When multiple migrations take a month and a half just to get past the Chicago vicinity, you get the
feeling that weather is not your best friend. In fact, it is so consistently bad that you can depend on
it to disappoint you but even that predictability is not guaranteed.
With fewer birds this year we ambitiously picked an early departure date only to postpone it by a
few days when weather delayed the uniting of the two cohorts. As our new target date looms we
are scrambling to get ready. There is so much to do, both in Necedah and at home, that getting it all
accomplished in time is daunting. And just when we were counting on a delayed departure, like every
other year, the skies clear and the wind drops. In true contrarian fashion, the weather produced the
perfect Indian summer when her usual wind and rain would give us a little margin. It’s almost as if the
weather could hear us say, “we never leave on the target date anyway.”
Knowing we will all be away from home for a long time, we try to let everyone have one last visit with
friends and family before we hit the road. Brooke and Geoff have been holding down the fort for the last
week, working their way through the extensive to-do list of preparations.
Walter Sturgeon joined them on October 1st and Liz and I were supposed to be there yesterday. At 6 AM
on Sunday morning, we were cruising though southern Ontario in our 15 passenger diesel van with a
fourteen hour drive ahead of us. Two hours later the tow truck driver was dropping us off at the local
Super 8 Hotel after leaving our disabled van in the deserted parking lot of the truck dealership. Nothing,
in the way of diesel repair facilities is open on Sunday morning in rural Ontario. A faulty fuel pump was
finally replaced by noon on Monday and we were back on the road.
After a summer of flying circles around their home pens, our birds are often reluctant to leave the
familiarity of the refuge. In the early years of this project, our first stop was 23 miles to the south.
That’s a short distance compared to the 100 or so miles they can cover once we are underway but
it is long for their first flight away from home. Generally, about halfway there, most of them would
turn back and only about twenty percent would follow us all the way to the first stop. We would
spend the afternoon tracking down the drop outs and those that returned to the pen sites. Each one
would be carefully loaded into a crate and driven to join the few adventuresome birds that flew the
entire way. By late afternoon, the first leg of the migration would be complete, one way or another.
For the last few seasons we have made our first stop only five miles from the refuge. Just when the
birds are beginning to look back over their shoulders, we land in an open field next to the travel pen.
This tactic seems to work and we get most of them to follow us but it makes for an anticlimactic
beginning. Once they are in a new pen at a new location, they seem more attuned to the idea of
migration and Zugunruhe kicks in (see my last update)
Unfortunately, because of heavy rain this fall in the Necedah area, our five mile stopover is too wet to
use. We will have to cover the full 23 miles to the original first site and deal with the drop out birds as
we have in the past.
To get the birds over their reluctance to leave, we have tried to use the technique of a new pen and
a new site, while we are still on the refuge. Laskey Field is near our old Site One
training area and refuge biologist,
Rich King agreed to let us depart from there. The original plan was to move the birds to Laskey Field on
Monday and depart on Tuesday but the Refuge has scheduled a tour bus to pass right by that area. The
risks of exposing them to a vehicle that close is too great so we have decided to postpone the departure until Wednesday morning. By then the tour will be over and more of the team will have assembled
to better handle the long first flight. The weather is forecast to be good all week but that is about as
reliable as a fortune cookie prediction.
October 4, 2010
PLEASE SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!
US Fish and Wildlife Service is Seeking Feedback on the Proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. The dream of a national wildlife refuge in the Wisconsin/Illinois bi-state region is moving closer to reality. Staff members from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be hosting four public meetings this October to seek input from local residents and user groups on the potential refuge. They are also taking comments via their web site.
The proposed Hackmatack NWR includes a variety of rare natural communities, including oaks savannas, tallgrass prairies and emergent wetlands which support sensitive populations of uncommon plants and animals. In particular, the study area lies in the whooping crane migratory flyway;
The Eastern Migratory Population whoopers stop at local natural areas on a regular basis.
For those of you who are not close enough to attend one of the meetings, please consider supporting the refuge by commenting through the USFWS
If you are close enough to attend, the meetings offer members of the public the chance to spend one-on-one time with service staff members to ask questions, offer comments and provide ideas about the refuge. Each open house will be held from 4-8 pm.
Tues., Oct. 12- McHenry County Government Center Administration Building, 667 Ware St, Woodstock, IL
Wed., Oct. 13- Lost Valley Visitor Center in Glacial Park, Rt. 31 & Harts Rd, North of Ringwood, IL
Wed., Oct. 20- Bristol Municipal Building, 19801 83rd Street, Bristol, WI
Thurs., Oct. 21- Lake Geneva City Hall, 626 Geneva Street, Lake Geneva, WI
This is your chance as a Friend of Hackmatack to show the USFWS that there is strong grassroots support for the refuge. For more information on this project, check out the Friends of Hackmatack
October 3, 2010
ULTRALIGHT TECHNIQUE ADOPTED FOR EUROPEAN IBIS
According to an article that appeared on the site
TELEGRAPH.co.uk, the ultralight-led technique pioneered by Operation Migration and employed to teach endangered Whooping Cranes a migratory route is being adopted to help the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis in Europe. Recovery Team Chair Tom Stehn brought the postings on the subject to my attention and you will find links to the website articles below.
An article posted on the
blog says, “Apparently taking a cue from Operation Migration’s efforts with Whooping Cranes, there now appears to be an effort to reintroduce the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticuseremita) to parts of Europe. These birds were driven extinct there in the 1700′s after collectors scaled cliffs to take chicks and eggs. It is now one of the rarest bird species on the planet. There remains just one large colony in the wild of about 350 birds on the Moroccan coast.
The current plan is “to teach the birds, which have an aversion to flying and bad sense of direction, the instinct to fly the 400-mile journey to Tuscany, Italy, in autumn and back to the Austrian Alps in spring on their own,” according to The Telegraph. As with the Whooping Crane project in the US, they’re attempting this by using microlight planes to teach the Bald Ibises to migrate once again. And so far it seems to be working, but the project appears still in its infancy, having started only in 2007.”
If one believes in the maxim, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," OM can take pride in having inspired another project to safeguard an avian species - and wishes the Waldrapp research team and the University of Vienna every success.
If you would like to read more about the Northern Bald Ibis
reintroduction, visit the team's
(select the NEWS tab and scroll to the bottom to English, German or Italian)
They've just completed the 2010 migration to Tuscany last week.
October 2, 2010
(zoo-gun-roo-ha) is a great German word that describes the excitement and increased anxiety birds experience just prior to migration. It’s an instinct that is present in most wild birds and even in domestic geese that charge back and forth across the barnyard on wings too short to carry their bulk. The study of zugunruhe has been linked to elevated hormone levels and changes in the photoperiod or the amount of sunlight in each day.
Besides being one of those words that rolls off the tongue and is fun to say, it accurately describes the change in our birds that happens as we begin the migration. All the birds are following the aircraft now or at least they know how. There are little quirks in their behavior now and then and we know they will be reluctant to actually leave the refuge but we expect improvement as the zugunruhe takes hold.
When you deal with endangered species and all the funding issues that govern their recovery, you spend a lot of time searching for silver linings. Fewer birds will hopefully mean an easier migration. It will also mean a smaller, more efficient migration team. That translates to fewer pilots, a top-cover team only when they are truly needed and the decision not to bring the CraneCam.
When we first investigated the idea of a live camera, it was a tall order. Our mandate was to bring you a 24 hour, close-up look at what is normally a closed project. Providing a signal from multiple remote locations without power or any fixed internet connection is problematic. It required a self-contained, self powered unit. We needed a tower to give the cameras perspective and the antennas a clear view. It needed heaters to deal with frost and fog on the lens and cooling fans to stop the electronics from overheating. And it needed to be able to provide enough bandwidth for two-way communication. One way to send the signal out and the other way to receive pan, tilt and zoom instructions. Put it all together and it becomes what the people on the chat line refer to as “the beast.”
Despite the name, it filled our requirements very well but unfortunately, it also required a full time person to operate it and relocate it and that meant another bed and another vehicle.
On the other hand, the trike camera can be used in the aircraft because it is on for short periods and is not subjected to the elements, except of course, the cold temperatures. This year we will use it on every flight as long as we can get a signal. On the days when the weather is good, we will also try to set it up in the pen. We won’t be able to pan and zoom to follow the action and we will be limited to dry weather but we will try to make it work as best we can.
WildEarth.tv has agreed to continue hosting our camera, despite the likelihood of less
LIVE airtime, so the chat feature will remain active. We are grateful to them
for their continued support and to the CraneCam chatters and all of the people who support this project so enthusiastically and to all those who use their social media outlets to pass it on. In order to continue bringing you a close up look at this project we will try to provide more updates and photos throughout the migration.
All these decisions are hard ones and required a lot of discussion but in the end, it is all about the birds. The more efficient we can be, the better we can fulfill our obligations to our supporters and the more we can do for Whooping cranes.
October 1, 2010
UPDATE ON #11-10
As the quantity of any commodity dwindles, the value of what remains increases. The less there is
of anything we consider important, the more we prize what little is left, like diamonds or gold --- or
endangered species. When there were only 21 Whooping cranes, each individual was precious and
most important of all were the females of breeding age. With a little over 500 birds in existence now
there is a little room to breathe, but only a little.
The laws of supply and demand also apply to the wetlands on which Whooping cranes, and so many
other creatures, depend. In fact, if one were more plentiful - the other would not be endangered.
Apart from the inherent value of a rare and endangered species, there is the monetary value that
increases proportionately with the effort made to safeguard it from extinction. A whooping crane raised
in captivity represents all the work and facilities that are needed to keep it healthy and breeding so it
can produce the offspring that are used for reintroduction into the wild.
A chick raised by hand and taught to follow a surrogate parent so it can learn to migrate, carries with it
all the research and effort it took to get it there. And it carries the hopes of dreams of all the people that
care enough to try.
Yesterday we lost number 11. A large mass was found in his trachea that was likely to grow. This was the
cause of his ongoing respiratory problem. We were hoping against the odds that he would improve but
as the demands of flying increased, his capacity to keep up didn’t.
We take small consolation in the fact that number 11 will not have to struggle for breath and if the
thirteen birds we have worked with all summer had been raised in the wild, only a few would have
As I said, it is small consolation.
TRANSITIONING TO MIGRATION MODE
The myriad of usual preparations for the annual fall migration are in full
swing at Operation Migration. These range from stocking supplies and
checking all the equipment necessary for the care of the Class of 2010, to
ensuring the roadworthiness of all our vehicles, trailers, and motorhomes.
On a personal level, OM’s migration crew are organizing and packing their
belongings to get ready to for the shift to their assigned spaces in what will be
their homes away from home for the upcoming weeks/months on the road.
will be a smaller and leaner operation this migration. There will be a
paring down of crew and vehicles as a result of a combination of two things:
fewer Whooping cranes in the Class of 2010; and, financial necessity. The
economy has not been our friend in the recent past, and with a projected
deficit in excess of $60,000 for this fiscal period, cutbacks and restraint in all
aspects of our operations is imperative. Due to this financial pressure, and
the Class of 2010 consisting of the fewest number of Whooping cranes to be
led south since the project’s inception in 2001, we will be making several
changes to our migration team and use of resources.
Pilots: We will be reverting to the practice of past years of
using only three ultralight pilots on the migration. Chris Gullikson, our
most recent hire, will not be on the migration this year. Chris has made
five migrations with us. We thank him for his past service to Operation
Migration and for his contributions of expertise and effort on behalf of Whooping cranes.
Top Cover Aircraft: Our top cover pilots have thoroughly
researched and developed a well thought out flight plan to maximize the
efficiency and effectiveness of top cover while minimizing crew numbers as
well as vehicle and travelling expenses etc. Also, rather than travelling in
a separate vehicle, Top Cover personnel will share OM’s trailer and
motorhome accommodations this season.
CraneCam: Unlike 2009, the CraneCam will not be accompanying the
2010 migration. As much as we value the added awareness it brings to OM, the
CraneCam significantly impacts our financial and human resources in that it
requires extra crew, an additional vehicle to tow it, and all the attendant
expenses. Having been made aware of our anticipated financial dilemma, Duke
Energy, whose generosity allowed OM to acquire the CraneCam, is fully
supportive of this crew/vehicle/cost cutting measure.
We know this will be a disappointment to regular CraneCam viewers – and
none more so than to the hugely enthusiastic CraneCam Chatters group.
However, we also know how committed and selfless they are. What these folks
and other Craniacs have in common is a deep dedication to overall success of
the project and to Operation Migration’s ability to fulfill its role within
the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership. We thank them, along with all of OM
supporters, for their understanding. We are now working to determine an
affordable alternate method(s) of providing our supporters with imagery
throughout the migration. We will keep you posted as to what we are able to
arrange as soon as we know more.
Support Staff: To address decreased revenues and also to further
reduce our migration costs on the road, Heather Ray will not accompany the
migration this year. Heather has considerable experience with fundraising, and working from our Port Perry office she will focus her much
of her efforts on grant writing and developing other means to increase
What remains entirely unchanged is of course Operation Migration’s
commitment to accomplish the goal set for us at the outset of the project;
that is, to meet the target of reintroducing 125 migratory Whooping cranes
in the Eastern flyway – with the hope that the population will, along the
way, self-establish 25 breeding pairs.
As we transition from flight training season to migration mode, Operation
Migration once again counts on both your financial and moral support.
Although it goes without saying that we rely on you for the dollars we need
to operate, we cannot over emphasize the impact of your positivity,
enthusiasm, and encouragement - for which we are sincerely grateful.
Be assured we are working even harder to ensure that every penny of your
donor dollars also works harder, and, that they first and foremost go toward
what is in the best interests and necessary for the well-being of the
Whooping Cranes you are so passionate about safeguarding.
September 28, 2010
MILEMAKER CAMPAIGN UPDATE
With less than one week to go before the scheduled launch of the 2010
ultralight-guided southward migration, we have 463 migration miles sponsored
in this year's MileMaker campaign. The 2010
Class of young Whooping cranes has been training hard, each day weather has
allowed and during yesterday's 30+ minute flight they looked better than
Although they have no idea what is in store for them - we do, and we
can't make it happen without your financial support. This is the 10th year
that we've been guiding a new generation of Whooping cranes to Florida and
at more than 1200 miles per trip, well, that's a lot of miles that you, our
supporters have helped to fund.
The payoff for you is that there are now almost one hundred Whooping
cranes migrating in the new Eastern Migratory Population. And as was
pointed out in the recent WCEP meetings, that is something that has never
been done before! We, along with our fellow Whooping Crane Eastern
Partnership members have established a brand new, migratory population of
endangered Whooping cranes - and we could not have done it without your
We hope that as the target departure date of
October 5th charges full steam ahead toward us, you will consider helping
out again. Here's the current State by State breakdown
of sponsored and unsponsored miles.
This leaves a total of 822 miles currently looking for sponsors so we
could really use your help! Won't YOU become a MileMaker sponsor TODAY?
Click here to make that happen.
For those folks that prefer a graphic over numbers to tell the story, here's
the migration map. That's a loooong way to fly!
September 27, 2010
- A Recap of Yesterday's Training
No matter how hard I try, I can never tell when the moon is truly full or whether it’s in a state of gonna
be or already was. Maybe that’s because the moon sits in the sky right next to the constellation “The
Glass” and I can never tell if ‘The Glass” is half empty or half full. Guess it’s just another one of life’s
tough calls. But whatever phase the moon was in this morning at 4am, it was pure magic. It hung
there in cold silence as my ears strained the darkness for the telltale whisper of wind… wind that might
awaken and grow as the minutes pass and conspire against an otherwise perfect morning for training.
On such mornings, the world seems like such a simple place. Surely it was on a morning like this one
years ago that Henry David Thoreau emerged from his one room cabin on Walden Pond and decided
to write his treatise on the virtue of the simple life. Indeed, life is now simple here at camp. Crane
Fest and the WCEP meetings are finally over and the entire crew is gone except for Brian, Geoff and
myself… and of course the birds. The effort has become once again pure, less frenzied
- even noble,
for this is the calm before the storm, the eye of the hurricane, for me the tastiest morsel of the entire
project feast, for soon the drama will rise again in the great crescendo that is migration and gone will
be the quiet, the simplicity, the solitude.
Later, the sun has pushed the moon from the sky as the wing above me
transmits even the most subtle burble of fresh morning air through the
control bar and into my grip. Before me lies a panorama that seems to pass
beyond the distant horizon and on into forever. Below all is crisp and clear
and standing in bold defiance against the coming seasonal change while here
and there serpentine-like chains of ground fog meander through the trees,
foraging. Far in the distance the two white specks of Brian and Geoff walk
towards the pen door - visitors on the land but not of it.
And then I am no longer alone as 12 birds pound their wings against solid air for the lift and the speed
that will maintain their connection to this strange craft they have come to trust and to follow. A
combination of thrill and strained effort show on their faces as first they taste the freedom of flight
and then embrace it like an old friend they have never met. The gifts of evolution that lie within them
reveal themselves at such moments and one can only sit and watch as an awed spectator as this
drama unfolds. But still the pilot must focus, must stay in the moment, must maintain a state of hypervigilance as he pulls ahead and climbs to dominate the strong flier, while slowing and losing altitude to
coddle the weaker one, combining his turns, climbs and descents to accommodate the flock and to be
always the good and loving Sheppard. At such times seconds seem to contain minutes and minutes hours
and sweat continues to flow against the coldest of temperatures. Head on a swivel, maintaining the
spin of 12 plates on tall sticks as the ground rushes by, the pilot forsakes all identity in exchange for safe
passage in the adventure.
Number 1-10 and 2-10 break from the flight and bullet back towards the pen. Not a problem. The rest remain
with the trike in respectful obedience for more than half an hour until birds, trike and pilot land softly,
thus ending the flight where it began. The pen doors open. Brian and Geoff appear and soon the birds
have left the stage and the curtain closes after a near perfect performance.
As I head back to the airport I wonder what Thoreau would have written had he been flying this
morning instead of me. I would of course know the answer because I would have had to study it in
college. “Operation Walden Pond” would no doubt have been required reading and even I would have
understood at least some of its meaning without the aid of Cliff Notes. You can’t help but think of such
things on mornings like this one when, as the poet said, “God is in his heaven and all is right with the
world,” and I would humbly add, “The Glass is half full.”
ELECTED AT AGM
As has become tradition, last Sunday, September 19th, the day after the
Necedah Lion’s Club Whooping Crane Festival, Operation Migration held the
Annual General Meetings of its two corporations, Operation Migration Inc
(Canada) and Operation Migration USA Inc. The meetings were held at the
Necedah Town Hall through the generosity of the Town of Necedah and made
possible thanks to the kind arrangements of Roger Herrid and his staff.
The 2009/2010 Board of Directors and Sustaining Members in attendance dealt
with several matters of business before moving on to the Election portion of
Board Chair Bob Rudd advised those present that as only four
nominations had been received for the five vacancies on the Board, the
candidate nominees were acclaimed to office. The 2010/2011 Board of
Directors (which governs both corporations) is as follows:
Chair, Paul Young of Aurora, Ontario
Vice Chair, Dale Richter of Leesburg, Georgia
Secretary-Treasurer, Jamey Burr of Ottawa, Ontario
Director, Jane Duden of Minneapolis, Minnesota
Director, Laura Erickson of Duluth, Minnesota
Director, Jamie Johannsen of Rockford, Illinois
Director, Walter Sturgeon of Spring Hope, North Carolina
Director Ex Officio, Joe Duff of Port Perry, Ontario.
We invite you to read about the members of the 2010-2011 Board of Directors
by visiting our
Meet the Board webpage.
September 25, 2010
UNDERGROUND CABLE HELPS WHOOPERS
An effort to replace North Dakota power lines knocked out by storms last winter with underground cable has proven to have a secondary benefit: reducing the mortality of endangered whooping cranes. After storms last winter took down thousands of power poles, the Federal Emergency Management Agency revised its criteria for replacing the damaged lines, encouraging rural electric cooperatives to bury wires whenever possible.
FEMA’s primary goal is to help storm-damaged communities recover, but the whooping cranes’ migratory path now is an environmental consideration, the agency said.
FEMA consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which concurred that burying the lines benefits the cranes. Service officials say collisions with power lines are the No. 1 source of mortality in whooping crane chicks.
“When descending or taking off, the cranes are often unable to avoid power lines,” Jeffrey Towner, field supervisor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Bismarck, said in a statement. “Their large body is not so maneuverable, and visibility may be limited during inclement weather or low light conditions.”
CLICK to read the entire news story.
September 24, 2010
Well, it’s been a week since we put the two cohorts together. We’ve been socializing the whole lot of them since last Friday just before Cranefest. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when we put the birds together. Put two chicks next to each other, and it could go either way. They could run down the field, frolicking and flapping their wings like little 15-10 and 17-10 did back at Patuxent. Or they could throw down every chance they could, like 19-09 and 24-09 did last year. As a lowly intern, I can only speculate as to what goes on in their bitty little heads, or how they pick and choose the battles that they do.
For starters, 16-10 surprised me right off the bat. I would’ve thought she burned through her mean streak back at Patuxent before she shipped out. All this time, I was convinced she was a bird who went with the group. She wasn’t even one of the more dominant birds of the cohort any more. That sort of went out the window when we introduced her to her big brothers and sisters in Cohort One. Those first one or two times we let her out on the runway with the other cohort, I ended up watching her more than half of the time. I don’t think there was a single, solitary bird in Cohort One that she didn’t try to shake down. She even had big birds like 3-10 and 1-10 on the run. And seeing the feisty dame jab, pursue, or even stomp some of these other chicks sent shivers down my spine. That isn’t to say no one stood in her way. Number 2-10 didn’t take guff from her back at Patuxent, and he wasn’t gonna start now. He remembers that we used him to knock some sense into her before we shipped her out. I just wished she remembered that too.
Number 17-10 was almost her understudy, as he also didn’t take kindly to a few of the newcomers, either. I don’t think he cares for 1-10, 3-10, 4-10, and 6-10. He didn’t care for the no-nonsense 2-10 either. That was sort of a mistake on his part, but he held his own up until we took the fence down. But in the end, 2-10 doesn’t hold his (as far as I know) undefeated title for nothing.
So even after the socializing from last year, I’d say those first few times we let the birds together were still kinda scary. You never quite know who’s going to pay the new birds no mind, or who’s going to make like Jack Nicholson at the end of the Shining. But to 16-10’s and 17-10’s defense, imagine you practically had a house all to yourself and your brothers and sisters all summer long. You’ve finally sorted out whose room is whose, and who’s the boss of who. And all of a sudden, all these strangers come out of nowhere one day, move into your house and take up all your space, and they tell you they’re the boss of you, wouldn’t you be a little peeved?
But then again, there were a few birds who didn’t surprise me. As I sort of hinted at earlier, I’m not surprised to see 2-10 hold onto his undefeated title. After seeing 16-10 and 17-10 go on their rampages, I’m sort of glad he did. If even 2-10 bowed before those little hellions, 16-10 and 17-10 would be some seriously pretty scary birds today. 1-10, 3-10, and 8-10 are still high up the food chain, as they’ve always been. And at the other end of the spectrum, are 11-10 and 15-10. 11-10, who’s not the youngest bird, but with his respiratory bug, doesn’t have it in him to throw his weight around. I once saw the poor fella get tagged by 1-10, 6-10, and 8-10 in succession just trying to get out of the wet pen. Guess nobody likes a wheezer. And 15-10’s just a runt and he knows it. As far as he’s concerned, 2-10, and even the younger 17-10 can be top dogs, so long as he gets do his own thing.
Well, now the dust has more or less settled. Things have been quieting down ever since Cranefest. 16-10 and 17-10 are back to their normal selves, 1-10, 5-10, and 9-10 are back to flying a single lap then landing on the runway (argh), and I can sleep at night without wondering if someone’s gonna get jacked overnight. Now if you excuse me, I must get back to my next big video game. A whole slew of demons have moved into my quaint, mist-filled, New England town. And as a troubled discharged soldier, I must show them the door while sorting out my own messed-up past.
September 23, 2010
TRAINING IN THE FALL
The only thing dependable about the weather in the fall is its unpredictability. We wait for three or four days for what is forecast to be a calm morning only to wake to strong winds or heavy fog. Wednesday morning was supposed to be blustery but just as the predicted good days often turn out bad, occasionally days when we think we can sleep in surprise us with calm cool air.
The Crane festival is over for another year and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership meetings have ended but there were still a few people around with departure flights scheduled for yesterday afternoon out of Madison. They were all eager for one more chance to see the birds fly after days of cancelled training and we were anxious to get the birds some much needed exercise.
Brooke and I likely get the same amount of sleep but our circadian rhythms are not aligned. He starts his day at four something while I end mine at two-ish. Just as I was crawling out of bed he rapped on the door, all chipper and clean and told me to listen to NPR. They were running an hour long show about cranes and Claire Mirande from the International Crane Foundation was being interviewed. I drove the six miles to the hangar and listened to her expert description of all the species and learned a few things I didn’t know. Then they introduced Dr. George Archibald who was calling in on his cell phone. George is the co-founder of ICF and the world’s leading authority on cranes.
One of George’s most endearing talents is using his love of nature and his vast knowledge to entertain any audience with fascinating descriptions of all things wild. George can turn a simple walk in the country into an enchanting morning of pure enlightenment. Just as I arrived at the airport I listened as he described the scene around him. He told the radio audience he was standing in front of the hangar at Necedah airport waiting for the Operation Migration pilots to arrive. The sun was just rising and there was a blush of frost on the grass.
It was odd to hear his voice over the radio yet to see him standing there with the phone to his ear waving to us as we pulled up. He continued his description as we pulled out the aircraft and he generously gave our small organization a plug on national radio.
As Brooke and I flew to the north site, we formulated a plan over the radio. I was to land first and launch with the birds while number 11 was held back. Then, once we were on our way, he would try to encourage that lone bird into following him on a short flight to test his endurance.
You may remember that number 11 was shipped to Necedah later than the rest. He had a respiratory condition that put his future in question and the team at Patuxent wanted to observe him a little longer. It is hard to know what will happen with a young chick with a slight wheeze will do when it comes time to fly and the team took a chance sending him to Wisconsin and we are still hoping it was the right choice.
While I flew a few large circuits around the refuge, Brooke took off with number 11 who immediately landed in the marsh. He managed to get him out just as I radioed that I was losing one of the birds. At one point I led the birds past the now empty Canfield site and over the head of 9-05 who seems lonely now that the chicks have left. He threw his head back and although I could not hear it, I knew he was sounding his forlorn call. Two of the chicks responded by veering away from the aircraft towards him. They didn’t land but that put them well behind and in their efforts to catch up one of them used up all his reserves and landed in an open field.
By this time Brooke was airborne and had the bird in sight. While I landed with 10 birds he circled above the tired bird to let him catch his breath. After a few minutes he took off to join Brooke and followed him back to the North site where he landed with the rest of us, still panting. We moved all the birds back into the pen but left number 11 out. I taxied to the far end of the runway out of the way while Brooke tried one more time to get number 11 to follow him. Despite a number of attempts he only flew far enough to land in the marsh next to the pen. By the time we got him out he was still wheezing badly so we put him back with his buddies.
Later this week we will take him down to Madison for an examination and by then we should be able to evaluate his condition and know better if he will be able to join us or end up as a display bird at a zoo.
All in all it worked out well. George’s friends had an enchanting morning and had a good view of the birds flying past the observation point, OM got a good plug on the radio and the birds had some much needed exercise.
We make progress one day at a time.
September 22, 2010
On Some Hwy, WI
One would think that after 10 years that I'd be able to stop counting
cranes. Not so. No matter how many times I've been honored to watch these
incredible birds fly past overhead, my first instinct is to count them. I
just can't help it, so this morning when Colleen Chase offered to take over
driving the CraneCam so I could go to the public viewing area to see, for
the first time this season, the Class of 2010 - LIVE and in 'person' (or is
that 'in bird'?) I jumped at the chance to count more cranes.
Joe flew in the lead position and departed the North Site with nine crane
colts giving it their all to try to close the gap between the aircraft and
the lead bird. Brooke hung back so that he could work one-on-one with #11-10
while Joe was off with the others but when three youngsters decided to stay
back with Brooke and #11-10 on the training strip, his plan was foiled
Joe's flight lasted almost 15 minutes when he decided to head back to
land because two birds had fallen way back from his main group. He
eventually landed with eight in front of the pen and one tired colt in the
marsh about a quarter mile short of his destination. I hope you enjoy some
of the images I captured this morning from the viewing area. Click on each
image to view a larger version.
September 21, 2010
NO FLY DAY
With winds out of the south-southwest currently at 16 mph, and an approaching line of thunderstorms there will be no training today. however, craniacs Doug and Mako Pellerin were kind enough to send the following two images they captured of Sunday morning's flight. Enjoy!
(Click each thumbnail for a larger view)
September 20, 2010
I need to stop washing my costume. It seems that the day after I wash it always involves a trip into the marsh, whether
it’s to move the hot wire up or to take the chicks to the pond for mowing, or to lure a wayward chick back to the pen.
Saturday night I washed my costume and Sunday morning the weather was good for flying. I didn’t want to jinx the day,
so I didn’t say anything. I even thought that maybe it would be different this time. But since I’m starting the story like
this, you can guess that it was the worst yet!
The day started off just fine. Joe and Richard wanted to take advantage of the weather and move the birds over to the
North Site. There’s some work that needs to be done by refuge staff near the Canfield site, so we needed to move the
birds as soon as they were socialized into one cohort. Geoff and I headed out to Canfield, while Charlie and Ali headed
over to the North site. There were lots of folks at the viewing area, so Geoff and I stopped to say good morning and give
them the good news that we were flying.
We got to the pen just as we heard the buzz of the trikes in the distance. When the pilot signaled, we opened the doors
to the pen and seven birds headed out. This could have been my first warning – they all usually make a mad dash out of the
pen, so this was a little unusual. Everyone on the runway took off after the pilot except one, who stood there watching
them fly away. Geoff and I shrugged and turned our attention to the stragglers still in the pen. They didn’t seem too
interested in leaving the wet pen, but I turned on my vocalizer and got out my grapes (thank goodness I remembered
them!) and soon they were in the dry pen. We shut the gates to the wet pen behind them. By this time, another
pilot had arrived to pick up the rest, but they weren’t all that interested in flying, the little goobers. Finally, Geoff
transformed himself into the swamp monster and chased them off the runway. A rodeo ensued and it was hard to see
what was happening at that point. I know at least one bird went off into the marsh because I could see him land behind
the wet pen. I wasn’t sure about the others, but I thought there were a few in the marsh.
Geoff and I headed off to collect the bird behind the wet pen – who else but 11-10. We started through the marsh
and I stopped for a moment to reconsider, because we could have stayed on dry land if we walked around on the dike
– but Geoff waved at me to hurry up, and I did. Three steps later, I slipped and fell and was up to my waist in water.
Jeez! My cell phone was in my pocket!! I pulled it out as fast as I could a dried it off, hoping desperately that it would
keep working since it is also my vocalizer! Of course, my costume was wet too, so there was only one remaining dry
place for it. I tucked it in my bra and kept going. Thank goodness I’m a woman and I have an extra place to stash stuff!
11-10 wasn’t too interested in coming back to the pen, but I don’t think he saw that 9-05 was on the dike behind him.
As 11 lollygagged, 9-05 grew impatient with the interloper. 9-05 did the threatening walk, but 11 kept poking along and
ignoring 9-05 (and me and Geoff too, but that’s beside the point). Finally 9-05 had enough and chased 11 and went in
for a peck on the back of the neck. That got 11’s attention and he picked up the pace, sticking a little bit closer to the
safety of the costume. Meanwhile, Joe and Richard were flying overhead, searching for the other wayward chicks. After
a while, they landed and I asked who was out there – Richard said it was 1-10 and neither he nor Joe could see him
anywhere. Richard was about to go for the tracking equipment when Charlie radioed to say that 1-10 arrived at the
North Site on his own.
With all present and accounted for, Joe and Richard decided to try to fly 11-10 over there once more. Well, that was a
big mistake – he took off after the swamp monster chased him, and then flew into the marsh even farther than he had
before! Oh good grief! Since I was already soaking wet, I volunteered to go in after him. Richard came with me and we
approached him from two sides. Richard got to him first and we finally managed to get him out of the marsh and onto
At that point, we put him in a crate and took him back to the pen. He peeped a little as Geoff and I carried him – it’s
really awkward trying to carry those crates, so we inevitably jostled him a little bit – but he seemed fine when we
opened the crate to let him out. As I watched him walk into the empty wet pen, I imagined that he looked a little forlorn
– after all, he was alone for the first time in months. Then I thought better of it – cranes are solitary birds, so I decided
that he was happy to finally have some alone time. Geoff and I were happy to leave him to his solitude and so we
headed back to camp for a change of clothes.
September 19, 2010
The tenth annual Whooping Cranes and Wildlife Festival was held yesterday in the town of Necedah and we send congratulations to the Necedah Lions Club and all of the volunteers
who worked to organize and host another great event. It was great fun
getting reacquainted with old friends, and meeting a lot of new ones that
stopped by our booth. I hope to have some event photos later today, or
tomorrow to post.
As I type this, winds are calm and the sky is clear, which means those
craniacs still in the area should head to the new public viewing location at
the intersection of Speedway Rd. and 7th Avenue on the refuge to watch this
morning's training session with the Class of 2010 young Whooping crane
Pilots Richard van Heuvelen, Brooke Pennypacker and Joe Duff will lead
them in flight and attempt to guide the cranes over to the North training
site where they will be housed to allow refuge staff to do some invasive
species weed control back at the Canfield site over the next few days.
If they're successful, and as soon as we can, we'll relocate the CraneCam
to the North site as well so it will be down while in transit.
September 17, 2010
On September 11th Cohort One was flown over to the Canfield Training site to join the younger chicks in Cohort Two, and even though they were in the same pen they were divided
by a fence to allow them to sort out their differences from each side of the fence. Since that date the two groups were flown separately a couple of times and allowed out of the runway to socialize a few more times.
This morning, once the fog that prevented flight training lifted both
groups were let out to fly and cavort one final time on the runway and while
they were out, two handlers were busy inside the pen, opening up the two
ends of the divider. This means that the Class of 2010 is officially one
September 16, 2010
We'll be pulling the CraneCam out of the Canfield Site this morning so that we can move it into the hangar and perform some maintenance on it.
As a result the video feed will be down beginning around 7am Central time
until we complete the necessary modifications, which I hope will be early
It is currently raining and a windy so there will be no training today.
September 15, 2010
Liz, Joe and I arrived in Necedah about mid-day yesterday and since we were on the road very early in the morning, I had to rely on one of our volunteer camera drivers to control the pan, tilt and zoom during yesterday’s training. This may sound easy but trust me; it’s not and it can
even be a little daunting. It’s not as if each morning prior to training the pilots actually file a flight plan.
Like any pilot, they must land and take off into the wind to get maximum lift and well, each morning the direction could change. Add to the equation that there are young Whooping cranes and well, the morning flights don’t always go according to plan – if there was a plan to begin with.
With Joe behind the wheel of the truck, and Mary Dooley behind the wheel of the camera from her Indian home, I was able to log in and watch the training. Two trikes arrived shortly after sunrise. Richard van Heuvelen in one and Brooke Pennypacker flying the other. Richard gave the thumbs up to the handlers to release the older, Cohort One group of eight and in a flurry of white they came charging out of the pen as he revved his engine and headed north.
It’s a bit difficult to actually count the birds as they flap their impressive, almost 8-foot wingspans all at once and charge after the trike but I’m fairly certain I counted nine birds. Mary did a fantastic job of tracking Richard as he led them away from the Canfield site.
Next was Brooke’s turn to take the younger, Cohort Two group of five out on a flight. With Richard and his birds far enough away from the training site, Brooke gave the handlers the okay to release them and only three of the normal five came running out of the pen. I quickly did the math: Richard appeared to have nine and Brooke only had three – where was the 13th bird? As Mary panned the camera back to the south to follow Brooke and his group as they flew past the pen, I’m pretty sure I could see one crane still in the wetpen beside the Dummy Mummy decoy.
Brooke landed about 15 minutes later with his birds dutifully following him in and they were soon joined by the two adult Whoopers; 9-05 and 13-03* - it was fun to watch the adults posturing with the occasional drop wing threats and unison calling as Brooke kept a watchful eye for any signs of aggression. After about 10 minutes Richard appeared with his group and landed a bit further down the training strip and as they all touched down, it was confirmed that indeed, he had an extra bird.
Both groups were allowed to forage and mingle in front of the pen for a while and it would appear that they are beginning to socialize. When they first met each other last week for ‘social hour’ there was a lot of jump-raking and charging going on and yesterday, there was little, if any, of that happening.
Here’s what I found out once we arrived in camp and I had a chance to talk with Richard and ask him about the extra bird: it turned out that when the costumes were releasing the Cohort One group, two of the younger, Cohort Two birds; 10-10 and 17-10 somehow managed to slip out past the handlers and joined in. AND they flew the entire 25 minutes with the older birds! And that number 5-10 never did find her way out of the wetpen, which explains the extra bird I thought I saw as Brooke flew past with his smaller than normal group.
*A note to viewers that the
CraneCam will be down for a couple of hours today while Joe and I relocate it.
September 14, 2010
CRANEFEST FAST APPROACHING
With the 10th annual Whooping Crane
Festival taking place this coming Saturday, I wanted to remind everyone that is planning on attending that there are no longer flyovers taking place past the observation tower as in past years.
However, there is a good location that may even be better and certainly more accessible for those who have difficulty with the stairs and crowded upper deck of the observation tower. We have included a link to a map of the public roads that dissect the middle area of the refuge. For those familiar with the refuge it is the corner of Speedway Road and 7th Avenue. It can be reached by heading north from the main intersection in the town of Necedah on State Highway 80. Turn left or west on 17th St West and north again on Speedway Rd. In a few miles you will come to a sharp right turn at 7th Ave. There is lots of parking there and if you look south west, you will see an open vista. That is our main training area. The Canfield site is less than a mile to the west and the North Site is one and a quarter miles to the SSE.
As always, we can’t tell you exactly when we will be flying but clear air and calm winds are good indicator. If we see a few cars there early in the morning, we will try to lead the birds overhead. Of course,
now that we're combining the two cohorts into one flock, we often don’t make all those decisions
and at times it's the birds that are in charge. To obtain an electronic copy
of the map to the new public viewing location
If you are planning on attending the festivities this weekend don't
forget that for the first time a 10k run/walk will be held in conjunction
with the Festival.
Whoop-It-Up 10K is a point-to-point course run along the beautiful scenic
roads of Necedah National Wildlife
Refuge and the Village of
Necedah. A section of the route even goes through an area on the refuge
normally closed to the public. The 6.2-mile course begins in Necedah
National Wildlife Refuge at the Visitor Center and finishes at the Necedah
Lions Park – the grounds for the Whooping Crane & Wildlife Festival.
to registerfor the run, andhereto
read more about the Crane Festival. Organizers are looking for participants
and volunteers so why not get in touch withDan
Petersonand see if he can
use your help?
September 13, 2010
ULTRALIGHT-LED MIGRATION TURNS 10!
If there is one thing we’ve learned throughout the years we have been working on the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Project, it is that it appeals
to and attracts folks from every walk of life, every social and financial strata, every ethnic background, and every age group from 8 to 88. But in
addition to the primary ‘tie that binds’ – Whooping Cranes – all of us, every single one, have one other thing in common. Every year we will all
celebrate a birthday. Like the song says, “It’s celebration time…..C’mon!”
With the launch the 2010 migration we will mark our
10th year rearing,
conditioning, imprinting, and leading endangered Whooping Cranes on migration. How time flies! We have designated our target departure day, October 5th, as the date of our
On YOUR birthday would you commemorate our
10 years of work safeguarding Whooping cranes from extinction by sending the Class of 2010 a virtual
birthday card with $10.00 in it? Would you ask your family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances to celebrate your milestone by doing the same?
What a perfect, eco-friendly, altruistic, non-consumeristic, and affordable gift solution!
What do you say? Will you celebrate your Birthday with us and ask others to celebrate too? All those who say, “Yes, I’m in,” please click here. Or, if
you want to celebrate but don’t want to wait for your Birthday to roll around –
September 12, 2010
Reporter: Trish Gallagher
SOCIALIZING AND CHASING ADULTS
Location: Necedah NWR, WI
It was too windy to fly Friday morning and it looked like Saturday will be a down day too. The crew was getting a little antsy about socializing the birds and getting them flying together, so we decided to let the two cohorts out on the runway to socialize on Friday. Charlie, Ali, Brooke and I headed out to Canfield and it was another beautiful morning in spite of the wind. We stopped to greet the Craniacs at the viewing area and give them the disappointing news that we wouldn’t be flying.
I realized when we got out there that I had forgotten my helmet and I was crushed! I so wanted to be there with the birds and the handlers, not be sitting in the truck without my helmet! Fortunately, Ali had a spare, so I was able to go after all. First, we let Cohort 2 out on the runway. They took off for a spin around the runway as we stood watching. I turned back towards the pen and saw the Cohort 1 chicks with their faces plastered against the netting, itching to get out. 1-10 was even trying to climb the plastic fence in his desperation to get out. It’s the first time they’ve had an extra fence between them and the open doors. There’s nothing right about it! But once Cohort 2 landed and settled down, Brooke went over and opened the fence and Cohort 1 came busting out of the pen.
There was lots of jumping and flapping as Cohort 1 escaped their prison. Four of the chicks took off down the runway and flew a circuit around the pen, while the other four stood there and watched. Once everyone returned to the runway, the party began. There was lots of foraging by everyone, but the more interesting part was watching the skirmishes – there was lots of jump-raking going on as chicks started to get to know each other. It was interesting to watch. I think 17-10 thinks he’s going to be the boss. 3-10 isn’t so sure about that, nor 1-10, nor 8-10, nor 2-10. There are probably some others too – I just couldn’t keep track of them all. There was lots to watch and not too many squabbles that needed to be broken up. When the chicks started getting antsy and doing their posturing, we would distract them by heading down the runway, flapping our arms.
Shortly after everyone got out on the runway, a pair of white birds joined us – 9-05 and 13-03. They landed at the end of the runway and gradually walked over to join us. I guess the chicks are feeling adolescent jauntiness or have that hoodlum pack mentality – different chicks kept trying to run the adults off – first 11-10, then 1-10, then either 8-10 or 1-10 again. It was quite interesting (and a little scary) to watch the jump raking and chasing going on. Eventually the white birds tired of being chased and started unison calling, “This is our territory! Scram, you little punks!” But the punks outnumbered the white birds and wouldn’t back off.
As Joe mentioned the other day, this type of behavior has to happen eventually, so we don’t like to step in and break it up. On the other hand, we don’t like to be too far away from the action either, in case someone has to intervene. It’s a fine line and the adrenaline flows, I assure you. 3-10 was really jumping high and those claws were getting awfully close to another chick (I couldn’t see the band) and I was having a lot of angst. The other chick backed down and I thought it was over, but then she started on a different chick, jumping up and saying “Oh yeah? That’s what you think! Check out these claws, pal.” Brooke, are you sure her mom isn’t from New Jersey? She’s a feisty gal and I admire the spunkiness – and oh, she can jump so high!
Eventually, it was time to get the chicks back in the pen and go on about the day. There weren’t any mishaps, and we got everyone on the proper side without too much ado. Hopefully, we’ll get more flying time in soon.
CLICK each thumbnail to view larger image on our
9-05 and 13-03 frequent the Canfield Site.
Often the younger cranes are the ones that chase them off.
The chicks stalking the adults as the costumes watch for moments when they
may need to intervene.
What a relief to finally have good weather for flying! I think everyone was tired of waiting around, especially the people. Chicks are much better at taking things as they come than we are. Brooke and Richard headed to the airport around 6:15 and Charlie, Ali, Geoff and I headed out. I was originally going to go to the
North site with Geoff to let Cohort 1 out, but at the last minute I bailed on him so I could go where the action was. Geoff looked at me a little strangely when I stopped the truck and jumped out and asked Charlie and Ali if I could go with them, but he’s a good natured fellow and he just shrugged as I ditched him. Charlie and Ali were good natured about the switch too, and I squeezed in beside Ali and we headed for Canfield.
We stopped to greet some Craniacs at the viewing area and by the time we got out to Canfield, Brooke and Richard were already in the air and waiting for Geoff to get to the pen to let the birds out. We hustled out to the pen – there was still work to do before Cohort 1 could share the pen with Cohort 2! You may recall that last week Charlie and Geoff put up netting to split the wet pet in half, but we left the ends open so the chicks could use both sides of the pen until Cohort 1 arrived.
As Brooke flew by with Cohort 1, Charlie headed for the wet pen and asked me and Ali to get the Cohort 2 chicks on one side of the dry pen and split it. It sounds easy enough. The chicks were all in the dry pen anyway since they heard the trike flying by, so we shut the door to the wet pen and got to work. There are two mesh fences that are used to split the dry pen in half and we quickly had them closed. Unfortunately, there were four chicks on one side and one on the other. None other than my favorite Zoey Flower Child Woodstock was on the “wrong” side of the pen. She saw Charlie back in that wet pen and she didn’t think there was anything right about him being there and her being in the dry pen (after all she’s a crane and he’s a … well, he’s not a crane, so he doesn’t belong in the wet pen!). Zoey paced back and forth, trying to find her way into the wet pen. I tried to lure her to the other side of the dry pen of with grapes, but she wasn’t giving me the time of day. Finally, I got behind her, Ali opened the fence, and I made myself big. She didn’t really have anywhere else to go but to the “right” side of the pen with her classmates, so she reluctantly crossed over and we secured the fence.
About this time Brooke landed and started hanging out on the runway with the birds. I went back into the wet pen to help Charlie finish up, and soon we were letting the Cohort 1 birds into their new home. I held my camera in the sleeve of my costume to shoot some video.
The Cohort 2 chicks took it all in – the new fence, the plethora of costumes, the new birds, and especially that the new guys were getting all the grapes! Richard noticed that too, so he tossed some grapes some over the fence for Cohort 2.
In short order it was done and Richard and Brooke shut the doors and looked like they were leaving. I didn’t like the looks of this and neither did the Cohort 2 birds. It wasn’t windy and I thought they were going to let Cohort 2 fly after they brought Cohort 1 over. Peep! Peep! Peep! Translation: “Hey, we want to fly too! That’s not fair! You came with the noisy thing and we want to fly!” But Brooke was just getting out of the way so the chicks wouldn’t be confused by two planes. He took off and flew away while I listened to the chorus, “Peep! Peep! Peep!” I mentally told them to be patient. When Richard started his engine and gave us the signal, we opened the door and Cohort 2 went running out of the pen. Off they flew, happy at last, and now it was Cohort 1’s turn to complain. Peep! Peep! Peep! Translation: “Hey, we want to fly too! That’s not fair! Why do they get to fly and we don’t?” I mentally told them they already had their turn, but they didn’t like that answer and continued to peep. They stood at attention when Richard flew overhead, maybe hoping that he’d notice and let them fly again. Well, my little ones, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait for the next flying day.
A short while later, Richard landed with four birds – apparently 16-10 landed in the marsh. We got the other
four in the pen while Brooke lured her out of the marsh. Ali and I took care of the chores – filling feeders and sweeping up spilled food – while Charlie went to walk 16-10 back to the pen. We left the chicks in the dry pen to settle down and get used to the new situation before letting them in the wet pen. Our morning’s work done, we headed back to camp, happy that we finally got to train and that it was such a beautiful morning and that all of Cohort 1 flew so well and so long (Brooke said they flew most of the way up to Sprague
Mather and could have gone farther, but he wanted to get back so we could train Cohort 2) and that Cohort 2 got to fly too.
September 10, 2010
As usual, the inclement weather of fall begins the first day of September. We go from flying every day -
to once every other day - to once every two weeks. This always happens just when we are about the mix
the cohorts together to form one flock.
As soon as the oldest bird are able to follow the aircraft long enough to reach the other site, they are
moved over and penned next to their new flock mates. They posture and strut on either side of the
chain link fence that divides them and begin their campaign for leadership. We train them separately
and often, after the rigors of a long flight, we will let them out on the runway together to meet beak to
beak. The posturing escalates and we step in to stop the serious battles but the little squabbles are all
part of crane politics and we let them happen naturally.
Before long, a new hierarchy takes shape with the more aggressive birds rising to the top. Once each
bird has found its place in the dominance structure, it only needs the occasional poke to maintain the
order and calm settles over the flock with everyone seeming to get along.
If you are prone to looking for silver linings, the fact that we only have 13 birds this year means that
we only have two groups to mix. If that had happened in late August as we planned, the birds would
have had over a month to vote in a new leader and assign each of them a place in the pecking order. Of
course, the weather has been so bad that flight only took place yesterday. Richard and Brooke were able to
lead the eight birds from the North Site to Canfield.
In a week or so we will be able to remove the barrier between them and start to fly with them as one
flock. This will all happen around the time we normally mix the second cohort so any advantage we had,
due to early socializing, has been foiled by the weather, once again. My overly ambitious projections of
an early start are now history. Instead of targeting a departure date of October 1st we are now planning
to leave on the 5th.
This all proves that planning is an essential part of the process but has very little to do with the
September 9, 2010
AND THEN THERE WAS ONE...
...Cohort, that is!
The weather finally held this morning and allowed Brooke and Richard an
opportunity to fly the older group of birds, which were still at the North
Site, the 1.7 miles over to the Canfield Site to join the youngest group of
All eight birds flew beautifully behind Brooke's aircraft while Richard
flew above and behind, in the chase position, keeping an eye on them in case
any birds broke away, or couldn't keep up. In fact they flew so well that
upon approaching Canfield, they kept on going and made a sweeping pass well
north of the pensite.
Both groups - or 13 young cranes, are now in the Canfield enclosure with
a fence dividing them. This will allow them to sort out their squabbles
through the safety of the fence over the next few days. Now if we could only
get some good flying weather so that we can continue training...
Here's a video edited together to show all the components of the way the events of this morning unfolded:
September 8, 2010
To get the young generation thinking about wildlife conservation, and at the same time promote health and fitness, we are asking teachers throughout North America to involve their classrooms in a “Migration Mile-a-Thon.”
The Operation Migration Team and the young Whooping Cranes in the Class of 2010 challenge students
of all ages to walk 1,285 miles - the same distance the Whooping cranes fly on their ultralight-guided migration
from Wisconsin to Florida. It’s not as hard as it might sound. Here’s how it could work.
How: Use the running track at your school, or measure and mark off a ¼ or ½ or 1 mile distance
in the school yard, a nearby field, or other safe area. You could even ask permission to do laps
in your gymnasium! During recess, at lunch time, or after school, students in each class walk as
many ¼ or ½ or 1 mile laps as they are comfortable with, keeping track of the distance they’ve
covered. Each day the total of all the laps the entire class has walked is added up and recorded in
the classroom’s Migration Mile-a-Thon Log Book.
When: The target launch date for the 2010 migration is October 1st, but the Class of 2010 is happy
to give you a head start. You could begin your Migration Mile-a-Thon anytime.
A class of 30 students each walking just ½ a mile a day could chalk up 75 miles in a week! Ah….but at
that rate the cranes might beat you to Florida -- and there’s the challenge!
Ideas: The OM Migration team and the young Whooping Cranes travel through 7 States on their journey
to Florida. Follow Operation Migration’s Field Journal and mark the Class of 2010’s progress alongside
yours on a map and turn the challenge into a geography lesson. Weather and the terrain they fly over can
affect the crane’s ability to migrate which presents opportunities for learning about climate and wildlife
Why not challenge another class or grade within your school? Or challenge another school in
your area for some friendly rivalry! You could even challenge a class or a school in another state!
Does your local wildlife park or other deserving organization need help? If your school allows it, why not
consider making your Migration Mile-a-Thon a fundraiser. Ask local businesses and adults you know to
sponsor the miles your class walks. If 30 students each found 10 sponsors at just a penny a mile your
class could raise $385.50!!! to support their work.
Finish line: There is no way of knowing how long the migration will take. Over the last 5 years the
average number of days it took to complete the journey was 83. (If that happened this year, all
you’d need to log to beat them to Florida is 16 miles a day.) You could do that in a snap, right?
And, unlike the cranes and planes that can’t fly on bad weather days, when that happened in your
area, you could still gain miles on them by walking indoors.
Sign up: Click here to register your class or school as a Migration Mile-a-Thon participant. Each class or
school completing the 1,285 miles will receive a Wildlife Hero Certificate, and each student participant will
receive a special memento autographed by one of OM’s migration team members.
September 7, 2010
EMP STATUS UPDATE
Report Period: 22 August – 4 September 2010 - Females are indicated by *. DAR = direct autumn release.
General: Maximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period was 96 birds (52 males, 42 females, and 2 chicks). As of 4 September or last record, 85 whooping cranes (plus 2 fledged chicks) were in Wisconsin, 2 in North Dakota, 1 in Michigan, 1 in Indiana, 2 were not located since spring migration, and 3 were long-term missing.
Reproduction: The two wild-hatched chicks were confirmed fledged during the report period.
12-02/19-04*: Wood County, renest, initiated 9-11 May. A captive-produced egg from
Patuxent WRC was substituted for the two infertile eggs on 6 June, and chick W3-10 hatched on 7 June. Fledging of the chick was verified on 31 August. The family was reported in a nearby cornfield on 3 September. They were found back in the nesting reservoir on 5 September.
3-04/9-03*: South of the West Training Site, renest, initiated 29-30 April. Two chicks hatched 30-31 May. One chick (W2-10) disappeared between the mornings of 6 June and 7 June. The parents and remaining chick (W1-10) remained in the general wetland area containing the nest until at least 31 August. Fledging of the chick was confirmed on 29 August. The family was found feeding in corn and soybean fields south of the refuge on 3 September but returned to the refuge to roost. They were detected (signals of adults) just NE of Camp Douglas on 4 September.
Many thanks to the WCEP
tracking and monitoring team for the above report
September 6, 2010
NEED A WEATHER WINDOW
It has been a week since the weather cooperated and allowed training. This morning there was a beautiful lightning storm that we all watched via the CraneCam, with me controlling the pan, tilt and zoom
with my fingers crossed for luck that our router didn't get knocked out again by the storm.
With the slow moving system seemingly stalled barely east of Necedah,
Richard was reluctant to become an airborne lightning rod and stayed firmly
on the ground. Because the birds haven't been out for the past week,
Charlie, Trish and Geoff first drove up to the North Site to let the eight
young cranes in Cohort One out for some fun times of flapping and pecking
about the grass on the training strip.
When these guys were put back in their pen, the trio of costumes arrived
at the Canfield site and let the little gang of five out to frolic as we
watched it live. A few took off in a wide sweeping circle and returned to
forage with the costumes in a large puddle on the strip, formed by all the
recent rains. Next they strolled oh so casually to the north end and on the
return walk back, in comes the adult male #9-05 to join in the fun.
He really is striking in comparison to the cinnamon chicks and it was
great fun watching him while the costumes were attempting to herd the
youngsters back into the pen.
September 5, 2010
As the Fall season approaches, teachers, students and the general public are invited to sign up now for Journey North's 17th annual global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. Thanks to Annenberg Media, Journey North is a free Internet-based citizen science project, which allows students across North America to watch the seasons unfold.
Students monitor migration patterns of whooping cranes, monarch butterflies, hummingbirds, and other animals or the blooming of plants; and changing sunlight, temperatures, and other signs that signal the changing seasons.
They can share their own field observations with classmates across North America, becoming citizen scientists.
Operation Migration has contributed material to Journey North since 2001 to assist with their Whooping crane program and lesson plans. Click
here to register now for the 10th year – the Journey South is almost ready to begin!
If you would like to find out more about each of the 13 young cranes which comprise the Class of 2010
visit this link on Journey North’s Site
September 4, 2010
CRANES OF THE WORLD FESTIVAL!
Mark September 24th and 25th on your calendar! The International Crane
Foundation is celebrating their 37th Anniversary
with festivities getting underway on Friday, September 24th. Events include a theatrical performance benefiting ICF and the historic
Al. Ringling Theatre in downtown Baraboo.
Saturday’s festivities will take place at their world
just north of Baraboo and will include scheduled events throughout the day and conclude in the evening with the Annual Member Banquet at Ho-Chunk Casino Hotel and Convention
Those that log in to the CraneCam this morning will notice a BIG change in the player!
Since we launched the cam back at the beginning of August, we've been having
to use code provided last year by Zaplive. Unfortunately, Zaplive is not
longer in business and the folks at WildEarth.tv have been frantically
pulling together the pieces as best they could.
This is why some viewers were receiving a very annoying message stating
that "Maximum Viewers Limit has been reached." Well, no more max viewers -
now we can accommodate as many viewers as want to login!
There is also a big change to the chat feature that accompanies the video
stream. Personally, I find it much easier to read and to follow along,
however, chatters will have to make up their own minds and I would very much
appreciate feedback, so that we can continue to make improvements. keep in
mind you don't need to participate in the chat if you don't want to but it
is a very friendly bunch. You can, however, still just choose to view the
video feed if that's what you prefer.
Users WILL have to re-register simply because now the chat is operated by
WildEarth.tv and Zaplive is completely out of the equation. You can,
however, still use your former login credentials and there are now two ways
to register: either manually, or if you're a Facebook user, you can register
using your Facebook login. There are a few advantages to using this method
over the manual method including:
1. Its easier to login
2. You don't have to remember extra usernames or passwords
3. Facebook is trusted by many users due to its recently improved privacy policies
4. You can auto login - so if you return you don't have to always log in
5. In the future users can post photos from the video stream with
comments on their facebook walls
6. Accountability for users - If a user is breaking the terms as a facebook user there is more accountability
7. More personal
8. Facebook has the standard for social applications
I know we're not going to please everyone with these changes, but hope
that most will enjoy them. Here's a look at the new player. Once it loads
for you simply click on the orange arrow on the lefthand side, which will
initiate the live stream.
Please drop me an
email if you're experiencing any issues with the new player - We've
tried to work out all the kinks prior to launching it but with so many
people, using various browsers, and different operating systems, there are
bound to be some that we've missed. We'd appreciate it very much if you
would let us know and thanks in advance for your patience with the new
September 2, 2010
THE END OF THE GOOD WEATHER
For awhile there we were flying almost every day. Each morning we would wake to cool, calm air that
would last long enough to train the birds and then some. Later in the summer, the fog delayed most
morning flights but we could still fly once it cleared. Now however, it seems fall is here and as this
inclement season begins, we are only flying once every three or four days. Naturally, this happens just
when we need to mix our two groups of birds.
With thirteen chicks this year, we only have two cohorts instead of the usual three. That means that
socializing them won’t take as long. On the next decent day, we will lead the oldest group of birds in
cohort one, over to the Canfield site and pen them next to the youngest birds. They will face off through
the fence that divides the pens and do a lot of posturing. We will train them separately but when they
have each had their turn, we will let them both on the runway. They will pick fights and we’ll step in to
stop the big ones. We will let them battle the small skirmishes so they can determine the new social
Within a few days they will have it all worked out and we can remove the barrier. We will watch them
a little longer to make sure there is no aggression and begin to train them together. A week or two of
good weather and we could be ready to start the migration early. We have targeted October 1st as our
departure date but the wind will dictate when we actually leave.
The last time we trained the birds it was windier that we would like. Rather than risk drop outs or hitting
one of them in the trashy air, we did some high speed taxi runs. We race the length of the runway with
the birds flying behind. It’s not great exercise but it is some.
September 1, 2010
Monday was mowing day. This happens once or twice a summer when the grass on the runway and in the pens gets too long. We mowed at the Canfield site in anticipation of moving Cohort 1 from the North site to Canfield later in the week. It was breezy enough that Brooke was a little concerned. I know, it’s no big deal using a lawn mower in the wind – it’s not an ultralight! But Brooke’s concern is always about the birds and comes from years of experience wading through marshes after wayward chicks. When it’s windy, the birds want to fly, and the last thing we want to do is have a chick decide to fly home with mowers on the runway. But rain was forecast for Tuesday and we didn’t know when the next opportunity would present itself, so off we went to Canfield in good spirits.
I was torn between wanting to hang out with my babies in the marsh and wanting to cut down the tall grass in the wet pen. I have been doing behavioral observations (that’s a post for another day) and I find it difficult to read the bands when the birds are in the back of the pen. It’s more difficult when there’s tall grass back there and I know just the spot where I want it whacked. But Brooke and I were elected to stay with the chicks in the marsh while Geoff and Charlie mowed and weed whacked and divided the wet pen with a mesh fence.
As Brooke and I costumed up, I noticed that Brooke took his tee shirt off before putting on his costume. I figured he was onto something (it was hot!), so I followed suit – discreetly behind the door of the truck, of course. The plan was to walk the chicks north up the runway, across the access road and then continue north on an unused access road to a pond that’s out of sight of the pen. It might have been a half mile, maybe less, but those distances seem long when you’re in boots and a costume and leading chicks with minds of their own, not to mention the people waiting for you to get out of sight so they can do their job.
The chicks agreeably followed us onto the runway and walked along behind us – a change in routine is fairly novel for them and they’re interested in adventure as much as anyone. When we got to the end of the runway and started to cross the road,
#11-10 decided it was time to fly – right back to the pen. Brooke continued on with the rest and sent me back to collect the wayward boy. He was in the marsh beside the wet pen and I coaxed him out and began the process again. He followed behind me for a while and then flew again. I had been entertaining visions of a (not-very-funny) game where I would lead him down the runway and he would fly back to the pen again and again, so I was happy when he flew across the road into the marsh. It took a few minutes, but I coaxed him to the end of the pond he was in and then he stopped. I waved my puppet and threw grapes to no avail. Then I walked over and realized the grass was tall, so I acted like a crane mama and stamped it down. He followed me out and we continued down the road. Eventually, we made it to the pond where Brooke was waiting for us with the other four. This process took a solid half hour – and Geoff and Charlie hadn’t even begun to mow!
I texted Charlie that the coast was clear – cell phones are the best! Brooke and I were ready to settle in with the chicks, but they weren’t quite ready to settle down. I waded into the pond to encourage Eleven to join the others, walking carefully along the uneven bottom. Cell phones are the best, but they don’t take kindly to water, and I didn’t want to lose my balance and have my means of communication disappear. With my second step the water overtopped my boots, guaranteeing that I would have a cooling system for the rest of the adventure.
Number 11-10 didn’t want to come into the pond and stayed up on the road, eventually luring
16-10 out of the pond to join him. The temptation was too much for the remaining chicks and they headed out of the pond to join
numbers 11 and 16. I looked over to Brooke, who shrugged and we followed them up to the road and walked north until we found another pond. This time, we managed to lure all the chicks into the pond and there we stood for the next two hours. The chicks wandered around foraging. We would toss grapes occasionally when they started looking bored. As time walked slowly on, it became more difficult to keep them interested. At one point, three of the chicks headed for the bank, so I walked over to a patch of vegetation and started pecking at it with my puppet, piquing their interest. Then I started picking up vegetation, dipping it in the water, and feeding it to them from the puppet. Eventually, they were just done with this particular pond, so they headed for the grass on the bank. There was some wing flapping and foraging, but mostly, we all just hung out in companionable silence with the regular purring from the brood call.
After two hours, Brooke and I grew restless too. I texted Charlie and Geoff and of course they were still working. Time passes slowly when you’re standing in a pond keeping chicks occupied. I imagine that the time flew by for Geoff and Charlie as they mowed and weed whacked, hurrying to get the work done so they could get out of there. By this time I texted, they had mowed and whacked the weeds and were in the process of dividing the pen. Finally, a half hour later, we got the all clear and headed back. I was tired – I love these chicks, but standing in a pond for that long without being able to sit down is very difficult – so when three of the five flew off into the marsh, I wasn’t too happy. I rolled my eyes and mentally grunted. Brooke was tired too and I think he might have also had a few less-than-idyllic thoughts.
Fortunately (or so I thought), he sent me on with 10-10 (my Zoey Flower Child Woodstock) and
11 while he looked for the wayward three. As we made our way back to the pen, Zoey and
11 would fly short distances and then wait for me to catch up. I thought we were home free and that they would happily walk back into the pen – big mistake! Just when I was tired and done and thinking about getting back to camp,
11 decided to land on the topnet! Good grief! Another thing that I forgot to ask about during intern training! Now what? I’m all alone with
two birds and one is on the topnet! I whipped out my cell phone and texted Charlie and Geoff. “11 landed on the topnet and I need help!” I waved my puppet at him, but that didn’t do squat. I ran around to the front of the pen and saw Brooke. Thank goodness! He knows what to do! I waved to him to come – and he didn’t start running, so I did a double arm wave and finally he started running.
Now you experienced crane handlers out there know this is no big deal – when Brooke got there, he calmly walked into the pen and put his hands under
11’s feet, gave him a boost, and off he flew – but this novice had visions of his leg poking through the netting and broken legs and all the terrible things that come with that. So thank goodness it was no big deal and we finally lured everyone back into the pen. The bonus is that Brooke now has something else to tease me about, which is always a good thing. Later this week, we hope the weather will permit the pilots to lead Cohort 1 over to Canfield, which will likely give me another adventure to write about.
The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership
(WCEP) is celebrating another success in its efforts to reintroduce a wild migratory whooping crane population in eastern North America. Two wild-hatched whooping crane chicks have recently fledged, or become capable of flight. This is only the second time in over a century that naturally produced whooping cranes have fledged in the wild in the Midwest.
The chicks, #W1-10 and #W3-10 (W = wild hatched) were both observed flying with their parents this weekend. Number W1-10 is located on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in central Wisconsin, and #W3-10 is on private property in Wood County, Wisconsin.
Seven chicks initially hatched this year in the wild, the largest number to hatch in WCEP project history. Wild-hatched chicks face a precarious existence in the first weeks of their lives, and natural loss of chicks due to predation is common. The survival rate for WCEP with these two chicks is within the range of survival rates for wild sandhill crane chicks in south-central Wisconsin currently being studied by the
International Crane Foundation.
The two wild whooping crane chicks are the result of renesting. Early this spring, nine breeding pairs of whooping cranes built nests and laid eggs, but all nine pairs abandoned those first nests. The nest abandonments earlier this spring are similar to what has been observed in previous years. WCEP is investigating the cause of the abandonments through analysis of data collected throughout the nesting period on crane behavior and black fly abundance and distribution.
August 31, 2010
DANCING CRANES IN THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN
OM’s Walter Sturgeon invites you to join him on an incredible bird watching journey in Japan.
“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
EcoQuest Travel is proud to offer an incredible bird watching journey to the extraordinary
country of Japan. From the crowded bustle of Tokyo and the glitter of skyscrapers to the still
forests of Hokkaido and the quiet reverence of ancient temples, Japan is a land of contrasts.
Land of the Rising Sun is known more for its cultural riches, but the birdlife of Japan is rich and
varied. We have chosen to travel in February to take advantage of the abundance and diversity of
cranes and waterfowl in particular.
Our visit will include three of Japan’s main islands: Honshu, Hokkaido and Kyushu. We begin in the far north in a land blanketed by snow and chilled by
Siberian winds. Hokkaido is a breathtakingly beautiful place and this is punctuated all the more
by the sight of red-crowned cranes dancing against a backdrop of snow and green conifers. No
less spectacular is the huge gatherings of Steller’s sea-eagles; large rafts of harlequin ducks,
Steller’s eiders and alcids; and a chance to observe the rarely seen Blakiston’s fish-owl hunting.
From the cold expanses of Hokkaido we journey far to the south to the rice paddies and wetlands
of Kyushu. The marshes of Arasaki are famous for their flocks of wintering cranes.
of hooded and White-naped cranes are often joined by Eurasian, Sandhill and sometimes even
Demoiselle and Siberian cranes. Ducks, geese, cormorants, gulls and other water birds are also
abundant, and along with the bugling cranes, add to cacophony. From the south we will return
to Honshu and travel up into the Japanese Alps to witness snow monkeys soaking winter’s
chill away in the hot springs. The opportunity for dramatic photographs of the monkeys with
snow and ice upon their fur is not to be missed.
We invite you to join us as we explore the fantastic birdlife, natural wonders, cultural sites and magic that is Japan. The trip will be led by
Dave Davenport, Zoologist and President of EcoQuest Dave Davenport Travel, Inc
and Walter Sturgeon, Crane Expert and Operation Migration Team Member. The trip
will be limited to 10-14 participants and a portion of the receipts will benefit
Operation Migration. Contact Walt Sturgeon at sturgeon2(AT)embarqmail.com or Dave Davenport at ddavenport(AT)earthlink.net.
(please replace (AT) with @ in emails)
August 30, 2010
I liked it a lot better when all I had to do was work with birds. During the first year of this project, there
were really only three of us here at
Necedah for most of the summer. Deke Clark was here along with
Dan Sprague (spelled off by Brian Clauss) and me. Now I spend a good part of my time in the office
and not near enough working with the birds. For three weeks at a time, the only thing I get to fly is this
computer. Despite its ability to carry you into cyberspace, it lacks that third dimension that you can only
find once you leave the ground.
When I am away from home for any length of time, I notice subtle changes in am daughter when I
return. Miraculously she is slightly taller, a little quicker and far prettier. When I get back to Necedah
I notice changes in the birds too and as the pen opens and I see them for the first time in three weeks
I am always struck by the amount they have grown. They are taller by at least 4 inches, and far more
white as their juvenile camouflage is slowly replaced with adult plumage.
The blend of those two colors, the stark white that is visible for miles with a tawny brown, as rich as gold
creates a spectacle that is beyond words. Despite having seen it countless times, the flurry of feather as
they burst into the air is still impressive and seems completely out of place in the subtlety of a wetland.
There are a million variations in the greens and browns that are visible in any marsh but for the most
part they can all be described as earth tones. Whooping cranes do not follow that rule. They are as
camouflaged as a beacon and their sonorous call as subtle as a siren.
Brooke has weekends off this summer. Imagine that!! Not that I don’t enjoy every moment of his
company but when he is away for those two days I get to train with both groups of birds myself.
This morning was windier that we like but the birds have not been trained in four days. We started
with the older birds at the north site. We took off together but as usual only a few found the wing.
After a couple of circuits, number 4-10 found his place just off the wingtip and held on tenaciously.
You may remember that 4-10 was the bird held back at
Patuxent because of a leg injury. He and
number 11 were shipped out together a few weeks later than the others. His injury left him with only
one noticeable consequence. When he flies, his legs don’t trail behind in parallel. Instead, one hangs
down a few degrees making him easy to identify in the air.
When he and I returned from our ten minute flight, the other birds had landed on the runway. When we
set up an approach from the north, they all flew towards us in greeting. Number 4 landed but I had to
go around for fear of hitting one of them. When I approached from the other direction, they again flew
towards me. Soon we had birds at both ends of the runway and no place for me to go. Eventually they
got tired of the back and forth and I managed to get on the ground. Thereafter we did a few high speed
taxi runs with the birds flying for the length of the runway.
The wind picked up by the time we trained at the Canfield site so we were confined to ground work but
all the birds got some exercise and I got a chance to fly. Everything has a price however so I’m back
flying this computer.
August 29, 2010
CAMERA RELOCATION DELAY
Yesterday afternoon I mentioned that we would be off the air 'for a bit' while the CraneCam was being relocated. Well the beast has a reputation to uphold
and as Joe lowered its 30 ft. mast, shut down the system and packed it up to
get it ready to move, the beast rebelled.
The camera trailer is equipped with a set of 'Power Wheels' - these allow
us to drive it remotely, meaning that we don't need a vehicle, which the
cranes would see, to maneuver it into its final position. The Power Wheels
operate off a 12V car battery and it seems there was just enough juice in
the battery to get the trailer to the waiting vehicle, which was parked out
of sight of the crane enclosure.
Fearing that he wouldn't have enough battery power to walk it into its
new location at the Canfield training site, Joe made the decision to bring
the unit back to camp and give it a full charge, before deploying it this
morning. Unfortunately, this will have to wait until after training, if
indeed there is a training session.
August 28, 2010 - Entry 2
CRANECAM & CRANES MOVING
We’re going to be relocating the camera this afternoon to the Canfield training site where the youngest chicks in this year’s Class currently are. Chicks 10-10, 11-10, 15-10, 16-10 and 17-10 have been housed at the Canfield site since they arrived from the
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center on July 9th.
Each of the youngest group of cranes are flying circuits now, so it’s time to begin socializing the two Cohorts in the larger drypen at Canfield. This will be done by erecting a temporary fence inside the pen; dividing it in half, with one group on either side. The fence is a chain link style, which will allow the young birds to see and interact with each other through the fence as they begin to sort out their social hierarchy.
We anticipate moving the older group of birds, who are capable of flying the 2-mile span between the two sites, at the first
window of opportunity the weather provides.
Of course this will give viewers an opportunity to get reacquainted with the adult male # 9-05 who quite often shows up just in time for training!
And it also means the camera will be off the air for a bit this afternoon
while it's being moved.
August 28, 2010
Maximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period
(21 August) was 96 birds (52 males, 42 females, and 2 chicks). As of 21 August or last record, 85 whooping cranes (plus 2 chicks) were in Wisconsin, 2 in North Dakota, 1 in Michigan, 1 in Indiana, 2 were not located since spring migration, and 3 were long-term missing.
No. 40-09 (DAR) was euthanized on 16 August after additional radiographs and physical findings at
the International Crane Foundation. The bird had a severely dislocated left hip of chronic duration and was in much pain. No. 40-09* had been reported with an injured left leg in the Mill Bluff area on 1 August. She was captured and transported to the West Training Site at
Necedah NWR for care and treatment, but the injury, of unknown origin, did not improve.
Two wild-hatched chicks were alive at the end of the report period.
Our thanks to the WCEP Tracking Team of Dr. Richard Urbanek,
(USFWS) and Eva Szyszkoski, (ICF) for this update.
August 27, 2010
North Site, Necedah, WI
Ever since those white billowy beings placed the CraneCam near the enclosure at the North Site where I live, apparently all kinds of new viewers are watching me… and the crane chicks, but I like to think they’re just watching me.
When I first arrived at the pensite, they placed me under the feed shelter, which was nice because during the really hot weather, I had constant shade. But it’s time to encourage my little feathered friends to learn the importance of water roosting, so this week I was moved to the wetpen. Apparently my relocation has caused a wee bit of confusion for viewers because the girls at the office recently received the following email messages:
From your webcam, there appears to be a crane enmeshed in the overhead netting, over the water, about two posts out from the gate. Its head seems to stay in the same place as its body sways in the wind. When other cranes are approaching the apparently enmeshed bird, their legs are clearly visible, yet none are visible beneath this swaying bird.
Is it a decoy of some sort, or is it really stuck?"
and then this:
A couple of colleagues were watching the feed from your webcam online and noticed that one of the cranes is hung up in mesh fencing. The camera has panned over now, so we're assuming that someone is working to free the bird, but we just wanted to make sure you're aware of this so the poor thing doesn't stay that way for long.
Now, a couple of things occurred to me when I heard about these messages. 1. People that watch the CraneCam (and of course, me) are really caring folks! and 2. They don’t seem to know much about me and just how important my role as Crane Guardian is.
Okay, so I am made of plastic and don’t actually have feathers like the chicks do, but judging by the amount of time they spend preening their feathers, well I’m not sure I’d want any! Those fluffy things look like they require a LOT of upkeep and maintenance. And yes, okay, sometimes those silly chicks DO try to preen my plastic, but they’re young, so I cut them some slack and consider it part of our bonding process.
And then there is the leg issue… But really, c’mon, dontcha think legs are a bit overrated? I’ve seen these chicks try to bend those
loooong legs and it requires a good bit of coordination! Why sometimes they get so tired of managing both of them that they often just use one to stand on anyway. Ugh, and let’s not forget that they’re constantly in cold, wet water! Who wants to have wet feet all-day, everyday?
You see, my role is very important – I’m the Keeper of the flock, the Guardian, Attendant, Bird-sitter; I’m the Warden, Supervisor, Defender… I AM the Dummy Mummy!
My job is to soothe and comfort them, to provide reassurance, to listen to their troubles, to be their preening-practice mannequin, to act as a role-model for these growing chicks… And they DO look up to me! Okay, it’s probably because I’m hanging from the topnet of the wetpen now, suspended over their heads, but even if I was at eye-level, they’d still look up to me, for I AM DUMMY MUMMY!
And this fall, when these chicks begin their first southward migration flight following those yellow mechanical flyers, I’ll be right there with them! Hmm, well, okay, I’ll be riding in the trailer that holds the travel pen, but I’ll be with them in spirit! Encouraging them and cheering them on, mile after mile, just like the rest of you! And when we make our stops along the way, I’ll get to hang out with them again – literally – and comfort them in each of their new surroundings. Why? well because everybirdy needs a Dummy Mummy!
August 26, 2010
NECEDAH CRANE FESTIVAL
The Necedah Lion's Club hosted the inaugural Whooping Crane
Festival in 2001 – to coincide with the first year of the Eastern Migratory Population reintroduction. As we celebrate a decade of guiding young-of-year Whooping cranes along a new migratory route; beginning at Necedah National Wildlife
Refuge in Wisconsin and ending at either the
St. Marks or
Chassahowitzka NWR’s, so too does the Lion’s Club celebrate their 10th anniversary of their Crane Festival.
Dave Arnold and his fellow Lion’s Club members have been busy finalizing the myriad details for this upcoming festival, which will take place on September 18th at the Necedah
Featured speakers this year include: Lisa Hartman & Michael Mossman who will be presenting “Natural History of Turkey Vultures in Wisconsin” and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Joel Trick, , whose talk will focus on “Kirtland's Warblers in Wisconsin.” In addition to these, presentations will be made by Horicon National Wildlife Refuge’s Erin Railsback, John French from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bob Anderson from the Raptor Resource Center, and Jim Backus will offer a seminar about nature photography, so bring your cameras and your questions!
To end the day of speakers, at 3pm, Joe Duff will present his program, which includes beautiful images of Whooping cranes, captured from the pilot seat of his ultralight aircraft.
In addition to the speaker line-up there will be youth activities, arts and crafts, raffles, silent auctions, food and live entertainment. And this year there will be a
WHOOP IT UP 10K RUN/WALK, which will take place on the refuge and include some areas normally closed to the public.
Operation Migration, along with several other member organizations in the Whooping Crane Eastern
Partnership, will be exhibiting at the event. We invite all attendees to stop by OM's booth and say “hi!” We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at the festival!
August 25, 2010
I got back to Necedah Saturday night after two weeks at Drexel University, which was spent in a whirlwind of activity as I caught up with my “real” job. I was excited to see my feathered babies, so I woke up bright and early for training Sunday morning.
There was dense fog on the ground as Barb and I headed out to the North Site, so when we got there, we sat in the van for a few minutes catching up. As we walked out to the runway to wait for Joe, we watched Richard fly by on his way to the Canfield Site. Shortly, we heard the buzz of Joe approaching. There was still some fog and we weren’t sure Joe could land, so we approached the pen in the high grass so the chicks couldn’t see us. Barb hates the looks of disappointment on their little faces when she checks the chicks on days they can’t fly. Fortunately, Joe was able to land and in a moment, we were ready to open the doors.
As usual, the chicks came bursting out of the pen and immediately started jumping and flapping. Joe revved the engine and took off down the runway with the birds flying behind. I stood there transfixed, open-mouthed with wonder and delight. Thoughts flooded my head: They’re so beautiful! They’ve grown so much! They’re so graceful! Look at them fly, they’re all right behind Joe!
All of a sudden, Barb grabbed my sleeve and yanked me back into the pen. “You have to get back in the pen!” she whispered. “You’ll confuse the chicks!” And indeed, little 5-10 was standing there, looking first at Joe and the others departing and then back at me, not quite knowing who to follow. I snapped back to the present and sheepishly hung my head. Joe, unaware of the drama, and thinking he had a reluctant flyer, circled around with seven birds in tow. 5-10 flew after him, but she wasn’t able to catch up and shortly returned to the runway.
I spent the next few minutes looking out the peephole, silently telling #5 that I was sorry for distracting her and willing her to fly when Joe came back around. And then Joe flew back into sight and I could watch my glorious chicks again, this time from safely inside the pen. Words defy me. It is simply the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.
Luckily, when Joe took off for a second round, 5-10 went with him. And after training, Barb and I reviewed everything, especially the part about letting the birds out and then going quickly and quietly back in the pen. Oohing and aahing is perfectly acceptable, as long as you’re not distracting the birds.
August 24, 2010
Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program
Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a story focusing on the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (NRDAR). As
the Service's response to the BP oil spill continues to evolve, NRDAR is playing an increasingly larger role.
The Service recently posted an explanation on how this important program works
(see below), and just released a video of a NRDAR team out in the field patrolling for oiled wildlife.
The video features an interview with Ingrid Brofman, an intern at
Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge:
Here's an explanation of how NRDAR works:
Record keeping an important role in oil spill response
Daphne, Ala.- What’s
broke, and how do we fix it?
That’s the simplified version of a little-known process called the Natural
Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (NRDAR), which is
currently operating in five states affected by the BP oil spill.
Pete Tuttle, who coined that quick summary of NRDAR, is a U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service contaminants specialist based in Daphne, Ala., currently
serving as the Department of the Interior Case Coordinator for NRDAR on the
The process Tuttle is helping to administer is likely to receive increasing
attention from the public as its importance in restoring the wetlands,
marshes, beaches and habitats of the Gulf region becomes more prominent and
receives more media attention.
The purpose of NRDAR is to assess the extent of damage to natural resources
during an incident such as the oil spill, and make sure that the resources
are restored at no cost to the American taxpayers. Instead, the party or
parties responsible for the damage pay for the restoration.
NRDAR is separate from the claims system for individuals and businesses that
BP has set up; its purpose is to restore damage to “trust resources” –
resources that are owned by the public, which can include national wildlife
refuges, military bases, parks, endangered species and their habitats,
drinking water supplies, etc.
It is also separate from many of the response operations, such as rescuing
birds, deploying boom, and cleaning oil from shores and beaches.
“The response in this incident is to stop the release and clean up the
spill. When they clean up the spill, the ecosystem starts to restore itself.
You have natural recovery even if you just leave the system alone,”
explained Jim Haas, who is currently serving as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service NRDAR project leader.
“If we were just to stop at the response of cleaning up the oil that reaches
the shore, we would be left with a degraded ecosystem that would take years
to recover, if it ever does completely,” he continued. “Part of the purpose
of NRDAR is to accelerate that recovery curve so the system is restored back
to where it was more quickly. We have primary restoration projects directed
at specific resources, such as an injured beach or a refuge. That’s primary
“But there is also a category where the ecosystem has been damaged during a
block of time, and you have lost the services that ecosystem could have
provided. Those cannot be recovered, and primary restoration is not going to
get those lost services. Those become part of compensatory restoration,”
Under NRDAR, any government agency that has trust resource responsibilities
can become a Trustee in the process. The Trustees are all on a steering
committee that supervises NRDAR assessments and restoration for the entire
spill region; they are equal partners. Current trustees include the
Department of the Interior (including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
the National Park Service and other bureaus), the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and agencies from Texas, Louisiana,
Mississippi, Alabama and Florida; more agencies are expected to sign on as
The Trustees have formed 13 Technical Working Groups (TWGs) that are
creating the study plans for determining the extent and severity of the
injury to broad resource categories, such as migratory birds, fish, sea
turtles, etc, Tuttle explained. The Fish and Wildlife Service has the lead
on the Bird TWG, but is a partner in the other TWGs.
The Bird TWG for all five states operates out of a hotel conference room in
Daphne, Ala.; other NRDAR operations are spread throughout the Gulf. The
NRDAR Operations room buzzes with activity, and is the place from where
teams are deployed to walk miles of beaches and shorelines, taking photos
and recording data on wildlife and oil damage.
“I’m really proud that we have assembled the best damage assessment people
and the best bird people from across the Service, the states, academia, and
non-governmental organizations to help us create the best possible plans for
assessing and addressing potential injuries to birds from this spill,”
The BP oil spill presents challenges for NRDAR personnel because it is the
largest geographic area the program has ever addressed, and because the oil
continued to flow even as NRDAR operations were underway. “But we had a lot
of time to plan, since it was three weeks before the oil first reached land,
so that made us more efficient,” Tuttle said.
“We have signed a funding agreement with BP to fund some of the NRDA
activities,” said Haas. “The actual restoration claim will hopefully be a
negotiated settlement, not litigation. BP essentially will get a bill. We
won’t know what the size of that is going to be for several years.”
But even when a settlement between NRDAR and BP is reached and much of the
restoration work is complete, NRDAR will continue monitoring the restoration
of so much valuable land and wildlife habitat. “It will be decades before we
understand the full impact of the spill on the region,” said Tuttle. “In
terms of monitoring, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re looking at 30 years.”
August 23, 2010 - Entry 2
CRANECAM IS BACK!
We're back online and streaming live from the North Training site at the Necedah NWR
- Thank you everyone for your patience. To join in and watch the broadcast
You can watch anytime of day as the camera is operated by a fantastic
team of volunteers, however, to catch the early morning training; weather
permitting of course, join us at 6am Central/7 am Eastern.
August 23, 2010
CRANECAM & TRAINING
It's that time of year when early morning fog over the Necedah refuge is almost certainly
guaranteed. Fog forms when the difference between temperature and dew point is generally less than 4 degrees
Such was the case on Saturday morning AND afternoon. Since the camera was knocked offline by a storm the previous evening, I only had text messages from Geoff Tarbox to keep me informed.
Every hour or so, I'd text him with "Still fog?" to which he
As the day went on, my hourly messages became "STILL fog?" - and his
response "oh ya!" - It persisted until 2 pm that day.
Then yesterday morning the fog seemed to be late in forming as I received
the following text message from Joe Duff: "Flew this morning but now its
too foggy to get back to the airport so I'm sitting at the North Site
Realizing he was likely bored I asked him how the training went with
Cohort One? he replied all the birds flew. I took them up to the
new viewing area but nobody was there. Three formed on the wing and others
followed on two flights. Ten minutes at least each flight.
As I type this, Joe and Richard are at the hangar waiting for the fog to clear, and hoping that once it does, it won't be too windy to train.
We hope to have the router for the CraneCam repaired today and we'll let
you know as soon as its operational again.
August 22, 2010
RETURN OF PLANTMAN
It’s been so long I’ve talked about plants, that you thought the Plant Man would not be riding again this year. Shame on you! I’ve been keeping myself busy with the plants I’ve come to know and love here at Necedah. I’ve just been keeping quiet since there haven’t been new plants I’ve been sent to find. I’m still keeping my eyes out for Virginia meadow beauty (Rhexia virginica), rough white lettuce (Prenanthes alba), wooly milkweeds (Asclepias lanuginosa) and yellow-eyed grass (Xyris sp.)
Now, over the course of a few months, I’ve snagged just shy 300 Virginia meadow beauty pods for refuge biologist, Rich King. Those little fellas are even more bustling than they were last year. On that little stretch on Boghaunter trail, there must be easily several hundred more I could pick up, once they’re ripe. The rough white lettuce isn’t far behind either. I’m still seeing it right where I left along the early stretches of Boghaunter. They were still blooming when I last saw them, so their seeds still need a little time to cook before I can snag them for Rich King. But I think we’re in for a good harvest of those, too.
Sadly, the only thing that’s not bustling is my pride and joy from last year, the wooly milkweeds. I’ve gone up to the stretch of back road leading to the North Site several times now, but there hasn’t been much sign of my little darlings. I saw only two, which wasn’t enough for harvesting. Rich and I suspect that this year’s wet spring might’ve been a turn off for them. And the fact they’re sharing this back road with wall-to-wall two or three feet tall bluestem doesn’t help much either. Especially when you’re only two or three inches tall. It was never this overgrown last year. Oh well. Maybe the yellow-eyed-grass over by the North Site will be more promising this year.
But I can tell you one thing we aren’t short of: mosquitoes! I’ve heard that this is one of Wisconsin’s worst skeeter seasons on record, and I personally believe it. You can’t even leave your trailer to hit the bathroom without donating a pint or two at the skeeter blood bank. And woe be to the fool who leaves their doors open. For skeeters will just rush inside as though you were offering them free plasma screen TVs. Once you’re inside, you could spend an extra five or ten minutes swatting skeeters who want to crash at your place.
In my own little mind, I like to think someplace, somewhere, there is a parallel universe, where whoopers are plentiful, the Gulf spill never happened, I’m President of the United States, and the only way that we can save mosquitoes from certain annihilation is to put on silly costumes and have them follow an ultralight. And naturally, we would be so over that. Totally. I’d get up every morning to let the little skeeters out of their pen for training. I’d watch them fly through the little peepholes, change their feeders, and watch them mingle and interact through a blind. Necedah would throw a Skeeterfest every year, we’d have a Skeeter Cam, and you all would be our faithful Skeeter-iniacs or something. Wouldn’t it be beautiful? No.
It’ll teach them to suck me dry and buzz in my ear while I’m doing more important things... Like video games. Now if you excuse me, I’m off to play a game where I’m one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who’s been wrongfully accused of triggering Armageddon.
The world is safe again, but for how long?
August 21, 2010 - Entry 2
It would appear the lightening storms, which moved through Necedah yesterday at the dinner hour knocked out our router and effectively halted the broadcast. It will be a few hours, at least,
until we're able to reset the router.
Just one of the many issues we must deal with when streaming video from a wildlife refuge - Mother Nature.
August 21, 2010
FLORIDA'S NON-MIGRATORY POPULATION
Marty Folk, Avian Research, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission sent an update on the Florida non-migratory flock of whooping cranes. The final update on this year’s breeding season in Florida describes eight of 11 pairs nested this spring; from 9 nests (1 of which was a re-nest) 3 pairs hatched 4 chicks and 1 chick survived to fledge.
Marty explained that this spring, in addition to collecting data on incubation behavior with video surveillance equipment, they deployed artificial data-logging eggs into nests of 5 whooping crane pairs and 1 Florida sandhill crane pair in a pilot study of incubation temperature. One of the most important findings was that there were lapses in incubation by whooping crane pairs at night.
We have not documented this problem previously because our video surveillance equipment was not suitable for recording in darkness. Lapses in incubation could affect hatchability of eggs.
Deployment of cameras with night-vision capabilities at nests may allow identification of the reasons for these incubation lapses. A larger sample size of experimental nests (of both whooping and sandhill cranes) will accommodate comparisons of incubation behavior and temperature between successful and unsuccessful pairs. Therefore, they are considering another breeding season of data-collection for this purpose.
August 20, 2010
PROPOSED REINTRODUCTION OF WHOOPING CRANES INTO LOUISIANA
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
announced yesterday in the Federal Register it is seeking public comment on a proposed rule to reintroduce the endangered whooping crane into habitat in its historic range on the state-owned White Lake Wetland Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana.
The Service and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) will attempt to establish a non-migratory flock that lives and breeds in the wetlands, marshes and prairies of southwestern Louisiana. If this proposal is approved, the reintroduction effort could begin during early 2011.
“With just under 400 birds in the wild, the vast majority of which winter along the Texas coast, whooping cranes are among our nation’s most threatened species. Our proposal to reintroduce a population in Louisiana would not only help protect this iconic species from extinction but would also help us take another big step in our campaign to restore the Gulf Coast’s wildlife, marshes, and coasts to health,” said Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior.
The reintroduction is being proposed as part of an ongoing recovery effort for this highly imperiled species, which was on the verge of extinction in the 1940s and even today has only about 395 individuals in the wild (550 worldwide); none in Louisiana. The only self-sustaining wild population of whooping cranes migrates between Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas and, like those in the eastern populations, remains vulnerable to extinction from continued loss of habitat or natural or man-made catastrophes. Multiple efforts are underway to reduce this risk by increasing populations in the wild, including ongoing efforts to establish a migratory population in the eastern United States.
Necedah National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1939 as a refuge, breeding grounds and inviolate
sanctuary for migratory birds. That mandate has been marginalized for the last 10 years, as the
refuge became the reintroduction site for the only eastern migratory population of Whooping cranes.
Five pensites have been constructed in what is normally closed to everything except wildlife and four of
those areas include grass runways for our ultralights. From mid August to early October, we take to the
air whenever the weather is good and lead our flock on circuits around the refuge to get them familiar
with what will become their summer home for the rest of their lives. When our birds are young and
inexperienced, our flights are low and slow and we stay out over the marsh so if one goes down, or we
do, we are not over the trees. As they get stronger, we begin to gain some altitude and a little margin of
In the fall, as the days grow shorter and the temperature drops, Necedah becomes a stopover for many
water birds as they begin to head south. Our aircraft, and the accompanying Whooping cranes make a
noisy and disquieting spectacle that may disturb these wild migrants.
In order to find a balance between the birds that we teach to migrate and the ones that learned it
naturally, training zones for the Whooping cranes have been established. A block of airspace around
the Canfield and the North sites has been opened for the training as well as a corridor up to Sprague
Mather. The southern parts of East and West Rynearson ponds have been reserved for wild birds. That
is the area that can be seen from the observation tower so this fall no training will be visible from that
However, there is a good location that may even be better and certainly more accessible for those who
have difficulty with the stairs and crowded upper deck of the observation tower. We have included a
link to a map of the public roads that dissect the middle area of the refuge. For those familiar with the
refuge it is the corner of Speedway Road and 7th Avenue. It can be reached by heading north from the
main intersection in the town of Necedah on State Highway 80. Turn left or west on 17th St West and
north again on Speedway Rd. In a few miles you will come to a sharp right turn at 7th Ave. There is lots
of parking there and if you look south west, you will see an open vista. That is our main training area.
The Canfield site is less than a mile to the west and the North Site is one and a quarter miles to the SSE.
As always, we can’t tell you when we will be flying but clear air and calm winds are good indicator.
If we see a few cars there early in the morning, we will try to lead the birds overhead. Of course, in
the early stages we often don’t make all those decisions. It is hard to know who is teaching whom.
From Omaha.com: Nine wild whooping crane chicks in remote Canada are wearing high-tech jewelry, courtesy of a pair of Nebraska scientists.
The endangered chicks were outfitted with miniature Global Positioning System transmitters and color-coded identification bands during a milestone research initiative by the Crane Trust, based near Wood River, Neb. The telemetry banding was a first for wild whoopers in their nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Northwest Territories, Canada.
It's a historic moment for whooping crane conservation and for the Crane Trust,'' Dr. Felipe Chavez-Ramirez said Monday. Chavez-Ramirez, the Crane Trust science director, led the Canadian enterprise. The GPS devices, he said, will document whooping crane movements throughout the North American migratory route and help identify actual or potential causes of death, such as power lines.
Migration period mortality accounts for more than 80 percent of annual whooping crane deaths, Chavez-Ramirez said. Nearly three dozen whoopers died migrating in 2009. Despite the widely known plight of the species, scientists do not know the main cause or locations of whooper deaths during their migrations.
Only about 260 wild whooping cranes remain. Once nearly extinct, about 500 whoopers exist in three North American flocks.
The Crane Trust owns or manages more than 10,000 acres of land along the Platte River to provide habitat for whooping cranes and other migrating birds. Wood Buffalo National Park is the only known nesting site of whooping cranes, one of the world's most endangered species.
Chavez-Ramirez's team included Jessica Rempel, the Crane Trust's GPS project leader, and a couple of Canadian biologists. The team scouted the area in a small airplane one day and dropped into the wetlands via helicopter the two next days. The researchers pursued chicks on foot across wet and brushy terrain and captured the birds by hand. Each chick was measured and weighed, fitted with a telemetry device and checked by a veterinarian. Blood was drawn to determine gender and other things. The birds were released unharmed.
“It was an intense experience,” Chavez-Ramirez said. “We tried to intercept them as they ran. They'd lay flat on the ground, or freeze in vegetation, to hide. Once you get close, they'd try to get you with their beak. We learned to distract them with one hand and grab behind their head with the other.'
Eleven targeted chicks got away.
Chavez-Ramirez said the team was proud of reducing stress on the birds — some birds were captured, handled and released within 17 minutes from the time the researchers jumped out of the helicopter. The longest pursuit and handling time of any bird was 22 minutes.
Each telemetry device is riveted to two bands placed on a chick's left leg. The device weighs less than 3 ounces. It's about 2.5 inches long, 1 inch wide and 1.5 inches high. It has a 6-inch antenna. The solar-powered devices have a life expectancy of at least three years. The devices don't interfere with the cranes' ability to fly, pair up and nest, Chavez-Ramirez said.
Data from each device is recorded every six hours and uploaded to a satellite every 52 hours. Chavez-Ramirez said scientists already are tracking the chicks' movement around the wetlands. The scientists also put three colored bands on each crane's right leg to allow researchers to identify the crane long after the transmitter quits working,
The chicks were born in early June and already have reached their adult height of about 5 feet, Chavez-Ramirez said. The Wood Buffalo National Park cranes will start to migrate south in mid-September.
August 17, 2010
Richard van Heuvelen and Geoff Tarbox headed out to the North Training site this morning to work with Cohort One; our oldest group of cranes. From my vantage point in the drivers seat of the CraneCam, I could see an adult pair land on the runway just before Richard arrived in his aircraft.
Geoff, in costume, of course, approached the pair, but they refused to
budge. it looked as if they were sensing that something exciting was about to take place
and they didn't want to give up their front row seat. As Geoff returned to
the front of the crane pen, the two stalked him from behind. Richard soon
landed in the aircraft and attempted to convince the two adults that they
should leave but they ignored him, and the ultralight, just as they had
Hoping that they wouldn't interfere with training, Geoff released the
chicks from their enclosure, as Richard applied the throttle. Five
youngsters immediately flew off after the trike and followed it into the air
(good birds!). The other three, however, stood their ground on the training
strip in front of their pen, and proceeded to chase after the two adults
Since the camera's pan, tilt and zoom functions were not functioning
well, I decided not to risk trying to follow Richard and his faithful
followers, and instead pointed the camera at the chicks on the ground. There
was a lot of wing flapping and charging and eventually the three youngsters
managed to chase the two very white adults off into the marsh!
Just as they were celebrating their victory, Richard flew overhead and
they were airborne to try to catch up with him. I did manage to convince the
camera to pan left and right, so the viewers were able to watch some of the
training and as Richard landed at the east end, we counted only seven
chicks. It seems that #5-10 landed out, in the marsh, perhaps she was one of
the three that chased off the adults and was unable to catch up to the
Eventually, she was coaxed out of the marsh and was returned to the
safety of their enclosure with her flockmates - no doubt she and the other
two are sharing the details of their triumphant victory with the others and
bragging about winning the battle of the North Site training strip.
August 16, 2010 - Entry 2
W1-10 CHICK UPDATE!
Doug Pellerin and his lovely wife, Masako have been Craniacs since 2006 and even though they reside in Fond du Lac, WI, they make regular trips to visit
Necedah NWR, located some 2 1/2 hours to the northwest.
I mean regular as in every weekend regular!
Doug recently acquired a long-lens for his camera that I've been envious
of since he first showed it to me last fall and this past Friday - yes,
Friday the 13th, he had an opportunity to put it to good use. Doug ventured
out to the observation tower with this camera, tripod and long-lens and
began scanning the wetland.
Before long he spotted a pair of adults and the unmistakable cinnamon
color of their chick! He said he was so excited he could barely click the
shutter, and each time he did the chick would quickly drop down again,
hiding in the vegetation. He waited, and waited - more than two hours and
eventually his patience paid off when he captured the image below.
photo clearly shows W1-10 with its natural parents, 9-03 and 3-04.
W1-10 is getting to be fairly big - almost as tall as its parents, and if
it hasn't already, it should fledge any day now.
The chick is now 11-weeks old today and the average age at fledge is
typically 80-90 days.
Many thanks to Doug for his patience in acquiring this photo and for
sharing it with WCEP
We currently have 390 migration miles sponsored in this year's MileMaker campaign. With the planned departure date for the southward migration set as October 1st, we have less than 6 weeks before we begin guiding this year's cohort on their first-ever migration flight.
Here's the current State by State breakdown
of sponsored and unsponsored miles.
This leaves a total of 895 miles currently looking for sponsors so we
could really use your help! Won't YOU become a MileMaker sponsor TODAY?
Click here to make that happen.
August 15, 2010
WHOOP IT UP! - 10K RUN
While we're on the topic of running, a 10k run will be held at 9am, September 18th, which is also the date of the Necedah Lion's Club
Whooping Crane Festival, which this year celebrates its 10th year!
Whoop-It-Up 10K is a point-to-point course run along the beautiful scenic roads of Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and the Village of Necedah. A section of the route even goes through an area on the refuge normally closed to the public. The 6.2-mile course begins in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge at the Visitor Center and finishes at the Necedah Lions Park – the grounds for the Whooping Crane & Wildlife Festival.
to register for the run, and
here to read more
about the Crane Festival. Organizers are looking for participants and
volunteers so why not get in touch with
Peterson and see if he can use your help?
August 14, 2010
THE CHICAGO MARATHON
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
August 13, 2010
DISTANCE RECORD SET!
On 13 January, OM supporter and Craniac Fred Dietrich of Tallahassee, Florida, banded a female Rufous Hummingbird at a yard near his home. The hummingbird was apparently born in the summer of 2009.
Dietrich had been helping others band hummingbirds for about 10 years, but he has only been banding on his own in Tallahassee for the past year or so. He was well aware that Rufous Hummingbirds, western breeders, typically spend the winter in Mexico, although they are increasingly being found wintering in the southeastern U.S. and occasionally in southern California. Accordingly, it was notable that he had banded this hummingbird, but not extraordinary. He had banded Rufous Hummingbirds before.
What was extraordinary was the news he recently received. The female Rufous Hummingbird that Dietrich banded on 13 January 2010 in Tallahassee was recaptured by Kate McLaughlin on 28 June 2010 in Chenega Bay, Alaska! That’s about 3,530 miles away “as the hummingbird flies” – and it’s hardly likely that the migration route was in a straight line.
This record is the longest migration for any hummingbird that has ever been documented. The bird was released alive and well in Alaska, and, with luck, it could be preparing to head back to Florida again this winter.
The previous long-distance record was a was held by a Rufous Hummingbird banded in Louisiana and found dead on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, a distance of at least 2,200 miles.
While it has long been believed that Rufous Hummingbirds that winter in the southeastern U.S. may come from as far away as Alaska, this is the first time that bird-banders have been able to document the fact on both ends of the migration route. Without banding much of our knowledge about hummingbird migration would be mere speculation.
Fred Dietrich has posted some
photos of this
record-holding hummingbird that he took when he banded the bird in January.
August 12, 2010
By now, we had hoped that the radios, which broadcast our feed last year from the
Necedah NWR would be repaired and back in place.
One had sustained some water damage over the winter months while in storage,
and we removed the innards of a portable radio to replace the damaged
insides of the unit that normally sits atop the cameras 30ft mast.
That radio sends the video feed wirelessly via yagi antenna to a
receiving yagi and radio, some 2.5 miles away which is mounted on a tall
tree. These radios need a bit of tweaking to get them to communicate with
each other and it will be a few more days unfortunately.
In the meantime, we've been able to broadcast using cellular data cards
but these cards have a limit and much like we did during the southward
migration last year to avoid exceeding our limit, beginning today, we're
going to have to reduce the amount of broadcast time each day.
I really don't anticipate that it will be for much longer, in fact, I'm
hopeful that the radio situation will be rectified this coming Monday, but
until then we'll have to rely on the data card and this means a limited
schedule of two hours each morning (6-8am) Central, and two hours each
evening (5-7pm) so that we don't go over our limit. Aircraft training
normally takes place each morning, weather permitting, at around 6am.
The Beast, unfortunately, is living up to the moniker it earned last season.
August 11, 2010
Richard van Heuvelen
YESTERDAY'S TRAINING FLIGHT
Five of the eight chicks from cohort one finally flew away from the north site. All eight came bursting out of the pen to follow the trike down and off the runway to the northeast. As the young birds gained altitude over the trees east of their training site, three of them turned back toward home.
Turning the trike south to intercept the remaining five worked well and soon the trike and five chicks were headed north over Williams field. One chick was falling behind so we circled again to let the slower bird catch up. Now with five birds on the wing we headed north toward Canfield road to explore the refuge.
All five did really well and followed back to site four where the three chicks on the ground became airborne and followed around before landing with the three farthest back birds. Two birds continued to soar off the wing climbing to about a hundred feet. After landing they were all rewarded with treats as they investigated the trike, their new best friend.
Normally after training one of us will fly over parents 9-03 3-04 and their chick to check on them, this morning it was not possible due to a patch of fog over that area of the refuge. Yesterday it was not possible due to getting caught in the rain. However on Saturday I had a good viewing of the parents and chick who is getting big and beginning to get some white on him or her. The chick is seventy-days old today and will be flying
very soon. Once the chick fledges it will be more difficult to find but much more exciting as it to begins to explore the refuge.
August 10, 2010 - Entry 2
Just a quick update to let you know that the Duke Energy Sponsored CraneCam will be down for what we hope will be a brief time, between 4:30 - 5:30pm Central Time.
During this time we'll be reinstalling the now-repaired 900 MHz Avalan
radio, which will allow us to send the video feed via our DSL line.
Thank you everyone for your patience as we keep working out the kinks.
August 10, 2010
TAINTED BLUE CRAB
To assess how heavy a blow the BP oil spill has dealt the Gulf of Mexico, researchers are closely watching a staple of the seafood industry and primary indicator of the ecosystem's health: the blue crab.
Weeks ago, before engineers pumped in mud and cement to plug the gusher, scientists began finding specks of oil in crab larvae plucked from waters across the Gulf coast.
If you didn't tune into the
CraneCam feed this morning you missed a great show! The group of 8 young cranes in Cohort One are all flying now and 3 or 4 managed to follow pilot Brooke Pennypacker in at least 4 circuits around the North Training site.
Some of the younger birds chose to drop out of the flight early and just
wait on the grass strip for the aircraft and it's faithful followers to
return but those that did stick with the trike looked as if they were even
able to find the sweet spot just inches off the trailing edge of the wing
and surf the vortices that flow from it, much like the wake a boat makes as
it travels over water.
Training begins (weather permitting) each morning at approximately 6 -
6:30 Central time and it's really fun to watch! We hope you'll get a chance
to watch tomorrow if the weather cooperates.
August 8, 2010
I wanted to let viewers know that there may be some intermittent, and hopefully brief periods of downtime
for the CraneCam later this morning and early afternoon as we work to bring our Avalan
900 MHz radio online. This unit had to go in for repairs but is now ready to
re-install and once in place will give us a more reliable feed, as well as a
clearer picture and audio.
As I type this, a line of storms is currently moving through the Necedah
area so training today is a bust, but you can still tune in to spend time
with Cohort One, the oldest group of the Class of 2010. Hopefully, tomorrow
the weather will improve and allow for training. This typically takes place
between 6 - 7am Central time and most of this group has now fledged and is
following the aircraft in circuits around the North Training site at the
August 7, 2010
In the latest issue of Science Matters, award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki,
and Faisal Moola, Science Director for the David Suzuki Foundation warn that species loss is a silent epidemic
that threatens our planet.
The two warn that the twin threats of climate change and wildlife extinction threaten our planet's life-support systems, including clean air, clean water, and productive soil. Awareness about the causes and consequences of climate change is growing, leading some governments to look for solutions in areas such as clean energy.
Species extinction, however, has gone largely unnoticed by government leaders.
article in the Guardian newspaper, France's ecology secretary and the World Resources Institute's vice-president of science and research argue that "Unlike the impacts of climate change, biodiversity - and the ecosystem services it harbours - disappears in a mostly silent, local and anonymous fashion. This may explain in part why the devastation of nature has triggered fewer alarm bells than a hotting-up planet."
Sadly, this is true. Unlike the devastating forest fires, deadly heat waves, and violent storms that have ravaged the planet as a result of climate change, the disappearance of plants and animals seems only to get the attention of politicians when it results in serious economic and social upheaval - such as when overfishing led to the collapse of cod stocks in Atlantic Canada, throwing thousands of fishermen out of work.
The unraveling of food webs that have taken millennia to evolve is happening all around us. With every patch of forest cut, wetland drained, or grassland paved over, our actions are destroying wildlife habitat at an unprecedented rate.
Scientists warn that we are in the midst of a human-caused catastrophic wildlife crisis. Of the species we know about, some 17,000 plants and animals are facing extinction, including 12 percent of birds, nearly a quarter of mammals, and a third of amphibians. Some of the species most vulnerable to human impacts are iconic, well-loved creatures. For example, of the eight distinct bear species that grace our planet, six are now in serious trouble, including sun bears, pandas, and polar bears.
The response of our leaders has for the most part been abysmal. The United Nations has declared 2010 the
International Year of Biodiversity. Countries are now reporting on their progress in reducing biodiversity loss as required under an international treaty called the Convention on Biological Diversity that most nations, including Canada, have signed. However, the UN has admitted that governments have failed to meet the treaty's objectives "to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth."
Despite our collective failure to meet the
2010 biodiversity target, countries are preparing to negotiate new global targets to slow the rate of biodiversity loss. A flurry of international activity is now underway that will include a special session of the UN General Assembly on the biodiversity crisis in September.
It's easy to be skeptical about the effect these negotiations and meetings in plush hotel ballrooms will have on protecting life on our planet, given the lack of meaningful progress so far. But one recent outcome of the global biodiversity talks gives us hope.
Government negotiators from around the world just met in Busan, South Korea, where they approved the creation of a new global science body that will act as an "early warning system" to inform government leaders on major biodiversity declines and to identify what governments must do to reverse these damaging trends.
This global Biodiversity Scientific Body will be modeled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which, through science, has catalyzed world-wide understanding and action on global warming.
Despite the efforts of huge multinational oil companies to discredit its work, the IPCC has compiled the best available science on the causes and impacts of global warming, as well as charting the most effective ways for us to solve the problem. In doing so, it has ensured that climate change has remained a priority for governments, and has proven to be an invaluable tool to help the media understand and report on the issue - independent of politics or PR spin. We hope the newly created "IPCC for Nature" will play a similar role in educating, inspiring, and mobilizing policy-makers and the public to take decisive action to stem the biodiversity crisis.
Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
August 6, 2010
TAP LAWSUIT MOVES FORWARD
The unique ecosystems of the Aransas area include a number of estuaries and bays, as well as the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, winter habitat of the federally endangered whooping crane. These Aransas area bays and estuaries depend on a balance provided by freshwater inflows of the Guadalupe River Basin. The Blue crab population is critical to the health of the Whooping cranes wintering in the area and the number of crabs available for the cranes is suffering from the lack of freshwater reaching their breeding areas. The record-breaking death toll of the whooping cranes in 2008/2009 coupled with the poor fishing season tell us that not enough freshwater is reaching the bays.
Water is an economic commodity, especially in Texas, and this resource must be managed responsibly. Economic interests of the Aransas area depend on tourism and outdoor recreation—all reliant on the health of the bays. If the bays are unable to survive, it is only a matter of time before the entire river basin is put in jeopardy.
The Aransas Project (TAP), is a nonprofit organization formed to protect water resources in the Aransas Bay region, filed a lawsuit against the
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
(TCEQ) in March after an unprecedented 23 Whooping cranes died during the 2008-2009 winter. The organization believes the TCEQ’s over-allocation of fresh water upstream from the Aransas Bay marshland, where the birds winter, caused the fatalities. That constitutes an illegal “taking,” that is, harm or harassment, of the bird under federal law, TAP contends.
At a hearing last Wednesday, the defendants in the suit — including the TCEQ and the
Guadalupe Blanco River Authority and the
Texas Chemical Counsel, which have both intervened in the suit — asked Judge Janis Jack of the Southern District to dismiss the suit over the Aransas flock, questioning whether the plaintiffs could prove that the cranes’ deaths were directly connected to the lack of freshwater in the marsh. Judge Jack denied their request and set the trial date for March 2, 2011.
August 5, 2010
CRANECAM IS LIVE AGAIN!
Thanks to the generosity of Duke Energy we launched the
CraneCam in 2009 – just in time for the summer field training at the
Necedah NWR in Wisconsin. It wasn’t without its issues but with patience and determination we overcame them and eventually took the camera along on the southward journey.
This allowed us to bring you for the first time ever, a LIVE look into this reintroduction. We’re thrilled to let you know that effective immediately, the Duke Energy
CraneCam is once again LIVE and will be providing a front row seat for early morning training sessions. You can also watch the interactions during the day as the chicks forage in the roosting pen and draw the attention of a pair of wild adults who have claimed it as their territory.
The CraneCam is located at the North Training site, which currently houses Cohort One – the oldest group of 2010 Whooping crane chicks. Training takes place each morning, (weather permitting) roughly between 7-8am Central (8-9am Eastern).
The CraneCam is several miles from where the DSL transmission line is located. The signal first travels wirelessly over this distance before being beamed to Holland where the server is located and from there it gets sent to South Africa for internet broadcast via WildEarth.tv. Inevitably, there are breaks in transmission now and then but it always amazes me that this signal is traveling thousands of miles and with only a 2-3 second delay.
Once the camera is in the field it has three methods of transmitting the images it captures. We can use the wireless signal from the router if we are close by or for longer distances we can use a cellular aircard. We also have a booster antenna for that but the problem is most cards are limited to 5 gigabytes of data each month and when dealing with streaming video... well it adds up quickly and we could only bring you a couple of hours or so each day.
The final method uses a 900 Mhz radio. A yagi antenna atop the 30 ft. tower sends a signal over several miles to another yagi connected to a DSL line.
We’re currently broadcasting using a cellular card because the 900 MHz radio is in for repairs but it should be fixed and installed over the weekend, which will produce a less-pixilated, and more reliable stream. You may also experience a few glitches in the chatroom until the changes that
WildEarth.tv is making to their website and video players are completed. We hope that you’ll bear with us until these minor glitches are worked out.
If you have a website and would like to embed the broadcast on your site for your visitors to see, please send an email request to: heather(AT)operationmigration.org - Once I have the final version of the embed code from WildEarth, I’ll be glad to send it along!
Once again, many thanks to Duke Energy for making this possible! Now
click this link
and watch the young Whooping cranes!
August 4, 2010
Zoey "Flower Child" Woodstock
I usually don’t name the chicks. To me, One or Ten is just as good a name as Chloe or Sam. Now don’t confuse not naming them with not getting attached. I get attached when I hear them peeping in the shell! I have various terms of endearment – Sweet Pea, perhaps, when it’s roost check and a chick is trilling at me while I check his eyes and beak. You Little Goober is another favorite when a chick does something particularly klutzy or funny. And yes, I have been known to call a chick Peckerhead when she’s pecking and pecking and pecking at something, like my helmet or my boots.
But this year, 10-10 got herself a name – first, middle, and last. It’s Zoey “Flower Child” Woodstock, which suits her perfectly. Here’s why. From the time she first saw flowers, she has been crazy about them. Completely, utterly obsessed, especially with purple clover. Back at Patuxent, purple clover grows everywhere. There was a clump in the aisle way to the outdoor runs and she wouldn’t go back into her run after a walk until she ate every last flower. She would attack them with ferocity, pulling them off one by one and swallowing them whole. Occasionally, you could see the bulge travel down her neck as the buds made their way down her esophagus. This was especially funny when she was little and the flower would hardly fit in her mouth. Once she got to the ponded pen, there was a whole stand of clover, and she would stand in there and feast on them (the picture shows a younger 10-10 in the clover patch at the ponded pen at Patuxent). I called her the Flower Child and figured she might grow up to be a vegetarian.
The first week I was out at Necedah, 10-10 did something particularly funny and Brooke and Robert and I were talking about her. “I call her the Flower Child,” I said. “Really?” said Brooke. “I call her Woodstock because she’s always so spacey and running around after flowers. When I used to train at Patuxent, before I would bring her out I’d walk around and pick them all so I could get her to follow.” Robert chimes in, “Yes, before I used to take her for a walk I would do the same thing – I’d go out to the field and pull up all the flowers.” I listened quietly. I didn’t think it necessary to tell them that I used to point out the flowers to her because I knew she loved them so much. And I’d make sure to walk her in places where I knew there was clover.
A few days later, Geoff and I were sitting on the runway with the birds after the flood and he started texting me his names for the chicks. He calls 10-10 Zoey, after a character in one of his video games. And in that moment, she got her full name and it has stayed with me since. Zoey “Flower Child” Woodstock. It has a nice ring to it.
I haven’t seen much clover at Necedah, and there’s none in the vicinity of Site 5, but there are some small yellow wildflowers that she snacks on from time to time. The dry pen flooded again last week, and as Robert and I were sitting out on the runway with the youngsters, I snapped this picture of him offering her some.
Do you think it would be against protocol for me to pick some clover from the roadside and take it to my little Flower Child?
(Click thumbnails to see larger images)
Sitting in the Burger King parking lot at closing time is like looking into
an aquarium…only without the bubbles. “Have It Your Way!” they say. We
should all be so lucky. It was 11 pm last Tuesday night somewhere in Indiana
as I sat anxiously awaiting the arrival of Ali and Peggy from Patuxent with
our two little ‘left behinds,’ #4 and #11 who, as many of you know, were not
able to make the trip to Necedah with their respective Cohorts due to health
issues which now have hopefully been resolved. The plan was simple; they
leave Patuxent at noon , we rendezvous about 11:00pm, transfer both the
birds and Peggy into the OM van, and head off to Necedah, arriving around
sunrise for the much anticipated reunion.
I arrived a couple of hours
early to scout out a good location for the transfer, which is how I wound up
parked way in the back of the Burger King parking lot in the shadow of the
dumpster, the very presence of which was somehow familiar and comforting to
me after the long ride. A wonderful thing, a dumpster. Right up there with
the fly swatter, garage door opener, and Pez.
I mean, something that takes all the stuff you don’t want and makes it
disappear leaving you room to go out and buy new stuff is an integral
component in our consumer driven economy. In fact, if they really wanted to
turn this place into a cash cow, they’d build a “Dumpster Drive through” and
have an acne-faced high school kid lean out and ask you if you want fries
with that as you wrestle that old washing machine out of the trunk with the
help of your wayward brother in law - the one you haven’t spoken to in years
but who will do anything for a case of beer.
It was about then that I saw the security camera on the roof interrupt
its sweep and stop in my direction and I could feel the hairy eyeball behind
it wondering what I was up to as his fingers itched to tap out the 911 call.
Probably thought I was a Dumpster Diver preparing for my Open Dumpster
Checkout Dive required for my final Certification. If this was the case, I’d
be in good company since legend has it that Jacques Cousteau got his start
diving into dumpsters in France way back when.
Suddenly the lights of the Patuxent van swung into the parking lot next
to me and the ‘Deal Goes Down’ began. Ali and Peggy are smiling and cheerful
s always. We quickly exchange greetings and began to transfer our precious
cargo. The hairy eyeball had to wonder what we were up to as we slowly and
carefully moved the bird crates as if they contained nitroglycerine; a task
for which Ali was uniquely qualified since he spent eight years disposing of
bombs while in the Army. I too had experience with nitro, only mine came
from watching Saturday morning westerns as a kid when they were always
transporting a wagon full of nitro to a mine or railroad somewhere and there
was always a guy named Slim who would open a box and start messing with the
stuff and just as the cowboy with the white hat would yell, “Careful Slim.
That’s Nitro!” there would be an explosion and all that would be left of
Slim was his smoking boots.
We bid Ali farewell as he headed to a motel for some much needed rest and
Peggy and I resumed the journey to Necedah. When you transport birds, it’s
all about your feet. You must visualize an egg resting under each pedal, the
object being to arrive at the destination without standing in an omelet. And
to really feel the pedals you have to remove your shoes. Standing for hour
after hour, mile after mile can’t be any fun for the birds and the worry of
how they are handling it weighs heavily on us. All we can do is turn on the
Seatbelt Sign and hope for the best.
As we blast on through the dark I am amazed at how much it feels like
being in some giant video game, or rather the great grandmother of all video
games, a pinball machine. The night turns into a kaleidoscope of lights,
colored and flashing and always moving as we found ourselves ricocheting
down the road as if kept in play by a giant pinball wizard on speed. All too
frequent glances at the way too bright digital panel clock proved once again
that nighttime minutes last longer than daytime minutes which explains why
it always takes longer to produce a widget while losing more fingers working
Third Shift than on the other two and why Federal Express and UPS can fit
more packages on an airplane if they load it at night than they can if they
load it during the day.
And all the while Peggy and I sit in silence like an old, long ago talked
out married couple abiding by the 12 th Commandment, “Thou shalt not talk
around the birds.” But that’s fine with me because Peggy has a special gift
of always providing good company without ever having to say a word. Besides,
we are playing a CD of Mother Nature’s favorite garage band called “Marsh
Sounds” which Noah recorded on the Ark during the second day of the oil
spill…err, I mean flood, when every other critter on board got to
contribute. And as everyone knows, all animals have rhythm whether it be
wing beat, stride, or breath. Of course, after several hours of this, along
with sipping the cocktail of fatique, worry, and white line fever, I begin
to hear other things, like rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen swear on his
mother’s grave that he’ll never drink again and Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger
chronicle every love affair he’s had since the age of 16. I can’t help
wonder what #4 and #11 are hearing.
This songfest is eventually interrupted by the arrival of thunderstorms
as if thrown in for effect and the ensuing light show and pouring rain add
drama to our traveling funfest. But this too passes as the Necedah sign,
sure and welcome, drifts into view and soon we are at the Canfield site with
Robert and Joe carrying #11’s box to the end of the runway for his release.
The “What’s Behind Door Number Three” feeling of worried anticipation
grabbed us all as the door slid open and #11 strutted out seemingly none the
worse for wear. Relief! One down, one to go. When he was safe in the pen, we
proceeded to the North site with #4 who’s history of leg problems added to
our anxiety. Then out she popped, a little unsure at first but with no limp.
Soon she was airborne on a short flight to the pen door, then safely inside
and like a downed pilot returning to her squadron, the celebration began.
My celebration was more subdued for I have long ago learned that to
celebrate even the smallest of victories is to tempt fate, to awaken it,
raise its ire and invite an all too familiar ‘ slap down’. Even the mere
thought of performing a touchdown victory dance is enough to cause fate’s
referee to throw the penalty flag - Excessive Celebration - and as we have
learned well, it’s the penalties that can cost you the game.
So I returned to camp tired but satisfied, weary but hopeful. It was then
that Heather handed me a letter from the IRS. As I opened it, I felt the
soft breath of the penalty flag as it flew by inches from my face. “Dumpster
Diving in the Bahamas!,” I thought, the idea coming suddenly out of nowhere.
Now there’s a project I can really get my head around.
In addition to today, August 1st, marking Canada's Civic Holiday, it is
also marks the beginning of the countdown to the target date of the launch
of the 2010 ultralight-led migration. That's right, the target departure
date for the Class of 2010's departure on their epic first journey is
Despite the fact that the juvenile cranes are not yet flying as one group
with the trikes, this is the time our thoughts must turn to the the planning
for their fall odyssey. Like any good travel agent, we want to ensure
everything will be in place so that their trip go smoothly, and that
involves completing a long list of preparation task and ironing out a host
While we focus on the October 1st target, we keep one eye on another.
That target is the total sponsorship of all 1,285 MileMaker miles. As of
today, we are 937 miles off target. Each year we dream of having the
migration totally sponsored by the target departure date. We have never
achieved that goal, but that doesn't stop us from dreaming, hoping, wishing.
Doing the math, we'd have to maintain an average of 15.6 miles of
sponsorships a day for the next 60 days to make our dream a reality. Broken
down that way it sure seems achievable...doesn't it?
Here's the current State by State breakdown of
sponsored and unsponsored miles.
To borrow an old cliché, "There's no time like the present." Won't
YOU become a MileMaker sponsor TODAY?
Click here to make that happen.
Depending on traffic, I have about a 40 minute commute from home to our Port
Perry office. After about 15 minutes at most, my drive becomes rural,
passing through farmland dotted with homes and the odd business site. It is
a pleasant if not idyllic drive, and with the speed limit dropping to 40mph
in places, I am able to take in the scenery.
Yesterday the scenery
included something I had never before seen in our area. As I rolled down
into a valley between two steep hills, two coyotes emerged from the trees
lining the road on my left. Tails streaming behind they raced across the
road 50 feet in front of me and disappeared into the underbrush on the other
As I recovered from my surprize, the sighting brought to mind the only
other time I ever saw coyotes. That happened last year while on migration
and it was the subject of my 'Most Memorable Moment', a short piece each
team member was asked to write as part of the 2009 migration wrap-up for INformation
magazine. For those who don't receive our magazine, here is a reprint of
My Most Memorable Moment On a migration of 89 days of which just 25 were ‘fly days’, one might
rightly reason there were days and more days that - shall we say – were less
than exciting. While because of their inevitability, ‘down days’ are borne
with some measure of equanimity, when the weather hits us with a lengthy
stretch of going-nowhere-days, anxiety and frustration mount.
Such was the case when for the third consecutive year we faced the reality
of the migration running over into the New Year. Although once or twice in
the past finishing in time to get home in time for Christmas was a bit of a
squeaker, that timing was the rule until the Marathon Migration of 2007.
On December 20th this past year as we contemplated a forecast of at least a
week of unfavourable flying weather, we knew a return to pre-Christmas
finishes was not in the cards. So it was that the next day the crew began
departing for their respective homes for the holidays with their families,
with three of us (Robert Doyle, Geoff Tarbox and I) staying behind to hold
down the fort.
What I didn’t know at the time was that staying behind to keep the CraneCam
operational would put me in line for a most unexpected experience – and
The weatherman produced day after day of cold, wet, windy, mind-numbing,
misery-inducing weather. It wasn’t too many days before I would groan at the
mere thought of the four times a day ritual of layering up, sticking my feet
in icy, rubber boots, and, laptop in tow, trudging through the mud down to
the camera trailer where I’d sit, nose dripping, toes freezing, my mouse
manipulating fingers gradually stiffening from the cold, and question my
sanity at having volunteered. Until…..one trip to the CraneCam changed it
That morning when tucking the truck out of view behind a forested hill, my
peripheral vision caught a blur of movement. As started my trek down the
hill to the camera, I peered through the early morning half light to see
what it was that had caught my eye. Holeee! Coyotes! Headed toward the pen!
They had seen me too, and for long moments, heads lowered and ears perked,
they stood stock-still staring me down. Frozen in place I gaped open-mouthed
while my brain raced. “Oh my gawd! Oh my gawd! What do I do? What do I do?”
Then my brain said, “Go get back in the truck, stupid.” Never knew my short,
fat legs could move so fast.
Secure in the cab, I watched the coyotes circle and sniff the air with one
eye, while with the other I cast about for potential weaponry should they
look like they were intent on having a Whooper for breakfast. It was quickly
apparent however, that short of running over and beaning them with my
laptop, the truck itself was my only weapon – and exposing the birds to it
was a huge no-no. “Okay,” I thought, “So now what?”
Long before I figured it out the coyotes trotted off in the other direction,
casting what I thought was looks of sheer distain over their shoulders. In
the aftermath of the heart palpitating encounter, I of course remembered the
hot wires around the pen, and half marveled, half chuckled at the
‘protective mother instinct’ the threat to the chicks had aroused.
While day in and day out I treasured and had toiled for these 20 chicks,
they had become, if only for a few minutes, as much mine to personally
protect as they ever would. That feeling of possessiveness went beyond the
norm. They weren’t WCEP’s chicks. They weren’t even ‘ours,’ as in OM’s
chicks. They were MY chicks. Scant seconds later I rightly returned their
ownership to all the world, but not before I indulged myself fully in that
Indeed, these gorgeous youngsters not only belong to the world, but by the
time you are reading this they will be out on their own in it. And the world
better be careful - - woe betide the human that messes with my,
er, our kids, because I think I could be the mother from hell.
MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATE
The Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) numbered 97 Whooping Cranes at the
end of the July 24th reporting period. This number breaks down into 52
males, 45 females and 2 wild-hatched chicks.
Parents 12-02 & 19-04* along with chick W3-10 remain in the area of their
nesting marsh in Wood County.
Parents 13-04 & 9-03* with their chick W1-10 remain in the general wetland
area of their nest.
At the end of the report period (or as of last record)
86 whooping cranes plus 2 chicks were in Wisconsin.
The Tracking Team reported that on July 8th, “D7-07 and D39-07* were
captured and removed from their location because of diazinon spraying in
their use area. They were held in the pen at Site 2 on the Necedah NWR until
re-release on their territory July 19. While in the pen D39-07* incurred a
minor wing injury of unknown cause, but a previously incurred leg injury was
much improved by the time of release. Inspection of wing feathers during a
health exam indicated that they had completed molting of primaries earlier
in the summer.”
The Tracking Team took advantage of the opportunity to replace the
transmitters on both cranes, and the functional time-limited PTT on 39-07*
was also replaced with new color bands.
LOCATED OUTSIDE WISCONSIN North Dakota
13-09, 19-09 (last reported May 25)
27-07* (last reported ~July 14 -18)
No Recent Record
16-03NFT (last observed on NNWR May 6)
14-05 NFT (last observed on NNWR May 18)
13-07 (last observed on Meadow Valley Flowage May 22)
20-05*NFT (may have been the unidentified whooping crane reported in Jackson
County May 24)
6-05 (last detected on NNWR May 31)
5-05NFT & 15-04*NFT (last observed on NNWR June 16)
Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
5-08, 12-08 - Columbia County, WI -Dec. 10, 2009
D36-08 - Lawrence County, TN - Dec. 11, 2009
D33-05* - Jackson County, IN - Mar. 6, 2010
27-09 - Waukesha County, WI - Apr. 10, 2010
D37-07 (last reported In Jackson County, MI April12)
OM joins all WCEP partners in thanking ICF Tracking Intern Matt Strausser
for his service. Matt completed his internship mid July. “He did an
excellent job since joining the Tracking Team last winter,” said Dr.
Richard Urbanek, “and the rest of us much enjoyed his insights gained
from his past and current work on endangered species. We wish him the best
as he moves on to a graduate program at Yale University.”
This update was compiled from data supplied by the WCEP Tracking Team of Dr.
Richard Urbanek, (USFWS) Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Matt Strausser (ICF).
July 29, 2010 - Entry 2
COHORT ONE - VIDEO CLIP
Cohort One is up to its full compliment of eight birds now that #4-10 has been reunited with the group. Joe ventured out this morning, shortly after 5am to begin training this group, while Brooke
headed a bit further north to work with Cohort Two at the Canfield pensite.
Trish and Geoff opened the gates and all eight birds charged out, eager
to train with the aircraft. Of course since #4 just arrived yesterday, she
hasn't yet seen the large wing so was a bit leery at first but Joe said it
didn't take her long to accept it as just another appendage of the
ultralight and she charged down the runway with her flock mates, getting
airborne for the first time.
Here's a brief video clip that Joe managed to capture during one
high-speed taxi run.
I was conscious enough yesterday morning to register the sound of pouring
rain and realize that I might as just well go back to my dreams of fighting
off the zombie apocalypse. Sure the morning was a washout, but I knew it was
going to be a monumental day nonetheless.
It was the day when my pointed
optimism was going to pay off and our flock was finally going to be whole.
No leg problems, no blood cooties, were going to stop 04-10 and 11-10 from
hitching a ride to Necedah to meet up with their brothers and sisters, big
and small. Brooke had spent untold hours making the journey from Necedah, to
the Indiana halfway point (where the chicks changed hands from Patuxent to
ours) and back again.
The birds arrived around daybreak while I was still shooting zombies with
shotguns in my semi-conscious mind. 4-10 reunited with her old pals at the
North site while 11-10 met up with his buddies at the perennially soggy
Canfield site. It wasn’t until 9:30 that Robert asked me to personally check
in on them to see how they were taking to their new accommodations.
The North site was my first stop. I crawled into the blind and watched
the birds do their thing from behind heavily tinted glass. 04-10 was still
adjusting to the move, so we had her cornered off away from the rest of the
flock behind some partition fencing. Even though this means she's got half
the dry pen to herself she can’t get into wet pen, nor can she really mingle
with her old buddies. But we need to be able to get to her pronto if she has
any complications, and since she’s been away for so long, there’s no telling
how she'd fit in the pecking order here at Necedah - if she fit in at all.
So we have to keep her separated, at least for one day, so we can know for
sure her arrival isn’t going to turn things upside down.
She spent most of her time pacing behind the fence, looking for any place
to slip through as the fence silently mocked her, as it always does in these
situations. The rest of the flock paid her no mind, and if anything, seemed
more interested in the partition fence than the bird it was imprisoning. It
was disheartening to see her in such a funk even though I knew it was for
her own good. On the bright side she wasn’t so worked up that she was
forgetting to eat, nor was she open mouth breathing. After ten minutes of
watching 04-10 in action, I made for the Canfield site.
I had hoped the morning's storm hadn’t again made the pensite the
unofficial eighth sea. Call me crazy, but I don’t think leading the chicks
down south using Sea Doos instead of ultralights is going to catch on.
Thankfully, when I arrived at the pensite I did not have to raise my puppet
to the sky to part a flooded runway as though it was the Red Sea.
When I saw 11-10 from the blind he was busy taking in the sights on his
side of the pen, munching on the feeder, and playing in the waterpan. As
with 04-10, there were some worries that 11-10 was going to have to
re-establish his niche in the pecking order after being away for so long.
And since he had been the resident bully back in Patuxent, to the point
where he had to be trained and socialized separately, some were worried he
would go back pecking birds on the head, and giving them wedgies and pink
bellies. But thankfully, 11-10 wasn’t interested in going back to his old
habits and just went about his own business, as did the rest of the chicks.
I checked the birds again around 3:30 to make sure they were still
enjoying their new home. 04-10 seemed to be in a calmer mood, as I found her
laying down (by the wet pen, naturally) preening her feathers. None of the
other birds were inclined to jab at her through the fence, nor was she, but
I didn’t think she would. She was never the terror that 11-10 was.
Speaking of 11-10, he wasn’t quite as laid back as he was in the morning.
I could hear him peeping, as he paced the fence near where the rest of
Cohort 2 was hanging out. My guess was that he was starting to miss his old
pals. Either that, 15-10 made the mistake of counting his lunch money in
front of him again. But that wasn't likely the case, as neither bird on
either side took any shots at each other through the fence. Not even 10-10,
who squared off with 11-10 at Patuxent more than anyone. Since he was still
eating and he wasn’t open mouth breathing, I saw no cause for alarm.
However, Cohort 2 was too busy battling their own fence to really care
about what was bugging 11-10. The nefarious wetpen fence had reappeared and
cut off their route the marshy goodness that they should’ve been sick of
after having their pen flooded twice already. 10-10 and 16-10 took frontline
positions next to the wetpen gate, while 17-10 covered their flanks. 15-10
was resupplying at the feeders, preparing himself for the long bitter
struggle that lay ahead. They tried everything from laying down next to the
fence, to staring at it, to really really wishing it’d go away. But the
battle waged on, even after I left. They just wished whoever was peeping
would shut up already.
Yes, at long last the whole flock’s finally made it to Necedah. It was a
day I’d been on pins and needles for as long as I can remember. And I know
Cohort 1 still has a place in their hearts for the always pretty 04-10. And
I know 11-10 isn’t going to feel the urge to hang 11-10 from the topnet by
his underwear. The family’s together again.
Now if you excuse me, I have to muster the remaining Autobot forces to
battle against the evil Decepticons that have taken over the home planet of
all Transformers. Granted, I spent all of this week helping the Decepticons
conquer and corrupt it, but there’s no need to point fingers or anything.
Top Left: Cohort 2 at the Canfield pensite.
Top Right: 17-10 is in the foreground at the waterpan while 11-10
naps in the fenced off area of the pen.
Bottom Left: 17-10 and 11-10 spend some time getting
re-acquainted through the protective fencing.
Photos by Joe Duff
2010 - Entry 2
TO CLASS OF 2010
and 11-10's almost 1,000 mile road trip from Laurel, MD to Necedah, WI ended
today when they arrived at the refuge around 6:30am. Both have been
ensconced in the same pen as their Cohort mates - #4 with Cohort 1 and #11
with Cohort 2, but both fencing separates them from the other birds until
the crew can be sure they will all 'play nice' together.
The photo to the
right was snapped by Joe Duff with his phone at the North site after 4-10
was released onto the runway in front of the pen.
2010 - Entry 1
The cyber gods smiled on us and allowed the crew to hold a signal long
enough to send us some photos taken during yesterday's taxi training session
with Cohort 2 at the Canfield site.
The costumes in the photo disguise pilot Joe Duff on
the left and handler Geoff Tarbox on the right. They keep an eye on
the four Cohort 2 chicks as they enjoy some 'free time' after their
morning taxi training session.
As the photo illustrates, there is
no evidence in this shot of the grassy strip runway of the flooding
as a result of the recent heavy rains at Necedah. The dry pen is
back to being dry. The water level in the wet pen now fluctuates
within normal range.
That is 17-10 you see in the foreground. To
the right in the middle background, the white bird making an
appearance is none other than 9-05 who was also a frequent (and
disruptive) visitor to the the pensite in 2009.
Last September when all of the Class of 2009
were socializing together he interfered once too often. Some of the
chicks, perhaps emboldened by their numbers, put 09-5 on notice with
displays of aggression.
HEADING WEST / TAXI TRAINING
CHICKS HEADING WEST
The word is that the two chicks, which for health reasons were left behind
when their respective cohorts were shipped, will be travelling today.
was held back when its seven Cohort 1 classmates made the trip from
Patuxent's Wildlife Research Center to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge
in Wisconsin on June 30th. 11-10 missed the Windway Capital flight with its
four fellow Cohort 2 chicks when they were shipped on July 9th.
Both chicks have now been cleared to travel by the Vet Team. They will be
departing Laurel, MD in the care of Patuxent crew around noon today and met
by Brooke at the halfway point (likely somewhere in Indiana) for a hand off
which should take place around 10:00pm tonight. That should put Brooke and
his two passengers back in Necedah around 5:00am Wednesday morning.
The chicks will be housed with their respective Cohorts, but separated at
first until they have time to socialize/reintroduce themselves.
The weather is cooperating this morning and as I type this, Brooke is
training with Cohort 1 at the North site. The water level is dropping at the
Canfield site allowing the trike to land, so Joe will be training there with
the youngest chicks - those in Cohort 2. Intern Trish Gallagher is armed
with a camera today, so if a strong enough signal can be maintained long
enough to transmit photos, we could have visuals to post here tomorrow.
For some reason cell and internet signals have been unusually unreliable
this season - so unreliable/intermittent in fact, that it is rare that we
can complete even a short conversation before the call is dropped. Lately
our conversations consist of a lot of repetitions of "ARE YOU STILL THERE?"
and, "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?!?!?"
2010 COULD GROW
Cohort 1, which was shipped from Laurel, MD’s Patuxent Wildlife Research
Center to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge on June 30th, should have
consisted of eight young Whooping cranes. Instead only seven made it onto
the Windway Capital flight. 4-10 was held back due to leg problems.
Subsequent to its pre-departure health check, 4-10 was observed limping and
it was decided not to chance exacerbating the problem by crating and
Similarly, 11-10 was held back when its Cohort 2 classmates made the same
journey west on July 9th. 11-10 had developed some respiratory problems, and
as a result, what the future held for this chick was uncertain.
Thanks to the excellent care and attention of the Crane Ecology Crew at
Patuxent, it appears that both these chicks may be joining the rest of the
Class of 2010 in Necedah very soon. They have been cleared for travel by the
Vet Team, and a plan is being developed to transport them by road. It is
likely that a vehicle from Patuxent will be met half way by a vehicle from
Necedah for the hand off of the two crated cranes.
While perhaps not as ideal as a zippy flight in Windway’s jet, it should not
be a problem for the birds. OM’s resident crane expert, Walter Sturgeon,
raises several species of cranes and provides them to a variety of
facilities around the country. When they have to be transported, they make
the journey via Walter’s van, arriving none the worse for wear.
Not to 'count our cranes' before they leave and arrive safely,
but, the happy prospect of returning the number of young Whoopers in the
Class of 2010 to 13 is difficult to not celebrate.
We will update you on
what is happening with 4-10 and 11-10 as events unfold. Fingers crossed.
Friday morning Brooke and I were training together at the North site. We
hadn’t trained Thursday, so the chicks were eager for some action. They
exploded out of the pen, and even 9-10, who is a lollygagger most days, was
standing there at the back of the pack and didn’t have to be coaxed out of
the wet pen.
Almost immediately, three of the chicks started running down the runway
flapping their wings and then they were off the ground, flying a good
distance down the runway. As I stepped back in the pen and pulled the door
closed the other four ran after them, flapping. I hesitated for a moment,
watching them through a crack in the door, and then reluctantly closed the
door all the way.
I usually watch the training through peepholes in the fence in case the
pilot needs assistance. On this particular morning, however, I was sweeping
up food under the feeders while Brooke trained. I heard a noise and looked
up to see a wondrous sight – three chicks were flying over me. But wait,
they were over the dry pen and then the wet pen, and heading straight for
the marsh! They looked like novice bike riders who can’t steer very well,
and end up careening into the lamppost.
I imagined they were having a moment of panic, thinking, “Good grief,
where am I going to land? I thought there was open water there, but there’s
something on top of it! I’m going to crash!” They landed a few seconds later
in the marsh near the back of the pen, none the worse for wear from my
imaginings. And while they weren’t out too far into the marsh, it was far
enough that I had a moment of worry about luring them back out of that nice
wetland and into their boring pen.
I stepped outside the pen and walked over towards the edge of the runway
where the tall grass begins. I could see three chicks out there among the
tall grass, just standing there, perhaps not quite sure how they got there
or what they should do next. They were just about the same height as the
grass and blended in nicely, but since I knew what I was looking for, I
could spot them.
As Brooke taxied over, I looked behind him for the other four birds, but
there were only the two youngsters of the cohort, 8-10 and 9-10,
walking calmly along behind the trike. I didn’t know where the other two
were, but I figured three in sight was better than two out of sight, so I
switched my focus back to the three in the grass. I flapped my arms a little
and held up my puppet while I waited for Brooke. I didn’t want them to get
any ideas about heading farther into the marsh.
Brooke came up and whispered that he knew four were in the marsh and did
I see where the fifth went down. He went back to the trike for his puppet
and vocalizer and I turned back to the marsh. As I looked closely, I could
now see another tawny head blending in with the grass. I turned on my
vocalizer and started flapping in my arms in earnest, with the intent of
luring the chicks back to the runway. I didn’t want to go in to get them
because I didn’t want them to head farther into the marsh.
They stood there for a few minutes, but the lure of the costume and the
vocalizer were too great. The first to join me on the runway was my pal
1-10, who is usually in the dry pen in the morning to greet me. After giving
him a silent look of praise, I looked back in the grass and still saw four
heads, so I was relieved to have spotted the last wayward chick. Brooke
joined me with his puppet and vocalizer and we patiently lured them back
onto the runway, one by one.
Luckily, it was a minor misadventure for the kids. And oh, the sight of
my babies flying overhead! Look Mom, we’re flying! Yes, my darlings, and you
faithful Field Journal readers will know, just two of the season’s seven
wild-hatched chicks still survive. While that number is not what we
were wishing for, the positive outcome of the season remains the record
The surviving chicks are Wild1-10, the first hatched of
the season, and W3-10. The wild chicks’ parents are 9-03* & 3-04 and 19-04*
& 12-02 respectively. 3-10 came from an egg supplied by the Patuxent
Wildlife Research Center which was substituted for the parents’ two
Subsequent to the end of the nesting season during which OM’s pilots
flew multiple aerial nest surveys daily, the flights were switched to chick
monitoring. The multiple flights per day are now reduced to once daily –
weather permitting of course.
On one such chick patrol flight (this past Wednesday), flying backseat
with pilot Joe Duff was spotter Heather Ray. Heather was able to snap off a
photo of Wild 01-10 with its parents. In the photo above, the adult nearest
the chick is the female, 9-03* with the male, 3-04, seen on the
right. Even from a distance it is evident how much the chick has grown.
REPEAT MISTAKES SAYS ABC
A report entitled, "Gulf Oil Spill: Field Survey Report and
Recommendations," was released by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) July
19. Announcing the report’s release, ABC said it showed that, “some of BP’s
oil spill cleanup efforts are actually causing harm to birds and their
habitats rather than helping them.”
The report was “based on a
just-completed week-long field assessment by ABC staff, who observed oil
impacts and cleaning operations from Louisiana through Mississippi to
Dauphin Island, Alabama. As part of the overview, ABC staff toured affected
areas by boat with local and federal officials and charter boat captains.
With Coast Guard officials, they also undertook an aerial over-flight of the
spill area and points northwest of that location.
Restoration needs to start as soon as major coastal oiling has been
effectively addressed. The Gulf doesn’t have the decades it took to resolve
the legal wrangling that followed the Exxon Valdez spill. The hydrology of
the Mississippi Delta and the surrounding area is already facing dire
threats from climate change, erosion, and hurricanes. Let’s not repeat the
same mistakes we made in Alaska twenty years ago,” said ABC Vice President
and report author Mike Parr.
When you spend your life aboard the “Crane Train,” you'd better
be prepared to hit the ground running at each stop…or in the case of Necedah lately,
I arrived in Necedah last Tuesday having been followed for two
days by our Sierra trailer. If we could just get the birds to follow as well
as the Sierra does, we’d have it made. Trish arrived later that night
driving my car which she refers to as a “toaster oven” due to its lack of
air conditioning. “Hey, twenty years ago when that car was new air
conditioning hadn’t been invented yet!” I shrugged as she blew past me on
her way to find a scale to see how much weight she’d lost on the trip.
It was my ninth year driving into Necedah and for the ninth straight year
the local high school band did not line the street to play my favorite song
welcoming me back.
The next day, this being Indian country, somebody inadvertently did a
rain dance followed by a tornado dance so while I was at the local Wal-Mart
filling out an application for the Greeter’s Position, the sky turned black
and began dropping a curtain of solid water as the tornado warning sirens
chorused in the distance.
I stuffed the half completed application into my pocket and hurried back
to the refuge where I found half the camp running for the safety of the
headquarters basement while the rest headed for the annex bathrooms. I chose
the latter because I’m getting older and tornado warnings can last a long
time, and well, you know.... But even a tornadic cloud comes standard with a
silver lining, which is in this case the fact that a bathroom is a great
place for a reunion and an opportunity to catch up on things with folks you
haven’t seen for a year.
Then Bev called from her DNR flight base in Eau Clare to say weather
radar was showing a short break in the storm coming and that it might be a
good opportunity to go out and check the birds. Robert and I stripped
ourselves of everything metallic, which in my case included all the quarters
I’d pulled out of payphone coin returns for the last month, and we headed
out to the Canfield site while Trish and Geoff left for the North site.
Before they left, Trish asked Geoff to wear his hat with the big shiny metal
hat band. Since he’s taller than she is, as is everyone else on the planet,
she felt comfortably immune to a lightning strike.
The birds were fine. The chicks at Canfield were in the bathroom, and the
ones at the North site were in the basement.
next day we trained the chicks at the Canfield site with the ground trike
and they did great. The huge military tent/ refuge blind overlooking the
site did not do as well having been blown down and shredded during the
storm. But the refuge staff located a new one, and were soon performing an
'out with the old -in with the new' dance while we stood in the pen calming
was about then that the water began to rise, and rise, and rise...until the
pen and 80% of the runway were under water. In the midst of this, my cell
phone began ringing. It was Noah asking me what time he could sail his ark
in and pick up the chicks. Funny guy, that Noah. A real Jerk! Robert and
transformed our costumes into genuine deep sea diving apparel and
re-configured the hot wire around the pen before leaving for the night.
In the morning, after a futile attempt to trade in our yellow trike for a
yellow submarine, we walked the birds through the runway/lake and up onto
the only remaining dry spot in the area to allow them to lie down and rest.
first they jumped around excitedly in their new found freedom, so Robert and
I knelt down and soon the birds, except the ever energetic #10, dropped down
next to us, folded their heads back into their wings. Before long their
bodies were heaving in deep regular breaths as they slept the sleep of the
dead. Even whooper chicks sleep better at the beach.
Then two adults suddenly appeared. One of them, instantly recognizing the
genuine appeal of beach life, flopped down next to the chicks and joined
them in slumber while the other stood guard. Robert, always one to promote
calm and security, walked over to the pen and put up a 'Lifeguard On Duty'
sign. “Just in case they want to go swimming,” he said.
They say that, "Life is no day at the beach,” but every once in a while
in Crane Land, it is. And after a couple of hours it was time to shake the
sand out of the blankets, take down the umbrella, find out what Grandpa did
with his metal detector, put all the empty cans and bottles in the cooler,
and head for the car…...I mean the pen.
It would be three days before the water dropped to any appreciable
degree, so there were more beach days to come. We even took the brood call
off our MP3 players and replaced it with some old Beach Boys tunes, and
checked to see if we had any crane costumes that would fit Frankie Avalon
and Annette Funicello.
Last night , as I left the chicks to exit the pen door at the Canfield
pensite I could swear I heard #15 call to me, “Surfs Up, Moon Daddy!’ I
turned and grinned. “Hang ten…errr I mean six, #15.”
The Great Flood
Last Wednesday, around 5:00 in the evening, it got so dark that I thought I
must have mistaken the time because it looked like nightfall. I was supposed
to do roost check, so I jumped up to get out there quickly! But then I heard
the news – a tornado had touched down west of here and was heading down
Highway 21 toward Necedah.
Geoff and I hunkered down in the annex, which
is the building adjacent to our campers with some offices and the restrooms.
We were careful to collect our valuables out of our trailers just in case a
tornado materialized and flung our campers about.
There was lots of tension and drama as we listened to the weather radio, but
the tornado veered north, so we were lucky to just get a severe
We got out to do roost check around 7:30, during a lull in the storm, and
then it continued to rain all night. We heard that the tornado hit north of
us in Wood County, and that the storm dropped 7 or 8 inches of rain up
Thursday morning dawned clear and bright and beautiful. When we got out
to the Canfield site where the babies are, there was some water on the
runway and the dry pen was a little wet, but the chicks were none the worse
for wear. The day before the wet pen had been nearly dry, but there was
plenty of water in it Thursday morning and we joked about too much of a good
thing. Little did we know…
All the rain that fell up in Wood County had to go somewhere, and Necedah
happens to be downstream from there. When we arrived Thursday morning, we
didn’t know it, but the water was just beginning to rise. By early
afternoon, the dry pen was entirely under water, as was a large stretch of
the runway. It was over the top of my boots – I measured and they stand 14
inches above the floor. At the height of the flood I would guess the water
on the runway was at least another inch or two above the top of my boots.
The flood would not have been a huge problem if the chicks were older,
because after a time, they roost standing up. But these chicks are still
young enough that they roost on the ground. The water looked like it had
stopped rising by nightfall, so it was decided that the chicks could stay in
the pen overnight while we figured out what to do. Brooke and Patuxent's
Robert Doyle lifted the electric fence wire so it was out of the water and
could be turned on and we left them in the pen and retired with some
anxiety, but confident that all would be well by morning.
morning, Robert and Brooke took the chicks out, not for training, not for a
swim, but for a nap on the dry part of the runway. According to their
report, 15, 16, and 17 got to dry land, heaved a sigh of relief, and conked
out. #10 is a little older, and she foraged around, apparently not tired
enough for a nap.
Geoff and I took them out for a nap that afternoon, and it was a repeat
of the morning. #10 wandered off into the marsh and foraged while 15, 16,
and 17 slept. After about an hour, 10 finally conked out and she was down
for the count like the others. Even the adults at the Canfield site decided
to join the slumber party, so everyone except the interns had a good rest.
We had the rare privilege of sitting with the babies and adults, watching
them sleep, then waking up to preen, and then dozing off again. Just before
sunset, we guided them back to the pen for the night.
Saturday was similar to Friday – morning and evening naps for all. The
chicks were all happy to come out of the wet pen and rest on dry land, even
10, who gave up the pretense of being too old for a nap. After an hour or so
of rest, they would get up and start wandering around, occasionally giving
the adults an exploratory peck, and then sit down again.
The water started receding Saturday and we were hopeful that there would
be a “dry” pen again by nightfall, but no such luck.
The pattern continued until finally, Sunday night, a few tussocks of
grass emerged and it looked like we would have “dry” land by morning. And
indeed, when Geoff and I got to the pen Monday morning, 10 and 17 were
roosting on the ground. When they stood up, their fronts were all wet, but
they looked rested in spite of their dampness.
After training, Geoff and I took 15 and 16 out for one last nap. The
adult and chicks and Geoff and I spent one last quiet hour together. I think
we were all relieved to see land, except maybe the adult, who seemed to
enjoy hosting the slumber parties.
Photo to the right shows adult 09-05 and 10-10 hock sitting beside one
Photos by Trish Gallagher
July 20, 2010
JUST TOO CUTE
Maybe if we were working with snails or trying to reintroduce an endangered cactus it would be easier to maintain the proper scientific aloofness. If it were anything less regal than a Whooping crane, it would be simpler to stay emotionally detached. As it is, we use numbers instead of names and minimize the amount of time we spend with them but it is still hard to remain impartial. We keep our distance so they can be wild creatures but it is not easy.
When they get older and after they have been on their own for a while, they tend to be a little more aggressive. Each encounter starts with a little posturing. But when they are young and covered in fluff, more legs and feet than body, they are just too hard to resist. When they run behind you in unquestioning loyalty with wing outstretched for a purpose they have yet to comprehend, they are just too damned cute.
Necedah sits roughly in the center of an ancient 1800 square miles glacial lakebed. The elevation from one end to the other is only a few feet so when 8 inches of rain fell on the area last week it left a lot of water that is slow to run off. The refuge hydrologist John Olsen has been manipulating water structures to deal with the excess but he can’t let too much go or he risks flooding downstream.
By noon the next day, even the dry pen at the Canfield site was flooded. It kept rising until the runway was also underwater. The chicks of course, loved it. They probed and poked and kept themselves cool in the 90 degree temperatures, but young birds like these need to rest once in a while. Unlike adults, they can’t stand all day and all night so we started letting them out. We lead them to high ground where they immediately drop down to hock sit.
The joint that is half way up a bird’s leg is often mistaken for a knee that works backwards. In fact, it’s their ankle and it works the same direction ours does. Birds walk on their toes and all the bones that form our feet are fused together in birds to form what many mistake for the shin. A bird’s real knee is just hidden by the feathers and their hips are even higher up. When wading birds get tired and are secure enough with their surroundings, they will often hock sit. They look like disproportioned penguins with long necks and huge feet.
Just as everyone was getting comfortable, number 9-05 walked onto the runway from his normal foraging spot just behind the pen. No one objected so he sat down beside us to take in the afternoon sun.
So there we were, Geoff Tarbox and me, sitting is the short grass surrounded by
four sleepy chicks and a relaxed 5 year old adult. Puffy clouds were drifting by, the buttercups were poking through and a thick layer of cute was starting to form. It reminded me of one of those happy Beatles song from the 60’s like Strawberry Fields Forever.
After an hour and a half, the chicks began to stretch. Number 9-05 wasn’t ready for it to end and he issued a throaty little call to the first chick that wandered away. It was more of a rattle than the brood call we use. Who knows what was said but the chick didn’t go any farther. Eventually our lazy afternoon in the sun ended and we put the rested chicks back into their pen.
Yesterday morning we introduced them to the wing for the first time and 9-05 was eager to help. He dutifully followed the trike up and down the runway and I even noticed that when one of the chicks stopped to poke in the grass, he came up behind it and gave a gentle poke of his own to get it back on track.
(Be sure to click the thumbnails to view full-sized images)
Word from the field out of Necedah has been scarce lately, something that
hopefully will change this week.
The last news we've received came from
Joe Duff, who recently arrived on site to relieve Richard van Heuvelen from
his scheduled weeks of duty. Joe texted to say that he had trained with both
Cohorts 1 and 2 on Saturday, but that the session had to be cut short when
storms with lightning moved into the area.
His aerial vantage point did give him a glimpse of one of the wild
chicks, but with darkening skies he wasn't able to take a photograph.
With the 'chick patrol' flights added to normal duties this season, it is
even busier than usual at Necedah. We know you are all hungry for news about
the Class of 2010 - as are we. Please bear with us. We hope to have more
reports this week.
July 18, 2010
Each year the entire OM Team looks forward to the third Saturday in
September and 2010 is no exception. That day is always the first date on the
‘Whooping crane calendar’ that gives us a chance to meet hundreds of
Craniacs and OM supporters face-to-face.
This September the third Saturday falls on the 18th, and it marks the
tenth year the Necedah Lions Club have hosted the ever popular event. Held
at the Town of Necedah Fairgrounds, the festival that we affectionately
call, “CraneFest”, continually attracts bigger and bigger crowds. Visitors
come from all over the U.S. and each year area accommodations are booked up
earlier and earlier. We would not be surprised if a count proved that the
population of Necedah doubled on that September weekend.
In addition to an abundance of exhibitors’ booths to visit, attendees can
sit in on a variety of bird and wildlife seminars put on by expert
presenters. Arts and craft displays dot the grounds as do many booths
offering most everything you’d expect to see at a country fair. There are
activities for youngsters, and opportunities to win special items via
raffles and silent auctions.
As always, Operation Migration will have a booth at CraneFest. Outfitted
with our photo backdrop, and fronted by tables laden with OM branded gear
for sale, our booth is manned by OM crew, members of our Board of Directors,
and other volunteers - and all are hoping you will stop by and say hello.
Folks can also get an up close look one of our ultralight aircraft that will
share our booth space.
We encourage you to make plans to attend, if you haven’t already. Join us
early, early morning on the Observation Tower at the Necedah National
Wildlife Refuge to watch flight training of the Class of 2010 and then head
to the Fairgrounds for the Lions’ All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Breakfast.
The exhibits open at 9:00am and the seminars start then too. Catch one of
the special buses for a tour of the refuge or join the guided walk. And you
can polish off your day of fun with even more fun. The Lions Club serves a
BBQ chicken dinner which you can enjoy while listening to live music (or
even kick up your heels if the spirit moves you).
You can’t beat a great day in the outdoors, an opportunity to meet lots
of other Craniacs, and hopefully see some Whooping cranes – all wrapped up
in warm Wisconsin hospitality! See YOU there?
Just when you think it is all going well, nature has a habit of pulling the
rug out from under you.
Last year at this time we had 23 birds in our
flock. All three pen sites at Necedah were full, and everyone was working at
top speed. Every time you took off it was like a big party with white and
fawn feathers everywhere. This year we are down to only 11 birds, and rather
than being excited about finally adding to the wild flock and growing the
eastern population, we are hoping instead to hold our own against the
There are many reasons for the low numbers this year. The propagation
centers like U.S.G.S. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the
International Crane Foundation (ICF) maintain large captive flocks, but only
so many eggs are produced every season and there is only so much the staff
can do to promote Whooping crane passion. Thereafter they try the less
romantic methods like artificial insemination. Additionally, there are all
the ailments and afflictions that complicate the early development of the
Whooping crane chicks. And occasionally a few are held back to ensure that
important genetic lines are protected.
During all of this, the flock managers and the chair of the Whooping
Crane Recovery Team must tackle the problem that we have been told all of
our lives to avoid -- counting our chicks before they hatch.
Because breeding has been a problem at the Necedah National Wildlife
Refuge, (NNWR) at least until this year, many members of the Recovery Team
are reluctant to keep putting birds into that ecosystem. There are strong
arguments on both sides of that debate, but in the interim the State of
Louisiana has expressed interest in having Whooping cranes back in their
wetlands after a 70 year absence. This provides an opportunity to hedge the
bet, (is that a real term??) so a small resident population will be started
there early next year to test the environment.
For the last five years, Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) has
been testing the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) method. It was designed to
augment the population once we reach our magic numbers and the Eastern
Migratory Population became self-sustaining. In years of low production, or
if some genetically important birds need to be added, the DAR method would
be ideal for boosting the flock a little whenever it was needed. Over the
years the program has been struggling with small sample sizes. Every
reintroduction scientist will tell you that it is all about numbers so this
year the DAR project has been assigned a full cohort of birds to finally
test the program's viability. Luckily, with the 11 chicks assigned to the
Ultralight method and the 11 currently in the DAR cohort we still have a
reasonable number to add to the eastern population.
Originally, we had 14 birds that we were training at Patuxent, but two
were held back at the last minute for health reason. One had a high white
blood cell count and the other a respiratory issue. Everyone is working hard
for these two birds, hoping they will recover, but in the interim, 04-10 and
14-10 have missed the last flight to Necedah.
Each season, Windway Capital from Sheboygan, WI donates the use of one of
their corporate aircraft to deliver our birds from Maryland to Wisconsin. So
far they have made 28 trips back and forth in either their Cessna Citation,
which is a very fast corporate jet, or their ten passenger turboprop Cessna
Caravan. These are not little side trip for them when they happen to be in
the Washington area. They are full, dedicated round trips with an overnight
stay in Baltimore so the birds can be moved in the cool morning air. We
cannot tell you how grateful we are to Windway Capital and their team.
After that kind of generosity, we can’t ask them to be on standby in case
one or two of these birds recovers. Besides both of the Windway aircraft a
booked solid for the rest of the summer.
We are not sure if either of these birds will recover or, if they will be
too old by that time to transport and risk leg injury. They may even be
reassigned to the Louisiana project, but just in case we thought we would
ask you for help.
If any of the many pilots out there who follow this project might be in
Maryland in the next week or so, and might be heading in the direction of
Necedah, WI, and might have room for a crate or two, perhaps you would give
us a call. Who knows, it may work out, and you could be part of the team to
save Whooping cranes.
If you are a pilot and can help us and two Whooping cranes out, you
can reach us by calling us toll free at 1-800-675-2618. We
would be eternally grateful.
STAND THE TEST OF TIME
Growing up in rural northern Ontario, my early years were blessed with
unbounded enjoyment of nature and the outdoors. A single strand of electric
wire kept the neighbor's cows out of our backyard, and a giant idle grain
hoist standing in a nearby hay field was the perfect jungle gym for me and
Early spring and fall were exciting times. Our Mom’s would let
us pack picnic lunches, (oh how I loved those bologna and ketchup
sandwiches) and see us off on a trek through the fields to a not so distant
woodland. There, we would spend the day as adventurers extraordinaire, the
Daniel Boones and Davey Crocketts of our time. Much of what I learned during
our forays into what we thought of as wilderness, came from my friend,
Cheryl. A full-blooded Algonquin Indian, she knew more about the flora and
fauna we encountered than the rest of us put together. And she imbued us all
with a respect for nature that seemed her natural heritage.
So it was, that even at our tender age we had an appreciation for the
wild violets, crocuses, daffodils, trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits and pussy
willows that abounded there. When I think of it now, I marvel at how long an
energetic bunch of kids could sit soundlessly and perfectly still; long
enough for squirrels, chipmunks and birds to accept us and venture close by.
We weren't allowed to pick any flowers, and each departure began with a
lecture about how our future fun in the woods depended on our leaving no
trace of our visit. My Mom would say, "Remember, don't make Mother Nature
angry. She should never be able to tell you were there." (Unlike the pretty,
cheery version portrayed in today's TV commercials, I always pictured Mother
Nature as a wizened and scary ogre; a bent and gnarled old hag in drab rags,
sprouting leaves and trailing moss.) Perhaps not the best psychological
approach or one that would work today. But back then it did its job. We left
our 'playhouse' as we found it, and the only souvenirs our forays produced
came a couple of weeks later when the grainy black and white photos we took
with an old box Brownie camera came back from the drugstore. (Oh my, a
Brownie camera - how's that for dating one's self!)
Perhaps it was those special experiences combined with my inquisitive
nature that first attracted me to Dr. David Suzuki. For years it was a toss
up. I couldn’t decide if I was going to marry him when I grew up, or my fun
cousin Don, or Myles, my parents’ exceedingly handsome insurance agent .
David Suzuki’s TV show, “The Nature of Things” topped my favorites list. He
became my hero and, in later years my inspiration and motivation to
participate, at least in some small way, in caring about and for the earth
and its creatures.
By the 1960’s, the work of primatologist, Dr. Jane Goodall also became a
fascination. I read more, learned more, and as I came to understand her
philosophies, had to nudge Dr. Suzuki over a bit so there was room for Dr.
Jane on my personal heroes pedestal. High on the list of things I owe to
Whooping cranes is the opportunity they gave me to meet Dr. Goodall in
person when she visited us in 2006. Today, when worry or despair about
Whooping cranes or our project creeps in, I just have to conjure up Jane’s
face and words. She is hope for our planet personified.
While I haven’t always agreed with all of Dr. Suzuki’s positions,
inevitably he raises awareness and more importantly provokes thought. All
this is leading up to telling you about an article I read recently that
talked about learning from nature. The closing paragraph of the article
entitled, “What the beluga can teach us about ourselves,” jumped off the
page. It seemed to me the perfect takeaway, and something that can’t be
repeated often or loud enough.
It said, “What we do in our lives affects our entire world - its
soils, its rivers, lakes and oceans, its atmosphere, and all the living
things that share our planet. We must understand that when we do something
that harms the beluga, or the grizzly, or the spotted owl, we are also
How right my Mom's simple philosophy of ensuring that Mother Nature never
knew we were there was. How typical but sad that I had to grow up before I
was smart enough recognize her wisdom and include her as one of my heroes.
Click the image if you would like to read the
full article from “Science Matters” by the David Suzuki Foundation.
MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATE
The Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) has shrunk by three with the loss of
wild-hatched chicks W4-10, W6-10 and W7-10. The latter two chicks
disappeared approximately 10 days ago. The carcass of W4-10 was found
was last seen alive with its male parent 12-04 on July 3rd. When 12-04 was
observed on July 6th it was without the chick. W7-10 was also last seen in
the early morning of July 3rd, and it too was no longer in evidence when
checked on July 6th. Parents 17-03 & 3-03*and their chick W4-10 frequented
Pool 13 on the Necedah NWR. Twin chick W5-10 disappeared mid June.
These losses reduce the EMP to 97 Whooping cranes; 52 males, 43 females
and 2 chicks.
The photo to the right supplied by Richard Urbanek shows parents 17-03
& 3-03* with their now demised chick W4-10.
Parents 12-02 & 19-04* along with chick W3-10 remain in the area of their
nesting marsh in Wood County. Hatched June 7, this chick was produced from
an egg supplied by Patuxent WRC that was substituted for the parents’ two
Parents 3-04 & 9-03* with their chick W1-10 remain in the general wetland
area of their nest. Chick W2-10 also hatched by this pair disappeared in
Note: The female of pair 12-04 & D27-05*NFT disappeared between the
morning of June 29 and the afternoon of June 30 but reappeared July 12. In
the interim, the male continue to attend to the chick (W6-10) until it
disappeared ~July 3-6.
LOCATED OUTSIDE WISCONSIN North Dakota Ransom County
13-09, 19-09 (last reported May 25)
Michigan Jackson County
D37-07 (last reported April12)
Indiana Kosciusko County
No Recent Record 16-03NFT (last observed on NNWR May 6)
14-05 NFT (last observed on NNWR May 18)
13-07 (last observed on Meadow Valley Flowage May 22)
20-05*NFT (may have been the unidentified whooping crane reported in Jackson
County May 24)
6-05 (last detected on NNWR May 31)
5-05NFT & 15-04*NFT (last observed on NNWR June 16)
Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
5-08, 12-08 - Columbia County, WI -Dec. 10, 2009,
D36-08 - Lawrence County, TN - Dec. 11, 2009,
D33-05* - Jackson County, IN - Mar. 6, 2010,
27-09 - Waukesha County, WI - Apr. 10, 2010,
This update was compiled from data supplied by the WCEP Tracking Team
of Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Matt Strausser.
July 14 -
THEN THERE WERE TWO
In an email from Dr. Richard Urbanek that came in at 6pm this evening we
learned that a fifth wild-hatched chick has been lost.
In his note Richard
said, "This morning Necedah NWR staff discovered the intact carcass of
whooping crane chick W4-10 in its usual area on Pool 13. The chick had last
been observed alive with its parents, 17-03 & 3-03, on the previous evening.
The carcass has been forwarded to the National Wildlife Health Center,
Madison, Wisconsin, for necropsy."
This mortality leaves just two of the seven wild-hatched chicks
2010 - Entry 1
We recognize that there are many worthy charitable causes out there, many of
which are unknown to us, and we suspect to our Field Journal readers too.
One such endeavor came to our attention recently when we learned of a
philanthropic gesture made by long time Craniacs Dale Shriver and Judy
Rogers of Marengo, Illinois.
It seems that for some time now Dale has been
wondering what to do with his, "little spunky plane of 29 years.” On
discovering Wisconsin based ’88 Charlies Inc’ Dale and Judy paid them a
visit to check them out. Thrilled with what they found, Dale and Judy
donated his aircraft, ‘Greenie’, to the cause.
The 88 CHARLIES Restore A Plane
foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting aviation
by giving students the opportunity to restore real airplanes. “Our wish has
been granted,” said Dale. “As kids learn about science, engineering, and
aviation, Greenie will also help them to learn about themselves and about
life. He added, “Being in Wisconsin, these kids are within Whooper range and
in case they don't already know it, I will definitely make sure they are
aware of the Whooping crane story.”
To repeat what I wrote on 88 Charlies Inc’s FaceBook wall, What a good
friend Dale and Judy are to 'fliers'! They are hugely supportive of
endangered Whooping cranes through their support of Operation Migration and
now they are also benefactors to fliers of the two-legged variety.
Congratulations to 88 Charlies Inc and to Dale and Judy for their wonderful
Click here to see photos.
July 13, 2010
Yesterday we received the latest news on the wild-hatched chicks from WCEP's
Administration and Communications Team leader, Joan Garland. She advised
that in a July 9th update from the Monitoring and Management Team they
reported that there were now only three surviving wild-hatched chicks. These
are: W1-10 (parents 9-03 & 3-04) W3-10 (parents 12-02 & 19-04) W4-10 (parents 3-03 & 17-03)
In all, the 2010 hatch season saw
a total of seven wild chicks hatched. W2-10 (parents 3-04 & 9-03*)
disappeared June 6-7th, and W5-10 (parents 12-04 & D27-05*) seemingly had
disappeared by June 16. The parent female, D27-05*, is also missing having
not been seen since approximately June 30th.
Joan noted that, "The two youngest
chicks, W6-10 (parents 12-04 & 27-05) and W7-10 (parents 11-03
& 12-03), have not been seen for awhile, and there’s every indication that
they are unfortunately no longer alive."
Richter’s, (Dale and Karen) of Leesburg, Georgia are justifiably proud of
Fox31 News recently reported on Taylor being awarded a $1,000 college
scholarship. The scholarship, awarded to him for his volunteer efforts, was
part of a program operated by Kohl’s department stores. (Click
here for the full story including video.)
At the tender age of 12, Taylor is already a veteran Craniac. Not only
has he undertaken making presentations about Whooping cranes to peer groups,
he has been a contributing writer to OM’s magazine, INformation.
Several years ago, with some assistance from his dad, Taylor successfully
campaigned the state legislature of his home state of Georgia to have
November declared, Migratory Bird Month.
Congratulations to Taylor for earning the scholarship- and to Dale and
Karen for their outstanding parenting.
Those of you who have followed our project through the years have no
doubt become familiar with the names and even some of the faces of our team.
But there is one team member you never hear about; one who resides
mysteriously behind a veil of anonymity and yet contributes greatly year
after year to the success of the project. His name is Cage Man.
Man is the creation of Patuxent’s very own Brian Clauss, who one day after
suffering a bout of heat stroke while sitting in the White Series pen
socializing a cohort of chicks, arrived at a point in his life where art
intersected utility, form collided head on with function, ingenuity trumped
heat prostration, and where all that had been difficult became easy.
On that fateful day, Brian crawled in his debilitated state from the pens
to the shop, and seizing a role of wire mesh with one hand and a pair of
wire cutters with the other, embarked on a veritable frenzy of creation. The
resulting humanoid-like armature was soon clothed in a white crane costume,
and faster than you could say “Dr. Frankenstein, I presume," Cage Man was
Soon after, he was hanging in the White Series pen where he underwent a
metamorphosis from Scarecrow to Love Crow. In the years that followed, he
would preside over the socialization of cohort after cohort of Whooper
chicks just prior to their shipment to Necedah and all that came after. His
presence would calm them, reassure them, give them comfort.
If this was Hollywood, that would be the end of the story. But this is real
life so the story gets crazier.
It seems our little Whoopers weren’t the only chicks to fall under Cage
Man’s spell. Soon, women from all over the Refuge, then all over the town,
were lined up outside the pen with the sole intention of getting next to the
old boy because it turned out that deep within all that mesh and cloth there
resided a small pearl of cosmic wisdom, which in this case turned out to be
the secret of how to make women happy. And what was the secret? TO LISTEN!
Cage Man was nothing if not a good listener.
Hour after hour they shared their innermost feelings with him. Day after
day they poured out their hearts to him while the Whoopers sat nearby,
holding their hocks tightly over their ears, reminding themselves the noise
could be worse, it could be a “John Tesh’s Greatest Hits” album . And the
only time he showed any emotion at all was when a breeze picked up.
Then relationship guru Dr. Shades of Gray came to interview Cage Man and
that interview provided the basis for his best selling book, “Male Whoopers
Are From Necedah, Female Whoopers Are From St. Marks”’. Soon, Cage Man was
on “Oprah” (“What’s your favorite color?” she asked. “White.” he replied.
Cage Man did not leave with a new car) Then it was ” Face the Nation” and
eventually the “Jerry Springer Show” when they found out there was a trailer
parked near the bird pen on which he hung. People Magazine voted him
“Sexiest Man of the Year” and a famous actress and tabloid darling claimed
he was the father of 8 of her 16 adopted children and that he had better
moves than her hunk actor husband. Then President Bush visited Patuxent and
spent an hour talking to Cage Man. The President, in a subsequent interview,
stated that Cage Man was the most interesting man he had talked to while in
June 30th, the day Cohort One left, was thankfully cool. The dew covered
ground glistened while the sun peeked over the tree line and we lined the
bird boxes up in front of the pen. Cage Man looked on as we entered the pen,
led each chick into a box, then on to the van, and he watched, as did I,
while the van and the other costumes disappeared, leaving us to the
morning’s stillness. And that’s when he said it, in a whisper so soft it
could have only have come from my own within, “Sometimes…just being there
says all there is to say.”
I shook my head and popped a smile as I gazed back at Cage Man. The old
boy always did have a way with words.
I had a good feeling about the day before me as I staggered out of my dingy
lair in the morning. For starters, I was optimistic that we were in for a
good day of training with the big kids at the North pen site. Sure, 2-10
and 3-10 have always had a bad habit of refusing to come out of the wet pen
for training. And it always takes a lot of sweet-talking, pleading, bribing,
and even a little Sicilian death curse invoking to get them to come out (if
they ever do). But I took the time to lock all the birds in the dry pen.
This morning, they had no choice but to come out for training. Sure, it left
them at the mercy of the evil, sadistic wet pen fence for the night. But if
that doesn’t whip them into shape, nothing will.
Nonetheless, the kids did
every bit as well as I hoped they would. Everyone including the increasingly
independent 2-10 and 3-10 came out to play with the trike. And they all
did marvelously. Sure, 2-10 and 3-10 mostly just brought up the rear, but
they still followed the trike. And watching the birds running after the
trike, flapping their wings as they beefed up those flight muscles, the
ground effect so close they could taste it, is nothing short of endearing.
After a few quick final touches to get the Canfield site ready, all we
had left to do was wait for the birds’ big arrival. When they arrived at
12:45 at Necedah Airport, it was much like it was with Cohort 1. OM waiting
patiently along the runway for the plane to make its grand entrance. The ICF
vet crew talking with us and amongst themselves. The only difference was
that the refuge rounded up a few lucky locals and photographers to witness
the big event.
Once the plane arrived, we off-loaded the birds and the vet crew looked
them over. I tried not to think about how poor 4-10 and 11-10 weren’t among
the birds on the plane, and how they may not be coming at all thanks to
their respective bugs in their plumbing. And how sweet old 14-10, one of our
best and brightest this year and my recurring favorite, would never come at
But thankfully, the hardworking folks at ICF assured us that 10-10,
15-10, 16-10, and 17-10 had a clean bill of health and were ready for the
next big step in their journey. After ferrying them to the luxurious
Canfield site, we turned the kids loose and left them to their own devices.
They couldn’t have been happier. Each of them took off in their own separate
direction, exploring their new little world. Some of them stopped to gobble
up any unsuspecting bugs, tiny frogs, and rocks unfortunate enough to cross
their path. From the blind, I even saw 15-10 and 10-10 playing in one of the
water pans. From the way they were dipping their feet and sipping up the
water, I think it’s the start of a beautiful friendship.
The birds were still good spirits when I checked them several hours
later. They had moved under the shade to get out of the deceptively
oppressive Wisconsin sun. Good ol’ 10-10 was still getting familiar with his
surroundings. Part of it was that I think the poor guy was a little lonely.
His oldest training buddies, 11-10 through 14-10, the first birds he was
introduced to, had gone their own separate ways. Although he’s had plenty of
time to get to know 15-10 and 17-10 my gut tells me that bond isn’t as strong as
the one I watched him forge between 13-10 and 14-10.
But that didn’t stop him or any of the other kids in Cohort 2 from
eagerly embarking on the next big phase in their life. They’re all happy to
be here, and they’re ready for everything that Necedah has to offer them.
And from what Robert Doyle told me this morning, there’s still a chance that
11-10 and 4-10 could get better enough to catch a later flight. And when
they do, I know they’re going to be every bit as stoked as their bigger and
younger siblings were. Or if they don’t, that blood parasite and that
respiratory bug have made themselves an enemy.
Now if you'll excuse me, I must continue my ongoing struggle against the
zombie apocalypse in one of my video games. The game will give me an award
if I kill 53,595 zombies. And I’m still at a pitiful 38,931. Pitiful.
July 9, 2010
The second cohort of Whooping crane chicks made their first flight this morning - all the way from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD to their new summer home located at the Necedah NWR in Wisconsin.
Of course they didn't fly that distance on their own! they barely have
wings yet - instead, chicks 10-10, 15-10, 16-10 and 17-10 were carefully led into individuals
crates this morning by the Patuxent crane crew and driven to the BWI airport
in Baltimore. Once there, they were loaded into a single turboprop Cessna
Caravan, owned and operated by Windway Aviation, who just last week made the
same flight with the seven cranes that make up Cohort One.
Windway pilots flew the aircraft containing the special passengers, at an
altitude of ~8,000 ft. from Baltimore to Muskegon Airport in Michigan for
refueling before crossing Lake Michigan and heading to the Necedah airport.
As I write this there are 8 minutes remaining in the flight, which we've
been tracking online. We have asked OM intern extraordinaire, Geoff Tarbox
to draft an update regarding their arrival, which we hope to post over the
“Recycling your bird-and-nature magazines can be so much more
than simply using those paper-recycling bins once or twice a week. You can
make sure that those wonderful magazines do not disappear, underappreciated.
We know people who will keep every single copy of BIRD WATCHER’ S DIGEST,
WILDBIRD, BIRDER’S WORLD, BIRDING, LIVING BIRD, and every local or regional
bird publication that they get. But we also know people who make sure that
these magazines will have a second life in somebody else’s hands.
You can give the magazine to a friend or neighbor who is modestly curious
in birds. How about your doctor’s or dentist’s office, or a school library?
Remember: a good bird magazine is a great way to reach all sorts of people
with a message about the wonder of birds and nature.”
This form of recycling struck us as a terrific alternative to
one-time-use. As we currently work on the fall issue of OM’s semi-annual
magazine, INformation, we thought we should encourage our membership (who
receive complimentary copies of INformation) to do the same and help
expand OM’s outreach and raise awareness for the Whooping crane project.
Not yet a member? If you’d like to become one
Note:Sometimes folks mistakenly think that by virtue of making a
donation they automatically become members of Operation Migration. This is
not the case. Ethical fundraising practices require that funds designated
for a specific purpose must be used for that purpose. For example, a
MileMaker sponsorship to help offset the cost of the annual migration cannot
be applied to Membership. Membership in Operation Migration is kept totally
separate from all fundraising campaigns and unless funds are designated as
being for that purpose they are not applied there.
July 8, 2010
Richard van Heuvelen
UPDATE - COHORT 1+
Wednesday morning’s training went very well with nine birds following
the trike with uncommon obedience.
The sky was overcast, and sporadic fog hung over the refuge. As the fog had
me grounded, we decided to ground train the chicks before I went on my
morning wild-chick monitoring flight.
Geoff and Robert opened the pen doors and all seven chicks kind of jumped
out all at once. When we roared off down the run way two adults joined in.
They ran along with the trike and chicks, their buts wiggling back and forth
as they attempted to keep up to the young chicks. Soon they gave up running
and just flew along side the young cohort of chicks. When training finished
up and the chicks were put back in the pen the two adults sauntered off down
Morning training concluded, I drove back to the hangar anticipating a chick
monitoring flight, but was faced with a wait for the fog to clear.
July 7, 2010
WHOOPERTHON – IT’S A WRAP
Continuing her Mother’s Day tradition of several years, Illinois Craniac Vi
White once again conducted her fundraising Whooperthon. As in the past,
joining Vi for her day of birding were daughters Ellen Savage and Lynn
O’Connor. The 2010 version of Vi’s Whooperthon took place on May 14, a
clear, sunny, but windy day that following days of rain had left them
wondering about their chances of pulling it off.
The trio began their bird
spotting adventure at The Grove, a national landmark on the outskirts of
Glenview, Illinois. Once home to Robert Kennicott, a famous 19th century
explorer-naturalist, The Grove’s walking trails wind through acres of
woodlands and marsh. Although as it turned out they sighted most of the 45
species of birds they racked up for the day at their first location, they
also spent some time in another riverside forest preserve not far down the
Vi told us that one of the treats of the day was being able to observe a
very busy and vocal pair of Black-Capped Chickadees excavating a nest cavity
in a dead snag. Their most unusual and notable bird spotted was a
Much like the walk-a-thons we are all familiar with, Vi’s annual
Whooperthon asks folks to pledge an amount per bird sighted. While some
preferred to commit to contributing a lump sum, the end result was a grand
total of $3100 raised. What gives Vi’s yearly fundraising initiative even
more impact, is the matching funds added to the pot by another Illinoisan.
Someone Vi calls, ‘an Anonymous Angel’, matches the Whooperthon total dollar
Vi said, “Years ago, this Mother’s Day outing started out as just a
fun day of birding with my daughters during which they included treating me
to lunch. At one point we decided to add a conservation twist and turned it
into a fundraising vehicle. For the past four years our intent has been to
add visibility to the plight of the Whooping crane and to engender interest
in Operation Migration’s work to safeguard the species from extinction. And
together, we have a marvellous time doing it!”
All of us at OM are thrilled with the result of Vi, Ellen, and Lynn’s
efforts. We are sincerely grateful to you, and to your ‘Anonymous Angel’. It
just goes to show what individual initiative can do to help the cause. We
wish we had a hundred Vi Whites.
July 6, 2010
You would think after ten years most of what we do would be routine.
Admittedly some things are familiar, but it is surprising how much can
change and how quickly.
This spring started early with warm temperatures
and the discouragement we have become accustomed to as one by one the nests
were abandoned. Then the weather cooled and re-nesting was delayed just long
enough to miss the second wave of black flies, and from the ashes of yet
another failure grew the promise of seven wild hatched chicks. Five pairs
with a chick each and two sets of twins changed everything. Our budget went
out the window as the team went from two flights a day checking on the nests
to four daily trips to monitor chicks.
One chick from each set of twins was lost over the next few weeks but
that is normal for Whooping cranes. Richard van Heuvelen reported yesterday
that the search continues for 27-05, the first DAR bird to produce
offspring. She was paired with 12-04 in Juneau County, but has been missing
since last Wednesday. She has a non-functional transmitter so she can’t be
tracked, and has not been seen anywhere in the area despite the fact that
the male and the chick are still there.
Richard told us the 24 day old chick (W6-10) is now referred to as
super-chick for its ability to cover ground. The male frequents two ponds
almost a mile apart. They seem to be travelling back and forth, and the
chick keeps up. The male could be anxious and looking for its mate, or
avoiding whatever took the female.
The end product of this entire project is wild-hatched chicks that learn
the migration route we taught to their parents. With so many years of
nesting failure, many among us were starting to lose confidence. Ideas and
alternatives began to emerge that ranged from ending releases in Wisconsin to
finding new introduction sites, and from controlling the black fly
population to changing the rearing methods. Some of those ideas still have
merit and should be explored, but there is renewed faith that we have not
been wasting our time over the last ten years.
Robert Doyle, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Geoff Tarbox, OM,
and Richard van Heuvelen have been working with the seven birds from Cohort
1. They are also preparing the Canfield pensite for the arrival of Cohort 2
planned for July 9th.
Brooke Pennypacker changed everything again today when he reported from
Patuxent that number 14-10 was lost as a result of an accidental broken leg.
Number 14 was one of the strongest birds. That leaves only 6 birds for
Cohort 2 and no Cohort 3 at all.
Last year we had 20 birds. This season we will be lucky to have 13. There
are many reasons for that low number. Part of it is lower production within
the captive flock. Also, in years past, several eggs were collected from
abandoned nests at Necedah and transferred to Patuxent. They were trained to
follow the ultralight, then returned to Necedah and we became surrogate
grandparents. We only have one of those chicks this year.
Part of the mandate of the Whooping Crane Recovery Team is to establish
three discrete populations so that one catastrophe does not threaten the
entire species. Partly because of the ongoing nest failures at Necedah, they
decided to begin a resident population in Louisiana. Those birds will be
released next January but they were hatched this spring and reduced our
This is the fifth year for the DAR experiment and a critical one to test
the method. We all agreed that program should be allocated a full cohort
this season to finally determine if it is a viable release method. Currently
there are 11 birds at ICF being prepared for Direct Autumn Release.
There was also a proposal to conduct a Parent-Reared study this season.
Four birds were to be raised by their captive parents at Patuxent and
released in the fall in Wisconsin to see if some parental instinct that
would keep them on their nests was missed by birds hatched in an incubator.
Also, a couple of genetically surplus birds were to be sacrificed to test
the impact of Infectious Bursal Disease (IBD) on Whooping cranes. Neither of
these studies was prepared in time so they were not conducted but we could
have had even fewer birds this season for the ultralight program.
As the summer training begins, year ten looks a lot different than year
nine. After this many seasons maybe it’s the constant change that becomes
July 5, 2010
STAMP FUNDS MORE WETLANDS
Excerpt from the July Birding Community
In mid-June, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced that the
Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC) approved a total $5.3 million
in Federal Duck Stamp funds to add more than 1,849 wetland acres to six
units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
These acquisitions have been funded with proceeds from sales of the
Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, otherwise known as the
Federal Duck Stamp. These acquisitions include:
- Cache River National Wildlife Refuge (Arkansas) - 180 acres of bottomland
- Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (California) - 110 acres of the last
remaining riparian habitat along South Stone Lake, as well as associated
wetlands and uplands,
- Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (New Jersey) - 243 acres of
wetlands and upland fringes, the last natural open space on the northern
portion of Barnegat Bay,
- Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (New Hampshire) - 162
acres of northern forest wetland
- Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge (Tennessee) - 866 acres of wetland
and associated habitat, and
- San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge (Texas) - 288 acres for the
protection of a wetland complex.
For every dollar spent on Federal Duck Stamps, ninety-eight cents goes
directly to secure vital habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System. To
date, more than 5.3 million acres of wetlands have been purchased using more
than $750 million in Stamp revenue.
The most recent Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (2010-2011)
was released on June 26. Birders and conservationists can get their Stamps
at Post Offices and National Wildlife Refuges across the country.
July 4, 2010
MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATE
As of June 26, the end of the most recent report period, there was no change
in the number of Whooping cranes in the Eastern Migration Population (EMP).
86 of the EMP’s 100 cranes were located in Wisconsin, two in North Dakota,
one in Michigan, and one in Indiana.
In their report, the WCEP Tracking
Team, consisting of Dr. Richard Urbanek,
(USFWS) Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Matt Strausser,
(ICF) noted that two Whooping
cranes have not been located since spring migration and that three have been
Five of this season’s seven wild-hatched chicks still survive. They are:
Wild 1-10 – Parents 3-04 & 9-03*
Wild 3-10 – Parents 12-02 & 19-04*
Wild 4-10 – Parents 17-03 & 03-03*
Wild 6-10 – Parents 12-04 & D27-05*
Wild 7-10 – Parents 11-03 & 12-03*
July 3, 2010
A BIRD BY ANY OTHER NAME
If you have followed this website for a while, you will remember that there has been lots of discussion over the years about numbering or naming the birds. Some feel that names would personalize them and makes it easier to generate support for a project that lives on donations. Others contend that numbering the birds removes the impression that they are pets and discourages anthropomorphism.
Lately it hasn’t been the naming under scrutiny as much as the numbers themselves. Since our first migration with Canada geese back into the early 1990’s we have been using a numbering system that begins with the common denominator. We put the year first followed by the number of the individual bird beginning with the first hatched. The lower the number, the older the bird.
Another system evolved in the early years of the Whooping crane project. That listed the bird number first with the year at the end. When this change took place we had a large website audience and to avoid confusion we kept using our numbers while the rest of WCEP adopted the other method.
In truth, we don’t have to deal with the year portion of the numbers very often because we work with a new class every season. To us they are just one, two and so on and it’s only when they are released that it becomes important to distinguish them from the ones and twos of other years. We now have a hundred birds migrating in the eastern flyway and the WCEP numbering system is far more commonly used than ours. In fact, newcomers to our site are often confused by the two systems so we have decided to finally switch over. It is going to be perplexing for a great many people but it will be a short term bewilderment rather than an ongoing confusion.
There are thousands of pages of information on our website and the mechanics of switching over all of that archived material are frightening. So we will simply start using the other system and post a note warning of the discrepancy for anyone searching older pages. Journey North also uses our numbering system and they agree that it is time to switch over.
We apologize to all of our readers for the confusion this is likely to produce but maybe it is better to eliminate the inconsistency once and for all.
July 2, 2010
A BIRD IN THE HAND... GULF SURVIVAL
Readers familiar with the Eastern Migratory Reintroduction are no doubt familiar with the name, Mark Chenoweth. For several years, Mark volunteered his time to write and produce a podcast, titled Whoopers Happening. Mark has recently moved on and is now producing a regular podcast for the
Endangered Species Coalition but he hasn’t stopped thinking about Whooping cranes and keeps in regular contact with us. He sent me the following yesterday and I asked if he would mind if I posted it in the Field Journal.
I had the privilege to talk with a guy very much in the current media spotlight, Jay Holcomb, the Executive Director of the
International Bird Rescue Research Center out of California, with a facility now in Fort Jackson, LA. His team, along with others and Tri State Bird Rescue, were brought in by BP to rescue oiled birds, assess their situation, and save as many as possible.
This is not work done by the faint of heart; what they are doing in Fort Jackson makes it possible to see 72 Brown pelicans fly back into freedom last Sunday morning at the Aransas NWR in coastal Texas (the same home to Whoopers
each winter, and which should, we hope, continue be a safe haven for them).
There are concerns, and you can hear what he said in the latest podcast I
did for the ESC which can be found at this
Many people have offered their services to help clean oiled birds, only to learn that rightly so, there are strict regulations in place to ensure only licensed wildlife rehabbers are called into action. Some have said that those who rescue birds and clean them do so just to ‘feel good,’ mentioning the poor survival these birds may have after their release. I asked Jay about this, and he responded, ‘Well, I have to tell you… holding dying birds in your hands and watching this horrific event is not a ‘feel-good’ experience for me or any of the staff here. And there’s nothing wrong with the ‘feel-good’ part of it, which is using your skills to give something a second chance for life.’ It’s almost made like it’s a bad thing because you feel good about your job. Jay says such criticisms are often a result of evaluating old data recorded from different situations with other species. And in some cases, based on old legband returns, which are not reflecting what is happening now with more resources and the intense care these birds are receiving. Some data was nearly a decade old.
The work that the folks at Patuxent do is not a world apart from those saving birds in the Gulf right now. The birds in the Gulf are mostly healthy and became oiled as a result of this man-made disaster, while the issues they have at Patuxent are from genetic weakness perhaps, or the fragile chicks can become ill very quickly, developing respiratory problems that can result in mortality. Dr. Glenn Olson and his team, which includes OM’s Brooke Pennypacker, interns, and Brian and Barbara Clauss, do a job no less spectacular, though removed from the public and TV cameras, caring for, nourishing and insuring the best health possible to the young Whooper chicks. The degree of dedication and the emotional ‘roller coaster’ that Brooke wrote about in the June 26th entry are the same ride, and they also hold the young chicks in their hands at times, with too many dying even as they look at them. It is a job that few of us could comfortably perform, but one that must be done by special people.
Cleaning the oiled birds from the Gulf, perhaps the most visual aspect, is not the most important job performed when birds are rescued. Jay says assessment, nourishment and treatment to keep them warm and under watchful eyes is vital initially, and that many times the oil cleaning occurs later, sometimes even days after they are brought to the center in Fort Jackson. Birds regard those who rescue them as predators… the cleaning process is traumatic, and their strength to endure it must be ascertained before it begins. Cleaning oiled wildlife is something most of us would do, and it is a ‘feel-good thing’! Seeing wildlife trapped, fighting thick, gooey oil patches and sludge would motivate most of us to want to save them and want to see them as they were. But the trauma of this and time in the hot sun, combined with toxic effects the crude oil has on such fragile life forms often make death inevitable.
Watching life ebb and then disappear from the creatures we love and want to be with us is never easy, and those who do this have a special calling. The Patuxent Chick Rearing Team and those at the IBRRC are in a special comradeship, and while few may actually know each other, they share a bond of dedication and skill few of us ever will.
Holding a dying bird you are unable to help is not high on the bucket list for any of us I am sure, but special people at Fort Jackson, Patuxent, and many others, do what they do with our best wishes and prayers! Their work makes most of us feel pretty good, and that means they are entitled to feel great! Our heartfelt thanks go out to Jay and his dedicated team, those with Tri State Bird Rescue and many others, and always of course… thanks Brooke!
July 1, 2010
The morning was dull and uninteresting, as I waited for the first cohort to
arrive at Baraboo. But that all changed as soon as Windway's jet touched
down on the runway at 10:30.
June 30th was Cohort One’s long-awaited big
day. The day when they’d would leave the simple life of Patuxent behind them
and stretch their wings at the luxurious Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. I
was bummed that poor 1004 wouldn’t make this flight, thanks to that pesky
blood parasite in his/her plumbing. But I’ll bet you clean money
he’ll/she’ll make the next flight. He’s/she’s come too far to let this bug
get the best of him/her. But I digress.
Once the kids were offloaded from the plane, Dr. Barry Hartup and his
trusty entourage from ICF examined each of them through the air holes in
their crates and assured that they were in tip-top shape. From there, we
were homeward bound back to Necedah. We turned them loose in their new digs
at the North pen site, the same pen that Cohort 1 hung out at last year, and
Patuxent's Robert Doyle and I spent the rest of the day taking turns
watching them from the blinds.
I’m not ashamed to say, the kids took the move very well when I checked
on them at 3:00pm. It didn’t take them long for acclimate to their new
surroundings. They were already foraging, pigging out at the feeders, and
strolling around like they’ve always been there. And when I saw them again
at 6:00pm, they still seemed more or less happy with their new home.
The wet pen was starting to catch their eye. I counted at least four
birds, including 1001 through 1005 hovering around every chicks’ archenemy;
the chain-link fence that blocks off the wet pen from the dry pen. Those
four were trying everything from pacing (not frantically) to sweet-talking
it, to shooting it dirty looks. But for whatever reason, the fence remained
adamant even after I left. Sadly for them, outsmarting a chain link fence
isn’t as easy as outsmarting the ICUs at Patuxent. If Robert and Richard van
Heuvelen think Cohort One does well enough tomorrow or the day after, maybe
we’ll see how cocky that fence is against our uncanny ability to open doors.
But in the midst of all this, I had a sense of déjà vu creeping over me.
I felt like could’ve been watching my little pretties from 2009's Cohort
One. They've got the same lovable, five year-old mentality and curiosity,
the same charm, and the same hankering to get into that wet pen. And of
course, that same old bitter rivalry with that same sinister wet pen chain
Really, wouldn’t you do this job again? I just hope they don’t have the
same rocky start to the migration that the Class of 2009 had last year.
Chasing and flagging down birds like 918, 926 and 910 is one slice of
nostalgia I don’t need.
Now if you excuse me, I’m off to watch my favorite musical number from
'Brave Little Toaster', then play a video game where I’m one of four
survivors slugging it out in the zombie apocalypse. I’ve got over 1200
zombies to kill and the evening’s still young.
Photos by Geoff Tarbox
Cohort 1 gets offloaded from the aircraft.
lined up outside the North pen site.
by one Cohort 1 chicks are released.
their new digs.
Appearing to gaze longingly at the wetpen.
The footbath is
the closest they'll come to water for today.
June 30, 2010
COHORT ONE ARRIVES AT NECEDAH!
One would think with this being the tenth year we've done this that it
would be old hat but let me assure you, we still hold our breath and sit on
the edge of our seats each time an event takes place. This morning, just
like they have for the past ten years, Windway Capital pilots were waiting
at BWI airport in Baltimore, ready to transport some precious cargo.
First, we heard from Brooke Pennypacker that 7 of the 8 planned for birds
in Cohort One had been crated and transported from the
Patuxent Wildlife Research
Center in Laurel, MD to Baltimore by Charlie Shafer. It turns out that
#1004 currently has a blood parasite that must be treated before he/she can
make the trip to Necedah, so this bird will make the trip with the second
cohort in a week or so.
We tracked the flight online and as the screen updated we began to relax
ever so slightly but it wasn't until just a few minutes ago when a call came
in from Richard van Heuvelen that we completely exhaled. Richard reported
that they touched down at the Wisconsin Dells airport at 10:19 and were
quickly checked by Dr. Barry Hartup from
ICF to ensure that each chick was
still upright inside its crate.
As soon as this was completed they were loaded into a waiting
air-conditioned van and transported north the the
Necedah NWR - their new
summer home and the first location they will see from the air in a few short
weeks once they begin to fly.
Our sincere appreciation and thanks goes out, yet again, to Windway
Capital Corp and to today's pilots: Mike Frakes and Matt Waage!
COMPANY'S REMARKABLE GIFT
OM’s trucks, vans, and assorted trailers and motorhomes are somewhat obvious
on the road as we ride the highways and byways from Wisconsin to Florida on
the annual migration. This is especially true when we travel in a caravan
from one stopover to the next.
All our vehicles are workhorses, but by
wearing our corporate logo they do double duty as they draw attention and
raise awareness for the Whooping crane project. Folks spotting our logos,
passing us on the road or pulling up beside us at stop lights, will honk or
blink their lights and wave or give us the thumbs up. More often than not
when we make a pit stop or pull in somewhere for fuel or for groceries, at
least one or two people will come up to us to say hello and to chat.
Operation Migration is a small organization with a big job that is
perennially a challenge to fund. Because we are inevitably maxed out
expense-wise just meeting our project obligations, and despite the attention
and potential for support that advertising, marketing, or promotion could
attract, they are not things that ever make their way into the budget.
That is why we were thrilled when our corporate sponsor, Southern
Company, stepped in to raise our ‘on the road’ profile and to afford us
an opportunity to recognize their generous support of Whooping cranes at the
When you see what Southern
Company has done to our aircraft/equipment trailer, we
think you will agree that it will be very difficult to miss us whether we
are on the road or standing still. Talk about Whooping cranes making a
Southern Companyis well known for its commitment to the
environment and conservation. 2010 is the third year that Operation
Migration and Whooping cranes will benefit from a grant generated by
Southern Company through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
During our three year association with the good folks at Southern Company
I have met many of them personally and have learned how heavily involved
they, and their company are, in fostering partnerships to conserve
ecosystems and habitat and protect wildlife.
Speaking about the stewardship of species and habitats, Jeff Trandahl,
Executive Director of the
National Fish and
Wildlife Foundation said, "Strong programmatic, philosophical, and
financial support can achieve meaningful and significant benefits. We are
seeing results through focused conservation investments we've made with
Southern Company through programs like Power of Flight and Longleaf Legacy."
You don’t have to take our word for it though. Click the links to read
about Southern Company’s - philosophy on environmental
Sincere thanks to Southern Company for adding promotion and outreach to
their many efforts on behalf of the environment and wildlife - most
especially, Whooping cranes.
“There just ain’t nothin in this big bad world like a good ol’ box.” Emperor
Confusionus proclaimed back in Roman times. “And if you don’t believe me,
just ask any turtle.” And he did. “How’s life, little fellow?” “Cool, man.
Real cool.” the turtle replied.
I know this to be true because when I was
a kid, the most exciting event in our lives was when one of my friend’s
mothers took delivery of a washer or dryer or stove and WE got the box. We
literally swarmed around it like ants to a dead bug and soon we carried it
off to some secret place for the transformation to begin.
My friend David - his mother wouldn’t let us call him Dave - wore thick
glasses and owned a sharp pencil so he was our design team while the rest of
us cut and carved and created until our space ship was born, one rivaling
anything we’d seen on TV. It became our stairway to the heavens,
transporting us through the galaxies of our imaginations, taking us to
places no boy had gone before .
As our hands worked the crayoned controls and our eyes gazed out the cut
out port holes in awe, we visited places where all was exciting and wondrous
as we imagined the unimaginable. Then, thrilled and spent, we gently
returned back to Earth and to the safe and warm familiarity of home. It was
enough to make Peter Hawkings give up astronomy and do karaoke full time…or
even trade voices with Carl Sagan.
And so it seems somehow fitting that tomorrow our eight little intrepid
voyagers of Cohort 1 should experience the Friendly Skies for the first time
on their first big flight from Patuxent to Wisconsin in a box…or rather, in
eight of them in the back of a Citation business jet, compliments of Terry
Kohler and Windway Aviation.
Nature has dictated that each chick hatches with enough Frequent Flier
miles to make the trip so tomorrow morning, the trip will begin, followed on
July 9th by the remaining six chicks of Cohort 2. With a whole lot of luck,
all 14 chicks will survive the summer at Necedah and begin their next big
flight the middle of October when our annual migration to Florida begins.
Meanwhile, “Keep looking up!” and call me collect when the new stove
arrives. I want the box. “Walt Disney, eat your heart out!”
Brooke sent us these photos over the weekend. So you can get an idea of the
size, one of Patuxent's Interns poses inside one of the travel crates that
will be used on June 30 to air transport the chicks to Necedah. In the
second photo, several of the Cohort 1 chicks enjoy the water in the ponded
While visited and tended to during the day by the costumes, they have been
experiencing undisturbed nights in the great outdoors, giving them the
opportunity and freedom to forage at will, and to discover and practice the
all important skill of water roosting.
In the pen with them is the usual adult Whooping crane dummy, (seen in
Brooke Pennypacker's photo to the right) providing them with familiar
company and acting as an imprint model.
Scrolling back through previous Field Journal entries with photos you can
see how much and how fast the chicks have grown. Sprouting at an average of
one inch a day, even the chick crew marvels at the speed at which the little
brown fluff-balls morph from baby to toddler, and now to tween.
Bits of white plumage now break up the rich cinnamon brown coloration of
the eldest birds. Three more sleeps and they will be taking their first
flight - although it will be one that requires no effort on their part.
Early this coming Wednesday morning they will be jetting their way to the
Necedah NWR in first class fashion compliments of Whooping cranes' long-time
good friends of Sheboygan, Wisconsin based Windway Capital.
ROLLER COASTER RIDE
It was simply not possible to grow up on the Jersey Shore without having
your horizon line broken somewhere by the giant tangle of trestle and track
called the rollercoaster.
Each and every summer evening of my youth was a
soundscape dominated by its undulating roar, like a huge piece of machinery
tearing itself apart again and again, backed by a pulsing chorus of shrill
screams and muffled hollers. From my bedroom window I could see it, hear it,
Mr. Munley, who lived across the street ,was its operator. From June to
September, seven nights a week, he awakened this restless giant, tamed it,
maintained it, and made it do all that roller coasters do. “Never lost a
rider yet,” he used to say with understated pride.
My appreciation for this ever-present monster grew even greater when I
learned the history of its kind. Legend has it that back in the late 1800’s
while building the transcontinental railroad, a crew of over 2000 men of
many nationalities and races, some having served under flags of both the
Union and Confederacy, returned to work one morning after a night of
revelry, commemoration, and intoxicated inspiration, and set about creating
a railroad with no beginning and no end, to stand forever as a lasting
symbol of how the world really works. It was an instrument of highs and
lows, one that would thrill a man out of all feelings of lust and loss and
release him whole at its final stop spent, relieved and purposeful.
The foreman arrived later that day from a mandatory political correctness
meeting. Upon seeing what the men had constructed and recognizing it to be
as much philosophical statement as it was a construct of their collective
imagination, he immediately ordered an assemblage.
As the men, wringing with sweat and bursting with pride, crowded close to
absorb his displeasure , he spoke the words that would resonate again and
again through subsequent decades, describing pretty much half of what some
would refer to as the human condition. “Men,” he said, what we have here is
a failure to communicate. Or not. But what the hell. Let’s call it a Roller
Coaster.” The men gave up a resounding cheer which is said to have lasted
well into the night.
But it is the roller coaster of emotion that is life’s true monster ride.
One minute it cradles and carries you on its upward trajectory to the very
heights of hope and excitement, to an arching place of true joy and
satisfaction. Then, with a speed so great you don’t think your body parts
will hold together, it drops you with utter contempt into a dark abyss of
sadness and despair. This is the roller coaster one climbs aboard when one
passes through the gate into Patuxent.
Why all the talk of roller coasters you may wonder. Simply because it’s
easier than writing about the loss of our special little friend, #1013, who
despite the heroic efforts of our medical staff and crane crew, succumbed
yesterday afternoon to a respiratory illness which had attacked suddenly the
As is so often the case, he seemed fine in the morning, his demeanor
characteristically jubilant and sure. Then there came a cough, and then
another and another. The passing minutes cast an ever dimming shadow over
him until the very act of breathing soon became his challenge. Emergency
surgery offered us hope, and for a time, he seemed to be improving. But the
fates, always lurking in the shadows, eventually intervened and he was gone.
We had shared this world together for 34 days. We can only hope he enjoyed
our company as much as we enjoyed his.
We recently learned, that for
the tenth straight year, the DWCF has awarded OM a grant for our work with
endangered Whooping cranes for the 2010/2011 season. One of the few, if not
the only organization that has supported OM every single year since the
Whooping Crane Project’s inception, DWCF’s continuity of support has
provided our organization with a degree of vital funding stability.
Established in 1995 as a global
awards program for the study and protection of the world’s wildlife and
Disney Worldwide Conservation makes awards to nonprofit conservation
organizations. Since its inception, the fund has contributed $15.6 million,
distributed to more than 800 projects in 111 countries. Whether they swim,
fly, crawl, slither, or hop, endangered animals are the fund’s focus.
Through awards from this fund, Disney helps ensure the survival of wildlife
and wild places in all their beauty and diversity.
In addition to financial support, Disney also supports the Whooping crane
project in other invaluable ways, not the least of which is providing vet
support, as well as assistance with winter monitoring at the St. Marks
National Wildlife Refuge.
WILD-HATCH CHICK MISSING - 1013 PROVIDES A SCARE
It is probable that one of the twin chicks belonging to the sibling pair 317
& 303* is dead. The weekly Friday summary reports provided by Necedah refuge
biologist, Rich King and which usually come to us via WCEP has not been
received, so this news is unofficial. Reports are however, that the chick
has not been seen since some time last week.
If the chick's demise is
confirmed, it will leave five pairs, each with one chick. The other four
parenting pairs are: 403 & 309*; 212 & 419*; 311 & 312*; and 412 & D527*.
Recent weather, in the form of rain and/or thunderstorms, has put a crimp
in aerial surveys of the territories of the five pairs with
young-of-the-year. OM trike pilot, Richard van Heuvelen, took over 'chick
patrol' duties on the weekend relieving Chris Gullikson.
The latest word from Brooke at Patuxent is that Class of 2010's #1013
took a very bad turn yesterday with a respiratory problem. Some fast action
by the vet team there seems to have helped as Brooke reported that the chick
now appears to be doing better, giving rise to hope for its survival.
What a rollercoaster ride this season is turning out to be. The Kleenex
supply is taking a beating and I'm turning holding my breath into a fine
READY FOR 'MOVING DAY'
The action in Maryland these days consists of getting ready.
#1’s journey to the west just one week off, getting them and their costume
handlers set for the trip is the order of the day. Their crates, specially
built for their flight to Necedah, are all clean and ready to go, and
Patuxent’s Robert Doyle and OM intern Geoff Tarbox are busy this week
preparing for their road trip from Laurel, MD to Necedah, WI. They will make
their way there this weekend in order to put things to rights in the chick’s
new environment prior to the arrival of the eight eldest chicks in the Class
of 2010. (1001, 1002, 1003. 1004, 1005, 1006, 1008, and 1009)
Speaking with Brooke last evening he reported that the eight chicks are
acclimating well to the ponds in the White series pens. “Not only are they
getting along great,” he said, “they are enjoying being in the water for the
first time. They are wading birds after all, and the frogs, snakes and other
critters they are finding to snack on there are their own reward.”
The time in the ponded pen has another benefit. “Being in the pond helps
boost their collective sociability,” Brooke said. “Because they are so busy
investigating everything, discovering the water and all its delights, they
are less interested in being aggressive to each other.”
In anticipation and preparation for their soon-to-be new home, tonight
may be the time that Cohort 1 experiences their first night left alone in
the ponded pen. They'd better get used to it - because that’s life at
Thanks to the generosity of North Sails,
we have added a cool
logo’d t-shirt to our line of OM Gear. Available in white or yellow, the
tagless tee comes in unisex sizes small through 2XL.
This current support of Operation Migration by North Sails is far from the
company's first. Craniacs and Field Journal readers will recall that not
long ago North Sails stepped in to save the day when we were struggling to
produce five sets of wing covers to protect our trike wings from inclement
weather and frost while on migration.
North Sails’ beginnings date back to the late 1950’s. Recognized as the
world’s premier sailmaker, the company has 63 major lofts and 56 service,
sales, and satellite lofts in 29 countries.
For the days that a t-shirt alone isn’t enough, cover up with one of
lightweight windbreakers. A new item this year, the jackets have a
zipper front closure, elastic cuffs, and come in both men’s and ladies’
Last but not least, don’t miss the newest addition to OM’s line of
jewelry. You have to see the 8 miniature gold cranes stacked inside their
pendant to believe it. A lovely piece, and it makes a great gift.
What is it about babies, human, animal or avian, that arouses an instinctive
response in us? What is it that makes us want to coddle and protect them to
enable if not ensure their survival?
Konrad Lorenz, a Nobel Prize winning
zoologist, proposed it is the way they look – miniature, almost
caricature-like replicas of the adult form – that elicits the protective
parental response. While in fact the biological basis for this is not
proven, I suspect it is the rare individual who has not experienced such a
This season, with the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) producing seven
wild-hatched chicks, elation and optimism both within and without the
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) soared. The hatches, coming as
they did subsequent to end of the primary black fly bloom, seem to suggest
that with some human help, the repetitive nest abandonments at the Necedah
National Wildlife Refuge might be mitigated if not resolved in the future.
What is in the cards for the EMP’s 2011 nesting season will be determined
once all the research studies performed this spring have been collated and
Meanwhile, what we are left with is the sheer excitement of having had
hatch success and chicks ‘on the ground’. Put that excitement together with
our instinctive response to seeing a bunch of fluffy, little bundles of joy,
and what comes out of the mix is a recipe for emotional highs and
corresponding lows. Why? Because nature’s law of averages says that it is
more likely than not that no more than half will survive. Our Whooping
cranes are first-time parents, and first-timers are notorious for not
getting it right first time around so it is possible if not probable that
the chick survival rate could be even lower.
So while we rejoice the hatch successes, we have to temper the
celebration with a dose of pragmatism. Of the seven wild-hatched chicks, one
has been confirmed lost so far (one of 309* and 403’s twin chicks). A
rumored loss of a second chick of another pair is not yet confirmed.
As we’ve pointed out before, a lot can happen between
hatch-fledge-migration. At the same time, being realistic about our
expectations – or should I say wishes and dreams – is easier said than done.
But keeping nature’s way in mind helps to maintain perspective and to ‘keep
Out for a swim
From the time a chick is about a week old until it’s about three weeks
old, it gets a daily exercise period in the swimming pool. You might think
this is no big deal because cranes are birds that hang around water all the
time, right? But they hate it!
I used to wonder why until I realized that they’re actually wading birds.
Have you ever seen a heron swimming around the wetlands? Probably not. The
reason we swim young chicks is because it helps them develop strong legs and
can prevent some of the problems that can occur when they’re raised in
captivity. So really, we’re doing it for their own good and they like it
about as much as your kids do when you tell them it’s for their own good.
Chicks are carried to the pool by a costumed technician, gently placed in
the pool, and then swum around for 20 minutes. Almost all of the chicks hate
it, if you can gauge their emotions from their peeping. This year I was
promoted to a chick swimmer. I have now been trained to swim the younger
chicks in the small pool, which is about 10 feet long, 4 feet wide and 2½
feet deep. It’s placed up on blocks so it’s about hip height.
Now I must confess that after a while, sodden, crying chicks all look
alike, so this story is really a composite. It’s dedicated to all of the
chicks who are afflicted with curved legs – they have to swim TWICE a day
instead of once. As you might have experienced in your own life, when you
have to do something that you dislike twice a day, your feelings about it
don’t just double – they multiply.
When I first started swimming Peeper (not his real name!), he didn’t seem
to mind swimming. He would trill occasionally, mostly when he swam close to
the costume, and peep sometimes, but mostly he would swim along without too
much difficulty. A few times during each swim, I toss some meal worms into
the water when the chick has his back turned. That tasty treat provides a
reward that keeps the chick swimming. During early swims, when Peeper would
turn and see the worms floating on the surface, he would zoom over and
gobble them up, trilling happily. But each time he went for another swim,
his enthusiasm dimmed a little more.
Yesterday was the culmination of a week of daily swims. When I went into
Peeper’s pen, he assumed his alarm posture – standing up straight and tall
(all 6 inches of him!) and peeping loudly as I approached. After I scooped
him up, he gave a quiet little peep and then settled down while we walked to
the pool. But as soon as he saw the pool, he started crying again.
As I gently lowered him into the water, he started hollering and
continued in that vein the entire 20 minutes. A few times during the swim, I
tossed some meal worms into the water when he wasn’t looking. When he would
turn and see the meal worms, his loud hollering would settle down to minor
peeps while he snatched the worms out of the water, and then he would
resuming his loud complaining. There was not a single trill.
Finally, when we were done with his exercise, I scooped him out of the
water. He trilled his delight, as if to say, “Thanks for ending my misery!”
Then he realized he was being held and started peeping again. I walked back
to his pen gently set him down on the grass outside.
He was still dry on his topside, but sopping wet underneath. He shook
himself a little and then ran over to the adult in the next pen and peeped
as if to say, “There’s nothing right about it! Why do they keep dragging me
over to that pool and making me swim when you don’t have to do it?” He shook
himself again and started preening.
When I checked back a few minutes later, he was all dry and fluffy again.
He even trilled at me the next time I went into his pen, so I assume there
are no hard feelings. Well, at least until the time comes for his afternoon
The Eastern Migratory Population is not alone in adding to its numbers.
Operation Migration itself has recently added to its personnel roster.
Barbara Corcoran, a resident of Uxbridge, a neighboring community to OM’s
Port Perry headquarters location, recently joined OM’s admin staff.
Barbara's title is Communications and Fundraising Assistant, but as with all
OM staffers, she will without doubt find herself wearing any number of hats.
Her primary focus however will be helping to lighten my load with
communications relating to volunteers and memberships, and assisting with
the creation of media, website and outreach documents, including our
magazine, INformation. Her journalism background will be a great fit
for this. Barb will also be gradually working her way into supporting and
assisting our fundraising efforts too.
Barbara works 10 to 5 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, so the new
voice you hear when you telephone OM will be hers. Take a moment to welcome
her to the OM family when you call. You can read Barb's bio on our
Meet the Team
MIGRATORY POPULATION TRACKING UPDATE
In this update, * = female; D = Direct Autumn Release bird; NFT =
For the period ended June 12, the WCEP
Tracking Team reported they estimated the size of the Eastern Migratory
Population (EMP) as being 101 Whooping cranes. This consisted of 52 males,
43 females and 6 chicks. In comparison, their mid-May report listed 58 males
and 44 females for a total of 102.
The difference between the
mid-May and mid-June population numbers can be accounted for as follows:
- The number of males was reduced by six due to the
recent mortality of 709, and long-time missing birds 511, 516,
D628, 706, and 724 being presumed and declared dead. (see list below)
- The number of females was reduced from 44 to 43 with
long-time missing bird D744* being presumed and declared dead. (see list
- The addition of the six wild-hatched chicks.
LAST KNOWN LOCATIONS North Dakota
Detected May 16 in
flight over core reintroduction area in Wisconsin. Last reported May
22 and 25 in Ransom County. No subsequent reports.
Last reported April 12
in Jackson County.
Last reported May 5-12
in Kosciusko County.
Long Term Missing (more than
Last reported Feb. 25 -
Mar 6 in Jackson County, IN.
County, WI Dec 10, 2009.
Lawrence County, TN between November 29 and December 11, 2009.
Presumed dead and now removed from population number
Last recorded in
Paulding County, OH Nov 18, 2008.
This update was compiled from data supplied by the WCEP Tracking Team
of Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Matt Strausser.
The First Time the Engine
The other day I got to help Brooke train. He usually trains alone because
the chicks get confused if there’s too much going on, so one handler and one
trike are enough for the chicks to manage. But once in a chick’s life,
Brooke starts the engine for the first time. On this day, he likes a second
person there to act like a brood model and provide a safe haven for the
chick when the engine starts.
Inside the prop building we play a wetland
recording and outside there aren’t any loud noises. There can be a dull roar
from cars on roads outside the refuge and the noise of occasional plane
flying overhead, but in general, it’s quiet and peaceful (this is also a
bonus for the handlers who live in cities most of the year!).
Imagine being six inches tall and following a giant over to a big yellow
thing. It’s logical that you would follow the giant – it has meal worms and
they taste so much better than that kibble back in your run! There you are,
enjoying your snack, trilling your happiness and enjoying the sounds of the
meadow. And then, all of a sudden, the yellow thing starts roaring!
PEEP! PEEP! PEEP! The chick looks around wildly. What the heck is that????
That’s where I come in. After Brooke leads the chick into the circle pen,
I step inside too. I sit on the ground between the chick and the trike and I
spread my costume out so the chick has somewhere to run for comfort while he
gets used to what must seem like the end of the world. After all, the noise
sounds loud to me and most of the time I live in a world of cars and trains
and lawn mowers.
I sit there with a puppet holding a meal worm and gently encourage the
chick to go back to his snack. Gradually, the chick starts eating again,
maybe even trilling a note or two. Once the chick calms down, Brooke starts
revving the engine.
PEEP! PEEP! PEEP! There it goes again!!!! What the heck???
We repeat the process. If all goes well, the next step is for me to exit
the pen and walk beside the trike while Brooke drives it around the circle
pen. The chick follows along and we stop now and then to dispense more meal
worms from the puppet.
It might be a nerve wracking day in the life of an ultralight chick, but
it’s a special day for me because I can act like a real crane mama and brood
2010 - Entry 2
On his 'chick patrol' flight this
morning, ultralight pilot Chris Gullikson managed to take photos of some of
the new chicks.
Top Left: 403 & 309* attending 18-19 day old chick, Wild1001,
on their usual territory.
Top Right: 311 & 312* bracket their new offspring about 200
yards southeast of their nest which is at the edge of very small
wetland. Perhaps the adults will move their chick to better habitat.
Bottom Left: Lone adult (either 412 or D527) stands sentinel.
On his flight this morning Chris did not spot both adults of the 412/D527
pair. (What he saw is shown in the photo above.) He noted that the
second adult is often seen foraging in a wetland about a mile to the south
Sighted just southeast of their nest location were 317 & 303*. Chris
could see that they were attending one chick. The second chick was not
visible, but Chris said it could have been there because they are very hard
to pick out.
REPRODUCTION FINAL RE-CAP
The re-nesting (and late nesting) of seven pairs is finished. All incubated
for full term and five pairs hatched a total of seven chicks. The nests of
the other two pairs contained non-viable eggs.
chicks hatched May 30-31. One chick disappeared June 6-7.
infertile eggs were swapped with one captive-produced egg from
Patuxent June 6. Chick hatched June 7.
chick confirmed hatched June 12. Second egg did not hatch.
egg was seen in water June 10 and did not hatch. Chick hatched from
second egg June 11.
Second re-nest had hatched one chick by at least June 10. Two chicks
were visually confirmed by June13.
egg incubated past full-term was found to be infertile when
collected June 7.
single non-viable egg was incubated past full-term and was collected
I am undoubtedly not alone anxiously waiting to hear how, in addition to
Wild1001, the five new wild-hatched chicks are fairing. While we, (or at
least me) are waiting not so patiently for more Necedah chick news, thanks
to Brooke, and Geoff’s great personality notes, I can fill you in on the
ultralight-led Class of 2010 at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
(Perhaps we can twist Geoff’s arm to give us the lowdown on the rest of the
Geoff reports that 1001 through 1009 are now living completely
outdoors in the White Series Pens. “1001 to 1005 are housed in a two-pen
suite, while 1006 to 1009 have a separate pen to themselves,” he said. “This
is one of the final steps in their socialization regimen before they get
shipped to Necedah. Chicks 1010 to 1017 are still living in the chick
propagation building, each in their own separate pen."
Brooke advised that yesterday, all of the chicks designated for Cohort 1 and
scheduled for air transport (compliments of Windway Capital) to Necedah on
June 30th, had their pre-shipment health checks. Happily, all passed with
Eight chicks will comprise Cohort 1. They are numbers 1001, 1002, 1003.
1004, 1005, 1006, 1008, and 1009. Cohort 2, made up of 1010, 1011, 1013.
1014, 1015, 1016, and 1017, won’t make the trip to Wisconsin until they are
a little older and have had more training time. Their anticipated arrival
date at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is July 9.
The photo to the right shows you one of the ways the Chick Crew at the
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center keeps track and can tell at a glance
exactly what is on tap for each of the chicks on any given day.
If you’ve done the math you will have figured out that the ultralight-led
Class of 2010 will consist of a maximum of 15 young cranes. Here’s hoping
none develop any problems and they all stay healthy.
PROGRESS / NOTES
Always curious, and not afraid to try new
things. Trusts the costume, but doesn’t put up with hassling from
fellow chicks and isn’t afraid to ‘get in their face’. Is being
walked with 1001 in the hope of ‘putting him in his place’.
Can be pretty aggressive towards specific
birds, for instance, when being socialized with 1004, would take
shots at him whenever he got close enough. 1004 did what he could to
keep his distance but 1003 seems to have gotten it out of his system
now that both are housed together in the same outdoor pen.
Gets along with its training partner, 1003.
Tends to be very stubborn and was always a
little more challenging to rear when still a wee chick. It can take
handlers as much as a half an hour trying to get 1005 on the walk on
scale and stay there long enough to get a reading.
Seems to be a loner, an introvert, and not fond
of confrontations. Is content to wander off and do his own thing.
This made 1006 a little hard to raise as a baby chick since its
attention was focused elsewhere. It’s been kind of amusing to see
him just wander around the white series pens happily foraging while
1008 and 1009 tried to hang out with the costume.
Died May 21
Oddly enough, 1008 seems to be the big cheese
of the pseudo cohort of 1006 to 1009. Isn't afraid to throw its
weight around even with the bigger birds like 1006 if it thinks it
can get away with it. How it will do with the even bigger/older
birds, including the no nonsense 1002, remains to be seen. (Geoff
says his money is on 1002.)
Very clingy and dependant. In the White Series
pens it goes out of its way to hang out with the costumes to the
point it would rather sit and bake in the sun with the costume than
go into the shade on its own and get a drink. When trying to wean
1009 off the costume, it spent most of the time trying to find it,
or hanging out where it thought the costume was hiding. Now that it
is living in the White Series pens without much contact from the
costumes it has gotten more independent but is still the first to
greet them when they show up.
Very casual, laid back, and not particularly
demanding. Typically goes along with the costume.
1011 is the Thug. This chick has to be walked
separately, although it should be getting walked with 1010 and 1013.
Extraordinarily aggressive, it has gone out of its way to go after
other birds when it sees them. When leading it by 1008's and 1010's
pens it tried to take shots at them from behind the bars. “This
scared both of them, and me,” said Geoff. “I actually had to
physically push him away from 1008 and 1010 with my puppet since
there was no other way of getting him to stop.” 1011 is now being
walked with 1002 in the hope that it will show it who’s the boss.
Reports are it is working and that 1002 is putting 1011 in its
Died June 2
Seems to be a fairly quick learner and is a
pleasant bird to be around.
2010 - Entry 2
When we headed for home on Friday the latest word we had was that there
was still just one wild hatch chick in the Eastern Migratory Population. The
chick, Wild1001, was the surviving twin of the hatch by parents 309* and
Recently returned from Wisconsin, Richard van Heuvelen came in the office
this morning and gave us some amazing news - we now have five more wild hatched chicks!!
The Hatch Report Card
212 & 419*: A fertile egg from Patuxent Wildlife Research Center’s
captive population was swapped for their two infertile eggs by ICF staff.
The day following the swap the chick hatched.
303* & 317: After two failed nesting attempts, they succeeded in
hatching two chicks.
412 & D527*: This pair laid two eggs but one was lost due to falling
into nearby water. The chick that hatched is the first ever by a Direct
Autumn Release bird.
311 & 312*: On his last over-flight, OM pilot Matt Ahrens, reported
spotting one chick and one eggs still in this pair’s nest.
With no remaining active nests, it appears the nesting season is
officially over. 213 & 218* are still nesting, but being almost a week past
the anticipated hatch date that nest is not likely to be productive. One
other nest, that of 402 and D746*, was also incubated long past the
anticipated hatch date. The egg from that nest was collected and determined
by ICF veterinary staff to be infertile.
A lot can happen between hatch / fledge / and migration, and it is likely
unrealistic if not over-hopeful to expect 100% survival. But…there’s no
denying that the Eastern Migratory Population is working hard to prove they
CAN do it.
2010 - Entry 1
JAPAN - ACT NOW
OM's own Walt Sturgeon, along with Zoologist Dave Davenport, is leading an
extraordinary tour to Japan. In addition to special opportunities to view
cranes and other birdlife, the tour being arranged through EcoQuest Travel
includes visits to cultural sites and the country's natural wonders.
tells us they still have spots left, but the time to express your interest
Click this link to read an earlier Field Journal entry about the tour,
and to access how to receive more details/information.
PRESENTS MIGRATION RESEARCH
Thanks to Billy Brooks, from USFWS Jacksonville, FL office, for this
Below you will find two links to two absolutely fascinating audio stories
about bird migration on the award winning NPR show “Talk of the Nation”. The
first one was done at Cornell and consisted of a panel of leading
ornithologists and the latest research on migration. They’re MP3 files and
you can listen to them via your computer’s speakers just by clicking on the
links. I’m sure you will enjoy them and find them quite interesting and
worth your time.
Note: The first one is 47:13 long; the second is
only 7:26, but we think you will find both are fascinating and well worth
A new tool to help us all identify North American birds is now available
thanks to financial support from Environment Canada and USGS Geological
Survey, and, in-kind support from the Mexican Biodiversity institute CONABIO.
According to its website, “Dendroica
is an interactive site developed to help students, volunteers and
professionals improve their skills at identifying birds by sight or by
sound, particularly so that they can participate in nature survey and
Originally developed to aid participants of the Breeding Bird Survey and
other scientific surveys of Canadian bird species to develop their bird song
Dendroica has been expanded to allow anybody to use the program to
develop their bird identification skills using both sound and pictures.
The website includes birds from throughout Canada, USA, and Mexico, and
participants can contribute new photographs and sound recordings so it will
continue to improve over time.
“Dendroica allows you
to browse through lists of species found in a particular region to see their
pictures and listen to their songs and calls. You can then quiz yourself,
based on songs or photos or both, to see how well you have learned the
species. You can develop your own custom list of species for study.”
To use all the program features or to submit your own photos or sound
recordings, you must register and sign in – but it is free. If you prefer,
you can use the site as a guest.
June 10, 2010
NEW ITEM IN THE MARKETPLACE
We've added a new item to the Marketplace that we hope you'll really like! The latest addition is a really neat vial
pendant - complete with 8 teeny tiny metallic gold
origami cranes inside it. Each little crane has been carefully folded from textured Kingin Washi paper by origami artist Kimberly Vu - a student at York University in Toronto.
I purchased one of these from Kim a couple of months ago and have been
wearing it since. I'm constantly getting compliments on it because it's so
unique and it's a great way to start a conversation about my favorite
subject - cranes!
Everyone here at headquarters liked it so much that we commissioned Kim
to create a limited supply of the necklaces so that we could offer it to
you. Be sure to check it out - I hope
you like it as much as we do!
While you're in the Markplace, be sure to have a look at the other new
items that have been added recently. The
ballcaps have been re-stocked, and we've added some nice
windbreaker jackets, which are ideal
for spring and fall birding adventures.
June 9, 2010
PATUXENT IN THE NEWS
Washington Post journalist and reporter, Ed O'Keefe recently visited the crane ecology crew at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. I thought you would enjoy seeing
what goes on behind the scenes and meeting just a couple of the many people that work tirelessly all year long, but especially
so at this time of the year when all the crane chicks are hatching. Enjoy!
June 8, 2010
With Chris Gullikson back following a successful storm chasing trip, he has now relieved Richard van Heuvelen as the pilot at Necedah NWR for nest/chick monitoring duties.
Each day, weather permitting, flights are made in the ultralight to monitor
the nesting activities, and to check on any chicks.
Using the ultralights allows for low level passes and since the birds are
already familiar with these aircraft, they barely even glance skyward as it
passes overhead. It's much less intrusive than approaching the nest location
on foot - if it's even accessible by foot.
This season twelve pairs initiated nesting - some as early as the first
week of April. All of the early April nests failed but this gave those pairs
ample opportunity to re-nest, and those pairs that waited to build their
first nest of the season till the end of April and into mid-May seem to be
sticking to their incubation duties.
The following table provides information on which pairs nested, and when,
as well as the outcome or current status.
D=Direct Autumn Release bird, *=female
Est. Date of Incubation
311 & 312*
June 7th PM flight: Adult standing on nest. 2
D746 & 402
1 egg seen on previous flights. June 7th AM
flight: nest was being incubated.
past expected hatch date. Determined un-viable. Removed from
nest. Adults no longer at nest during PM overflight.
505 & 415
Discovered April 1
Nest failed. 2 eggs collected April 6, taken to
ICF. 1 egg hatched.
310 & W601*
Nest failed. 1 egg collected April 9, taken to
303* & 317
Nest failed. 2 eggs collected April 12, taken to
ICF and transferred to PWRC. Both hatched.
Re-nest May 2-3
Nest failed. 1 egg collected for transfer to
2nd re-nest May 11-12
June 7th AM flight: Nest was being incubated.
second adult flew in. Nest exchange observed. 2 eggs seen.
313* & 318
Nest failed. April 11-12
212 & 419*
Discovered April 5
Nest failed. April 14. 2 eggs determined infertile
Re-nest May 9-11
unknown. 30 miles northeast of refuge prohibits frequent
309* & 403
Nest failed April 11
Re-nest April 30
Hatched 2 chicks May 31st. June 6th AM flight: Both chicks
observed being attended to by both parents. June 7th AM flight: Chicks were not seen on first pass, both adults were very close to nest.
Returned 20-30 minutes later and saw one chick with parents in same location, near nest.
June 7th PM flight: still only 1 chick visible. (Photo below)
213 & 218*
Nest failed April 12. No eggs.
Re-nest May 8
June 7th PM flight: Nest was being incubated. 1 egg seen on
401 & 508*
Nest failed April 7th. 1 egg collected. Taken to ICF
D527* & 412
June 7th AM and early PM flights. Nest was being incubated.
408 & 519*
Nest failed. 2 eggs collected April 9. Taken to ICF.
Above: Adults 309* & 403 tend to their single chick on
June 7th. The pair hatched two chicks on Memorial Day.
I have the two best jobs in the world. The first is as a faculty member, where I have the privilege of teaching very bright engineering students, advising graduate students on their research, doing research on sustainability and engineering, and working to incorporate sustainability across our curriculum, all while serving as a role model for women in engineering and science. Two of the many freedoms of being a faculty member are that I can set my own hours and I can work remotely if I don’t have a specific need to be on campus. These freedoms are what allowed me to take my other best job as an OM intern.
Chick season starts about 6 weeks before our spring term ends, so I devised a clever plan to allow me to do both of the best jobs in the world. I started at Patuxent the week after Mother’s Day. In preparation, I crammed all of my on-campus responsibilities into 3 days a week so I could spend long weekends working with my babies. My routine is to get up before dawn on Friday mornings and drive the 2½ hours to Patuxent, where I spend 4 days with my crane “kids.” I do the rest of my academic work in the evenings. Monday night I drive home to get ready for work Tuesday morning. Then I work at my academic job Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, where I interact with my student “kids”, finishing just in time to leave again Friday morning.
“Are you crazy?” I hear this frequently when people learn about my avocation, but especially when they hear about my current schedule. There have been a few days recently where I have pondered this question myself, and the past week brought me many occasions where I doubted my ability to keep up the pace – at least with my sanity intact. It was especially tough Friday morning when the alarm went off at 4:45. I longed to stay in bed and I actually hit the snooze several times before I mustered the will to get out of bed.
I arrived at Patuxent just in time for cleaning pens. I caught a glimpse of one of my babies as they were locked outside for cleaning. I scooped poop, filled feeders, and mopped the floors, still wondering if I could keep up the pace. When we were done, Barb asked me and Geoff to walk 6, 8, and 9 together. I found a puppet and a vocalizer, put on my costume and headed outside. I opened the latch to 8’s door and then went down the aisle to let 9 out. 9’s head came up as the door opened and he chirped at me – the happy little trill – and then came running towards me. As we exited his pen, he did a happy dance, stretched out his wings and took off running. 8 was chirping too and I opened his door after 9 went by and the three of us walked out to meet Geoff where he was waiting with 6. We spent a blissful 20 minutes in the farm pond field, walking back and forth in the shade, watching our kids running around exploring their world. Periodically one would stop to forage while the rest of us kept going. A few moments later, it would look up, see us ahead, stretch out those featherless wings and run like crazy to rejoin us. I listened to the sounds in the meadow, punctuated with the peeps and trills from the chicks, and breathed deeply. I marveled at how big they had gotten during the few days I was gone. How could I possibly miss this?
On Friday I will attend commencement and watch my other “kids” graduate. I will personally hood my two graduating Ph.D. students and marvel at their intellectual growth, and be proud of their persistence and motivation in pursuing such a challenge. How could I possibly miss that?
“Are you crazy?” Absolutely. And brimming with pride over both species of kids. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
June 7, 2010
BE ON THE
The June issue of
THE BIRDING COMMUNITY E-BULLETIN noted that they had been specifically
asked by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), “….to
spread the word about one aspect of the current BP oil issue.”
“Birders have a special opportunity to ‘be on the lookout’ (BOLO) for oil
slicks and oiled birds outside the area of direct impact. Pelagic birders
and folks watching shorebirds might even take photos and make reports of
oiled birds from as wide an area as possible, not just in the Gulf area, but
along Atlantic Coast as well.
According to USFWS, "Even anecdotal reports will help to determine
the extent of oiling geographically. It would be particularly significant if
any oiled birds or remote slicks were observed in the Gulf Stream."
The US Fish and Wildlife Service advised that oiled wildlife should be
reported to a BP hot line set up for this purpose. The number to call is
June 6, 2010
Dr. Richard Urbanek advised that yesterday International Crane
Foundation Tracking Intern Matt Strausser and Operation Migration pilot Richard van Heuvelen discovered the decomposed carcass of adult male whooping crane no.
709 in a jack pine woodland 1 mile south of the southeastern Necedah NWR boundary.
The area was not crane habitat, and no. 709 may have dropped while airborne. No.
709 was last observed alive on May 22nd and was apparently dead by May 24th, the next date when his mate no.
717 was observed alone. The remains will be forwarded to the National Wildlife Health
Center, Madison, Wisconsin, for necropsy.
Nos. 709 and 717 had remained together since they were members of the same juvenile cohort. They had a history of sporadic inadequate human avoidance, but none of these problems were documented during the current spring. The two birds were old enough to become a possible breeding pair in 2010; however, they did not establish a territory. The estimated maximum size of the eastern migratory population of whooping cranes is now 101 birds (57 males, 44 females).
We also received word yesterday that chick no. 1012 died as a result of
persistent respiratory issues.
June 4, 2010
When is Enough, Enough?
The Greek and Roman Empires were legendary in their opulence and power. But
the Greek tragedies written at the time revealed an awareness about their
culture: characters in Greek tragedies usually had a hamartia, or fatal
flaw. Hubris, or pride, presumption and arrogance, was one of the chief
character traits which brought down peasants and emperors alike.
learned nothing? “It’s just human nature.” Our arrogance seems to be okay,
forgiven, passed off as acceptable, regardless of the consequences. How dare
we allow an oil rig in the fragile Gulf of Mexico to exist with no failsafe
to prevent a catastrophic event? When is ‘NO’ to the plan for more coal
mines, more oil rigs, not loud enough? The money to build these destructive
facilities, where too many people die every year, is desperately needed to
fund creative solutions to our energy crisis.
How is it that financial institutions in this country can bring us to our
knees, peering over the edge of the precipice, as close to the brink of
economic disaster as we dare to imagine, as we were in the 1930s? Must we
regulate everything, because ‘human nature’, in its avarice, is predictably
not trust-worthy? Whatever happened to being ‘my brother’s keeper’?
How many destroyed lives do we have to witness before we harness the
destructive traits of greed, arrogance and self-centered lack of concern for
others and the greater good of our planet? People are already without homes,
jobs, and now an entire fishing industry is going under - all because we
seem unable to make any substantial personal sacrifice, or to demand that
action be taken to save us from ourselves. The ensuing destruction of these
coastal wetlands will result in a domino-effect, consequences we will feel
as a nation for decades to come.
For 80 years, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast in
northern Florida has been a source of hope and restoration. People who visit
seem to understand its mission in the big environmental picture. They see it
as a safe haven for themselves, for wildlife. Now the refuge and its wild
population lie in the path of millions of gallons of oil, oozing their
deadly suffocating way into the waters and wetlands.
The refuge serves thousands of migrating birds each year, is home to
countless wild residents, from alligators to salamanders, from Monarch
butterflies to Gopher Tortoises. It serves as a nursery for invertebrates,
fish and crustaceans that feed humans and animals alike. The refuge is one
of the two migration destinations for the Whooping Crane Recovery Project.
My husband and I have worked at St. Marks for three consecutive winters as
resident volunteers: we mourn the impending loss of wildlife about to be
engulfed by this disaster.
It is deeply painful to watch this polarized country bicker over its
responsibilities to this planet and to each other. We are so blinded by
consumption, so unaware of the consequences of our irresponsible
over-population, so full of denial about the evidence that indicates that we
are in trouble – all because it’s too inconvenient to change: it’s someone
The Greek and Roman Empires are gone. One has to wonder how much longer
we can sustain our own culture, given our willful disregard of the numerous
warning signals. The Copenhagen climate negotiations fell short of a global
consensus for action.
No one demanded that BP America place dead-sure shut-off valves on its
rig. Nuclear waste is a disaster waiting to happen. We can recycle, buy more
efficient cars, put up a couple of solar panels and a wind turbine. We can
put our money under our mattress instead of trusting Wall Street. But we
need so much more.
Some say we don’t need or want big government. But it’s clear that we do.
We need leadership and action, regulations and legislation. And we need them
Note: In addition to being a freelance journalist, wildlife advocate,
and a committed environmentalist and conservationist, Christine, along with
husband Gordon, assist with monitoring of the ultralight-led 'Class of the
Year' wintering at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
June 3, 2010
OM intern extraordinaire Geoff Tarbox sent me a quick email update last night and reports that he and the rest of the crane ecology crew at Patuxent
have had 24 chicks hatch, but with the loss of #1007 to a respiratory
condition, they are
currently caring for 23 chicks. Now, it's important to remember that not all
of these 23 chicks are destined for the ultralight reintroduction - in fact
some will be delegated to other reintroduction methods, but they do need to
be cared for and tended to.
Initially, each chick is trained individually for approximately 20
minutes in the circle pen. This process involves leading the chick, using
the puppet head, from the propagation building, out to the circle pen. Once
at the pen, the chick is lead to the inside and then the handler will get
into position in the wingless ultralight, which is on the outside of the
pen. The puppet head is extended over the low fence which separates chick
from trike and prevents the young bird from accidentally getting under the
wheels of the aircraft.
The handler will then start the ultralight engine and slowly begin moving
it around the perimeter, while encouraging the chick inside the pen to
follow the puppet head, which dispenses mealworms from time-to-time. If all
goes well, it looks like this:
As time goes by and the chicks are adept at following the
trike as individuals, they are then trained in pairs. That's the stage that
some of the older chicks are at now. Numbers 1001 and 1002 are currently
training together, as are 1003 and 1004, 1005 and 1006, 1008 and 1009, 1010
and 1011, and finally 1012 and 1013.
Geoff reports that the youngest chicks, including 1014, 1015
haven't even begun circle pen training but have passed the "start/stop"
trike test, so should begin very soon, possibly even today.
June 2, 2010
BLACK FLY COUNTS
Jeb Barzen, Director of Field Ecology with the International Crane
been conducting black fly sampling at several locations in the southern
portion of Wisconsin every two weeks for the past few months. He recently
submitted results from the most recent sampling and I thought it would be
interesting to include them in the table below to compare numbers.
50 - 80
30 - 50
7,000 - 10,000
2,000 - 3,000
15 - 25
10 - 20
10 - 20
20 - 40
10 - 20
30 - 60
Poygan (Wolf River)
10 - 20
5 - 10
May 31, 2010 - Entry 2
THIS NEWS JUST IN!!
Adult Whooping cranes 309* and 403 have successfully hatched
Operation Migration pilots have been flying reconnaissance flights over
the refuge whenever weather permits since the beginning of the nesting
season. During each flight details are gathered on the location of one or
both birds in each nesting pair, and submitted to the nest monitoring team.
Richard van Heuvelen just called with the fantastic news and reported that he was unable to fly over the refuge last night or this morning due to rain but
did get airborne at lunchtime today when he spotted both chicks with their
parents. During yesterday's noon-hour flight, one bird was still sitting on the nest.
This leads us to believe that one chick hatched out late yesterday and its
sibling very likely hatched this morning. Richard also stated that both parents appear to be tending to the chicks
and that he'll attempt to capture some images soon.
UPDATE: As promised here's a photo showing both chicks and one parent,
still at the nest. (click image for larger view)
Those of you who have been supporting our work and following along since
2003 may recall that #309 has had quite travel itinerary. You can read about
her travels and subsequent capture and relocation
Congratulations to the entire Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership!