Fly Away Home, Operation Migration, Fly Away Home, Operation Migration, Fly Away Home, Operation Migration, Fly Away Home, Operation Migration, Fly Away Home, Operation Migration, Fly Away Home, Operation Migration, Fly Away Home, Operation Migration, Bill Lishman, Bill Lishman, Bill Lishman, Bill Lishman, Bill Lishman, Joe Duff, Endangered species, Endangered species, Whooping cranes, Whooping cranes, Sandhill cranes, Canada geese goose, Migration, Fathergoose, Reintroduction, Ultralight Flying, Jeff Daniels, Birds

Date: July 30, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: NEW CRANE BOOK RELEASED!Location: Wisconsin

Whooping cranes are often referred to in conservation circles as charismatic mega fauna. Like wolves and eagles their beauty and scarcity add to the mystique and they attract more attention than equally important, but less appealing, creatures. This attention takes many forms; since this project began there have been seven books published about the Whooping cranes’ story.

Several years ago Operation Migration began cooperating with Firefly Books and in September they will release what is accurately described as The history, habits, life and lore of a resourceful and iconic bird.

It is likely the most complete and well written account of the history of Whooping cranes and the efforts to safeguard them from extinction. It was authored by Janice Hughes and represents two years of research and hard work. Janice is a biology professor at Lakehead University. A member of the Society of Conservation Biologists and the American Ornithologists' Union, she is also the author of The Royal Ontario Museum Field Guide to the Birds of Ontario. She lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

CRANES: A Natural History of a Bird in Crisis is now available on the Merchandise page and a portion of the proceeds will help to fund this year’s reintroduction.

Date: July 30, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: YOU GAIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOMELocation: Wisconsin

The last cohort of chicks arrived from Patuxent today. The Cessna Caravan, piloted by Mike Frakes and courtesy of Windway Capital touched down at Necedah Airport at 12:32 PM Central. Within minutes the chicks were loaded into the back of an air conditioned van and were on their way to the new Canfield site.

As suspected, number 820 was not shipped because of ongoing respiratory problems, and while six birds arrived from Maryland, one went back.

Number 816 was returned to Patuxent because of a wing abnormality. This problem began at Patuxent but it seemed to improve before it was shipped. Under the stress of heavy blood feathers and taxi training, the right wing can no longer support itself. Let alone carry the bird aloft. It will likely become a breeder and the flock managers are already discussing who it can be pair bonded with when the time comes.

816 is the second bird to make the return trip to Patuxent. When the last cohort was delivered to Necedah, Windway took number 809 with them to Maryland the day before. After the altercation that killed number 807, its sibling, number 809 become the only living offspring of its captive parents and too genetically important to risk in the wild. It was brought back into captivity where its breeding can be more easily manipulated to protect its lineage.

This leaves us with a total of 16 in the Class of 2008; far fewer than the 24 we had hoped for, but it was not a result of lack of effort. The crane ecology team at Patuxent and the OM training team put in a remarkable effort, but hard work is not always rewarded. Still, we have 16 healthy birds to work with this year.

Date: July 29, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie

As of July 26th, the estimated maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population remained at 39 males and 31 females for a total of 70 Whooping cranes. In the highlights below females are indicated by *. DAR = direct autumn release. NFT = non functional transmitter.

Jackson & Washtenaw Counties - 516
Allegan County- DAR740*
Arenac County – DAR744*

Jackson County, 703, 707, and DARs739* and 742*

Necedah NWR
101, 102*, 105NFT & 501*
211 & 217*, 213 & 218*, 216NFT
303* & 317, 307, 309* & 403, 310 & W601*, 311 & 312*, 313* & 318
401NFT& 508*, 402, 408 & 519*, 415*NFT & 505
509, 511, 514
DAR627, DAR628
721*, DAR737

Note: 735* was transferred to the captive propagation facility at the Audubon Centre for Research of Endangered Species (ACRES), in New Orleans, LA. Due to her inability to fly as the result of an injury, she had been held in a top-netted pen on the Necedah Refuge since being shipped north from Florida in the spring.

Dodge County - 709, 717*, 726*, DAR746*
Wood County - 212NFT & 419*NFT
Juneau County – 412, 512, 710, 716*, 722*, 724
Adams County - 506
Jackson County - 520* remained in Jackson County at least through mid-June but has not been detected since. However, a bird that may have been 520* was observed in Jackson County July 9.
Marathon County - DAR528*

Location Unknown
209*NFT & 416NFT last reported in Monroe County May 5. The female had a severe limp due to a right leg injury. Only one unidentified Whooping crane was seen on this pair’s territory during an aerial survey on July 1.
706, 712, and 713 last reported in Stutsman County, North Dakota June 5/6.
727* last reported departing Will County, IL June 1.
733 last reported in Iowa County, WI June 8.
107*NFT last reported in Fond du Lac & Dodge Counties June 12.
DAR737* last observed on the Necedah Refuge July 10.

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
205NFT last recorded at Necedah Oct. 16/07.
DAR527* was last reported in Jackson County, IN March 16-17.
316NFT last observed on the Necedah refuge March 30
420* last reported in Clark County, WI March 30
DAR533* last reported in Mason County, MI April 11.
524NFT last reported departing Fayette County, IN April 16

Update compiled from data supplied by WCEP's Tracking Team

Date: July 28, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:COHORT TWO SHRINKSLocation: Main Office

Cohort Two is minus one member as of this morning. 816 was crated for the drive to Sheboygan Airport to meet up with a Windway Capital aircraft for a 10:30am flight to Baltimore Airport and then back to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

While still a chick at Patuxent, 816 was noticed to have a drooping right wing, a condition that appeared to resolve itself prior to shipping to Wisconsin. Not long after arriving at Necedah the crew noted that 816's right wing had developed a droop, but otherwise he was healthy and was training normally. A physical examination July 21 revealed that the problem is at the elbow - the wing angles downward and extends only about 120 of the normal 180 degrees.

In her report, Veterinarian Gretchen Cole noted, “There is a tendon that has rotated over the joint, and while I can manually replace it to the normal position, it immediately pops back over the joint. There is also contracture of the patagium wing web beginning. This is probably in response to the wing being held in a downward position. Additionally, the carpus is becoming floppy. I expect this is probably due to the wing being angled abnormally and the weight of the blood feathers growing in right now. The bird responded negatively to manipulation which is probably painful. It is currently on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for pain and inflammation.”

In the absence of any evidence of injury/trauma, Dr. Cole said her best guess is that the condition was as a result of a developmental tendon problem. Based on the poor prognosis for full wing function, and her opinion that 816 would not be releasable, the decision was made to withdraw the bird from the ultralight-led program.

"As 816’s genetic value is in the mid range, he is eminently suitable to become a captive breeder," said Patuxent's Flock Manager, Jane Chandler. His dam (1167) is ranked at 34 – about the middle. He has two possible sires – 1717 or 1162. The former is ranked in the middle at 27 and has no offspring in captivity. The latter is ranked at 16 and therefore of relatively high value.” Based on this data, plans were made for 816’s return to Maryland.

Windway’s aircraft has one more flight to make after today's trip with 816; this next one east to west. They will be picking up the third and final cohort of chicks at Patuxent tomorrow, Tuesday the 29th. At the conclusion of this trip, all the chicks in the Class of 2008 will be at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. OM’s pilots and field team's days are about to get more demanding and a whole lot busier!!

Date: July 22, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:TRAINING UPDATE Location: Wisconsin

The reward for enduring my third 14 hour drive to Necedah this year was to train the birds this morning. Richard Van Heuvelen took off to the East site to train Cohort 2 while I taxied with the 4 oldest birds.

Number 810 had difficulty socializing, and shortly after he arrived in Wisconsin, he started a fight in the pen. Despite being checked every hour he managed to injure 811 and 807; the latter dying of its injuries. 807 was a genetically important bird along with its sibling, 809, who was also injured in the fray.

That incident prompted the Recovery Team to return 809 to the captive flock. Since then, the instigator, 810 has been segregated to prevent further aggression. He has been watched closely for signs of agonistic behavior but has been the picture of compliancy so he was allowed to return to the flock last week.

The oldest two, 803 and 804 are starting to fly in ground effect. (Photo left)

Flight is achieved by increased air pressure below the wing working against decreased pressure above. When you fly close to the ground, the air is compressed further between the wing and the surface, and it is much easier to maintain lift.

Ground effect, or more accurately water effect, is what pelicans use when they skim the waves with hardly a wing flap. The first step for cranes when learning fly is to use ground effect.

They float down the runway and practice their landings at the far end. We charge along beside them in a high speed taxi and before you know it you forget the long drive.

Date: July 21, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Heather Ray

On July 14, 2008, Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty, announced a commitment to protect a 55 million acre portion of Canada’s Boreal Forest, one of the largest conservation commitments in history.

McGuinty said 225,000 square kilometres, or 55 million acres - roughly half of Ontario's boreal forest - will be protected and designated strictly for tourism and traditional aboriginal use such as hunting and fishing. Read the full article at 

In this increasingly industrialized world, Canada's Boreal Forest is a breath of fresh air…literally. This forest ecosystem, filled with lakes and wetlands, moderates our climate and produces oxygen. It is home to thousands of species of animals, birds, plants and insects. It is an ecosystem of astonishing power.

This is fantastic news for migratory birds as more than 30 percent of North America's bird population relies on the Boreal for breeding - including the only naturally occurring population of Whooping cranes, whose nesting grounds in the Wood Buffalo National Park are situated within the Boreal forest region of Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

Click to view Mr. McGuinty discussion the importance of the Boreal Forest on YouTube

Date:July 18, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter:Liz Condie
Subject:CLASS OF 2008 UPDATELocation:Main Office

Sadly, we report the loss of another ultralight chick. Cohort Two female, 815, (egg source Calgary) was euthanized on Wednesday following a CT scan performed at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. She had a severe respiratory infection.

WCEP vet Barry Hartup said, "This bird was noted to have an intermittent dry cough and slight moist sounding peep July 7th while still at Patuxent. Similar sounds were heard shortly after it was shipped last week, and Robert Doyle found they had worsened and become more consistent by Monday morning. The CT scan showed a mass in the left lung and a lesion in the left caudal thoracic air sac. Prognosis was deemed to be poor with a high likelihood of progression, and unlikely medically treatable.

This drops the potential number of chicks in the Class of 2008 to eighteen, and the number of 'Canadian' ultralight chicks to six.

The shipment of the last chicks, Cohort Three, from Patuxent to Necedah has been postponed from July 24 to July 29. The Chick Crew at Patuxent requested that the flight be delayed as they are having difficulty socializing some of the youngest birds. The extra few days will give them more time to work with the chicks, and at the same time, give the Field Crew at Necedah more time to prepare the new Canfield pensite.

Date:July 15, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject: TRAINING UPDATELocation: Main Office

The third and final cohort underwent their pre-shipping health checks this morning at Patuxent in anticipation of their relocation to Necedah National Wildlife next week. At present, seven birds comprise Cohort Three, and while we’re optimistic that all seven will be shipped, we should remind everyone that this could change, as we have observed with the first two groups.

Bev reports that conditioning and socializing is ongoing and that the latter has been a challenge inasmuch as there are three chicks in the group that continue to assert their dominance.

At Necedah, Richard van Heuvelen and Chris Gullikson have been training the two groups that are already at the refuge. They report that they’ve had to stand down a couple days due to heavy rains, but for the most part it’s been going well. As soon as training is finished, they continue work constructing the new Canfield site, which is where the third cohort will be housed this season.

Richard also reports that 811 seems quite happy now that she's in Cohort Two and that this group was introduced to the wing of the aircraft this morning. 815 is dealing with a respiratory issue so the team will keep a close eye on her during training.

In Cohort One, 804’s beak has returned to normal after swelling from a bee sting caused it to shift to the side. There was some initial concern that it may continue to grow this way but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Bees continue to be an issue, however, as chick 810 has since sustained a sting below its left eye and has had to sit out a couple of training sessions due to swelling, which impaired the vision in his eye. Patuxent’s Robert Doyle reports that the swelling is beginning to subside.

Whooping crane 735* was relocated today to the Audubon Species Survival Center in New Orleans where her genetic importance will add great value to the captive population.

I'd like to remind everyone that in just three months we'll be departing with this year's crane chicks and guiding them along a somewhat new, more westerly, migration course. The 2008 MileMaker campaign is underway and we need your help if we're going to make it to Florida with these crane-kids. For those that are unfamiliar with the campaign, here's how it goes: Each year we take the total expenses incurred during the previous year and divide this total by the number of miles that we'll be flying, while leading the new group of cranes southward to their new winter home in Florida.

This year the cost per mile works out to $208 - And for those that love a bargain, we currently have TWO MileMaker challenges that will see your 1 sponsored mile automatically double to 2 miles. Frank Hardy is offering to match 1 more NEW MileMaker sponsor from Wisconsin, while north of the border, Annalise Jorgensen has generously offered to match up to 7 NEW Canadian MileMaker sponsors in recognition of the seven Canadian Whooping crane chicks in this years group.

It's very easy to sponsor a mile - just click here or on the MileMaker graphic located on the top-right of this page. You can even select a specific mile that has significance to you, and dedicate it to someone special if you like!

Date:July 15, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie

As of July 12th, the estimated maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population was 39 males and 31 females for a total of 70 Whooping cranes. This decrease of two birds from the total given in the last report reflects the removal from the reintroduction program of 735* who is still penned on the NNWR awaiting disposition to a captive facility, as well as 201*NFT who has not been found since June of 2007 and is presumed dead.

In the highlights below females are indicated by *. DAR = direct autumn release.

516 was reported back on his previous summer use areas in Waterloo Township and Jackson County on July 5th. He was last observed June 24 in Levy County, FL.
DAR744*, DAR740*

703, 707, and DARs739* and 742*left the Necedah area July 3. PTT data indicated they roosted in Jackson County July 4 and remained in the area through ~July 11.

Necedah NWR
101, 102*, 105NFT & 501* (molting)
211 & 217*, 213 (molting) & 218*, 216NFT
303* & 317, 307, 309* & 403, 310 & W601*, 311 & 312*, 313* & 318
401NFT& 508*, 402, 408 & 519*, 415*NFT & 505
509, 511, 514
DAR627, DAR628
709, 710, 717*, 722*, 726*, 716*, 721*, 724, DAR737, DAR746*

Dodge County - 107*NFT
Wood County - 212NFT & 419*NFT
Juneau County – 412, 512
Adams County - 506
Jackson County - 520* remained in Jackson County at least through mid-June but was not found on searches done June 24, 27 or July 3. However, a bird that may have been 520* was observed in Jackson County July 9.
Marathon County - DAR528*

Location Unknown
209*NFT & 416NFT last reported in Monroe County May 5. The female had a severe limp due to a right leg injury. Only one unidentified Whooping crane was seen on this pair’s territory during an aerial survey on July 1.
706, 712, and 713 last reported in Stutsman County, North Dakota June 5/6.
727* last reported departing Will County, IL June 1.
733 last reported in Iowa County, WI June 8.

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
205NFT last recorded at Necedah Oct. 16/07.
DAR527* was last reported in Jackson County, IN March 16-17/08.
316NFT last observed on the Necedah refuge March 30/08.
420* last reported in Clark County, WI March 30/08.
DAR533* last reported in Mason County, MI April 11.
524NFT last reported departing Fayette County, IN April 16.

Update compiled from data supplied by WCEP's Tracking Team

Date: July 11 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

Between June 17 to 22, pilot/biologist Jim Bredy, flying USFWS’s Partanavia Observer aircraft, assisted biologists Brian Johns of the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Tom Stehn of USFWS perform the 2008 Whooping crane Production Survey in Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park.

The trio were able to confirm the hatch of 64 Whooping crane chicks, including 12 sets of twins from the record number of nests (66) located in May by CWS. In 2007 one less nest (65) produced 84 chicks, 20 more than this season. And versus last year’s 28 sets of twins, there are only 12 sets this year.

"The 20 hours of aerial surveys were scheduled right after most of the chicks had hatched to try to maximize the number of chicks observed," said Stehn. "The survey’s timing that was delayed one week this year due to a late spring worked out well with only 3 pairs still sitting on overdue eggs at the end of the surveys."

Brian Johns said, "Fifty-two of the 66 nests (79%) produced one or more chicks compared with 2007’s 86% success rate - consequently, the very good chick production in 2008 resulted from both high productivity and a large number of nests."

"Fourteen nests failed to produce any young," reported Tom. "An estimated six known adult pairs failed to nest but were sighted on their territories. Thus, there are an estimated 72 breeding pairs in the population. This number matches the 72 adult pairs identified present at Aransas during the 2007-2008 winter."

Approximately 165 (62% of the flock) of the total maximum population of 266 white-plumaged Whooping cranes were sighted on the June surveys.

Brian noted that, "Habitat conditions in Wood Buffalo in June were better than expected with water levels rated as good. One wildfire was ignited by lightning in the Park during the June surveys but was small and not a factor," he said. "The weather during the June production surveys was warm with no cold, wet weather. The moderate weather conditions favored the survival of the young chicks early on."

Jim Bredy noted that, "One of the highlights of the trip was finding one Whooping crane pair with twin chicks and then spotting two wolves less than a mile distant from the cranes. The crane family was re-checked 5 days later and both chicks were still alive with no sign of the wolves."

"The high level of production is expected to raise the size of the Wood Buffalo/Aransas population to a record 280+ in the 2008-2009 winter," stated Tom Stehn, Whooping Coordinator at Aransas. "An increase of the population is anticipated," he said, "since it is in the growth portion of the 10-year population cycle that has occurred during the middle of every decade.

Date: July 10 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Joe Duff



Location: Main Office

After the heavy rains and flooding earlier this year most of the area around Necedah has returned to normal. Typical July weather means calm mornings and cool air so we have been able to train on most days and a few evenings. One of the remnants of a wet spring is still here to torture us however.

This has been a banner season for mosquitoes. Some are so big they are required to file a flight plan and many are of the twin engine variety. They swarm around us like chips from a chainsaw and haul away gallons of blood. Reaching over to flat hand someone on the forehead is no longer a social faux pas, but a courtesy.

Not only do the mosquitoes affect everything we do, they also harass the birds. They are mostly protected by a layer of feathers, but their legs are susceptible. Just above the hock where there is more flesh, you can see a circle of mosquitoes all bloated and translucent red.

While Chris was training with Cohort One last week, three of the birds dropped to lie in the grass next to the aircraft. They first go down on their hocks with their feet sticking out in front of them. Then they lower their bodies to cover their legs. It takes a couple of seconds and is reminiscent of the way a horse goes to its knees and it is very unusual behaviour.

This is a vulnerable position and they are not normally that relaxed outside the pen. In fact, both Chris and I stared for a few minutes baffled by this posture. We checked to make sure they weren't over heated and trying to cool themselves. We watched for the depression that is evident in a bird too sick to stand. We even taxied the aircraft away and watched them chase after it, checking their gait and steadiness on their legs. As soon as we stopped, they were back down on the ground and we realized it was likely an attempt to protect their legs from mosquitoes. They poked at the ground and seemed happy enough enjoying the momentary relief.

This is the latest I can recall the mosquito season lasting. Let’s hope it's over soon or we will all be laying down on the job.

Date: July 10 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Chris Gullikson


update from necedah

Location: Wisconsin

Cohort Two arrived safely at the Necedah airport yesterday compliments of Windway Aviation. After a quick check by Barry Hartup and the ICF health team we made the slow drive out to the West site with our delicate cargo. As usual, the birds were quick to adapt to their new surroundings and were soon drinking from the water pans and investigating their new home.

On their best behavior, the Cohort Two chicks parade into the pen at the West site on the Necedah NWR. The adult dummy imprint model can be seen in the background. The chicks check out their new habitat, and are quick to visit one of the water pans placed in their pen.

811, who received some superficial injuries by an aggressive 810, is now back at the refuge. We decided to put this bird at the West site where its older status should allow it to quickly integrate into the younger group. 811 has lost some feathers on its back and has a slight bending of the lower mandible, but seems to have made a speedy recovery thanks to ICF's health team and daily exercise by Robert Doyle. All 8 birds were brought out onto the runway this morning and did quite well as a group.

Training at the North site is going well and 810 seems to be behaving much better. We train the 4 birds in Cohort One together as a group, but we keep 810 isolated from the others in the divided pen. At least once a day one of us goes out to let 810 socialize with the other birds for about an hour while we monitor for any signs of aggression.

Now it's back to work. We have birds to socialize and a new pen site to build before Cohort Three is shipped later this month.

Date: July 9 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

Early this morning, the chicks designated as members of Cohort Two were crated and transported from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD for transfer Windway's waiting aircraft at the Baltimore airport. Comprising Cohort Two are chicks 812, 813, 814, 815, 816, 818, and 819 and Brooke said, "they are a great group of birds and shouldn't present any problems for handlers or trainers." Brooke was able to report that although he hadn't yet seen 809, it had arrived back at Patuxent.

Chris Gullikson called at 1:45pm to let us know that Cohort Two had arrived safely and the chicks were already making themselves at home at the West site. Although penned separately, 811 was also delivered to the West site today from ICF where she was being treated subsequent to being attacked by 810.

804 is getting checked over by Dr. Barry Hartup this afternoon. 804 is suffering from a bad bee sting which has resulted in a slightly a crossed beak.

Chris has promised to send us new photos of the chicks in Cohort Two later today or tonight so they should be available for viewing on the Class of 2008 page by tomorrow.

Date: July 8 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

Sadly, we have to report that 825, which was suffering with severe hock rotation, was euthanized today.

This week when the Windway Capital aircraft leaves Wisconsin for the Baltimore, MD airport to pick up Cohort Two it will have chick 809 on board. Being the only surviving chick of a 16 year-old captive female that produced eggs/chicks for the first time this year, 809 will be kept in the captive population at Patuxent to boost genetic diversity.

With the loss of 825 and the withdrawal of 809 from the ultralight program, the maximum size of the Class of 2008 is now down to nineteen - five short of our hoped for 24 chicks to lead south.

Date: July 4, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie


Happy 4th!!!

Location: Main Office

We think some firecrackers must have gotten loose in the system as we've been trying to post a Happy 4th of July greeting here all day.

It's now early evening, and we hope all our American Craniacs had an opportunity to relax and visit with friends and family - or, whatever your activity (or lack thereof) that you enjoyed a super Independence Day.

Date: July 2, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie


Cohort two NEWS

Location: Main Office

Bev called to let us know that by the end of the day, all the chicks that will comprise Cohort Two will be housed in the White series pens. Yesterday, 812, 813, 814, and 815 were moved out of the chick building and into the pens where they spent the night. Today, these four chicks will be joined by 816, 818, 819. Cohort Two will be shipped to Necedah either Wednesday or Thursday, July 9 or 10.

Date: July 1, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie


Whooperthon results

Location: Main Office

In the spring of 2007, OM's Migration Trivia 'editor-in-chief', Vi White of IL, held her first Whooperthon. She sought pledges for bird species she sighted on the specific day she planned for her outing, and as a result, raised $3400 for OM. The event was such a success that she repeated it this spring and the 2008 results are in. Vi's Whooperthon '08 raised $3700!!! (Well, actually, it was $3696 but that bugged Vi so she kicked in an extra $4 to round up the total.)

Both this and last year's Whooperthon totals include a very special match contribution from someone Vi refers to as 'an anonymous angel'. We send our sincere appreciation to all those who made pledges, and most especially Vi's generous 'angel'.

To Vi - who in addition the Whooperthon and collecting and editing our migration trivia, is now also our volunteer coordinator for  gathering and assembling info for a new FAQ page that will be added to OM's website - we say a heartfelt Thank YOU!! Once again Vi… rock!

Date: July 1, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

As of June 28th, the estimated maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population was 39 males and 33 females for a total of 72 Whooping cranes. In the highlights below females are indicated by *. DAR = direct autumn release.

516 Levy County as of June 22.

DAR744*, DAR740*

Wisconsin News
735* remains unable to fly. Richard Urbanek advised, “… specific diagnosis. was unavailable. She “is currently awaiting disposition to a captive facility."

Location Unknown
DAR533* last reported in Mason County, MI April 11.

524NFT last reported departing Fayette County, IN April 16.
209*NFT & 416NFT last reported in Monroe County May 5.
212NFT & 419*NFT possibly in Wood County, WI May 12.
727* last reported departing Will County, IL June 1.
706, 712, and 713 last reported in Stutsman County, North Dakota June 5/6.
733 last reported in Iowa County June 8.

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
205NFT last recorded at Necedah Oct. 16/07.
201*NFT last recorded in WI June 9/07 and suspected dead.
DAR527* was last reported in Jackson County, IN March 16-17/08.
316NFT last observed on the Necedah refuge March 30/08.
420* last reported in Clark County, WI March 30/08.

Necedah NWR and nearby
101, 102*, 105NFT & 501*,
211 & 217*, 213 & 218*, 216NFT
303* & 317, 310 & W601, 307 & 721*, 309* & 403, 311 & 312*, 313* & 318
401NFT & 508*, 408 & 519*, 402, 415*NFT & 505,
509, 511, 514,
703, 707, 709, 710, 717* 722*, 726*, 724, DAR737, DAR739*, DAR742, DAR746*
Dodge County - 107*; Adams County – 506; Juneau County - 412, 512; Jackson County - 520*; Marathon County - DAR528*; Fond du Lac County - 709, 710, 717*, 722*, 726*, DAR746*; Columbia County - 716*.

Update compiled from data supplied by WCEP's Tracking Team.

Date: July 1, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

To all our Canadian Craniacs we send out a wish for a safe, fun-filled and happy Canada Day holiday. Here in Port Perry, Ontario at 7:45am we have clear, blue skies and a temp of 59 degrees with a promised high of 78. Perfect for that traditional July 1st BBQ celebration.

Date: June 30, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

Thanks to an email message (and photos) from MaryHelen P, we can report that 516 had moved to Levy County from his usual wintering territory in Marion County by late June.

In the spring of 2007 he tied the record for staying the latest in Florida before leaving on his return migration. In the fall of last year he again migrated south to Marion County but it seems he is not going to return north to Wisconsin this year.

From observations of 516 both in flight and on the ground he displays no apparent health issues. The reason he has not headed north is a mystery.

Date: June 27, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Chris Gullikson



Location: Necedah, WI

The first cohort arrived safely on Wednesday compliments of Windway Capital. The Health team from ICF was on hand to give the birds a quick visual inspection before we loaded the crates onto the van for the ride out to the North Site. The chicks all looked in great shape and seemed to adapt well to their new surroundings, enjoying a cool drink after their long trip.

The Chick Team at Patuxent had forewarned us that 805 and 810 were both aggressive birds; particularly 810. Written on its crate was a note to us saying, “Good luck”. We had the pen divided into 3 separate areas to allow the 2 aggressive birds their own space. While 805 seemed to have no apparent aggression issues, 810 (pictured to the left) quickly went to work attacking every bird within reach and was ushered into a separate area of the pen.

Thursday morning Robert and I let the birds out onto the runway to get used to their new surroundings. We walked them up and down the runway a few times. 810 seemed to behave a bit better, but still had to be separated from 803 a few times as they tried to settle out their dominance. We took them back into the pen and introduced them to the wet pen for about half an hour before bringing them back into the dry pen for the day.

This morning we introduced the birds to the wingless trike (photo to the right) and they seemed quite happy to see and hear the familiar contraption. They all followed along well and I only had to break up a scuffle between 810 and 803 on one occasion.

After their training session on the runway (photo to the left) we led them back out into the wet pen  and Robert and I observed an interesting sight. 803 seems to be the dominant bird of the cohort - but 810 had not read the memo yet. While out in the wet pen, 810 decided to get into 803’s space and before I was able to move in to break up the imminent fight, it was over. 803 stood its ground, trying to be as tall as possible and made 810 back off with no contact even made. For the next 30 minutes we observed the birds and were delighted to see that 810 had lost its bully status.

Meanwhile outside the pen, the adult pair of 310 and W601 decided to pay a visit, (Photo to the right) as did our old nemesis 101 who has been evicted from his territory by this newly formed pair. I had the cool experience of watching this pair successfully defend their territory by repeatedly chasing off 101 who would fly from one end of the runway to the other before finally leaving for good.
We left all 7 birds in the wet pen and will be checking on them periodically during the day to make sure they are adjusting well and that there are no further aggression issues.

We have a lot of work to do in the next several weeks. Besides getting the West Site ready for the Cohort Two, we need to build a new site to replace the East Site. As part of their moist soil management plan, the staff at the Necedah Refuge routinely allow pools on a rotating basis to remain dry during the summer, simulating natural wetland cycles and allowing vegetation to grow. The pools are then filled in the fall providing food for migrating waterfowl. This water manipulation cycle keeps the pools healthy by reducing sediment build-up and proving poor habitat for many invasive species.

Because of the need for water at the East Site during the summer months, East Rynearson Pond has been held at a constant water level since 2001. This pool is becoming unhealthy and needs to have a dry cycle to restore the natural wetland function. A plan is in place to build a new site for the third cohort of birds, and the draining of East Rynearson is now well under way.

Date: June 25, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

Richard and Chris report that Cohort One arrived safely and after having a quick vet examination, were released into the pen at the North Site on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Having been alerted to the aggressive behavior of 810, they kept a close eye. Sure enough, the minute it was released it turned on its nearest classmate. As a result, 810 was penned 'next door' where it can see the rest of the Cohort, but not interact physically. They said that 805 seemed to be behaving fine and it was left in the pen with the others.

Date: June 25, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

Cohort One is on its way to Necedah. 803, 804, 805, 807, 809, 810, and 811 were all carefully crated early this morning and were on their way to the Baltimore airport for their flight to Wisconsin compliments of Windway by 8 o’clock. The surprise news is that the decision was made to release both 807 and 809 for the ultralight program. We had thought one or the other could be a genetic holdback.

Due to its health issues, Bev advised that unless it improved the plan was to hold 808 back until Cohort Two shipped to see how it got along. She said that while it was being treated for respiratory problems, it seemed to be doing okay. In fact, she had it out in the White series pens on Monday for some outside exercise and she said it did just fine. Then yesterday it took a sudden turn for the worse and couldn’t even stand up and unfortunately had to be euthanized later in the day.

According to Bev and Brooke, the chicks in this Cohort have been the dickens to socialize. To quote Brooke, “810 is a monster bird, aggressive and hostile toward everyone.” And 805, which was a quiet little chick, second from the bottom of the pecking order, recently turned into an aggressor. The Chick Crew has been having such a time with the Cohort One chicks that they never had enough confidence to leave them together overnight as a group.

Richard van Heuvelen, Chris Gullikson, and Patuxent's Robert Doyle will be on hand at the Necedah airport for the chicks’ arrival. They will transfer the crates from the aircraft to trucks for the slow, careful drive to the North Site (Site 4) where they will be checked by vet Dr. Barry Hartup before being released into the pens there. The pen at the North Site is divided into two sections so 810 can be kept apart but in sight of his classmates. Bev suspected that the team might have to rig a three way divide to also segregate 805.

To help keep costs down, the testing to determine the genders of the Class of 2008 was postponed until the last egg hatched and they could all be sent to be done at once. Hopefully we will have that information for you before long.

Pre-shipping photos of some of the chicks will appear shortly on the Meet the Class of 2008 page. And photos of the rest of the Cohort should follow in a day or two.

Date: June 24, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

Marty Folk of the Florida Fish & Conservation Commission wrote to advise that the Leesburg pair lost their chick. One of the landowners adjacent to where the birds nested heard a ruckus Sunday morning. He saw that the chick was missing and observed four raccoons in the area.

"This wraps up our 2008 breeding season," Marty said. The FNMP's total nests for the season was five, (two of which were re-nests) by three pairs. "Three of the nests hatched five chicks, but none survived past 25 days of age," he noted. "Most marshes are still dry, or nearly so," Folk said. "We’ve been getting some scattered summer showers, but I fear we’ll never catch up on rainfall without a major tropical system."

Too bad they couldn’t figure a way to pipe some of the 'overflow' from mid-west Florida's way.

Date: June 19, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: Training progresses Location: Main Office

In a quick call today, Bev told us that all the chicks with the exception of the last three, 828, 829, and 830, have been taking part in circle pen training and are doing well. 828 has been introduced to the stationary trike and Bev expects the same introduction to take place by the weekend for 829 and 830.

The team has been working to socialize the chicks that will form Cohort Two. 812 and 813 have been training as a pair as have 814 and 815, 816 with 818, and 819 with 820. Bev described the training session they tried with four chicks, 812, 813, 814, and 815, as a squabblefest. Just like a bunch of toddlers in their 'terrible two’s' they pecked and pushed each other around but the costumes were there to perform interventions.

According to Bev, 815 is a happy-go-lucky little bird and usually friendly to his classmates. 820 is the class slowpoke, and 818 the class go-getter, is always scurrying around like a little mouse. She assures us new chick photos are imminent – hopefully before the weekend is out.

Date: June 19, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject: LOGISTICS Location: Main Office
Have you even seen one of those mammoth 18 wheelers on the highway with words emblazoned on the side like Shipping Solutions or Freight Logistics? I always thought they were grandiose words for a guy in a truck but I’m beginning to get an inkling of what they deal with on a daily basis.

The motorhome that Deke Clark loans us every year is stored near their home in Maryland. Richard Van Heuvelen had to drive our pickup truck from Ontario to Necedah pulling our big trailer with all the aircraft onboard. From there he caught a flight to Washington. After a short visit with Deke and Rebecca, he made the long trip back to Necedah by road. With the motorhome in place, we now have accommodation for Richard and Chris so they can begin the site repairs in preparation for the arrival of the first cohort.

Thanks to continued support from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund we were able to purchase a new migration vehicle this year. It’s a Ford diesel, 350, 12 passenger van that will be able to pull our 32 foot aircraft trailer, haul the crew around and track drop-out birds. It is also large enough to carry up to 10 birds in crates if it all goes to hell in a hand basket. That vehicle is here in Ontario and needs to get to Necedah.

We are very grateful to Jane Stedman and Sandy Blakeney who generously loaned us their motorhome each year, but with the high cost of gas and the wear and tear we inflict, its time we found another source. So this spring we bought a used slide-in camper for the back of our pickup. That camper is also here in Ontario and needs to get to Necedah. I’ll drive to Wisconsin later this week, drop off the new van and help out for a few days before driving the pickup back to Canada. Once the slide-in camper is fitted, I’ll head back to Wisconsin.

Garry and Claire Foltz are working hard at Patuxent right now but will be leaving for Necedah around the time we move the first cohort on June 25th. The refuge will provide accommodation for them in the new bunk house they built over the winter. This weekend Robert Doyle from Patuxent will drive out in the USGS truck to begin his summer duty and deliver the first shipment of crane chow. Around July 15th, when the second cohort is scheduled to arrive, Brooke will drive our other pickup, pulling the Sierra house trailer, from Patuxent to Necedah and Bev will join us after the last birds leave Maryland on July 24th.

Staff, trucks, aircraft, trailers and accommodations all have to arrive in Wisconsin at various times to coordinate with the delivery of birds. I can see why they call it logistics. Part of the problem this year is a necessary restriction that was placed on the refuge. Over the years, manager, Larry Wargowsky assembled a collection of surplus FEMA trailers. His ingenuity allowed us to spread out a little over the summer months. The interns had their own trailer, as did Chris Gullikson. Richard had Deke's motorhome to himself and Brooke got some privacy as well.

There is only one door on the surplus trailers and that presents an unacceptable fire safety hazard that can’t be ignored, so the FEMA trailers had to go. The new bunk house at Necedah can accommodate our interns. There is also space for volunteers and interns who will be working at the refuge and with the tracking team. The existing bunk house will be for DAR aviculturists and the rest of the tracking team so we have had to provide most of our own housing this year. It will be a little tighter, but nothing we’re not used to.

Date: June 18, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject: A little help from our frieNDS Location: Main Office
When Richard van Heuvelen arrived in Necedah to start preparations for the shipping of cohort one, he called and said he was standing on a new asphalt apron in front of the hangar. He asked how that came about and I had to say I didn’t know.

Before this project started, back in 2000, we found a hangar at the Necedah Airport that looked abandoned. It was owned by the widow of a pilot who lived in Idaho and we set up a rental agreement. We had doors built to close it in and made a few minor repairs. Terry Kohler of Windway Capital stepped in to help us arrange something a little more secure and he purchased the hangar in 2001.

Terry Kohler was one of the first to realize that using ultralights to lead birds might work to establish long lost migration routes. He called Dr. George Archibald to encourage him to watch a video tape of Bill Lishman flying with Canada geese. George contacted Bill and thus began the long road to Whooping cranes.

Terry is a pilot himself although his hardware is more impressive. He used his Jet Ranger helicopter to help us collect Sandhill crane eggs for the preliminary study and every year his Cessna Caravan (10 passenger turboprop) makes three trips to Baltimore and back to deliver the birds to Necedah. On June 25th they will make their 21st flight. Terry came to visit us a few years back and noticed that our hangar had a sand floor. Dust would get everywhere and we were constantly cleaning radios and air filters to keep things in good repair.

The following spring a crew showed up and paved the hangar and an apron out in front. They hooked up the power so we had lights and installed a lock so our equipment was safe. The steel roof would collect condensation in the early morning and by noon it would rain inside the hangar. So Terry’s crew insulated the roof and now our aircraft are safe, clean and dry.

As a small gesture of our gratitude we took Mary Kohler flying with the birds last year on one of our training flights. During their visit, Terry noticed that the asphalt apron didn’t extend all the way to the road and sand was still tracked into the hangar. Over the winter that was corrected and Richard was the first of the OM crew to see Terry’s surprise.

In 2006 I bought a cheap sewing machine and a bolt of fabric. In my amateur way I hacked together a cover that required 30 yards of material and 75 feet of Velcro. Although sloppy, the cover worked well. During the migration it protected the wing from the early morning frost that delays our takeoff by an hour or more. The problem was that we needed 4 covers and we were in the process of making them in the hangar when Terry and Mary came to visit.

Terry is an accomplished sailor and also the owner of North Sails. He looked at the yards of material spread out on the hangar floor and simply shook his head. He told us to bundle up a pattern and within a week we had five sets of perfectly sewn, professionally designed, wing covers delivered to the hangar. I wrote this note of thanks to him.

"Terry, I wanted you to know that the covers you had made for us last year work better than I could have imagined. The new strut based wings that Disney bought for us are less floppy in the wind when they are tied down, so we don’t need to remove them from the aircraft and secure them to the ground.

The covers collect all the frost and fit so securely that we can prepare the aircraft in the morning and even start the engines with them in place. Then when we are ready to go, we simply rip apart the Velcro, dip each wing in turn and let the covers slip off the tips. We can do this while sitting in the aircraft after taxiing to the threshold.

One at a time we deposit our covers on either side of the runway and are airborne within seconds with wings as clean and dry as if they were hangared all night. The ground crew collects them and when the camp is set up at the new site, we simply hang them to dry for 30 minutes and we are back in business. Thanks to your covers we can take advantage of the calm air earlier in the mornings."

Terry, there are not enough thank you’s for all you have done.

Date: June 17, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: CATCHING UP ON CHICK NEWS Location: Main Office
Belatedly, we report that the last egg at Patuxent hatched. Chick 830 emerged from its shell on June 15. Chick 830 came from the Calgary Zoo's Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre and Nat Christie Whooping Crane Breeding Facility, and brings the total 'Canadians' in the 2008 population to a record seven. (Pardon our national pride.) Congratulations to Zookeeper, Dwight Knapik, and way to go Calgary!!!

On a recent call Brooke advised that 808 was having health problems. This little bird has respiratory problems and scoliosis, on top of which Bev's early suspicions that it was deaf turned out to be true. As a result of its health issues, 808 has been pulled from the project.

The six chicks that will comprise Cohort One are – 803, 804, 805, 810, 811, and either 807 or 809 (one or the other will be a genetic holdback). All had their pre-shipping health checks on June 13. Cohort One will leave Patuxent for Necedah via Baltimore Airport and will be flown to Wisconsin June 25. These shipping flights are once again this year compliments of Windway Capital.

Date: June 17, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie


As of June 14th, the estimated maximum size of the EMP was 39 males and 33 females for a total of 72 Whooping cranes. In the highlights below females are indicated by *. DAR = direct autumn release.

Spring Migration
727* was in Vermillion County, IL in mid May, then was reported in Will County, departing there June 1. No subsequent reports have been received.

516 was still in Marion County as of June 16.

The retrieval of DAR744* was unsuccessful and she travelled to Saginaw, Bay and Tuscola counties before roosting in Huron County on June 15.
DAR740 was in Mason County before moving to Allegan County.
DAR533* was last reported in Mason County April 11.

North Dakota
706, 712, and 713 were reported in Stutsman County June 5/6. No subsequent reports have been received.

Wisconsin News
735*, who was being held in a top netted pen on the refuge, was allowed some access to a larger enclosure at Site 3. There was no apparent improvement to her wing function and she is still unable to fly.

209*NFT &416NFT were last observed during the previous report period. 209* had a severe limp due to an injured right leg.

212NFT & 419*NFT were not observed during this report period. Due to the location of their preferred habitat - in Wood County - they can only be tracked from the air.

703 and 707 were reported in Freeborn County, MN May 26 where they remained at least through June 9. They returned to Necedah June 14 and joined 710 and 722* in flight before landing south of the refuge where they associated with DARs742* and 746*. Photo by R. Urbanek below

DAR737 was retrieved from Tuscola County, Michigan on June 2 and released on the Necedah refuge. However, he left the refuge June 5, was in Juneau County June 6, but has not been observed since. On June 10, DARs739*, 742*, and 746* were also retrieved from Michigan and subsequently released on the Necedah NWR.

Current Location Unknown
316NFT last observed on the Necedah refuge March 30.
420* last reported in Clark County, WI March 30.
524NFT last reported departing Fayette County, IN April 16.

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
205NFT last recorded at Necedah Oct. 16/07.
201*NFT last recorded in WI June 9/07 and suspected dead.
DAR527* was last reported in Jackson County, IN March 16/17. An unconfirmed sighting in Fond du Lac County on April 17 may have been this bird.

Update compiled from data supplied by WCEP's Tracking Team.

Date: June 12, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Location: Main Office

Disney's Animal Kingdom first opened on April 22, 1998. It is the largest single Disney theme park in the world, covering more than 500 acres. Visitors to the park can donate to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF), and over their ten year history they have contributed 11 million dollars to conservation projects on a global scale.

DWCF has helped to purchase critical habitat in
Guatemala, assisted in the protection of dolphins in Florida, and funded studies on the interaction between elephants and bees in Kenya. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has also supported Operation Migration since the beginning of our work on the Whooping Crane reintroduction project.

They have helped us purchase one of our specialized aircraft. A DWCF grant in 2006 enabled us to install new wings on all of our aircraft. The new design eliminated the need for the many flying wires that supported the old wings and trapped birds that flew too close. With their help we have virtually eliminated the danger of mid-air bird collisions.

We recently learned that our grant application for 2008 was approved. Thanks to DWCF's assistance we will be purchasing a new vehicle for hauling migration equipment and tracking wayward birds en route. Their overall commitment to OM and Whooping cranes now totals more than $140,000!

Not only has Disney supported us financially through their Worldwide Conservation Fund, their team of experienced veterinarians provide medical care for the birds whenever they are in Florida. Aviculturists from the Disney Team are also helping out this year to train birds at Patuxent and have offered to assist with winter monitoring.

Beyond the support and expertise provided by Disney, we are very proud of our association with an organization that has done so much for worldwide conservation.

Date: June 12, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: ONE MORE CHICK HATCHES Location: Main Office

Just before 6:30 this morning an email bonged in from Bev announcing the arrival of newly hatched chick number 828 from a Calgary egg. She also advised the egg source of the recent hatches. 827 was also from an egg from Calgary and 825 and 826 were Patuxent eggs.

Date: June 11, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: THREE MORE HATCHES Location: Main Office

825 and 826 hatched out yesterday, June 10 and were joined in ICU by 827 who hatched just this morning. We should know the egg source for these chicks very soon.

This brings the total of surviving chicks (less genetic holdback 817) to 20. It is likely that one of the sibling chicks 807 or 809 will also be a genetic holdback, dropping the current number of potential ultralight birds to 19. There are just three eggs still incubating at Patuxent. Their anticipated hatch dates are June 13 (two eggs) and June 15 (one egg).

Date: June 11, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: FLORIDA NEST ABANDONMENT Location: Main Office

In his first report of the 2008 breeding season in February, Marty Folk of the Florida Fish and Conservation Commission advised that despite very dry conditions, and low expectations for breeding, the Kissimmee pair had laid two eggs and were dutifully attending to the nest. Subsequently, he reported that the pair had successfully hatched 2 chicks, but on March 21st, while the parents and one chick were foraging, crows took the other chick from the nest and ate it.
 April rains somewhat replenished water in the marsh where the parents continued to raise their remaining chick, but it too was lost mid-month. The pair eventually re-nested in another location, but in an email received this morning, Marty said they inexplicably abandoned their nest yesterday. The two eggs that were recovered from the nest were sent for necropsy.

Date: June 9, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Heather Ray

Subject: A LOSS... Location: Main Office

It saddens us to report that number 801 was euthanized late this afternoon. Bev reports that this little chick had been dealing with some minor health issues over the weekend but this morning it was discovered with one of its legs bowed out at an exaggerated angle. After examining the chick and exploring options it was determined that recovery, if at all possible, would be slow and the decision was made to not subject the little bird to any further discomfort.

Date: June 9, 2008 Reporter:

Heather Ray

Subject: CHICK AND MILEMAKER UPDATE Location: Main Office

Bev reports that one chick hatched out very early yesterday morning. This Patuxent chick will now be referred to as "number 824" and will very likely be the first chick in the third cohort. Now before you start wondering "why the gap in chick numbers"??? Numbers 821, 822 and 823 were assigned to Sandhill crane chicks, which will each be raised by a pair of captive Whooping cranes.

In the captive breeding population, egg production is increased by pulling the eggs once they are laid. This will often prompt the female to re-clutch and produce more valuable eggs. Using this technique it is possible to get as many as ten eggs per season from one female crane; however not all of these will be fertile. As the breeding season winds down captive pairs will be given a chick to raise - this not only helps the pairbond process, but also, ensures that the female will form an emotional attachment to the egg. If all she ever did was produce eggs with no pay-off she could become disinterested and not produce any.

In MileMaker news - a hearty welcome goes out to new MileMaker sponsors Teresa Hull, Jimmy & Cynthia Wilkerson, and Lawrence Neumaier, each of whom rose to the challenge issued last week by our very own Nancy Drew. Nancy promised to match three new sponsors - to a total of 3 miles, which means that her challenge generated a total of 6 miles.

Remember I mentioned that Craniacs are a competitive bunch? Well, another matching challenge has been issued - this one is from Annelise Jorgensen, who, like Nancy wishes to see some more NEW MileMakers join the flock, so has promised to match up to 7 miles. This is fantastic news for anyone that loves the BOGO (buy one, get one) concept of shopping, because if you've never sponsored a mile of the southward migration before, you will get 2 miles for your 1 mile contribution! Thank you Annelise!

To date, we're sitting at slightly less than 10 percent of the route sponsored and as expected, Wisconsin is sitting in first place in terms of total miles spoken for. Illinois and Alabama are tied for second place and Florida rounds out the top four.

Date: June 6, 2008 Reporter:

Heather Ray

Subject: TRAINING UPDATE Location: Main Office

Four eggs arrived at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center on Wednesday from the Calgary zoo… This brings the total of Canadian cranes in this year cohort to seven – YAY Calgary Zoo!!!

In a rushed phone call, Bev reported that 812, 813, 814 and 815 have each been spending time with the trike during circle pen sessions and all are doing well. Crane 817 is a definite genetic holdback so has been removed from the daily training schedule.

They’ve also been working hard this week to socialize the Cohort One chicks at the White Series Pond – Chicks 803, 804 and 805 have spent time together, foraging in the shallow water and seem to get along. Chicks 807 and 809 (full siblings) are both little screamers and just keep peeping/yelling at each other, and 810 and 811 have been getting along the best. Where is 801 -- you ask? This little bird apparently has anger management issues that need to be worked on before he can be allowed to play with the others…

This socialization process is a significant stage of their upbringing, since this first cohort will soon begin sharing accommodations once they arrive at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge later this month.

Now before you start thinking ‘well that’ll lighten the workload at Patuxent somewhat’ – not so fast… Those four eggs mentioned above? We need to add three final eggs produced by Patuxent breeders this year for a total of seven chicks still left to hatch between June 8–15, which will comprise the third and final cohort, so the workload will not be letting up anytime soon.

Date: June 4, 2008 Reporter:

Heather Ray

Subject: A CHALLENGE IS ISSUED! Location: Main Office

No sooner had we posted the launch of the 2008 MileMaker campaign when we received our first official challenge - Craniacs can be SO competitive. It's GREAT!

This match invitation is being extended by long-time supporter Nancy Drew who would like to give up to three NEW MileMaker sponsors even more incentive. Nancy has pledged to match three individual miles, so for anyone out there that has not yet supported the southward migration since we launched the campaign five years ago, now is your chance to double your support!

All you have to do is select which mile you would like to sponsor by clicking here - Then, once Chris has a chance to validate that you are indeed a new MileMaker; Nancy will sponsor a second mile in your honor!

Date: June 3, 2008 Reporter:

Heather Ray


We received a tracking report today, which very closely resembles the report summarized by Liz on May 20th with the following exceptions:

The only '07 ultralight-reintroduced crane that has not yet returned to Wisconsin is #727* - She was confirmed in Vermillion County, IL two weeks ago but has since moved north, and until yesterday, was located southwest of Chicago.

And it would appear the romance between 107* and 506 has been shelved as the report states that a whooping crane believed to be no. 107* was reported near Horicon NWR, Fond du Lac and Dodge Counties, beginning May 21st. Crane 107* had last been reported with 506 in Adams County on May 14th.

In other news, the 2008 MileMaker campaign is now live and accessible online! To reserve YOUR selected mile just click on the graphic on the top right of this page. You can also see which miles have already been sponsored by some very caring Whooping crane fans. We hope you'll join us this year as MileMaker sponsors - every dollar raised through the MileMaker initiative supports the southward journey. We can't do it without your help...

Date: June 2, 2008 Reporter:

Heather Ray

Subject: ANOTHER FLUFFY BUNDLE Location: Main Office

Crane chick #820 broke free from the confines of its egg earlier today - and is ready to begin life as a WCEP bird! This chick is the third of our ultralight class produced by The International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin.

Date: June 1, 2008 Reporter:

Joe Duff


At long last we are able to reveal the new, more westerly migration route to be used for the first time this coming fall. Bev and Brooke covered countless miles in the air and on the road to bring this project to fruition – all of which was made possible through the generosity of an anonymous donor from southern California.

Flying her Cessna 182, Bev and Brooke traveled from Illinois to Florida and back. They studied countless maps and aeronautical charts, used GIS mapping systems, Google Earth and the advice of locals. Their primary objective was to find a way around the Appalachian Mountains, but there were other considerations. They had to avoid large areas of forest that limit the number of emergency landing sites, and built up areas where hiding the birds from people would be impossible. They had to circumnavigate controlled airspace around major airports, restricted zones near military installations and steer clear of the five mile no-fly zone around nuclear power stations.

Once the basic pathway was mapped they circled endlessly at 50 mile intervals looking for perfect fields. The best ones are clear of cross-county power lines, rivers that produce early morning fog, forests that are reserved for deer hunting in the fall, corn fields that may or may not be harvested when we pass through and ridges that we would have to cross shortly after take off. They took hundreds of digital photos, punched in myriad GPS waypoints and scribbled pages of notes so they could match one to the other, all the time flying in circles.

They eventually returned to Wisconsin and began the ground work. Finding landowners was the most difficult part. Mostly they asked neighbors, followed leads, checked the phone book and used the internet when they could get connected. With each inquiry they had to explain the project, answer the questions and make friends with the people who may be hosting us. It’s not easy to knock on a door and ask a complete stranger if we could invade their property with four motorhomes and a crew of 12 people. It takes some fast talking to convince them to let us tap into their power, restrict their use of their own property and invite the media. Invariably the first questions are “when are you coming and how long will you be here.” And you all know how good we are with those answers.

We hope that moving the route to the west will help reduce the days the migration is grounded due to headwinds. Most of the weather systems we encounter are low pressure areas that move east and up the coast. They rotate in a counterclockwise direction and we are often along the leading edge. Our hope is that moving west will give us wind at our backs instead of in our faces. We are encouraged by the many pilots that Bev and Brooke met in their travels who thought we could expect better weather along this route. Even if the new route is not faster, it will be safer for both the birds and the pilots and that, in the end, is the primary objective. Although I still secretly dream of a 40 day migration.

We have named the new, more westerly route, “Deke’s Way,” in honor of former OM pilot Deke Clark. Like the Whooping crane, Deke has embarked on his own Come Back Tale. In 2002 he suffered a stroke, and while he is gradually recovering, he is still engaged in a heavy physiotherapy regime.

Highly respected and much loved, Deke and his partner Rebecca remain good friends of Operation Migration, and of all of us on the OM Team. While Deke won’t be along when we fly the new, westerly route, we know that he will be with us in spirit and we could not have anyone better watching over our shoulders.

As with the previous migration route, we will travel through seven states. "Deke's Way" will take us through Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Instead of turning east into Indiana near the top of the route, we will hold a direct heading until we reach the southern end and start the bend to the east in Alabama.

Below is the 2008 Migration Map, and a chart showing the miles in each state. In a day or two, both will be accessible for reference via links on the top right of this Field Journal page. Any day now the MileMaker Sponsorship pages will be completed and also posted to the website. We will put an announcement in the Field Journal just as soon as we have them ready for you.









































Date: June 1, 2008 Reporter:

Heather Ray

Subject: Good News - Bad News Location: Main Office

Generally, I prefer to leave field journal entries on a hopeful note, so I'll begin with the bad news... Bev reports that we lost 806 overnight :-( This water-loving little chick was collected as an egg from the nest of the First Family early last month and would have been a full sibling to W601. As time permits, a necropsy will be performed to determine the cause.

On a happier note - Two more chicks have been enlisted to the class of '08! Chicks 818 and 819 both hatched overnight. 818 is our second crane chick from The International Crane Foundation and 819 is the fourth provided by the Calgary Zoo in Alberta. Bev also advised that a third ICF egg, which arrived yesterday should hatch out tomorrow.

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