep at 5:00 a.m., but of course it's the first thing to go when better things call.
I also look forward to a 5:00 wake up call to go hot air balloon crewing. Because of winter, it's been many months since the phone's rung. I've been hoping I'm still on the list for this year.
Just one day a year, always the Saturday before Earth Day, I join 30 other observers throughout Waukesha County - 3000 throughout five midwestern states - for the Annual Midwest Crane Count.
As luck would have it, I got the year's first ballooning call to crew the same morning as the count. You can always catch up on sleep, but how can you be in two places at once? Count cranes while chasing the balloon?
Of course, I went for the crane count. Being the only one covering section 51, I committed to it a year ago. My participation in the count helps the International Crane Foundation monitor the health of the crane population as habitat shrinks and whooping cranes are reintroduced.
Rarely do I encounter humans during the 5:30 - 7:30 a.m. count, but maybe because of the nice weather I encountered two others, both of them photographers looking for the perfect wildlife shot. One of them was specifically there for bluebirds and left the area without seeing any. A while later one showed and I caught a digital image of it. .
I was hoping to catch sight of the ballooners on this beautiful morning, but all I saw were turkeys, geese, either an owl or hawk, swallows, deer... and one crane. One of the nicest things about being alone in nature as an observer is to be unplugged from technology and noise. With my senses tuned to nature, the relative warmth of the calm morning, the sounds around me and in the distance, it has to be what heaven feels like. Now that winter is over, the scents of the earth are returning. I'm reminded what the fertile ground, damp marshes and fens and flowing springs smell like. It's even a better scent than I remember.
I never did see the balloons but did run into them after they landed. The crane counters met for breakfast after the count and the ballooners met after the flight in a parking lot nearby. They had a good flight, a very good flight.