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Date: October 12, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

Departure? Maybe

Location:

Wisconsin

If there is one word that describes leading Whooping cranes on their first migration with ultralights it must be "MAYBE".  There are several people hoping to witness our departure from Necedah this year and the burning question is when we are going to leave.

We postponed our departure to lead the birds on one final training flight only to see if they would follow in any semblance of order, and we did have a good flight this morning, despite the low ceilings. We led the birds over to the west site and walked them into the travel pen to get them familiar with their new mobile home. Then they were led back to the east site. The flight out was a little disjointed but the return flight was much better. This better performance could be a case of leading the horse back to the barn but it was slightly encouraging. Now we have to decide if that is enough training and its time to leave or do we stand down once again.

Saturday morning looks like a perfect migrating day but Sunday may deteriorate. Long range forecasts indicate that the next opportunity may not be until Wednesday. Our first stop is only 4 miles away so we have to decide if we waste a day moving them just off the refuge in a less than spectacular departure or, keep them here in a much more secure environment until the weather gives us a break. And the answer is MAYBE! 

The other option is to push the birds to the first full stopover 23 miles to the south and deal with the ones that drop out like we have in the past. That will depend on how many drop out, how they are following, and what the weather will be like. So the answer is MAYBE!

So our decision is to fly tomorrow and lead them to the south. If we can get them to cross the highway we will decide then if we land at the interim stop or make the full journey. If none of the above works out the way we hope, we’ll turn it into a training flight.

So our final answer is ……. Wait for it ………….. maybe!!!!

Date: October 12, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Almost ready -

Location:

Main Office

As per yesterday's Field Journal entry, the team conducted flight training on the refuge with the birds this morning.

The plan for this morning was that following flight training they would land the birds at Site 2 where the crew had set up one of our mobile travel pens. The idea was to give the chicks a preview of what their soon to be home away from home looks like.

One of the crew will send along a more detailed update later today, but in a quick call from Joe I learned that this morning’s flight training went quite well all in all.

Two white birds that were foraging in front of the Observation Tower started calling like mad when the trikes and chicks flew overhead. At that point, two of the chicks broke off and landed just north of Site 1. 706 who was with Chris also broke away and went to Site 4. After about 10 minutes there with Chris something seemed to spook him. Chris and 706 took off and flew back to Site 2, picking up the two strays along the way.

We expect an update later from one of the crew on with more details, so check the Field Journal late afternoon - early evening. Depending on how the events of the day unfold - and the weather forecast - the team will make a decision later today whether tomorrow will be another training day or they will attempt to depart on migration. Stay tuned - we'll post an advisory here as soon as we know one way or the other.

Date: October 11, 2007 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Wood Buffalo-Aransas Population Update

Location:

Main Office

Brian Johns, Wildlife Biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, and member of the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team advised today that for the Wood Buffalo-Aransas population, fall migration is in full swing.

"A number of cranes are in Saskatchewan at the moment," said Brian, "and there were many more sightings than usual in September, likely as a result of the dry conditions on their summering ground."

The birds in the Wood Buffalo-Aransas population do not carry transmitters or PTTs, as a result, tracking is done solely by observation and reports of sightings by bird watchers and the public. To report a Whooper sighting in the western flyway, email Whooper Sighting.

Date: October 11, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

If...Maybe...Perhaps...

Location:

Wisconsin

If ultralights had been involved in migration from the beginning, things would be different. The journey south would likely start in mid August, and after a month of good weather we would reach the wintering grounds having never experienced the cold temperatures or blustery winds.

Instead, nature decided to do it her way, so now we attempt to lead our birds on their first migration at the height of the one season known for its inclement weather. Even the wild birds delay their departure until winter has almost begun. It's like they need to experience a few miserable nights before they finally acquiesce and head south. If it were up to me, I'd be gone before the first cold night!

The weather has been so lousy that we have not trained in almost a week. Twice this week we've climbed out of bed and headed for the hangar, ignoring the rustling leaves and waving treetops in hopes that it would be calm enough to fly. Fighting the wind, we make it half way to the training facility before we finally admit that its too windy to train. We head back to the runway taking small consolation in knowing we at least tried. Today was another one of those mornings, calm enough to be encouraging for a minute or two, then breezy enough to dash your hopes.

We had a team meeting last night. We all sat around and discussed the possibilities; weighing the pros and cons of each of our limited options.

We decided that these birds need at least one good training flight before we move them off the refuge. All of our recent training has been in less than ideal conditions and they have never really flown together in what we would call a truly cohesive flock. Maybe it's just for our own confidence, but we would like to see that happen at least once.

With a high pressure system moving in, we expect the weather to start improving as the weekend approaches. So we will use that time to train the birds to build their endurance and hopefully our confidence. If it all works, we will begin the migration on the first good day after that - likely some time around December. (kidding!)

Date: October 11, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Notice to OM Members

Location:

Main Office

We decided to start sending EarlyBird today despite it being a 'no-go' in terms of flying. It will hopefully give us a chance to work any kinks out in the e-bulletin system, and ensure it is arriving in the Inbox of all those on the list to receive it.

If you have taken out a 1, 2, or 3 year Supporting Membership or a Sustaining Membership in OM, and there was no EarlyBird e-bulletin in your Inbox this morning, (assuming you have not opted out of receiving emails from us) please send us an email to let us know and we’ll try to get you sorted out before tomorrow.

Date: October 10, 2007 - Entry 5 Reporter:

Bev Paulan

Subject:

Buzz, buzz, buzz

Location:

Wisconsin

Yesterday was my first full day back in camp after my pre-migration break. Feeling rested and relaxed, I was greeted by an unbelievable amount of energy and activity. Everyone was buzzing around camp as around a giant bee hive.

The travel pen was getting bleached and scrubbed and loaded as we prepare it for the first stop. The hangar was, to quote Brooke, "Like Santa's workshop on Christmas Eve," as Chris, Joe, and Brooke worked on their trikes; Richard worked on a travel bracket for the satellite dish; and Megan painted a new handcart we use for hauling food and water on migration. My relaxed mode served me well, as I joined in where ever I could.

All the frenzy took a break as we headed to the refuge headquarters for our bi-monthly Bird team call. This is a conference call where  members of WCEP's Bird Team can report in on their various aspects of the project. All went well, but before it was over, I had to leave on a little mission. This is where my busy good day, became a busy great day. You see, I had the great honor and privilege of picking up Gerald Murphy, our volunteer driver extraordinaire, at Madison airport. Now I knew migration was really here if Gerald was here.

Having Gerald in camp is like having the sun constantly shine on us. (We need it, too, because right now it is cold and very blustery.) For those of you who haven't read about Gerald, he is always happy, smiling and an all around great guy. He is a native Floridian, and is the prototypical, warm, Southern gentleman. Gerald is always willing to lend a helping hand, whether it is grocery shopping or changing the oil in a vehicle, or when he sees a cold shivering lady that needs a big warm hug!

Now, if we could get the real sun to shine as brightly and warmly as Gerald, we could get this show on the road!

Date: October 10, 2007 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

EARLYBIRD e-BULLETIN TO LAUNCH DEPARTURE DAY

Location:

Main Office

Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Duke Energy, OM is again able to offer its EarlyBird e-Bulletin to its membership. Beginning of the first migration day and each day thereafter, EarlyBird e-bulletin with the first news of the day will be emailed directly to members’ inbox moments after the ‘fly – no fly’ decision is made.

Later in the day, once the lead pilot’s update has been received, members receive a second e-bulletin notifying them that the entry has been posted to the Field Journal. Please don’t be shy about using our GuestBook to let Duke Energy know how much you too appreciate their sponsorship!

Date: October 10, 2007 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

MIGRATION TRIVIA COMING SOON

Location:

Main Office

We hope you will welcome back OM’s Migration Trivia feature. This year we 'promoted' (grin) volunteer Trivia researcher and writer, Vi White of Illinois, to Editor-In-Chief when she acquired the services/assistance of member/supporter Steve Cohen also from IL.

Steve and Vi have been working together to produce some unique and interesting tidbits about the counties and states in the migration flyway for Craniacs and Field Journal readers. We’re sure you’ll enjoy them as much or more as you indicated you did in previous years. If you have some great trivia send it along to trivia@operationmigration.org.

Date: October 10, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz & Joe

Subject:

TARGET DEPARTURE A NO-GO

Location:

Office & WI

Well, here it is October 10th, our target departure date, but we're not going anywhere. Weather conditions combined with the birds having so few training days together will keep us on the ground and at Necedah for at least today and perhaps longer. Along with some isolated rain showers this morning, winds were 11 knots out of the WNW at ground level and much stronger aloft.

Departure dates in past years were:
2001 - October 17
2002 - October 13
2003 - October 16
2004 - October 10
2005 - October 14
2006 - October 05
2007 - ?

You can compare the progress of the 2007 Migration with previous years (once we get going that is) by checking the Migration Timelines page.

JOE’S UPDATE
For the last month the weather in Wisconsin has been crazy. We went from records highs of almost 90 degrees to normal lows in the mid 40’s. Mostly it’s been windy, and the birds only got to train once or twice a week. In fact, the entire group has only flown together a few times and their longest flight so far was 8 and a half minutes.

Number 735 is the latest hatched bird we have ever worked with so we have to be patient. She may be a little young to keep up with her older flock-mates, but we will see. Some of us think we should postpone departure for a few days to get in some more training, while others are anxious to get started. Maybe a departure date of October 10th was a little ambitious, but the latest we have left here was October 17 and we have a long way to go.

We toss ideas around and discuss the merits of the few options available to us. There is a lot of expertise on this team, and we try to reach a consensus on everything that has to do with the birds. But all of our ideas are nothing more than that because we woke up to strong winds this morning that left no doubt we are staying here today and it looks like we will be for a while.

This will be our 8th migration using this route if you include the year we led Sandhills south. In all that time you would think it would become routine, but there are never any guarantees we will make it. This could be the year we finish by mid November, or that we don’t make it at all. The ramifications of the latter are scary enough to get the entire team out of bed at 5:30am just to stand in a circle and kick the dirt while the wind howls through the trees.

There is still lots we can do before we finally leave so we will just use the time to get better prepared. The harder we work the more luck we seem to have - and we sure could use some this year.

Date: October 10, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Bits and Pieces

Location:

Main Office

It's 'early days,' but it is very encouraging that solitary 309*, who was relocated from New York state to Necedah last Wednesday, is associating with other Whooping cranes. The day after she was released on the refuge she met up with a group of 5 young Whoopers and now seems to have paired up with 403 who previously had been associating with W601*. Here’s hoping a strong pair bond develop, and 309* will stick with 403 throughout the winter AND on the return spring migration.

Supporter Rich Armstrong was at the Observation Tower last Friday to watch flight training. In an email he told us, "The pilots had difficulty getting the birds up at first; one ultralight came by with only one bird, another with 8-9. Four of the bunch were leading the flight. Then came an ultralight with the rest of the bunch. My goose bump moment for the day was when the flight went right over two cranes, probably the First Family - the young and the old. I'll never get tired of watching the cranes fly. As I watched from the tower just before sunset that same evening, 5 Whoopers came in and landed to spend the night. Thanks to all who are making this happen!"

Rich sent us the photo above of his ‘goose-bump moment, saying, “ it’s not the same as seeing it first hand, but still very, very special.”

We share this photo with you, taken the morning of Sunday, October 7, thanks to Susan Harbaugh of Red Bud, IL who was at the refuge with a group from the Illinois Audubon Society.  

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

Date: October 9, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Eastern Migratory Population Update

Location:

Main Office

This update was compiled from data provided by Richard Urbanek (USFWS), Nicole Frey (ICF) and Anna Fasoli. Thanks go to Windway Aviation, pilots Mike Frakes and Stu Walker, Sara Zimorski (ICF), and Tim Sullivan (USFWS) for retrieval of 309*; to Burr Fisher (USFWS) for tracking assistance, and to Nancy Businga (WDNR) and Nate Hurst (OM) for assistance with capture attempts.

In the highlights below, * = female; DAR = direct autumn release; NFT = non functional transmitter. Estimated size of the Eastern Migratory Population is 52 individuals; 30 males and 23 females.

In the central Wisconsin core reintroduction area were:
-
101, 102*, 105.
- 205, 211 & 217*, 212 & 419*, 213 & 218*, 216.
 -303* & 317, 311, 307NFT, 310 & 501*, 312* & 316, 313* & 318


 09* was released on the refuge after being retrieved from Oswego County, NY October 3rd. She paired with 403 the following day, displacing W601*. Photo sent by Dr. Richard Urbanek

View the photo here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

- 401 & 508* (newly formed sub-adult pair), 402 & 511, W601* and 511, 408 & 519*, 412, 415*NFT.
- 505, 506, 509, 511, 512, 514.
- DAR 627 and DAR628 with large staging Sandhill crane flock in Adams County.

Outside central Wisconsin core were:
-
107*NFT last reported with a small number of Sandhills in Dodge county September 13.
- 420* foraging with Sandhills in Chippewa County September 26.
- DAR527* with large numbers of Sandhills in Winnebago County. DAR528* found with Sandhills in Clark & Marathon Counties.

Recorded earlier in Wisconsin but current location unknown were:
- 201*NFT last observed June 9.
- 209*NFT and 416NFT las
t observed in Monroe County September 25. 503 & 507 were last recorded in Wood County May 26.
- 520* last found in Jackson County September 19.
- 514*NFT last observed in Adams County September 28.
- 524NFT last observed on Sprague Pool September 28.

Michigan:
-
516 was reported with staging Sandhills in Jackson County September 17-18. There were also unconfirmed sightings in Livingston and Washtenaw Counties during first week of October and again in Jackson County October 8.
- DAR533* was last reported with Sandhills in Van Buren County September 19.

Missing (suspected dead):
202* last recorded in Georgia March 26.

Date: October 9, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

No Training Today

Location:

Main Office

Here we are one day short of our target departure date and it was too windy to train. In a quick call this morning, Joe advised that tomorrow (Wednesday) looks even less promising, and that he suspected departure would be Thursday - at the earliest. Stay turned.

Date: October 6, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Megan Kennedy

Subject:

Getting Ready

Location:

Wisconsin

As Nate mentioned in his update, yesterday was only the second day of flight training since last Friday. I watched from the tower as Chris passed by with only one bird on his wing - 726. She stayed with him during the entire flight! Brooke was able to get a few more up and brought them into view of the tower-goers. The training sessions haven’t lasted very long, but the chicks are doing really well, given their time off, and the heat and wind.

Along with packing the pen trailers, tearing down the training sites here on the refuge and confirming our stopovers, there are many other preparations to be made before we can begin migration.

More notable for me has been the extra training I’ve been receiving to enhance necessary skills for migration. Last Friday I spent the day with Stacey Kerley learning how to track cranes using radio telemetry, and yesterday I went to the International Crane Foundation to get more experience handling birds. I was able to practice picking up several different species.

It surprised me to learn that the heaviest bird I lifted, an adult Siberian crane, most closely resembles the Whooping crane chicks in weight. The average adult weighs 13 pounds. Sandhills are much lighter by comparison. You may notice that I’m still wearing my wristband from Crane Fest. I plan to keep it on until it falls off. We’ve got a bet going in camp.

On Wednesday, ICF’s Sara Zimorski and other members of the tracking team left early in the morning bound for New York. They returned to Necedah early in the evening with #309 in hand! After a brief health exam, she was released on the refuge near a group of juvenile whoopers. It is hoped that she will pair up over the winter and allow herself to be led back to Wisconsin in the spring migration, as males return to an area near where they fledged.

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

Date: October 6, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Wild Whoopers on the move

Location:

Main Office

For those interested in how the Wood Buffalo-Aransas Whooping crane population is faring, Richard Hinton of the Bismarck Tribune, ND wrote an article you might like to read.

This flock has started staging for their fall migration. Many have already left their summer nesting grounds in northern Canada, and have been spotted in various locations on the way to their winter home in Texas on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Click the link to go to the article. Whooping crane migration started

Date: October 5, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Nathan Hurst

Subject:

Two days flight training and our new 'home'

Location:

Wisconsin

In spite of light wind, our daring pilots braved the breezes and we managed to get in two days of training in a row. Most of our 17 chicks seemed to say, "What are you trying to do here?" and were not inclined to follow well, or for long. I guess that's what happens when you go for a week with little exercise or opportunity to fly. With our target departure date less than a week away, we need to get these birds in gear.

Speaking of getting in gear, our new trailer has arrived. 'The Sierra' doesn't roll off the tongue quite as nicely as did 'The Nomad', but I am extremely happy with my new accommodations. It's brighter, more open and it smells better. What a boon it is to be able to walk around in bare feet. It even has a functional furnace with in-floor heating. Okay, I don't know if it's intentional, but the heating ducts run beneath the floor and heat it up in places.

I spent yesterday and today moving in. I've cleaned the dishes and organized them in our new cabinets, and moved most of the other odds and ends. Next I'll go through the fridge and pantry. Since the new fridge isn't quite as big, it'll be a good excuse to throw out all the condiments that we never use.

Some people wouldn't relish such a task, but I really don't mind. I like moving. It gives me the chance to clean up, organize and get rid of things I no longer need. It's a good way to simplify. As we get closer to migration, we're getting prepared, and as our tasks get finished, our lives get simpler. And the simpler our lives are, the more we can focus on the 17 things that really matter.

View the photo here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

Date: October 3, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

The Countdown has begun

Location:

Main Office

The countdown 'til migration departure has begun. October 10, one week from today, is the target date.

And speaking of targets, MileMaker sponsorships to date total 380 miles. This is 45 miles less than where we were at the end of September last year. (hint, hint)

Once again this year, thanks to supporter Fred Dietrich of Tallahassee, Florida, we will be able to share his interactive Migration Tracking Chart with you. Watch for it to be posted to the website very soon. It will be listed on the Site Map.

Date: October 2, 2007 - Entry 5 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

OM has a new RV!

Location:

Main Office

If you have a passion to see migratory Whooping cranes on their summering grounds you have very few choices. You can travel to the inaccessible marshes of Wood Buffalo National Park on the border of the Province of Alberta and the North West Territories of Canada. Or you can visit the observation tower at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin.

Many people have made the latter trip, and some have dropped in to see the OM team while they're there. If you have visited us at the Annex we have to apologize both to you and the Refuge Manager. You drive past pristine wetlands and up a well-kept driveway, and there, in all our glory, is the OM field headquarters. A rag-tag collection of mix matched motorhomes and trailers that must be an embarrassment for the locals and a target for every passing tornado.

We have our loaner motorhomes from Deke Clark and Jane Stedman, which are by themselves very presentable. But they are parked amid various FEMA trailers and our old Nomad house trailer - which looks sadder with each passing day. The roof leaks as does the water heater, and the furnace gave up last spring. It has seen a lot of miles and served us well. It has been home for up to 6 people, and kitchen and dinning room for as many as 12.

We have been looking for just the right unit to replace the Nomad. We needed one that could accommodate a lot of people for a long time, but cost very little money. Last week Lamont Bolstad, manager of Scenic Traveler RV in Baraboo, Wisconsin came to our rescue.

Lamont had the perfect trailer for us coming in on a trade in and it was only a year old. But by the time we were ready to buy, something happened with the owner and it is now hung up in bankruptcy proceedings for an indefinite time. However, Lamont listened to our tale of woe and volunteered to come and see if there was any value left in the Nomad as a trade in.

The next day he showed up at the Refuge with Ron Peterson, the owner of the dealership, and they both took some time for a tour first. We showed them around the refuge, they saw some Whooping cranes, the aircraft in the hangar, and they became interested in the project.

Lamont called me a few days later all excited that he'd convinced Ron to make us a deal we couldn't refuse. He offered us a brand new trailer, all shiny and white with three push-outs and room for seven. It has all kinds of extras like awnings, a TV and an outdoor shower and sound system. Its sheer luxury for us and best of all, he saved us better than $15,000.00 from the list price.

Thank you Lamont and Ron; there is more than one way to help save an endangered species!

Date: October 2, 2007 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Craniac Honored

Location:

Main Office

Some people want things to happen; some wish things would happen; and still others make things happen. OM’s volunteers fall squarely in the latter group.

When Dave Johnson and wife Suzanne
owned the Wild Bird Center in Fox River Grove, IL, they set aside a percentage of their gross sales into a special account and periodically disbursed the funds to various local nature and conservation organizations.

Along with OM, the Stillman Nature Center in S. Barrington, IL was one of the recipients of Dave and Suzanne’s generosity. Stillman Director, Mark Spreyer and Dave are long time friends, and last year Mark, (who headed up Chicago's peregrine falcon re-introduction program during the 80's) joined one of the groups that Dave and Suzanne annually lead to Necedah and environs.

Through Dave's weekly bird walks he introduced many people to Stillman N.C. (Including OM Supporter Karen Lund who kindly provided us with much of this information.) Karen told us that Stillman's 80 acres were once an estate. “It is set in the midst of million dollar homes, and few area residents take advantage of this little jewel they have at their back door,” she said.

Mark and his fellow Stillman Nature Center Board members wanted to show their appreciation of Dave's support over the years and chose their annual membership picnic as the time to do it.

“When Mark said a few words expressing his appreciation some of us got a little teary,” Karen said. Dave was presented with a Farm & Fleet gift card. One son, Chris, (back left in photo) and his better half, Suzanne, were also on hand to see David being honored.

In expressing his gratitude, Dave in turn thanked everyone and as well as encouraging those present to support nature and conservation organizations, including Operation Migration.

Someone once said, “Volunteers are not paid - - not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless. And what a gem David is!

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

Date: October 2, 2007 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Change4Cranes Winners

Location:

Main Office

OM's Change4Cranes kits have been flying off our shelves and winging their way to schools throughout the country. At last count, in addition to many kits sent to individuals - both youngsters and  'oldsters' - there are almost 70 classes/schools participating. We are looking forward to hearing about participants’ different Change4Cranes activities once concluded, and hope that they will also send us along photos we can share with our readership.

Chris reached in to the hat and drew the names of three classes from all those that signed on for Change4Cranes by September 30th. As promised, these classes will be offered an opportunity to have a member of the OM Team visit their classroom to give a presentation. The winners were:
Ms. Trudy Land’s class at Neil Armstrong Elementary School in Mooresville, IN;
Ms. Linda Maier’s class at Columbus Middle School in Columbus, WI; and,
Ms. Wendy Bashinski’s class at Lockhart Middle School in Orlando, FL


Congratulations to all three teachers and classes!! We will be in touch shortly to discuss arrangements and possible dates and times for a visit from one of the OM Team.

Date: October 2, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Members Elect New Board 

Location:

Main Office

The Annual General Meetings of Operation Migration Inc, and Operation Migration USA Inc were held on September 30th. One of the agenda items was the election of the Board of Directors for 2007/2008. Congratulations to the successful candidates!! We are grateful for your interest and your willingness to dedicate your time and talents to OM.

Date: October 2, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

Seventeen As One!  

Location:

Main Office

On Friday, the 28th of September, OM supporter Deb Schrader had the chance to see all seventeen cranes in the class of 2007 fly past the observation tower in Necedah. Despite being thrilled, Deb had the presence of mind to snap some photographs and share them with us.

"I've known for years that the ultralight training was done at the refuge, but didn't realize we could actually SEE the training from the observation tower until we went to the Whooping Crane Festival this year," said Deb. "We got to see the birds fly on both Thursday and Friday this week. It's probably a good thing we live so far away or I'd be there waiting every morning!"

As our October target departure date approaches there will be more opportunities for Craniacs to get out and view the spectacle of flight training at Necedah NWR. The refuge is just 5 miles west of the town of Necedah; 18 miles east of Tomah.

To get to the tower exit State Hwy 21 at the big Necedah NWR sign onto Headquarters Road. Follow the road to the stop sign (2 miles), go right, and at make a left the second turnoff. The road to the tower is well marked with a sign.

As the saying goes, 'the early bird gets the worm,' so for the best viewing opportunitiy be at the tower by 6:45 a.m. and dress warmly!

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

Date: September 30, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Brooke Pennypacker

Subject:

Too Windy

Location:

Wisconsin

Sunday morning. No training again today. Too windy. Our 'Weekend Flying Club' is going to have to change its name. But as Liz would say were she here, "It's never too windy for an Update!" So here we go.

Friday was 'Amalgamation Day' here in Craneland. No, we didn’t all go to the dentist to get our old fillings replaced. And don't worry, it wasn't a federal holiday - not yet anyway. Rather, 'Amalgamation Day' is the day we unite Cohort 1 with the already amalgamated (I just love saying that word!) Cohorts 2 and 3.

We exercise caution and patience here because the older birds can be aggressive to the younger birds, possibly resulting in injury. It's a potential problem with any species. Just watch the TV news. And as most of us know by now, it's not love that makes the world go 'round. It's AGGRESSION!

So every year, we give the youngest group home field advantage and fly the older cohorts over to their turf/site; that is, Site 1, and put them in the same pen but separated by a divider so they can see but not touch.

We flight train them separately for a period of days, and then when we think they're ready and the Peace Accord has been signed, we take down the divider and let them join together in a chorus of "We Are The World." Oh, and we also cross our fingers. But after all, they do have so much in common! And this method is not original. It's in the Charter of the United Nations - they've just had a little trouble implementing it.

Friday was Cohort 1's turn. They'd spent the best part of a week staring at each other through the divider and had not shown much aggression in their post flight 'up close and personal' sessions out on the runway. So it was decided that after flight training we would heed Ronald Reagan's plea and - "Take down that WALL!"

Chris took off with Cohort 1 and a few minutes later I landed to pick up the other two cohorts. But Cohort 1, as if sensing this might be their last chance to fly together as a unit, decided to return to the runway so they might enjoy yet one additional takeoff together.

Chris landed and another launch was made. Off they went into the morning sky. Then it was Cohorts 2 and 3's turn to strut their stuff, and off we went into the same sky. (Funny how skies really don't alternate that quickly!)

All went as planned. A big swing out over the pond, all the birds collected up in a flight, juggling the fast and slow bird into position, then head out towards West Rynearson with a pass at the viewing tower.

It was near the tower that I saw it, flight of six Cohort 1 birds flying straight at me! "Incoming," that little voice in the back seat of my head yelled as the six arrows headed for the imaginary apple on my head! I quickly looked down at my costume to see if someone had drawn a bulls-eye on my chest, only to remember that with this crew, it would probably be drawn on my back! The birds were coming at me like a barrage of lawn darts at a company picnic. "Aim for that man with the white hair, kids. He's scheduled to be laid off soon anyway."

Then, just as I was about to accept my fate as goalie for the local dart team, the birds performed a maneuver that amazed even them. They stretched their wings from their horizontal to a vertical plane, dropped their legs straight down, hung in space for moments, wobbling and shaking for balance as if on an invisible high wire, and before you could scream, "Fecal Sample," they did a perfect 180 and were tucked back into formation with the younger birds in a picture worthy of a calendar. I swear you could see the collective thought balloon over their heads saying, "Whooaaaaa!!! Can you believe we just did that???"

We flew together for another thirteen minutes or so before we were joined by the remaining two birds that had stayed with Chris and we did a group landing, followed, I like to imagine, was a group crane hug. High fives all around! (Cranes only have four toes - but then, who's counting!)

Once again it was the birds and not us that decided the when and the where of things, and, how they were going to happen, showing us that in so many ways on this project, we're just along for the ride.

Now we can look forward to that next big day; Migration Day. And I can assure you of one thing….that won’t be a holiday either!

Date: September 29, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Conservation Hero Honored

Location:

Main Office

Many of you will recall our announcing some time ago that OM's long time volunteer, Walter Sturgeon, was named a Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund Hero.

We were fortunate to have a face-to-face with Walter recently when, in his capacity as President of the Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park and Eco-Center, he visited Toronto for the International Symposium On Breeding Birds In Captivity. The meeting also gave us an opportunity renew our acquaintance with Michael Lubbock, Sylvan's personable Executive Director who accompanied Walter on his excursion north of the border.

In the photo, Joe (on the right) congratulates Walter and presents him with the beautiful commemorative plaque sent by the folks at the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund. Below is a transcript of their letter to Walter.

Dear Walter:
We send to you our congratulations for your efforts on behalf of the Operation Migration program.

As you may know, your friends at Operation Migration nominated you for your outstanding work to assist in many facets of the project. They told us you have worked tirelessly with the crane chicks and escort them each year to Florida, driving one of the support vehicles. Your personal passion for cranes, the knowledge you have gained and shared, and your own dedication to doing any job needed for conservation is to be applauded.

We wish to recognize you as a Disney Conservation Hero for your dedication, and are sending you this award via Operation Migration. The plaque is to commemorate the amazing things you have done for conservation, and the cash award may be used as you see fit.

The funds are made possible by the people who visit Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line ships, as many of the guests make a contribution to the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund to help organizations continue great work to protect the planet.

It is a great honor for us to recognize dedicated people like you, and we send this gift along with our thanks for what you are doing.
Sincerely,
Kim Sams, Manager, Conservation Initiatives
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

Walter chose to divide the $1,000 cash award that came with his Hero Award evenly between two of the organizations for which he has a passion; OM and Sylvan Heights. Our hats are off to Walt - he just keeps on giving and giving.

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

Date: September 29, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Mortality again shrinks Eastern Migratory Population

Location:

Main Office

The Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) suffered another loss with the mortality of 301*. Her carcass was found shortly after 2pm yesterday in spikerush on her territory near eastern Sprague Pool on the Necedah refuge. "Tracking data indicated that death probably occurred on the night of 25 September," said Dr. Richard Urbanek.

311, her mate of two years, remains on their territory. In reporting the mortality, Urbanek made no speculation as to the cause of death. The carcass has been sent to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center for necropsy.

This mortality reduces the estimated maximum size of the EMP to 52 Whooping cranes and further shifts the ratio of males to  females. (30 males and 22 females) In addition, 1 adult female has been missing since March 2007 and three other birds in Wisconsin have been unaccounted for since spring.

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

Date: September 27, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Chris Gullikson

Subject:

Flight Training Update

Location:

Wisconsin

Despite a light wind rustling the tree tops this morning, conditions were good enough to train the birds for a second day in a row.

 

I landed at Site 1and positioned myself in front of the doors where the 8 birds of Cohort 1 were awaiting me. Brooke hung back in a chase position to the east and watched as I sat on the runway waiting for Bev, Charlie, and Nathan to get a couple stragglers out of the wet pen. This is a new site for these birds and they don’t have the exit strategy quite figured out yet.

 

Within a few minutes all the birds were out on the runway dancing around the trike, eagerly anticipating my takeoff. I powered up and all the birds immediately dropped their heads and started sprinting along beside me, quickly taking to the air. We arced out over East Ryerson pool with 703 as usual taking the lead position off my right wingtip.

 

A few birds started to drift back towards the pensite so I had to carve a 360 degree turn, keeping all the birds on my inside wing and blocking their passage back towards home. We again headed north out over the pool and once again a few birds left me and headed back towards home. Two birds landed at the pensite and I cruised overhead with the rest still following.

 

Making a 180 degree turn at the end of the runway and out over the pool, I was delighted to see that the two birds had taken back off and were quickly catching back up to me. I again headed north, this time closer to shore thinking it was the water that was causing them to turn back. With all the birds now following well, Brooke radioed to me that he was landing at Site 1 to train the nine younger birds.

 

As I headed north along the east side of East Ryerson, I noticed a pair of Whooping Cranes below me foraging with several geese. Looking back over my shoulders, I could see several of the chicks checking out this pair of cranes and a minute later I was down to seven birds.

 

I radioed to Brooke that I had lost a bird, thinking it had turned back towards home. A few minutes later Brooke radioed back saying that he found my lost chick, it had landed with the pair of Whooping Cranes but quickly joined up with Brooke and his birds when he passed overhead.

 

With my 7 birds now securely on the wing, we headed north out over the refuge where a thin fog gently blanketed the oak savanna. I divided my time between keeping an eye on the cranes and looking for wolves. There have been many recent wolf sightings on the refuge and I think I am about the only one who hasn’t seen one yet.

 

With the birds lined up and surfing the vortex of air created by the wing, I was able to add power and begin a slow climb to 300 feet. I turned back to the south and flew over west Ryerson pool which provides food and shelter for thousands of migrating ducks and geese this time of year.

 

The air was filled with flying waterfowl and the cranes were taking it all in, curiously looking below them. Continuing to head south, we flew over areas of forest and pools with Hwy 21 drawing closer. Roads are always our first obstacle when we begin the migration and we like to get them used to seeing this manmade structure.

 

As I neared the highway, I made a slow 180 degree turn, paralleling the highway below me for a short time. The birds seemed oblivious to the road and we headed back towards the refuge, passing over the observation tower where several people were gathered to watch training.

 

Brooke meanwhile had been flying the 9 birds of Cohorts 2 and 3, as well as 706 who had left me. His first flight of 10 minutes was with all 10 birds, with numbers 727 and 735 making an abbreviated flight and landing back at the pen. He brought his 8 birds back to the pen for a short rest and took off again for another 10 minute flight with the 10 birds. 727 and 735 turned back to the pen after several minutes.

 

I ended my 45 minute flight shortly after Brooke ended his second flight. We taxied up to the pen doors and allowed the 17 birds to socialize together on the runway. We were all pleased at the lack of aggression between the birds and we may try a supervised amalgamation of the 3 groups tomorrow after training.

Date: September 27, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

Presentations, Presentations, Presentations!

Location:

Main Office

Director of Field Operation Bev Paulan has a lot on her plate. Seventeen new chicks are being trained to migrate, a small army of volunteers and support staff have to be mobilized, and on top of that Mother Nature has been throwing lefts and rights at her all summer. You would think that with all this on her mind there’d be little time for anything else – but you’d be wrong.

A major part of our mission is to educate the world about the plight of the Whooping crane and the importance of conservation. Bev has taken this to heart, and recently made several key presentations on OM’s behalf.

This past month 60 sixth graders at Camp Manitou in New Auburn had the opportunity to enjoy one of Bev’s presentations. The camp’s focus is to help the children walk away with a better understanding of themselves and the world around them. We hope that after viewing Bev’s presentation and seeing a handler’s outfit up close and personal their understanding of environmental issues will also be heightened.

The Beaver Creek Bird Club also hosted Bev at the reserve near Fall Creek, Wisconsin. There she had the chance to make a presentation entitled The True Confessions of a 'Crane Momma'. The Club learned about the intricacies of chick rearing, socialization, and training. Having nearly completed the latest cycle of chick training, we’re sure that everyone was in for a treat.

Although no presentations are currently planned for the upcoming months, keep watching the field journal as this is where we’ll post any upcoming public presentations. They’re a great experience, a chance to learn a bit more about our work, and also to meet someone from our team.

Also remember that until the end of September, any classrooms that register for a Change 4 Cranes kit will automatically be entered into a draw to have a presentation at their school. If you’re a teacher, have a look at our Change4Cranes registration page here, and if you’re a student make sure you tell your teacher before October begins!

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

Date: September 26, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Bev Paulan

Subject:

Flight Training Update

Location:

Wisconsin

I couldn't believe my eyes this morning when I walked out of the trailer and noticed not only crystal clear skies, but nary a leaf moving. Indeed, I had to pinch myself to ensure I wasn't dreaming. The pilots, just Joe and Brooke, now that Richard and Chris are taking some much needed pre-migration time off, headed to the hangar while Charlie, Nate and Megan headed off to Site 1. We had a window of rare weather on Monday and were able to move Cohort 1 down to Site 1, finally! So, today was going to be the first day all the birds would train from that site.
 

Brooke led with the oldest birds first and all but one of the birds came eagerly out of the pen. The pen at Site 1 is a different design than at Site 4 where they had been, and it is actually easy for the chicks to become disoriented on their way out. So off went Brooke with 7 of the youngsters trailing his wing. From my view at the tower it sure looks like they are ready to go.

Brooke flew past the tower twice, thrilling the visitors and myself. After what seemed an eternity, but in actuality was nearly 40 minutes, Brooke headed back in with the chicks and put them away. Next up was the little guys as we call them, and just like their older brethren, one must have been reluctant to fly as we counted only eight birds. For the visitors, the sight was so amazing, there could have been just two.

It couldn't have been a more perfect morning, so calm and such a bright blue sky. The youngest birds are flying well and are spending more time in the air each flight. We hope we can put together more than one day of training, but the weather monsters seem to be against us with a not so favorable forecast for tomorrow. Keep all of your fingers and toes crossed for us and our charges. October 10th departure is coming up with alarming speed!

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

Date: September 25, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Eastern Migratory Population Weekly Update

Location:

Main Office

This update was compiled from data provided by Richard Urbanek (USFWS), Stacey Kerley and Nicole Frey (ICF) and A. Fasoli. Thanks go to Burr Fisher (USFWS) for tracking assistance.

In the highlights below, * = female; DAR = direct autumn release; NFT = non functional transmitter. Estimated size of the Eastern Migratory Population is 53 individuals; 30 males and 23 females.

In the central Wisconsin core reintroduction area were:
101, 102*, 105.
205, 209NFT & 416NFT, 211 & 217*, 212 & 419*, 213 & 218*, 216.
301* & 311, 303* & 317, 307NFT (who made an appearance at Site 3 early last week), 310 & 501*, 312* & 316, 313* & 318.
401 & 508 (newly formed sub-adult pair), 402 & 511 remained together last week along with 403 and W601* and early in the week appeared at Site 3, 408 & 519*, 412, 415*NFT.
505, 506, 509, 511, 512, 514.
DAR627 and DAR628 remained in a large, staging Sandhill crane flock in Adams County.

Outside central Wisconsin core were:
107*NFT last reported September 13.
420* found September 19 foraging with a large flock of Sandhills in Chippewa County.
DAR527* with large flock of Sandhills in Winnebago County, DAR528* found with Sandhills in Clark & Marathon Counties.

Recorded earlier in Wisconsin but current location unknown were:
201*NFT last observed June 9.
503 & 507 were last recorded in Wood County May 26.
520* was not found during a check of her usual territories September 22.
524NFT may have been the unidentified bird observed in Sprague Pool area September 16.

Michigan:
516 was reported in a large flock of staging Sandhill Cranes in Jackson County September 17th.
DAR533* remained with Sandhill cranes in Van Buren County.

New York:
PTT readings indicate 309* roosted in Oswego County on September 23.

Missing (suspected dead): 202* last recorded in Georgia March 26.

Date: September 24, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Windy Wisconsin

Location:

Main Office

A quick call from Richard this morning let us know that wind has kept cranes and planes on the ground both yesterday and today. With the countdown to hoped for migration departure just 16 days away, everyone is anxious for a steady stream of good flying/training weather.

Date: September 23, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Trailer Woes

Location:

Main Office

CraneFest was fun as always, and if there was anything disappointing it was that, as usual, we had so little time to visit and chat with the many Craniacs who stopped by our booth. If you missed out this year, we hope you'll think about coming out for next fall's event. It's already scheduled for Saturday September 20th, 2008.

Along with hosting some guests in camp and attending the semi-annual WCEP Meetings, Joe and I visited some local trailer/motorhome dealers. In addition to being pretty worn out, our aging Nomad trailer has some leaks, both in the roof and it's 'given up the ghost' water tank. We wear through tires every couple hundred miles as it still doesn't track quite right since the fender bender on the '05 migration, and now, the heating system is non-operational. It's reached the point that replacement rather than repairs is likely to be the more practical and cost effective option.

In the photo is 'handyman Joe' tackling some roof repairs. He had a vested interest in plugging the leaks - many of them are over his bunk.

We've checked out a number of trailers in a 100 or so mile radius of Necedah and were interested in one in particular that Chris Gullickson previously scouted out for us. The dealer was supposed to be taking in a used model that would have suited our needs perfectly so we made our way to Baraboo. As it turns out, that trailer was tied up in the legal system and unavailable to us so now we are on the hunt again.

On migration the Nomad is home away from home for up to 6 or 7 crew and serves as the 'dining hall' for the whole team. With departure looming we are getting anxious. If any of our readers are aware of a potentially suitable vehicle for sale within in a reasonable distance from Necedah, please contact the office.

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

Date: September 23, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Presentation by Joe tonight in Medford, WI

Location:

Main Office

Craniacs and others are invited to join the Chequamegon Bird Club tonight in Medford. Joe will be giving a presentation there at 7:00pm. The event is being held in a multi-purpose building of the Taylor Co. fairgrounds, which is located on the corner of the intersection of State Hwys 13 and 64 in Medford. Our thanks to Connie Decker for all her efforts to organize this event.

Date: September 22, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

The Operation Migration  Weekend Flying Club

Location:

Wisconsin

The Operation Migration Weekend Flying Club met again today. We’ve renamed our rag-tag collection of misfits in their flying machines because the last time we flew was a week ago on Sunday.

In the interim, Cohorts 1 and 2 have been united into one flock and are now flying together, albeit in a disjointed fashion, and it’s time to introduce the oldest birds. Over the years we have learned that mixing the youngest birds with the middle group first, lets them form a union and get settled before we bring in the older birds who are larger and often more dominant.

There is a 42 day age spread in our flock this year and considerable difference in size, so it’s important to ease the integration process as much as possible to minimize any agonistic behaviour.

The East Site (or Site 1) is the largest, so we plan from the start of the season to use it to mix the cohorts. It has two separate wet and dry pens and two groups can be housed there side by side. They can see each other through a chain link fence but can only huff and puff without getting into trouble.

Richard left the hangar first and headed to the East Site. He was going to train with the birds that are already there and get them on the ground before the rest of us arrived with the older birds. This was an attempt to avoid an air traffic control problem with 4 pilots and 17 birds all trying to use the same airspace.

Down low is was more blustery than we liked and the birds that followed Chris out of the North Site soon broke off, leaving him with one. Brooke managed to intercept the rest and began to head them south. He tried to fly past the tower but they broke again. After a few circuits he headed straight for the East Site and abandoned our hopes of a long exercise flight first.

By this time Richard had landed but was not able to get all the young birds back into the pen before the older ones arrived. The situation was further confused by the presence of two white birds who came in to see what was going on. I guess some words were exchanged in crane language and four of the older birds decided they didn’t like their new neighborhood and took off heading north.

Nathan was on the ground at the North Site and had been asked to bring out the swamp monster for the original flight. When the older birds arrived home they couldn’t land because the monster stood right in the middle of the runway. Many of the birds were getting tired and we could see that some were gong to land in the marsh so we called Nathan off. Once he was back in the pen without the monster costume the birds gathered on the runway with Brooke who was back to help out. He launched with five birds and headed straight for the East Site.

He managed to eventually get them all there, but while that was going on, Chris and I were struggling with 703. He had refused to land at the East Site and was still airborne. I managed to pick him up and lead him south but every time we got close, he’d break for home again. Chris and I chased him back and forth about three times and when he finally landed he had been airborne for 41 minutes.

I've used the term meanwhile about six times in this report but it seemed like everything was happening at once. In all of this confusion, one of the younger birds took off from the East Site and landed in the water a few hundred yards to the north. Richard circled and gave directions to Charlie Shafer (Patuxent) who was struggling through the brush to lead him back.

Eventually, through the coordinated efforts of a very experienced team, we managed to get all the birds into their appropriate pens and all in one location. If we don’t fly again until next weekend we might have time to figure out just what happened today and get this report straightened out.

Date: September 21, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Eastern Migratory Population Weekly Update

Location:

Main Office

This update was compiled from data provided by Richard Urbanek (USFWS), Stacey Kerley and Nicole Frey (ICF) Thanks to Windway Aviation and pilot Mike Frakes and to Burr Fisher (USFWS) for tracking assistance. Thanks to Sara Zimorski and Nat Warning (ICF); Barb Clauss (PWRC); and Nancy Businga, Jasmine Batten, and Chad Courtney (WDNR) for capture assistance.

In the highlights below, * = female; DAR = direct autumn release; NFT = non functional transmitter. Estimated size of the eastern migratory population is 53 individuals; 30 males and 23 females.

In the central Wisconsin core reintroduction area were:
101, 102*, 105
205, 209NFT & 416NFT, 211 & 217*, 212 & 419*, 213 & 218*, 216 & 508*
301* & 311, 303* & 317, 307NFT, 312* & 316, 313* & 318, 310 & 501*
401, 402, 403, 407, 408 & 519*, 412, 415*NFT
505, 506, 509 (often associating with 512), 511, 512, 514, 520*
Wild 601* (associating with 403, 402, & 511), DAR627, DAR628

Outside central Wisconsin core were: 107*NFT, 420*, DAR527*, DAR528*

Recorded earlier in Wisconsin but current location unknown were:
503 & 507* in Wood County May 26
201*NFT last observed June 9 (mate 306 predated ~July 6)
524NFT An unidentified bird observed in Sprague Pool area September 13th may have been 524.


Michigan:
516 was reported in a large flock of staging Sandhill Cranes in Jackson County September 17th
DAR533* Van Buren County

New York:
PTT readings indicate 309* roosted in Oswego County on September 8th & 9th.

Missing (suspected dead): 202* last recorded in Georgia March 26.

September 21, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Belated News etc

Location:

Main Office

After a day that started at 4AM yesterday, I arrived back home just before 1AM. Flight delays due to runway construction and rain and lightening storms in Minneapolis and the surrounding area (where I was making a connection) were the culprit. As a result, here's yesterday's update albeit one day late.

After kicking the dirt around in the morning circle, despite some low flying fog, it was decided to give training a shot. By the time all the pilots suited up at the hangar things looked even less promising so Richard launched to take a look from up top. Initially most of the fog was hanging heavy over the ponds - right where we want it to be clear - so it was decided to wait for a bit to see if it would lift or burn off.

What happened was the opposite. A huge fog bank began to roll in from the east, and before very long the surrounding hills disappeared. It was getting to be pea soup. We were all standing in front of the hangar and Richard had left his trike by the runway. We told him he'd better go get it and bring it back while he could still see it to find it. The pilots tucked their aircraft away and everyone headed back disappointed to lose another day's training.

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

In the commotion and hectic-ness (is that a word?) that surrounds CraneFest and the Fall WCEP meetings I somehow missed an email from intern Megan Kennedy with an update for posting here. My apologies to Megan and to you folks for this. Assuming late is better than never, here it is.

Megan's Update for September 14
One of the most exciting and successful trials of my internship thus far was collecting a fecal sample that no one had been able to get for a week and a half!

As part of the pre-migration health checks, each bird is screened for a variety of diseases through blood and fecal samples. The blood is taken while the veterinary team is here, but it is up to the field crew to watch and listen and wait for the birds to excrete their waste, clamor over to determine whether or not the sample is viable, and if so, scoop it into a glass vial without touching it to any dirt or grass.

We've developed techniques to aid us in this most arduous task, including filling a bird up with treats, letting them out onto the runway and catching them right after they’ve had breakfast. By applying these methods, and simply watching whenever we go into the pen, we’d been able to collect samples from all of the birds but one – 735.

As well as being uncooperative in our mission, 735 has been worrying us for other reasons. A day after health checks, we noticed that one of her wings was drooping. Over the week and a half, she’s appeared to get better and can tuck her wing back up, but progress has been difficult to assess. We haven’t been able to train much lately, and when we have, she hasn’t been flying very well.

The birds are generally nervous to be out of the pen alone, so when 735 realized she was the only bird I’d let out after breakfast, her excitement seemed to quickly vanish. In order to relieve her anxiety, I jumped around haphazardly, mimicking other juveniles when they first get out of the pen. It worked!

Today was windy enough that we weren’t able to train again, so when she jumped with me, she caught the wind and rose higher than I’ve ever seen the chicks go without an ultralight! She flew a loop over the pen, landed next to me and went up right away again. She landed once more, but then flew the length of the runway only a few feet above the ground. When she landed, I saw something fall. I walked to her, never taking my eyes from the spot in the grass. While she was in the air again, I searched the ground and found the ‘treasure’ we’d been waiting for!

When 735 again landed next to me, I tried to use my vocalizer to lure her back to the pen. But it was too cold to work! Instead, I turned towards the pen and started running. When I looked back the first time, she was only watching me at a standstill. To my dismay, the second time I turned, she was flying in the opposite direction! But as I watched, she turned and flew straight at me. She was too high to land and banked right to fly a wide arch over the pen, the marsh and the other end of the runway, before landing right beside me in front of the pen door. All this from an injured bird!

It is a perfect fall day, the fecal collecting has been completed and all signs show that 735 is recovering very well – a great start to the CraneFest weekend!

September 19, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Video for you

Location:

Wisconsin

For everyone who couldn’t be in Necedah on the weekend for CraneFest we have a treat for you – compliments of Mark Chenoweth who captured some of flight training on video. Thanks Mark! For a great eyeful click Mark’s Video.

Wind kept the cranes and planes on the ground again today. It was so windy it only took 5 seconds for the pilots to reach that decision. Tomorrow morning holds more promise and the crew is hopeful. As the anticipated departure date steadily creeps up we need all the training/flying days we can possibly squeeze in.

September 19, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Photos for you

Location:

Wisconsin

Craniac Nancy Drew and husband Jim once again made their annual trek from ND to WI for CraneFest. In addition to donating the fruit of her labors (the quilt described in Entry 3 for September 14), Nancy and Jim helped us out with our booth, both set up and manning it on CraneFest Day.

They also found time to take some terrific photographs you might want to check out. To view them click Nancy's Photos.

September 18, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

Ongoing Difficulties with PayPal

Location:

Main Office

As Aldous Huxley once wrote, "Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards."

OM is once again facing technical difficulties caused by a glitch in the PayPal system. This is causing shipping mishaps for both our supporters and ourselves. To avoid this issue, please do not combine any merchandise purchases with donations, contributions, or raffle ticket purchases. We are trying to work with the PayPal engineers to address this issue, but as of September 18th they have been unable to provide us with a timeline for resolving this problem.

As an alternative we would be more than happy to speak to you and take your order over the telephone. Please feel free to call us at 1-800-675-2618 between the hours of 9am and 5pm EST, Monday to Friday.

September 17, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Weather Grounds cranes and planes

Location:

Wisconsin

Rain and wind cancelled training Monday morning and disappointed those observers waiting patiently in the tower. Some of the OM crew went over there to visit and chat instead.

Yesterday was the first day of the Fall Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership meetings. Each of the various teams met separately to discuss topics specific to their area; health, bird/migration, communications and outreach, etc. Today we all come together in a Plenary Session to report so that the whole organization is updated and up to speed on all aspects of the project. Tomorrow, the Project Direction Team meets to make the necessary decisions about any and all outstanding matters for the current season and going forward.


Thanks to Mark Chenoweth we have a few more photos to share with you.
 

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

September 16, 2007 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

CraneFest Surprize

Location:

Wisconsin

CraneFest is always fun, not the least of which comes from greeting many, many old friends and meeting and making many new ones. Each year there is always something a little different going on, but for the most part, the excitement comes from the making and renewing people connections.

Yesterday however, a sudden buzz reverberated through the exhibit tent. That was soon followed by an excited babble and a rush of people heading for exits. The excitement? CraneFest had an unexpected and very welcome visitor.

 

One of our adults was enjoying some 'air time' and its flight path took it right over the fairgrounds. For several minutes it was the CraneFest's star attraction, and while we were unable to desert the booth for a look, Karla Ritt kindly shared a photo she snapped with us.

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

September 16, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Saturday, CraneFest Day

Location:

Wisconsin

Despite freezing to below freezing temperatures the evening before, and a lingering digit-nipping temp in Saturday's early morning hours, all three levels of the Observation Tower were packed, with some of the crowd forced to spill over on to the surrounding ground.

My job for the day was to photograph the crew's departure and return at the hangar so I missed out on what turned out to be a superb morning for flight training. Underfoot, was a ground silvered with frosted, and overhead the sky was painted a crystal blue. Everything sparkled in the clear, crisp morning light, but that splendor soon gave over to the beauty of the stars of the show.

The wings of machines and birds glistened as they strutted their stuff for the audience. Some dedicated Craniacs later told me that while they had arrived at 5AM to ensure they had a good viewing spot, their shivering wait was more than worth it. "It doesn’t get any better than this," was the consensus.

Once the aerial ballet was over it didn't take long for the audience to descend on the fairgrounds where the tents and exhibits were set up for the annual Whooping Crane Festival. This event is put on by the Necedah Lion's Club, and as usual organizer Dave Arnold knocked himself out making sure everyone was accommodated. Dave told me that it was a day of glitches this year, but you’d never have known it. What a terrific job these folks do! OM sends it thanks to Dave and the Lion’s team.


View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

September 16, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Lead-up to CraneFest

Location:

Wisconsin

Friday
A glorious fall morning - but not for training. The sky matched the blue-grey circles under my eyes, and while the tree tops were swaying only slightly it was a vastly different story 'upstairs' where winds were blowing 40 knots. So after very little waiting, the crew called it a no-fly day. Drats.

Between all the prearranged meetings with supporters, slugging and lugging all OM's merchandise from the trailers to the tracking van (my chariot for the time I'm here), and from the van to our booth for set up, the day went by in a blur. But many hands make light work and that was exactly the case Friday afternoon as pairs of willing hands after pairs of willing hands arrived at the fairgrounds to help me with set up. I'd love to give credit by mentioning names here but I'm afraid I will forget someone. Suffice to say that OM's Craniacs are simply the best!

The day was capped off with a gathering at dinner of - between OM’s team, several long time friends and supporters - almost 40 of us. Among these were hosts Dave and Suzanne Johnson from Fox Grove, IL. As usual, they brought with them a group of people – some old friends of OM, and some who we hope have become new ones.

We concluded the evening with birthday cake. Deke Clark, former OM pilot and dear friend to all the crew was celebrating his mumble-th. (He's more than 29). As it turns out it was also intern Nathan Hurst's birthday, and Craniac Darlene Lambert's as well. Darlene was also the maestro who organized the cakes for us.

By 8:30PM, all tummies were full and the exodus began as everyone was anxious to get tucked in for the early morning ahead.
 

 
Date:: September 14, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

Bring a sweater

Location:

Main Office

Amidst her whirlwind schedule, Liz was able to take a few very brief moments and pass on an update to the main office. Despite a noticeable lack of daylight hours she and the rest of the crew are facing ever busier days in preparation for the looming migration.

Unfortunately no training took place today. Although the forecast was for good weather the pilots faced a 40 knot wind at 1000 feet this morning - plainly poor conditions for both the trikes and the chicks. Not ones to spend an idle moment, Joe and Liz took the opportunity to visit with the many spectators at the observation tower who had been waiting patiently  for a possible  flyover. They had the chance to meet with long time supporters and explain why there was no flyover this morning.

Tomorrow is expected to be a much better fly day, with crisp clear weather. That's right, crisp. Temperatures in the Necedah area are expected to drop to the freezing levels overnight!

Depending on good weather, the crew expects that they will be able to make a flyover at the observation tower tomorrow morning (Sept. 15th). To be sure that you see the event, you will need to be at the Necedah Observation tower by 6:30-6:45 a.m. Please note that with Cranefest happening over the weekend, we are anticipating a large crowd. And don't forget your sweaters/parkas/ski suits - as mentioned above it's going to be a chilly one!

Date: September 14, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

EMP loses another adult

Location:

Wisconsin

The bad news arrived when my email 'binged' at 4:38AM just as I was getting ready to pack up for another exciting morning on the Observation Tower. Dr. Richard Urbanek messaged us saying, "The decomposed but otherwise intact carcass of 407 was found yesterday in dry sedge marsh in the Meadow Valley SWA. The bird was lying on his ventral surface with head under the body and wings extended as if he had collapsed."

Richard said that the tracking data indicated that death likely occurred around the 29th to the 31st of August. The last time 407 had been seen alive was on August 20, the day that the carcass of his mate 502 was found in the same area. (Necropsy results for 502 indicated she died from an epicardial hemorrhage but the cause of that is yet to be determined.)

This death brings the number mortalities of released birds to 28 since the beginning of the reintroduction project in 2001. The carcass of 407 will go for necropsy at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center.

Date: September 13, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Happy in Necedah

Location:

Wisconsin

It's about 800 miles from Port Perry, Ontario to Necedah, Wisconsin. A 14 hour drive if you don't count stops to stretch, or balance one's intake with some output. But I flew. So you'd think it would be shorter wouldn’t you. Well, barely.

To catch a 9:30AM flight out of Toronto, allowing for traveling there and the time you have to be at the airport in advance of departure, it means leaving home at 5:30AM. There are no direct flights to Madison, so there's a layover (this time it was in Detroit) before catching another flight for the final leg.

By the time the drive from Madison to Necedah is finished – with stops at ICF to pick up de-worming medicine from Dr. Barry Hartup; at Mauston for ceramic heaters for the Nomad trailer (the 'furnace' is kaput); at camp to drop off Bev and Nate; it was just after 6:30PM when I finally got to my roosting place. Then, the scramble was on to get unpacked, organized, and answer the day's emails (90 odd), before turning in with all my fingers and toes crossed for flying weather in the morning.

And what great flying weather it was! Clear blue sky, and despite trashy air up top earlier, it was dead calm on the ground and there was nary a ripple on the ponds on the refuge. Gorgeous morning for both humans and birds.

The small crowd at the Observation Tower were all out-of-towners. Nancy and Jim Drew from ND; Mark and Peggy Chenoweth from FL, and Frauna Schroeder from OR won prizes for coming from the furthest away. Frauna deserves an extra pat on the back as she was here to volunteer in the refuge office for a few days before taking in the Crane Festival on Saturday.

Everyone waited anxiously and patiently for the sound of the trike engines to break the morning stillness. We weren't disappointed. Buzzzz - there was one headed out to Site 1. Buzzz there goes another one headed for Site 4. Buzzzz Buzzz – where is he? Where is he? Ahhh, there he goes down behind the trees to pick up chicks.

We watched as Brooke tried to get his little group going. They were following just great but wouldn’t get up, up, up. He led them over the pond, and they were flying so low the wingtips of one was darn near brushing the water. Around he went and the next pass was higher – marginally – but he eventually got them up to height. What a sight!

Here’s what Richard had to say about this morning's training.
We woke up to windy conditions this morning, but as the sun came up the wind died so we decided to give training a try. The air over Site 4 seemed calm so the chicks were let out of the pen. All came out except 706 who was stuck in the corner of the pen. Off I went with seven chicks in tow. They quickly formed on the wing gaining altitude as we flew over West Rynearson.

The air over the trees was quite rough so I was forced to do our flying over the marsh which was some what confining. While I headed east into the wind, Chris rounded up 706 who it turns out was eager to fly. But by this time the wind picked up again and it was time to take the chicks back. With a flight of 23 minutes and 7 birds on the wing things are looking up, and we are encouraged that training will soon be back on track.

All the pilots did their darnedest to give the folks in the Observation Tower a show this morning and no one walked away disappointed. I'm posting a few photos here which will likely demonstrate only too clearly the limitations of my little camera and more particularly, my less than adept photographic skills.

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

Date: September 12, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Richard van heuvelen

Subject:

Back to business

Location:

Wisconsin

To day dawned cold and clear. It's that time of year when flying means winter coats and warm gloves. But still we were caught by surprise as to how cold it was in the air. With chilled faces and cold hands, Brooke and Chris headed off to the north site while I headed to the east site.

After landing, 211 ran up in front of the trike, getting in the way of my takeoff. We waited patiently until he moved, and with a quick signal to Megan, Cohort 2 bounded out of the pen. The trike roared to life and with chicks in tow, we passed 211 and were airborne. All six followed... six?! 211 had turned and was following as well. At first he seemed to be a distraction and it was obvious that two of the chicks were attacking him in flight. With some manoeuvring, the chicks were convinced to stay with the trike.

However 211 was in the lead position right behind the wing with the five chicks strung out off the wing behind him. The first chick in line did not like this arrangement and attacked 211 biting him on the back and knocking him down below the wing. Apparently this was still too close for the lead chick who dove down and pecked him on the back of the neck. At this point 211 had enough and high tailed it off to the north while the trike and five chicks settled in for a ten minute tour of the refuge.

Sandhill cranes, ducks, geese and other wildlife just glanced up, then resumed foraging as we flew by in the morning sun. With the sun in our eyes we returned to the pen site and landed.

After a few minutes we let out Cohort 3 and we were off again. All followed except two that turned back and landed. I had four chicks on the wing and three stragglers that I hoped would catch up. But one by one they to tuned back to the runway. The four that were on the wing kept following as we flew a wide circuit around Rynearson Pool before returning back to the pen site.

Exiting the aircraft quickly I identified 726 and 733 among the four followers which meant that 727 and 735 were among the quitters.

Returning to the aircraft we prepared for another launch as the quitters came up to us. All launched again and as we circled, two birds dropped out once  more and returned to the pen site. The rest followed for another circuit with some struggling to keep up. Eventually they all landed with the trike, but not before 727 and 735 were identified as the two that had turned back.

With the trike turned off it was now time to let the two cohorts socialize, and maybe put them in one pen. After a few moments it was obvious this might be a problem as there was a lot of aggression between the two groups. In particular 717 was extremely aggressive and  attacked  the younger chicks and would have knocked one over had we not intervened. It was decided to put them in separate pens and perhaps let them out later for some more socialization. All in all a good morning considering the post health check blues and how little training they have had lately.

Date: September 12, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Nathan Hurst

Subject:

No Training Yesterday

Location:

Wisconsin

Tuesday turned out to be an especially blustery day. We refrained from training, and we weren’t even able to let the birds out for their much needed exercise. They'd be liable to take off from site four and end up at Horicon! Instead, we spent the day preparing for CraneFest, next week’s Fall WCEP meetings, and all of our visitors. Brochures had to be stuffed, trailers cleaned, and another motorhome borrowed - for which our undying gratitude goes out to Jane Stedman.

It's acorn season, and the oak tree progeny clatter on our rooftops day and night, waking us with a sound reminiscent of a hail storm. Chris and Richard acquired slingshots at a rummage sale. The acorns provide perfect ammo and the trailers of napping co-workers provide the perfect targets.

It finally feels like fall is coming and it's delightful. I'm looking forward to having fall last from September to December this year. I'm also looking forward to meeting WCEP's movers and shakers this weekend, as well as many of our supporters. One of the great things about this project is how it brings people together. There's a distinct human element, and it meshes nicely with the environmental aspect to create something bigger, the way an ecosystem is bigger than any of its parts.

Date: September 11, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Eastern Migratory Population Weekly Update

Location:

Main Office

This update was compiled from data provided by Richard Urbanek (USFWS), Stacey Kerley and Nicole Frey (ICF) Thanks to Windway Aviation and pilot Mike Frakes and to Burr Fisher (USFWS) for tracking assistance. Thanks to Sara Zimorski and Nat Warning (ICF); Barb Clauss (PWRC); and Nancy Businga, Jasmine Batten, and Chad Courtney (WDNR) for capture assistance.

In the highlights below, * = female; DAR = direct autumn release; NFT = non functional transmitter. Estimated size of the eastern migratory population is 54 individuals; 31 males and 23 females.

In the central Wisconsin core reintroduction area were:
101, 102*, 105
205, 211 & 217*, 212 & 419*, 213 & 218*, 216 & 508*
301* & 311, 303* & 317, 307NFT, 312* & 316, 313* & 318, 310NFT & 501* were captured on August 30 and both of their nonfunctional transmitters replaced.
401, 402, 403, 407, 408 & 519*, 412, 415*NFT
505, 506, 509 (often associating with 512), 511, 512, 514, 520*
Wild 601* (associating with 403, 402, & 511), DAR627, DAR628

Outside central Wisconsin core were: 107*NFT, 420*, DAR527*, DAR528*

Recorded earlier in Wisconsin but current location unknown were:
503 & 507* in Wood County May 26
201*NFT last observed June 9 (mate 306 predated ~July 6)
209NFT & 416NFT last observed on an aerial survey August 1.
524NFT An unidentified bird observed in Sprague Pool area September 1st may have been 524.


Michigan:
516 remains in Ingham County
During an aerial survey on August 30, DAR533* was observed with Sandhill cranes on a wetland in Van Buren County, a location she had frequented in June. She had last been located August 9.

New York:
High-precision PTT readings indicate 309* roosted in Oswego County on September 8th & 9th.

Missing (suspected dead): 202* last recorded in Georgia March 26.

Date: September 11, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Join Bev in Eau Claire, WI tonight

Location:

Main Office

The Beaver Creek Bird Club is hosting Bev Paulan tonight at 7PM at the Beaver Creek Reserve. Bev's presentation is entitled, The True Confessions of a 'Crane Momma'. Focusing on chick rearing, socialization, and training, Bev's Powerpoint show features lots of photos and clips that we know you will enjoy.

Everyone is welcome, so if you are 'in the neighborhood' why not join Bev and the Beaver Creek Bird Club for the evening. For directions, click here.

Date: September 10, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Flight Training (or not)

Location:

Main Office

Too much wind on Sunday and too much rain today meant no flight training either day. On Saturday however, the older chicks trained but the youngest cohort did not. They were out for exercise in front of the pen though, and little 735 took advantage of the freedom to fly a couple of lengths of the runway.

Everyone cross your fingers that the weather cooperates for all the folks coming to the Necedah Crane Festival this weekend. As usual, we’re expecting a full house at the Observation Tower Friday, Saturday and Sunday. See YOU there????

Date: September 8, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

OM's Annual General Meetings

Location:

Main Office

In accordance with Operation Migration’s bylaws, Notice of Annual General Meetings for the fiscal period ending March 31, 2007 has now been sent to all Supporting and Sustaining Members. For the information of others who might be interested in becoming a Sustaining Member and have a voice in the governance of the organization, we post the following information.

meeting date and time:    sunday, september 30th, 2007 at 2:00pm est
meeting location:           250 the esplanade, suite 402, toronto, ontario canada

The primary items of business to be transacted at the Annual General Meetings are:
·    Report on the affairs of the corporations for the completed fiscal year
·    Ratification of the actions of the Board over the last fiscal period
·   
Membership Motion instructing the Board to meet government insurance requirements
·    Presentation of the 2006/2007 Audited Financial Statements
·    Appointment of the organizations’ auditing firm(s) for the 2007/2008 fiscal year
·   
Election or Acclamation of Directors to the Board

While Notice of Annual General Meeting is sent to all Members of all categories of Membership, only individuals holding Sustaining Membership may vote (in person or by proxy) on the matters presented. (Proxy forms are available on request.)

Nomination and Election of Directors of the Board
Sustaining Members may nominate, second nominations, and/or themselves be nominated to serve on the Board of Directors. Nominations must be in writing, accompanied by a seconder, and received by the CEO at the head office at least 10 days in advance of the date of the Annual General Meeting, that is, 5:00PM EST Thursday, September 20, 2007. (Nomination forms are available on request.)

As Operation Migration’s supporter base and web audience grows, so does the workload and complexity of administering the organization. As a result, we need to bolster our infrastructure and operational supports. If you are interested the business/governance side of Operation Migration, we encourage you to consider becoming a Sustaining Member. Should you wish to do so and you are already a Supporting Member, the remaining balance of your Supporting Membership fee can be applied to the $125 per year Sustaining Membership fee.

Should you have any questions or if you would like any further information, please do not hesitate to contact the office at 1-800-675-2618.

Members planning to attend the 2007 Annual General Meetings are asked to advise the OM office at their earliest opportunity.

Date: September 7, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

The ‘Real’ Science of Migration

Location:

Main Office

It's time to guesstimate our departure date from the cooling and colourful climes of central Wisconsin on our annual autumn adventure.

Departure, like everything else related to flying, is dictated by the weather, so our proposed target date is nothing more than a deadline we impose upon ourselves - by which time everything must be ready to go. Ready, set - - - wait.

Choosing a departure date is one of those speculative art forms like well-witching, or using woolly caterpillars to predict the severity of the coming winter. The formula for determining departure date is complex. First you count the rings, then add 32 and spin around twice. From there you can calculate how many weeks it will be before we can see our shadow.

The only real method of calculation we have is to look at our migration history. First of all we have an age spread this year of 42 days between the oldest and youngest. That determines how soon they can all come together and fly as a cohesive flock. The closest age spread to this was in 2005 when the difference was 44 days and we can bracket that by using 2002, when the range was 39 days. This is kind of like comparing your house with the one down the street to see how much you should list yours for.

Next we can look at hatch dates to see when the youngest birds will be able to fly. In 2002 the last chick hatched on May 21; in 2005 it was on June 3. This year our last chick hatched on June 10th.  Hmm, the latest ever. Not a good sign.

If you compare those 2 years, 2002 and 2005, you find that we left on October 13 and 14 respectively. In fact we have left every year sometime between the 10th and the 17th with the exception of last year when we left on the 5th. But as it turns out, that only added 10 days to the migration and we would like to avoid that happening again.

The last bit of information we can use in our calculation is when the cohorts were united and when the flock finally flies together. In 2002 that occurred on September 16 and in '05 it happened on the 23rd. Unfortunately this has not happened yet this year, so that part of the equation is incomplete.

But, if we do this correctly, we can rely on science to give us the answer. We gather our data, align all of our numbers in a neat row - then throw them all in a hat and pick one. And the answer for 2007 is.....October 10th.

This is now our official target departure date, and will undoubtedly become the subject of much speculation and even a few side bets. The important thing to remember is that birds don’t use calendars.
 

year

hatch dates

age spread

target departure date

actual departure date

2002

May 12 - June 21

39 days

Oct 3

Oct 13

2005

May 20 - June  3    

44 days

Oct 9

Oct 14

2007

April 29 - June 10

42 days

Oct 10

?????

Date: September 6, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Florida Non-Migratory Population

Location:

Main Office

Marty Folk of the Florida Fish & Conservation Commission emailed today to let us know that the chick whose progress we’ve been following has fledged. At 81 days of age, it made a flight across the nest marsh. "More recently," said Marty, "it has flown as high as tree-top level."

"This is the 9th chick to fledge in the wild for the Florida non-migratory population," Marty said. "All but one of these wild-fledged birds survives; the one named Lucky was not so lucky."

The photo to the right was taken by Marty when the chick was 77 days old.

Date: September 5, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Eastern Migratory Population Weekly Update

Location:

Main Office

This update was compiled from data provided by Richard Urbanek (USFWS), Stacey Kerley and Nicole Frey (ICF) Thanks to Windway Aviation and pilot Mike Frakes and to Burr Fisher (USFWS) for tracking assistance. Thanks to Sara Zimorski and Nat Warning (ICF); Barb Clauss (PWRC); and Nancy Businga, Jasmine Batten, and Chad Courtney (WDNR) for capture assistance.

In the highlights below, * = female; DAR = direct autumn release; NFT = non functional transmitter. Estimated size of the eastern migratory population is 54 individuals; 31 males and 23 females.

In the central Wisconsin core reintroduction area were:
101, 102*, 105
205, 211 & 217*, 212 & 419*, 213 & 218*, 216 & 508*
301* & 311, 303* & 317, 307NFT, 312* & 316, 313* & 318, 310NFT & 501* were captured on August 30 and both of their nonfunctional transmitters replaced.
401, 402, 403, 407, 408 & 519*, 412
505, 506, 509, 511, 512, 514, 520*
Wild 601* (associating with 403), DAR627

Outside central Wisconsin core were: 107*NFT, 420*, DAR527*, DAR528*

Recorded earlier in Wisconsin but current location unknown were:
503 & 507* in Wood County May 26
201*NFT last observed June 9 (mate 306 predated ~July 6)
209NFT & 416NFT last observed on an aerial survey August 1.
415*NFT last observed in Adams County June 7
524NFT An unidentified bird observed in Sprague Pool area July 30 may have been 524.
DAR628

Michigan: 516 in Ingham County; During an aerial survey on August 30, DAR533* was observed with Sandhill cranes on a wetland in Van Buren County, a location she had frequented in June. She had last been located August 9.

New York: 309* in Lewis County.

Missing (suspected dead): 202* last recorded in Georgia March 26.

Date: September 4, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Richard van heuvelen

Subject:

Health Checks

Location:

Wisconsin

Today was health check day. Dr. Barry Hartup (ICF) and his team arrived at 6:30AM ready to go. We all went to Site four and set up to check the eight older birds. Everything went quickly and smoothly and we were done by 8:15.

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

Date: September 2, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Chris Gullikson

Subject:

Integrating Cohorts

Location:

Wisconsin

Friday, for the 3rd day in a row, we had excellent training weather; cool air to help the birds endurance and no wind to cause turbulence. Ground fog covered a good portion of the refuge, but it was not very thick and we knew it would burn off quickly as the sun rose higher in the sky.

While Brooke flew over to Site 2 to wait out the fog, I landed at Site 1 which was clear and ready for training. Nathan was waiting for me at the pen and I signaled to him to open the doors. The four Cohort 3 birds came rushing out the door, excited to begin their morning exercise.

I quickly powered up and raced off to the south with all 4 birds getting airborne behind me on my right side. I backed off of the power, still on the ground to allow the birds to catch up to me and get closer to the wing. When all 4 birds were close to the trike’s wing, I applied a little more power, and as I gently lifted off the ground made a right hand turn out over East Rynerson pool.

726 and 727 stayed with me, flying low over the water, but when I glanced back I saw 733 and 735 land at the end of the runway. I made a short circuit, and with 726 and 727 right on my wing, landed back at the south end of the runway.

After sitting for a few minutes and giving out a few grapes, I took back off to the north with all 4 birds flying behind me in ground effect. Hanging a left hand turn out over the pool, I watched 3 birds land at the north end of the runway and 1 bird flying an abbreviated circuit before landing back near the pen. When I landed, the 4 birds quickly rejoined me, and with them following, I taxied up the pen doors where Nathan helped me put them away for the day.

Wednesday and Thursday mornings Brooke and I tried to fly the 5 birds in Cohort 2 over to Site 1. These birds have been flying well behind the trike for 5 minutes at a time, but have not yet gone more then a ½ mile or so from their home territory.

The 1 mile flight from Site 2 to Site 1 as the crow (or crane) flies, crosses a large expanse of water known as East Rynerson Pool. Each time we reach its edge, the birds break off from the trike and turn back toward home.

We have employed the swamp monster the last 2 mornings to help encourage the birds to stay airborne while we round them back up and attempt to lead them back over the water. (The swamp monster is simply a camouflage tarp worn by one of the ground crew who dances around in swamp monsteresque fashion, thereby preventing naïve cranes from landing back on runway.) With birds continuing to fly around the training Site, Brooke and I move in and attempt to pick up birds while trying to avoid each other’s wake turbulence. After 5 minutes of air rodeo, we decided that tomorrow is another day, sent the monster back to its hole, and allowed the chicks a safe return to their home.

Friday morning when Nate and I finished training at Site one, I got back into the air and radioed to Brooke that the coast was clear. From a distance I watched him take off with all 5 birds and begin a slow arcing turn towards me. Instead of flying directly out over the water, Brooke led the birds on a longer flight, crossing a narrower portion of the pool and along the eastern shoreline.

The birds must have felt more comfortable flying over land, or maybe they just were more eager to fly this morning. Either way, they were clearly making good progress towards Site 1 so I quickly landed back at the pen and turned on my vocalizer to them a friendly target to shoot for. While an adult pair checked out the new arrivals, Nathan, Brooke and I coaxed the 5 chicks into the pen beside that of Cohort 3 where they will be separated from the younger chicks by a nylon fence for the next week.

Most of the birds of the oldest Cohort at Site 4 have been flying very well with flights of over 20 minutes. However, 714, and occasionally 712, have been turning back early and landing back at the pen. Friday morning we were able to keep all 8 birds in the air for 20+ minutes;  a first for number 714.

I took off with all 8 birds Saturday morning, but as expected, 714 left my wing followed by 712, and 713. I pushed on, wanting to clear the area while Brooke moved in to pick up the 3 birds that, thanks to Brian’s awesome Swamp Monstering skills, were encouraged to stay aloft.

Brooke was able to quickly pick up the last 3 birds and he moved in behind me also picking up 707 who had lost the draft and was falling too far behind me to catch back up. With 4 birds each, we cruised around the refuge, going past the observation tower where a few people were on hand to watch the odd show, before buzzing Site 2 where Barb and Bev were grabbing the miscellaneous items we needed to move over to Site 1. We landed back at the pen, put the birds away and headed back for the hangar feeling elated about a great training session.

View the photos here in the 2007 Fall photo journal.

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