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Date: August 31, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Nathan Hurst

Subject:

Bossy Birds and Crane Rodeos

Location:

Wisconsin

I've been at Site 1 with Cohort 3 for two days in a row. Though they're the smallest birds, they might have a bit of a Napoleon complex going on. 727 is not afraid to stand up to the two adults that frequent the runway, the First Family parents 211 and 217*, and little 733 is emboldened by his penmate.

Despite the adult's aggressive displays, it's the youngsters who are doing the chasing. They fly with necks stretched out and beaks snapping and the adults get out of their way. Still, a full on confrontation wouldn't do us any good, so because of the risk of the birds injuring one another, the pilots try to maneuver themselves to get between the aggressors.

We have been trying to move Cohort 2 from Site 2 to Site 1. They will be housed in a pen adjacent but separated from the Cohort 3 chicks so the birds can see each other and get used to each other before they are introduced on the runway.

Eventually, after Cohorts 2 and 3 can safely be housed in the same pen, Cohort 1 will be brought over from Site 4 to the other side of the divided pen at Site 1 to go through the same familiarization process. After that, they two will be moved in to the pen with the rest of the Class of 2007.

Right now, Cohort 2 isn't sure what they think about this idea. The pilots have started flying the birds toward Site 1, only to have them turn back and return to their comfort zone. With two pilots trying to induce the chicks to fly across the pool to their new home it looks a little like an aerial circus. Something along the way has been spooking them; maybe their own reflection in the water. Perhaps on our third try we'll have more success.

Although it was frustrating watching from Site one as the pilots had to circle back again and again after the birds, right before us was solid proof that it can be done. There, standing in front of us, were 211 and 217* happily foraging while the ultralights performed their two-ring circus in the background.

Date: August 31, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Bev Paulan

Subject:

Presents

Location:

Wisconsin

Yesterday we got a call in camp from the Necedah Refuge headquarters saying we had someone at the office with a present for us. Since Brooke and I were the only OM people at camp at the time we both grinned and jumped in the van for the quick hop over.

Much to our surprise, we were greeted by longtime Craniacs and Wisconsin Natural Resource Foundation members, Jim and Marilyn Hampton from Wausau.

Having heard about Whooper Brew, (the beer specially made for CraneFest) Jim, a veteran wine-maker, had the idea to bottle a wine just for us. The upshot is that we were presented with ‘Whooper Ultralight White’ and ‘Mighty Fine Migration Wine'.

Thank you so much Jim and Marilyn for the gift - and Brooke and I promise we will share. (Evil grin!)

Date: August 30, 2007 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

CraneFest 2007

Location:

Main Office

With the Necedah Lions Club Whooping Crane Festival just over two weeks away, several of WCEP’s partners - Operation Migration, the Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre, the International Crane Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wisconsin DNR – are all busy preparing their booth displays.
 

As usual, the Festival will be held the third Saturday in September (the 15th) at the fairgrounds in the town of Necedah. The action gets underway with an all you can eat pancake breakfast starting at 7:00AM, and the first Necedah Refuge tour bus also leaves at that time. The booths and exhibits open at 9:00am and the first of the dozen speaker presentations also begin at 9.
 

More tours, a BBQ dinner followed by music and dancing round out the day’s events and activities.

Sharing booth space with one of our working aircraft will be OM’s new pictorial exhibit display, as well as a selection of OM Gear and other merchandise.
 

So c’mon to Necedah folks! Meet the OM Team as well as many, many people from across the country who share our passion for the Whooping crane and come time and time again to join in the fun.
 

For more details about the Festival, click here Necedah Lion’s Club 2007 Whooping Crane Festival

Date: August 30, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

Apologies for any inconvenience

Location:

Main Office

EBay, the parent company of PayPal, has recently begun implementing server upgrades without forewarning its customers. As a result, some glitches have occurred with their merchant tools, ultimately producing baffling results for customers. On our site, in some instances it is charging for shipping where no shipping fee is due.)
 
Although we here at OM cannot do anything to fix these issues, we do apologize for any inconveniences they may cause our supporters hoping to contribute, take out a membership, or buy merchandise. If you've had any difficulty, please call us toll free at 800-675-2618) where you will be greeted warmly by a real live person! (Remember, we only have 1 phone line, so if you do get put to voice mail, it's because we're already helping someone else.)
 
If you need to reach PayPal, their customer service line is 402-935-2050. You will need the last 4 digits of the bank or credit card associated with your account to get their help.
 
Again, sorry for any inconvenience, and thank you for your patience as OM tries to work out a resolution in partnership with PayPal.

Date: August 30, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Bev Paulan

Subject:

Flashing Back

Location:

Wisconsin

Flashbacks - that is what this morning was all about. Although I was a child of the 70s, I didn't do drugs like a lot of others, so I have never experienced a flashback in that sense of the word. But this morning sure was deja-vu all over again.

You haven't heard from the Necedah crew all week because we haven't flown all week.  Sunday was the last day the guys were airborne. I know it is not too exciting hearing about the day to day work we do, so after 3 non-flying days, we were excited this morning to see it was calm and clear.

On Sunday we prepped the Site 1 pen for the anticipated move of Cohort 2 on the next flying day. That was the plan for this morning but as all best laid plans go, it didn't happen.

In spite of the clear skies, no wind, and very cool temps, the chicks just didn't want to go. So, as I flashed back to last year’s migration and all the crazy mornings we had, the pilots started their version of a rodeo and attempted the first round-up of the season.

At first it appeared that all was going well. Brooke took the lead, the release went well and all five followed him into the crystal blue sky. But it didn't take long to see that they weren't going to make it without some intervention, and when the first chick turned back, Chris swooped in for the ‘capture’. All it took was that one chick to turn back and next thing I saw was all of them turning back. Even the oh-so-dreaded swamp monster couldn't deter the young ones from wanting to return ‘home’. So, after monstering himself into a lather, Brian Clauss quickly disappeared back into his shed and three of the five chicks landed on the runway.

I saw one chick land in the marsh right adjacent the pen, but didn't know where the fifth had gotten itself to. Once we had the other four back in the pen, the pilots remounted their trusty steeds and prepared for a search.

Brian and I stood on the edge of the runway looking through fogged up helmets in the general direction Chris had indicated. While the pilots warmed their engines, I caught a glimpse of gangly wings slowly ascending from the marsh. I ran as quickly as costume and boots allowed to flag down the pilots before they could take-off and pointed toward the inbound chick.

Unlike last year's, this year's chicks seem to have a much better homing instinct and they come back much more readily. As 721 landed on the runway, I reopened the pen door and he followed the trail of grapes right inside. We all sighed relief and as Brooke and Chris headed to Site 4 for the training of Cohort 1, Brian and I filled feeders and looked over our young charges.

Thus ended my flashback for the day. Let’s hope I get them over and done with before migration starts!

Date: August 29, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

School's starting!

Location:

Main Office

While shopping the other day, I noticed that the shelves of the store were lined with stationary, binders, and back packs. That is to say, the 2007/2008 school year is quickly coming up for young minds throughout North America. As you undertake your preparations for this upcoming year, we would like to remind you about the Change4Cranes fundraising kit being offered by Operation Migration this fall.

With the success of the Change4Cranes fundraiser by the students at Windermere Elementary School in Florida a number of teachers and supporters have contacted OM asking for a similar fundraising program they could use. With those requests in mind, OM has developed Change4Cranes into something in which kids everywhere can participate.

We now have a Change4Cranes kit, consisting of a little pop-up cardboard coin collection box, peel and stick decals with which to decorate it, and a page of ideas to help get the creative juices flowing. Here at the office we have already seen several examples of wonderfully decorated boxes created by some of our creative and resourceful Craniac Kids.

Any teacher who would like a Change4Cranes kit for their class, or, one for each student, please get in touch. Or, if you are a Craniac Kid and would like a kit of your own, just email us your name, mailing address, the name of your school and the grade you are in. Although we still have many kits available, as the school year approaches we are anticipating that OM’s Change4Cranes boxes will soon be in short supply!

As a special bonus, schools or classes signing on as a Change4Cranes participant before September 30 will be entered into a draw. Three names will be drawn on October 1st, and the winners will be offered the opportunity to have a member of the OM team come and give a presentation.

To sign on and order a Change4Cranes kit(s) email: james@operationmigration.org.

Date: August 28, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Eastern Migratory Population Update

Location:

Main Office

This update was compiled from data provided by Richard Urbanek (USFWS), Stacey Kerley (ICF), and Nicole Frey. Thanks 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 54 individuals.

In the central Wisconsin core reintroduction area were: (Frequent rain over the past week relieved the near drought conditions.)
101, 102*, 105
205, 211 & 217*, 212 & 419*, 213 & 218*, 216 & 508*
301* & 311, 303* & 317, 307NFT, 310NFT & 501*NFT, 312* & 316, 313* & 318
401, 402, 403, 407, 408 & 519*, 412
505, 506, 509, 511, 512, 514, 520*
Wild 601*, DAR627, DAR628
Note: 412 and DAR628 visited the pensite at Site 3 early last week and were chased away by 102.

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 Whooping crane observed in the eastern Sprague Pool area on 30 July may have been 524.

Michigan: 516 in Ingham County

Recorded earlier in Michigan but current location unknown:
DAR533* last observed June 11 in Van Buren County. She was not found when the area was last checked August 9.

New York: 309* in Lewis County.

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

Date: August 24, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Brooke Pennypacker

Subject:

Highwater

Location:

Wisconsin

"Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink." So began the “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Well, up until recently, our 'rhyme of the Not-so-Ancient Migrator' was, "Water, water everywhere except here on the refuge!"

All summer long we watched storm after rain-filled storm march across our weather radar computer screens only to divert around us at the last minute, as if a part of some supernatural conspiracy to turn Necedah into the Sahara.

We looked on with growing concern as our crane wet pens turned to mud pens then to dry pens, and we worried over the possible negative affects this would have on the birds; no water roosting; the threat of disease; and how best to explain the word 'draught' to a crane.

Not that Necedah would ever compete with the Great Lakes in the water department. It's like they say in the Bahamas, +Mon…we got lots of water, but it mighty thin!"  And despite the fact that the name Necedah itself is Ho Chunk, for “land of yellow water," (possibly the result of its location just downstream from an Indian PortaPotty?) the large lake-like areas which so efficiently mirror our ultralights as we fly over them, are really only suggestions of water bodies; just shallow pools totally at the mercy of summer evaporation. And since 85% of refuge water comes from rain and snowmelt, "What comes down must go up."

But all that has now changed. I know, because as I write this update, the rain is pounding so hard, hard on the roof of my trailer that the only thing I can do is write this update! If I go outside, I’ll drown - or be swept away and wind up on the evening news. Okay, so I exaggerate a little. But you wouldn’t believe how big the fish was that just swam past my window!

As the State of Wisconsin washes into Lake Michigan, our wet pens are filling up again, and that's all we really care about. Besides, it's too late to build an ark. And it would probably leak anyway. And even if it didn't, we’d only want to fill it up with cranes and that would be discrimination. "Passengers wanted. Only cranes need apply."

So, as the Necedah Refuge is transformed into the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, I'll end this update with the final line of the Ancient Mariner. The one he was heard to utter just before he drank himself to death. "Be careful what you wish for, Baby, cause your wish just might come true; and then what, Baby, just what are ya gonna do?" DOO DAH! DOO DAH!!!!!

Date: August 23, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Joe & Nathan

Subject:

Fly Fast - Turn Left

Location:

Wisconsin

Joe writes:
It has transitioned from being so parched and dry that the grass crunched underfoot, to so wet we couldn’t use the runways even when it stopped raining. From drought to drenched in less than a week. We needed the rain but it wasn’t until yesterday that we were able to get back to training with the birds.

Earlier in the week we took them out just for some exercise. It was warm and overcast and they did jump around, but none of them flew very far in the heat and humidity. Now it looks like we are in for more rain…it’s beginning to feel a lot like migration.

View the photos here in the 2007 Summer photo journal.


Nathan writes:
Chris, who is a bit of a NASCAR enthusiast, ought to feel right at home.

Yesterday, we were able to sneak in a training, but since it was greater than 100 percent humidity ("I didn't even know it could get above 100 percent humidity," said Joe), Chris took cohort one on a couple of short circuits instead of their usual longer trip. As they circled about the runway, we handlers had a clear view from the pen.

Like race car drivers, the chicks followed the leader, jostling for position off Chris' wingtip. Several birds experienced a minor collision and were thrown off course, causing the yellow 'caution' flag to go up while they regained their balance and got back in the echelon.

The birds are developing a flight hierarchy that they will use during migration. They nudge each other in an attempt to gain the coveted position directly off the wingtip, where the draft is the greatest and flying is easiest. In spite of the little bump today, the birds' interactions in the air are benign, and nobody has gone down in flames.

Date: August 22, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Consider Becoming a Sustaining Member of OM

Location:

Main Office

As Operation Migration grows, so must its organizational infrastructure. As a result, the Board of Directors has recently revised the corporations’ bylaws, and one of the hoped for outcomes is an increase to the numbers of Sustaining Members.

Operation Migration has two categories of membership. They are: Supporting and Sustaining. In addition to the benefits accruing to Supporting Members, Sustaining Members also receive notice of General and Annual meetings of the corporations, and may attend and vote (in person or by proxy) on the affairs of the organizations. Sustaining Members may also nominate other Sustaining Members for election to the Board of Directors, vote at elections, and if interested and they themselves are nominated and elected, serve in that capacity.

If you wish to participate in Operation Migration’s governance and have no conflicts of interest, please consider becoming a Sustaining Member. The annual fee for Sustaining Membership is $125, of which $105 is tax deductible. If you have already paid a Supporting Membership, a credit for a portion of your fee can be applied against your Sustaining Membership fee.

Sustaining Membership is listed on the ‘Contribute’ page on our website. The fee may be paid via PayPal, by sending a check, or, you can simply call OM’s office and do so using a credit card. A simple Declaration of Conflict of Interest / No Conflict of Interest form will then be sent to you for signature.

Sustaining Members interested in standing for election to the Board of Directors (the voting for which will take place at OM’s Annual General Meetings to take place before the end of September) are encouraged to contact the office for more information.

Below is the section of the bylaw pertaining to qualifications of Sustaining Members
Article 3, Section 4, Sub-section 4.02 – Sustaining Members
Any individual over the age of eighteen who meets the conditions of membership, and files a Declaration of Conflict of Interest, may become a Sustaining Member. In addition to all privileges granted to Supporting Members, Sustaining Members shall be entitled to make nominations for, and to hold office in the corporation; to receive notice of special and general meetings of Members, and, to attend and vote thereat on all matters presented.

Date: August 22, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Bev Paulan

Subject:

Weather Forecasts - don't believe everything you hear

Location:

Wisconsin

For the past 15 years my jobs have all been weather dependent. Come to think of it, they have all been in aviation, so that stands to reason. Because of this I have become to rely on both weather radios and the internet to inform me of current and forecast conditions.

It has become a long standing routine that in the evening I sit down at the computer and check what the next morning is forecast to bring. Forecast is the key word here. When I checked the long range forecast over the weekend, every morning this week looked bleak - rainy, windy and just generally yucky (that is a very technical aviation term).

Last night confirmed the long range outlook and indicated that it would be "definitely" raining this morning. All night I listened to the rain pelting the trailer and when the alarm went off at 0500hrs, I turned it off. Was I surprised by the knock on the door and the voice saying, "Let's go lazy-bones.” The rain had ended and unbelievably there was no wind and no fog – a surprising condition these days.

I headed out to Site 1 with Joe to train the ‘little guys. Lately we have been dividing them up into two groups, letting 726 and 727 train together so they can fly circuits while 733 and 735 who are still gravity bound, get the benefit of some high speed taxi training.

733 has been flying in ground effect and seems like he's ready to go at any time. Well, since this morning was rather humid, we decided to let all the birds out together. When it is humid out, the birds tend to not fly real well or high, and stick close to the pen site as opposed to flying circuits. So we thought all 4 could train together.

We guessed right. 726 and 727 flew a half a circuit while 733 flew the length of the runway and 735 ran and flapped furiously trying to keep up. That was the best we could get out of the birds this morning, and, after 4 high speed runs down the runway, we put the birds away.

So, this evening it will be the same routine. Check the weather, listen to the rain, but this time I won't be turning off the alarm in the morning.

View the photos here in the 2007 Summer photo journal.

Date: August 21, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Eastern Migratory Population Update (Recent Mortality)

Location:

Main Office

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

In the highlights below, * = female; DAR = direct autumn release; NFT = non functional transmitter. With the mortality of 502 the past week, the estimated size of the eastern migratory population is reduced to 54 individuals, 31 males and 23 females.

Mortality
The carcass of 502*, who paired with 407 this past spring, was discovered yesterday on the Meadow Valley SWA, the pair’s most frequently used area. She was found lying on her back with her head and neck tucked under her right wing. "Tracking data indicated that death occurred on or about August 16th or 17th," said Dr. Richard Urbanek. "The carcass, found in a few inches of water within sedge marsh that was likely dry before recent rainfall, was completely intact."

The remains of 502 will be sent to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center for necropsy. This latest loss brings the number of free-flying released bird mortalities to 27 since the beginning of the reintroduction project.

In the central Wisconsin core reintroduction area were: (which has had welcome rainfall to relieve recent and prolonged drought conditions)
101, 102*, 105
205, 209NFT & 416NFT, 211 & 217*, 212 & 419*, 213 & 218*, 216 & 508*
301* & 311, 303* and 317, 307NFT, 310NFT & 501*NFT, 312* & 316, 313* & 318
401, 402, 403, 407, 408 & 519*, 412
505, 506, 509, 511, 512, 514, 520*
Wild 601*, 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)
415*NFT last observed in Adams County June 7
524NFT An unidentified Whooping crane observed in the eastern Sprague Pool area on 30 July may have been 524.

Michigan: 516 in Ingham County as of July 5.
|
Recorded earlier in Michigan but current location unknown:
DAR533* last found June 11 in Van Buren County. She was not found when the area was checked August 9.

New York: 309* in Lewis County.

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

Date: August 20, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Wood Buffalo/Aransas Population

Location:

Main Office

August 2007 Wood Buffalo Whooper Count Report by Brian Johns and Lea Craig-Moore, Canadian Wildlife Service

"We just finished our fledging success surveys and found 30 pairs with single young, and 5 pairs with 2 young each for a total of 40 young. There were another 4 pairs that had young in June that we were unable to locate, so there could be a few more young out there.

 

The heart of the crane nesting area in the Sass and Klewi River drainages were quite dry and the survival of chicks in those areas was lower than expected, especially in the Sass River marshes where only 4 of 16 pairs produced young."

Date: August 19, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

Puddles becoming ponds again

Location:

Wisconsin

It has been so dry here in Necedah that the wet pens are now mud flats and we refer to the open expanse of shallow water were the pens are located as East Rynearson Puddle.

John Olsen, Refuge Hydrologist, has done everything he can to bring water down from the north part of the refuge to help provide our chicks with something to roost in. But he's run out of options. That was last week. It rained almost constantly over the weekend and we expect to get more this week. Within a few more days we should be back to normal.

Of course the rain also means we can't fly, and we have been down now for three days. That's okay. The birds are happy foraging in the water and it's a good way to prepare us for the migration.

Date: August 18, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

Rewarding Day

Location:

Wisconsin

My time is split between our home office in Port Perry Ontario and our field camp in Necedah, Wisconsin. There are advantages to being home. Nothing can beat evenings and weekends with my wife and daughter. The field can definitely be lonely and you can certainly get more of the minutia taken care of from the office. But it is also nice to get a chance to work with the birds. After all, that is what this entire effort is about. (I have to say that occasionally to remind myself). And flying with the birds is the reward for all the time away and the hard work.

Yesterday was my first day back in camp and the crew took pity on me and let me fly with the older birds. Brooke recently had them up for 10 minutes, with the youngest dropping out a little early. Friday morning was cool and calm and all the birds came out of the pen like soldiers ready for action. They took off slightly ahead of me, and to avoid getting too close, I turned wide. Once they began to form a line, I dropped into the lead position. I stayed low and slow and flew out over the marsh at 50 feet. Take off was so smooth and quick that I got the drop on 101 who was still foraging on his territory. He looked up as we passed overhead. As I cruised south, I saw another pair of white birds and the Trumpeter swan family. Two birds, likely 712 and 714, turned back but I kept going with the other six.

There are two ponds in the wetland system we use. Our pen sites are located on East Rynearson Pool and the other is West Rynearson. On a regular schedule the ponds are drained, one at a time, to help maintain them. Emptying them occasionally and letting them sit for a season, kills of the aquatic grasses that would eventually fill the pool and transform it from shallow open water to wetland. The grasses that grow in the newly drained area also provide many nutrients when the pond is again allowed to flood. It is all part of a healthy marsh management plan. The grasses that have grown on West Rynearson since this spring have taken root in rich soil, and, despite the current drought, they are the same incredible shades of green you might expect to see only in Eden.

We flew low over West Rynearson and its lush untouched environment and then past the Observation Tower. That was the first flypast of the season and we made sure it was a good one, but there was nobody there to see these birds fly over for the first time.

We headed north, making a large circle around the pen site, and eventually passed overhead. The two birds that dropped out, took off to join us and we did a few more circuits. I planned my approach from the east but one bird cut the corner and landed on the runway where I hoped to touch down, so I went around.

A few more birds landed and 101 arrived late to stand in the runway, inadvertently blocking my approach. I circled a couple of times before finding an opening. In total, the birds had been airborne for 20 minutes. While flying these last few circles, 709 dropped out and landed in the marsh about a hundred yards behind the pen. Chris Gullikson had been working with the East site birds, and when he was finished, he flew high overhead to see what was going on. He was the one who noticed number 709 drop out and he kept and eye on him while Brian Clauss (USGS/Patuxent), Bev Paulan and I put the others back in the pen. Before we finished, 709 flew in and landed next to the trike. It was a good day and all the reward I need.

Date: August 18, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Whooping Crane Count as of August 15, 2007

Location:

Main Office

Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Recover Team leader sent along his latest charts on Whooping crane numbers.
 

 wild populations

adult

young

total

adult pairs

Aransas/Wood Buffalo

236

A?

A236

69

Rocky Mountain

0

0

0

0

Florida Non-migratory

B40

1

B41

17

Eastern Migratory

55

C27

82

4

Totals

331

29

360

90

A  A record 84 chicks hatched from 65 nests in 2007, and 250+ cranes including 45+ juveniles are expected to arrive at Aransas by early winter. The number of chicks hatched in Wood Buffalo in 2007 will not be added to population totals until the flock is censused at Aransas in early winter, 2007.

B  Reflects the birds regularly monitored in Florida. A few additional cranes could be present in unknown locations. One chick fledged in the wild in 2007.

C  28 chicks raised in captivity were shipped to the Necedah NWR, WI for later reintroduction. 17 will be led by ultralight to Florida; 11 are scheduled to be released with other wild cranes in central Wisconsin. In 2007, five Whooping crane breeding facilities; Patuxent Wildlife Research Center; International Crane Foundation; Calgary Zoo; San Antonio Zoo; and, Species Survival Center in New Orleans, all either provided eggs or hatched and raised chicks. Two eggs came from a wild nest in Florida and 2 eggs came from wild nests in Wisconsin.
 

captive populations 

adult

young*

total

breeding pairs

Patuxent WRC, MD

60

3

63

13

International Crane Foundation, WI

35

1

36

11

Devonian Wildllife Conservation Center, AB

21

2

23

6

Species Survival Center, LA

8

0

8

1

Calgary Zoo, AB

2

0

2

0

New Orleans Zoo, LA

2

0

2

0

San Antonio Zoo, TX

8

0

8

1

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, FL

2

0

2

0

Lowry Park Zoo, FL

2

0

2

0

Jacksonville Zoo, FL

2

0

2

0

Milwaukee County Zoo, WI

1

0

1

0

Totals

143

6

149

32

* Numbers are of young remaining at the captive centers after eggs and/or birds were shipped out for reintroduction programs. In most cases, these young are genetically valuable and will become future captive breeding stock.
 

TOTALS:  360 Wild + 149 Captive = 509

Date: August 17, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

The OM Team

Subject:

Florida Chick

Location:

Canada & the USA

As usual, MileMaker 2007 launched April 1st. The good news is that sponsorships are at least keeping pace with last year's year-to-date numbers. Better news would of course be that sponsorships were outstripping the number of miles sponsored by this time last year.

Wisconsin's Craniacs have once again beaten the other flyway States to the punch with all the miles in their state already sponsored. At last check, Illinois was only about 60 miles short of a 'sell out', and while there are MileMakers in every other state too, three-quarters of the total migration miles are still open for sponsorship. If you haven’t already taken out your MileMaker sponsorship – now is as good a time as any.

If all of us on the OM Team could have three wishes they would be –
Wish 1: that we lead the Class of 2007 safely to Florida;
Wish 2: that we make the migration in record-breaking time (that’s shortest not longest!);
Wish 3: that when departure day rolls around, a sold out MileMaker meant the stress and worry about our financial  ability to carry out the migration was GONE.

Frank Chapman, (1864 - 1962) ornithologist, author, and conservationist once said, "A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand." With your help, before this year is out there will be 17 more Whooping cranes 'in the bush'.

Date: August 17, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Florida Chick

Location:

Main Office

Thanks to Marty Folk of the Florida Fish and Conservation Commission for keeping us in the loop about the chick of Whooping crane adults 1291 and 898.

You will recall our posting in July reporting the construction of a fence to discourage the parents from leading their chick to a feeding area on the other side of a busy highway. Marty was convinced then that the wetlands around the nest site could support the birds, and from all appearances he was right. He advises that despite record-setting heat and lower than normal rainfall, some of the marshes are starting to hold water. Among those is the nest marsh/lake where this little family is located.

This photo, taken by Steve Baynes, shows the now 62 day old chick and its parents foraging together.

Date: August 16, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Weather

Location:

Main Office

In a recent email, supporter and MileMaker Mark Mowbray wrote, "After reading today's posting, I have a suggestion. How about putting a weather link on the website so that we can see what's going on at Necedah?"

Happy to oblige Mark. Here's the link. Check Necedah Weather. We’ll also add it to the 'Links Page' so it is on the site permanently.

Date: August 15, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Nathan & Bev

Subject:

Yea!! - Rain!

Location:

Wisconsin

Nathan writes:
Have you ever had the feeling that Zeus is mocking you?

We've had three big storms in the past week - and gotten almost no rain. The pools are so low that the wet pens at Sites 1 and 2 are growing weeds. The birds don't act like they're suffering, but I know how much they enjoy their private ponds.

On Monday night, Chris (our resident ‘storm chaser’) called to warn us about a storm brewing in Minnesota. On the radar it showed up as the biggest patch of red I have ever seen. When I watched it roll in around midnight, the thunder and lightning was constant, and I felt (living in a trailer) a little unprepared for the big one headed our way.

I needn't have worried. Somehow, it managed to pass directly over us without so much as a third of an inch of precipitation, and the wind wasn't as severe as the storm on Saturday night.

Normally I love sunshine, but the dry weather is, ironically, like a cloud hanging over us. It permeates every task, and holds me in a constant level of anxiety wondering how much worse it can get. Fortunately, though, I'm writing this early Wednesday morning because yet another storm on the horizon has caused us to skip training. The raindrops are gradually dampening the refuge and everything in it. Maybe this will be the one.

So do a rain dance, pray for rain, or do whatever you do, because our spirits are badly in need of dampening.

Bev writes
Another morning and another scramble while I try to wake up. Our usual routine in camp in the early a.m. goes something like this. Brooke and Brian are the first ones up and they start the morning coffee clatch. Richard soon joins in, quickly followed by Megan. I'm not quite sure if Nate joins in or not, 'cause he and I are not morning people, and I always sleep until the last possible moment. This is better for everyone involved! I need a few minutes of quiet to put on my ‘happy face’ so I don't scare anyone first thing.

One of the things I do in my few minutes alone is check the radar - which I did this morning. I was hoping I would see what the darkening skies were hinting at, and sure enough, there was rain coming.

I hesitated to get too excited, because we've seen rain on radar before only to have it skirt around us, denying us much needed moisture. This morning the radar indicated that we wouldn't be denied, but the guys were already in the 'gotta go no matter what' mode, and even with my admonition of, "It ain't gonna happen," off they went anyway.

My cell phone buzzed as Megan and I were walking out to Site 2, and I started to laugh even before I answered. It was Brooke saying, "Yeah, yeah, you were right." So Megan and I continued on our way to the pen to do the non-training check; filled feeders, count beaks, etc, and then we headed back to camp for some breakfast.

Here's to rain, glorious rain. May you grace us all day!

Date: August 14, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Megan Kennedy

Subject:

Flight Training Update

Location:

Wisconsin

It's hard to believe I've been in Necedah for six weeks now. Add the six weeks I spent at Patuxent, and the summer is almost over. Looking back, it's easy to see where all the time went; it's been busy.

From day to day life doesn’t change much. Most of us can’t remember which day of the week it is, and only know the date because of the daily records we keep on training and the birds' health. In camp, we are cut off from the world outside of the reintroduction project, but I have a feeling many find this to be an appealing aspect of living and working on the refuge.

All of the birds are training very well. Cohort 1 is flying stronger and longer everyday. Sunday, they flew all together for five minutes. Even 101 was up there. But then he left the wing and tried to lead half the chicks away with him. Richard cut him off and rescued the birds from their would-be 'nabber.

Yesterday, the group was up for at least ten minutes before 714 dropped out. A few minutes later 712 joined her on the ground and after another circuit and a half, Brooke landed the others.

Cohort 2 (pictured to the right) has been doing well lately too. They flew on three sets of circuits Monday and all stayed well together for the earlier flights. Occasionally, one or two will still land in the marsh when they need to drop down, but they’ve been walking out and rejoining the group on their own. Meanwhile, the swamp monster lies quietly by, waiting for an errant chick to provoke its wrath once again.

The small group of four chicks constituting Cohort 3 are improving as well. We have just begun leading 726 on very short circuits. 727 continues to fly the length of the runway, but seems to have reached a temporary plateau in her progress. Because of the large age gap, 726 and 727 are trained together. They receive off-ground flight training and adequate exercise for a short time before 733 and 735 are let out of the pen and the pace is slowed down for the two younger birds. There is still concern over 733's rotated leg, but she has been doing very well. She is on the verge of flying, which should relieve some of the stress caused otherwise by running.

It gets pretty hot and humid most days and the mosquitoes prey on us at night, but otherwise camp life is grand. I have been pleasantly surprised at the camaraderie. The only arguing is over who gets to do the dishes after a great Nomad-cooked meal. Robert Doyle even had us singing 'Kumbaya' before he left at the end of his current tour of duty.

Currently at camp are myself, Patuxent's Brian Clauss, Richard, Bev, Brooke and Nathan. Chris spent most of his ‘vacation’ here on site helping us out, and Joe is expected back in a day or two. Patuxent's newest crane handler, Tammy Otto, recently departed after a ten day stint learning the ropes at Necedah. Being from Wisconsin, she seemed to relish her time here, and her family even invited us all over for lunch. She bunked with me and is by far the best trailer-mate I've ever had! Next up in the rotation of 'Patuxentites' is Barb Clauss.

On a side note, a group of my own family (short a few due to the ushering in of my newest cousin, Nora) had the opportunity to come out and tour the refuge recently. Great to have the chance to visit and show them around.

View the photo here in the 2007 Summer photo journal.

Date: August 14, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Eastern Migratory Population Update

Location:

Main Office

This update was compiled from data provided by Richard Urbanek (USFWS), Stacey Kerley (ICF), and Nicole Frey. Thanks 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 at the end of the week was 55 individuals, 31 males and 24 females.

In the central Wisconsin core reintroduction area (which, despite some recent relief, is experiencing prolonged drought and extreme) were:
101, 102*, 105
205, 209NFT & 416NFT, 211 & 217*, 212 & 419*, 213 & 218*, 216 & 508*
301* & 311, 303* and 317, 307NFT, 310NFT & 501*NFT, 312* & 316, 313* & 318
401, 402, 403, 407 & 502*, 408 & 519*, 412
505, 506, 509, 511, 512, 514, 520*
Wild 601*, DAR627, DAR628

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

Michigan: 516 in Ingham County as of July 5.

New York: 309* in Lewis County.

Recorded earlier in Wisconsin but current location unknown:
503 & 507* in Wood County May 26
201*NFT last observed June 9 (mate 306 predated ~July 6)
415*NFT last observed in Adams County June 7
524NFT An unidentified Whooping crane observed in the eastern Sprague Pool area on 30 July may have been 524.

Recorded earlier in Michigan but current location unknown: DAR533* last found June 11 in Van Buren County. She was not found when the area was checked August 9.

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

Date: August 13, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Bev Paulan

Subject:

Making a Difference

Location:

Wisconsin

I have been humbled. Utterly, totally, and speechlessly humbled. And overwhelmed. And awestruck. And two very young ladies did it.

This morning, we had the great honor and privilege of hosting the Studnicka sisters, Eve and Nadia, and their mom, Abby, here at camp. These are the girls that folded the origami cranes to sell to make money to donate to OM and the Whooping cranes.

With some help from their folks, the girls folded cranes, marketed them by not only walking door to door, but by also selling them in stores, at concerts, at parks, anywhere there were people gathered who might buy them. In fact, people from around the world bought their cranes.

They gave talks to groups, gave interviews to newspaper reporters, and were featured on the local evening news. Our project became their cause and it became part of their lives; from studying about the cranes in their home-school curriculum, to folding and selling paper ones in their free time.

These two, with their big brown eyes and quiet demeanor, did what I could not have done. Certainly at their age, I didn't have the courage or the smarts to sell to strangers or speak before a group of 100+ people. (That's why I wear a costume and hide in a bird pen!) They took time away from their play, the things they love to do; Eve from her baking; Nadia from her hockey (which happens to be my favorite sport), and folded and folded some more, all for the cranes.

Then they started talking about the cranes and the project it to anyone who would listen. Talk about taking action! While I sit in camp and fret about a presentation I have to give, these girls don't hesitate to get up and speak about the cranes, even on an impromptu invitation in front of a large concert audience. At their age I was playing with dolls, roller-skating, and figuring out that boys were really different than girls. (Come to think of it, I haven’t changed my extracurricular activities that much in all this time!) I really didn't do anything to make a difference.

And that is what makes Eve and Nadia so different and so very special. They have become interested in something outside of themselves, something larger. They have set the bar a little higher for not only people their own age, but for all of us.

They showed that it doesn't take a big, flashy act to make a difference; that it only takes one little idea, one step, 'one fold' at a time. They have shown me, and hopefully lots of others too, that it doesn't take someone big and famous and important to do something great. It just takes someone to care enough.

Abby told me as they were leaving that I am Nadia's hero. Well, Nadia, you are mine. You and your sister.  You overwhelmed me with your generosity and compassion, with your patience, determination and perseverance. Thank you for doing this, but mostly, thank you for proving it doesn't take a giant to make a big difference, and for reminding us all that even the simplest and humblest of acts can reach around the world.

View the photo here in the 2007 Summer photo journal.

Date: August 12, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Stormy Weather

Location:

Main Office

The thunderstorm that hit the refuge yesterday morning dropped only light rain for a couple of hours. While it was sufficient to prevent training, it cleared up in time for Necedah’s annual Street Festival and parade; something the crew participates in every year. More, much needed rain fell in the late afternoon.

Shortly after 11PM last night, the weather radio blaring out a severe weather warning in advance of more storms moving into the area woke the crew. Soon, 'tornado sounding' winds set the trailers rocking, and hard on its heels came the thunder, lightening, and heavy rain. Sleepless and restless, the crew wondered and worried about the birds.

Once it was all over they all headed out to check the three pen sites. Downed trees meant taking the long way around to get to Site 1. At Site 2, some of the posts supporting the top net were down and had to be reset and the net fixed. At Site 4, the top net was right down in the wet pen (which, Bev says, due to the lack of water should really be called the ‘mud pen’) and had been pulled away from the posts in one section. The birds could have just walked out or flown away. Everyone pitched in to get the pens back in good repair.

The weather was clear this morning however, and good to go for training with all three Cohorts. The sessions all went well. As usual, Cohort 1 had an extra 'trainee', as 101 once again joined the group. Bev said she saw him in the marsh yesterday with a group of Sandhills. They were all unison calling and 101 joined in before departing with them when they flew off.

Wondering why this report is being written by me and not one of the crew at Necedah? The storm knocked out their power, and until it is restored updates are by cell phone instead of email.

View the photos here in the 2007 Summer photo journal.

Date: August 10, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Health Update

Location:

Main Office

Dr. Barry Hartup reported this afternoon that due to an intractable respiratory condition, DAR738 was euthanized today. His problem began about a week after his transfer from ICF to Necedah. A tomography scan done at the University of Wisconsin Veterinary School found a 4cm+ long obstruction in chick’s right main airway of the chick which was completely blocking the flow of air to its right lung.

While a necropsy will be performed, Dr. Hartup said he presumed that this would turn out to be another case of tracheal aspergillosis similar to that which took 718.

Date: August 9, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Rain would help us with our 'parenting'

Location:

Main Office

All birds and animals have parents, but each one receives different amounts and different kinds of parental care. Insects, fish, and reptiles for instance, provide little if any care to their offspring. With their more highly developed brains, mammals and birds need to learn more to survive.

In the wild, Whooping cranes learn what they need to know from their parents of course. Our captive-hatched chicks on the other hand, have to make do with us as surrogates. Part of good Whooping crane parenting is showing one's offspring what is good habitat for foraging and roosting. We need to encourage them to seek out marshy wetlands for both.

But it's been very dry at Necedah. The team has been concerned about the water situation as systems bearing rain have, for the most part, circumvented the area. That changed today however, when the refuge received a good two hours of steady rainfall.

The overcast skies and precipitation meant there could be no flight training this morning, but everyone agreed that at this point, water was more important than a day's training. The weatherman says there is a chance of more light rain showers this afternoon. Hope he's right!

A quick look on the Internet for historical data on rainfall revealed that on average, the area receives almost 12 inches of rain between April and July. Last year for the same period the total was less than 8 inches, and while we couldn’t find exact data for 2007, most folks think it was even less.

Date: August 7, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Nathan Hurst

Subject:

Who's the Boss?

Location:

Wisconsin

Although we've gotten a little rain, for the most part, the weather has once again circumvented us, and it's getting dry.

We've had to release water from the northern reservoirs, but even so the wet pens are more ‘pen’ than ‘wet.’ And now the reservoirs are getting dry too. The upshot however is, that we've been able to do a lot of training - aside from today, when we were fogged in - and the chicks are doing very well.

Yesterday Brooke took Cohort 1 on four consecutive laps around the training area, and every single bird stayed with him. After giving them a rest he tried again, but only half had the energy to stay with him for the next circuit. Still, their performance is impressive, and we've been getting similarly positive results at the other sites.

Earlier in the week I emerged from the pen at Site 4 to see Chris displaying to 101, and was able to get this candid shot. 101, taking the deliberate steps of a crane defending his territory, walked slowly away as Chris followed him, holding his puppet in a confrontational pose and quickly stamping his feet. After a minute or two, 101 decided Chris was too much man... er... bird-for him, and he flew off into the marsh. Of course, he returned by training time the next day.

View the photo here in the 2007 Summer photo journal.

Date: August 7, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

No training today

Location:

Main Office

In a quick note just in, Brooke advised that due to a low ceiling they were unable to train this morning and the pilots had to turn around and return to the hangar.

The area not far to the south of the refuge got a good soaking with rain last night, but nary a drop fell at Necedah. Brooke said he was concerned that they were going to have serious water problems soon.

Date: August 7, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Eastern Migratory Population Update

Location:

Main Office

This update was compiled from data provided by Richard Urbanek (USFWS), Stacey Kerley (ICF), and Nicole Frey. Many thanks to Windway Aviation and pilot Mike Frakes, Sara Zimorski (ICF), and 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 at the end of the week was 55 individuals, 31 males and 24 females.

In the central Wisconsin core reintroduction area (which is still experiencing drought) were:
101, 102*, 105
205, 209NFT & 416NFT, 211 & 217*, 212 & 419*, 213 & 218*, 216 & 508*
301* & 311, 303* and 317, 307, 310NFT & 501*NFT, 312* & 316, 313* & 318
401, 402, 403, 407 & 502*, 408 & 519*, 412
505, 506, 509, 511, 512, 514, 520*, 524NFT, DAR527
DAR627, DAR628
Wild 601*

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

Michigan: 516 in Ingham County as of July 5.

New York: 309* in Lewis County.

Recorded earlier in Wisconsin but current location unknown:
503 & 507* in Wood County May 26
201*NFT last observed June 9 (mate 306 predated ~July 6)
415*NFT last observed in Adams County June 7

Recorded earlier in Michigan but current location unknown:
DAR533* last found June 11 in Van Buren County.

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

Date: August 6, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Brooke Pennypacker

Subject:

Grow grass. C'mon, grow!

Location:

Wisconsin

Sunday. Rain today. Not enough to make much of a dent in our drought condition, but enough to prevent morning training. So I sat drinking my morning coffee and thought about last Sunday morning…the best one in a while.

 

We knew it was time to mow the runway when the trike pulled up to the pen for morning training and all the bird handlers at the door could see was the top of the wing. So after training, it was Site 4’s turn for a 'buzz cut'.

 

Mowing the runway is a simple operation really. Two or three crew members costume up and lead the birds away from the pen to a “hiding spot” - a nearby marshy area far enough away from the site that they can’t see and can barely hear the two other crew members riding their mowers up and down the runway. It is a ritual repeated at each of the three training sites, usually at least twice a year.

It is also one of the few opportunities we have at Necedah to spend 'quality time' with the chicks, since, unlike at Patuxent, the protocol here is to spend as LITTLE time as possible with the chicks. Training, roost checks and weekly medications are usually about it; reason being that this limited exposure will, we hope, increase their wildness and chances for survival upon release. And so, 'hiding the birds' has become one of my absolute most favorite parts of the project.

 

Robert, Bev and I led the eight oldest chicks of the Class of 07 on their first field trip to the marsh, while Richard and Chris climbed aboard their John Deere Green Machines and raced them full tilt down the runway in an effort to reclaim it from the encroaching wilderness.

 

We waded into the cool marsh water as the birds cautiously followed. This, after all, was their first time as a group in the marsh…the kind of habitat we hope they will eventually call home. We watched with the thrill of parents watching their child’s first steps, as their process of discovery began to unfold; their slow, deliberate steps into the ever deepening water, eyes alert and focused on every plant, every color, every movement; their beaks poking, tasting, testing as curiosity replaced caution.

 

They were as if born again into a new and better world, a world which was truly theirs. How privileged we felt… three costumed sentinels, presiding over moments of pure magic.

 

Then, as if on cue, a variety of other players took the stage. A family of Trumpeter swans swam into view; parents and five signets, all curious of the curious. And two green-winged teal winged through our formation at shoulder height, skimming to a stop just ahead. They gazed back at us in visible amazement before they were again airborne.

 

Then, just above vegetation height, popped the head of adult Whooper 101. I had last seen him flying off my wing with 703 and 706 earlier that morning during training. His loneliness was apparent, and each of us welcomed his sad presence.

 

Above, a flight of WWII trainers filled the skies with the deep, throaty growl of their ‘round’ engines. Like phantoms from the past, these home bound angels had just abandoned their week-long roost at Oshkosh. In unison, the chicks cocked their heads sideways to gaze up at these intruders and add them to their catalog of experiences.

 

The minutes passed all too quickly - as minutes of pure delight always do, and we each secretly dreaded the inevitable sound of quiet we knew would come when the mowers declared victory over their last blade of grass and beckoned our return.

 

Then we would lead the Class back to their old world of the pen and we would return to ours; the one without costumes. (Not white ones, anyway). We shared, however, a wonderfully delicious truth; that although we, birds and handlers, would return to the same places, we would not return the same. This morning of shared experience will cling tenaciously to our memories and provide us with - advantage.

 

Now, if we could just get that grass to grow a little faster!

Date: August 6, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Aransas/Wood Buffalo Population Update

Location:

Main Office

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas
Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Coordinator, USF&WS Aransas National Wildlife Refuge told us today that no  Whooping cranes were found at Aransas during an aerial survey he conducted on August 3rd.

"This confirmed," said Tom,"“that the juvenile crane injured in the spring of 2005, has apparently made its first ever migration north having spent the '05 and '06 summers on the Aransas refuge." The bird had last been seen with two other cranes the latter part of April.

Another Whooping crane reported in mid-June on Matagorda Island was also not located on the August 3rd flight and has apparently migrated.

Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada
In May, Brian Johns, and Lea Craig-Moore of the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) located 62 nests on breeding pair surveys in Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park. 62 is the same number of nests that were found in 2006.

Brian and Tom, using a Partenavia twin-engine aircraft flown by USFWS Region 2 Pilot Jim Bredy, conducted Whooping crane production surveys from the 13th to the 18th of June. To try and maximize the number of chicks observed, the surveys were timed to take place soon after most of the chicks had hatched. Three additional nests were located on these surveys, for a record total of 65 nests and a record 84 chicks – including 28 sets of twins. In 2006 there were 76 chicks of which 24 were sets of twins.

56 of the 65 nests (86.2%) produced one or more chicks. "This is a very high percentage," said Tom, "and comparable to other excellent production years." (3% in 2005, 85% in 2004, and 86% in 1997).

Stehn said, "One pair was still sitting on eggs at the end of the June surveys, but the eggs were overdue and we don't expect them to hatch. Of the 9 pairs that failed to hatch an egg, 2 of those pairs had their eggs predated in May, and one bird was sitting on a nest with no eggs," he said.

The bottom line for this population is, of the pairs that potentially could have had chicks in June, 56 of them 62 actually did. The record chick production in 2007 was as a result of both high productivity and a large number of nests. Two pairs that are well known at Aransas (Lobstick and Big Tree) both had twin chicks in June.

Although they were sighted on their territories, 4 known adult pairs failed to nest this season. This compares favorably with the 10 pairs that failed to do so in 2006. "This means there are a minimum of 69 breeding pairs in the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population," said Tom, "and it is close to the 67 adult pairs identified present at Aransas over the 2006-2007 winter season."

With water levels thought to be slightly above average, Brian Johns said, "Habitat conditions in Wood Buffalo have been better than expected. The weather during the June production surveys was exceptionally warm with no cold, wet weather. If such weather continues," he said, "it should favor survival of the young chicks."

Two wildfires in the southern part of the park in mid-June totaled about 120,000 hectares in size. The Canadian Wildlife Service will conduct surveys in mid-August to see how many juveniles have fledged.

Date: August 2, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Highlights from yesterday's WCEP Bird Team conference call

Location:

Main Office

Ultralight-led Class of 2007
Training is going well. All eight chicks at Site 4 (Cohort 1) and three of the six chicks at Site 2 (Cohort 2) have fledged. At Site 1, 733, one of the four chicks in Cohort 3, has cow/rotated hocks which have not improved.

Older Whooping cranes, 511 and 307, have been visiting Site 3, and 101 Site 4. Their exposure to the chicks has been managed based on the socialization status of the chick groups.

Direct Autumn Release Group
Seven of the ten DAR chicks already at Necedah’s Site 3 have been spending nights in the night pen while the remaining three have been in the chick building. July 30th, a mink was observed in the night pen. Breaches in the day pen fence were repaired, and traps set.

746, one of two potential chicks still at ICF for the DAR group will be transferred from ICF to the refuge on August 1st. The remaining chick has been removed from the DAR project because of a luxated patella, apparently present since hatching.

Three DAR chicks have health issues. 736 has an insect sting in eyelid; 742 has a drooping wing following minor injury; and, 738 has had respiratory impairment for past 2+ weeks. The oldest, 736 is close to fledging.

Date: August 1, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Richard van Heuvelen

Subject:

Part 'Taxi training' Part Flight training

Location:

Main Office

As another day dawned with early morning fog over the refuge, the crew prepared for training. Scurrying between trailers, with morning coffee in one trailer and bird treats in another, the hurry up and wait game began as we waited for the fog to clear.

The pilots headed off to the hangar as the ground crew divied up the sites. The low fog over Grand Dike road promised to keep us waiting longer. However, by the time we rolled the trikes out of the hangar the fog had cleared and we were good to go.

Upon landing at Site 2, Meagan was all ready prepared, and the chicks popped out of the gate – all but 722 who sauntered out. Meagan quickly closed the gate and we roared off for this cohort’s first circuit attempt.

All five flew and followed the trike, but 722 and 724 tired and headed off to land at the end of the north diagonal runway – right where I was hoping to land. To avoid any mishap, we continued around, flying over them while 721 landed half way down the runway.

The trike with 716 and 717 landed in front of the pen. As the trike turned back, 721, 722 and 724 came toward the trike. After a brief rest off we went again for a short hop to the end of the runway. Discouraged, 722 and 724 found comfort by forging off to the marsh, while the trike with 716, 717 and 721 circled back to try to entice 722 and 724 back on the runway.

They seemed interested at first, but then turned away as if they were sulking. Stopping near the pen with 716, 717, and 721 in tow, I sought out the swamp monster rope. 722 and 724 had now joined up with an adult bird. Giving the rope a few good yanks the monster came to life.

The result was amazing, with a perfect and comical result. 724 bounded straight for the trike, while 722 ran straight for the pen banging into the fence. As for the adult bird - ha!  - head down, neck straight as an arrow, he ran off and disappeared in the marsh, I think he’s still running!

Once 722 saw the puppet head waving by the trike it came running. After a couple of meal worms the chicks settled down and we took off for another flight. Seeing 722 and 724 start heading down as we all became airborne ( to avoid them further discouragement) we swerved over to land at the end of the runway. The trike skidded to a halt in the long wet grass  as 716 and 717 flew over head to land in the marsh. But 721, 722 and 724 landed next to the trike so we solved one problem but created another.

However, 716 and 717, so happy to be flying, promptly came running out of the marsh to the trike. We had some quiet time with treats under the wing - sort of like an early morning picnic, me squatting on the ground with five chicks crowding around begging for more meal worms and grapes. Idyllic really; the long grass bending slightly in the morning breeze, tall oaks rustling off in the distance, and the sound of song birds singing both close by and farther away.

But time to go. 716 and 717 flew with the trike back to the pen with 721 bringing up the rear. 722 and 724 land early, but then run and walk the rest of the way.

After putting the chicks away it was off to Site 1 to train with Cohort 3; 726, 727, 733, and 735. All four come out and readily follow the trike. 726 who is older, gets exited and becomes airborne. Taken by surprise with his progress I accelerate to stay ahead of him, and 727 is not far behind, flying in leaps and bounds.

733 and 735 being much younger are not able to keep up, but they do try and they come up to the trike at the end of the run. Suddenly we hear a startling loud piercing call. It’s 317 come to join in the fun.

A brief rest and off we go again with all the chicks following in the same manner as before, but this time with 317 flying alongside 726 and the trike. When 726 tired and landed we stopped to let the others catch up. As 727,733 and 735 come up to the trike, 317 loses interest. He stays behind as the rest of us continue to the end of the run way, and again 726 and 727 did short hops while 733 and 735 did their best to keep up.

The return trip was much the same, but slower to allow 733 and 735 to stay more with the trike. Finally the chicks are penned again and I take off on a slow climb through the oak trees happy with a great training session and the beautiful morning.

Date: August 1, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Sad news starts the day

Location:

Main Office

Just after 5:00am I started my day with the news from Dr. Richard Urbanek of the mortality of DAR532. He said the bird was found late yesterday afternoon just southwest of the Necedah NWR boundary.

Richard said, "Mortality was strongly suspected when Sara Zimorski and Richard Van Heuvelen picked up a signal but were unable to obtain a visual of the bird on an ultralight tracking flight the day before. (His transmitter is visible in the photo.) The scattered and decomposed remains found on the edge of a pond, dry because of drought, consisted of feathers and gnawed and fragmented bones," he added.

Dr. Urbanek noted that while DAR532 had migrated satisfactorily, he demonstrated inadequate human avoidance behavior during the past winter, and as he usually remained with Sandhills or alone, never integrated into the Whooping crane population.

DAR532 was not molting. Analysis of tracking records indicated that death probably occurred between the 4th and the 14th of July. The remains will go to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center for necropsy.

With this latest loss, the estimated maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population is 55 birds, bringing the total number of mortalities of released birds since the project's inception to 26. Unfortunately, with 202 missing since March and several other birds not located for some time, this number could grow.

View the photos here in the 2007 Summer photo journal.

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