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Photo Journals!

Wintering Whoopers

Ultralight-guided Migration


 

Whooper Happenings
Mark Chenoweth's latest audio podcast all about Whooping Cranes!

Operation Migration is pleased to provide this link to Whooper Happenings to its website visitors.  

Mark Chenoweth, an OM supporter with a long history in broadcast journalism,  developed Whooper Happenings. In addition to OM staffers and WCEP partners, Mark's podcasts include interviews with various experts and lay people on Whooping crane history, husbandry and reintroduction.

The comments and opinions expressed on Whooper Happenings are not necessarily those of Operation Migration.

Date: April 30th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Activity:

Empty Nest Found

 

Notes:  The empty nest of Whooping crane pair 302 and 209 was found Saturday on Monroe County Flowage. Previous observations indicate that the clutch was lost PM 26 April or AM 27 April.

No egg remains were found in the nest or in the vicinity. The pair had been incubating since approximately 13 April. The photos below were sent to us by Richard Urbanek.

This was the only remaining active nest of five initiated so far this spring. All four of the other nests were on Necedah NWR. The obvious question is, will any of the pairs try again this season? We'll ask our experts to speculate and post their answers in a future Field Journal entry.

And in migration news...
DAR527 completed her spring migration to Necedah on Friday the 27th. She spent much of the day in undirected flight over the Rynearson and Sprague Pool areas, eventually roosting with several other Whooping cranes southwest of the refuge, and remained to forage with them the following morning. Earlier, 527 had reached Green Lake County WI where she remained until making the flight to the Necedah Refuge.

Two other 2005 DAR birds have not yet completed migration. 533 is in Michigan . The whereabouts of 532 has not been known since he was last observed March 8th in Florida .


Date: April 29th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Activity:

Put an 'X' on your calendars!

 

Operation Migration and Whooping Cranes to be featured May 17 on Discovery Channel's Animal Planet.

The Discovery Channel's Animal Planet has advised us that the Whooping crane segment we arranged for Jeff Huxmann, our good friend and videographer to film for them last fall, will debut on May 17th on Animal Planet Report at 8pm and 11pm EST. 

The segment's producer said, "It was ridiculously hard to whittle down a two month journey and complicated story into a four minute segment," but she said that she thinks, "The footage is amazing."

We haven't seen the finished product ourselves, and we hope that like us, all Craniacs will be glued to the television on the evening of Wednesday the 17th.

P.S. To see Jeff's 'other' work, visit Solterra Communications at www.solterra.us



Date: April 28th, 2006

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Reporter: Mark Nipper

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Activity:

Preparing for hatching chicks.

 

Notes: One week and counting until all "you know what" breaks loose here at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Our first chick is due on May 7th, and we have eight other eggs that may potentially hatch that same week! The staff keep finding more eggs all the time.

We are making good progress on our preparations for the new season. We have the aviary room all cleaned, and we are getting it put together. This morning, Marie and Laurie worked on the plexiglass walls that separate the chicks in their outside runs.

Thought it would be a good time to show you a few of the things we use for the cranes when they are young. Check today's additions to our photo journal, and stay tuned as we get closer to the season being in full swing, for more descriptions and photos of the other rooms and equipment we use.

Date: April 27th, 2006

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Reporter: Joe Duff

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

We get questions

 

Notes:  Thanks to Richard Urbanek, (USFWS) Sara Zimorski, (ICF) and our own Mark Nipper, we are kept in the loop about Whooping crane happenings despite being stuck here in the office spending most of our time in front of a computer. We get regular reports, emailed satellite locations, and updates over the phone. Then we try to post this information on our website in a timely and less statistical fashion. Sometime we don't explain things as clearly as we could, and occasionally a supporter will email us a question that brings that shortcoming to light.

Recently we were asked if we anticipated the wide dispersal of the white birds through Ontario, New York, Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota. When the states that they have wandered to are listed like this, it looks a bit more chaotic than it actually is. In fact, over 88% of our birds have returned to the core introduction area in and around Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

Dr Urbanek has documented a behaviour he refers to as 'spring wandering,' which seems to take place shortly after they arrive at the northern terminus. It's like the instinct to migrate doesn't shut off the instant they get back, and a little more flying is the only way to scratch the itch. This may be the case with the birds that check in at the refuge and then continue on to Minnesota , which is only a hundred miles or so to the west; a short flight by Whooping crane standards.

We don't know the motivators for migration, nor the mechanics of the cranes' navigation. We do know that they have, at times, been too far off course for landmarks to be a useful guide. They may be able to sense magnetic fields or interpret the declination of the sun. Considering their east-west movements, none have ventured much farther north. This is anecdotal evidence that they acquire a knowledge of their latitude during their first summer in Necedah, and migration could be a simple matter of heading back in the direction from which they arrive until they feel they have traveled far enough north, followed by some east-west wandering to bring them over familiar territory.

Whatever the mechanism it is not infallible, and maybe the birds that short stop in Indiana have temporarily lost sight of whatever markers bring them home. Or maybe their urge to migrate dissipated early, unlike the birds that keep going after a stop at Necedah. After all, one warm place is as good as another to spend the summer if you are not old enough to be driven by the need to breed.

The birds that went to Ontario and New York are of course a different story. They are part of the group an overzealous observer flushed into the night to be blown off course by strong west winds. In 2004 they spent their first summer of freedom on the east side of Lake Michigan . Despite our attempts to reorient them, for numbers 309 and 318 the dye may be set for them to return to Michigan every summer. That is why it is so important to retrieve 520, a hapless and inexperienced bird who just followed 309 to the wrong destination.

In order to conduct a reintroduction of this magnitude we needed to circumvent some of the restrictions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that prohibited us from leading these federally listed birds across state lines. Recently retired Secretary of the Interior, Gail Norton, enacted a provision within the ESA called the "Experimental Non-Essential Designation," which reduces the status of our birds to 'threatened'. All of the seven direct line states we pass through on our way south, 13 neighboring others, along with the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba , agreed to this provision. So despite their peregrinations, our birds are still within appropriate territory and have the enthusiastic blessings of those jurisdictions.

Another question posted on our website was. "Will Whooping cranes and Sandhills breed?" The answer is yes. It is not normal behavior, but it has happened, and the results are known as Whoophills. Like mules, Whoophills would in turn themselves not likely be able to breed. But it would mean that the offending Whooping crane male would be pair-bonded to a Sandhill and his genetic material would be lost to the population.

Each of our birds is valuable in terms of their contribution to the sustainability of this flock in addition to the cost of teaching them to migrate and getting them into the wild. Losing any of them to any cause sets the project back.

Sandhills and Whooping cranes will socialize if they are not defending a territory, and there are some things about wildness that our birds can learn, as long as they don’t get overly friendly. Man - - don't we sound like over protective parents!

We have also been asked if the amount of predation on the nests in Necedah was expected. That answer is a little more difficult. The behaviour of all birds is based on instinct and experience. Instinct motivates them to migrate, and experience shows them the route. For them, pair bonding and breeding is a whole new adventure. Think of human adolescents entering puberty without the benefit of parental guidance, education, books, or even the ability to communicate with friends. In hindsight, maybe that is too shocking an analogy, but you can see where it leaves an inexperienced bird.

Can you imagine what it is like for them the first time they lay an egg? Whooping cranes are formidable birds and I can't imagine they can be forced off a nest by a raccoon, or many other predators for that matter. More likely they wandered too far to forage and their eggs were snatched in their absence. Once this has happened a few times they will learn to be more attentive, and that is why most new parents are successful only on their second or third attempt. In the Aransas/Wood Buffalo flock, young birds usually fledge their first chick in their fifth or sixth year, generally bringing one offspring south with them only every other season.

A website grows into a convoluted place, but somewhere on ours, most everything we know about Whooping cranes is posted. If we have confused you, or if there is a question you would like answered, drop us a line at info@operationmigration.org. If we can't answer it we'll find someone who can.

Date: April 26th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

Aransas/Wood Buffalo Update

 

Notes: After his aerial census at the Aransas Refuge today, Tom Stehn reported he found just 7 sub-adult cranes that had yet to migrate. This means that of 214 Whooping cranes, (96.7%) migrated right on schedule.

"Multiple reports have now come in of Whooping cranes in Canada ," said Tom. "Except for today when we had north winds brought by a 'cool' front that reached the Texas coast the evening of April 25th, the weather has been favorable for migration on a daily basis since last week's census flight."

Date: April 25th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

Honors for George Archibald

 
On Earth Day, Saturday, April 20th, George Archibald, a preeminent pioneer of crane conservation, joined the ranks of such notables as John Muir and Aldo Leopold when he was inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame. Each year since 1985, this honor has been bestowed on a small group of individuals in recognition of their advancement of conservation within Wisconsin .

George is a member of Operation Migration’s Board of Directors, and we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to honor him as well.

George was born and grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, but his life of extraordinary conservation work was launched at Cornell University in Ithaca , New York . It is also where he met Baraboo Wisconsin native, Ron Sauey, who shared George's love of birds. To make a long story short, George and Ron started the International Crane Foundation 33 years ago on the farm of Ron's parents. The effort to conserve the world's cranes was at first low-key, but over the years the International Crane Foundation became a Wisconsin landmark.

George was instrumental in convincing the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team that OM's Bill Lishman and Joe Duff should lead a flock of endangered Whooping Cranes with their ultralight aircrafts. George's endorsement and enthusiasm for Operation Migration's work helped to carry the day - and the rest, as they say, is history. George has been a great ally and supporter to OM , and we are proud that he is associated with us.

Like the Whooping crane, many cranes species are either endangered or threatened, and George has spent much of his life traveling the world as an ambassador of conservation, sharing his knowledge and ideas with others across the globe.

One of George's long-term goals is to have the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea become an International Biosphere Reserve, effectively preserving that vast stretch of undeveloped land as a vital habitat for Red-crowned and White-naped Cranes.

From all of us at OM George, hearty congratulations on a hard-earned and well-deserved honor.

Date: April 25th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

Tracking Team update for week of April 16 - 22

 

Notes:  Thanks to Richard Urbanek, Lara Fondow, Chris Malachowski and Sara Zimorski, here’s the latest news on the Eastern Migratory Flock.

Crane locations at the end of the week were:

Vermont - 2
PTT readings indicated that 309 and 520 left Jefferson County, NY. They flew to Lewis County, NY, 309's previous summering location, before moving to Addison County, Vermont, the area that 309 occupied in the spring of 2005.

Michigan - 2
-318 remained at the same location in Grey County, Ontario, Canada until 16 April. On that morning he was reported headed northwest with six Sandhills. He was next reported in Montcalm County, Michigan on 22 April.

-DAR533 resumed migration from Indiana and landed to roost in Barry County, Michigan on 18 April where she remained for the duration of the week.

Indiana - 2
516 and 522 remain in Decatur County, Indiana where they have been since April 4th.

Location Unknown - 1
DAR532 has been undetected since leaving Florida in mid-March.

Wisconsin - 57 - Notes on some of the birds in Wisconsin :
- 511 and 512 were reported in Coles County, Illinois during 15-17 April. On April 19th they completed their first spring migration back to Necedah NWR.

- Two additional 2005 ultralight-led birds completed their migration to Necedah. 216 arrived from Minnesota with an injured leg. By the end of the week he had rejoined his mate, 303. 

Reproductive Summary:
Three of the five nests had failed by the end of the week.
- 101/202's clutch was destroyed April 15th or 16th.
- 317/203's clutch was destroyed April 15th or 16th.
- 211/217's clutch was destroyed around April 20th.
This left just two incubating pairs, 213 and 218, and 302 and 209.

Fearing predation, two eggs were collected from the nest of 213 and 218 on April 24th after the parents left them unattended for more than two hours. After collection, the eggs were transferred to ICF for further incubation. A dummy egg was placed in the nest in case the adults returned later. An after-dark roost check indicated that the female, 218, was in the vicinity of the nest. 213's transmitter is nonfunctional so he could not be tracked. This pair began incubation around April 6th and diligently attended the nest until this recent incident of leaving the eggs.

302 and 209, are now the last remaining nesting pair. They were still incubating at the end of the week.

Date: April 24th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

One DAR bird makes it to Necedah

 

Notes:  DAR female 528 completed her spring migration to Necedah NWR April 23rd. 528 wintered with DAR527 at Hiwassee Refuge in Tennessee until they began their spring migration with Sandhill cranes February 26th. Two days later, DAR528 arrived at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, Indiana. She remained in that general area until resuming migration on 30 March, continuing on to Green Lake County, WI where she stayed until she returned to Necedah.

Of the other three 2005 DAR birds, 527 remains in Green Lake County , and 533 is in Barry County, Michigan. 532 was last observed on his wintering area in Osceola County, Florida on 8 March.

Date: April 21st, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

Nesting News

 

Notes:  In an earlier Field Journal entry we reported that five pairs were incubating eggs at Necedah. Unfortunately, two clutches were destroyed April 15/16; those of 101/202 and 317/203.

Sadly, we have more bad news. Last evening 211 and 217 were seen foraging together on the east side of East Rynearson Pool - an indication that their nest had failed. Richard Urbanek said that no visual observations of this pair had been recorded since April 16th.

When their nest site was examined this morning, no egg, or egg remains were found in it or nearby. However, a crane egg shell believed to be from this Whooping crane nest was found on the dike about 325 yards from the nest - probably carried there by an avian predator.

This leaves only 213/218 and 302/209 still incubating.

Date: April 21st, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

Spring at Patuxent and Mark Nipper's 'back in action'

 

Notes: We're so happy to have Mark Nipper 'back in business'! Mark took a bit of time off before having to get back into the groove at Patuxent for the 2006 season. Below is the update he sent us this morning for the field journal.

Things are rolling right along here at PWRC. Currently, 15 eggs have been laid, with one for sure being fertile. There are also at least three fertile eggs from ICF and San Antonio that are likely to be making their way here for the project.

I have been in Patuxent for almost two weeks now after some time off. This year's two interns, Marie Brady and Laurie Lin, started on Monday and we have been busy working on the facilities for chicks. There are a hundred things to be done, but we still have two full weeks left. Luckily we've got a good start so far.

Marie and Laurie are working out well, and have been kept quite busy. The other day they gave our old crane puppets a facelift. The puppets, which have been used continually for the last five seasons, were pretty tattered. Now, thanks to Marie and Laurie, they are bright and sparkly. This morning we worked at overhauling the Circle Pen; this little scraggly patch of grass needed some serious work so we took it all apart and we'll make it better.

About our new interns:
Marie Brady
is a local gal from Lothian , MD who graduated from the University of North Carolina last year. Marie has been working at PWRC for some time, assisting in the care of the sea duck colony here. She also has experience with owls, prairie and grassland birds, bird handling, and radio telemetry.

Laurie Lin has a zoology degree from University of Calgary and has been working for some time at the Calgary Zoo with their whooping crane colony. She already has experience raising chicks under isolation protocols. Laurie has also worked with a variety of other species at the zoo and breeding center.

Date: April 20th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

Two Updates

 

2005 Cohort and Migration Update
The tracking team reports that 216's radio signal was detected near Rynearson Pool at Necedah on Tuesday. At that time, his mate, 303 was on the ground about 2.5 miles to the east of him. Shortly after landing, 216 took flight, calling incessantly. His left leg, the one with the transmitter was dangling and obviously injured. He flew, landed, flew, and eventually landed at northwestern Sprague Pool where he roosted. Meanwhile, his mate, 303, was on northeastern Sprague Poll roosting with 311.

216 had last been reported in Todd County, MN on the 12th of April. His then mate, 303, had arrived alone on their territory at the Necedah refuge on that same date. This breeding pair formed during the spring of 2005. Before the injury to 216 and the pair's separation, it was hoped that they would nest on their usual territory at Necedah.

The radio signals of 511 and 521 were also detected over Necedah yesterday afternoon. These two birds had last been recorded in Turner County, GA on March 30th.

Aransas/Wood Buffalo Flock Update
In his aerial census conducted yesterday, Tom Stehn reports finding only 12 sub-adult Whooping cranes left at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

"Nearly all of the Whooping crane flock (94.6%) has migrated right on schedule," said Tom. "The weather has been favorable for migration on a daily basis since last week's flight," he added."Since last week's census an additional 23 birds have headed north, including the last two family groups that were left." Tom noted that all of the adult cranes have now migrated from Aransas. This normally happens by April 20th and was the case again this year.

Date: April 18th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

 '01 Birds Located

 
Notes:  Yesterday, the two 5-year-old females - 102 and 107 - were found with Sandhill cranes east of Necedah NWR in Adams County . This is the same general area where both birds were found in April of 2005. They were not together, and 102 tried several times unsuccessfully to chase 107 from the field. 102's transmitter was confirmed as being nonfunctional. It had failed since she was last located on Necedah NWR in late March. 107, who has so far summered alone each year in the Horicon area, has not been electronically tracked since her transmitter ceased to function in April of 2003.

Date: April 18th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

News, News, News, and more News

 

White bird and 2005 Cohort News
Distribution at the end of the week was: Wisconsin (54), Indiana (3), Minnesota (1), Ontario (1), New York (2) and undetermined (3).

Again, our thanks to Richard Urbanek, Lara Fondow, Chris Malachowski, Sara Zimorksi and Kelly Maguire for their hard work in tracking - and for keeping us all informed.

Spring Migration News
216 continued to be reported in central Minnesota through April 12th. His mate, 303, arrived on their territory on Necedah NWR on 12 April. The cause of their separation is unknown, but severe storms did occur in their westerly flight path during migration. Report of a leg dangling in flight might indicate that no. 216 had sustained a leg injury, although both legs appeared weight bearing on the ground.

According to PTT readings 309 and 520 remained along the shore of Lake Huron in Huron County , Michigan until April 13th when they moved into Ontario , Canada . On the 14th they were reported as being within 10 miles of OM ’s Port Perry office. They continued eastward on the 15th and re-entered the U.S. to roost in Jefferson County , New York . They were within 25 miles of two summer locations reported for 309 in 2005. PTT readings indicated that both birds returned to Lewis County, NY and roosted there April 17th.

318 continued to be reported in Grey County, Ontario.

511 and 521 were last recorded at a stopover site in Turner County , Georgia , on 30 March.

516 and 522 remained at Decatur County , Indiana , during the week where they foraged in harvested cornfields.

DAR532 apparently departed Osceola County , Florida , between 8 and 23 March but no subsequent confirmed reports have been received.

DAR533 resumed migration from Rush County, Indiana on 13 April. After contending with a strong west wind, she roosted that night in the extreme northeast of Indiana . She stayed in this general area during the remainder of the week associating with a small numbers of Sandhills foraging in harvested cornfields.

Wisconsin News
101 and 202 continued to incubate in the marsh/pond south of the pen at Site 4 until the end of the week. Their clutch was destroyed PM 15 April or AM 16 April.

102 disassociated from 212 on 25 March. No subsequent confirmed reports have been received.

105 and 204 remained on their territory at Necedah until 15 April when they moved to roost in the interior wetland of Mill Bluff State Park .

107 was last confirmed in the vicinity of Kankakee River SWFA IN. on 9 March. Her transmitter is nonfunctional, and she cannot be tracked. A report of a single Whooping crane in a flock of 40-50 migrating Sandhills in Cook County , IL on 11 March may have been 107 or another project crane. A report of a Whooping crane with Sandhills in Waukesha County , WI during 15-20 March might also have been 107.

201 and 306 remained on their territory in Juneau County throughout the week.

203 and 317 remained on their territory at Pools 18/19 during the week and continued to incubate in the Pool 18 West marsh until the end of the week. Their clutch was destroyed, apparently by a mammalian predator, PM 15 April or AM 16 April.

205 remained on or near Carter-Woggon Pool during the week.

208 and 313 remained on the area including southwestern Bee Cut, southern Carter-Woggon Pool, Carter-Woggon Pool South, and northwestern West Rynearson Pool during the week.

209 and 302 remained on their territory in Monroe County during the week. Their nest was found on 14 April. They apparently began incubation on 13 April and continued through the week.

211 and 217 remained on their territory on the east side of East Rynearson Pool during the week. Their nest was found on 11 April. They apparently began incubating on 10 April and continued through the week.

212 and 419 were found together in Wood County on 11 and 12 April. They were not tracked during the remainder of the week. Female no. 419 had appeared with Sandhill cranes on 10 April, just after she disassociated from female no. 420. Male 212 had last been recorded on Pool 18 on the refuge on 5 April. 212 and 419 were found again together on southeastern Sandhill SWA on 17 April.

213 and 218 remained on their territory at Site 2/northern East Rynearson Pool/Rice Pool during the week. They continued to incubate in the marsh north of Rice Pool.

301 had disassociated from 311 on northeastern Sprague Pool on 8 April. On 9 April she was associating with male no. 408, and on the 10th were found in a cattle pasture associating with 402 and 403. The four birds took flight in the early afternoon; 301, 402, and 403 landed in Adams County , while 408 returned to Turkey Track Pool. On 11 April the group of three birds returned to Sprague Pool on 14 April but then apparently flew back to Adams County to roost. On 15 April 402 separated from the others and returned to Juneau County to roost.

303 returned to her (and 216’s) territory on northwestern Goose and Killdeer Pools on 12 April. On 13 April males 401 and 408 joined her on Killdeer Pool. By 14 April 303 was associating exclusively with 408 northwestern Sprague and Killdeer Pools.

307 was observed in Williams Field sparring with no. 310 on 11 April. He remained to roost on West Rynearson Pool that night and was on West Rynearson on 14 April.

310 remained in his usual use areas on or near West Rynearson Pool during the week. He was observed threatening and chasing no. 307 in Williams Field on 11 April.

After pairing on April 9th, 311 and 312 remained together on northeastern Sprague Pool area during the week.

316 remained on or near Yellow River Cranberry until he returned to Sprague Pool on April 15 and attempted, unsuccessfully, to reclaim no. 312. He then returned to Yellow River Cranberry.

401 usually remained in the Sprague Pool complex. He sometimes resumed associations with other sub-adult males. 407 also generally remained in the Sprague Pool complex. 

408 generally remained in the Sprague Pool area and associated with several other birds, including female no. 301. By the end of the week he settled with 303 on her territory.

402 and 403 associated with 301 during most of the week; but by the end of the week, 402 had separated from the other two birds.

412 was reported with 10-20 Sandhill cranes in Columbia County during most of the week. He returned to Necedah on 15 April as part of the main flock of 14 HY2005 ultralight-led birds. They remained to roost on the mid-west East Rynearson Pool that night. 412 and 13 of the HY2005 birds left the refuge on the following morning.

416 was not located during the week.

417 was detected east of Finley and Sprague on 12 April. He was found roosting with or near 407 on Pool 9 on that night. Otherwise, he was not located during the week.

415 remained with Sandhills in Adams County during the week.

420 separated from no. 419 on 9 April. According to PTT readings, 420 spent most of the week in wetlands in western Clark County .

HY2005 birds 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 19, 23, and 24 remained in Trempealeau County , where they foraged in a plowed harvested cornfield and roosted in an adjacent wetland, until 14 April. They returned April 15 to Necedah along with 412, who had apparently joined the group in flight. They landed first at Site 4, then at the nest site of pair 213 and 218 where they were driven off by 213. With the exception of 423 who remained behind, they roosted at East Rynearson Pool.

DAR 527 remained with Sandhill cranes in Fond du Lac and Green Lake Counties during the week.

DAR 528 remained with Sandhill cranes in Green Lake County during the week.

Latest Reproductive News
Five pairs were incubating by the end of the week; one was a new pair formed during the past year.
-101 and 202: Began incubating 7 April. Clutch destroyed 15/16 April.
-211 and 217: Began incubating 10 April.
-213 and 218: Began incubating by 6 April.
-302 and 209: Began incubating by 13 April.
-317 and 203: Began incubating by 7 April. Clutch destroyed 15/16 April.

Photos are compliments of Dr. Richard Urbanek -

Patuxent News
When we spoke with Mark Nipper this morning (who is now back at Patuxent) he advised that they now have 15 eggs incubating.

Florida Non-Migratory Fl ock News
Marty Folk said they discovered the 11th nest of the season yesterday. "4 nests have failed and 4 nests are still being incubated, and we till have 3 chicks that have hatched this spring (from 3 different nests), said Marty. "The drought continues, and actually worsens because no significant precipitation has fallen, and temperatures continue above average." Marty noted that typically, pairs will re-nest if they fail early enough in the season. "This year with the drought," he said, "no failed pairs have re-nested."

If you are interested in reading more about the Florida Non-Migratory Flock here are two links for you to investigate-
http://www.nacwg.org/
and
http://research.myfwc.com/features/category_sub.asp?id=5947

You might also like to visit the Whooping Crane Conservation Association site at http://whoopingcrane.com/  

Date: April 18th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

News from Patuxent

 

 Notes:  Faithful OM correspondent and Craniac extraordinaire, Charlie Robinson, (aka Patuxent Charlie) sent along the following update to us.

"It's done!" "It's done!" "It's done!" came the cry of exhalation from our crew leader. The last of the netting was placed and finished on April 5th and all 110 pens were now back under netting. From Feb 11th when the snow storm hit, until around the middle of March, crane crew, Patuxent staff, director, researchers, technicians, clerical workers and volunteers, all put their time and energy into restoring the crane pens. Now, we all relaxed and picked up our ladders and tools and headed back to the shop. This was just the completion of the restoration.

Over the
next few weeks as the crane crew tried to get back to their 'norms', the Whooping Cranes started to settle back in to their pen life - and they showed signs of being 'frisky'. Now the wait. Sandhills were laying eggs around the middle of March but they adapt to change easier than Whoopers. Would the Whoopers start laying eggs this year with all the stress they went through? The crew went into their daily 'egg-watch' mode.

On April 10th the first egg was laid - the start of the normal spring course of events at Patuxent, albeit a little later than usual. As of April 15th there were 7 eggs laid - the first sign of success. The real success will be when the eggs hatch and those little chicks start their life learning to survive and migrate.

Guess the Easter Bunny isn't the only one that brings eggs!

Date: April 13th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

Happy News!

 

 Notes:  At 3:40 yesterday afternoon 303's radio signal was detected in flight over Rynearson Pools, Necedah. She continued northward and landed on the territory of her and her mate 216. Shortly after landing she moved nearby and began foraging. 

Number 216 had been reported as being on his own in Todd County, Minnesota on 7 April. He and his mate, 303, were the only remaining ones of last year's breeding pairs that had not yet arrived on their territory in Wisconsin .

The presence of 216 in Minnesota and the absence of 303 were cause for concern. Perhaps they became separated by a weather disturbance during migration. Hopefully 216 will return to his territory on Necedah NWR soon and hook up again with 303. If not, there are several bachelor males in the area available to take his place.

Of the remaining six pairs that demonstrated some type of breeding activity in 2005, four are confirmed as incubating on Necedah NWR. Another pair at the refuge is not readily observable from the ground, and one pair has not yet begun nesting. No egg-laying has yet been documented for more recently formed pairs.

Date: April 13th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

Aransas/Wood Buffalo Update

 

 Notes:  Tom Stehn's report of April 12 notes the latest aerial census take at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas found just 32 adults and 3 chicks = 35 total.

"The majority of the Whooping crane flock has started the migration right on schedule," said Tom. "Between April 5 to 12, an estimated 102 whooping cranes (47.7% of the flock) left Aransas." With the exception of April 8th when a low pressure system brought strong northwest winds to Aransas, that period offered the birds suitable migration weather.

With only an estimated 35 Whooping cranes still at Aransas, 83.6% of the flock has migrated. "So far," said Stehn, "sightings of Whooping cranes have been reported from as far north as North Dakota

None of the birds remaining at Aransas are color-banded. All 21 of the banded cranes in the flock have migrated. Remaining at Aransas are 2 family groups, 28 sub-adults, and 1 chick all by itself on its parents' territory.

Whooping crane juveniles normally separate from their parents either en route in the northern parts of the migration; shortly after arrival on the nesting grounds; or occasionally, while at Aransas. Presumably this chick's parents started the migration and the juvenile had no idea what was going on, or perhaps just wasn’t quite ready to migrate and stayed behind.

"Based on other instances of this happening," Tom said, "I fully expect this juvenile to head north in the next 2 to 4 weeks and successfully return to the Canadian nesting grounds. It may even show up on its parents nesting territory, but will be driven off by the parents who will not tolerate last year's chick."

The good news for Craniacs in the Aransas area is that as many as 18 Whooping cranes may still be seen from the Whooping crane tour boats at the refuge. 

Tom tells us that the number of white pelicans at Aransas has also greatly decreased in the last couple of weeks. The migration of Whooping cranes and white pelicans across North American at approximately the same time often leads several people to report large flocks (20+ birds) of Whooping cranes - when what they are really seeing are white pelicans. The two species look amazingly alike from a distance. Both are large white birds with black wing tips, and have an identical spiral flight pattern in migration. Whooping cranes however, usually migrate in small groups of up to 8 birds, but frequently migrate as singles, pairs, or family groups.

Date: April 11th, 2006

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Reporter: Joe Duff

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

We learn from our mistakes

 

 Notes:  We recently reported that 311 and 301 were on the east side of Lake Michigan in Mason County near Manistee. The report originally came from an observer who send us a picture of two perfect Whooping cranes foraging in tall grass. In fact the grass was tall enough that we couldn’t see the leg bands. When we passed the information to the Tracking Team they first speculated, then they confirmed that 301, the female that spent her first summer in that very same area, had led number 311 astray.

It now appears that these two birds are at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and were seen nest building, which is great news. Somehow they made it around or across the lake. After arriving and setting up a territory they had an encounter with some other Whooping cranes, the result of which is 311 is now with 312, and 301 hooked up with 408. Oh what a tangled web....

Number 309 (one of the other wandering birds) has also been reported in Michigan with 520. They were spotted in the eastern part of the state near Lake Huron . You can see why the Tracking Team must take reports on the location of our birds with a grain of salt. They are attempting to track 64 birds over half the country, and are using ground vehicles and directional radio receivers with a range of only a few miles. When you consider the magnitude of their task you can understand why a report isn’t confirmed until they see it.

They did confirm that 318 is now in Canada in an area referred to as the Georgian Triangle; a three-sided spit of land between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron . All three of these birds (309, 520, and 318) will need to be collected and moved back to Wisconsin in an effort to re-orient them, but crossing the Canadian/US border may complicate the issue.

In 2004 when the original 8 birds ended up on the east side of Lake Michigan and appeared to be blocked from returning home, Dr Richard Urbanek (USFWS) was convinced they should be collected and moved to Necedah. The issue was brought before the WCEP Project Direction Team. I was on the other side of the argument thinking we should leave them alone to return on their own next season. The hands-off side won the vote and the birds were left to fend for themselves. Eventually 3 of the 5 made it around the lake and returned on their own, but the others have been lost ever since. Now it appears that they have a propensity for Michigan , and even have the potential to corrupt other birds like 520. It seems that these introduced birds need to spend their first summer of freedom in the core reintroduction area. I was wrong, but we learn more from mistakes than from successes - or at least we should.

We now have three pairs at Necedah who appear to be incubating eggs. Numbers 101 and 202 are on their traditional territory near our north training site and have be sitting on their nest since April 7th. Numbers 213 and 218 started incubating on April 6th near the west site, and 203 and 317 are sitting on eggs at Pool 18 on the refuge.

The other interesting news is that Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland , where all of our birds are hatched, has the first egg of the season. This is later than last year by a good two weeks, a delay likely caused by the disturbance resulting from February’s twenty inch snowfall that damaged over 100 pens. Justifiably, no one at Patuxent is willing to speculate on this breeding season. We will have to wait and see if they can produce a normal number of chicks this year, or if we will have to made due with fewer. All the people at Patuxent, including volunteers, did a titanic job of getting things back to normal in record time. Now it’s up to the birds - both captive and wild.
TRACKING Summary as of April 8th, 2006

Wisconsin-52 Birds 
101, 202 Began incubating April 7
102  Not located since disassociating with 212 March 25
105, 204 Found on territory April 6
201, 306  Found on territory April 6 - may have arrived April 4
203, 317 Began incubating April 7
312 Found paired with 311 April 9
205 Location undetermined April 7
212 Not located since April 5
313, 208 Remained on Carter-Woggon Pool
209, 302 Remained in Monroe County . Discontinued use of nest building site. Chased 417 from their territory
213, 218 Began incubating Apr 6
316 Remained near Yellow River Cranberry
401, 407, 408 Remained separated but all near Sprague Pool; 408 was observed with 301
211, 217 Remained on territory
310 Remained in usual area. Observed harassing pairs 101/202 and 213/218
402, 403, 412, 416, 417 Arrived April 5 then separated; 403 later found associating with 402; 417 was in Monroe County April 7
415 Adams County
D527 With Sandhills in Green Lake County
301, 311 On territory and next building April 7. Territorial encounter between males 311, 205, and 408.  April 9 301 and 311 split up.  311 paired with 312; 301 was observed with 408.
307 Last seen in Jackson Co, AL on Dec 2. Found at Necedah April 5; probably arrived Apr 2
D528 With Sandhills in Green Lake County
419 Arrived Wood County April 10. Separated from 420
420 Arrived Clark County Apr 10. Separate d from 419
508, 509, 510, 514, 524, 523, 501, 502, 503, 505, 506, 507, 512, 519 Left Sauk County April 4. April 6th passed Necedah to Trempealeau County
Undetermined location-2
532D Location unknown
107 Possibly in Waukesha County
Spring Migration-10
216, 303 216 last reported April 7 in Todd County MN . 303 location unknown.
309, 520 Huron County , MI on April 6
D533 Rush County, IN on April 4
318 Reported in Grey County, Ontario Canada on April 6 (same area visited by 318, 301, and 309 spri ng 200 5
511, 521 Last reported in Turner County , GA March 30
516, 522 Decatur County , IN as of the end of the week. 

Thanks to Chris for compiling the above table from the Tracking Team's Report.

Date: April 8th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

Florida Flock

 

 Notes:  The following is the first of what we hope will be ongoing updates on the Florida non-migratory flock. The report comes from Marty Folk, Biological Scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC). With the addition of Marty's reports to those of  Tom Stehn's on the Wood Buffalo/Aransas population, readers will have an overview of what's happening in the world of Whooping cranes North America wide.

Marty advised that non-migratory Whooping cranes in central Florida have initiated 9 nests so far this breeding season, with four chicks hatching from three nests. Three of the four chicks survive.

"Four nests have failed to hatch for various reasons," he noted, "and we are looking into the causes of failure. This is one of our primary missions these days; to determine why so many pairs fail to hatch their eggs."

The good news is there is still hope for more chicks this spring as two nests are still being incubated. Florida has experienced the driest March on record accompanied by above normal  temperatures. This has caused rapid drying of the marshes the cranes rely on for nesting, making for poor nesting conditions.

This photo below on the left was taken by crane biologist Jeannette Parker, also of the FFWCC, on a flight to check on nests. Jeannette used a strong zoon lens gyro-stabilization to get this photo.

The photo on the right, taken by Kathy Chappell also a member of their field team, is of an older chick from this spring.

Date: April 7th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

ARRIVAL ! ! !

 

 Notes:  The group of fourteen 2005 juveniles (numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 19, 23, and 24) resumed migration from Sauk County, Wisconsin yesterday, and completed their  their spring migration as they passed the southwest corner of Necedah NWR just after noon. They continued westward to in Trempealeau County, WI in the early afternoon. They foraged there and remained in the area to roost.

How about that?!?!?!

Date: April 6th, 2006

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Reporter: Joe Duff

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

I wish I could fly like a Whooping crane.

 

 Notes:  Our ultralights are state-of-the-art machines, and despite their simplicity, they are truly amazing aircraft. At some point during the time it takes to accumulate a couple of thousand hours in the pilot's seat, the aircraft becomes a part of you and the mechanics of flight become automatic.

Notwithstanding the efficiency of the aircraft and the experience of our pilots, our ability pales in comparison to Whooping cranes. Evidence of this is the 60 days it took us to lead them to Florida last fall, and the mere 8 days it has taken the main group of 2005 birds to return this spring. It's like being beaten 100 to 0. Trust a Whooping crane to humiliate us mortal pilots on such a grand scale.

Wednesday, the Tracking Team reported that 2005 birds numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 19, 23, and 24, flew against a strong head wind and crossed the Wisconsin state line mid-afternoon. Then they drifted back to roost that evening in Illinois .

We have a supporter who sent us a photo, (taken from a safe distance) of two birds that made it to Michigan . Unfortunately we can't see the leg bands, but we passed this information to the Tracking Team. They speculated that it could be 301 and 311. These two birds seem to have paired, and it appears that 301 (female) led 311 (male) to the spot she found on her first migration.

Last June 301 was captured and moved from Michigan back to Wisconsin . In August she began to hang around with 311. The pair migrated to Florida , moving back and forth several times between Hernando County and the Chassahowitzka pensite before heading up into South Carolina .

In the Whooping crane species the male is normally philopatric, that is, has a tendency to return to his natal area, bringing his new mate with him. The male 311 seems to have directed them to Florida , but then lost his chief navigator status, perhaps because the female thought they were lost. In any event, 301 carried the day and dragged 311 off to territory she was familiar with in South Carolina . Then she led him back to Michigan . If they don't go on their own, the WCEP team will likely decide to move them both back to Wisconsin . Hopefully 301 won't start to think that a trip in a box is part of her normal migration cycle.

Another interesting couple (also of Michigan fame) is 520 and 309. Traveling alone they made it as far as Hiawassee in Tennessee , and on March 30th were reported in south eastern Indiana . They are heading in the right direction, but the southern tip of Lake Michigan is right ahead of them. They could go either way depending - on who wins lead.

Addendum: We just received a report from the Tracking Team confirming that 309 bullied 520 into following her back to Michigan . It seems they are both in the eastern part of the state close to Lake Huron, and separated from Necedah by Lake Michigan .

Date: April 4th, 2006

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Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

2005 Cohort Spring Migration Update 

 

 Notes:  Report as of April 4/06

The group of fourteen 2005 juveniles (501, 502, 503, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, 510, 512, 514, 519, 523, and 524) resumed migration from DuPage County , IL yesterday at 10:28 CDT. Hampered by a strong WNW wind, they made slow progress northward, crossing the Wisconsin state line north of Antioch , Illinois in the early afternoon. However, they only circled and drifted locally until landing in McHenry County , IL to roost.

Yesterday, 516 and 522 also resumed migration from Floyd County, IN. Their flight was also hampered as they were blown eastward by a strong NW wind. They landed in Decatur County , IN where they remained to roost.

 



Date: April 4th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

White Bird Spring Migration Update

Week ended April 1/06

 Notes:  Summary
Distribution at the end of the week was:
34 - on spring migration but not yet confirmed in Wisconsin
29 - in Wisconsin
  1 - not recently located (307 last observed in Jackson County, Alabama on December 2nd.)

Five pairs appeared to be on breeding territories on Necedah NWR or nearby wetlands. Two DAR birds continued on migration to Wisconsin and another to southern Indiana during the week.

On Spring Migration
309 and 520 arrived in Ripley County , IN on March 30 and remained there for the remainder of the week. On March 31st 419 and 420 also arrived in Indiana and they too remained there for the rest of the week.

516 and 522 were last reported in Floyd County, IN. As of April 2nd, 501, 502, 503, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, 510, 512, 514, 519, 523, and 524 roosted in DuPage County , IL .

DAR533 was detected in flight on March 30th as she migrated through northern Georgia into Tennessee . She roosted in Jefferson County , IN on April 1st. Radio signals indicated that she resumed migration the following morning, (behind the fourteen 2005 birds) but apparently landed because of bad weather after only a short flight. No trackers were available to determine her location.

On Migration but not identified/reported during the past week
- 105 and 204
- 107 – transmitter non-functional
(A report of a single Whooping crane (March 11) in a flock of 40-50 migrating sandhills in Cook County , IL may have been 107. A single bird spotted with Sandhills in Waukesha County , WI March 20th could also have been 107.)
- Two Whooping cranes believed to be 301 and 311 were reported in Mason County, Michigan, on 2 April. This was same general area occupied by 301 and 318 in 2004/2005 before the they were retrieved and re-released in central Wisconsin early last summer.
- 216 and 303 last reported in Haywood County TN March 19th.
- DAR532 known to have departed Florida before March 23rd.

In Wisconsin
- 101 and 202
- 102 who disassociated from 212 March 25th was not located the past week.
- 203 and 317
- 205, 208 and 313 – The two males often threatened each other but female 313 demonstrated no strong bond with either male.
- 209 and 302 were observed nest building on March 27th as were 213 and 218 on March 30th and 31st.
- 211 and 217
- 212 spent the first part of the week contributing to the disassociation of 312, and 316 and then attempted to pair with 312. These two birds (212 ad 312) moved and were not located during the remainder of the week. 312’s transmitter is non-functional. 316 remained near Yellow River Cranberry after disassociating with 312.
- 103
- 401, 407, and 408
- 402, 403, 412, 415, 416, and 417
- DAR 527 and 528  

Date: April 4th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

2005 Cohort Spring Migration Update

 Notes:  The following is the latest report received from the tracking team.

27 March: 309 and 520 began migration. Both with PTT's but were not tracked. Roosted near Dooly County , GA. 

28 March: Remaining 2005 birds at Chass began migration. 516 showed no flight impairment. The flock split into three groups at roost time. 516 and 522, and 511 and 521 roosted at two different sites in Turner County, GA. The roost site of other 14 birds was approximated near Turner, Crisp, and Wilcox Counties. 309 and 520 roosted in northern Georgia .

29 March: 516 and 522 moved to another site in Turner County , GA. 511 and 521 and the other fourteen 2005 birds made no significant movements. 309 and 520 roosted at Meigs/Rhea Counties, TN.

30 March: The group of fourteen 2005 birds resumed migration and roosted in Hamilton County , TN. 516 and 522 resumed migration and roosted within 10 miles of Hiwassee Wildlife Area, TN. 511 and 521 were last recorded at their stopover site in Turner County, GA. DAR 533 was tracked in flight through northern Georgia having departed Florida the previous day.

Many of you have called and emailed commenting that there have not been as much coverage (or as good reporting) of the spring migration as in previous years. We know that like us, you too are anxious about the whereabouts and the welfare of all the birds, but it is important to remember that OM is not part of the tracking team, and we are only able to post what updates we are sent when we receive them.

As the size of the eastern migratory population increases, the task of the tracking team grows exponentially - as does the cost to do so. It is not inconceivable that at some point, tracking may have to be in the main, focused on the younger generations.

In case you haven't noticed, MileMaker 2006 launched yesterday! To sponsor and select your  'personal' mile , see the Field Journal entry below.

Date: April 3rd, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

ANNOUNCING
the l
aunch of
MileMaker 2006

  
The  MileMaker 2006 campaign is now officially underway!

Simply click on the word MileMaker on the brown 'feather' to the left to be whisked to the MileMaker 2006 page. There you'll find all the details - as well as maps showing distances/mileage.

One mile(s) sponsors are able to personalize their MileMaker experience by selecting the mile or miles they would like to carry their name. First come, first served, so if you have a special preference for a particular mile or spot along the migration route, we encourage you to take out your sponsorship early.

We think we have all the glitches out of the new MileMaker pages, but would appreciate hearing from you should you encounter any.

As always, you have our sincere gratitude for your help and support.

Date: April 1st, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Position Opening! 
 Supervisor of Field Operations.

Location: Main Office

2005's Migration, Post Migration, and Winter Photo Journal.

Activity:

MileMaker 2006 To Launch

 MileMaker 2006 will be launched on our website early next week!  All the details, including:
§         maps indicating mileages to help you select your mile to sponsor
§         how to select your chosen mile
§         mile, half, and quarter mile sponsorship costs, and
§         access to a legend acknowledging all of you, our generous sponsors
will all be soon be available via the MileMaker link on the brown 'feather' to the right.

We hope we can count on you to once again support our work on behalf the endangered Whooping crane. As in previous years, your MileMaker sponsorship dollars will be used to cover the cost of leading the 2006 cohort of chicks (soon to be hatched) on their very first migration.





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