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Date: March 15, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie


Craniac Kid Rocks!

Location: Main Office
We may be between migration and hatch, but that doesn't mean off-season or inactivity for us at OM. Far from it. We're busy as beavers, and that goes for many of our volunteers who help us out behind the scenes as well.

Someone else who hasn't been idle is Ann Howden, daughter of OM member Margaret Howden of New Glarus, WI. We've been told that Ann is a 24/7 enthusiastic supporter of OM and Whooping cranes.

Ann chose to do her science fair project on Operation Migration and the science behind the ultralight-led Whooping crane migration. Not only did she receive an "Outstanding" rating from the judge, she was specially commended for her in-depth knowledge of the subject.

How can we not be hopeful for the future of Whooping cranes and other wildlife and their habitats when we hear about Craniac Kids like Ann. Such interest and efforts are on their own, enough to inspire anyone.

Congratulations to Ann from the OM Team!

Date: March 13, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office
Today, March 14th, is the 105th anniversary of the National Refuge System.

We have two suggestions for a way to celebrate. Why not visit a refuge near you, and perhaps inquire about opportunities to volunteer there if you have some spare time.

Another great way is to buy a Duck Stamp to help with wetland habitat conservation. All but 30 cents of the $15 cost of a Duck Stamp is used for the acquisition or lease of new wetland/grassland habitats. This initiative, which is administered through the National Wildlife Refuge System, is one of the most effective and successful conservation programs ever. Your support mean will help them to continue to preserve America's disappearing wildlife habitat.

Duck Stamps are available at most post offices and sporting good stores. To find a place near you that offers the stamps, call the Federal Duck Stamp Office at 888-534-0400.

Date: March 13, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office
People often write to ask how they can help besides being a member or donor. There are many ways, but here is a really simple one.

Wear your OM gear when you are 'out and about'. Having people see that you support Operation Migration is of great value. In addition to helping raise awareness for the project, it may present opportunities for you to 'recruit' new Craniacs. So don your OM t-shirt, sweatshirt or cap - getting spotted in your OM gear will help Whooping cranes get the attention they deserve.

With our limited resources, one of the most difficult things to do is to 'get the word out.' Whether by sporting our logo'd clothing or having a Craniac sticker on your vehicle, you'll become immediately identifiable as part of the effort to safeguard the Whooping crane, and be providing more 'advertising and promotion' than we could ever hope to achieve corporately.

Date: March 12, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Joe Duff



Location: Main Office
The 2007 migration turned out to be a marathon of epic proportions, taking every ounce of will, stamina, and patience that the entire OM team could muster. Attempting to encapsulate the 97 days spent on migration in any form for you to read at home is difficult. Yet throughout the 2007 (and early 2008) migration, we have attempted to do just that, illustrating our work through writing, photographs, and the occasional video.

Throughout the migration you would have shared in our growing frustrations as mother nature continued to plot against us. Day after day it seemed the weather would not cooperate, leaving us staring at the skies with a few choice words in mind. Yet, as the saying goes, “every cloud has a silver lining.” For us, that silver lining was the unadulterated joy we felt when flying alongside these magnificent birds.

While we’d like to share the pleasure of flying with the cranes with everyone, logistics and laws make this impossible. Nonetheless, I’d like to do my best to share this experience with you. In the site map section of our website, we have created a link to our now complete 2007 Migration Video Journal. Here you can view 23 videos illustrating many aspects of our work, and perhaps, share in a little bit of the joy.

To visit the link directly, click here or visit I’ve been asked by our technical people to remind you that the videos may take a while to load, but be assured that they all work.

Date: March 11, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

This update for the period ended March 8 was compiled from data supplied by WCEP's Winter Monitoring & Tracking Team. The estimated maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population is remains at 76; 40 males and 36 females.  * = females; DAR = Direct Autumn Release.

Lake County:
402 * 412
Marion County: 516
Pasco County: DAR626; DAR627
Chassaohowitzka NWR - 17
The juveniles roosted on or near the man-made oyster bar each night with several exceptions. 15 Birds were led/herded, called, or flushed into the pen on Feb. 24; 10 on Feb. 25; 10 on Feb. 26; and 1 (703) on Mar. 8. Around sunset on Feb. 29 a lone, northbound female Sandhill crane landed at the pensite. She was met with aggression but as the juveniles settled to roost for the night she joined them on the oyster bar in the pen. The Sandhill left the pensite early the following afternoon.
Retaining their chick voices are
: 710, 717, 722, 733, and 735.
Water Levels/Salinity
Highest recorded tide at the center of the oyster bar was 29 inches on the evening of Feb 26. The Monitoring Team did not measure the higher tides associated with the storm activity on the Mar. 7PM and Mar. 8AM. Salinity ranged from 18 – 21 parts per thousand during the past two weeks.
Health Concerns
735 continues to have lack of extension of his right wing. She was held longer than normal when handlers had difficulty fitting her band at the time of the health checks on Feb. 4 and hasn’t been flying. An examination by vets at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on March 3rd found muscle atrophy due to lack of use of the wing but no fractures or other injuries that would prevent recovery of her flight capabilities were detected. Recovery is not expected before spring migration. No plan for this bird has been determined.

Colleton County:
310 & 501*; 311 & 312* (last checked Feb. 29 & 26 respectively.)

Meigs County:
105, 420*; 520*; DAR528* (all as of last report Feb. 27); DARs 737; 739*; 742*; 743*; 744*; 746*

Davidson County: 401 & 508*

Morgan County: 213 & 218*

Greene County: 102* (as of Mar. 2)

- 209* & 416 – last recorded in Carroll County, GA Feb. 2. (2 birds reported Feb. 7 in Lowndes County may have been this pair.)
- 303* & 317 last recorded in Marion County, FL Feb. 5
- 509 last recorded in Lake County, FL Jan. 11
- 512 last recorded in Paynes Prairie area, FL Dec. 29

- 201*NFT last recorded in WI June 9
- 205NFT last recorded at Necedah NWR, WI Oct. 16
- 307 last recorded in northeastern GA Nov. 30
- 524 NFT last recorded at Jasper-Pulaski FWA, IN Nov. 23
- 503 & 507* last recorded in Wood County, WI May 26




FROM (County)



Feb. 29

Citrus, FL

Gordon, GA on Mar. 1


Feb 14

Meigs, TN

Jackson, IN on Feb. 26

211 & 217*

Feb. 16-17


Not reported

212 & 419*

Mar. 6

Pasco, FL

Not reported


Feb. 29

Pasco, FL

Not reported


Feb. 24-26

Marion, FL

Not reported

318 & 313*

See Note A


Madison, FL on Mar. 10

403 & 309*

Feb. 28

Levy, FL

Madison, FL on Feb 28


Feb. 26

Hillsborough, FL

Fulton, GA Feb. 29 (maybe)

505 & 415*

Feb 28-Mar 2

Meigs, TN

Jackson, IN on Mar. 2


Mar. 4

Sumter, FL

Not reported


Feb. 24-26

Marion, FL

Not reported


Feb. 26

Hillsborough, FL

Fulton, GA Feb. 29 (maybe)


Feb. 26

Hillsborough, FL

Fulton, GA Feb. 29 (maybe)


Feb 28-Mar 3

Meigs, TN

Jackson, IN on Mar. 3


Feb. 14-26

Meigs, TN

Jackson, IN on Mar. 2


Mar. 9

Hernando, FL

Thomas, GA on Mar. 9


March 1 or 2

Obion, TN

Gifford, IN on Mar. 2

Note A: 318 and 313* had not been found since January 7 when they were detected in flight over Putnam County, FL. Their wintering location has never been determined.

Note B: An unidentified pair of Whooping cranes was reported in a flock of Sandhills in Warren County, KY Mar. 6-7.

Note C: A single adult Whooping crane was reported with large numbers of migrating Sandhills in Starke County, IN on Mar. 8-9.

Date: March 9, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

Following his most recent aerial survey, Aransas NWR’s Whooping crane coordinator, Tom Stehn estimated that the flock size remained at a record 266 birds; 144 adults, 83 sub-adults and 39 juveniles.

"With the exception of one juvenile last sighted in November at Muleshoe NWR, I think all the Whooping cranes are still at Aransas," said Stehn. "Other than for a few birds, it is usually not until the last week in March that some of the cranes start the migration. The majority of Whooping cranes remain at Aransas into April. They know from experience that conditions are still frozen up north," he said.

"So far, so good," Tom said, commenting on the fact that there had been no evidence of any mortalities over the winter.

Lobstick, a male crane banded in 1978, that had difficulty flying earlier in the winter has apparently fully recovered. He is the oldest known-aged bird in the population. One of its two chicks may be ill however. On several occasions Tom observed the chick sitting down, a behavior that often indicates illness. Healthy cranes rest standing up.

"On this flight crane locations indicated a shift in habitat use," noted Tom. "Eleven cranes were on prescribed burns; 4 in uplands, and 10 at or near fresh water sources. Bay salinities were 20PPT when measured March 6, a level at which some cranes will move to seek out fresh water to drink.

Tom said it was notable that 47 cranes (17.7% of the flock) were in open bay habitat, presumably foraging on clams and other invertebrates. "Blue crabs can occasionally be encountered in open bay habitat however, and cranes have recently been observed still finding large blue crabs to eat," he pointed out.

Visitors to the refuge observation towers have been provided with good views of Whooping cranes recently as the Mustang Lake family group has been spending time nearby.

During a coast-wide closure February 15 to 24, 38 people in 14 boats picked up a total of 654 abandoned crab traps in Aransas and San Antonio Bays, accounting for 50% of the total of the 1,300 coastal traps retrieved. The traps, abandoned by commercial crabbers, continue to catch fish and crabs and the occasional turtle if they are not removed from the water.

Date: March 6, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

Since the reintroduction project’s inception in 2001, a total of 126 juvenile Whooping cranes have been released; 107 through the ultralight-led program and 19 via DAR. This total includes the only wild-hatched chick produced so far, (W601) as well as two offspring of 2002 ultralight-led birds. 602 and 717 were collected as eggs when their parents (211/217* and 213/218* respectively) abandoned their nests. Both were hatched at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, and included in the ultralight-led program. The Class of 2007 also included 709, a chick hatched from the wild-produced egg of a resident pair in the Florida non-migratory population.

Mortalities in the reintroduced Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) over the seven project years total 49. (See table below) Only 17 of all mortalities occurred during the first six project years. More than double that number occurred in 2007; 17 being storm-related, and 15 due to various other causes.

The primary cause of death has been predation (18 birds). Other causes include powerline collisions (3); gunshot (2); and, capture myopathy (1). Cranes in the EMP currently number 76; a survival rate of 60.3 percent. Excluding the mortalities caused by the unusual storm event of 2007 as being outside the scope of normal attrition gives an overall survival rate of 74.6%.)

In 2007 the first instances of alligator predation took place, probably attributable to Florida’s severe drought conditions forcing cranes to use the deeper water habitats that are home to those reptiles.

Eastern Migratory Population Mortality Record 2001 – 2007 (* - Female)



crane #

demise location

cause/probable cause


Dec 17


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Bobcat predation









Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Bobcat predation







Aug 30



Capture myopathy (euthanized)


Jul 23


Oceana County, MI





Cape Romain NWR, SC

Bobcat predation







Dec 23


Limestone County, AL








Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Bobcat predation


Mar 14


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Bobcat predation


May 02~


Jackson County, WI

Predation of injured bird


May 03


Juneau County, WI



Jul 09


Green Lake County, WI

Powerline collision


Oct 23


Necedah NWR, WI

Trauma (source unknown)







May 25


Wood County, WI



Jul 05


Monroe County, WI



Jul 21~


Necedah NWR, WI





Mason County, MI





Greene County, IN

 Powerline collision







Jan 09~


Hernando County, FL

Unknown (not predation)


Jan 20~


Lafayette County, FL

Alligator predation


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event




Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 02


Chassahowitzka NWR, FL

Storm event


Feb 09~


Citrus County, FL

Bobcat predation





Went Missing




Levy County, FL

Alligator predation


Apr 13


Davies County, IN

Bobcat predation


Apr 21~


Marion County, FL

Unknown (not predation)


Jul 04~


Juneau County, WI

Predation (possibly canid)


Jul 06~


Juneau County, WI

Predation (possibly canid)


Jul 08


Necedah NWR, WI



Aug 17


Juneau County, WI

Epicardial hemorrhage (tentative)


Aug 30~


Juneau County, WI

Necropsy pending


Sep 25


Necedah NWR, WI

Eagle predation


Oct 30


Necedah NWR, WI

Coyote predation


Oct 31


Dane County, WI

Aircraft collision


Nov 04


Grayson County, KY

Powerline collision

Date: March 4, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz & Joe



Location: Main Office

What’s up? – by Liz Condie
For those of you who have written to ask what’s up with the OM Team members….

Each year, the conclusion of our interns’ employment with OM coincides with the end of the migration. Nathan and Megan both left for home (Wisconsin) and returned to their ‘real lives’ shortly after the Class of 2007 was delivered to Chassahowitzka. This too applies to all our volunteers from top cover pilots to ground crew who also headed home for a well earned rest and to get back to their normal pursuits.

Brian Clauss who was ‘on loan’ to OM for a good portion of the migration, is back in Maryland and to his regular duties at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Pilots Richard van Heuvelen and Chris Gullikson have returned to working at their respective off-season employments; Richard doing his metal sculpting, and Chris helping his father in his saddle business.

Joe and I are back in the office of course, still buried under the accumulation of things that have to get put aside while we’re on the road, not to mention the mandatory year end reports and preparation of everything from budgets to plans to schedules for the coming year.

Brooke Pennypacker would normally have the time between migration’s end and the new hatch season off, returning to duty for chick rearing time at Patuxent around the beginning of April. But this year we had promised his help, along with Bev Paulan’s, to the Winter Monitoring Team to assist them with their duties at the Chass pen site. Because the members of the Winter Monitoring Team are also the same people on the Tracking Team, we hoped that offering additional staff would take some of the pressure off them. On Brook’s return to Florida to take up his duties however, ICF advised us they were fully staffed and that neither he nor Bev were needed. So, change of plan.

Change of Plan – by Joe Duff
Operation Migration’s responsibility for the welfare of the birds ends each year after the post-migration health checks. We train them all summer and lead them south but once we arrive at the wintering site, we pass the baton to the Winter Monitoring Team - with understandable mixed emotions. The International Crane Foundation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are once again responsible for the well-being of the birds while they are Chass.

In the past, one of OM’s crew members spent the winter assisting that team. The benefits were twofold. The Monitoring Team had the advantage of a handler who had known the birds since they were hatched, and who knew their behaviour, personalities, and what to expect.

The other gain was that we had someone reporting to us regularly and providing updates and photos we could post for you. Many of our Craniacs follow our website every day and find it difficult to end their interest with the end of migration. Some, including us, have trouble going cold turkey if you’ll excuse the avian pun.

The decision not to use Brooke and Beverly’s assistance left them at loose ends for the rest of the winter, so we moved our investigation of a new, more westerly migration route from the planning stage into action.

Bev flew her Cessna 182 from Illinois to Florida and after checking topographical maps, aviation charts, and Google Earth they took off to find a way around the western tip of the Appalachian Mountains. They flew north along the Big Bend region as far as St Marks just south of Tallahassee.

Next year our plan is to split the flock, with half wintering at Chass and half at St Marks. This will allow the site to be tested without endangering all the birds. North of Tallahassee the landscape becomes a mix of forest and agricultural land. There are lots of places to hold the birds and spaces to land if we have problems. We expect we will stage the birds at a site Bev and Brooke found north of Tallahassee, likely setting up both of our travel pens and dividing the flock there. Then we will lead half south to St Marks and return the aircraft to the staging area.

It appears that the coast line between the two sites is heavily forested and marshy. Not the kind of territory we like to fly over so we’ll likely go inland, leading the second group east, to our stopover in Gilchrist County Florida, before continuing along our old route to Halpata and on to Chass.

From Bev and Brooke’s research so far it appears that by keeping north of Montgomery, Alabama and south of Birmingham, we should be able to stay over relatively flat and open country, missing any high peaks like we encounter in Tennessee and Kentucky.

All of this is preliminary. We have to work with state wildlife officials to help us identify stopover hosts. The WCEP Health Team will check to see if there are any known disease hot-spots or other concerns and the Communications and Outreach Team will have to contact local media and school boards along the way.

Finding a new route is a big job and we are grateful to the supporter who gave us the funding to make it possible. Bev and Brooke will continue to work on identifying the primary route, and then begin to fill the blanks in the middle. So far it looks promising.

Date: March 2, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

Our thanks to Ric Zarwell of the Friends of Upper Mississippi River Refuges for reminding us it was time to jog everyone’s memory regarding ‘Duck Stamps’.

Since the 1930s, the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or “Duck Stamp,” has been a crucial tool for wetland habitat conservation. 98 cents out of every dollar generated by stamp sales go directly to the acquisition or lease of new wetland and grassland habitat from a prioritized list of landscapes seriously in need of conservation. These purchases or leases through the National Wildlife Refuge System make this one of the most successful conservation initiatives ever, and a highly effective way to conserve America’s disappearing wildlife habitat.

Not all birders and other nature enthusiasts know that this stamp exists; many think it’s 'just for ducks'. Not true. The stamp has provided some of the finest habitat for birds and other wildlife found anywhere. For instance, stamp sales monies have paid for:

94.9% of Santa Ana NWR in TX

99.2% of Parker River NWR in MA

99% of Quivira NWR in KS

99.4% of Bosque del Apache NWR in NM

98.7% of Horicon NWR in WI

99.2% of Pea Island NWR in NC

- and the list goes on.

Since 1934, revenue from stamp sales has totaled over $700 million and has secured almost 6 million acres of high priority habitat. If you appreciate habitat protection, thank those who have purchased Duck Stamps. It's very important that the ever increasing numbers of birders and other refuge users who are not hunters, step up to the plate and also purchase stamps.

Bonus - a $15 Duck Stamp gives you free entry to all National Wildlife Refuges. Proudly display the stamp YOU purchase to demonstrate you are doing your part for wetland and grassland habitat, and bird conservation.

To order a Duck Stamp by mail, write to:
Federal Duck Stamp Office
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1849 C St., NW, Suite 2058
Washington, D.C. 20204.

You are also able to buy them at most post offices, K-Marts, Walmarts, and sporting goods stores around the country. To find out the location selling the stamp nearest to you, call the Federal Duck Stamp Office at 888-534-0400. (Note - they also are offering e-stamps this year.)

Date: February 29, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham



Location: Main Office

Time and again we have been amazed at the support we receive from some of our youngest Craniacs. Schoolchildren throughout North America have demonstrated their concern for our environment, and their motivation to take action for a cause. Recently we’ve begun to learn about some of their latest endeavors.

This past June we requested that our Craniac Kids help champion our cause by sharing our story with their local communities and collecting spare change through our Change4Cranes fundraising drive. We were immediately overwhelmed with the response – nearly 4000 kits were sent out to more than 100 schools throughout Canada and the United States.

We’ve begun to see some of the results from their efforts, with a few checks and stories coming in already. Although most of the stories will be posted on the Change4Cranes participant recognition page, we’d like to share a few of them here:

Dawn Gravdahl writes that her class in St. Francis, Minnesota had an entire unit devoted to our project, and learning about the Whooping crane. When the cranes were still far off from their destination come Christmas 2007, the students put a collection container in their class to help with expenses. Four young members of the class even took it upon themselves to motivate other students, showing the true nature of Craniac.

And we received a letter from Chicago a little while back:

Ms. Harrison and Ms. Maxwell at the University of Chicago Lab Schools wrote that they were amazed at their student’s efforts, noting that “One class can really make a difference.” Using the spare change collected by the students, the teachers turned their Change4Cranes collections into math exercises.

We’re sure that as the funds raised from this campaign begin to come into the office, we will have many more success stories to post. And if you are part of a participating classroom, be sure to send in stories, photos, and any other information along with your check!

Date: February 28, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham



Location: Main Office

The 2007 Migration Videos page has been updated with several new clips taken in December of 2007. Visit the video page to see these updates. You can always navigate to the video page through our Site Map (click on the link near the top right of this page that says "Go to SITE MAP"), where you will also find links to our other content like photo journals and archives.

Date: February 26, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office

This update for the period ended February 23 was compiled from data supplied by WCEP's Winter Monitoring & Tracking Team.

With the release of the Class of 2007 at the Chassahowitzka NWR pensite, the estimated maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population at the end of this report period was 40 males and 36 females for a total of 76 individuals. * = females; DAR = Direct Autumn Release.

Citrus County:
Hernando County: W601*; 211 & 217* (Mid February the pair visited the Chass pensite where the juveniles in the Class of 2007 successfully defended their feeding station. As a result the adults left and eventually returned to Hernando County. They left Hernando Feb. 17 and their current location is unknown.)
Pasco County: 212 & 419*; 216; DAR626; DAR627
Levy County: 309* and 403
Marion County: 316 & 511; 516
Lake County: 402 * 412
Hillsborough County: 408; 415; 519*
Sumter County: 506

Colleton County:
310 & 501*; 311 & 312*

Meigs County:
105 (sometimes associating with 420*); 107*; 415 & 505; 420*; 520*; DAR527*; DAR528*; DAR533*; DARs 737; 739*; 742*; 743*; 744*; 746*
Davidson County: 401 & 508*
Obion County: 740*

Morgan County: 213 & 218*

Greene County: 102* (as of Feb. 13)

- 209* & 416 – last recorded in Carroll County, GA Feb. 2. (2 birds reported Feb. 7 in Lowndes County may have been this pair.)
- 303* & 317 last recorded in Marion County, FL Feb. 5
- 307 last recorded in northeastern GA Dec. 10
- 313* & 318 last recorded in Putnam County, FL
- 509 last recorded in Lake County, FL Jan. 11
- 512 last recorded in Paynes Prairie area, FL Dec. 29

- 201*NFT last recorded in WI June 9
- 205NFT last recorded at Necedah NWR, WI Oct. 16
- 524 NFT last recorded at Jasper-Pulaski FWA, IN Nov. 23
- 503 & 507* last recorded in Wood County, WI May 26

While for the most part, the birds have been roosting on or near the man-made oyster bar each night, they have sometimes had to be herded in to the pen by handlers at the evening pen check. Feb. 14 – 703; Feb 17 – 14 birds including 703; Feb 18 – 703; Feb 19 – 703; Feb 21 – 12 birds; Feb 23 – 14 birds. Also, 7 birds were called into the pen with a broadcast call on Feb. 22.

710 was missing when handler arrived on the morning of Feb. 13 but had returned by the evening pen check.

Attaining or forming adult voices by Feb. 25 were 714, 724, and 726.

Highest recorded tide at the center of the oyster bar was 17 inches (and rising) the evening of Feb 13. Salinity ranged from 17 – 21 parts per thousand during the past two weeks.

Although now ranking low in the social hierarchy, 703 appears fully flight capable following his earlier wing and chest injury. 735 has lack of extension of his right wing. He was held longer than normal when handlers had difficulty fitting his band at the time of the health checks on Feb. 4 and he has not flown since that time.

Feb. 15 a bobcat was observed on the path to the blind on the island north of the pen.

No unauthorized persons were observed within the restricted access area surrounding the pensite.

Date: February 22, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

James Popham



Location: Main Office

We have now updated the 2007 Migration Photo Journal with photos from Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. As we mentioned earlier these shots are all new, and show some interesting parts of efforts getting the Class of '07 to Florida. Have a look at the web page by clicking here, or clicking to it via our site map (use the GO to SITE MAP link at the top right of this page).

We've also posted some new videos featuring the Class of '07. Whether in flight or on the ground, this is your best chance to get an up close perspective of the migration crew in action. Click here to visit the 2007 Migration Videos page, or navigate to it through our Site Map.

While putting together these webpages, the office has been buzzing with activity! We’ve just had our newest Operation Migration logo'd sweatshirts delivered, and they are now available for sale. If you haven’t seen them yet, click here to check them out.

Date: February 22, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie


....and more qUESTIONS

Location: Main Office
Q. If the top-netted pen at Chassahowitzka can be dangerous to the birds when there is bad weather doesn't it also represent a danger to them when they are housed in the travel pen on migration?
A. While the birds are protected from predators in our travel pen, yes, there are still dangers in confining them. The same situation that caused the loss of the Class of 2006 could happen on the migration. Somewhat mitigating the potential for disaster however, is our proximity to our stopover pensites. In nearly every instance we have one or two handlers nearby almost 24/7. We park one of our motorhomes as close as possible to the pen while still being out of sight and sound of the birds.

When it comes to weather on the migration, it is not only early morning flight conditions we are concerned about. It is also the high winds, heavy rain, or storms we can get at anytime. In fact, while on the 2003 migration, the migration crew huddled in a motel room and listened to the take-shelter sirens warning the approach of hurricane-force winds. The lightning was so frequent we dared not walk out to the pen. We were lucky.

As a result of last year's loss, WCEP adopted a strict weather protocol that dictates if the chicks are being held in the top-netted pen, the Winter Monitoring team must release them at the first sign of an approaching severe weather system.

Should a storm hit without warning however, the Chass pensite location (5 miles offshore) can be rendered inaccessible – or conditions could be too dangerous for handlers to venture out by airboat to release the birds. To mitigate this eventuality, OM’s multi-talented Richard van Heuvelen was commissioned to construct and install a new release gate. When water in the top-netted pen reaches a designated level, the gate’s release mechanism is triggered and the gate falls away providing the birds with an escape route.

Q. Do the birds get any exercise when they are kept in the top-netted pen?
A. Yes, if they have to be confined for any length of time they are to be released regularly for exercise. While on migration, if we haven’t been able to fly for a while, our protocol is to let the birds out every third day.

Sometimes it appears as if they're 'gone for good,' but they eventually do come back and usually land at the handlers' feet. We have never lost a bird when they were released for exercise. They are accustomed to the pen, and perhaps their bond with the handlers, coupled with being fed, is sufficient attraction.

Date: February 22, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie



Location: Main Office
Some of the most frequently asked questions include:

Q. Where can I get information on exactly what goes on at Chass during the Winter for the 2007 Whoopers?
A. The best sources for what goes on (and what has gone on) at the Chassahowitzka pensite over the winter months are OM’s  past Field Journal entries. All our journals – dating right back to 2001, are archived and can be accessed via the Site Map.

Q. How often are they checked/watched? Are the birds routinely fed?
A. The Winter Monitoring Team check the birds twice a day, normally early morning and late afternoon. They count the birds, do a visual check for any apparent injuries or potential health problems, and top up their food and fresh water supply.

Q. Are they released from their pen after a certain time? If not, what about exercise?
A. Once the post-migration health checks were completed, the Class of 2007 was released from the top netted pen into their fenced 4 acre pensite from which they are free to come and go. They fly out to forage during the day, and return to roost n the protection of the pen in the evening.

Q. How much time do they spend confined?
A. Generally speaking, the chicks should only be confined to the top-netted pen if/when older birds show up and are aggressive to them. Hopefully our late arrival has negated its use for the rest of this year. In any event, by this time of year all of the wild Whooping cranes are likely now on their preferred wintering grounds and there shouldn’t be many disturbances.

Q. Who is responsible for their winter care in Florida? Do they have the expertise of the OM Team?
A. Each partner within WCEP has agreed to carry out specific roles and shoulder certain responsibilities. To give credit where credit is due, below is a chart showing which partner is responsible for the birds during each phase of the project.




Breeding/Incubation/Hatching/Rearing/Health Care at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Rearing/Imprinting/Early Conditioning
at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Operation Migration
and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Operation Migration
Summer 'Flight School'
at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge
Operation Migration
and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Operation Migration
Migration Operation Migration
and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Operation Migration
Winter Monitoring at Chassahowitzka
National Wildlife Refuge
International Crane Foundation
and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
International Crane Foundation
Tracking of Previous Years’ Birds U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
and International Crane Foundation
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Direct Autumn Release Program

International Crane Foundation
and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

International Crane Foundation and
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

We had scheduled Brooke and Beverly to help the Monitoring Team at Chassahowitzka over the winter. The International Crane Foundation advised us however that they have a full staff and don’t need our assistance. This year's Winter Monitoring team will again be led by Sara Zimorski (ICF), and is comprised of Dr. Richard Urbanek (USF&WS) and and three ICF/USF&WS interns. These same individuals, led by Dr. Urbanek, comprise the Tracking Team that records the movements of all WCEP birds. Being responsible for all the birds that are now in the Eastern Migratory Population is a big task and we wish them well.

Q. When will the Class of 2007 leave on their return migration?
A. Basically we have no way of knowing, but f past years are any indication, likely around the end of March. In 2005 and 2004 the departures started March 28 and 30th respectively. One day the handlers will go out to the pensite to check on them and some or all will be gone.

Date: February 18, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie


A picture’s worth a 1,000 words

Location: Main Office

As mentioned last week, we are working on two new web pages to share photos and videos from the 2007 migration with you. Despite being plagued by poor weather throughout the migration, OM pilots and ground crew managed to snap some wonderful photos on the rare occasion of clear skies.

The 2007 Migration Photo Journal and 2007 Migration Video Journal have both been updated with new content, so take a minute and check then out. You can always find these links by visiting our site map (click “GO to SITE MAP” on the top right of this page), and navigating to the Photo and Video sections.

Date: February 15, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie


This last migration was one for the record books - in more ways than one. And in more ways than one we we are still reeling from it. For us here in the office, I think we are agreed that the 'aftershocks are worse than the earthquake' as we struggle mightily to dig ourselves out from under piles of work that had to continually be pushed aside.

One of the things that we fell behind on was providing you with photos and videos. A situation we are trying to rectify as quickly as we can.

As you already know, old man weather wasn't very kind to us on our recent journey. As a result, not only did we spend considerably more time on the ground than we would have liked, we had fewer opportunities for photos from the air. More often than not the pilots had their hands too full just flying let alone trying to grab a camera to snap some pictures.

We didn't fair much better taking photographs on the ground. Mist, rain, fog, snow - you name it we had it all. Despite the team's best efforts, we ended up with an abundance of shots of unidentifiable shapes shrouded in grey, or vague silhouettes distorted by a rain streaked lens.

BUT - we do have some photos to share. We have started to post them to the 2007 Migration Photo Journal and will continue to add to the collection, hopefully a few each day. Slowly but surely we'll post more migration video clips too.

You can always find the links to the 2007 Migration Photo Journal and the Class of 2007's Migration Videos on our Site Map - which you can get to by clicking on "Go to SITE MAP" that always appears at the top right of this page.

Date: February 15, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: How do you like these apples peaches? Location: Main Office
We are delighted to inform readers that Senate Resolution 864, a bill sponsored by Georgia Senators Meyer von Bremen and Joseph Carter has been adopted. This recognition and honor comes to OM thanks to the initiative of the Richter family of Leesburg, Georgia, and the much appreciated efforts of Senators von Bremen and Carter.

Senate Resolution 864
By: Senators Meyer von Bremen of the 12th and Carter of the 13th
Commending Operation Migration and recognizing the month of November as "Traditional Migration Month" at the capitol; and for other purposes.
WHEREAS, Operation Migration was founded in 1994 as a nonprofit charitable organization; and

WHEREAS, this program uses ultralight aircraft to teach birds new migratory routes; and

WHEREAS, the whooping crane is the most famous endangered bird in North America; and

WHEREAS, whooping cranes learn their migration route by following their parents, but this knowledge is lost when the species is reduced and there are no longer any wild birds using the flyway; and

WHEREAS, in its first five years, Operation Migration taught approximately 60 whooping cranes a new migration route using ultralight aircraft to teach the birds; and

WHEREAS, these efforts have been so successful that the ultralight led birds of previous years now come through Georgia on their own, now wild, migration each year in October and November.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA that Operation Migration is commended for its efforts to save endangered birds and this body recognizes the month of November as "Traditional Migration Month" at the capitol.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Secretary of the Senate is authorized and directed to transmit an appropriate copy of this resolution to the Board of Operation Migration.

Date: February 14, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Bev Paulan

Subject: And WE Thought Migration Was Difficult...... Location: Wisconsin
Just when you think migration and weather woes are over, the difficulties rear their ugly head once again. This time, Brooke caught the bulk of it, with some trickle over to me.

One of the motor homes we use on migration is very graciously donated for our use by a wonderful woman in Sauk County, Wisconsin. After migration, this motor home has to be returned, and since that means driving it all the way back to Wisconsin, we hook on one of the birds’ travel pen trailers and tow that up too.

Brooke had left his car in a nice dry, warm barn at my brother's, so it made sense for him to drive the motorhome up and retrieve his car. Sounds simple, right? Au contraire, mon frere.

As you all no doubt know, Mother Nature wreaked havoc last week on Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, etc, with a very deadly outbreak of tornadoes. While the winds were swirling, a blizzard hit northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin on the same day. Guess what route Brooke had to drive? You guessed right.

He left Homosassa, Florida on last Wednesday morning and got as far as Jennings – just short of the Georgia state line. Remember that spot? Didn't we get stuck there already once this year? The winds were howling and severe weather was rushing in from the west through Alabama and the panhandle of Florida, so it seemed that the most prudent choice was to pull over and sit it out.

After calling me for a weather consultation (I have computer access), Brooke planned on waiting until the worst of it passed and then continue. Timing was off just slightly though, and he got a little wet (a drenched is a better choice of words), but at least the winds had died down. He continued on and drove until late night when he pulled over at a rest stop for some much needed rest.

The next day he drove through tornado ravaged Tennessee, rain soaked Kentucky, flooded Indiana, caught a break through central Illinois and then finally hit the snow belt. When I talked to him, he claimed, “It’s nothing." Then I got the story of how, growing up in New Jersey he had to walk miles and miles to and from school, up hill both ways, in raging blizzards, all barefoot and with no jacket. Well, you know Brooke and his stories.

Anyhow, I kept checking the Wisconsin DOT website for road conditions and the roads were improving. The plan was for me to meet him at Necedah that night to help him put away the trailer, etc. About 8:30 pm, I got a call that he was fueling up in Madison and I should meet him in about an hour and a half.

Ten minutes later I got a call telling me to belay that request. Seems the motor home had a little mechanical difficulty and he had to pull over for the night. After much discussion, we decided I would go to Necedah early in the morning instead, get the tracking van, meet up with him, hook up the travel pen trailer and haul it back to Necedah while the motorhome was getting worked on. We would then drive back down, return the motorhome, pick up his ar, and then go to my house so he could ‘stage up’ for his return trip after a rest over the weekend.

Sounds simple, right? Ha!

It took me two hours to dig out the hangar door at Necedah just enough for me to get the van out. That done, I found Brooke parked in a McDonald's parking lot and we proceeded to find a place that could repair the motorhome. (Huge thanks to the guys at Park's Auto Repair in DeForrest.) We hooked up the away pen travel trailer to the van and towed it back up to Necedah where it took over an hour to get the hangar door closed again. Then back we went down to DeForrest to get the motorhome (it was now 5:30 pm) so we could return it to its rightful owner.

After an approximate hour long drive, we arrived at our benefactor’s residence and I zipped down the driveway in my car, with Brooke following in the motor home. What a mistake that was. Even though I zipped down, I couldn't zip back up due to snow covered ice. I never knew wheels could continue spinning even though a car was parked!

We found a garbage can full of ashes, and while Brooke drove (or something resembling that), I shoveled ashes under the tires and up the driveway. He got enough traction that he made it up the driveway, that is, until the last 15 feet. My car just couldn't do it. We tried for another hour, and finally broke down and called for a tow truck.

Now let me paint you a picture. We are in the middle of very rural Wisconsin, its very cold, very dark, I'm standing in the middle of the road trying to get a cell phone signal - and the coyotes start howling. It was at this moment that I saw the ridiculousness of the situation and Brooke and I started laughing.

We were still laughing an hour later when the tow truck showed up. We continued laughing after the driver asked, "What? You couldn't make it the last 15 feet?" He winched us out at around 9:30 pm and we were finally on our way. (If you're keeping score that’s after six hours of dealing with ice and snow.)

The next morning we finally made it to pick up Brooke's car and made the three hour drive down to my house. All the while a bug had been working on Brooke and he didn't quite make it the whole way before it hit him with a vengeance. Luckily, I have wonderful neighbors who plowed the plus foot of snow out of my driveway so we could get in.

As soon as we were inside Brooke headed to bed while I set about making the house livable. I needed to turn on the water. I flipped the pump on and got nothing. So I got out the heater to thaw the pump and two hours later it decided to start working. But still no water. After crawling around tracing water pipes I found the culprit. Even though I had drained the pipes (or so I thought) the main line into the house had broken.

So, here we are, at my house for the weekend, and absolutely no water. Did I mention the temperature was rapidly falling to an eventual low of -12 with wind-chills of -35? Makes outside usage a little rough. Thank goodness for the local gas station a mile away!

Okay, so I head back to my mom's - her leg cast came off yesterday - and Brooke heads out Monday morning. I got another call asking for a weather consultation (watch out Chris, I'm getting good at this). It seems that Brooke was in the middle of a raging snow storm, and in Louisville of all places.

I took one look at the radar and told him to sit still. Because he's a man, he actually drove a little further, but after seeing a dozen cars slide off into the ditch, he decided to heed my advice. He struck it lucky and got one of the last motel rooms in the area, and called it quits for the day.

When he arose this morning he discovered his car was encased in a block of ice, the parking lot was now hosting the local peewee hockey team, and the interstate was closed. When he called, it seemed I detected a funny note in his voice that closely resembled the mutterings of an insane man. I could almost see the twitching and the drooling.

The last I talked to him he had finally made it on the road, although it was, as he described, a deluge. I wonder if he will ever make it back to Florida? It seems that the weather gremlins that haunted us all during migration, just won't disappear.

Date: February 12, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Chris Gullikson

Subject: More coming from OM's Pilots... Location: Florida

I would like to apologize for the lack of pilot updates leading up to the end of the migration. The four of us take turns landing at the pen and taking off with the birds and usually the lead pilot has the more interesting story - which has led to the tradition of the lead pilot writing the days' flight report for the Field Journal.

Once we got into Florida it started to get quite hectic, as due to low ceilings and had a few lost birds to locate, we landed short of our planned stop. We also had to install the flood gate at the
Chassahowitzka pensite, deal with 703 who had banged himself up and needed extra attention, the arrival event, presentations, WCEP meetings, aircraft to break down, health checks, etc, etc. (Note: Click the link here to watch a video demonstration of how the release gate works.

Needless to say we were all very busy and neglected our duties of keeping you updated on some of the more interesting details of the end of the migration. Hopefully in the next week or so we can fill you in on the last 4 flights which ranged from spectacularly beautiful to downright scary.

For the past week I have remained in Florida working with my father in his custom saddle business. Besides work, we were able to do a little fishing and enjoy the beautiful weather down here while I thought of my friends and family back home in Wisconsin who have been enduring a very harsh winter.

Sunday I was returning from one of our client's stables in northern FL and I noticed that my return trip could coincide with a visit to Chassahowitzka. I gave Sara Zimorski from the International Crane Foundation a call to ask if a visit to the pensite would work into her plans. As luck turns out, she was already out at the pen and was willing to pick me up at the dock.

A ride out to Chass in an airboat is always a memorable experience. The tide was out and Sara finessed the boat around exposed mud flats and exposed oyster beds, navigating through a maze of islands that would make most of us hopelessly lost.

The walk to the blind from the boat dock is equally impressive. Years of wind and tides have bleached the fallen trees and branches into fantastic skeletal shapes that resemble a scene out of an aliens movie. As we approached in silence, we could hear the adolescent cranes alarm calling, a mix of shrill whistles and honks depending on their stage of changing voices.

Once we got up into the blind we could see that several birds were doing an ocular stare upwards, and as I looked out the back of the blind and above, I could see an eagle soaring above the pen. Although not a huge threat to an adult Whooping Crane, Golden eagles have been know to take very large prey such as cranes, and the 17 juveniles knew that they had a predator overhead. Soon enough the eagle departed and the cranes were back to business foraging around the large 4 acre pen, preening, and just doing what wild cranes do.

Number 703 looks great and has been together with the other birds for several days. His wounds are healing nicely, and he looks absolutely normal except for being a bit skittish around some of the other birds. He should soon have his dominance re-established in the flock, or at least moved up a few notches in the pecking order.

It was such a pleasure for me to finally see these birds out of their travel pen and to be in an open environment where they can truly enjoy themselves, especially after such a long migration.

It was time to go. I silently said goodbye to my winged comrades and wished them a safe return to their home in Necedah.

Thanks to all of you who have turned this very trying year into another success. The list is way too long to mention names, and I would likely miss a lot of people who have contributed in some way or another. There are many, many stories to tell of generosity and support along the way and I wish I could recall and recount all of them.

Most of all thanks to these wonderful birds, who for some reason follow behind us and our noisy aircraft and allow us to give them a second chance.

Date: February 12, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie


With the February 5th release of the 17 birds in the ultralight-led Class of 2007 on the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, the Tracking Team's current estimated maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population was 76 individuals; 40 males and 36 females.

202*, who has been missing since last recorded in March 2007 when she and mate 101 crossed into Georgia on their spring migration north, has long been suspected dead. 202 is not, and will no longer be included in the total population number.

Distribution as of February 9th was:
Florida 41; Georgia 2; South Carolina 4; Tennessee 18 (see note); Alabama 2; Indiana 1; and 8 unknown.

Note: In response to your many previous questions, the large number of birds in Tennessee is due to the presence of DAR birds. With the exception of two, (627 and 628), all DARs,( including the seven (of ten) surviving 2007 DAR birds that had to be relocated from Illinois to Hiwassee) remain in or near Meigs County.

Date: February 8, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Joe Duff


On his aerial census of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas conducted February 6 and 7, Whooping Crane Coordinator, Tom Stehn, located 259 cranes. His estimate of the size of the Wood Buffalo-Aransas population remains however, at 266 – a record number – consisting of approximately144 adults, 83 sub-adults, and 39 juveniles.

Conducted in a Cessna 210 piloted by Gary Ritchey of Air Logistic Solutions of San Antonio, Texas, the survey, carried out over two afternoons, was conducted by observers Tom Stehn and Darrin Welchert. Tom reported that census conditions were ideal both days, with full sunshine and moderate winds.

"I estimate that all the Whooping cranes are at Aransas except for 1 juvenile that was lasted sighted at Muleshoe NWR November 27-28, and is presumably wintering with Sandhills someplace in West Texas," said Stehn.

In his report, Tom noted that the Dewberry Island pair was overlooked on the flight, as were possibly 2 other pairs on Matagorda Island. He said the large number of cranes on the Matagorda Island burn made it impossible to know if any had been overlooked on their Matagorda marsh territories, or whether the cranes were using the burn.

Tom told us, "There is no evidence of any Whooping crane mortality having occurred this winter. However, the tour boat captains have reported seeing the Lobstick male showing an unwillingness to fly, although he is able to make short flights. This crane, banded as a juvenile in 1978, is approaching 30 years of age and is the oldest known-aged bird in the flock. The old-timer is alert and eating well, so folks are continuing to observe it daily."

He said, "Crane locations noted during the census indicated somewhat of a shift in habitat use. A notable 41 whooping cranes were on prescribed burns; 14 in open bay habitat, a significant increase from the 2 seen in the bays last month." No cranes were found at fresh water sources except for one juvenile seen taking a bath in a pond that was deeper and presumably of lower salinity than the adjacent salt marsh. One family group was quite close to the observation tower providing good views for refuge visitors.

Of special interest in the report were Tom's comments regarding Cedar Bayou. "Photos were taken of Cedar Bayou which has now become silted completely shut. It apparently became closed about the last week in January. With Cedar Bayou now closed, it is even more important to continue pursuing getting the bayou dredged since it is an important passage for fish and crabs to complete their life cycle between the Gulf and the bay to raise bay productivity."

Date: February 7, 2008 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject: NEW WINTERING SITE Location: Main Office

It’s been over a year since the devastating loss of an entire Class of Whooping cranes. Another generation has been raised, trained to follow our aircraft, and led 1260 miles to Florida.

During that same year the Project Direction Team of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership has also been busy. The circumstances surrounding the loss were investigated, meteorologists and lightning experts were consulted, an extensive search for a new site was launched, and many changes to the facilities and protocols were proposed.

Most of all, we had many, many meetings. We toured wintering sites, and spent hour upon hour on conference calls. We labored over maps, weather forecasts, development and population growth projections, and tidal charts. New standards for weather monitoring were set and an automatic gate was built that, if all else fails, will release the birds.

Most of our attention was focused on making the Chassahowitzka pen site safer, and exploring the possibility of using St Marks National Wildlife Refuge which is just south of Tallahassee on the coast of the Florida Panhandle. Neither Chass or St. Marks offer perfect crane habitat. The only example we have of a Whooping cranes preferred habitat is the coastline used by the natural flock that winters on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. That kind of salt marsh does not exist in Florida.

Chassahowitzka has too much needle rush; a tall reed that is so thick the birds can’t get through it. The tidal creeks have steep banks, and water level fluctuations that often force the birds to move in the middle of the night. The only real habitat is around the pen site. St Marks has large expanses of hard packed sand with tidal pools and lower vegetation. It may not be an ideal roosting environment, and when the tide is low, it presents easy access to predators.

Each site has pros and cons that can be argued both ways. But mathematics won out. The logical way to mitigate a loss of all the birds is to divide the flock. This way, one catastrophic event can only impact one half. Splitting the flock is also a safe way to test a new site.

In 2008, as in the past, OM will lead all the birds in one flock from Wisconsin to Florida. We will identify a final stopover site a few miles out for the whole group, and then lead half of the flock to a new pen in the salt marsh at St Marks. Then we will lead the rest of the birds to the existing site at Chassahowitzka.

Between now and then the management and staff at St Marks and WCEP will seek the approval of area interest groups, local hunters and fishermen who use the area, and State agencies. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done before the start of the migration this year.

We have been lucky to be partnered with Chassahowitzka over the years. The staff, management, and Friends Group have contributed to the success of this project. We know working with St Marks will increase our outreach and education opportunities and add another enthusiastic partner in our effort to safeguard Whooping cranes. We are excited about the future.

Date: February 7, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

After months of research, investigation, analysis, and much discussion, the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership’s Project Direction Team has come to a decision with regard to the future wintering site of the young Whooping cranes led south by OM’s ultralight aircraft.

Next fall, while the entire Class of 2008 would, as usual, be led south in one ‘flock’, Operation Migration’s pilots would deliver one group to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and a second group to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, located on coast of Florida's Panhandle. The decision to split the flock is in response to the loss of the Class of 2007 as a result of the severe storm which hit Florida last February, and is an effort to mitigate the impact of such an event in the future.

Before this can happen however, there are approvals that must be sought; permitting requirements to be met; stakeholder input to be assessed; a new pensite created; the pen currently at Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve moved; and, these are just the principle matters to be resolved and accomplished.

After studying potential alternative winter sites, St. Marks NWR was identified as a suitable wintering/release site, but WCEP will continue to investigate additional suitable sites for future years. While Chassahowitzka and St. Mark’s refuges have different habitat characteristics, each meets many of the priority objectives for winter management of the young cranes.

Wintering the young cranes at two separate sites in Florida will require greater effort and some initial additional expense, but in the long run, splitting the flock will help to protect the outlay of dollars and hope the partnership and the public invests in these magnificent birds.

Obviously there are many operational and logistic factors that still need to be considered and addressed, and over the coming months, these will be the focus of the WCEP member organizations involved, OM among them.

Date: February 7, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: New Quilt Raffle! Location: Main Office

Designed, hand-crafted, and donated to OM by Craniac Janet Doudna of Ocala, FL, we have a beautiful quilt measuring approximately 84" x 100" to raffle.

Featuring a 'starry sampler' pattern, the colors incorporated are navy, beige, and a wine-rose. The outside border pattern consists of oriental cranes, while the reverse side is in a complementary color to the inside border, and has a grain/leaf motif. Click Jan’s Quilt to see all the details, photos, and a link to buy your raffle ticket.

Date: February 7, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: PHOTOS, VIDEO CLIPS AND MORE Location: Main Office
Stay tuned to our Field Journal as we catch up with posting pictures and videos from the migration. We also have a video clip to share with you of the workings of the new pen gate WCEP commissioned OM's Richard van Heuvelen to construct.

Processing and formatting photos and videos is slow going, and of course has to be fitted in between other necessary work, but we hope to make the first batch available to you within the next day or two.

And in the very near future, look for photos of the now juveniles wintering at Chass and updates on how they are faring. OM's Bev Paulan and Brooke Pennypacker (after a very short break), will be on site as members of the Wintering Monitoring team led by Sara Zimorski (ICF) and Dr. Richard Urbanek (US F&WS).

Also watch here for news on -
- WCEP's decision regarding the wintering site in future;
- our progress as we work to lay out a new migration route
- projections of egg production from the managers of the captive flocks;
- new programs for the coming year; and more, and more, and more.

Date: February 6, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: 401 - 508* UPDATE Location: Main Office

Despite many inquiries about how 401 and 508* have been faring in Tennessee we have been reluctant to post an update in case it spurred more of a stampede to view them. Thankfully it appears they have moved off somewhat, distancing themselves from observers who place more value on their personal viewing experience than the birds’ welfare.

401 and 508 retreat. Disregarding protection protocols.

In addition to several 'Private Property - No Trespassing’ signs posted at the Whooping cranes’ location, (which from the photo to the right you can see some people appear to ignore) a notice (pictured below) has also been put up. Hopefully it will discourage visitors from disturbing the birds. We continue to be concerned for them as one local resident told us with the number of sightseers, "The Whoopers could replace Opryland as Nashville's primary tourist destination."


Should you encounter Whooping cranes in the wild kindly honor their
Protection Protocols.

Please do not be the undoing of untold months and years of work to ensure their wildness to safeguard their survival. Be aware that startling and flushing birds has had fatal consequences in the past.

- Do not seek out Whooping cranes.

- Should you accidentally encounter Whooping cranes do not approach closer than 800 feet on foot (approx two football fields) and always remain totally concealed.

- If you are in a vehicle, remain inside and keep your vehicle well outside 800 feet.

- Do not speak so loudly that the birds can hear you.

- Please do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view/photograph Whooping cranes.

Date: February 5, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MORE ON THE HEALTH CHECKS Location: Main Office

Not long after we posted Joe's update below regarding the recent health checks on the Class of 2007, we received a recap from Dr. Scott Terrell, Veterinary Pathologist and Operations Manager, Walt Disney World Animal Programs. Scott sent us a brief update on the post-migration health checks from the perspective of the Disney veterinary team. Scott also sent the photos posted below.

"We partnered with the crane team on Sunday and Monday (February 3rd and 4th) to complete this year’s health checks. Sunday dawned foggy and cool as we headed out on the airboats to the Class of 2007’s wintering site on the Chassahowitzka refuge.

The health checks went flawlessly, thanks to the expertise of the crane biologists. All 12 birds we examined on Sunday seemed in good shape, and we managed to collect all of our samples needed for medical processing.

Monday was clearer and warmer but with lower humidity (and fewer bugs). We only had 5 birds left to examine so things went quickly. We did some field medical care on a bird with minor injuries (703) and completed the health checks on the remainder of the birds. All of the preliminary results look good so far.

Once again, the Disney Animal Programs veterinary team wants to thank Operation Migration and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership for allowing us the chance to work with these amazing birds. It is truly is an honor to play even a tiny role in the species’ recovery."

Top Right: Dr. Don Neiffer examines one of the Class of 2007. The bird is hooded to enable the crew and vets to handle them without being encumbered with headgear.

Bottom Left: Shows the temporary enclosure set up to screen the rest of the birds from human activity. The pensite is off in the distance.

Bottom Right: Marianne Wellington, (ICF) member of the Wintering Monitoring team holds a hooded crane preparatory to it being examined by the vet team. All of this is done with sign language and gestures but no talking.

Date: February 5, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject: CLASS OF 2007 HEALTH CHECKS Location: Main Office

The permits that allow this project to take place require that all the birds we release be permanently marked so they can always be identified. Since the pre-migration health check, they have worn a metal US Fish and Wildlife, Bird Banding Office band just above the foot, and a temporary color band above the hock. On the other leg they wear a snap on tracking transmitter. These can both be fitted without much stress to the birds.

Gluing on the permanent bands and tracking devices means they have to be restrained longer, and that usually results in a few sore and disgruntled birds. The only thing that allows this migration to succeed is the tentative attraction the birds have to us and our aircraft. Fitting permanent bands is such an ordeal, it tests their loyalty to us. That is the reason we postpone the procedure until the migration is over and they no longer have to be attracted to us. In fact, a little disinterest is a good thing once they are released.

The post migration health checks and fitting of the permanent bands and radios took place on Sunday and Monday. It is an involved process that requires the assistance of the Disney Animal Kingdom veterinary team and several experienced WCEP staff members.

A visual barrier is set up to hide all the activity, and one by one the birds are collected from the top netted pen and carried to the examination area. To make it easier for the vets and banding team, the birds are hooded so they can't see the people. They undergo a very efficient examination, and once the bands are in place, they are returned to the netted pen.

It went very smoothly and the birds seem to be recovering well. If no signs of stress or injury are seen they will be let out tomorrow into the release pen. This is a four acre enclosure that is protected by an electric fence but is not top-netted. The birds will soon learn that they can fly out and explore the marsh. They slowly learn to probe in the mud and find natural food. At night we hope they will return to the pen because of the food we provide, and because the costumed handlers show up to check on them. At least that is how it is supposed to work. Often some of our older birds show up to cause problems but so far this year that hasn’t happened.

Number 703 had been kept alone in the pen at Halpata to recover from his injuries and to separate him from the others. (photo shows abrasions on one wing) Although once the most dominant bird in the flock, he lost that status and was picked on so severely that we were afraid of losing him. He was moved to the Chass pen site on Saturday. The team crated him, moved him in the van to Crystal River, transferred him to an airboat, and placed him in a separate pen. Eventually he will be released with the rest of the birds.

We hope that once he has recovered physically he will regain some of his natural aggression and again find a place in the flock. There should be enough space in the release pen for him to avoid the most insistent antagonists, but he will be watched closely by the winter monitoring team.

Date: February 2, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie


This update for the period ended January 26 was compiled from data supplied by the WCEP Tracking Team consisting of: Dr. Richard Urbanek (USF&WS), Sara Zimorski (ICF), and Interns Anna Fasoli, Eva Szyszkoski, Colleen Wisinski.

Estimated maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population at the end of this report period was 31 males and 28 females for a total of 59 individuals. * = females; DAR = Direct Autumn Release.

Florida - 23
Citrus County – 101
Pasco County - 212 & 419*, 216, DAR627 and DAR628
Hernando County - 211 & 217* and W601* (First Family),
Madison County - 309* & 403
Putnam County - 313* & 318
Marion County - 316 & 511, 516
Lake County - 402 & 412
Hillsborough County - 408, 514 and 519
Sumter County – 506
Lake County – 509

Indiana - 2
Green County - 102*
Marion County - 303* & 317

Tennessee - 18
Meigs County - 105 Meigs County (recently associating with 420*), 107, 415* & 505, 420*, 520*, DAR527*, DAR 528*, DAR533*, DAR737, DAR739* DAR742*, DAR743*, DAR744*, DAR746*
Davidson County - 401 & 508*
Obion County - DAR740*

Georgia - 2
Carroll County - 209* & 416

Alabama - 2
Morgan County - 312 & 218*

South Carolina - 4
Colleton County - 310 & 501*, 311& 312*

Recent Unknown - 3
307 last reported GA Dec. 10
524NFT last reported IN Nov. 23
512 last reported FL Dec. 29

Long Term Unknown - 5
201* NFT since Jul. 6/07
202* since Mar. 13/07
205NFT since Oct. 16
503 since May 26/07
507* since May 26/07

Should you encounter Whooping cranes in the wild kindly honor their Protection Protocols. Please do not be the undoing of untold months and years of work to ensure their wildness to safeguard their survival. Be aware that startling and flushing birds has had fatal consequences in the past.

- Do not approach birds on foot within 800 feet (stay approx two football fields away).
- Always remain totally concealed.
- If you are in a vehicle, remain inside and keep your vehicle well outside 800 feet.
- Do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you.
- Please do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view/photograph Whooping cranes.

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