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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: June 30th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office 

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Activity:

Media Coverage

While we do receive media calls and emails intermittently throughout the year, it is at migration time that we attract the broadest and heaviest media attention. The wild hatch of 211 and 217's two chicks may make this year an exception to that rule however. We've had interest from most major media outlets - everyone from CNN, CBS, and ABC, to the New York Times and discovery.com, and even a call from Japan.

We only wish we could turn all the attention into currency to buy mealworms, aircraft fuel and netting! Nonetheless, we are delighted at the prospect of this unprecedented coverage raising the awareness of thousands of new people to the plight of the Whooping crane - and who knows, maybe it will bring a few new 'Craniacs' into the flock.

On another note - Your response to last year's urgent email appeal was phenomenal, but because just 153 miles have been sponsored as of the end of June - the lowest as of this date in the MileMaker program's history - we are starting to have heart palpitations! 

Wisconsin and Illinois Craniacs are the leading MileMakers so far, sponsoring 53% and 21% of the migration miles in their states. Florida is starting to catch up, but we are wondering where our supporters from Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia are.

We can count on you......can't we?

Date: June 29th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office 

MileMaker Challenge!
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Activity:

Call to Action

The history making wild-hatch has captured the attention of the press, including such major outlets as CNN, CBS, ABC, and Discovery. These two little chicks have already made a major contribution to the survival of their counterparts by focusing the spotlight on Whooping cranes, and opening the door for an untold number of opportunities to increase awareness for the work being done to safeguard the species.

We try to maximize and leverage every bit of media coverage we get. To do this as effectively as possible we are asking for your help.

Call to Action
If you see an article, commentary, or photo about this event, about Whooping cranes, or about OM and/or WCEP, please clip it and send it along to us. If the piece is in a newspaper, please send the whole page so we will have the masthead and the publication date. 

And don't worry about us receiving duplicates. More often than not someone says to us, "I would have cut it out and mailed it to you but I thought lots of people would have already sent it."

Between the two wild-hatchlings and little 602 we expect greater than normal media interest this summer, and of course that will really grow come migration time. We would really appreciate receiving copies of any stories, photos, or news coverage you spot - now and anytime.


Date: June 27th, 2006

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Reporter: Mark Nipper / Joe Duff

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office 

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Activity:

Goodbyes

Mark's Message:  Well folks, my fifth and last season at PWRC has drawn to a close and I will be moving on. Four years ago I was finishing up college and looking every where for a job. I knew I wanted to continue my studies, but I also knew that I needed to work in the field to figure things out. My primary interests have long been applied conservation, and the study of how animals navigate and migrate. In the middle of my job search, Dan Sprague from PWRC called. He told me about a group of people who wore big, baggy white outfits to raise and teach Whooping cranes to follow behind ultralight airplanes. By the end of the call I was convinced, and accepted a position with OM.

One of my greatest joys on the project has come from our landowners/stopover hosts along the migration route. What I have witnessed from these people along the migration route is enough to restore anyone's hope and faith in the goodness of mankind.

These folks allow us to use their property to hide the birds. While we are there, they surrender their land completely. Adhering to our isolation protocol means that no one, not even the landowners themselves, are allowed to use it.

Many invite us into their homes and treat us royally. They offer us bathrooms, showers, food, TV/movies, and internet access. They invite their friends and family over to meet us; and they invite people they think might contribute to our project to come and here our story. Many are farmers that plant and harvest their crops around our schedule - putting their very livelihoods on the line for us. These wonderful folks have made us an extended part of their family, not only for the time that we are there, but throughout the year.

It is a shame these people have to remain anonymous in order to preserve the birds' safety in isolation. They deserve a medal from all of us in this world who care about conservation. One day, when this project reaches its successful conclusion, these heroes will receive their due. In the meantime, I want to say to them, "You have become dear friends, and I will miss you all."

I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity of working with OM. The opportunity for someone fresh out of school to land a job on a project of this magnitude is, to say the very least, unbelievable. Thanks so much to Joe, Chris, and Liz, the Baron RVH, Daddy BJP, Chris G, and all of PWRC. It has been a pleasure working with you these last four years.

And a sincere thank you goes out to all you Craniacs out there; to OM's loyal supporters and Field Journal followers; to everyone I have met, worked with, and 'lived' with throughout my four years with Operation Migration. Just like on the Oscars, the orchestra would start playing long before I could list all your names - but you know who are.

Goodbye all - and thanks for the memories!

Joe's Message: 
Mark Nipper began working with Operation Migration as an intern. In other words, he worked very hard and was paid very little. Recruited on our behalf by Dan Sprague of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center , Mark worked with the Crane Ecology Team during the hatch and early training portion of our study. He was dedicated and well liked, and when the birds were moved to Necedah, Mark came with them.

He spent that summer with us and then the migration, and soon became an integral part of the team. With a little more responsibility and not much more money, we persuaded Mark to come back the following season. He became increasingly valuable to the organization.

After two years of being away from home for a nine month stretch and then unemployed for three, it's hard to stay focused, and Mark announced it was time for him to move on. But by then he knew more about our birds than most and we offered him a full time position as Supervisor of Field Operations. This meant Mark was in charge of the birds and training while they were under Operation Migration's authority.

He handled interns, bird medication, schedules, pen maintenance, record keeping, migration routes and a myriad other duties. Mark also spent his winters in Florida helping the Monitoring Team which meant that he was with the birds more than anyone else. It also meant he had no fixed address and not much of a social life, which after a while, wears thin. Wanting to continue his education, Mark told us this past winter he would be leaving once the first cohort of 2006 birds had been shipped from.

All of us, right down to the last person on this team, are sad to see Mark leave. During breeding season, summer training and the migration we work seven days a week, but for the rest of us, the season eventually ends. Traveling year-round with the flock and monitoring them from hatch to winter release and beyond made him the epicenter of bird activity; an axis around whom the OM team revolved. As his knowledge of cranes and our protocol grew, so did his ability, and our
respect.

Mark was young and eager when we first met him, and we watched him evolve. At the same time our web audience was growing along with the awareness of this project. Team members are encourages to contribute to our website, and Mark became a regular 'columnist', reporting on the birds in his own inimitable style which has endeared him to many readers.

We say goodbye to Mark very reluctantly, but we wish him well. I think that OM has had a hand in shaping the man that Mark has become - and I know he influenced the evolution of this organization. A large portion of the success of this reintroduction is owed to Mark Nipper .

It appears that Mark has used my name as a reference because yesterday I received a call from someone asking me to verify all the good things Mark said about himself. I spent 20 minutes adding to this gentleman's impression of Mark, and at the end, he asked me one of those probing interview questions. "Is there an area of Mark's personality that could stand improvement?" I couldn't think of any.

Hey Mark, consider this photo our 'parting shot'.

Laundry over his shoulder and a change of clothes in his duffle, Mark, decked out in his 'gottchies' heads across camp from his trailer to the shower. (Photo taken last summer.)

Good luck Mark - all the very best to you from all of us at OM.

Date: June 26th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Joe Duff

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office 

MileMaker Challenge!
Win a trip to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and visit with the Operation Migration team!
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Activity:

Cohort 1 moves to Necedah

This year's flock of Whooping crane chicks is slowly coming of age and it's time to move the first cohort from Patuxent to Necedah. Normally moving birds is a difficult process with high risk. They can be crated and moved by road but it's a thousand miles from Maryland to Wisconsin. The other option is on a commercial airline but that's expensive and complicated and the nearest direct flight takes them to Chicago, still four hours away.  Terry Kohler from Windway Capital has donated the use of one of his aircraft to help us move birds ever since this project began. By the time all of the birds are in Wisconsin this year, Windway will have made 15 round trips between Necedah and Patuxent.

On Sunday evening Mike Frakes and Charles Koehler from Windway attempted to fly the company Cessna Caravan from Sheboygan, Wisconsin to Baltimore, Maryland. Unfortunately the weather didn
't cooperate and they were delayed first in Ohio and then Pennsylvania. They finally arrived this morning and met with the crane crew at Patuxent. Normally they try to make an early morning departure so it's easier to keep the chicks cool in their crates but they were not able to load them and take off heading west until 11AM.

BWI is only a few miles from Patuxent Wildlife Research Center where this morning the crane ecology crew loaded eight Whooping crane chicks into specially designed transport crates and lifted them into an air conditioned van. They made their way to the airport and with special clearance drove out onto the tarmac. They greeted the pilots with smiles and raised thumbs but no one talked while the birds could hear them. One by one the crates were silently loaded and tied down in the compartment that is normally full of seats.

Four hours later, pilots Mike Frakes and Charles Koehler, touched down at the much smaller Necedah Airport. There refuge manager, Larry Wargowsky along with Richard and Brooke from OM and Charlie Shafer from Patuxent waited in another air conditioned van. It is only six miles from the airport to the pen at the north site but it takes at least 30 minutes when driving slow enough to avoid all the bumps on the dirt roads.

During the summer training season when the pens are occupied, we always park in the cover of trees and walk the last quarter mile in silence and full costume. It seems almost irreverent to drive the van right up to the pen but this is arrival day and the only exception. The crates were moved into the dry pen, and Barry Hartup, veterinarian from the International Crane Foundation, gave each bird a visual examination as it steps awkwardly from its crate on gangly legs. Normally they shake off the ordeal in only a few minutes and are soon exploring the new digs. Barry watches with experienced eyes for signs of lameness, dehydration, myopathy and a host of other ailments that can result when very young birds are moved a thousand miles. Luckily no injuries were reported 

Number 602 is in this cohort and is now back where she began. As an egg she was collected from an abandoned nest and shipped to Patuxent to be incubated along with 603. Now she has returned but not with her nest mate. Unfortunately 603 had to be euthanized last week after an acute case of hock rotation. During the early stages as the leg bones develop they can begin to rotate until their toes are pointing directly outward. All attempts to correct this problem failed and the crippled birds had to be put down.

With the exception of 603, numbers 1 through 10 are in this shipment. Also absent is 609 who was held back and will be added to the captive flock because of her genetic significance.

We would like to again express our gratitude to Terry Kohler and all the Windway Capital pilots for once again stepping forward to help safeguard this species. Thanks to them the 2006 summer training season has begun.

Date: June 26th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Joe Duff

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office 

MileMaker Challenge!
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Activity:

Today is Moving Day

Today is moving day for Cohort One. Because of severe weather in the northeast, the aircraft, donated by Windway Capital, was delayed and didn't arrive until this morning. Mark just called to tell us that 8 birds were loaded by 11am and pilots Mike Frakes and Charles Koehler took off for Wisconsin. They hope to arrive by 3PM this afternoon. We'll post another update as soon as we have more news. Wish them luck!

Date: June 23th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office 

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Activity:

Even Bigger News

NOT one chick - - TWO!!!

Sorry if this makes it a slow down load folks, but these photos are just too special to reduce. Dr. Richard Urbanek (US FWS) sent them out as soon as he was able to see the chicks through his longest lens.

Date: June 23th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Joe Duff

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office 

MileMaker Challenge!
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Activity:

Big News

Yesterday, Dr. Richard Urbanek called us from Necedah to congratulate us on reaching yet another significant milestone. The first wild Whooping crane chick of the eastern migratory flock was hatched yesterday to parents 211 and 217.
 
A milestone can be defined as a marker for a significant event
, and there have been many along the road that Operation Migration has followed. It started when Bill Lishman first took to the air leading a small flock of Canada geese that he spent months conditioning. Another signpost was passed when we conducted the first human-led migration, and then when our birds came back on their own. Convincing the federal government and all the other members of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership that using ultralights to introduce the most endangered of all cranes was not lunacy, surely qualifies as a benchmark. And leading the first flock of Whooping cranes from Wisconsin to Florida is a high point that I will always remember.

The chick produced by 211 and 217 was as a result of their second nesting attempt this season. They, along with 7 other pairs, abandoned their first nest, but while the others went about the business of summer foraging, these two re-nested and incubated diligently. Seems the first try was just practice for this grand event. 

Dr. Urbanek cautioned that he had not actually seen the chick because the vegetation is too high and he wanted to keep his distance. But the pair were busy stamping down the grass around the nest and fetching food, which as George Archibald from the International Crane Foundation agrees, is typical behaviour for new parents. It won't be long before the chick leaves the nest and begins to learn to forage on its own. That should give the tracking team a chance to see it through binoculars.

Hatching a chick and keeping it alive until it learns to fly are two very different disciplines. The next stage is so dangerous in fact that we really can
't count this bird as part of the eastern population until it fledges - and that is 80 to 100 perilous days away so there is still a long way to go. 

We have two chicks from wild eggs collected in Necedah and hatched at Patuxent as part of our flock this year, and one in the wild that we will all be watching closely. The next marker will be passed if 211 and 217 teach their youngster our migration route. That will be a giant step and a strong indication that they are beginning to help themselves. It will prove that all we have to do is give them a chance and they can survive on their own.
 
The removal of Whooping cranes from the endangered species list is our ultimate milestone but we seem to be ticking them off like fencepost next to the highway. Hang on, we
'll get this done yet.

Date: June 20th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie 

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office 

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Activity:

Tracking Team update

Sad news today. The remains of 417 was found June 18th at Gallagher Flowage, Sandhill State Wildlife Area. The mortality site contained no standing water and predation is suspected. 417 was last confirmed alive roosting on the Necedah Refuge the evening of May 24th. The condition of the carcass indicated that mortality had probably occurred shortly after he left the refuge.

Distribution at the end of last week was:
59
- Wisconsin
  1 - Iowa (509)
  3
- Michigan (318 who appears to be molting is in Oceana County. DAR 533* remained in Barry County. 522 remained in or near Newago County until he flushed with Sandhill cranes during a June 14th reconnaissance for a retrieval attempt. He flew into Muskegon County and could not be tracked further.)

Nesting: 211 and 217* continue incubating on their nest.

Not recorded during the last week: 102* and107* (both have nonfunctional transmitters)

Thanks to Kelly Maguire and Sara Zimorski (ICF); Terry Kohler, Mike Mauer, Mike Frakes, and Adam Heronymus (Windway Capital Corporation); and Glenn Klingler (USDA Forest Service, Huron
-Manistee National Forest) for their assistance.


Date: June 18th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Mark Nipper

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Patuxent

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Activity:

Cohort 2

Just a quick update to introduce everyone to Cohort Two (see new pics in Photo Journal). So far, numbers 11-17 are all relatively easy going, and we were able to take the entire group out for together the first time the other day. This may be the earliest and easiest an entire cohort has been socialized. Hopefully, these guys will continue to get along well.

At this point, 612 and 615 are the only aggressive chicks in this cohort. 615 instigates most of the minor confrontations, but 612 is in charge.

We are greatly concerned about 616. This chick had to be assisted out of its shell. It has a respiratory problem and potential scoliosis. We have been treating him since he hatched, but have seen little to no improvement in the respiratory trouble. Also, his neck is not straight, and the crookedness is becoming more apparent as he gets bigger. It's a shame; 616 has such a great attitude.

Date: June 18th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Joe Duff

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office

MileMaker Challenge!
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Activity:

Team Changes

As some of you may know, Mark Nipper will be resigning his position with Operation Migration effective the end of June. Mark decided he wanted to continue his education, not to mention to bring some normalcy to what has been a nomadic life with OM.

Be assured we will be writing more here about Mark later on, but in the meantime, as you may have deduced from the deletion of the job posting for a Supervisor of Field Operations, we found his replacement.

We would like to announce that Beverly Paulan has agreed to join the OM Team. Bev's background includes both aviation and avian experience, and despite our warning her about all the traveling, the long hours, tight living quarters, and more often than not, the absence of 'mod cons', we didn't discourage her. Her 'baptism by fire' will begin when she joins the OM crew July 1st in Necedah.

Beverly will have a more challenging time than did Mark, as he had a few years to evolve into his position. In doing so, he set the bar quite high and Beverly knows that she has a big pair of shoes to fill.

We're confident though, that Bev's many talents, and her background and experience will stand her in good stead. And Mark learned when he first came on the scene, once you're a part of the OM team you can be assured of getting all the help and support you need.

Welcome aboard Bev!

Date: June 17th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Mark Nipper

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Patuxent

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Activity:

Big step forward

Yesterday, things took a big step forward at PWRC. The older birds had their first full day and night out at the White Series. We were also able to socialized Cohort 1 at the WS pond pens for a while. Hopefully, we will soon be able to get them staying out there all night too.

In the morning, we trained numbers 11-15 all  together at the circle pen. Except for 615, they did pretty well. He was distracted, slow, and aggressive towards everyone. But it was not too bad. It was more like he was just making sure everyone knew he was in charge.

611 and 612 were both a little nervous about joining the melee to get at the mealworms. 613 was nervous the whole time, but the upside was that this translated into her being the closest follower of the trike.

Accompanied by a small squad of costumes to keep the peace, numbers 1-10 all went out to the pond yesterday afternoon. Overall, they did quite well - very promising. 602 and 608 seem to have calmed down nicely and were not too aggressive.

604 seemed determined to be the biggest jerk. 606 was aggressive but mainly only when another bird got in its space, or if it met eyes with 604. Both of these chicks were fired up, but in the main, their aggression was mostly toward one another. These two really hate each other.

(More new pics coming to the Photo Journal as fast as we can process them. Liz)

Date: June 16th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Mark Nipper

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Patuxent

MileMaker Challenge!
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Activity:

Chick Training

Things are rolling right along at PWRC. The groupings are getting larger, and the White Series pensite is finally ready so we will soon have some birds living outside all the time. Yesterday, the chicks spent most of the day out there and they seemed to handle it pretty well. Today (Friday) they should be good to go out there for the night. This will lighten our load considerably and make life a lot easier here.

The other day we walked numbers 11, 13, 14, and 15 together. #12 was a little under the weather that day but we don't think it should disturb the mix too much. The first group of nine, (1-10) has multiple aggressive birds, but the second cohort seems to be more laid back. By the end of the week, 616 and 617 should be easy to add to the grouping of 11-15. It will be great if we can have the whole group able to walk and train together so far before the shipment.

Numbers 2, 4, 6, and 8 are still not officially in any group. 608 is doing better, and has even trained with 607 and 610, but she is still aggressive at times. #2 and #4 seem to be calming down a little bit, but they still get fired up at each other, and at 606 – who is definitely the biggest butthead left. 606 and 604 were fighting through the fence out at the White Series yesterday. Shortly after, they crossed paths on the way back to the Prop building, and the rumble was on. We had to separate them several times. They were climbing over and through us trying to get at each other. As shipment date approaches, this behaviour is less than encouraging.

(New photos posted here. Liz)

Date: June 13th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office

MileMaker Challenge!
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Activity:

Tracking Team Update

Notes: Tracking Team Update as of June 10

Distribution at the end of the week: (* = Female)
55 in Wisconsin
  1 in Iowa - 509 (501*, 508*, 512, 514, 519* returned to Necedah June 13.)
  3 in Michigan - 318, 522, DAR533*

Nesting: 211 and 217 are still incubating on their nest near East Rynearson Pool dike. They began Incubation began May23rd.

Location Unknown
102* and 107* were last recorded in Adams County on May 30 and April 18 respectively. Both have non-functional transmitters.
417 was last recorded at Necedah May 24. 

Date: June 13th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office

MileMaker Challenge!
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Activity:

Guest FJ Contributor

Notes:  We welcome Megan Lauber as a guest contributor to OM's Field Journal. Megan is Crane Coordinator with the Freeport McMoran Audubon Species Survival Center - Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species (ACRES) in New Orleans, Louisana.

Cranes, Planes, and Hurricanes.....

It's been a tough year for Audubon Nature Institute and the city of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina hit forty miles east on the morning of August 28th, 2005. In the days and weeks after the storm there were some dark moments when we wondered about many things, including if the crane programs would continue at Audubon.

But we rebounded. On May 16th I boarded a plane bound for Baltimore carrying with me a single fertile Whooping crane egg. We are proud to be sending a Whooping crane egg to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center to be included in the ultralight program.

I am also proud of our breeding pair, McFuzz and Susan, as their resilience is stunning. They didn't let the worst natural disaster in the history of the United Sates get in their way of laying eggs this season. They danced, purred to each other, dragged sticks to their muddy platform, and incubated diligently as if nothing had happened. I was amazed by their unbridled enthusiasm. 

McFuzz, Susan, and six more Whooping cranes all live at ACRES in New Orleans: 1300 acres of leased Coast Guard property on the city's west bank. Shell gravel roads wind through the lush, lowland hardwood forest, ending at enclosures for African hoofstock, lions, serval cats, storks, and cranes.

Our breeding flock of 29 Mississippi Sandhill cranes and eight Whooping cranes populate 40 pens in a 12 acre field. As Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans we were uncertain if any our animals would survive. A team of people, the "storm riders", were planning on staying on grounds for the storm, but were ordered to leave at the last minute as the risk of flooding was simply too great. We secured our animals in their enclosures and joined the long lines of traffic exiting the city. 

The following morning, Hurricane Katrina took a last minute jog east which spared New Orleans even worse devastation. The director of our facility secured a helicopter, and over the next two days, four storm riders, including myself, were brought back to ACRES.

We passed over the crane area as we flew in. I looked outside the window and could see McFuzz walking around outside his pen. His gate had blown open, but he was unable to find his way back inside to Susan. They literally stood among ruins.

Most of the flight netting and shade-cloth on the crane pens had been torn off. The skeletal remains of trees jutted out of the once dense, green forest. After we landed, I began to corral cranes and count heads. McFuzz joined Susan as soon as I herded him back into his pen. They unison-called and danced their joy at being reunited.

Moving on, I saw many pairs did fine through the storm despite the wind damage to the pens. Others weren’t as lucky. Rhett, a Whooping crane, died after getting tangled up in downed netting, and Valentine, a Mississippi Sandhill crane, was fatally injured by her mate. 

Since the hurricane, things have been slowly getting back to normal for the Audubon Nature Institute, and the city of New Orleans . The Audubon Zoo reopened on November 25, 2005, to crowds of people thrilled to see the animals again. Just a few weeks ago, Audubon's Aquarium of the Americas reopened as well.

Life is finally starting to look like it used to. And that's when I think of McFuzz and Susan. Life was normal for them just as soon as McFuzz rejoined Susan in their pen. From that point on, it seemed like the hurricane was just a minor speed bump in their lives. They got busy foraging in their pond, ignoring the energy trucks that rumbled by to fix downed wires. They gave only cursory glances to the construction workers replacing flight netting on forty pens. It was business as usual, and Susan laid her first egg on March 30th.

Their enthusiasm is infectious. They seem to believe that whatever comes their way, they'll survive.....and I believe it too.
 

Date: June 11th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Mark Nipper

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Patuxent

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Activity:

Chick Update

Notes:  It's about time huh....? PWRC has been a mad house this year, leaving little time for typing. A lot has been going on obviously, and we will try and catch everyone up as much as possible.

22 chicks are currently designated for the ultralight-led migration. There is only enough room for sixteen chicks in the Propagation Building , so while numbers 1 through 17 are still housed there, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, and 25 are being housed in the Crane Chick Building .

We are working to get the White Series pens (WSP) ready, and we are also trying to get the chicks ready to go stay out there. Once 6 chicks move into those outdoors pens there will be enough room for all of the rest of the chicks to be in one building. This is better for the chicks, and makes everything a lot easier for us.

The groups are coming along much better these days. 1, 3, and 5 have been together for a couple of weeks. They are walking and training together and it has been working out well. #3 is still aggressive every now and then, but usually only towards #1 who is rather submissive. #5 does not seem to notice any of it; she just wants something to eat.

#7 and 10 have been together for a little while and had been doing fine until recently when #10 turned into a highly independent forager. #10 is a huge pain right now, and no one wants to be the costume that has to work with him. Every weed, flower, or bit of grass, are the preferred distractions. This especially includes clover flowers - and anything else white. The bird will eat a plant that is way too long and rigid to be eaten and usually gets it stuck. #8 is thrown into this group for walks but she still has a lot of aggression inside to be worked out.

Numbers 11, 12, and 13 are a great little group. These three run around like crazy for walks and have been training well together so far. #14 and 15 are walking and training well together too. #15 has had trouble with his legs, but he seems to be getting better now. 14 was also being treated for a minor problem but has gotten better as well. Numbers 16 and 17 are working out well together. 16 is currently being treated for respiratory trouble but it does not hold him back too much. 17 has had a limp every now and then so we just take it easy with these two.

Most of our daily efforts are focused on getting the chicks out to the WSP. This is difficult with  the entire flock having hatched inside a month. Taking care of all the birds when they are located in two separate buildings chews up so much time that there is little left for maintenance and prep work.

Yesterday, four of us took numbers 1 through 10 out to the White Series pensite and spilt them up in the six pens available to chicks. Three of us stayed out there, each attending to the birds in two adjoining pens. This allowed us to give the chicks a chance to get used to being 'abandoned' while still making sure they didn't kill themselves or each other. Hopefully, within a few days, we will be able to leave them out there all day. Small steps is the name of the game.

(Along with his update, Mark sent a number of photos which have been posted to the photo journal. See how the chicks have grown!!   Liz)

Date: June 8th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Joe Duff

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office

MileMaker Challenge!
Win a trip to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and visit with the Operation Migration team!
Click here for details!

Activity:

Bumper Crop

Notes:  The severe weather that threatened the production of eggs at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center seems to have done nothing more that compact the breeding season.

Normally, we have an age spread of 40 to 45 days between the youngest chick and the first one to hatch. This year they are only 27 days apart. While that adds a little congestion to the training, it should help us in the long run.

When the propagation building at Patuxent was constructed, Whooping cranes were not as plentiful as they are today. I am sure that then, there seemed plenty of room to accommodate hatchlings. Now it’s bursting at the seams.

Once hatched in the incubators, the chicks are moved across the hall to a brooder to dry off and stabilize. Later they are moved to indoor pens in an adjoining room, and housed next to adult role models to ensure they identify with the correct species. Each of these enclosures has a sliding door that leads to outdoor runs so the chicks can get fresh air and exercise.

Next, the chicks are introduced to the ultralight and begin circle pen training. As they learn to socialize and become strong enough to withstand cool evening air, they are moved in groups to the White Series pensite. This pen compound is a few hundred yards away from the propagation building and includes a pond. From this point on they spend their lives outside, and are trained in cohorts in preparation for shipment to Necedah.

Moving the older chicks leaves the propagation building open for the next wave of newly hatchlings. It is like an assembly line, and the only way Patuxent and OM staff could possible raise and train that many birds for release. With the eggs all hatched in short order this year, it's like someone turned the speed up on the production line. The crane ecology staff has had to work doubly hard to keep up. In fact, some birds have had to be moved to the crane chick building, and the trike must be moved daily to handle the extra training.

So far we have 22 chicks for ultralight training. One additional chick will be a genetic holdback and kept at Patuxent to increase the viability of their captive flock.

Terry Kohler of Windway Capital Corp of Sheboygan will again donate the use of his aircraft to deliver the birds to Necedah in three separate shipments. The first shipment is scheduled for June 26th. Our team will begin arriving at Necedah a week or so in advance of this date in order to make the necessary preparations for the chicks' arrival and also get the camp organized. The rest of the birds should arrive on July 6th an 13th.

The flock managers at ICF report that 6 DAR birds are doing well. They don’t expect more hatches for a couple of weeks, and because of shipments from other facilities, like The Calgary Zoo, they have a little break.

Even the Aransas/Wood Buffalo flock is experiencing record numbers. Brian Johns reports that there are 62 nests in Canada's Wood Buffalo National Park . This surpasses the record of 61 in 2003. Although it was a dry start to the year, water levels in their northern nesting grounds are now average; better than expected.

At Necedah, number 216 seems to have recovered from his leg injury and is walking without a limp. 211 and 217 are still incubating their second nest, and if we are extremely lucky, we could see a chick by sometime around June 23rd.

All in all the season is looking great so far. Now we need to turn our full attention to fundraising so we can be sure we can pay for it!  

Date: June 6th, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office

MileMaker Challenge!
Win a trip to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and visit with the Operation Migration team!
Click here for details!

Activity:

Two Flock's Updates

Reintroduced Flock  (* =Female)
Weekly Tracking Team Report as of June 3/06

Estimated distribution at the end of the week:
55 - Wisconsin
  6 - Iowa (501*, 508*, 509, 512, 514, 519*
  3 - Michigan (318 continued to be reported from his yearling summering area in Oceana County , MI . On June 2, 522 reportedly returned to Montcalm County . According to PTT readings, DAR533* remained in Barry County .)

Nesting: 211 and 217* continued incubating on their nest at Necedah. Incubation began May 23.

Health Concerns: 216's leg injury improved greatly in recent weeks, and his limp was barely noticeable.


Aransas/Wood Buffalo Flock
On his June 6th aerial census of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Tom Stehn reports finding just 3 sub-adult Whooping cranes, two less than he found on May 18th.

One of the sub-adults, believed to be the Lobstick juvenile injured last spring and which did also not migrate last summer, was on its own. Tom said the others appeared to be a duo and were in the saltmarsh where he found them in mid-May. "I always am concerned that Whooping cranes that fail to migrate have health problems," said Tom. "Although they currently look fine, I will continue to monitor the remaining three cranes periodically."

Tom Stehn told us that, "Long-time whooping crane census pilot Dr. Tom Taylor of Rockport Aerial Services has announced his retirement effective this summer. I will definitely miss his help and tremendous expertise!  He has piloted the Whooping crane census flights for the past 13 winters dating back to the fall, 1993." What a commitment!

Brian Johns of the Canadian Wildlife Service reports finding a record 62 nests in Canada . Two of the nests have been predated, and one crane is sitting on a nest with no eggs. This leaves 59 nests that could hatch chicks. Brian said that water levels look better than expected and that production surveys were scheduled in Wood Buffalo National Park beginning June 13th.


Date: June 3rd, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office

Activity:

Patuxent Update

Notes:  Mark sends his apologies for the delay in passing along the latest hatch news. He said, "Things are absolutely BONKERS around here." 

With all the eggs hatching one after the other within a period of a few weeks, space in the propagation building became an issue, as did manpower. Think of it as trying to care for several sets of helpless, hungry, thirsty quintuplets all at once - with a handful of them going through the 'terrible two's, and you'll understand why Mark describes things as being 'bonkers'. The crew at Patuxent are run off their feet.

As the chicks age, and early conditioning and training intensifies, there will be no respite for the crew. June 26th is the tentative date for shipping the first cohort to Necedah so there is some relief in sight for the crew, but it is still weeks away. 

Baring any changes, the entire flock destined for the ultralight-led migration is shown on the chart below. ( UK = Unknown)

#

Hatch Date

Sex

Remarks

Egg Source

601

5-May

M

 

ICF

602

6-May

F

 

Necedah

603

7-May

F

 

Necedah

604

8-May

F

 

Calgary

605

9-May

F

 

PWRC

606

11-May

M

 

PWRC

607

13-May

M

 

ICF

608

13-May

F

 

PWRC

NA

14-May

UK

Genetic holdback

PWRC

610

14-May

M

 

PWRC

611

18-May

F

 

Audubon

612

18-May

M

 

ICF

613

19-May

UK

 

ICF

614

20-May

UK

 

Calgary

615

21-May

UK

 

PWRC

616

23-May

UK

 

PWRC

617

24-May

UK

 

PWRC

618

27-May

UK

 

Calgary

619

28-May

UK

 

Calgary

620

28-May

UK

 

Calgary

NA

30-May

UK

Non-project

PWRC

622

31-May

UK

 

Calgary

623

31-May

UK

 

PWRC

NA

31-May

UK

Non-project

PWRC

625

1-Jun

UK

 

PWRC

Date: June 2nd, 2006

Links

Reporter: Liz Condie

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Main Office

Activity:

CHALLENGE

Wanted - MileMakers Up For A Challenge

Staunch supporter Rick Jones of Wisconsin asked us to issue a challenge to his fellow MileMakers. Rick is a retired Library employee, who, in addition to contributing financial support to OM, also copies and pastes our Field Journal reports into emails to send on to his relatives and friends. Way to go Rick!

Rick's challenge to all 2006 MileMakers is to bring a NEW, 1 mile MileMaker sponsor to the cause - between now and August 25th, 2006.

We of course love Rick's idea, and as encouragement, through the generosity of our good friend Jeff Huxmann at Solterra Communications, we are able to sweeten the deal.

E-mail (or mail) us the names of the NEW MileMaker(s) you brought on board, and for each new 1 mile MileMaker sponsor's name you send, we'll put an entry in a draw for you to win:

* $500 toward a flight to Madison, WI for the Necedah Crane Festival, Sept. 16th, 2006.
*
  Three nights double accommodation in Necedah or nearby Tomah.
*  An escorted back scenes tour of the Necedah Refuge.
   (potential opportunity to spot/photograph Whooping cranes)
* A visit and BBQ dinner at camp with the OM crew.

How's that for incentive?!

Challenge Rules
- You must be a 2006 1/4, 1/2, or mile(s) sponsor to be eligible to enter.
- Prize must be accepted as awarded and arranged and is non-redeemable for cash.
- Flight/accommodation arrangements and payments shall be made by Operation Migration directly with/to suppliers.
- Only entries received before 11:59am EST August 25,2006 shall be eligible for the draw.

The draw will be made at OM's offices at noon EST August 25th. The winner will be notified via e-mail and the results of the draw posted to the Field Journal the same day.  

Date: June 1st 2006

Links

Reporter: Mark Nipper

Spring 2006 Photo Journal.

Location: Patuxent

Activity:

Training Update

Notes:  Things are rolling right along at an almost, but not quite, out of control pace. We are coming to the end of our eggs, and in one way at least, I doubt anyone here at Patuxent is too sorry about it. With so many chicks popping out almost all at once, oh boy, do we have our hands full! 

The weather has finally turned hot, making it very difficult to get what needs to be done, done. We've now had to go to split shifts so some staff can come in after 4:00pm when it begins to cool down, and the shadows over the Farm Pond start growing. It is the only way to get the birds the exercise they need without causing them to heat stroke. 

The chicks themselves are not helping our 'hands full' situation either. #'s 2, 6, and 8 are all highly aggressive and unable to be walked with anyone else, let alone trained. 604 has become increasingly aggressive to 605 so they can no longer be trained together. 603 has also become more aggressive to 601, making training them together very difficult. We tried 605 with numbers 1 and 3 the other day and things went really well. We were encouraged, thinking that we might have a group of three finally, but the next day during training 603 was enraged and lusting for blood. 

607 is doing just fine with the trike and on walks to the pond. Numbers 10, 11, 12, and 13 are all doing pretty well following to the pond and at the circle. This bunch are all a bit of trouble though, because they are all scaredy-cats. They follow either very close or very tentatively.

(Note: Apologies to our readers on dial-up connections for all the pics that I've been dropping directly into the Field Journal. I know this drastically slows down loading for you and gives you problems. I've only been using this shortcut in the interest of getting photos to you quickly; it takes less of my time too. Today however, Mark sent quite a few photos along with his update, so I will process and post them to the Photo Journal. Bear with me folks, and I will do my best to get them up there before the day is out. Liz)

 



 

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