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Date: May 31, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:BIRDS RESCUEDLocation:Main Office

Work continues in the Gulf of Mexico to stem the flow of crude gushing at a rate of 19,000 barrels each day. The most recent attempt; the “top kill” method, which involved pumping mud into the damaged pipe, has failed. Next BP plans to attempt placing a custom-built cap to fit over a piece of equipment called the "lower marine riser package."

Meanwhile the latest numbers from the International Bird Rescue Research Center includes 561 birds collected to date at Gulf BP leak: 70 oiled birds collected live, 491 collected dead (not all showed oiling).

It could just be with the increased number of volunteers, that more birds are being found that may have indeed died of natural causes, but I can’t help wonder, of those dead that did not show oiling, was it just that there was no oil or contaminants visible on the exterior? And further, whether toxicology tests would reveal contaminants ingested by these birds.

The IBRRC updates their findings each day – to access the report visit this link

Date: May 30, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NESTING UPDATELocation:Main Office

In the May 19th nesting update we reported seven active Whooping cranes nests located in and around the Necedah NWR and as of Friday, May 28th there are still seven active nests.

It takes approximately 30 days for a crane chick to develop inside its protective egg shell before breaking free, and the earliest confirmed nest/renest was April 29th for pairs consisting of: 402 & DAR746 and 403 & 309. This means we may even have a hatch or two TODAY!

As you can well imagine, the entire Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership is very anxious to learn any news, and as soon as we do, we'll share it with you, our supporters.

Here is a listing of all seven pairs and their nest confirmation dates so that you can calculate future hatch dates:

402 & DAR746*: East training site; Necedah NWR, initiated 29-30 April
403 & 309*: South of West training site; Necedah NWR, renest, initiated 29-30 April
213 & 218*: West training site 2; Necedah NWR, renest, initiated 6-8 May
212 & 419*: Renest, initiated 9-11 May
317 & 303*: Pool 9; Necedah NWR renest initiated 2-3 May, deserted 4 May; second renest initiated 11-12 May
311 & 312*: NE of Sprague Pool; Necedah NWR, initiated 9-12 May
412 & DAR527*: Juneau County, initiated 10-15 May

 

Date:May 29, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHOOPING CRANES LOSE LONG-TIME FRIENDLocation: Main Office
We are sad to report the passing of a committed Canadian conservationist. Ernie Kuyt of Edmonton, Alberta passed away suddenly this week. While few Craniacs likely knew Ernie personally, most Whooping crane affectionados will have heard of his many scientific accomplishments.

Born in the Netherlands in 1929, Ernie immigrated to Canada with his family shortly after the Second World War. His pursuit in the fields of biology and conservation led him to Saskatchewan where he met and married Elsie Kulyk, the lady with whom he would go on to spend an adventurous 50 years.

Ernie joined the Canadian Wildlife Service in 1960, and enjoyed a successful career in wildlife conservation, 25 years of which were dedicated to working with Whooping Cranes and culminated in him being awarded the Order of Canada. He was a prolific writer of scientific articles, many of them documenting his study of the endangered Whooping Crane, something his family called, ‘his labor of love’.

Speaking about Ernie, Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Recovery team co-chair, said, “He was a good man who was dedicated to the cranes and to his family. He was my friend and will be missed.”

Joe Duff writes.....In an environment balanced between predator and prey, the art of concealment has advantages for both. For the quarry, the more adept they are at hiding, the longer they will survive, and for the attacker, being less conspicuous delays the alarm, leaving the victim unaware of their imminent demise.

This rule doesn’t apply to Whooping cranes. Even a bright red parrot in a green jungle isn’t as overt as a five foot tall white bird standing like a beacon in an open marsh and announcing his presence with a sonorous call that can be heard for miles.

Only 21 Whooping cranes existed in the 1940’s in a time when conservation was a novel idea, not commonly understood, let alone practiced. Safeguarding these birds took the dedication and hard work of many forward thinking people. Among them was Ernie Kuyt, a devoted biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service who helped fight that battle. The continued existence of Whooping cranes is the memorial to Ernie.

Bob Hunter, one of the founders of Green Peace once said, “Conservationists are a pain in the ass, but they make great ancestors.”

We are grateful for Ernie’s foresight. Without it we could not play our small role.

Date: May 28, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Dancing Cranes in the Land of the Rising SunLocation: Main Office
OM’s Walter Sturgeon invites you to join him on an incredible bird watching journey in Japan.

This is your opportunity to explore the fantastic birdlife, natural wonders, cultural sites and the magic that is Japan along with Walter and tour co-leader, Dave Davenport, Zoologist and President of EcoQuest Travel, Inc.

The trip is scheduled for February 12 to 26th, 2011 to take advantage of the abundance and diversity of cranes and waterfowl at that time. (A portion of the receipts go to benefit Operation Migration.)

“When the cranes have fed, they move away a little and, joined by the immatures, begin to leap and bow, using the cold twilight wind to pick them up, legs dangling, four or five feet into the air. As the sun sets behind the wooded ridge and faint stars appear in the fading blue above, the white birds dance forward and lift off the snow into the north wind.
To observe red-crowned cranes dancing in Hokkaido’s snows is the ultimate pilgrimage for ornithologists.”
Peter Matthiessen, “The Birds of Heaven,” 2001

For more information and/or a detailed itinerary, contact Walt Sturgeon. But do it soon. Group size is limited to a maximum of 14 participants.

Date: May 28, 2010 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Wood Buffalo/Aransas Population Update Location: Main Office
Lea Craig-Moore, Wildlife Technician with the Canadian Wildlife Service, along with Kathy St. Laurent, completed the nesting surveys of the Wood Buffalo/Aransas Population (WBAP)this past week. Conducted in and around Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park which straddles the border of the province of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, the surveys tally yielded fantastic numbers – 74 nests were found!

Lea’s nesting report noted that, “Only four 2009 territories did not have a nest this year. Water conditions are terrific and all marshes appear to be full.”

The 74 nests found this season tops the previous record of 66 (2008), and beats last year’s nest total of 62 by an even dozen. After the difficulties and losses the WBAP has faced the last two years, this is exciting and encouraging news. Lea said fledging surveys and banding of juveniles are expected to begin the first week of August.

Date: May 27, 2010Reporter: Geoff Tarbox
Subject:A DAY IN THE LIFE...Location:Laurel, MD

In the past, I’ve regaled you all with a day in the glorious life of an OM intern. But never once have I hinted at what goes in the day-to-day life of an OM intern at Patuxent, before migration and before Necedah. Well, at Patuxent, the high points of my day typically consist of the following:

Feeding chicks
Commenting on how they ate on their records
Cleaning something
Repeat, and not necessarily in that order

Every now and then, I’ll take a chick or two out for a walk. But that doesn’t really start until they get a smidge older, and we don’t have so many that need feeding. On paper, that doesn’t sound like the most glamorous job a man could ask for. But what my day lacks in glamour, it makes up for in spades with chicks. Cute, soft, fuzzy, chirping, shiny-eyed little chicks I could stuff into the pocket on my costume and take home. Chicks who want nothing more than someone to look out for ‘em and get food in their bellies. Glamour, shamour.

After winning the uphill battle that is getting up, I made my way over to Patuxent. Once I arrived, I filled up a new batch of water jugs for when we cleaned out the pens later that day, and fed my first check of the day, #1014, the youngest check in the pens at this point.

I’m mighty proud to say that I’ve been having some good luck with him so far this week. He (she?) hasn’t been out of the ICU where he lived after he hatched for too long. But with a little coaxing with my trusty puppet, I led him to the food bowl, where he filled himself up without a second thought. He only got a couple of crumbles every bite. But since he took several in the course of five or six minutes, and never spat any out, I called it a win.

All too often, once you lead a chick to his food bowl, he’ll look at it as if to say, “That’s swell. But it’s not going to put itself on the bill for you, you know,” then wander off. Or maybe, take a few bites and decide, “What am I doing? I got someone to do this for me. I’m gonna walk towards this wall for a bit,”. And that’s assuming you can get the little fella to the bowl in the first place.

But good ol’ #1014 caught on quick, and got what I call a good meal in his tummy. He even took several drinks from his assorted water jugs without any coaching on my part. Normally, getting chicks to drink is even more of an uphill battle than getting them to the food bowl. Even when you bill-feed them water, there’s only 50-50 shot they’ll actually drink it. It’s not uncommon to look up at the board that tells everyone when all the birds have been fed, and see that one chick is either borderline hydrated, or needs extra work drinking. But #1014 didn’t let me down, and he took his medicine with stride. Maybe he’s taking after #1014 from migration last year. Good ol’ 0914 was my favorite bird of the flock.

Once I made a note on his feeding record on the progress #1014 made, I moved onto #1015, who was barely a day old and still in his air-conditioner-sized ICU. The rules I found for feeding ICU chicks are more or less the same, but there are some subtle differences. For starters, you’re not necessarily worried about getting them to eat of out of the bowl, especially if they’re really young (though if you can, awesome). You’re just getting them fed.

But there’s also a fun game the ICU chicks and I like to play. It’s kind of like street hockey; the chick’s the offense and the puck all rolled into one, and I’m the goalie. And he wins if he gets out the ICU door I have to leave open in order to feed him. They have many different strategies. Sometimes, they’ll try to stagger out, as if to say, “Oops, look what happened!” I’ve seen a few try to creep over to the door ever so quietly like Christopher Plummer trying to sneak out of Austria, but that’s one I don’t see often. A few of the wily ones will actually sit and wait by the door when it opens, kind of like those lines of people waiting to get a Tickle-Me-Elmo during the holiday season. Or the perennial classic, when they get riled up, they’ll make like Mel Gibson at the end of Braveheart and just charge. The chicks always find this game very, very addicting. Once we start playing, they don’t feel like doing anything else. But we usually don’t start playing until ten or fifteen minutes in when he’s at least got something in his stomach. Fifteen felt like playing as soon as I sat down and opened the ICU door. He chose the Mel Gibson approach.

And thus, was my morning routine. Feeding the sweet and angelic #1014. Playing hockey with #1015. Fourteen kept up the good work the whole day. In fact, he seems to be making more headway than #1013, who likes being the kid at the dinner table who won’t eat. Poor Jessie, one of the interns at Patuxent kept getting saddled with him. But as picky as he is, he’s got nothing on #1011, who would freak out and start pacing if his brood model looked at him funny when he first got moved to his pen.

Fifteen and I kept playing our little game. But at least he waited until he had a bite or two to eat before we started playing. So far, he prefers the Mel Gibson strategy, but I caught him trying the Christopher Plummer approach a couple times. But at least he hasn’t perfected Tom Cruise’s/Martin Landau’s Mission Impossible approach, or Tim Robbins’ Shawshank Redemption approach. But that remains to be seen. I at least haven’t seen any suspicious posters of Rita Hayworth or Rochelle in the ICU. But I am at a loss as to what he wants with a poster of Scarlett Johansson.

When I wasn’t feeding, I was either cleaning odd dirty bowls and dishes left by the sink, or washing out footbaths while mowing was going on. But the cleaning action was just warming up.

Just before I took off for lunch, I also showed #1012 the great outdoors. Up until today, #1012’s world consisted of a little pen inside the propagation building at Patuxent, and an ICU before that. He had never seen the world outside of the prop building. But now that he was pushing a week old, and he had learned to feed himself, today was his big day. I crawled into his pen and opened the door to the outside portion of his pen. At first, the little guy was reluctant to follow me out the door. The adult model in the pen next to him was acting a little spooky. The model didn’t like it when other people walked into pens next to him and started hanging out with his little brothers. And since the big kids were doing it, #1012 was freaking out too. But once I let the adult model outside to blow off some steam, #1012 was ready to follow outside, and he kept up pretty well. He seemed to dig the great outdoors. Every now and then, he’d stop to peck out the grass, curious of his new surroundings. But he didn’t like it if I got a little too ahead. He’d stop and look around, peeping as he tried to figure out where daddy went. But otherwise, he happily followed me in and out the door, flapping his bitty little wings as though he was making his big push down to Florida.

Sadly, after lunch, my day became a little less chick-centric. By the time I came back, the pen cleaning had already begun. All the adult role models and chicks were either boxed or locked outside. I took on the role of pooper-scooper, going from pen to pen, sifting though beta chips for anything juicy the cranes might’ve left in their pen. Once that was done, I helped bring some clean water into some of the pens. What was left of the day was spent washing out dirty water jugs, buckets and dishes. And since we had jugs and buckets from thirteen chicks and four more from the models, there were plenty to go around, and enough to occupy me until punch out time.

As I said, intern life at Patuxent is mostly about feeding and cleaning. But soon it will be feeding, walking and cleaning. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Date: May 26, 2010Reporter: Trish Gallagher
Subject:DANCING WITH SADIELocation:Laurel, MD

The other day Sharon asked me to shut the adult cranes in their indoor pens so we could clean the footbaths in the outdoor runs. I always say yes when I’m asked to do something, even if I have a little trepidation about my ability to complete the request. An adult crane can be very intimidating if you happen to be in a confined space with it. They’re almost as tall as I am, with big wings, claws for raking, and a monster beak. Plus they have a stare that makes me quake in my boots and a warning rattle that I interpret as “Back off, I peck.” Now add to that the fact that they’re endangered and I’m still a novice dealing with them and the stage is set for no small amount of anxiety.

Some tips for dealing with adult cranes: appear taller than the bird so it thinks you are the dominant bird in the pecking order; never turn your back on the bird; and, never crowd it in the pen. Some advice from my brother the first time I took care of his children while he was away: never let them see the fear in your eyes.

Lots of times it’s easy – the adult might already be inside and I just need to walk into the run and shut the door. That was the case with two of the adults. Halfway done – but I did the easy side first to bolster my courage. The two adults on the other side are 16, a male who pecked me through the fence last year and Sadie, a female who loves to dance. I saved her for last since she’s so beautiful and I’m fond of her.

I walked slowly into the male’s pen. He wasn’t too keen on having me there. Although we don’t speak the same language, his nonverbal communication skills are excellent. His eyes stare me down and he rattles a warning. He can’t see the fear in my eyes because I’m wearing my costume, and I put my hand above my head to deceive him into thinking I’m taller than he is. He takes a few steps back rattling his warning. I advance. He retreats. Step by step we move down the run. When we get to the footbath he holds his ground. He stands and stares. Between those eyes is that monster beak. I will him onward. The other day I saw someone wave the cuff of her costume at him, so I give it a try. He grabs my cuff and shakes it a little, and then turns and walks inside. Phew! I shut the door with some of my anxiety relieved.

I’m actually less scared of Sadie. I’ve danced with her a few times, even though I don’t really know the steps – I just pretend I know what I’m doing. But today she’s not happy with my dancing. She keeps jumping up and making these lovely moves and I stand there watching her, sending encouraging thoughts her way. Go inside! No such luck. She leans forward and eyes me. I haven’t seen this before. What to do? I hold my ground, but then she leaps toward me and I back aside. To my horror, she dashes right past me! Oh no! Now what? When we go inside the run, we leave the door behind us open, and now there’s a crane between me and the open door! Good grief!

It’s another rare possibility that didn’t get covered in intern training. What now? Fortunately, as I turned and face her, my mouth hanging open in shock, she runs past me again. I turn again, relieved to have the door at my back, and Sadie still in the pen (can you imagine if I let her escape?). I try to make myself bigger and wider so I can block the door so she won’t run past me again. No such luck. She crouches again and darts past me. Believe me, when that beak is coming at you, the natural inclination is to flee! I turn, once again staring at the open door. She darts past me again. Is this part of the dance? We watch each other for another few moments. Finally, having had her fun with this intern, she turns and walks inside, as pretty as you please.

Date: May 25. 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:READER MAILLocation:Main Office

I am regularly amazed at how astute our supporters are about the complexities of this project. Some are so knowledgeable and ask such insightful questions that I can’t help but think they too spend sleepless hours pondering the problems in the middle of the night. Recently we received this message. The writer made some good points so we thought we would share the response with you.

Dear Joe,
It may be presumptuous of me a novice at bird behavior to suggest to you a probable cause to the nesting problem. I have observed that most wild birds will tenuously guard their nests from all types and sizes of predators. The smallest Mocking bird will chase and repeatedly attack cats, harks and others that are many times their size in defense of a perceived threat to their nest.

The Whooping Cranes seem, to my mind, to abandon their nest without much concern for their offspring. It seems that they do not have a very strong attachment to the nest. Could the fact that they were not raised in a nest contribute to the lack of nest attachment? I understand about the black fly and other predator problems. It just seems to me that the birds give up their nest much too easily compared to what I observe with other wild bird species.

I would be interested to know if the team has investigated this idea. I suppose that you get many suggestions from interested novices and my thoughts are probably worth about as much as they cost, nothing! Anyway, good luck with this year’s migration. I'll be along with you in spirit, wishing I could be there in body!

I agree that other wild birds seem to nest guard with far more tenacity than ours. However, if you have even encroached on a Whooping crane territory or watched a pair chase off an interloper, you might reconsider their persistence.

First of all, I think we underestimate the impact pests like black flies have on animals. We assume that because they are a natural part of the environment, other creatures that share the same habitat would have adapted to them by now just as they have adjusted to predators or floods or cold weather.

However, there are over 100 species of black flies, each with its own complex behavior patterns. There are two species, indigenous to Wisconsin that must feed on the blood of birds in order to complete their life cycle. Loons have also been the target of these marauders and there have been breeding seasons when no offspring are produced because of black flies infestations. When we talk about black flies in the numbers that we see at Necedah, we can no longer think of them as pests. They must be considered a predator.

The International Crane Foundation has been monitoring black fly populations in central Wisconsin recently and it appears that the highest concentrations by far are in and around Necedah. There is no historic evidence that Whooping cranes traditionally occupied this portion of central Wisconsin much less any evidence that black flies were a problem back then. Necedah was selected by the Recovery Team because of its ample, protected wetlands but it could be that black flies have always been a problem there. Maybe when wetlands were plentiful, the Whooping cranes of a century ago picked other marshes for their breeding territory. Or it could be that manmade modifications to the water systems of the Yellow River have inadvertently created perfect black fly habitat.

Then we came along with all good intentions and provided them with another food source. Either way, I can’t imagine what it is like to sit on a raised mound of grass in the middle of a wetland for thirty days with a couple of thousand insects helping themselves to your blood like it was an all-you-can-eat buffet.

When we judge nest affinity, there are many factors to consider. There is strong evidence that wild animals brought into captivity begin to change their behavior in reaction to the much different circumstances of life in an artificial environment. After multiple generations, they become less suited to life in the wild. Reintroduced populations of those animals often experience low survival. But if you are patient and you can put enough animals onto the landscape to outweigh the losses until a second generation can be produced, the success rate improves dramatically.

Nest guarding, defending a territory and even breeding are all governed by hormones. Levels of these compounds change throughout the year and dictate the animal’s behavior but low levels of hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin could result in a lackadaisical attitude. In order to test this however, samples would have to be collected from wild birds during the sensitive breeding season in Wood Buffalo National Part in northern Canada and then compared to levels in captive birds. That is a lot more complex than it sounds so we can look at other reintroduced populations for evidence. The birds that were raised at the same captive breeding centers, using the same techniques and then released in the Florida non-migratory flock don’t abandon their nests half way through the incubation period so it appears their hormone levels are not lacking.

So what if that capacity to guard their nest is something learned from having been the beneficiary of that protection? What if being raised in an incubator makes them more likely to shirk their parental responsibility? Wouldn’t we also see evidence of that behavior too in all the other reintroduction programs?

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center will test that theory this season with four birds that will be released using a technique called parent rearing. These chicks will be left with their parents at Patuxent. They will be hatched in a nest and raised in large pens with their parents providing all their necessities albeit with food and predator protection provided. Late in the fall, they will be released in Wisconsin to see if they can associate with other Whooping cranes to make their way south. It is a pilot study and it remains to be seen if a bird fledged in a pen will have the endurance to migrate or if they will have the social experience to bond with other Whooping cranes. It also limits the number of birds the captive facilities can produce because parents occupied with raising their offspring can’t produce too many other eggs. All these things will have to be tested but it’s a valid idea and worth testing.

Date:May 24, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FLORIDA NON-MIGRATORY POPULATION CHICKSLocation: Main Office

Tim Dellinger, Biological Scientist with the Fish and WildlifeResearch Institute of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation out of Tavares, FL reported that as the result of a flight survey done on May 18th, they confirmed that they have a family with two chicks. Photo compliments of Tim and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

To read about the latest news from the Florida Non-Migratory Population see Heather's Field Journal entry for May 20th.

Marty Folk and the Florida crane folks are diligently monitoring, documenting, and researching. They are comparing, contrasting and documenting basic behavioral biology of nesting Whooping and Sandhill Cranes.

Some of the answers they are looking for include to determine if there are behavioral reasons why some Whooping cranes are unsuccessful at hatching eggs in Florida.

They hope the data they collect will enable them to make recommendations to captive facilities on how to adjust incubators to improve hatch success, and, provide baseline data for successful incubation behavior that can be used for comparisons with other reintroduced flocks of cranes.

Date:May 24, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:

Oil spill a Catastrophe for
Fragile Coastal Wildlife Refuges

Location: Main Office
In it’s May issue, the Birding Community E-Bulletin included a short piece on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Below is an excerpt.

Much coastal breeding and feeding habitat for birds and other wildlife is in serious jeopardy from the approaching oil. The Louisiana oyster harvest area has already been closed. Blue crab and shrimp sources are now are severely threatened.

Not surprisingly, serious questions are being raised about the safety procedures and environmental response plans of BP and TransOcean. In the meantime, the well continues to gush, with the daily estimate a mere guess (perhaps 5,000 barrels a day, or 210,000 gallons). The attempts to cap the wellhead have been so far unsuccessful.

Updates on the impact that the oil spill is having on Gulf Coast National Wildlife Refuges can be viewed at  www.refugeassociation.org/new-issues/delta.html. There is also a good map available on threatened bird sites with background from the American Bird Conservancy www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/100430.html

Ironically, May is “American Wetlands Month,” a theme sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This marks the 20th anniversary of the event, a time when the EPA and its partners focus on the vital importance of wetlands to our ecological, economic, and social health.

One can only hope that more Americans than ever will pay special attention to the meaning of the month’s activities and lessons: www.epa.gov/wetlands/awm/

Date:May 23, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WOOD BUFFALO-ARANSAS POPULATION UPDATELocation: Main Office
Just in, a brief update fromTom Stehn USFWS Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.

Tom said the migration of the Wood Buffalo/Aransas Whooping Crane population occurred ahead of schedule this spring. He noted that, “The highlight of the migration was the presence of 76 whooping cranes in 5 separate groups on the Quivira NWR on April 1st.” (Click here to see the map produced by National Geographic.)

Another interesting report they received was the presence of five Whooping Cranes two miles from the Titan I wind project in South Dakota April 3-5. “The turbines were shut down during critical times,” Stehn said, “and were actually ordered shut down by a biological monitor as the birds began their migration flight.”

The two cranes that were radioed at Aransas were tracked successfully and both completed the migration. In his update Tom noted, “…one is sitting on a nest, and the radioed juvenile was recently located north of Wood Buffalo National Park and across Great Slave Lake.”

Meanwhile, one Whooping Crane remains at Aransas. Tom speculates that it may be the crane injured as a juvenile that has missed several migrations.

Many folks have expressed concern for the Aransas refuge as a result of the Gulf oil spill. In this regard, Tom told us that models predict less than a one percent chance of oily waters reaching the central Texas coast. “However,” he said, “tar balls are expected to be hitting the beaches. The refuge has videotaped the beach and marsh edges. Additional biological monitoring will be done in the near future to assess potential future damage from oil impacts.”

The June issue of National Geographic Magazine carried a 12 page spread on the Wood Buffalo/Aransas flock. The writer, Jenny Holland, will be familiar to many as she has authored several pieces in the past featuring Operation Migration and the Eastern Migratory Population. There are also some amazing photos by Klaus Nigge – including one of a raven carrying off a chick/egg. For the story behind Klaus Nigge's photos, click here.

Date: May 22, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:ENDANGERED NECEDAHLocation:Main Office

As Liz pointed out below, yesterday was the day designated as 'Endangered Species Day' - but that doesn't mean we can't recognize and promote endangered species on other days.

I thought I'd share with you an article co-written by Rich King and Daniel Peterson of the Necedah Refuge. The following is an excerpt from the article, which was written to highlight the numerous Federal or State listed species of concern, which are found within the Refuge boundaries.

Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is the perfect host for supporting many threatened and endangered species, including the world’s largest population of the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly. From wolves roaming its uplands, to cactus growing in its sandy floor, the refuge is considered by some as “Endangered Necedah,” for the wildlife found within. Wandering down from the north woods of Minnesota, wolves made their way back to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in January 1996, after an absence of more than 60 years. Within 3 years, a pack established; one pack quickly turned into two. Being habitat generalists, the packs wander widely over the refuge during the winter, but come denning time, their range contracts, often to savannas in remote corners of the property.

CLICK to read the entire article.

Date:May 21, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Celebrate Endangered Species DayLocation: Main Office
Promoted by the Endangered Species Coalition, Endangered Species Day focuses on the importance of their protection. Conserving and preserving our wildlife and plants today means we will not deprive our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of a robust and diverse legacy of flora and fauna.

Celebrated each year on the third Friday in May, Endangered Species Day strives to engage people. Many places and organizations like parks, wildlife refuges, zoos, aquariums, libraries, and schools plan special activities. Why not check out what’s happening in your neighborhood today and join in?

Want to do your bit to help? The Coalition suggests “10 Easy Things You Can Do At Home” to help safeguard wildlife species. Check out their list out below. You'll see you don’t even have to leave home to help leave a wildlife legacy for future generations.

Learn about endangered species in your area
Teach your friends and family about the wonderful wildlife, birds, fish and plants that live near you. The first step to protecting endangered species is learning about how interesting and important they are. Our natural world provides us with many indispensable services including clean air and water, food and medicinal sources, commercial, aesthetic and recreational benefits.

Visit a national wildlife refuge, park or other open space
These protected lands provide habitat to many native wildlife, birds, fish and plants. Scientists tell us the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the places where they live. Get involved by volunteering at your local nature center or wildlife refuge. Go wildlife or bird watching in nearby parks. Wildlife related recreation creates millions of jobs and supports local businesses. To find a wildlife refuge near you, visit www.fws.gov/refuges/. To find a park near you, visit www.nps.gov. To find a zoo near you, visit www.aza.org.

Make your home wildlife friendly
Secure garbage in shelters or cans with locking lids, feed pets indoors and lock pet doors at night to avoid attracting wild animals into your home. Reduce your use of water in your home and garden so that animals that live in or near water can have a better chance of survival.

Disinfect bird baths often to avoid disease transmission. Place decals on windows to deter bird collisions. Millions of birds die every year because of collisions with windows. You can help reduce the number of collisions simply by placing decals on the windows in your home and office. For more information on what you can do, check out these tips from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Provide habitat for wildlife by planting native vegetation in your yard
Native plants provide food and shelter for native wildlife. Attracting native insects like bees and butterflies can help pollinate your plants. The spread of non-native species has greatly impacted native populations around the world. Invasive species compete with native species for resources and habitat. They can even prey on native species directly, forcing native species towards extinction. For more information about native plants, visit http://www.plantsocieties.org

Minimize use of herbicides and pesticides
Herbicides and pesticides may keep yards looking nice but they are in fact hazardous pollutants that affect wildlife at many levels. Many herbicides and pesticides take a long time to degrade and build up in the soils or throughout the food chain. Predators such as hawks, owls and coyotes can be harmed if they eat poisoned animals. Some groups of animals such as amphibians are particularly vulnerable to these chemical pollutants and suffer greatly as a result of the high levels of herbicides and pesticides in their habitat. For alternatives to pesticides, visit http://www.beyondpesticides.org

Slow down when driving
Many animals live in developed areas and this means they must navigate a landscape full of human hazards. One of the biggest obstacles to wildlife living in developed areas is roads. Roads divide habitat and present a constant hazard to any animal attempting to cross from one side to the other. So when you're out and about, slow down and keep an eye out for wildlife.

Recycle and buy sustainable products
Buy recycled paper, sustainable products like bamboo and Forest Stewardship Council wood products to protect forest species. Never buy furniture made from wood from rainforests. Recycle your cell phones, because a mineral used in cell phones and other electronics is mined in gorilla habitat. Minimize your use of palm oil because forests where tigers live are being cut down to plant palm plantations.

Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species
Overseas trips can be exciting and fun, and everyone wants a souvenir. But sometimes the souvenirs are made from species nearing extinction. Avoid supporting the market in illegal wildlife including: tortoise-shell, ivory, coral. Also, be careful of products including fur from tigers, polar bears, sea otters and other endangered wildlife, crocodile skin, live monkeys or apes, most live birds including parrots, macaws, cockatoos and finches, some live snakes, turtles and lizards, some orchids, cacti and cycads, medicinal products made from rhinos, tiger or Asiatic black bear.

Report any harassment or shooting of threatened and endangered species
Harassing wildlife is cruel and illegal. Shooting, trapping, or forcing a threatened or endangered animal into captivity is also illegal and can lead to their extinction. Report it as soon as you see it to your local state or federal wildlife enforcement office. You can find a list of state wildlife departments at http://www.fws.gov/offices/statelinks.html

Protect wildlife habitat
Perhaps the greatest threat that faces many species is the widespread destruction of habitat. Scientists tell us the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the special places where they live. Wildlife must have places to find food, shelter and raise their young. Logging, oil and gas drilling, over-grazing and development all result habitat destruction. Endangered species habitat should be protected and these impacts minimized.

By protecting habitat, entire communities of animals and plants can be protected together. Parks, wildlife refuges, and other open space should be protected near your community. Open space also provides us with great places to visit and enjoy. Support wildlife habitat and open space protection in your community. When you are buying a house, consider your impact on wildlife habitat.

Thanks for caring about wildlife and wild places!

Date: May 20, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:FLORIDA NON-MIGRATORY FLOCK NEWSLocation:Main Office

Marty Folk, Avian Researcher with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, along with others is continuing to study the non-migratory flock of whooping cranes in Florida. Earlier this week Marty reported that the 9 Whooping crane nests located in Central Florida had either hatched or failed. Of the 9 nests, 3 hatched and 6 failed.

One of the three families is not visible from the ground and are checked on during weekly flights. During a flight this week, pilot Tim Dellinger discovered that this family actually has TWO chicks! It’s interesting to note that this is this pair’s first-ever nest attempt – and they will be 7 years old next month.

Marty reports that raising two chicks to 15 days of age is a record for the non-migratory flock. Until now a pair had only raised both of their chicks up to 12 days of age before losing one.

The female of another first-time hatching pair turns 17 years old on Thursday. Her mate is 10 years old.

Date: May 19, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NESTING UPDATELocation:Main Office

Maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population at the end of the report period was 102 birds (58 males, 44 females). As of 16 May or last record, 88 whooping cranes were in Wisconsin, 1 in Michigan, 1 in Indiana, 2 were not located since spring migration, and 10 were long-term missing. Seven pairs were on nests, including a second pair containing a DAR female.

Reproduction:
212 & 419*: Renest, initiated 9-11 May
213 & 218*: West training site 2; Necedah NWR, renest, initiated 6-8 May
317 & 303*: Pool 9; Necedah NWR renest initiated 2-3 May, deserted 4 May; second renest initiated 11-12 May
311 & 312*: NE of Sprague Pool; Necedah NWR, initiated 9-12 May
402 & DAR746*: East training site; Necedah NWR, initiated 29-30 April
403 & 309*: South of West training site; Necedah NWR, renest, initiated 29-30 April
412 & DAR527*: Juneau County, initiated 10-15 May

This update was compiled from data supplied by WCEP winter monitoring and tracking team Richard Urbanek (USFWS), and Sara Zimorski, Eva Szyszkoski and Matt Strausser from the International Crane Foundation

Date: May 18, 2010 Reporter:Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING Location:PWRC, Laurel, MD

Chick Season at Patuxent is a time of beginnings and hope and more than a little hard work, a world where people care and nurture and devote themselves entirely to the future survival of an Endangered Species, the Whooping Crane. It is here these precious whooper chicks begin their journey from egg into all that follows.

Returning here a week and half ago, I entered a bee hive of activity, a world of focused collective effort, with each familiar crew member busy attending to the details big and small which culminate in a healthy population of chicks for the project. This is the by far the busiest and most demanding part of the project and the day-to-day challenges, decisions and activities require the highest level of dedication. In short, the game is won or lost at Patuxent.

“Doesn’t it seem like we just did this!?” Barb exclaimed in amazement as we exchanged greetings. I too was shocked at how very true this was. How it was possible a whole year had passed since last year’s Chick Season. I mean, it doesn’t seem as much like yesterday as it seems like just this morning!

Then, like a traffic cop at rush hour, I stood in the parking lot as first Brian went by, then Robert and Charlie and Ali and Peggy each stopping for a hug or handshake. Then Sharon emerged from the Chick Building, laughed my way and asked, “Doesn’t it seem like we just did this!?” Moments later Jane appeared, gave me a hug and said, “Doesn’t it ………!?”

Patuxent during Chick Season is a place where you either hit the ground running or you soon find yourself looking like Wiley Coyote after being run over by the Road Runner. With four chicks already peeping for attention there’s no time to lean on a shovel and talk about those Red Socks and soon our interns from last year, Geoff Tarbox and Trish Gallagher returned for another season as six more chicks escaped their prison of shell and peeped into the glare of first light demanding, “Here we are. Now take care of us!”

And take care of them we will because Patuxent is a world where the people really and truly care, every long minute of every long day until the birds are loaded into the plane that will take them to the next leg of their journey, Necedah, eventually to migrate south and eventually be released into the wild… a world where caring is not an assured commodity.

Meanwhile, it’s like New York Yankee great and great American philosopher, Yogi Berra used to say, “Hey, it’s just like déjà vu all over again!”
 

Two costumed caretakers use puppets, resembling adult cranes to feed numbers 1007 & 1008 their first meal soon after hatching on May 13th. (CLICK to enlarge) Trish Gallagher spends time with one-day-old #1008, showing him/her how to eat and drink.
(CLICK to enlarge)

Date: May 17, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:Class of 2010Location:Main Office

Brooke called in this morning to tell us that two more chicks hatched yesterday at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD. These two chicks bring our total to ten thus far for this year's ultralight study. We're still waiting to learn the egg source for the last four chicks that hatched and once we do we'll fill in the following table.

CHICK # EGG SOURCE HATCHED
1001 Patuxent WRC May 2
1002 Necedah NWR May 5
1003 Calgary Zoo May 5
1004 Calgary Zoo May 6
1005 Patuxent WRC May 8
1006 Patuxent WRC May 11
1007   May 13
1008   May 13
1009   May 16
1010   May 16

Date: May 16, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:THE CHICAGO MARATHONLocation:Main Office

The Chicago marathon will be held this year on 10/10/10 and this year, Craniac Lisa Saunders of Illinois will be running. Lisa competed last year and finished the 26 ¼ mile course in a personal-best time. Well, Lisa is currently training for this year’s marathon and has another goal.

She plans to raise dollars for the Class of 2010 so that they can complete their own “migration marathon” this fall! Lisa is hoping that you will sponsor a quarter, half, or full mile through the annual MileMaker campaign and designate it as a “marathon mile.”

She has even offered to personally sponsor the first 3 miles and the last 3 miles of the 26 ¼ mile marathon course! So please, let’s show our support for Lisa as she trains for the Chicago Marathon, and also for the Class of 2010 Whooping crane chicks, who are currently in training at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland.

Visit the MileMaker page, select a quarter, half, or full mile and designate it as a “marathon mile” – Lisa hopes to have all 26 ¼ miles sponsored by race day. I think we can do it before then!

Craniac Lisa Saunders after completing the 2009 Chicago Marathon

Date:May 15, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NESTS AND CHICKSLocation:Main Office

In the May 12th entry, Rich King, Necedah Refuge Biologist reported 3 active nests in Wisconsin. Yesterday, Journey North filed their final report of the spring season and in it, ICF Tracking Field Manager, Eva Szyszkoski mentions 4 active nests, and possibly even a 5th, which she is hoping they can confirm shortly. The 5th nest belongs to 311 & 312 but is located in a remote area of the refuge and will require an overflight to confirm.

Brooke called in yesterday to report that two additional chicks hatched on Thursday afternoon. Nos. 1007 & 1008 broke out of their eggs in the hatchery and were placed in warm incubators to allow them to dry off. This brings the total to eight chicks for the ultralight program thus far.

Joe captured this image earlier this week, which shows Brooke in the pilot seat of the wingless ultralight as it takes chick #1001 through his/her paces in the circlepen.

Date:May 14. 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:WHOOPERTHON!Location:Main Office

Avid birder and long-time Craniac, Vi White of Illinois, is set to carry out the 4th annual Whooperthon and she would like your help! Vi began her Whooperthon in 2007 and selected Operation Migration as the beneficiary of her fundraising efforts.

That first year Vi succeeded in raising $3400. In 2008 she brought in $3700 and last year $4,684! - that's almost $12,000 that this super Craniac has managed to raise through her Whooperthon efforts!

This is how it works: Each year, Vi picks a day in the Spring when the weather is predicted to be decent and heads out on a birding expedition in her northern Chicago suburb for a 24 hour period – recording every species she and her accomplices see. This year she and her daughters Ellen Savage and Lynn O'Connor will set out as a birding threesome!

Friends and fellow Craniacs are asked to pledge either a lump sum or an amount per species (she usually spots between 30 and 40). Through the generosity of an anonymous supporter, every pledge will be matched dollar-for-dollar!

If you would like to make a pledge in support of Vi's 'Whooperthon' simply email the amount of your pledge (per species or lump sum) along with your name and mailing address to heather(AT)operationmigration.org (replacing “(AT)” with “@”) and I’ll forward it along to Vi.

The date Vi has selected this year for her outing is today! and the deadline for pledges is May 28th. At the conclusion of her birding day, Vi will email everyone who contributes her final species tally. She will also collect the checks (made out to Operation Migration) and will send them along to us so that we can issue tax-deductible receipts for every contribution of $25 or more..

Huge thanks to Vi for her continued support of Whooping cranes!

Date: May 12, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NESTING STUDY UPDATELocation:Main Office

Rich King, Necedah Refuge Biologist submitted his weekly nesting study report over the weekend. In the report Rich states they have made much progress on implementing our study plan over the past week.

Rich and his team currently are monitoring several pairs of cranes (sandhills and whoopers), trumpeter swans, and will be monitoring nesting loons shortly. Among the active whooping crane nests (3) are two re-nests and one first nest of the season.

The first nest of the season includes a DAR bird. This nest and one of the re-nests are already into the second week of incubation. The other re-nest is just a few days old.

Several other pairs could nest (re-nest) in the next week so things could get very busy. They had one failed re-nest during the past week and Rich was able to salvage one egg. The nest contained some biting insects so a high-resolution image was captured to count the number of biting insects. Rich estimates that there were approximately 20 black flies at the nest but better data will follow. Five Black flies were also collected at this nest using the glue board/decoy technique.

Another round of dummy nest work will be carried out this week, which will allow them to compare biting insect data from the dummy nests with data from real nests (sandhill cranes, swans, and loons) and with data collect by the International Crane Foundation using CO2 traps. If any whooping crane nests fail this week they will also be able to compare/contrast dummy nest data with real whooping crane nest data.

Rich is currently working with Megan Fitzpatrick (University of Wisconsin) to have the non-viable whooping crane eggs they’re using for the dummy nest research analyzed for pesticides. This is potentially important work because pesticide contamination has lead to nest abandonment in other species. The current plan is for the eggs to briefly return the International Crane Foundation where Kelly Maguire will determine if they were fertile. After that, they will make their way to Madison for the pesticide analysis.

WCEP partners have been instrumental in implementing the study plan. The partners include the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (aerial reconnaissance), Operation Migration (camera surveillance and aerial reconnaissance), International Crane Foundation (aerial and ground-based reconnaissance), and the U.S. Geological Survey (loon nest locations).

Date: May 11, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CLASS OF 2010Location: Laurel, MD
Joe and I completed leg one of our return trip late yesterday with a stop at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Both vehicles we are driving need some minor repairs which we are attending to today, along with meeting with the OM chick crew here. So far, Field Crew Chief Brooke Pennypacker and returning Intern Geoffrey Tarbox are on site.

We are hopeful of the weather clearing so we can capture some video and still images of the first chicks in the Class of 2010. In the interim, we can give you some details about the first five hatches.

CHICK # EGG SOURCE HATCHED TRAINING PROGRESS REMARKS
1001 Patuxent WRC May 2 Circle Pen Training Despite a late training start, 1001 caught up quickly and is doing great in the circle pen.
1002 Necedah NWR May 5 Outdoor Walking Weather permitting, today could be the day 1002 is first introduced to the trike. Parents are 505 & 415*.
1003 Calgary Zoo May 5 Outdoor Walking Weather permitting, today could be the day 1003 is first introduced to the trike.
1004 Calgary Zoo May 6 Outdoor Walking It will be a couple of more days before 1004 is ready for its first exposure to the trike.
1005 Patuxent WRC May 8 Indoors Just 4 days old, 1005 needs a few more days getting used to going in and out of the door between its indoor pen and outdoor run.
1006 Patuxent WRC May 11 Just hatched!! The egg was pipping and the hatch was expected tomorrow but 1006 surprized everyone and arrived at lunch time today.

 

AND HERE THEY ARE - THE CLASS OF 2010 so far....

 

 

Above: 1001 basks under the infra-red heat lamp.
Below: 1004 who never stops running stopped long enough for a photo op.
Above: 1002 strikes a pose worthy of a professional model.
Below: 1005 has a huge cuteness factor going for it.
Above: 1003 shimmers like gold under the light in its indoor pen.
Below: 1006, newly hatched, is being carried to its ICU by Barb Clauss.

Date: May 11, 2010 - Entry 1Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:HOW YOU CAN HELP WITH THE GULF OIL SPILLLocation:Main Office

A couple of craniacs brought this organization and its cause to my attention (thank you!) – How many times have you visited the barber or your hair salon and watched as they swept up mounds of hair. Have you ever wondered where it goes? More often than not, it goes into the trash but why not put it to good use?

The reason we wash our hair is to rid it of the built up oil and dirt, which it naturally absorbs. Well, if it absorbs oil on our heads, why wouldn’t it absorb the oil from an oil spill?

Matteroftrust.org is currently coordinating an international natural fiber recycling movement! Hair, fur and discarded natural wool can be shipped to locations along the Gulf coast where volunteers are using it to create booms and hair mats.

The finished product is natural, environmentally friendly AND is capable of absorbing up to one quart of oil. Each can be washed and re-used up to 100 times. So if you have been wondering what you can do to help the cleanup efforts along the Gulf Coast, here’s your chance to pitch in!

Why not visit this link and print off a few of their informational flyers and take them to the hair salons and pet groomers in your area.

Talk to them about collecting and shipping the hair and fur to the locations accepting donations and have them created into these recycled booms and hair mats.

Here’s a link to a Youtube video, which explains the process.

Date: May 10, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FAVORITE DAYLocation: Enroute to Maryland

My favorite day of the year is always the day we successfully and safely complete the annual migration. But without doubt, a very close second favorite day is International Migratory Bird Day which we celebrate at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.

Saturday, Joe and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as Animal Kingdom’s guests. By 6:30am we were setting up our display booth and Joe’s trike at Conservation Station to be ready for the nine o'clock park opening. Visitors to Animal Kingdom who stopped by were able to see many of our work aids on display, from costumes to crane chow, and from crane puppets to the MP3 players we use to broadcast calls. We chatted with countless people – some knowledgeable Craniacs, and others ranging from being vaguely familiar, to completely unaware of our work with the Whooping crane.

This year we handed out our Craniac Kids Whooping Crane Activity Booklets to all the youngsters who came by our booth. In fact, almost 1,000 of these fun, educational booklets went home with kids and their parents. We can’t thank Disney’s Animal Kingdom enough for this exceptional outreach and education opportunity. The ghastly news from the Gulf oil spill lent urgency to our message of the importance of wildlife and habitat conservation, and adults and kids alike spoke emotionally about their concern for its devastating effects.

It was great to greet some old Disney friends like Claire, James, Cherri, and Cindy, and we also can’t thank enough the many Disney’s cast members who went out of their way to ensure our visit was a pleasure. At the risk of forgetting someone, we express our sincere appreciation to Kathyrn, Alex L, Alex V, Paul, Mike, Lonnie, Nadine, Laura, and Phillip for their hospitality and assistance.

As always, the arrangements put in place by Scott Tidmus, Zoological Manager, and Alex McMichael, Manager, Special Events and Media, were outstanding. This year Alex lined up a special treat for us. He took us to see the morning feeding of the crocodiles that reside in the pools along the African Safari trail. The sight and the experience was a WOW!

Our day which started at 6:30am setting up ended just over 12 hours later as we reversed the process. Sunday morning Joe applied layers of shrink-wrap to the vital parts of the the trike for its road trip, and once the shuffle of items from the Jamboree RV to the truck, and from the truck to the Jamboree was completed, Joe and I pulled out for the 1,350 mile drive home.

Enroute we will stop off in Maryland and should reach there late this afternoon. We will be visiting the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center to meet with Brooke and our interns and to capture some images and footage of the first chicks in the Class of 2010.

Date:May 9, 2010Reporter:Mary O'Brien
Subject:MOTHER'S DAY...Location:Madison, WI

You’re all familiar with the white costumes worn by the OM “crane parents” from the nursery at Patuxent, to boot camp at Necedah, to the Florida-bound skies. You probably didn’t know that the costumes are actually designer originals created by none other than Joe Duff who also sewed them in earlier times. A few years ago, my best craniac friend and I offered to make the costumes as a contribution to OM. When she moved to New Zealand I continued the effort as a solo act.

This year it was decided that all crane parents need new costumes to impress the class of 2010. When I set up my dining room costume factory and prepared to disappear under mounds of white fabric, I realized that making 16 costumes would be a little daunting. By my quick calculation, that many costumes would require about 0.3 mile of seam stitching. So I decided to seek some help which is the inspirational part of this story I wanted to share.

I wasn’t sure where to find help and was a little shy about asking because of the homemade pattern and somewhat seat of the pants assembly that’s involved in making the costumes. On my way to the fabric store, it occurred to me this might be a good place to start. After all, I reasoned, people who work at a fabric store must also know how to sew. That’s where I met Janice, a very special person and Mom. We all know cranes are the stuff of legend, karma, and kindred spirits and this crane magic was certainly at play that day because I somehow knew she was the one to ask.

You can imagine her initial skepticism when I asked if she would be willing to help sew a bunch of white costumes for a bunch of crazy people who fly ultralights, live like gypsies for months on end, and teach Whooping Cranes the way to Florida. But after I finished my animated OM tale and Janice finished her touching story about why she would help, we ended with a hug and understanding that our chance meeting was guided by something bigger than both of us.

Janice explained that she had lost her eldest son to brain cancer and that his passion had been the outdoors and wildlife. He even asked that his favorite wildlife images, including an eagle, be put on a quilt she made for him during his illness. Later, during a motorcycle tour organized by his brother to raise cancer research funds, an eagle (I would say that eagle) joined the group and flew with them through the countryside. This family understands karma and kindred spirits.

Because Janice knew her son would have been completely captivated by the Whooping Crane recovery effort, she wanted to help with the costumes as another way of honoring his memory. She has now read all of my back issues of INFormation and has shared the OM story with friends and family, so the crane circle has grown. There’s no doubt that my next MileMaker contribution will be dedicated to this special Mom and new friend. It would be awesome if each of you would also make a contribution to celebrate your Mom, a friend, or an inspiring event that has touched your lives.
 

Super volunteer Mary O'Brien at work in her dining room/costume factory. (Thank you Mary and Janice for your efforts to create sixteen new costumes for us!)

Date:May 8, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:IMBDLocation:Main Office

Today is International Migratory Bird Day. It is recognized and celebrated in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean and brings awareness to the most important and spectacular events in the life of a migratory bird – its twice annual journey between its summer and winter habitats.

This year, the IMBD theme is “Power of Partnership” and celebrates birds and the people who work to preserve them. IMBD was created in 1993 by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and is now run by Environment for the Americas.

I can’t help but see the irony (and sadness) in that we should be celebrating migratory birds this weekend -- the same weekend that the spreading oil spew from the Deepwater Horizon is expected to reach Louisiana's Chandeleur Islands.

The brown pelican, Louisiana’s State bird, was removed from the Endangered Species list late last year. This large bird nests on the Louisiana coastal islands of Breton National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses the Chandeleur Islands. Their breeding season just began and many eggs are currently being incubated.

Conservationists are warning that this man-made mess will have lasting effects not only the local birds but migratory bird populations as far north as Canada and Alaska, and as far south as South America.

The Gulf Coast is critically important for hundreds of species of migratory birds, which breed, winter, and rest there during their migratory journeys. Most spring migrants, including warblers, buntings, swallows and flycatchers, travel over the Gulf from late April to early May

It’s going to be difficult to find much to celebrate this weekend but I encourage you to get outside to appreciate and applaud the bird species in your area. Clean and fill your birdfeeders and sit back and enjoy the show, or head out to your local park or nature walk and see how many different birds you can identify.

Take photos, sketch in your journal, or just sit back and send positive affirmations and thoughts to those working tirelessly along the Gulf shorelines. Those who are rescuing oil-covered birds and trying to mitigate the damage that we, as a species, have heaped upon our feathered friends.

Date: May 7, 2010Reporter:Chris Gullikson
Subject:AERIAL NEST MONITORINGLocation:Necedah, WI

Over the last few weeks as the weather allowed, I have gone up to Necedah to search for nesting pairs of birds. Some parts of the refuge are quite remote, making the use of an aircraft quite helpful in locating nests. The ongoing nesting study is not just focused on Whooping Cranes - other bird species are being monitored - specifically Sandhill Cranes and Trumpeter swans.

The swans are easy to pick out on the many pools but the Sandhills blend in quite well with their surroundings making them very hard to see.

Yesterday afternoon I was able to get Eva Szyszkoski of the International Crane Foundation to ride along with me and use her tracking receiver connected to the antennae that Richard van Heuvelen designed to mount to the front of the trike.

Rich King had given me a list of potential nesting pairs and locations in the northern part of the refuge and adjacent Meadow Valley area further to the northwest. With Eva's tracking expertise, we were able to get a visual on four pairs in the northern part of the refuge and the two pairs at Meadow Valley were AWOL.

We did not find any nests and it was interesting to note that two of the pairs were found in the woods. We did find a nesting pair of swans and I am hopeful that in the coming weeks there will be more Whooping Crane nests discovered.

Currently, there are two active Whooping Crane nests on the southern part of the refuge.

Date: May 6, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:HUGE THANKS TO YOU!Location:Main Office

In late March we told you about a group of conservation minded folks from Walworth County, WI and McHenry County, Illinois, who formed a group known as "Friends of Hackmatack." The purpose and goal of the group is to facilitate the establishment of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in their counties.

We asked you to show your support of their cause by signing an online petition and sign you did! We received word over the weekend that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has concluded that the Hackmatack NWR proposal will receive a full review!

The process takes 1-2 years, and combines resource-based evaluation with a public outreach process. This is one key endpoint in a process the Friends Group has been working toward for 3-4 years, so understandably they’re really excited and thankful for your support.

The area authorized for consideration includes roughly 350,000 acres within the Illinois counties of Lake and McHenry and the Wisconsin counties of Kenosha, Racine and Walworth.

CLICK to read the USFWS press release or to read more about the proposed refuge and the study visit this LINK.

Date: May 5, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MORE CHICKLET NEWS!Location:Main Office

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center's Barb Clauss shared late yesterday that Whooping crane chicks 1002 and 1003 arrived! 1002 hatched out in the morning, followed by 1003 in the afternoon.

AND they anticipate that 1004 will emerge sometime today (if he/she hasn't already made an appearance).  Barb captured the following photo of the very first member of the Class of 2010 on Saturday - the day it hatched. Hatching is very hard work as evidenced by this image of him/her, sleeping soundly alongside the puppet head.

(WARNING: cute picture alert!)

Date: May 5, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:EMP STATUS UPDATELocation:Main Office

Maximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period was 102 birds (58 males, 44 females). As of the end of the report period or last record, 86 whooping cranes were in Wisconsin, 1 in Michigan, 1 in Illinois, 2 in Iowa, 2 were not located since spring migration, and 10 were long-term missing. Two pairs were on nests.

In this update * = female, DAR = Direct Autumn Release, HY = Hatch Year

Reproduction:
Two pairs initiated incubation during the report period: 402 & DAR 746*: East Training Site, initiated 29 or 30 April.
403 & 309*: S of Site 2, re-nest, initiated 29 or 30 April.

Mortality:
The remains of #818* were found NW of West Canfield Pool, Necedah NWR, on 3 May. She had apparently been killed by a predator between 21 and 25 April.

Spring Migration:
- No. 927 has not been detected since roosting with nos. 913 and 919 SE of Mukwonago, Waukesha County, Wisconsin, on the night of 10 April.
- Nos. 906 and 912 were reported in flight over Vermilion County, Illinois, on the morning of 18 April. They completed migration to the Necedah NWR area on 20 or 21 April.
- No. 907* remained at her last migration stop in Will County, Illinois, during the report perioD.

Wisconsin:
- No. 101 remained on or S of Necedah NWR.
- No. 105 moved between his territory at Sprague Pool, Necedah NWR, and an area SW of the refuge several times during the report period.
- No. 107* was found with no. 506 at their usual early spring location in Adams County, on 18 April. She was next observed NE of Horicon NWR, Fond du Lac County, on 1 May.
- No. 211 remained at Site 3, Necedah NWR, during the report period.
- Nos. 212 & 419* remained on or near their territory in Wood County, during the report period.
- Nos. 213 & 218* moved between the Mill Bluff area and their territory near West Training Site during the report period.
- No. 216 spent most of the report period in the Mill Bluff area with no. 716* but did occasionally return to N of eastern Sprague Pool on the Refuge. No. 216 was observed alone in flight over Sprague Pool and was later found in the Mill Bluff area on 2 May, while no. 716* remained at an interior location on northern Sprague Pool. They were observed back together N of Sprague Pool on 3 May.
- Nos. 317 & 303* continued to use both the Mill Bluff area and Pools 9 and 19 on the refuge in their territory during the report period. They were observed nest building on the two pools on 24 and 25 April, respectively and observed on a nest on central Pool 9 on 3 May.
- Nos. 307 & 726* frequented cornfields E of the refuge during the day as well as the North Training Site area. They were often in the woods N of the eastern section of Coaver Road (NE of Site 4).
- Nos. 310 & W601* remained in the northeastern West Rynearson Pool/Upper Rice Pools areas during the report period.
- Nos. 311 & 312* spent most of their time along the Yellow River, E of Sprague Pool, and occasionally returned to their territory in the northeastern Sprague Pool area.
- Nos. 318* & 313 remained near Carter-Woggon Pool, usually S of Egret Pool, during the report period.
- No. 316 was not observed during the report period. He has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked. He was last observed with no. 716* at Yellow River Cranberry, E of the refuge, on 17 April, and had separated from her by the next day. - Nos. 401 & 508* remained in the Pool 13/Danielson Wetland area throughout the report period.
- Nos. 402 & DAR 746* spent most of the early part of the report period in an area SW of the Refuge, followed by increasing time on their territory on East Rynearson Pool near the East Training Site. They intermittently were involved in nest building at two sites and eventually were observed incubating S of the East Training Site on 30 April (video review by refuge staff will provide more detail).
- Nos. 403 & 309* continued to use an area SW of the refuge early in the report period but later began spending more time on their territory west of central East Rynearson Pool. They also frequently foraged in southwestern West Rynearson Pool, which was being drawn down. They were observed on a nest on 30 April.
- Nos. 408 & 519* remained W of Goose Pool or in the west-central Sprague Pool area during the report period.
- Nos. 412 & DAR 527* remained together SW of the Refuge throughout the report period.
- Nos. 505 & 415* were not observed during the report period. Both have nonfunctional transmitters, and their territory is on the refuge in an area of restricted access.
- No. 416: A single male, presumably no. 416, was heard alarm calling on his territory on Monroe County Flowage, Meadow Valley SWA, on 19 April.
- Nos. 506 and HY2009 DAR 32*, 37*, and 40* remained on or near Meadow Valley SWA, Juneau County, until they returned to a previous location in Adams County, by 18 April. They were observed there on that date with no. 107*. They returned to Meadow Valley SWA on 26 April. They moved to Monroe County, WI on 27 April and stayed there, where they associated with other whooping cranes during the remainder of the report period.
- Nos. 509 & 818* stayed together in the West Canfield Pool area until the death of no. 818. No. 509 remained in the area.
- Nos. 512 & 722* remained mainly S of Necedah, where they foraged in a cornfield and roosted on Castle Rock Lake/Yellow River. They briefly returned to Meadow Valley SWA for one day on 29 April.
- No. 514 was not detected during the report period. He was last reported in flight over Indiana Dunes State Park, Porter County, Indiana, during migration on 12 April. He has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked.
- Nos. 524 & DAR 742* remained in Adams County, during the report period.
- DAR no. 528* remained on her usual summering area in Marathon County.
- DAR no. 627 usually remained on southern pools of Necedah NWR and occasionally W of this area.
- Nos. 703 & DAR 838* were detected in flight over southern Wood County and the Necedah area on 18, 19, 20, 22, and 26 April.
- Nos. 707 & DAR 739* moved from N of Meadow Valley Flowage, Juneau County, LeSueur County, Minnesota, by 20 April. They returned to cranberry property in Jackson County, WI by the afternoon of 27 April. They were last observed at the Minnesota location on the afternoon of 24 April.
- Nos. 709 & 717* remained S of Necedah during the report period. They foraged in a cornfield and roosted on Castle Rock Lake/Yellow River.
- No. 712 completed migration to the core reintroduction area by 26 April, when he was detected in flight over the refuge. He subsequently remained in the area, and used an undetermined location near the refuge and the southern pools.
- No. 713 joined nos. 709 & 717* and 512 & 722* S of Necedah on 23 April and stayed in that area for the remainder of the report period.
- No. 727* was detected in flight over Necedah NWR on 18 April and landed at several locations on the southern pools before joining a group of 5 sandhills and resuming flight. Roost location was not determined. This was the first documented return of this female to the core reintroduction area since her release. She was next detected in flight in Winnebago County, during an aerial survey on 26 April. She was found on the ground in Winnebago County, on 27 April. She was not detected in the area on 1 May.
- No. 733 was detected in flight toward the refuge from southeastern Wisconsin on 18 April and in flight again on 19, 20, and 27 April. He landed just outside Crane City, ICF on 30 April and was again flushed by caretakers.
- Nos. 804 & 829 were detected in flight S of Sprague Pool on 18 April. They were reported along the Wisconsin River in Iowa/Richland Counties, on 20, 24, and 25 April. They were detected in flight headed back to the Necedah area on 29 April. They later landed with nos. 402 & DAR 746* in SW Juneau County, where they remained through at least 1 May.
- No. 813* was last reported with sandhill cranes in Taylor County, on 19 April.
- Nos. 814 & 824* remained on Horicon NWR throughout the report period and were occasionally reported associating with DAR no. 936*.
- No. 827 remained mainly in Monroe County where he associated mainly with DAR no. 942*. They were joined by a number of cranes throughout the report period including nos. 216 & 716*, 213 & 218*, 317 & 303*, 506, DAR yearlings 932*, 937*, and 940*.
- No. 828 was detected in flight with no. 830* over Adams County, on 22 April and in flight NW of Horicon NWR during a survey flight on 26 April. He was next detected in flight over the Necedah area on 27 April.
- No. 830* was detected in flight with no. 828 over Adams County, on 22 April and in flight NW of Horicon NWR during a survey flight on 26 April. She apparently separated from him by 27 April.
- DAR no. 831 remained in Columbia County, at least through 20 April. He was detected and viewed in flight with nos. 828 and 830* near Quincy Bluff, Adams County, on 22 April and later returned alone to the refuge. He moved to W of Plainville, along the Wisconsin River, Juneau/Adams County, by the next night and remained there until he was detected in flight in that area on 28 April. He returned to a previous use area in Columbia County, by 2 May.
- HY2009 nos. 1*, 4* and 5* remained mainly on cranberry property or the surrounding farm fields in northeastern Adams County, during the report period. - HY2009 nos. 8*, 14*, 15*, 18, 24, and 26* moved from S of Sprague Pool to Fond du Lac County, where nos. 24 and 26* separated from the larger group by 25 April. The resulted group of four stayed at this location for the remainder of the report period. Nos. 24 and 26* were detected in flight S of Rush Lake during a survey flight on 26 April and in flight again in the same general area on 27 April.
- HY2009 nos. 10, 11, and 25* remained in Green Lake County, until returning to the Necedah area on 27 April. There they were in undirected flight over the refuge for most of the day before landing at a nearby undetermined location. No subsequent reports.
- Nos. 913 and 919 were detected and observed in flight near Monroe County Flowage, Monroe County, on the afternoon of 15 April and were tracked to Columbia County, where they remained at least through 17 April. They were not detected at this location on 20 April and were reported in Jefferson County on 25 April. They stayed there for the remainder of the report period.
- No. 929 has not been detected since completing migration to the vicinity of Necedah NWR and landing at an undetermined roost location on 11 April.
- HY2009 DAR nos. 34*, 35*, and 41 were detected in flight over the Necedah area on 1 May. They had last been detected in Juneau or Adams County during an aerial survey on 5 April. They remained in the area, mostly on West Rynearson Pool on 2 May and moved to the Mill Bluff area, where they were associating with nos. 506 and HY2009 DAR 32*, 37*, 40*, and 42*, on 3 May.
- DAR no. 936* was detected in flight over the Necedah area on 19 April and found on the ground in the Mill Bluff area with nos. 216 & 716*, 213 & 218*, DAR 942*, 827 and 317 & 303* later that day. She had last been found at Horicon NWR on 17 April. She returned to Horicon NWR by 26 April and sometimes associated with nos. 814 and 824*.
- DAR no. 938 was found on Mead SWA, Marathon County, on 20 April and stayed there during the remainder of the report period. He had last been detected in flight over the refuge on 11 April.
- DAR no. 942* remained mainly in the Mill Bluff area and was most closely associated with no. 827. Nos. 506, 932*, 937*, and 940* eventually joined them there (see above). She also associated with no. 716* on 18 April and DAR no. 936* on 19 April.

Iowa:
Yearling cranes 906 and 912 were detected in flight over Necedah NWR area on 21 April and made a spring wandering movement to Allamakee County, Iowa, on that date. No subsequent checks or reports.

Michigan:
DAR no. 737 was last reported in Jackson County, on 12 April.

This update was compiled from data supplied by WCEP winter monitoring and tracking team Richard Urbanek (USFWS), and Sara Zimorski, Eva Szyszkoski and Matt Strausser from the International Crane Foundation

Date:May 4, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:A LOSS FOR THE CONSERVATION COMMUNITYLocation:Main Office

Last year the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership decided to conduct an evaluation of the entire organization. A moment of introspection as it were to make sure the day-to-day details didn’t obscure our common goal. We recruited five independent scientists to examine everything from our field techniques to the project management. They looked at our successes and failures as well as our strong points and shortcomings.

Because the Whooping crane project is so high profile we were able to attract some very impressive and well credentialed volunteers. Combined, they represented all aspects of conservation biology and collectively they brought 155 years of experience to the task.

One of the five was Dr. Devra Kleiman, Emeritus Senior Scientist for the National Zoo in Washington. Sadly Dr. Kleiman lost her battle with cancer on April 29th.

Before her retirement in 2001 Dr Kleiman was head of the National Zoo’s Department of Zoological Research. She was one of the key organizers for the First International Wildlife Reintroduction Conference: Applying Science to Conservation and had expertise in husbandry, population biology, reintroduction, post-release evaluation, field conservation, adaptive management and organization management.

Dr. Kleiman established active collaborations between researchers and collection management staff and helped define Zoo Biology by integrating research and exhibit collection programs, a practice that is now standard for all modern zoos. In short, Dr Kleiman helped to launch the modern era of science-based zoo biology and animal management.

Her greatest legacy is that she was a terrific mentor, friend and colleague to dozens of conservationists whose careers she helped to advance. Their work over the decades to come will serve as a fitting testament to her impact as a conservation biologist and champion for the planet.

Her work for the WCEP review was the last project she was involved in from start to finish. We are very grateful for her contribution and saddened by this huge loss to the conservation community.

Date: May 3, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:WELCOME TO THE WORLD #1001Location:Main Office

We hope you'll join us in officially welcoming the first Whooping crane of the Class of 2010 into the world! The little brown fluffball hatched out on Saturday at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD. The team at Patuxent is expecting additional hatches this week.

Barb Clauss has been working with the crane crew at Patuxent since 1997 and has been involved in raising both Sandhilll and Whooping crane chicks for various release projects. Since 2002, she has been one of the lead technicians involved in raising chicks for the ultralight-led migration program and Barb was on hand for the arrival of #1001.

Barb sent an email this morning, in which she shared: He/she was really cute the other day, so I'm pretty sure he/she is still cute. It was the chicks hatch day when I was working with it last, but it was getting the hang of eating and drinking. It was a little chatterbox even when it was still in the egg. Extremely cute.

Date: May 3, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NEW ITEMS IN MARKETPLACELocation:Main Office

I wanted to let you know that we've added some new items to the Marketplace and re-stocked the baseball caps which we sold out of last year.

Ball caps are back! This popular item sold out quickly last year so be sure to get yours soon. Constructed using 100% cotton fabric and double-stitched for durability. Fully adjustable to fit comfortably.

Hat is taupe with black visor and black embroidered OM logo.

Price: $20

Zippered Tote Bag: We carried this item last year in blue and red and they sold out quickly. This year we've stocked it in Black and gray. Be sure to get yours soon. Constructed of durable canvas and double stitched for added durability, this tote can manage most everything you throw inside. Rolled and stitched handles for shoulder comfort. Bag measures 20" wide and 13" high and has a 5.5" gusset for expansion.
Price: $12
Lightweight Windbreaker Jackets: 240 thread count polyester with water-resistant coating. Solid body with perforated fabric at underarm for ventilation. Full-zip front closure. Straight cut hem with adjustable shock cord feature. Elasticized cuffs for greater wearing ease. Lower side front pockets. Back features an upper vent for comfort. Embroidered OM logo in brown on left chest.

Available in men's or ladies fit. Price: $30

Date: May 2, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: INTERNATIONAL MIGRATORY BIRD DAYLocation: Main Office

The annual celebration of International Migratory Bird Day highlights the migration of almost 350 species of migratory birds with nesting habitats in North America, some migrating as far as Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean. IMBD plays an important role in raising public awareness for bird conservation. By providing information about threats to the birds’ survival, it is hoped that people will be come interested and involved in their conservation.

Environment for the Americas, a non-profit organization providing information and materials about birds, bird conservation, and bird education from Canada to South America, is also ‘home; to International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD).

When we saw that year’s theme, Power of Partnership, echoed that of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, we proposed to the Environment for the Americas that the endangered Whooping crane be selected as one of the featured species for their 2010 poster and Educational Booklet.

We thought the Whooping Crane Reintroduction project so exemplified the Power of Partnership theme, that it would be an excellent choice. The Selection Committee agreed, and our much loved Whooping Crane is featured on many of this year’s IMBD materials.
 

This year’s
IMBD poster
is spectacular.

2010’s official
IMBD t-shirt

The Educational Booklet featuring 16 species, highlights the factors that have impacted them and the partners and conservation efforts that are helping to protect them.


Environment for the Americas has a huge selection of other products too, from ‘Birdie Bags’ to Birding Handbooks Or, for information on how YOU can help avian conservation, visit the Environment for the Americas website.


As for Operation Migration’s 2010 IMBD activity, we will again be celebrating the event as guests of our partners and good friends at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

As in years past, OM will have its display booth and one of our ultralight aircraft set up outside Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Joe Duff and I will be on site there all day, Saturday, May 8.

If you are in the vicinity, please come to Disney's Animal Kingdom on the 8th and visit our booth to say hello. We will have complimentary copies of Operation Migration’s Whooping Crane Activity Booklets for all Craniac Kids who stop by.

Date:May 1, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NESTING STUDYLocation:Main Office

Necedah Refuge Biologist, Rich King submitted his weekly report to the WCEP team yesterday. In the report Rich states: We currently have no nesting whooping cranes on Necedah Refuge but expect to have several re-nest attempts in the next week.

We have made great progress on implementing our study plan, which included conducting video surveillance of all but one whooping crane nest from the first nest attempts, conducting dummy nest experiments, and collecting biting insect data at all failed whooping crane nests.

We are currently monitoring several pairs of Sandhill cranes and Trumpeter swans and plan to start collecting similar data on Common loons, which started nest building this week.

Jeb Barzen, Director of Field Ecology with the International Crane Foundation has been conducting black fly sampling at several locations in the southern portion of Wisconsin. Jeb submitted the following information and permitted us to post. He warns, however, that until they have more time to analyze their findings that these numbers are estimates only.

Further Jeb states: These are very crude estimates and are subject to change but are pretty good barometers of what we are finding. For example, I estimated 1-2,000 black flies sampled at Necedah on April 15 and it turned out to be 450 black flies. Believe it or not, my estimate for black flies at Necedah from April 28 (below) is very likely to be an under-estimate. The net result is that black fly adults continue to be distributed in a non-uniform manner across the southern portion of the state.
 

Sample Location  

Adult Black flies

Mud Lake   50-80
ICF   2
WI River   75-100
Necedah   7,000-10,000
Schoenberg   15-25
Briggsville   10-20
Horicon   10-20
Poygan (Wolf River)   10-20

Date:April 30, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:OIL SPILL THREATENS WILDLIFELocation:Main Office

Officials with the United States Coast Guard will be flying over coastal Louisiana this morning to determine how and where the oil from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead is moving, and whether or not any has actually reached the shoreline yet.

It is estimated that the equivalent of 5,000 barrels or approximately 42,000 gallons is seeping from the wellhead daily, Following the April 22nd explosion and subsequent sinking of the drilling platform.

Louisiana’s isn’t the only coastline to be in danger – yesterday Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that a second command post will be established in Mobile, Alabama to manage potential coastal impact in that state, as well as Mississippi and Florida.

This WILL have a huge impact on bird and marine life – and not that there is a good time for something of this magnitude to occur but this is absolutely the worst time as many marine species, and birds are now breeding. Turtles will soon be coming ashore; looking for suitable places to deposit their eggs. A lot of birds are nesting, their young are hatching and there are a lot of migrant species that use this critical coastal habitat as stopovers on their return journey north.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service maintains twenty coastal National Wildlife Refuges located within the possible trajectory of the spill and are working feverishly to deploy booms to capture and deflect anticipated oil.

The Mississippi Delta region is home to 40% of the wetlands in the U.S. – no doubt that unless they can somehow manage to contain this mess, it WILL have a devastating impact…

Date: April 29, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:FLYING OVER ALABAMA GARNERS AWARDLocation:Main Office

Alabama Public Television won a $3000 My Source Education Innovation Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for “Flying Over Alabama: The Whooping Crane Story,” its online video on the migration of whooping cranes.

The award, one of 39 handed out in March in Washington to winning stations nationwide, recognizes public broadcasting stations that use pioneering approaches and emerging digital technologies to serve the educational needs of their communities on the air, online, at home and in the classroom.

To view the winning 25 minute production, which was filmed during the 2008 southward migration click HERE.

Date: April 28, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:Grus grusLocation:Main Office

A project designed to re-establish a sustainable population of Eurasian cranes (Grus grus) in the United Kingdom is getting underway - but nearly faced a setback last week when air travel was suspended thanks to the plumes of ash produced by the Icelandic-volcano-that-nobody-can-pronounce.

The halt in air travel stranded passengers all over Europe as they waited for the skies to clear but it also stranded eight soon-to-hatch eggs in Germany that were destined for the reintroduction being carried out by Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust.

Proving that conservationists will go to great lengths to safeguard cranes, the team of researchers took turns at the wheel and drove their precious passengers from Germany to the Slimbridge reserve in Gloucestershire - and just in time because the first chick hatched out mere hours after they arrived.

CLICK to read the full story

Date: April 27, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:WHERE ARE THEY?Location:Main Office

In this update * = female, DAR = Direct Autumn Release, HY = Hatch Year

Wisconsin:
- 101 remained on or S of Necedah NWR.
- 105 moved from his territory at Sprague Pool, Necedah NWR, to the Volk Field area by 11 April and stayed there for the remainder of the report period.
- 107* was found with no. 506 at their usual spring location in Adams County, on 18 April.
- 211 remained at his territory on Necedah NWR, during the report period.
- 212 & 419* were observed on a nest during an aerial survey on 5 April. The nest may already have been active for several days. They abandoned their nest on 14 April; the two eggs were infertile, as were eggs of this pair in the previous two years.
- 213 & 218* were observed on a nest during an aerial survey on 5 April. They moved to the Mill Bluff area on 12 April after abandoning their nest. They made brief infrequent returns to the refuge during the remainder of the report period.
- 216 was found in the Mill Bluff area with DAR no. 942* on 11-13 and 15 April. They were sometimes joined by other birds, including nos. 317 & 303*, 827 and 213 & 218*. No. 216 returned to the refuge on 16 April but was back in the Mill Bluff area on 18 and 19 April, this time with no. 716*.
- 317 & 303* were reported with an active nest on 2 April. After abandoning the nest, they moved to the Mill Bluff area on 12 April.
- 307 & 726* frequented cornfields E of the refuge during the day as well as the North Training site area.
- 310 & W601* were observed on a nest during an aerial survey on 5 April. They had been incubating since 3 April and abandoned on or by 9 April.
- 311 & 312* spent most of their time (at least after 10 April) along the Yellow River. No nest has been documented.
- 318* & 313 were observed on a nest during an aerial survey on 5 April. They abandoned 11 or 12 April.
- 316 & 716* spent most of their time E of the refuge from 11-17 April. No. 716* separated from no. 316 on 18 April and rejoined no. 216.
- 401 and 508* had a nest on 4 April, but it failed on or by 7 April.
- 402 & DAR746* moved to the Volk Field area by 11 April and spent most of their time in that area. No. 402 was observed nest building N of the East Training Site on 17 April.
- 403 & 309* were observed on a nest during an aerial survey on 5 April. The nest failed on 11 April when the pair was found in the Mill Bluff area, where they subsequently spent most of their time.
- 408 & 519* were observed on a nest during an aerial survey on 5 April. Incubation began 4 April. The nest failed on or by 9 April.
- 412 was detected on or near Necedah NWR during an aerial survey on 5 April, but time was not available to determine an exact location. He was found S of Cutler with no. DAR 527* on 12 and 13 April.
- 505 & 415* were reported back on Necedah NWR on 1 April and had an active nest by that time. The nest failed on or by 6 April.
- 416: A single bird with a nonfunctional transmitter, presumably no. 416, was observed on his territory in Monroe County during an aerial survey on 5 April. Presumably the same bird was also reported on 16-17 April on a nest. The empty nest was reported unattended on 18 April. No. 416 is a widowed male who previously nested in this territory.
- 506 and HY2009 DAR 32*, 37*, and 40* remained on or near Meadow Valley SWA, Juneau County, until they returned to a previous location in Adams County, by 18 April. They were observed there on that date with no. 107*
- 509 & 818* remained together near the Canfield Training site at least since 11 April.
- 512 & 722* remained on Meadow Valley Flowage until moving S of Necedah by approximately 16 April.
- 524 & DAR742* were found located in Adams County, during an aerial survey on 5 April and stayed at that location for the remainder of the report period.
- DAR 528* was reported several times on her usual summering area in Marathon County.
- DAR 627 remained mostly on southern pools of Necedah NWR.
- 703 & DAR 838 were found together in a partially flooded cornfield in southern Wood County during an aerial survey on 5 April. They remained together in that area but were detected in flight over Necedah NWR on 18 and 19 April.
- 707 & DAR 739* remained on or N of Meadow Valley Flowage, Juneau County, during the report period. By 20 April they had moved to LeSueur County, Minnesota.
- 709 & 717* remained S of Necedah since at least 11 April through the end of the report period.
- 713 & 829 were detected in flight over Castle Rock Lake, Juneau County, on 11 April. No. 713 was later detected in flight SSE of the refuge, headed back N that same day. No. 713 was located on the Necedah Refuge 12 and 14 April.
- 804 & 829 were detected in flight S of Sprague Pool on 18 April.

- 727* was detected in flight over Necedah NWR on 18 April and landed at several locations on the southern pools before joining a group of 5 sandhills and resuming flight. Roost location was not determined. This was the first documented return of this female to the core reintroduction area since her release in January 2008.

- 733, a crane that had become habituated to humans during the winter, landed in Crane City, ICF, N of Baraboo, Wisconsin, on 4 April. He was successfully flushed out by caretakers. He was detected near Sprague Pool during an aerial survey on 5 April, but insufficient time was available to determine the exact location. He was reported near Caldonia, Trempealeau County, on 5 April. He was detected in flight over the Necedah area on 13 April. No. 733 was detected in flight headed back to the refuge from southeastern Wisconsin on 18 April and in flight again on 19 April.
- 813* was reported with sandhill cranes in Taylor County, on 11 April. Additional reports at this location were received during the remainder of the report period.
- 814 & DAR 936*: No. 14-08 was reported alone on cranberry property in Wood County, on 5 April and was subsequently reported with no. 936* in Wood County, on 8 April and both were detected on the property on 13 April. They were next observed at Horicon NWR, Dodge County, on 17 April. DAR no. 936* returned to the core area on 19 April.
- 824*, 827, and 830* completed spring migration on 11 April, roosting that night on cranberry property W of the refuge. They separated from the remaining juveniles on the next day. Nos. 827 and 830* were detected in flight with no. 828 over the refuge area on 13 April. No. 827 was found in the Mill Bluff area with nos. 216, DAR 942*, 213 & 218*, and 317 & 303* on 15 April and in that area with DAR no. 942* on 16 April. No. 824* was found at Horicon NWR on 14 April, where she was joined by nos. 814 and DAR 936* by 17 April. DAR no. 936* was detected in flight over the Necedah area on 19 April and found on the ground in the Mill Bluff area with nos. 216 & 716*, 213 & 218*, DAR 942*, 827, and 317 & 303* later that day. - DAR 831 moved from NE of Sprague Pool to Columbia County, on 11 April. He remained there with sandhills.
- HY2009 nos. 1*, 4* and 5* separated from nos. 824*, 827, and 830* on 12 April and remained W of the refuge until moving to northeastern Adams County by the night of 15 April. They remained there through the end of the report period.
- 924* was detected in flight on 18 April with five of the eight birds that had wintered on St. Marks NWR.
- 906 and 912 departed the St. Marks NWR release pen on April 14th. They were detected in flight over the Necedah NWR area on 21 April and made a spring wandering movement to Allamakee County, Iowa, on that date.
- HY2009 nos. 8*, 10, 11, 14*, 15*, 18, 25*, and 26* remained in Green Lake County, until 8 April, when nos. 8*, 14, 15*, 18, 24, and 29 were detected together in flight over the Necedah Refuge. PTT data for no. 915* indicated a roost location just S of Sprague Pool, but they were not detected there the next day.
- 913 & 919 were detected and observed in flight near Monroe County Flowage, Monroe County, on the afternoon of 15 April and were tracked to Columbia County, where they remained at least through 17 April.
- DAR 938 was detected in flight over the refuge on 11 April and was subsequently located in Marathon County, on 20 April.
- DAR 942* was found in the Mill Bluff area with no. 216 on 11 April. She remained in this area and was sometimes joined by various other birds besides no. 216, including 317 & 303*, 827, 213 & 218*, 827. Also 716* on 18 April and DAR 936* on 19 April.
- Three unidentified whooping cranes were reported on Mead SWA, Marathon County, on 14 April. A check on 20 April found one whooping crane, DAR no. 938.

Michigan:
DAR nos. 737 was reported in Jackson County, on 12 April.

No Reports During this Report Period:
DAR no. 533* was last reported with migrating sandhills in Ewing Bottoms, Jackson County, Indiana, on 25 February through at least 6 March.

Winter Location Undetermined and No Subsequent Reports:
Nos. 805 and 812 departed from Lewiston, Columbia County, Wisconsin, on 10 December.
DAR no. 836 disappeared from N of Ethridge, Lawrence County, Tennessee, between 29 November and 11 December. He had been with DAR nos. 831 and 838*.

Long-term Missing:
Nos. 516 and DAR 744* were not recorded in 2009-10. However, these birds usually summered in Michigan and have a lower than average probability of detection.
No. 511 was last detected on Necedah NWR on 11 May 2009.
No. 520* was last reported on Black River SF, Jackson County, Wisconsin, on 16 June 2009.
DAR no. 628 was last detected on Necedah NWR on 23 June 2009.
No. 706 was last detected S of Necedah NWR on 6 May 2009.
No. 724 was last detected on Necedah NWR on 26 June 2009.

This update was compiled from data supplied by WCEP winter monitoring and tracking team Richard Urbanek (USFWS), and Sara Zimorski, Eva Szyszkoski and Matt Strausser from the International Crane Foundation.

Date:April 26, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NESTING PAIRS AND SPRING MIGRATION SUMMARYLocation:Main Office
Maximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period was 103 birds (58 males, 45 females). As of 21 April, 88 whooping cranes had been confirmed back in Wisconsin, and no pairs were on nests.

In this update * = female, DAR = Direct Autumn Release, HY = Hatch Year

Reproduction:
Initiation of incubation was confirmed for nine pairs. All pairs were on Necedah NWR except for one pair in Wood County. By April 14, all nests had failed in a similar pattern as previous years.

212 & 419*: Wood County. Nest initiated <5 April, failed 14 April
213 & 218*: Necedah NWR. Nest initiated 2-5 April, failed 11-12 April
317 & 303*: Necedah NWR. Nest initiated 2 April, failed 11-12 April
403 & 309*: Necedah NWR. Nest initiated 2-5 April, failed 11 April
310 & W601*: Necedah NWR. Nest initiated 3 April, failed < or 9 April
318 & 313*: Necedah NWR. Nest initiated 5 April, failed 11-12 April
401 & 508*: Necedah NWR. Nest initiated 4 April, failed < or 7 April
408 & 519*: Necedah NWR. Nest initiated 4 April, failed < or 9 April
505 & 415*: Necedah NWR. Nest initiated <1 April, failed < or 6 April

An early spring coincided with an early emergence of black flies. The remaining pair nos. 311 & 312*, breeding in previous years, was not confirmed nesting/incubating as of the end of the report period.

Spring Migration:
No. 514 was reported in flight over Indiana Dunes State Park, Porter County, Indiana, on 12 April.

Nos. 824*, 827, and 830* and HY2009 nos. 1*, 4*, 5*, 7*, 13, 19, 24, 27, and 29 departed from the Chassahowitzka NWR release site on 5 April and roosted near Whigham, Grady County, Georgia. No. 907* separated from the other birds early the next morning. The remaining group of 11 continued migration to SW of Stevenson, Jackson County, Alabama on 6 April; Patoka Lake, Hoosier National Forest, Orange County, Indiana, on 7 April; and NE of Hebron, Porter County, Indiana, on 9 April. On the morning of 10 April, HY2009 nos. 13, 19, and 27 separated from the larger group. All birds resumed migration on that date. The latter 3 juveniles landed SE of Mukwonago, Waukesha County, Wisconsin. The group of eight was reported SE of Grafton, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, on that night and completed migration to the Necedah NWR area on 11 April, arriving in two groups: nos. 924 and 929, and the remaining six birds. The group of six roosted that night on cranberry property W of the refuge. The roost location for nos. 924 and 929 was not determined. Nos. 913 and 919 were detected and observed in flight over Monroe County on the afternoon of 15 April. No. 929 has not been detected since completing migration on 11 April, and no. 927 has not been detected since 10 April in Waukesha County.

No. 907* continued migration from Grady County, Georgia, on 6 April and roosted SW of Gadsden, Etowah County, Alabama, on that night; E of Guthrie, Todd County, Kentucky, on the nights of 7 and 8 April; E of Elberfeld, Warrick County, Indiana, on 9 April; N of Sherburnville, Kankakee County, Illinois; on 10 April; and in Will County, Illinois, on 11 April.

Nos. 906 and 912 began migration from the St. Marks NWR release site on 14 April and roosted that night E of Thorsby, Chilton County, Alabama. Their signals were lost in Hickman County, Tennessee, on the next night when they landed for roost, and they could not be found on the ground. They were reported in flight over Heron Park, Danville, Vermilion County, Illinois, on the morning of 18 April. They completed migration to the Necedah NWR area on 20 or 21 April.

DAR nos. 934*, 935*, 936*, and 941: PTT readings for no. 936* on the night of 4 April indicated a roost location S of Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. On 4 April the group of four birds resumed migration and was reported on Theresa SWA, Dodge County, Wisconsin. They were detected in Juneau or Adams County during an aerial survey on 5 April, but time was insufficient to determine the exact location. 934*, 935*, or 941 have not been subsequently detected. No. 936* was reported with no. 814 in Wood County on 8 April.

This update was compiled from data supplied by WCEP winter monitoring and tracking team Richard Urbanek (USFWS), and Sara Zimorski, Eva Szyszkoski and Matt Strausser from ICF.

Date: April 24, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NESTING UPDATELocation:Main Office

Necedah Refuge Biologist Rich King submitted his weekly nesting report yesterday, which contained the following: We have up to eight whooping crane pairs that could start renesting in the next week or so. We also have some pairs that have not yet nested.

Until whooping crane nests come online, we are focusing on sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans, which have now initiated their nesting efforts. Additionally, we visited a whooping crane nest located by Wisconsin DNR pilot, Beverly Paulan, in Monroe County. The property is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The Whooping crane nest located by Bev Paulan
during an overflight in Monroe County, WI.

The nest contained no eggs or egg shell fragments. A lone whooping crane was seen in the area but we were not able to get an identification due to a nonfunctional transmitter. We suspect that the nest was constructed by an older, unpaired bird. A sandhill crane nest was located in the vicinity of the whooping crane nest and we are monitoring that nest with a remote camera. When we visit the camera every three days (for routine maintenance), we will monitor the whooping crane nest to identify the bird(s) that built it.

Additionally, Pilot Richard van Heuvelen submitted the following report after several flights over the Refuge last weekend.

I have affixed a tracking antenna on my trike and acquired a receiver from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. This configuration works very well and I have found I can track birds to an area less than an acre. I can also rotate the antenna in flight to determine if a bird is flying or on the ground.

On the morning of April 16 I took a flight. The air was a bit rough but flyable. I went north to the Sprague Mather flowage with intentions of locating number 312 and her mate. after meeting with Rich King it was decided that this pair was a priority.

With the rough air it was difficult to fly and use the receiver simultaneously, but I did find some birds present on the refuge. Unfortunately I did not locate 312 but I later determined I had the wrong frequency for her so she may or may not have been present.

The following morning April 17 I did locate her and her mate on East Sprague Pool engaged in what appeared to be nesting behavior. I also found number 216 with another Whooping crane nearby in a similar situation. 312's mate, number 311 has a nonfunctional transmitter and I could not pick up a signal from 216's companion either, however, I only had known pairs pre-programmed into the receiver. Both of these pairs were determined to be off the potential nest sites later that day.

On the morning of April 18 during another flight I found many pairs on the refuge - some so close to each other it was difficult to determine who was who. At least nine pair were identified on the refuge, along with bachelor cohorts and single birds. Most pairs were on or near their known territories.

That evening, another flight found no visible birds on the refuge, however 312 and its mate were tracked to a location east of the refuge. They were difficult to spot but I eventually located them under trees in a forested area. I then picked up other signals most of which were determined to be off the refuge. Another pair was found west of the Canfield training site and again under trees and difficult to spot. It is interesting to note that all birds found on this flight were found under trees in forested areas. I find these observations consistent with black fly evasion.

Date: April 23, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:Peregrine FalconsLocation:Main Office

I recently became aware of a streaming video channel hosted on our partner wildearth's website. Among many LIVE wildlife streams is one provided by the National Aviary, which features nesting Peregrine Falcons. Mom, 'Dorothy' and Dad, 'E2' began nesting in late March and produced five eggs, which they diligently tended and yesterday, on Earth Day, four of the five fluffy white chicks hatched out.

I managed to capture this clip this morning which shows the tiny new chicks huddled together, surrounding the fifth remaining egg (which should hatch today) as they wait for Dorothy and E2 to appear with what looks like a fresh mouse and thought you might also enjoy it.

To watch the live stream from the nest located at the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland, PA click here. And in the meantime, enjoy this clip!

Date: April 22, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:906 & 912 MAKE IT HOME!Location:Main Office

The International Crane Foundation is reporting that the two juvenile Whooping cranes; 906 & 912, who finally departed from the St. Marks NWR on April 14th arrived HOME at the Necedah NWR yesterday! ICF Tracking Field Manager, Eva Szyszkoski detected signals from the radio transmitters yesterday afternoon as they flew over the refuge.

Matt Strausser, ICF Tracking Intern, continued tracking the two for another five hours as they crossed into Iowa, and eventually landed to roost in an Allamakee County, Iowa wetland.

Their eight flockmates departed  from Florida on March 24th and arrived in Wisconsin on April 1st. Since then they've been spending time in a suitable area in Green Lake County, Wisconsin.

Date:April 22, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:EARTH DAY 2010Location:Main Office

Today is Earth Day. In fact this is the fortieth anniversary of the day founded by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson on April 22nd, 1970. Senator Nelson cared passionately about the natural world and was driven to design the day to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment.

While the inaugural celebration focused mainly on the United States, Earth Day is now recognized and celebrated in virtually every country. People from all walks of life and from around the globe will participate in events and activities that show a commitment to the protection and responsible stewardship of our planet. I’ve read estimates stating that more than one billion people in 190 countries will take action for the 2010 Earth Day.

If you feel you’re too busy to participate in an organized event why not commit to do something at home or in your own neighborhood. Pledge to reduce the amount of packaged foods you buy which will cut down on the items in your recycling bin (you ARE recycling, aren’t you?)

Purchase a reusable container for your water instead of buying single serve bottled water. Did you know that it takes an estimated 3 litres of water to produce just 1 litre of bottled water? 70 million of these clear plastic bottles went to landfills in North America alone last year.

It doesn’t take much to participate and do something that will benefit our natural world… So why not grab your gloves and a couple of garbage bags and spend a half hour or so out of your day cleaning up the areas around your neighborhood, or where you walk, ride you bicycle, or travel.

Date:April 20, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MILEMAKER CAMPAIGNLocation:Main Office
Please become a MileMaker sponsor TODAY and help us to get the 2010 generation of Whooping cranes chicks to Florida!

The cost to sponsor a full mile is $200. A half mile is $100 and a quarter mile is $50

As a special thank you for your support we'll send you a secret link where you can select a beautiful calendar image to display on your PC desktop! Each month, beginning with April 2010 and continuing to March 2011, features a full color photograph with calendar overlay. Here are a couple of sample images:

April 2010 August 2010 October 2010

Every dollar raised through the MileMaker campaign helps to cover the costs associated with the southward ultralight-guided migration. The journey will begin later this fall when our 12-person team will depart from Wisconsin with the Class of 2010 Whooping cranes before guiding them over Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and eventually to their new winter habitat, located on Florida's Gulf coast.

Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of the number of miles in each flyway state:

STATE

FROM
MILE

TO
MILE

TOTAL MILES
IN STATE

RUNNING
TOTAL MILES

Unsponsored Miles Remaining

Wisconsin

1

117

117

117

72

Illinois

118

455

338

455

289

Kentucky

456

545

93

548

86

Tennessee

546

651

109

657

100

Alabama

652

970

324

981

295

Georgia

971

1043

76

1057

69

Florida

1044

1269

228

1285

1103

To view the available miles click HERE. Once you've made your selection, your name will be appear on the 2010 MileMaker Supporter page and you'll receive an email containing the secret link to the desktop calendars!

Date:April 19, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:TECHNOLOGY USED TO TRACK WESTERN FLOCKLocation:Main Office

Researchers with the Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust have been given permission to capture up to twenty Whooping cranes in the Wood Buffalo-Aransas population each year for the next three years and to outfit them with tiny GPS anklet devices.

The team, led by Felipe Chavez-Ramirez captured two adult cranes on the Aransas wintering grounds this past season and is currently receiving information regarding their whereabouts every six hours.

"We hope to learn something about their habitat-use patterns," Chavez-Ramirez said. "Where do they spend the night? What are the characteristics of those sites, the depth of the water, the vegetation? We've never had a quantifiable way to evaluate where they roost."

Wetlands are being lost throughout the birds' migration route, he said. The tracking program "will let us understand what they want and what they use so that perhaps we can reproduce those conditions."

CLICK to read more

Date: April 17, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:FLORIDA NON-MIGRATORY FLOCK NEWSLocation:Main Office

Marty Folk, Avian Researcher with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, along with others is continuing to study the non-migratory flock of whooping cranes in Florida. This is the first report that Marty has sent out for the 2010 Breeding Season:

We entered the 2010 breeding season with 26 birds (10M:16F), 10 pairs, in the Florida non-migratory population of whooping cranes. Marsh water levels are the best we’ve seen since 2006. To enhance our knowledge of reproductive biology we have been collecting, since last fall, behavioral observations on frequency of copulations. Also, this spring, in addition to continuing our video surveillance of nests to document incubation behavior, we are conducting a “pilot” study of measuring the temperature within crane nests via artificial data-logging eggs. We are collecting concurrent data on behavior (gathered via video surveillance) and nest microclimate (from the data-loggers) from nests of whooping and Florida sandhill cranes. Results from this work may allow us to:

1) compare, contrast, and describe basic behavioral biology of nesting whooping and sandhill cranes
2) determine if there are behavioral reasons why some whooping cranes are unsuccessful at hatching eggs in Florida
3) make recommendations to captive facilities on how to adjust incubators to improve hatching success
4) provide baseline data for successful incubation behavior that can be used for comparisons with other reintroduced flocks of cranes

Several groups have done some work with data-logging eggs with nesting captive cranes (George Gee et al., Calgary Zoo), but to my knowledge no-one has done this with wild crane nests. The Florida flock of whooping cranes presents a unique research opportunity. The chances of this flock becoming self-sustaining are low, and there are no plans for further releases. However, the flock is available for study and experimental manipulation at a level that has not yet been conducted with other crane flocks.

It has been an interesting breeding season. Thus far 6 whooper nests have been initiated. The first nest (Lake County) failed when the pair abandoned their nest for unknown reasons. We do not suspect it was in response to the deployment of the data-logging egg because they didn’t abandon their nest until several days after deployment of the egg. This pair ne-nested and currently are actively tending their nest.

Another nest was initiated in Osceola County. This nest failed within the range of dates for “expected hatching.” Early in incubation we had deployed an artificial egg into the nest. Upon visiting the failed nest, the artificial egg was found in several pieces and there were teeth marks in the pieces. The teeth marks were similar in appearance to those seen when alligators have chewed on transmitters. Despite this, the egg transmitter and datalogger were successfully recovered from the floor of the marsh. The natural egg was missing. The nesting pair was not tending the nest and the female was found to be missing an entire leg, apparently to the alligator. The night after this discovery (the female’s 2nd night as a one-legged crane), she was taken by a bobcat. This was a 10 year-old female.

Another nest in a vast marshy area of Lake Okeechobee came as quite a surprise because the “pair” consisted of 2 females. The older bird had nested previously with a male, but now she was with a wild-hatched bird that had been identified via blood sample as a female. Of course there can be “errors” in the identification of gender. When this pair moves to an accessible/assessable location we will observe them for behavioral clues as to gender. They currently are in a remote area 5 miles from the nearest uplands. (Monitoring has been from the air).

The next nest was initiated in Lake County. The male of this pair last nested in 2006 with a different female in the same marsh. 2006 was the last time, until now, that the marsh had water. This spring’s nest, 4 years later, is within 80 metres of where the 2006 nest was. We are collecting behavioral and temperature data from this nest.

A new nest was discovered just now in Lake County. Two other whooper pairs have been observed doing some nest-building so we may have more whooper nests to study in the near future.

In addition to the whooper nests above, we have collected behavioral data at one Florida sandhill crane nest. We plan to collect behavioral and temperature data at one or more additional sandhill crane nests yet this season.

Many thanks to Marty and other Florida researches for allowing us to publish this report.

Date: April 16, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NESTING UPDATELocation:Main Office

Necedah Refuge Biologist Rich King reports they currently have no active whooping crane nests on the Refuge. Four nests failed prior to April 9, which is the first day he saw adult black flies (4) at a whooping crane nest. Additionally, the four remaining nests failed last Sunday or Monday.

All four of those nests had large swarms of black flies.  Rich and his team were able to deploy high resolution nest cameras at two nests.  Unfortunately, both nests failed before black flies were present so they did not get the black fly data they had hoped to.  As a back-up, Rich collected black fly data (#s) when he visited the failed nests but won't have numbers covering multiple hours and days.  Rich feels that he should still be able to get an estimate of whooping crane biting insect tolerance thresholds.

A camera was deployed at an off-refuge nesting location in Wood County and captured that nest failure, which occurred on April 14.  That nest had several hundred black flies at it and they were able to collect black fly data there as well.  

Rich’s research focus has now shifted to conspecifics and dummy nest work.  They will try to isolate what makes crane nests attractive to some black flies and how other bird species are able to successfully nest despite biting insect harassment.

A number of eggs were collected from the failed nests and transported to the International Crane Foundation, however, fertility has yet to be determined.

I took a quick look at the Journey North site for dates of l2009 nest failures and found that the first failure occurred on April 19th. There was a total of 12 pairs that initially nested and of those, five pairs re-nested in May of 2009. This year we have potentially 17 pairs and a number of these have not yet initiated nesting so there is still a very good chance for these later first nests as well as re-nests to happen.

Date:April 15, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MOVING DAYLocation: Montgomery, AL
Yesterday was moving day for 906 and 912. At last they put an end to the, 'when will they go' guessing game as they launched on their spring migration back north.

The two cranes had taken such a long flight on Tuesday, that Brooke, watching from the blind, called ICF tracker Matt Strausser to let him know they might be on their way. Each morning for the past while, Matt has been stationing himself on the outskirts of north Tallahassee ready to pick up their signal as they leave. But it was not to be. Less than ten minutes after giving Matt the heads-up, 906 and 912 appeared in the sky over St. Marks and dropped back into the pen.

Wednesday was a different story however. What ever it is that tells them it is time to go, kicked in. From his vantage point in the blind, Brooke watched as the two birds took to the air, wheeled to the northwest, and disappeared from sight. Matt, who was once again in position to pick up their signals, is tracking them as they make their way north.

North is also where Brooke will be headed today. He will be driving OM's tracking van and hauling the second of our travel pen trailers back to Necedah. Once back in Wisconsin he will be taking a few well earned days off before flying back to Florida to pick up our Sierra travel trailer. Hauling his 'home' with our white diesel truck, his destination will be Laurel, MD and the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center to assist the Crane Ecology crew there with the hatch and rearing of the Class of 2010. Unofficial news from Patuxent is that the first hatch is expected to be around May 2nd.

And, away we go again - Season 10 is about to kick off.

Date:April 13, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: DISAPPOINTING NESTING NEWSLocation: Montgomery, AL
The first official news of the 2010 nesting season is in. Rich King, biologist at the Necedah National Wildlife refuge, reported to WCEP Co-Chair, Louise Clemency, on April 9th, and she in turn shared the latest word with the partnership on April 11.

According to Rich King, at the time of his report six Whooping crane nests were under video surveillance, two of which were being covered simultaneously by OM’s Duke Energy CraneCam. Aerial surveying by OM’s ultralight aircraft also began that day. Unfortunately four nests had failed by April 9, and while their viability has not yet been determined, all eggs in the abandoned nests were collected. Rich King also advised that he was working with Wisconsin DNR and the International Crane Foundation, “to expand surveillance to nesting pairs off USFWS owned property.”

At this juncture we do not have information on which pairs have nested or which abandoned. Further, until video and observational data are reviewed and filed, neither we nor WCEP can speculate much less ascertain the cause of the abandonments.

Note re Field Journal postings: Due to a faulty wireless switch on her new laptop, Heather (who is in Necedah, WI) is unable to connect to our FTP server to upload entries. I am in Alabama to attend the Stewardship Partnership meetings hosted by OM Grantors the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and Southern Company, and for some unknown reason I am also having connection problems. I hope the difficulties will not persist, however, if there is a time lag between Field Journal postings in the upcoming days you will now know the reason.

Date:April 12, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHEN, REMAINS A QUESTIONLocation: St. Marks, FL
If we've researched correctly, throughout the project years March 23rd is the earliest any of the young-of-the-year have launched their return migration, with the latest departure date being April 9th. Until this season that is.

Brooke reports that 906 and 912 (AKA Boomerang and YoYo) have been taking longer and longer flights the last couple of days. As it is they are just 3 days outside previous years' timeframes and who is to say there is a 'rule'. It is wildlife and nature after all.

Nonetheless, we're hopeful their recent flight activity is a sign of restlessness, and the urge to migrate will soon overtake them. Perhaps today will be the day.

Date:April 12, 2010Reporter: Christine Barnes
Subject:CLASS OF 2009'S STORY NEARS FINAL CHAPTERLocation: St. Marks, FL
It is mostly cloudy, with a mackerel sky above the pen. The salt marsh has been strangely deserted recently: with the retreat of the winter rainwater from the hammocks and the flatwoods, you might expect more critters to roam into view. But this evening, no raccoons, only one deer, no feral hogs (that's good news).

Approaching the blind always brings a pang of anxiety. Are the birds safe? Are they all accounted for? We glance through the camouflage net and see – just ONE??? Hearts pounding, we watch in silence through the scope and binoculars. On the oyster bar, one lone bird preens its evening tuxedo. A bird with two heads? Yes. They are so perfectly aligned, it is only when the necks crane a little out of preening sequence that we finally see the second bird.

The mackerel sky dissolves slowly into fluid patches of dark and light. The constant white-noise chime of wetland insects and amphibians floods the marsh. Just in case an interloper missed the crimson flash of his epaulets, melodic voices define each Red-winged Blackbird’s territory. A few sandpipers drop into the pen to dine around its fringes before taking off to their evening roost. The remaining two St. Marks Class of 2009 Whooping Cranes are tonight, as they have been for many days, seemingly unconcerned and fully content.

And now we wait. We wait for these final two cranes to migrate. Expect the unexpected? After all, these are birds, with bird ways and bird schedules. There are unknowns. Our job is patience, observation, learning, trial, error, correction, and repeat. We wait for the next hatch, the next migration. We wait for the next wild chick, and the next, and for the flock to be established. Then we can all watch in wonder and appreciation for the mighty efforts of every person who touched a part of this promise.

People are attracted to this project for myriad reasons. Among the most powerful of these is the possibility of reversing human indiscretion – blind acts of ignorance that got the cranes where they are in the first place. It is heroic to bring back a species from the brink of extinction. It is only right that we should try, and try hard.

In this most visible and most charismatic stage of the project, the migration and birds’ cliff-hanging wild return to Wisconsin, it is easy to lose sight of the many hands and hearts that have touched this effort along the way, each day, each year. From the people who thought outside the box and said, “What if…”, to the people who identify and gather the eggs, ship them, incubate them, care for the hatchlings; from the people who form the partnerships that make this all possible, write the grants, answer the emails, to those who work on live-cams, drive the vans, track the birds; from those who gave their blood and sweat to build the pens in the heat of the summer, to those who put every last sandbag in a heap to make the oyster bar; from those who put out more food, clean the cages, give health checks, research black flies, mind the weather, grease the engines, change the tires, write the field journals, to the people who come out for the fly-overs, and open up their homes and their land; from the people who risk their lives and freeze in the high altitudes in winter air, spend endless hours guarding the birds, leave their homes for months on end, never have a home to begin with, to all of you who follow, contribute and send heart-felt notes of encouragement and appreciation when things go terribly wrong, and when they go very right – it is your enthusiastic commitment that fuels the fires of this dedication.

We seek closure. Closure to this year, and the remaining pages these two cranes will write in this final chapter. Closure to another year of the project, even as the eggs are being gathered for the unfolding of a renewed effort in 2010. Stay with us.

Date:April 11, 2010Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:EARLY WORK IN NECEDAHLocation: Necedah, WI
It seems odd to be in Necedah this early in the season. The grass is barely green and the buds are just showing on the trees, yet here we are, two months earlier than last year.

By mid-May the chicks will be starting to hatch at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, and by June we will be ready to ship the first cohort to Wisconsin. That’s when we normally arrive –maybe a little early to prepare the pens and set up camp for the summer. That is still the plan, but this year we are here early to help Necedah Refuge Biologist, Rich King, to collect data on the spring nesting season. Our job will be aerial reconnaissance.

So far there are eight nests in and around the refuge. Many can be monitored with remote cameras, and a team of volunteers and interns will observe others, but some nest sites are very remote and surrounded by water and tall vegetation. Getting in there even to determine if a nest exists is difficult, but without disturbing the pair it’s almost impossible. From the air, however we can find the location and provide high definition photographs or video so we can see if they are incubating eggs or just loafing on their territory.

(Pictured here are pair 213 & 218* on their territory. Photo credit goes to Doug Pellerin.)

Our open air trikes provide the perfect vantage point, and because most of these birds have flown with us, the sound of our aircraft is familiar and less disturbing than say a Cessna that would normally be used for aerial surveys. Over the years we have flown over older Whooping cranes hundreds of times. Some species have different reactions. Herons, for instance will fly off well before you get close, and geese will raft together. Ducks will dive, but Whooping cranes will defiantly hold their ground. Sometimes they will unison call as if reminding another Whooping crane that they have intruded on a territory already occupied. With more than 60 birds on the refuge this spring that is a regular occurrence.

Despite this familiarity our plan is to stay high. We will avoid the areas with nesting pairs that can be monitored from the ground, and we will concentrate on the birds that can’t be seen any other way. Even then we wont get any closer than 1,800 feet.

Our other mission it to locate a few Sandhill crane nests so Rich can monitor their reaction to the black flies. So far it has been too cool for the main population to hit in full force, but that is expected.

Dr. Peter Adler from Clemson University is the world’s leading black fly expert. He was here recently to evaluate the problem and he surveyed the Yellow River a few miles to the east. Based on the number of eggs or larva he expects a larger numbers of black flies to develop in the next few weeks. We have our fingers crossed, but that will likely cause at least some abandonment. Our aerial surveys will help determine if pairs are still nesting or if the flies were just too much. That will allow Rich to salvage eggs before they are predated. One way or another it will be a productive season.

Date:April 10, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: STATE OF THE BIRDS - 2010Location: St. Marks, FL
"State of the Birds, 2010” was released by Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar on March 11. The 32 page document follows a similar report produced last year in which almost one third of the 800 avian species in the U.S. were indicated as being endangered, threatened or significantly declining.

The report addresses climate change as a threat to hundreds migratory birds already jeopardized by loss of habitat, invasive species and other environmental hazards.

Captioned, "Birds are telling us an important story about climate change," the Forward states: "This report contains information about birds and their habitats, gives examples of what could happen due to climate change, and outlines suggested solutions and efforts needed to help address these issues. By following the conservation actions in this State of the Birds Climate Change report, together we can help ensure that future generations will enjoy the birds we are working to protect today."

Click the following link to read or download a copy of the full report. 2010 State of the Birds

Date:April 9, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:BUDGET WOES PLAGUE NWRSLocation: St. Marks, FL
Excerpt from April's Birding Community E-bulletin

The Obama Administration has proposed a $3.3 million funding decrease for the National Wildlife Refuge System for next year (2011). This may not seem like a big hit, but because the Refuge System needs at least a $15-million increase each year to address the accumulating costs associated with managing 150 million acres of refuge lands, the budget request actually represents a cut of $18.3 million.

In addition, a recent report, “Restoring America's Wildlife Refuges 2010,” by the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) warns that unless Congress acts to restore funding for the Refuge System, proper management of the lands, waters, birds, and other wildlife, and recreation/appreciation opportunities provided across the country’s 150-million-acre Refuge System could be in jeopardy.

The report emphasized that refuges face a $3.7 billion backlog in deferred maintenance and operations funding. Washed-out trails, leaking building roofs, closed roads, and broken equipment are just a few of the more than 11,000 problems currently waiting to be addressed on refuges nationwide. Refuges are also fighting a constant battle against invasive plants and animals, requiring at least $25 million per year to treat just one-third of its infested plant acreage and begin low-level control of invasive animals. Furthermore, with the recent addition of more than 50 million acres of marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean, the Refuge System faces increased management, coordination, restoration, and law enforcement challenges, collectively carrying a price tag of between $18 and $35 million annually.

Refuges don’t simply draw funds from the U.S. Treasury; they produce economic growth. According to the 2006 “Banking on Nature” economic analysis report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 87 percent of the $1.7 billion in annual refuge-related revenues is spent by visitors from outside the communities where refuges are located. This spending created almost 27,000 jobs and generated approximately $543 million in employment income. "National Wildlife Refuges bring in over 41 million visitors a year and pour nearly two billion dollars a year into local economies," says Evan Hirsche, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Chair of the CARE coalition. "Every dollar invested in the Refuge System returns, on average, $4 to local communities.”

CARE, a coalition of 22 groups, has urged in “Restoring America’s Wildlife Refuges 2010,” that Congress should actually increase refuge operations and maintenance funding to $578 million for 2011. Click here to access this report.

Date:April 8, 2010Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:GO ALREADY!Location: St. Marks, FL
“Are those bird ever going to migrate?” they ask. “What birds?” I reply about a kazillion times a day.

As far back as I can remember, one of my all time favorite things to do was to stand in front of the my mother’s stove and wait in rapt anticipation for the water to boil. It was my very first high, second only to watching paint dry - which I never got to do much because my father didn’t like to paint. He did, however, love to watch baseball, and so did I because for me watching the grass grow on the field during the game was far more exciting than a bunch of adults acting like kids throwing a ball at each other and occasionally threatening one another with a bat.

So, I feel I am uniquely qualified for the task I now have before me ….sitting in the blind day after day, drumming my fingers on the bench, waiting for our two remaining birds, YoYo and Boomerang , to leave on migration.

Now I know I’m not the only one fascinated by this secret world of the nothing. Albert Einstein himself found this stuff to be gripping drama. In fact, his study of this phenomenon led him to his three most important discoveries in the field of physics. First, if you are waiting for water to boil, it will take twice as long than it would if you don’t. Second, if you watch a mechanic while he works on your car he will charge you twice as much as he would if you just placed your bottom snuggly on a chair in the waiting room and read three year old dog-eared, coffee stained copies of People Magazine. And third, E=MC2 which means an Egg can Make a Chick if you don’t break it Twice. Elementary really.

But the most important of all law of physics states that if you really want something to happen, you have to believe it will. You can’t just think it will happen, hope it will happen, kinda sorta wish it will happen. Just doesn’t work that way. If you intend to dredge gold from the bottom of a river, you can’t just think it’s down there, you have to know it’s down there.

And so it is with the birds. Their genes have been migrating for tens of millions of years, and although we have a great pen for them to hang out in with lots of wonderful people who care about them, their genes will call them north, whether they be Wranglers or Levis or Jordache, and in the end it will be they who light the stove. Meanwhile, we wait…and watch for the bubbles.

Date:April 6, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATELocation: St. Marks, FL
At the end of the first reporting period in April the estimated size of the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) was 103;  58 males and 45 females. According to WCEP trackers, by the evening of April 5th just two Whooping cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population remained in Florida. These two were 906 and 912, and both are still at their wintering site on the St. Marks NWR.

At the cranes’ northern migration terminus, that is, Wisconsin, almost 70 Whoopers have been documented as having returned, and as of the end of the current report period, eight pairs are on nests.

Legend: * = female; D = Direct Autumn Release; NFT = Non-functional transmitter; N = Nesting

In Wisconsin - Migration Completed
101, 105,
211, 212 & 419*N, 213 & 218*N, 216
316 & 716* (new pair), 307 & 726*, 310 & W601*N, 311 & 312*, 313 & 318*N, 317 & 303*N
401 & 508*, 402 & D746*, 403 & 309*N, 408 & 519*N, 412, 416NFT
505 & 415*N, 506, 509, 512 & 722*, 524 & D742* D528
D627
703, 707 & D739*, 709 & 717*, 733
804, 805, 814, 818* D831, D838
908*, 910, 911, 914, 915*, 918, 925* 926*, D932*, D937*, D938, D940, D942*

On Spring Migration (last known location)
Indiana – D527*, D533*, 713, 829, D934*, D935*, D936*, D941*
Illinois – 932*
Georgia – 824*, 827, 830*
Tennessee – 107*, D737, 828
Florida – 727*, 514, 712
Mississippi – 813*

Long-term Missing (more than 90 days)
D744* last recorded in Paulding County, OH November 18, 2008
516 Last recorded in Marion County, FL December 22, 2008
706 last detected May 6, 2009 near Necedah NWR, WI
511 last detected May 11, 2009 on Necedah NWR, WI
520* last reported in Jackson County, WI June 16, 2009
D628 last detected June 23, 2009 on Necedah NWR, WI
724 last detected June 26, 2009 on Necedah NWR, WI
D826 disappeared from Lawrence County, TN between November 29 and December 11.
812 last reported December 10, 2009 departing Columbia County, WI.

Final report from Chassahowitzka NWR Release Site
Wintering Juveniles were: 901*, 904*, 905*, 907*, 913, 919, 924, 927, 929

Water Levels, Roosting, Movements
Approximate water depths (inches) on the constructed oyster bar at dusk on 21 March – 3 April, respectively, were:
center: 38, 21, 14, 2, 5, 6, 3, 14, 21, 12, 14, 16, 19, and 22
deep end: 44, 27, 20, 8, 11, 13, 9, 20, 27, 18, 20, 22, 25, and 28
Highest recorded tide was 38 inches on the center of the oyster bar on 21 March PM (= 63 inches on gauge)

All birds, including the three sub-adults (824*, 827, and 830*) and 105 (until he migrated on 27 March) roosted in the pen on March 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, and 30. On these nights all birds roosted on the constructed oyster bar except for 8 birds in the old part of the pen on 27 March, and all birds on the flooded shore on 29 March.

The avian dissuader was used from the blind to induce the birds from the plain south of the pen back into the pen on 30 March. Otherwise, no intervention was required during these 6 nights. On the other 8 nights, birds roosted either more than 1 mile east of the pen, or near E-Creek south of the pen. Efforts to flush birds into the pen on several of these nights were unsuccessful.

Maturation
905*, 913, and 927 attained adult voices by the end of the report period. Nos. 901*, 904*, 907*, 919, 924, and 929 had previously attained adult voices.

Salinity
18ppt on 21 March and 12-15 ppt during the remainder of the period.

Predators and predation
A bobcat track was found on the path to the blind on 23 March. A live trap was operated from 19 to 31 March at the site where 501* had been killed by a bobcat on the night of 18 March, but nothing was captured except one raccoon. A bobcat was observed swimming north of the blind island on 3 April.

Human disturbance
No unauthorized persons were observed within the restricted access area surrounding the pen.

Migration
All 9 juveniles began migration with 824*, 827, and 830* on 5 April.

Final report from St. Marks NWR Release Site
Wintering Juveniles were: 906, 908*, 910, 911, 912, 914*, 915*, 918, 925*, and 926*

Water Levels, Roosting, Movements
Water levels were stable during the period. All birds present roosted on the constructed oyster bar each night without intervention.

Salinity
10 ppt during the period.

Predators and predation
No predator sign was observed.

Human disturbance
No unauthorized persons were observed within the restricted access area surrounding the pen.

Migration
908*, 910, 911, 914*, 915*, 918, 925*, and 926* began migration on 24 March.

This report was compiled from data collected/provided by Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, Matt Strausser, and Brooke Pennypacker.

Date:April 6, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CHASS CRANES DEPART!Location:Somewhere in Michigan

The International Crane Foundation is reporting that all nine juveniles departed their Chassahowitzka NWR winter home yesterday morning at 10am. CLICK to read the report.

Date:April 5, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:ANOTHER FIRSTLocation: St. Marks, FL

ICF’s Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Barry Hartup forwarded a message to WCEP partners today to advise us all of yet another first.

Kim Boardman, an ICF aviculturist had reported a special visitor had dropped by the International Crane Foundation's Crane City. Kim said, “While many of you may have been visited by the Easter bunny at home on Sunday, aviculturists working in Crane City were visited by Whooping crane 733.”

Apparently 733 circled several times, landed in a prairie south of ICF’s breeding facility, before circling again and landing smack-dab in Crane City right beside the pen of a Whooping crane pair. “He seemed a little too at home in CraneCity,” Kim said. "Aviculturists had to finally flush him out as our birds were quite unhappy with his presence. He circled several more times before making his way towards the northwest." Kim noted that while in the past Whooping cranes had over-flown ICF, this is the first known time one actually landed there.

Those of you who were following the project in 2007 may recall that 733 (photo of him as a juvenile to the left) was the crane that went ‘AWOL’ during that season’s ultralight-led migration. He dropped out on the migration leg from Jackson County, IN to Shelby County, KY and was the subject of a massive five-day ground and air search.

Intensive and extensive media coverage in the area resulted in more than 6,000 reports being emailed or called in to OM's offices.

733 was finally tracked down to a farmer's field where he was crated and transported to join his flockmates, who by that time were one more migration stop ahead. Click here to go back to November 23, 2007 and read 733's whole story. (scroll up on that page to follow the tale)

Date:April 5, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: AND....THEY'RE OFFLocation: St. Marks, FL
While juveniles 906 and 912 continue to enjoy all the amenities of their wintering pensite on the St. Marks NWR, as of this morning, at least some of the Chassahowitzka Class of 2009 finally made a move.

ICF tracker Eva Szyszkoski is on the road trying to stay within range if not ahead of the group in order to track them as they head back north. ICF Intern, Matt Strausser reports that at this point with the jumble of signals coming in, even Eva isn’t sure how many birds are in this group.

All we know at the moment is that some or all of the nine Chass juveniles are officially on migration. There is also a chance that one or more of the 2008 sub-adults (824*, 827, and 830*) who were frequent visitors to the winter pensite could be traveling with them. Or should that be vice-versa?

This morning the two young Whoopers craned their necks to watch as huge flock of Pelicans flew over using the right-way winds to their advantage. The overhead passersby seemed to coax them into the air, and while they did disappear for a longer than usual flight, it wasn't all that long before they reappeared in the pen and got back to business as usual. Forage, forage, forage.

C’mon 906 and 912….get out of Dodge so we can head north too!!

Date:April 5, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: AND IN OTHER WHOOPING CRANE FLOCK NEWS… Location: St. Marks, FL
Dateline - KANSAS
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge Manager, Dan Severson, reported a new sighting record has been set at Quivira. On March 31st a total of 66 Whooping cranes were observed in 3 areas on the refuge. The following morning, April 1st, when staff went back to check the locations, the number on site was 74!

One of the 545 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System, Quivira is located in south central Kansas. With slightly to moderate water salinity in its approximate 7,000 acres of wetlands, Quivira NWR is a popular migration stop for many migratory species including Sandhill and Whooping cranes.

Dateline - NEBRASKA
The Omaha World Herald carried a very interesting online article about research being done on the Wood Buffalo-Aransas population. Leading with the comment, “History is mixing with the mystery and spectacle of migrating cranes passing through Nebraska this spring,” the article describes a first, use of miniature leg band GPS devices to track Whooping cranes.

Date:April 4, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NESTING BEGINSLocation:Main Office

In his first weekly nesting report, Necedah Refuge Biologist Rich King reports that there are several cranes on their established territories and that things are slightly ahead of last years timing. Additionally there are two confirmed nests and that some pairs breaking up as is often the case after spring migration.

Dr. Peter Adler, Black fly researcher with Clemson University reports that things are also about a week ahead of last year, no doubt due to the very warm weather conditions last week.

Date: April 3, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:GROUP OF 8 ARRIVE HOME!Location:Main Office

The eight Class of 2009 Whooping cranes that departed their winter home at the St. Marks NWR on March 24th arrived HOME in Central Wisconsin late on April 1st. ICF Aviculturist/WCEP Tracking Team and Winter Management Co-chair, Sara Zimorski confirmed their arrival when she detected their transmitter signals a the Necedah NWR.

Whooping cranes 908*, 910, 911, 914*, 915*, 918, 925* and 926* made the return flight in only 8 days. Two others, 906 and 912 are apparently enjoying their stay in Florida so much that they still have not initiated their return journey.

The same holds true for the nine still-juvenile Whooping cranes wintering at the Chassahowitzka NWR in Citrus County, FL. C'mon home gang! The weather is beautiful up here!

Here is an updated video showing the path the group of eight chose to travel on their flight north. Please note that it does not give the exact location where the birds stayed, but rather a location at least 5 miles away, of similar habitat and in the same county.

Date:April 2, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:THE FORGOTTEN ZOOLocation:St. Marks, Florida

Fog is a friend to one’s imagination. It contains within it visions of past, present, and future. And it serves as mirror of the mind, a screen onto which the one can project a picture of what once was while searching for what is.

And so it was Thursday morning as we stood in the blind and looked hard out into the fog shrouded pen area, eyes squinting as if into the sun, trying to discern two white blotches of cranes against the curtain of grey. No luck. Too thick.

But slowly, what did emerge was a picture of how the landscape would have appeared from this exact spot 12,000 years ago. Wide savannas spread out a hundred miles to the sea, carpeted with rich grasses and where herds of elephant-like mastodons grazed contentedly, as did camels, horses, bison and wooly mammoths as they kept a wary eye out for predators like giant lions, huge dire wolves and saber toothed tigers. In the forest, giant sloths twenty feet tall browsed the canopy while armadillos the size of Volkswagens nosed the ground, and 500 pound beavers swam in nearby ponds. It was an amazing natural zoo millions of years in the making, and all within it prospered, even the cranes.

That is until the most invasive species the world had ever seen arrived… Man. The Paleo Indian, armed with his hunger and his first weapon of mass destruction, a big stick with a sharp rock tied to the end of it, he made short work of all these wonderful creatures, and within about a thousand years they were all gone forever… extinct.

By about 1500 AD there were believed to be half a million of these people in Florida. Then another invasive species arrived - the Spanish, armed with the greatest weapon of mass destruction the world had ever seen; disease and greed. They conquered the native peoples, and in about three hundred years they too were extinct. Home Team - 0 Visitors - Everything.

And so it goes. The ebb and flow of time dominates the landscape, it plants and harvests, creates and destroys, and the only thing that never changes is change. All of this is clearly visible from the blind as we continue to peer into the fog in search of our two chicks. Will this be the day they leave and migrate north and join their eight buddies already in Wisconsin, having already completed their migration?

Soon the sun rises and it’s time for the fog to leave us. Slowly at first, then rapidly it begins to steal away, to burn off, returning to us all that is familiar; the marsh, the pen and our birds. It has been a friendly visit from a kind and wise visitor, and like all good visitors it has left behind a gift; the gift of Perspective, cold, and clear… and haunting.

Date:April 2, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MILEMAKER CHALLENGE!Location:Main Office

Craniacs are a competitive bunch... No sooner had we posted the launch of the 2010 MileMaker campaign when we received the first official challenge of the campaign!

Suzanne Hall Johnson from Colorado has offered to match any 1/4, 1/2, or 1 mile sponsored by a  NEW MileMaker up to 5 total miles.

So if you've never been a MileMaker sponsor before, here's your chance to DOUBLE your support. Select your mile, or half, or even quarter, and Suzanne will match it dollar for dollar. Thanks SO much Suzanne!

Date:April 1, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MILEMAKER 2010 LAUNCHES TODAY!Location:Main Office

Seven states, 1285 miles, and an unknown number of migration days lie between the 2010 Whooping crane chicks reintroduction location at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, and their winter release pen in Florida.

Last season you demonstrated incredible generosity despite the current economic picture and helped to ensure that every mile was sponsored. While it was looking sketchy toward the end of our journey, everyone rallied, some with very generous challenges, which helped to encourage new and repeat MileMaker's. We can't possibly thank you enough.

Our hope is that you will again come forward and help us to reach a fully-funded 2010 migration in this, our 10th year guiding Whooping cranes with our tiny aircraft.

Your generous support will allow us to care for the Class of 2010 and to finance their first-ever southward migration following our ultralight aircraft later this fall.

Please become a MileMaker sponsor TODAY and help us to get the 2010 generation of Whooping cranes chicks to Florida!

The cost to sponsor a full mile is $200. A half mile is $100 and a quarter mile is $50

Every dollar raised helps to cover the costs associated with the southward ultralight-guided migration. The journey will begin later this fall when our 12-person team will depart from Wisconsin with the Class of 2010 Whooping cranes before guiding them over Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and eventually to their new winter habitat, located on Florida's Gulf coast.

Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of the number of miles in each flyway state:

STATE

FROM
MILE

TO
MILE

TOTAL MILES
IN STATE

RUNNING
TOTAL MILES

Wisconsin

1

117

117

117

Illinois

118

455

338

455

Kentucky

456

545

93

548

Tennessee

546

651

109

657

Alabama

652

970

324

981

Georgia

971

1043

76

1057

Florida

1044

1269

228

1285


To view the available miles click HERE. Once you've made your selection, your name will be appear on the 2010 MileMaker Supporter page.

The following map shows Deke’s Way – the migration route which we began using in 2008 and which is named in honor of former OM pilot Deke Clark.  In all, 27 potential stopovers are made available by National Wildlife Refuges and private landowners in the name of conservation.

We truly hope you'll continue to help by sponsoring a mile, or a portion of a mile and help us to get the 2010 Whooping crane chicks, which should begin hatching later this month, all the way to their new winter home in Florida!

Again, visit this page to select and sponsor YOUR mile!

Date:March 31, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:NEW KID ON THE BLOCKLocation:Main Office

The spring nesting season is upon us and summer training months are just around the corner. It will only be a short time before the OM crew is back in Wisconsin and we look forward to greeting all the Necedah NWR staff again.

Usually our spring greetings include Larry Wargowsky as the Refuge Manager but he retired this year. The demands of managing a refuge as diverse of Necedah require more administration and less field work. Larry is an avid hunter and fisherman and he was obviously missing that part of his life. He told us recently that since he left his leadership role behind he spent most of his winter working his woodlot and getting back to nature.

I hope that once he’s replenished he will emerge and join us for old time sake. We’ll sit back, toast to all the good work that has been done and fix all the problems of the world.

This year there will be a new face at the refuge as Doug Staller takes the reins as the new Manager. Although as a member of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership he will be the ‘newest kid on the block,’ from his impressive curriculum vitae it is obvious he is bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience with him.

Among others, Doug’s previous postings included the Kenai and Yukon Delta NWR's in Alaska, the Tewaukon NWR/WMD Complex in North Dakota, and a stint as Branch Chief for Visitor Services in Arlington, VA. Prior to being at these locations, he was an Outdoor Recreation Planner in Bismarck, ND and also at the Malheur NWR in Oregon.

Join us in welcoming Doug Staller to the Whooping crane reintroduction project. Welcome aboard Doug!!

Date:March 31, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:GIVE A WHOOP - IT'S A WRAP!Location:Main Office

In late July of last year we launched the Give a WHOOP! campaign to celebrate and commemorate reaching a milestone – a 10,000 mile milestone!

Our goal was to compile an honor roll consisting of one ‘WHOOP!’ for every migration mile we’ve flown leading young Whooping cranes. On November 15th, 2009 we reached the 10,000th mile over LaSalle County, IL and celebrated that evening with dozens of Craniacs who were able to join us in person, and many others who watched live on the internet.

While we didn’t quite log an equal number of WHOOPS, we did acquire more than 6400 – with a good portion coming from new people. Our sincere thanks to everyone that participated and helped us celebrate the equivalent of flying almost halfway around the world!

The honor roll we collected will be sent to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to represent the number of people who care about the future and what place Whooping cranes will hold in it.

Over the course of the campaign we gave away 104 limited edition I Give a WHOOP! T-shirts to folks all over the United States and Canada and even as far away as South Africa. We also drew Patricia O'Brien Giglia’s name as the recipient of a one week stay at the Pelican’s Beach House in Fort Myer’s Beach, Florida.

There is only one task left to do and that is to announce the winner of the grand thank you gift – a 5-day, all expense paid, backstage visit with the OM Team in Necedah, WI will take place August 25 – 29, 2010.

The winner of the Backstage Visit is… (Drum roll please…)

Arlene Gunn of Massachusetts!

Date: March 30, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject: NAVIGATION - VISUAL AIDLocation: Main Office

Prompted by Joe's entry a couple days ago titled NAVIGATION, I thought there must be a way that we can visually provide the information we know regarding the cranes' northward journey. Using information gathered by the PTT units I've created the following video so that you can see the path that the group of eight St. Marks cranes are selecting on their first return flight to (hopefully) Wisconsin.

As of last evening they were located in Fountain County, IN - roughly 70 miles due east of our Piatt Co., IL stopover used during the ultralight-guided trip last fall.

It would appear that the first day the group travelled approximately 260 miles to Shelby County, AL. Their next flight took them an additional 380 miles to Monroe County, IN, and as of last evening they had flown another 73 miles to the Fountain County location.

A quick check of the weather conditions revealed a southwesterly flow of air so they could very well be on the move again as I type this!

Rest assured that the locations depicted in the above clip are random locations, located at minimum 5 miles from the locations the birds selected on their unassisted return flight.

Date: March 30, 2010Reporter:Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:AND THERE THEY WERE... GONE!Location:St. Marks, FL

Well, not exactly. Eight are gone and are well on their way to Wisconsin as I write this. But two of our little darlings, #906 and #912 remain, foiling our fervent desire for Empty Nester status. “Come on, guys. Leave all your stuff in the attic if you must, but please LEAVE!”

Quite frankly, we really don’t deserve this. I mean, we raised them, fed them, educated them, then took them on a road trip, let them spend the winter in Florida and gave them all the opportunities that we never had as kids and how do they repay us for all this kindness and consideration? They STAY! Are they really our parents getting even with us for what we put them through in our youth? Are they taking their revenge on us for all the webcamming we inflicted upon them as chicks? Or is it just this younger generation thing. You know…the generation of entitlement, where the three most important things in life are me, myself and I? No desire to strike out on their own, make their own way in life… to migrate. It’s just not fair, but what are we to do?

Life has taught us that every problem has a solution even if it’s the wrong one. It’s been suggested we simply tear out the Whooping crane page from the “Endangered Species Cookbook” and tape it to their feeder. Or play a CD of John Teshe’s greatest hits over the loud hailer. We have even considered taking a DVD player out to the pen and showing them “Fly Away Home” but such devious cruelty is more than even my dark side will permit. However, if “love is never having to say you’re sorry” then “tough love is having to say don’t let the door hit you on your keester on the way out.”

Perhaps the greatest threat of all would be to give them names. This terrible act would, of course, nix any chance we have at being awarded a Nobel Prize for ethology which, as everyone knows, is the study of animal behavior and not the study of the virtues of ethanol. Surely the prospect of having names instead of numbers would be more than they could stand and they would flee to Wisconsin in fear for their very souls. So, in desperation, we have named #906 and #912. Meet the fabulous Velcro twins; YoYo and Boomerang, the poster children of every empty nester wannabee’s nightmare. “Take that, you ungrateful evil twins!”

Last night, Christine and I watched from the blind as darkness fell and turned all before us into shadow. Then, as a full moon peaked up over the tree line and raised the curtain of the oyster bar stage, revealing our two little actors standing in their one legged angle of repose, we could hear one say to the other over the hushed chorus of night sounds, “to migrate or not to migrate. That is the question.” Ain’t it ever!

And so perhaps tomorrow morning, as the sun rises and begins its day shift as lighting director, I’ll once again for the zillionth and a half time this winter hike to the blind, drag my sleepy, now muddy self up those stairs, pull open the shutters and look out over the marsh and the pen it contains and there they will be - YoYo and Boomerang - GONE!

One can hope...

Date: March 29, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject: NAVIGATIONLocation:Main Office

One of our field journal readers asked us if it was possible to post a map of the migration route to demonstrate if our older birds are using the route we showed them for their own pathway back and forth. He was also interested in whether they use the same route every year or just make their way to familiar territory the way your GPS gives you a choice of the scenic route or the fastest. Of course we can’t answer these questions.

There are a hundred or so birds in the population and tracking them all would take far more resources than are available. The job of tracking birds on their migration is not an easy one. They may cover the 1200 miles in only a few days or linger at a staging area for weeks. They don’t give any warning of their departure. One day in early spring they take off as they often do. Maybe they climb a little higher than normal on a thermal - and then they’re gone.

The ground observer must be packed and ready to go. By the end of the day the trackers might have covered a hundred miles or three states. They chase a faint beep through a directional antenna and their quarry is oblivious to stoplights or traffic or the need for fuel. The group may break up to give them multiple targets but they’re still limited to the 20 mile range of the tiny transmitter on the leg of each bird. With only a few people the Tracking Team does a good job but with more resources many more questions could be answered.

The big question is what navigation methods cranes use to find their way. We know that we can only teach them the route if they travel it themselves. A large enough break in that continuous knowledge can disorient them, which is why we are pleased that they often make their first return trip as a group. Who knows what arguments ensue at five thousand feet over Alabama but obviously some consensus is reached because a large percentage find their way back to Necedah.

On a side note the two birds that didn’t leave St Marks with the rest of the flock last Wednesday only missed 18 miles of their southbound migration. We transported them in crates from the first stop to the second in Juneau County, Wisconsin. If there continuous knowledge gets them back there they will be within 20 miles of the refuge.

We do know that landmarks are not a critical navigation aid for Whooping cranes. Far too often we have led them south on hazy days at low altitudes when only a few miles of featureless landscape are visible. On the return trip they can be a hundred miles off that course with no hope of seeing anything familiar but they somehow find their way.

I wish we had the resources to answer more of those questions. Personally I have always been fascinated by how they find each other. Their migration corridor is 1200 miles long and a couple of hundred wide. Mostly they summer around central Wisconsin but their wintering grounds are spread from central Florida to Tennessee and from Mississippi to North Carolina. I can go weeks without bumping into my neighbor who lives two doors down from me but they make connections that seem impossible.

This project is unique. Raising birds in costume provides an opportunity to study behavior. Leading birds on their first migration give us a front row seat to the mechanics of bird flight. Monitoring the older flock provides insight into habitat choice, mate selection and the influence of nurture over nature.

Most of these opportunities are missed because we have our hands full with our primary mandate. For many years I have tried to interest a university or even a grad student. We have even offered to pay but I suppose the potential is not as obvious as it appears.

The more we learn the better we are prepared to ask the next question. I just wish we had the resources to get you the answers.

Date: March 28, 2010Reporter:Christine Barnes
Subject:EVENING ROOST CHECKSLocation:St. Marks, FL

Note: In this Field Journal entry, Christine shares the sights and sounds of her most recent visits to the St. Marks pensite when she performed the evening roost checks with Brooke.

March 22
Four Black-necked Stilts share the pen this evening. In the water at the edge of the pond, one crane herds them purposefully to the far end of the pen. One stilt escapes the pack, and stalks the crane from behind. It follows for a while, until the crane makes a surprise turn on a dime and lunges at it, wings spread. The stilt makes an about-face and, with the crane behind it, they stride to the other end of the pond. Finally both lose interest and go about their business. No retreat, no surrender. Comedy Central.

March 24
A cloudy, uneventful day, until now. It is early evening. On the way to the crane pen in the Operation Migration tracking van, a phone call: there are only two cranes to be seen in the ‘live-cam’ which is fixed on the pen. Are they just out in the salt marsh, chowing down in anticipation of their pending migration? Or could some have left? Brooke Pennypacker, ultralight pilot and experienced crane handler, and I, drive the van to the access roads and walk the half-mile through the sodden flatwoods to the blind at the edge of the salt marsh. Not a word is spoken. Our strides are longer and more purposeful than usual, as if their intensity will make the discovery of the truth less of a shock.

Eight Whooping Cranes of the Class of 2009 are gone. This, on a cool, cloudy day with no guiding winds and no thermals rising to aid them on their journey north. We stare at the two remaining cranes and contemplate the whys and wherefores – but who really knows?

March 25
This evening we head to the blind in a moderate spring thunderstorm. The access roads are washed out, so we use the Kubota four-wheeler to get to the flatwoods path to the blind. We are soaked to the bone. The view from the blind is a challenge: the rain is driving hard and the salt marsh is miserable and deserted. In the pen, the two remaining cranes stand close together.

The winds come up and whip the grasses into a rolling frenzy as the storm moves on through. The rain stops, and the salt marsh eases into the most extraordinary light show ever: the contrasts of the winter’s golden grasses, the red-orange of the new growth on the Needle rushes, the dense blue of the Gulf bay waters in the distance, the electric white of the tall, lonely cranes – and then, a golden line on the far trees at the edge of the marsh as the setting sun emerges from the storm clouds. As if that weren’t enough for our wondering eyes, a rainbow appears just beyond the middle of the pen. It begins as a wide pillar, and gradually grows higher and higher, until just the barest arc is perceptible. Surely this is a good omen.

It is true that these cranes evoke high emotion among their followers, both those who work directly with them, and those who follow them from afar. It is the epitome of the underdog, and needs all the supporters it can get. Its beauty is surpassed by few; its behaviors endearing. When the final two leave, and it won’t be long before they do, the commencement of the St. Marks Class of 2009 will be complete.

March 26
Tree Swallows dip and dive into the pen, swirling around and above where the two remaining cranes stand on the oyster bar. Spring weather is finally here, and the salt marsh is alive with the chirp of frogs and Red-winged Blackbirds. The Bald Eagle is back on the snag on this lovely evening. I am mindful that this is the last time I may see these birds here – perhaps tomorrow is the day.

Date: March 27, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:ICF RECEIVES RECOVERY CHAMPION AWARDLocation:Main Office

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan Gould yesterday announced the 18 recipients of the 2009 Recovery Champion award.  Among the 18 recipients is the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

The Recovery Champion award recognizes U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees and their partners for contributions to the recovery of threatened and endangered species in the United States.   Recognized from the Midwest for their work in 2009 were Dr. George Archibald and staff of the International Crane Foundation.

“The Recovery Champion award both recognizes the exceptional conservation accomplishments of its honorees and highlights the importance of strong and diverse partnerships in species conservation,” said Gould.  “Recovery Champions are helping imperiled species regain their place in the natural resources fabric of our country while focusing attention on the importance of conserving our nation’s biological heritage for future generations.”

International Crane Foundation staff, and founder George Archibald, were recognized for their successful efforts to increase the captive population of the endangered whooping crane, and for developing innovative techniques rearing cranes in captivity for release without human imprinting.  The Foundation has been a key player in the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, which is establishing a population of whooping cranes in the eastern United States through teaching young whoopers migrating routes by following ultralight aircraft.

“As part of the partnership, ICF has helped create a flock of more than 85 whooping cranes that migrate between Wisconsin and Florida,” said the Service’s Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius.  “Their efforts are far-reaching – not just in the eastern states but throughout the entire whooping crane recovery program.”

CLICK to read the entire news release.

Date:March 26, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:Great VideoLocation: St. Marks, FL

Craig Kittendorf from the St. Marks Photo Club sent us the email message below about the 'St. Marks 10' and their pre-departure behavior. He was watching on the closed circuit camera at the time.

"Shortly before 10 am they started getting very noisy. After awhile, they would quiet down again. Then repeated a couple of times.  Around 11 am all 10 took flight and began circling. They were soon so high, they could barely be seen. After about 15 minutes, two returned to the pen. The other eight could no longer be seen.  Unfortunately we were unable to record the flight."

While their flight wasn't captured on video, their pre-departure behavior in the pen was. Click here to go to the webpage and then click the link "Vocalizing 03/24/2010" to watch the video. Turn up your audio!

Date: March 26, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:COMIC RELIEFLocation:Main Office

As some of the Class of 2009 are on their solo flight north for the first time, I found the following comic timely and topical.

Courtesy of Birdbrains by Thom Bluemel

Date: March 24, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Hip Hip Hooray for St. Marks Photo Club!!! - -
and Omigosh!!!
Location: St. Marks, FL
Missing the opportunity of seeing the Class of 2009? Anxious to see them again? Well, you’re in luck. Thanks to the herculean efforts of the St. Marks Photo Club you can once again view the young cranes via the internet. It has been a very looooong and bump-bump-bumpy road for these dedicated folks. Their picture now appears in the dictionary next to ‘perseverance’.

The above paragraph was the opening of the Field Journal entry I was writing when I heard today’s second piece of news. EIGHT OF THE ST. MARKS CRANES HAVE LEFT ON MIGRATION!

When Brooke went out for pen check this morning he found all 10 cranes still in the pen. He waited and waited in the blind for them to do their usual morning fly out, but they continued dawdling and poking around seemingly with no intention of going anywhere. Finally he gave up the wait, and went out to the pen. The birds were still reluctant to get going. It took Brooke running around and flapping to convince them to take off for their morning forage so he could perform his chores.

Work done and back in the blind, Brooke lingered waiting and watching for their return. Eventually they made their way back. Nine flew back into the pen. One landed out but Brooke coaxed and bribed it back inside before he called it a morning.

We had a bit of a ‘family reunion’ when Don and Paula Lounsbury dropped by late this afternoon on their way back to Canada. The four of us sat outside the RV chatting and enjoying the last rays of afternoon sun until it was time for Brooke and Christine to leave for the evening roost check. When they arrived back Brooke rushed over to tell us what they found - or rather what they didn't find when they got to the pen. They found not ten, but just two Whooping cranes. Omigosh!

As best we can determine (thanks to St. Marks’ closed circuit video camera) the eight likely left together sometime after midday and before 2pm. We are all surprised. It’s an early departure in some respects, and especially as these cranes have exhibited virtually no pre-migratory behaviors. In fact this morning, Brooke was speculating that at the rate they were going they could still be here well into April. We were all also thinking that when the St. Marks 10 left, they would migrate enmass. They had continued to be such a cohesive unit, we were betting they would all make the journey back north together. Shows you what we know.

As the St. Marks Photo Club inched closer to achieving broadcast success we have been kidding the guys saying, “With your luck, the birds will leave the day you get the camera operational.” Little did we know how prophetic that would be.

For a glimpse of the two remaining St. Marks Whooping cranes, who, by the way, are 906 and 912, click this link http://stmarksrefuge.org/cranecam.cfm. Maybe they will still be there in the morning – maybe they’ll be gone. Who knows? Certainly not us.

Date: March 24, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATELocation:Main Office

At the end of the March 20th reporting period the size of the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) was 103 birds (58 males, 45 females). Distribution included 6 birds remaining on wintering areas in Florida (in addition to 19 juveniles at two release sites), 2 on a wintering area in Georgia, 4 on wintering areas in Tennessee, 51 either in migration or known to have begun migration but completion has not yet been confirmed, 9 (minimum) completed migration, 5 of unknown status, and 7 long-term missing.

In this update * = female, D = Direct Autumn Release, NFT = non-functional transmitter

Mortalities:
Mortality of juvenile male whooping crane no. 903 was confirmed on the edge of a fresh/brackish water marsh on eastern Chassahowitzka NWR, Citrus County, Florida, on 16 March. On the morning of 7 March, no. 903 did not return to the release pen after roosting with other juveniles on the previous night away from the pensite. Radiosignal reception difficulties precluded location of the mortality site during airboat and aircraft searches on 7-8 March. By 16 March the remains had been scattered by scavengers, and signals were detectable from tracking aircraft as well as from nearest airboat access 0.5 miles away.

The carcass of adult female whooping crane no. 501* was found on 19 March south of the pensite on Chassahowitzka NWR. She had been killed by a bobcat during the previous night. No. 501* and her mate no. 105 had been wintering at the site and had roosted during the night with 9 juveniles on the partially flooded flat.

Remains of both birds were transferred to Dr. Marilyn Spalding, University of Florida, for necropsy.

Current locations of the Eastern Migratory Population were as follows:

Florida:
No. 101 remained at Citrus County, until he began migration on 20 March.
Nos. 105/501*: Chassahowitzka NWR pensite, Citrus County. No. 501* was killed at a roost site during the night of 18 March (see above).
Nos. 212/419* remained in Pasco County, until they began migration on 8 March.
Nos. 402/D746* remained in Lake County, until they began migration on 19 March.
Nos. 509 and D942* remained in Lake County, until they began spring migration on 6 or 7 March.
No. 514 began migration from Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Alachua County between 5 and 16 March.
Nos. 709/717* remained in Hernando County, until they began migration on 19-20 March.
No. 712 remained with non-migratory sandhills in Hernando County, through at least the last check on 19 March.
No. 713 began migration from Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Alachua County, between 5 and 13 March.
No. 733 remained in Polk County, during the report period.
Nos. 804, 814, and 818* remained on Chassahowitzka NWR, Citrus County, until they began migration on 10 March.
Nos. 824*, 827, and 830* remained on Chassahowitzka NWR during the report period. The nonfunctional PTT on no. 824* was replaced with a salvaged PTT on 7 March. However, that unit failed just after deployment and was removed on 19 March.
No. 829 began migration from Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Alachua County, between 5 and 13 March.

Georgia:
No. 703 and 707/D739*: Lowndes County.

South Carolina:
Nos. 311/312* remained on Donnelly WMA, Colleton County, until they began migration on 15 March.

Alabama:
Nos. 213/218* began migration from Garth Slough, Wheeler NWR, Morgan County, after 6 March.
No. 412 was found on his previous wintering territory in Cherokee County, on 5 January. That area was not rechecked.
Nos. 524 and D627/D742 began migration from Garth Slough, Wheeler NWR, Morgan County, after 6 March.

Tennessee:
No. 107* was reported in Rhea County on 6 March and 17 March. Two unidentified cranes (including probably nos. 107*, D737, or 828) were reported at Armstrong Bend on 10 March and in Rhea County on 12 March. No whooping cranes were detected in the area by telemetry on 16 March, and none were observed at the Rhea County location on 18 or 20 March. Nos. D737 and 828 continued to be reported together from Mud Creek (near Hiwassee WR), Rhea County, on 21 March.
Nos. D831 and D838*: According to PTT readings for no. 831, they remained in Lawrence County, Tennessee, at least until 19 March.

Indiana:
No. 211 was last reported in Vermillion County on 30 January and had migrated back to Necedah NWR by 16 March (see below).
Nos. 216/716*, 512/722*, and D938 remained in Knox County, until they began migration on 17 March.
Nos. 317/303* remained with the five cranes above in Knox County, until they began migration on 9 or 10 March.

Spring Migration:
- Nos. 212/419* were reported in Greene County, Indiana, on 11 March and remained until 18-22 March.
- Nos. 402/D746* were reported in Pike County, Georgia, on 19 March.
- Nos. 403/309* were reported in Richland County, Illinois, on 9-16 March.
- No. 316 was reported in Jackson County, Indiana, on 26 and 28 February. He was next reported Greene County, Indiana, on 6 March and remained there until 18-22 March.
- Nos. 318/313* remained in Greene County, Indiana, until departure 18-22 March.
- Nos. 401/508* were reported south of the Jasper-Pulaski FWA on 10 March and in Lake County, Indiana, on 14 and 15 March. Their wintering area was not determined.
- Nos. 408/519* were detected at Armstrong Bend, Meigs/Rhea Counties, Tennessee, on 25 February. They arrived at Goose Pond FWA, Greene County, Indiana by 14 March and remained there until departure 18-22 March.
- No. 416 was reported with no. D527* in Newton County, Indiana, on 15 March.
- Nos. 505 and 415* were reportedin Lawrence County, Indiana, on 26 February - 8 March.
- Nos. 506 and HY2009 DAR 32*, 34*, 35*, 36*, 37*, 40* and 41 migrated from near Jefferson County, Kentucky, to Muscatatuck NWR, Jackson County, Indiana, on 5 March. They separated into two groups on 15 or 16 March. PTT data for D932* indicated a roost location for her (and presumably nos. 506, D937*, and D940*) in Champaign County, Illinois. The next PTT reading for no. D932* indicated completion of migration to Necedah NWR, Juneau County, Wisconsin, by the night of 18 March. The remaining four juveniles (nos. D934*, D935*, D936*, and D941) remained at Muscatatuck NWR throughout the report period.
- Nos. 512/722*: A low precision PTT reading for no. 722* indicated a roost location in Dane County, Wisconsin, on the night of 20 March.
- No. D527* was reported with migrating sandhills on the south side of the Patoka River at Wheeling Bottoms, Gibson County, Indiana, on 20 February, and she remained at this location through at least 2 March. She was next reported south of the Jasper-Pulaski FWA, Indiana, on 10 March. She was later reported with no. 416 in Newton County, Indiana, on 15 March.
- No. D528* was reported with migrating sandhills south of the Jasper-Pulaski FWA, Indiana, on 9 March.
- No. D533* (DAR) was reported with migrating sandhills in Ewing Bottoms, Jackson County, Indiana, on 25 February through at least 6 March.
- Nos. 713 and 829 were reported together in Ewing Bottoms, Jackson County, Indiana, on 15-17 March.
- Nos. 804, 814, and 818* were reported just north of the Eufaula NWR, Barbour County, Alabama, on 13 March. PTT readings were later received for no. 818* nearby in Stewart County, Georgia, on nights of 18-20 March.
There were no records of the following migrating cranes during the report period: Nos. 307/726*, 310/W601*, 727*, and 813*

Wisconsin (Migration Completed):
- No. 211 was reported back on Necedah NWR, Juneau County, on 16 March.
- Nos. 213/218*: A pair of whooping cranes seen on their territory on the Necedah NWR on 15 March were likely this pair. They were later confirmed.
- No. D528* was confirmed back on her usual summering area in Marathon County, on 17 March.
A PTT reading for no. D932* indicated completion of migration to Necedah NWR by the night of 18 March. She was likely in a group containing nos. 506, D937*, and D409*.

Radiosignals of the following cranes were reported on Necedah NWR on 17 March: Nos. 303* and 317, 401 and 508*, D627 and 805. These returns await verification.

Location Undetermined:
Nos. 805 and 812 departed from Lewiston, Columbia County, Wisconsin, on 10 December. No subsequent confirmed reports. The radiosignal of no. 805 was reported from Necedah NWR on 17 March and awaits verification.
- No. D836 disappeared from Lawrence County, Tennessee, between 29 November and 11 December. He had been in the group with nos. D831 and D838*. No subsequent reports.

Long-term Missing:
- Nos. 516 and D744* were not recorded in 2009. However, these birds usually summered in Michigan and have a lower than average probability of detection.
- No. 511 was last detected on Necedah NWR on 11 May 2009.
- No. 520* was last reported on Black River SF, Jackson County, Wisconsin, on 16 June 2009.
- No. D628 was last detected on Necedah NWR on 23 June 2009.
- No. 706 was last detected south of Necedah NWR on 6 May 2009.
- No. 724 was last detected on Necedah NWR on 26 June 2009.

Ultralight-led Juveniles at Chassahowitzka NWR Release Site: HY2009 nos. 1*, 3, 4*, 5*, 7*, 13, 19, 24, 27, 29

Water levels, roosting, and movements: Approximate water depths (inches) on the constructed oyster bar at dusk on 7-20 March, ranged from 6 to 24 in the center and 13 to 28 at the deep end.

This report period was characterized by continued preference of juveniles to roost outside the pen and confounding influences of the adult pair and yearlings. The remaining group of three yearlings (nos. 824*, 827, and 830*) frequently occupied the pensite during this period. The tolerance of the chicks by the adult pair subsequently increased, and the chicks often flew to join the pair at a preferred roost site south of the pen. For their protection, 6 chicks were confined in the top-netted enclosure overnight on 19 March after a bobcat killed the female of the adult pair on the previous night.

Maturation: No. 919 attained his adult voice by the end of the report period. Nos. 901*, 904*, 907*, 924, and 929 had previously attained their adult voices.

Salinity was 13-20 ppt during the period.

Predators and predation: Bobcat tracks were found on the path to the blind on 8 March. On the night of 18 March, a bobcat killed no. 501* on the mudflat south of the pensite, dragged her 40 m, and buried the carcass in needlerush.

Human disturbance: No unauthorized persons were observed within the restricted access area surrounding the pen.

Ultralight-led Juveniles at St. Marks NWR Release Site: HY2009 nos. 906, 908*, 910, 911, 912, 914*, 915*, 918, 925*, and 926*

Water levels, roosting, and movements: Water levels varied 3.5 inches during 7-13 March and remained stable during 14-20 March. A caretaker was with the birds on the constructed oyster bar until they were settled to roost on 8-10 and 13 March. There was no intervention on other nights.

Maturation: Nos. 910, 912, 918, and 926* attained adult their voices by the end of the report period. Nos. 906, 908*, 911, 914*, 915*, and 925* had previously attained adult voices.

Salinity was 16 ppt during 7-13 March and 5-7 ppt during 14-20 March.

Predators and predation: No predator sign was observed.

Human disturbance: No unauthorized persons were observed within the restricted access area surrounding the pen.

This update was compiled from data supplied by WCEP winter monitoring and tracking team Richard Urbanek (USFWS), and Sara Zimorski, Eva Szyszkoski and Matt Strausser from ICF.

Date: March 23, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!Location:Main Office

Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, the System has grown to more than 150 million acres, 551 national wildlife refuges and other units of the Refuge System, plus 37 wetland management districts.

Recently a group of citizens from Walworth County, WI and McHenry County, Illinois, formed the group "Friends of Hackmatack." The mission of the Friends group is to facilitate the establishment of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in their counties.

Over the years, a number of returning Whooping cranes have used the wetlands included in the proposed wildlife refuge as stopovers during their northward trips to Wisconsin. The group is currently gathering support by way of an online petition, which can be viewed here.

We hope you will help them by lending your support and signing the petition!

Date: March 22, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CHASSAHOWITZKA CRANESLocation:Main Office

The following news piece was brought to our attention recently so we thought it would be nice to share since it shows the Chassahowitzka Whooping cranes. Please note that it originally aired on March 5th, so the statement regarding no Bobcat predation this year, unfortunately, is no longer accurate.

Date:March 22, 2010Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:UPSLocation: St. Marks, FL
“What are you going to do if they don’t leave?” Walt Sturgeon asked as we stood in the blind observing the birds in the pen last week .“I was just wondering the same thing,” I replied. Then I thought, ”UPS?” Which, come to think of it, is not such a bad idea. I used to load trucks for UPS at night while going to school and I know it to be an honest and reputable company. In fact, the call, “Loader!” still rings in my ears. I always liked being in demand.

But there are lots of questions this time of year, or, lots of the same question I should say. The “How are the birds doing?” question has been replaced with “When are they going to leave?” As a firm believer in the First Law of Questions which states, the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask, I welcome the volley of questions and choke off the urge to yell “Incoming!” every time I am approached. But I must also admit that my shoulders are growing tired and beginning to cramp from all the shrugging.

The birds left March 30th last year. But this winter was colder and wetter than last, and the wind was out of the Northwest a lot, and we have more birds this year, and the Health Care Bill hasn’t been signed into law yet, and I’m a year older, and the stars are still in the process of realigning themselves, and….. My answer usually takes so long that by the time I finish, the poor inquisitor has grown weary, forgot his original question and walks away wondering what it was he’s going to have for dinner that night.

However, it’s not as though they are the only ones asking questions. Last year when Bev and I asked the Chass crew the question, “How do we know when they’re getting ready to leave?” the answer came back, “You’ll arrive at the pen one morning and they’ll be gone.”

This wasn’t good enough for Bev, so she began spending more and more time in the blind observing the birds, until the last week in March she was out there 12 hours a day. She watched intently as their vocalizing gradually increased in intensity and frequency and their flights became longer and more numerous. And all around the other birds were in migration mode as flocks of white pelicans appeared everywhere and the sky played host to an array of other aerial migrators. Then, after consulting the weather gods, she gave her prediction a week in advance. “Monday, March 30th,“ she announced.

That morning Bev, Christine and I along with Joe from the St. Marks Photo Club were in the blind watching as the drama unfolded. First the birds made a short flight. Then a longer flight. Then a huge flock of white pelicans dazzled and amazed us with a shimmering display of grace and phosphorescence as it wheeled and soared over the pen. Then, no sooner had they left the stage than our birds launched skyward, entered an invisible thermal and soared higher and higher until they were no more than a flock of dots against the blue. Finally, as if to say, “Farewell”, they circled one last time, then headed North for Wisconsin and just like that… they were gone, carrying our hopes and our dreams with them.

This year, every one of you out there will have the opportunity to sit on the “hot seat” and answer the, “When are they going to leave?” question for yourself. Thanks to the St. Marks Photo Club’s, their Pen Camera will give everyone the opportunity to see the birds on the internet.

As many of you may know, the Photo Club started working on this webcam project long before we arrived with the birds last year. The story of how they turned their dream into a reality is as inspirational as it is instructive, and it deserves far more than few paragraphs in an update here. One of the club members used up his entire vacation working on the project, and members spent day after frustrating day battling with these obstacles while having to endure the ever continuously asked question, “When is it going to be ready?” The stress of this situation prompted a few of them to consider changing their names and moving to a small town in the Amazon jungle.

But they persisted and overcame and now they are VERY close to winning the day. It shouldn't be long before the PenCam will be broadcasting live, and you and I and school children all over the country will be able to watch the birds, connect with them, and perhaps, even predict just when it is they are going to leave.

And so, if anyone out there knows when the birds are going to leave for Wisconsin, please call me…collect.

Meanwhile, ……… “Loader!”


 


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