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

Give A Whoop

Date:October 8, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATELocation: Necedah, WI

With the recent mortality of 819, the maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population is 77. In the notes below:
* = female; D = Direct Autumn Release bird.

One of the chicks in the 2009 Direct Autumn Release cohort, D939, has had leg issues since mid August. When ICF’s Marianne Wellington took the bird to Dr. Barry Hartup, his examination didn’t reveal any specific injury. Subsequently the chick seemed to be improving as a result of anti-inflammatory treatment.

In September, Marianne reported the bird stumbled and may have fallen quite awkwardly, so D939 was again examined by Dr. Hartup. X-rays did not show any fracture or significant muscular displacement but Barry did drain fluid around the left knee, and suspected that a portion of the quadriceps muscle was ruptured. Dr. Hartup said, “Perhaps the previous vague issues and recent falls were related, as the bird finally ruptured the involved muscle.”

With the consensus being that the muscle tear left D939 not releasable, it was transferred to the Milwaukee Zoo on October 1. Reports indicate that the other nine DAR birds housed at Site 3 on the Necedah refuge are all doing well.

Eastern Migratory Population News In Brief…
Trackers noted that during the last reporting period, pair 105 and 501* had separated as had 316 and D742*. Subsequently, 316 was observed in a courtship display with 501* and so far they remain together. D742* has taken up with D627.

707 and D739* have been reported in Waseca County, MN, and 727 in a Sandhill staging area in Indiana. 733 is staging with Sandhills in Clark County, WI. The wayward D527* was observed on the refuge with 412. She had last been observed on the refuge on June 9, also with 412.

Other Unpaired adults and sub-adults in the core included:
101, 412, 416, 506 - last observed Sept 1
509, 511 - last recorded May 11
514, 520* - last reported in Jackson County June 16
524, D628 - last detected June 23
713 - last detected in Wood County Sept 17
724 - last detected June 26
706, 712 last detected May 6

Other Unpaired adults and sub-adults outside the core included:
107* - in Dodge/Fond du Lac Counties
D528* - in Marathon County
703 – may have been the Whooping crane reported in Lac Qui Parle County, MN Sept 28
727* - was reported in Lagrange/Steuben Counties, IN Oct 3. She had last been reported in Marshall County, IN Sept 2.
D737 - last reported in Jackson County, MI June 14.
D533* - may have been the Whooping crane reported in Van Buren County, MI Aug 18

Class of 2008 (all in WI on last observation/detection)
804, 805, 812, 814, 818*, 824*, 827, 828, 830* - Dodge County
813* - Lincoln County
829 – NNWR before moving to unknown location
D831, D836, D838* - Columbia County

Long-Term Missing
Neither 516 nor D744* have been found in 2009. Both usually summered in MI.

WCEP’s Tracking Team consists of Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Jess Thompson.

Date: October 8, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Gerald Murphy
Subject:GETTING THERELocation: Pensacola, FL
It's that time of year again and Whooping Crane weather has arrived.

Some of the migration crew have been at the Necedah Wildlife Refuge all summer training birds and doing a thousand other things to get ready for migration. Some of us (mostly us volunteers but other 'regular' workers as well) are about to head out or have already headed out. I'm leaving (today)--on a jet plane--must be a song in there somewhere).

I get on my jet plane in Pensacola, FL this morning and will arrive in Atlanta, GA just after noon. John Cooper, another volunteer like myself, will meet me at the airport. From there, we will drive together to Tellico Plains, TN to Jack Wrighter's home.

Jack is the owner of "Plane-Plane" (there's a story in that name), a Cessna 172 that he donates the services of and serves as top cover pilot for the first part of migration. John and I will swap off as top cover observer/spotters.

John and I will be driving Jack's motorhome from Tellico Plains to Necedah, WI and hopefully we'll arrive safe and sound sometime late Friday. Jack and spouse Judi will fly Plane-Plane up to Necedah (alas--much quicker then we will drive up) and we will all meet up with the entire migration crew, who by that time will all be on site.

We will have been on an adventure even before migration starts, but hey - isn't that what life is all about? You never want to end life in pristine/beautiful condition. You want to end it ragged, worn out, used up, sliding in sideways and shouting,  "Whoooeeee what a ride."

Date: October 7, 2009 Reporter:Jack Wrighter
Subject:REPORTING FOR DUTYLocation: Tellico Plains, TN
Top Cover One, reporting for duty-----I think!

It is nearly time for the 2009 migration to get under way and here we sit in eastern Tennessee, waiting for weather good enough to fly my Cessna to Necedah to begin this year’s migration top cover duties. I hope this is not a sign of things to come. We planned enough extra time for weather contingencies, so I am sure we will all be on site for the migration launch.

This year’s top cover duty for the first half of the migration will be manned by John Cooper, Gerald Murphy and me. The southern boys are heading north. Gerald is from Pensacola, Florida, John is from Marietta, Georgia, and I am from Tellico Plains, Tennessee.

I have always had a vast array of experienced spotters over the years. Dave Mattingly flew with me for the first two years. Dave is a retired Delta pilot and currently president of the “Touch our Planet” organization. In addition to his valuable contribution to OM, he also is heavily involved in whale conservation, and is currently heading a group working to launch an L-1011 airborne hospital. Dave’s early flying was with Air America during the early 1970s. If you ask him what or where he flew, you might get an answer similar to the one he gave me. “Oh, we flew here and there, mostly at night, but never where we were not supposed to be”. Right. Dave has a full plate of duties now, so he won't be participating in this year’s migration.

Tom Miller came on board two years later and provided a valuable service for two years. Tom is also a retired Delta pilot with an exceptional talent for photography. Tom provided many excellent photographs from the top cover vantage point. Several were used in the field journals and there probably would have been several more had it not been for his intense concentration on his pictures and not on his camera - which resulted his dropping it out of the airplane while deplaning one afternoon. His very cool and professional response was, “Oh well, I needed a new one anyway.” Tom has another obligation this year and will be missed.

So, it looks like it will be Gerald, John, me, and 'Plane-Plane', my Cessna 172. I have flown with both John and Gerald on past migrations, and they both are very interesting persons.

John Cooper is also a retired Delta pilot, and he too has a military background. John was a navy pilot flying F-16s from aircraft carriers. It is always interesting to listen to John when returning to base after a migration leg. He always had amusing comments such as, “If you lost your engine here, you could land in that little field over there. It is almost as long as a football field." Or, “Hey, look at that train. We are in a perfect position to make a practice strafing run.” Strafing run?!?!?

Gerald Murphy is a retired air force pilot who spent most of his service career flying B-52s. He has been a valuable member of OM's ground crew for several years, but was asked to become my spotter/copilot midway through the migration last year when Tom Miller had to return home due to a family emergency. His first comment when getting into my airplane was “Hey, you only have one set of engine instruments. I’m used to eight.” He quickly became proficient in my airplane and was a valuable asset, even though he had to accept flying in an airplane with seven less engines than normal for him.

So that leaves me, a general aviation pilot who has not flown anything larger than a Beechcraft Bonanza, flying with these two highly professional jet pilots. John has about 700 zillion hours of flying time, and Gerald has about 699 zillion. Now, here they are flying with me with only a couple thousand hours time in general aviation airplanes.

Remember the story about the kid who was not the most experienced baseball player but who always got to play because he owned the baseball and bat? Same story here....I own the airplane! Not only that, but these heavy metal jet jockeys have to ride in the copilot seat and call me Captain. But it is all in jest as we focus on our duties in promoting an umbrella of security over our beloved ultralights and young Whooping cranes. Actually, we get along very well and having been brought together by our years of association with Operation Migration, we have become very good friends.

Bring on the good weather. We are ready! Necedah...here we come!

Date: October 6, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EARLYBIRD E-BULLETINLocation: Main Office

SoCologoSponsored by Southern Company, our advance EarlyBird e-bulletin of the 2009 migration season went out to all OM members and all Give a WHOOP! participants yesterday.

As of October 10, our target departure date with the Class of 2009, OM's EarlyBird e-bulletins will start arriving in members’ email boxes daily - - and will continue to arrive each morning throughout the migration. Members are the first to receive the news of the day, and be alerted to the potential of seeing the morning’s action via our CraneCam. On ‘flydays’, members also receive a second email notifying them when the Lead Pilot’s report has been posted, here, in the Field Journal.

If you are an Operation Migration Supporting, Sustaining, or Allied Member - or you gave a WHOOP! and did not receive yesterday’s advance EarlyBird e-bulletin, please contact memberservices@operationmigration.org. It is possible we don’t have your email address or the correct one.

Give a Whoop! and get on the EarlyBird e-bulletin email list. Or, if you are not already a member of OM, why not become one today? You can either use this link to sign up via PayPal, or call Chris in our office toll free at 1-800-675-2618.

Better Give a WHOOP! or sign up for a membership today....departure's just around the corner.

Date: October 5, 2009Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:MUCH TO BE DONELocation: Necedah, WI
Records are made to be broken, or so the saying goes. But as I remember it, mine only got scratched and jumped ahead a song or two. “Who’s been playing my records?” I’d query my siblings accusingly, to which they would reply, “Try dancing more smoothly and they won’t scratch so bad!

If only our recent record of almost three weeks of consecutive training days in September could just skip magically to our proposed migration departure date of October 10 as easily as the needle on my record player.

It was an incredibly lucky run, and the birds responded with some exciting and memorable flights, filling us with excited expectations of an early departure. But I’ve always been wary of good luck because it usually seems to drag some of the bad kind along behind it. And that is just what I see staring back at me as I look skyward this morning; a dark, rain-soaked blanket of grey hanging low and menacing over our happy little camp that seems to say, “Payback time!”

So here we sit, our little band of half a dozen, soon to swell to migration strength of more than twice that within the week. But there is still much preparation work to be done and so we are scuttling around in purposeful frenzy.
The scene is, in fact, an all too familiar one because we repeat it every year. Yes, we too are afflicted by the curse of procrastination which hangs on our shoulders like a pirate’s parrot, chortling devilish reprimands and incriminations at waiting until the last minute to……..! In fact, if it is true that procrastination is the thief of time, we should have called 911 long ago. But we just put it off.

There are away-pens to finish modifying to accommodate our this year’s larger flock, rolling stock to make roadworthy, and aircraft airworthy, wheel bearings to grease, propane tanks to fill, bird feed to load, and then there’s packing….. always packing. It is the constant of constants.

So constant, in fact, that this cruel master is so fond of exerting its complete dominance of will over our own that it leaves no time for even fleeting thoughts of actually unpacking. Each of the project’s unique seasonal tasks demands a re-pack to match its differing requirements, and our bags of personal gear constantly throb and convulse in a usually futile attempt to accommodate. And then some of us move from one camper into another and must re-conform our physical and emotional geometries to synch with our new “containers.”

In short, there’s much to be done. And during it all, the tension, the stress, the anxiety builds, filling each effort with a sense of increased urgency; adding to its weight. But we, each one of us, also enjoy a sense of optimism which comes from the sure knowledge that this is a dance we have performed many times before through the years. We know the steps…and know that each contains a its own small measure of satisfaction which energizes and consoles, each step building upon the last and leading to the sight of a large flock of endangered birds following a smaller flock of aircraft and vehicles on a migration to Florida…and to Recovery… an endeavor perhaps worthy of just one more skip of the needle.

Date:October 4, 2009Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:WE NEED YOUR HELP TO MAKE IT HAPPEN!Location:Main Office

What does it take to impart a migration route on a flock of young Whooping cranes? It takes 16 people; each of whom leaves family members and friends for an unknown period of time. Each will miss birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving dinners, anniversary’s, Christmas preparations, and perhaps even Christmas at home with their loved ones.

They'll wake around 5am each day, inside a cramped camper, or motorhome parked on property provided by willing stopover hosts and often forget the date, or the day of the week, and at times, even where they are.

Each has a list of duties; whether caring for our feathered charges; piloting an ultralight; driving a vehicle and hauling a large trailer, or RV; looking after outreach responsibilities, or operating the CraneCam; each member is an integral part of the team that carries out the migration.

It takes roughly 25 landowners; each willing to provide a private area of their property for the young cranes to overnight, and another area of their properties for the team to set-up camp. They don't know when, or if we'll arrive, because if we get a good tailwind, well, we have to keep going. Once we do arrive, they don't know when we'll leave. Yet they open their homes to us; allowing us to shower, do our laundry, use their electrical and water hook-ups, and some make incredible homemade dinners, for this team of 16 that misses home.

The migration covers 1285 miles in 7 states and despite the generosity of some of our migration hosts along the way, we still incur expenses. Be it fuel for the ground vehicles and the aircraft, maintenance costs to keep them in working order; food and treats for the cranes and the team; or road atlas maps so we know how to get where we're going; This ultralight-guided migration business can be costly, but we're reintroducing the most endangered bird in North America; Is it fair to this bird to put a price tag on that.

Last year, despite the fact that we travelled a good portion of the journey in areas we’d never seen before, we actually reduced our expenses by about $5000.00 Each year around the 1st of April we launch the MileMaker campaign in hopes of covering the costs of the upcoming migration. The current campaign has been running for 6 months now and 61% of the trip has yet to be sponsored.

The miles in Wisconsin have again been completely sponsored (Thank you!) but there are still 783 unsponsored miles in the remaining 6 states.  It would take a great deal of pressure off the shoulders of the 16 team members if all of the miles were sponsored by December 1st.

Here's the breakdown of available miles:
Illinois: 202 | Kentucky: 61 | Tennessee: 71 | Alabama: 258 | Georgia: 47 | Florida: 144

And just a reminder, if you are a MileMaker, you will have received a secret URL address where you can access monthly E-calendar images for your desktop – The October image is stunning so be sure to load it today, if you haven’t already! This is our way of sending a special thank-you for your commitment in helping to ensure that the fall migration will be funded.

If you haven't yet selected, or sponsored a mile (or 1/4 or 1/2 mile), or would like to learn more about the MileMaker campaign, please visit this page. Once we receive your MileMaker pledge, you too will receive a link to the Monthly E-calendars, reserved only for MileMakers!

If the donation amount for the MileMaker campaign is simply beyond your means, perhaps you'll consider helping us to celebrate logging our 10,000th air-mile while guiding Whooping cranes from Wisconsin to Florida.

To celebrate with us we invite you to Give a WHOOP! and show the world you care about wildlife, and especially Whooping cranes. Our goal is to collect 10,000 WHOOPS from around the world; one WHOOP for each of the 10,000 migration miles we’ve flown since 2001

For just $10 you can Give aWHOOP! When you do we'll list your name on this online honor roll, which when complete will be sent to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Show that YOU care about the future of this magnificent species and join our worldwide WHOOP!

When you Give a WHOOP! you will:

1. Receive OM'sEarlyBird e-bulletin.
2. Receive an invitation to join OM's online worldwide WHOOP! It Up celebration.
3. Be entered in multiple draws for a limited edition "I Give a WHOOP!t-shirt.
4. Be entered in a draw for one week accommodation at Pelicans Beach House, Fort Myers Bch, FL.
5. Be entered in a draw for a five day, all expense paid Backstage Visit with OM's Team at Necedah, WI.

We’ve made it easy for you to help us spread the word of the Give A WHOOP celebration to your friends and family. Click here to reach an online form that you can send via email to those in your contacts list.

In closing, I’d like to introduce those 16 very special people to you who in less than a week from now (weather permitting) will be hitting the road, and the skies with the Class of 2009 – At 21 birds, it's the largest group of young Whooping cranes we’ve ever led on their first southward migration.

5 pilots: Joe Duff, Richard van Heuvelen, Brook Pennypacker, Chris Gullikson and newcomer, Matt Ahrens.
6 Ground crew: Bev Paulan, Geoff Tarbox, Erin Harris, Gerald Murphy/Walt Sturgeon, and David Boyd.
2 top-cover pilots: Don and Paula Lounsbury/Jack Wrighter and John Cooper.
3 education and outreach people: Liz Condie, Linda Boyd and Heather Ray.

We'll do everything we can over the next few weeks to get the Class of '09 to their new winter home on Florida's Gulf coast but we could really use your financial help to do it...

Date:October 3, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHOOPING CRANE POPULATIONS - Overview -Part 2Location: Main Office
Tom Stehn, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, and also co-chairs the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team, along with Brian Johns of the Canadian Wildlife Service. Tom recently sent along a summary report on North America’s three populations of Whooping cranes; the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population, the Florida non-migratory population, and the Eastern Migratory population. Below is Part Two of Tom’s report. Part One appeared in the Field Journal entry for October 1st, .

WHOOPING CRANE NUMBERS IN NORTH AMERICA (Oct. 3, 2009)

wild populations

adult

young

total

adult pairs

Aransas/Wood Buffalo

247

0B

247A

72

Rocky Mountain

0

0

0

0

Florida Non-Migratory

28

1

29

8

Wisconsin/Florida Migratory

77

30

108

11

Subtotal in the Wild

352

31

384

91

A The peak population for the Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock in the 2008-09 winter was 270. However, 23 birds died during the winter, leaving 247.
B 52 chicks hatched in Canada in 2009 but only 22 fledged. They will not be added to population numbers until they arrive at Aransas in the fall.
 

captive populations

adult

young

total

breeding pairs

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD

64

4

68

13

International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, WI

31

0

31

11

Devonian Wildlife. Conservation Center, Calgary, AB

23

0

23

6

Species Survival Center, LA

11

0

11

1

Calgary Zoo, Calgary, AB

2

0

2

0

New Orleans Zoo, New Orleans, LA

2

0

2

0

San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX

7

0

7

1

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, FL

2

0

2

0

Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, FL

2

0

2

0

Jacksonville Zoo, Jacksonville, FL

2

0

2

0

Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee, WI

2

0

2

0

Subtotal in Captivity

  148

  4C

 152

 32

C The captive numbers do not reflect the 34 chicks hatched in 2009 and that are in reintroduction programs in Wisconsin.


TOTALS (Wild + Captive) 384 + 152 = 536

 

WHOOPING CRANE STATS

Height

5 feet, the tallest bird in North America

Wingspan

7 feet

Weight

Males 16 pounds; females 14 pounds

Call

A trumpeting kerloo ker-lee-oo, can be heard for miles

Flight speed

30-45 mph

Population low

15 in 1941

Reproduction

Whooping cranes mate for life, but will find a new mate if one dies

Courtship

Dances appear to keep the pair's bond strong

Nesting

Cranes normally lay 2 eggs, but usually only one chick survives

Date:October 2, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EMP LOSES 819Location: Main Office
Dr. Richard Urbanek advised late yesterday that the Eastern Migratory Population had suffered another loss. He reported that the remains of 819 had been found on September 30th, in a field south of the Necedah refuge.

The heavily scavenged remains, which were collected for forwarding to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison for necropsy, had been scattered over a distance of more than 200 feet. Richard noted that a companion Whooping crane, 829, had left the area around September 25. He believes that 819’s demise occurred sometime between that date and September 28.

Although numerous coyote tracks were seen in the vicinity, the cause of the mortality cannot be determined until the necropsy is completed.

Date:October 2, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:BATHROOM BREAKLocation: Necedah, WI
"Having to put a coat on to go to the bathroom is just wrong!”, protested a crewmember in cumulative frustration as she headed out the trailer door and into the cold morning darkness on an all too familiar journey to the Annex bathroom, a short but roundabout walk away.

No sewage hookups here at camp, so the morning 'march of shadows' to and from the bathroom constitutes our 'Rush Hour'. It occurred to me on this morning of no training due to wind and approaching rain, that our updates have reported much about the birds, their activities, their daily routines, but very little about the realities of crew/camp life, and what answering Nature’s Call, with all of its incumbent situational intricacies, offers as an illuminating glimpse into this life.

Conventional wisdom has always dictated that for a person to really understand the life of another, they must walk a mile in their shoes. But this is incredibly unfair - because that person needs his shoes!. Walking barefooted in a parking lot is no fun. Those little stones get between their toes and, “OUCH”! No! And if your feet are bigger than theirs, the shoes get all stretched out and they no longer fit him properly

It is far more enlightening to follow that person to the 'bathroom' in the morning, because it is this universal endeavor that reveals the most about one’s life, one’s economic condition, one’s culture. But I must caution here that one must never follow a woman to the bathroom, because, one, they don’t like it, and can throw things which can land with incredible accuracy, and two, because there are stiff legal penalties for stalking in some states.

Here at camp, we have access to two bathrooms in the Annex building, each containing a toilet of a different design, each with it own personality, likes and dislikes, and temperament. One is conventional, if it can be said that anything is conventional these days. Lever, chain, plunger….simple. The other is a high tech low water high pressure unit , truly Space Age, whose technological ancestor was designed by NASA and was actually aboard the Lunar Lander when it touched down on the moon in 1969.

Just prior to CraneFest a few years ago, both toilets decided the upcoming influx of new faces was more than they could handle and they went on strike. Bad timing indeed. But man is made great not by birth, but by the great challenges he or she overcomes in life. And with this in mind, we rolled up our sleeves and went on the attack.

First, Barb Claus of Patuxent rose to the occasion on the conventional side and replaced the broken chain with a piece of string - which soon chose early retirement - but was soon replaced by stronger and stronger lashings until by the end of the week the lever was joined to the plunger with a hawser thick enough to anchor a medium sized yacht and hold it into the wind in a strong sea.

There was even a wooden stick in the system somewhere presumably to increase the leverage. The system grew into such a curious assemblage of parts that every time I flushed the toilet the bathroom wall would move closer to the toilet. Then the Refuge Game Warden would suddenly appear and ask to see my fishing license.

The Space Age wonder, also in rebellion, demanded a different approach. It was a massive conglomerate of valves, O rings and plastic, the operation of which could have been a four credit college course in some engineering school. “It’s no wonder the man on the moon eats green cheese!” No manual to be had, and the words, “No guts, no glory,” whispering to me in my deaf ear, I charged ahead and soon had the entire bathroom floor covered in parts, some of which required the use of an electron microscope to find, and the hands of a surgeon to pickup.

It was at this point I was hit with the 'flashback' of the time, in a flurry of naive enthusiasm, I 'rebuilt' my first car engine as a kid. Our 'spare car' developed a cough which only I could fix, and soon the garage floor, like the floor of the bathroom, was covered in engine parts. It was then that the door opened and my father looked in to offer a reality check, “You do remember how it goes back together don’t you?” “Not a problem, Dad!”

About a month later my father and I were at the gate of the local junk yard, the spare car in tow, its back seat and trunk filled with a dozen or so oil soaked doubled up grocery bags, each packed with its special cargo of engine parts. The owner of the yard emerged, looked at the car and me ,and in an amused, knowing tone exclaimed, “Rebuilt your first car, did ya, Sonny?”

As I walked away in disgrace, when my father wasn’t looking, I turned and gave the guy the 'Hawaiian Peace Sign,' the one where you hear the late native son and tourist attraction, crooner Don Ho sing his signature song, “Tiny Bubbles” and small bubbles begin to ascend skyward from the end of your middle finger.

But that was then and this was now, and in time I had this monster back together and was ready for the test flight. With great anticipation I hit the flush lever and all was quiet. “Failure!”, I cursed. I hit the lever harder, and nothing. But as I was putting my tools away…the ones I hadn’t already thrown out the door and into the woods in frustration… a slightly audible sound began to emanate from somewhere down in the bowls of the earth, rising rapidly upward in a roar of crescendo and vibration until the birds started falling out of the trees, the hands of all the clocks in town stopped their movement, my shoe laces came untied, and survivalists in Montana began loading their semi-automatics and burrowing into their Doomsday bunkers.

I felt like I was standing next to the launch pad at the Cape beside an Atlas Rocket as it was taking off. “Incoming!” I hollered in panic. “She’s gonna blow!” I shouted as I ran into the hallway and assumed my best second grade well practiced cold war “Duck and Cover” position.

I could feel the needles of earthquake monitors in China dancing a jig on the Richter Scale. The US Military, thinking the Russians were firing “the Big One, "went to Red Alert. (Why do they always use the color Red anyway? Did some General in Procurement have a brother-in-law who was a red paint salesman?)

But as quickly as it began, it was over. I ran my hands over my body feeling for missing parts. All there. I crawled back down the hallway, opened the bathroom door and was astounded at the sight of a bathroom which looked like it had been autoclaved…gleaming with the smile of a Cheshire Cat. Ceiling, walls , floors….spotless. With relief so intense I could taste it, I looked out the window to see the birds back in the trees singing, and could hear the clocks ticking and the survivalists complaining, “More government harassment!”

I left that bathroom a different man, a proud man, a man that had successfully completed a rite of passage for every man…the one which states a man must fix at least one toilet and start one chain saw in his life if he is to achieve any degree of fulfillment.

And as I walked back to my trailer, I could see flags waving, soldiers of every nationality saluting, crowds cheering, little children tucked into their beds holding their Teddys safe, and Mrs, Dobson, my 3rd Grade teacher giving me a thumbs up… and that’s when I heard the voice of the astronaut Neil Armstrong announce to all the world in his mechanical, otherworldly voice, “One small sit for man. One giant flush for mankind.”

Date:October 1, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHOOPING CRANE POPULATIONS - Summary Overview -Part 1Location: Main Office
Tom Stehn, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, and also co-chairs the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team, along with Brian Johns of the Canadian Wildlife Service. Tom sent along a summary report on North America’s three populations of Whooping cranes; the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population, the Florida non-migratory population, and the Eastern Migratory population. Below is Part One of Tom’s report. Part Two will be posted here on Saturday, October 3.

The year 2009 was a struggle for the Whooping crane that remains very endangered. A record 270 Whooping cranes had arrived at Aransas in the fall of 2008, but they faced harsh conditions from the ongoing drought. Their favorite foods of blue crab and wolfberry were in short supply due to the salty conditions in the marsh. A record 23 Whooping cranes, or 8.5% of the flock, didn't make it through the winter, with some of the cranes found to be emaciated.

In the past 20 years, the 2008-2009 winter ranks as the worst in terms of mortality. These were the worst conditions I have ever observed for the cranes at Aransas, with some birds looking thin and with disheveled plumage. The Service, for the first time in over 40 years, dispersed corn from game feeders to try to give the flock a boost of energy and pull them through the hard times. Only 247 Whooping cranes made it through the winter.

Upon returning to north to nest, the survivors found that habitat conditions looked great, with lots of water on the cranes’ nesting grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada’s Northwest Territories. However, only 22 chicks fledged from 62 nests, a below average production year. Perhaps the weakened condition of the birds from the previous winter had taken its toll.

With the drought continuing in south Texas into the fall of 2009, wildlife officials are leery of what conditions for the flock will be like at Aransas in the 2009-2010 winter. Water holes were re-conditioned on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to ensure the cranes will have fresh water if the marshes remain above the threshold salinity of 23 parts per thousand when Whooping cranes must find fresh water to drink.

Threats faced by the Whooping crane flock are growing. In addition to ongoing sea level rise that would make the marshes too deep for the cranes to use, decreased inflows from the Guadalupe River due to water withdrawals for human uses threaten to reduce bay productivity and negatively impact blue crabs, the main food of Whooping cranes. Housing developments are springing up next to marshes where wintering cranes have foraged in the past, and wildlife officials are questioning whether the Whooping crane flock will have enough room to expand to reach recovery targets.

In the migration corridor, the cranes are facing a proliferation of wind farms and associated power lines. Collisions with power lines are the number one cause of mortality for fledged Whooping cranes, and the miles of lines continues to grow substantially.

The Whooping cranes spend every winter at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and nearby marshes, with the first birds arriving starting in mid-October and staying through mid-April. Twice a year they complete a 2,500-mile migration to and from their nesting grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

In North America, the total number of Whooping cranes in both the wild (384) and in captivity (152) has reached 536. Young Whooping cranes bred in captivity are being reintroduced in the wild in two flocks in the eastern U.S.

In the fall of 2001, in a historic return to their former range, eight Whooping cranes were flown behind Operation Migration’s ultralight aircraft between Wisconsin and Florida. Five of the cranes survived the winter and started the migration back north on their own in April 2002.

Additional birds were reintroduced in the next eight years, with 78 Whooping cranes now migrating in the eastern U.S. However, the birds are struggling to hatch young with the adults abandoning their nests just prior to hatching the eggs due to swarms of black flies bothering the adults. Officials are planning to experiment with controlling black flies, and/or may look to find suitable habitat free from the pests.

The second wild flock consists of 29 remaining non-migratory Whooping cranes in central Florida. That reintroduction effort has been abandoned as the cranes struggled with poor rates of reproduction and low survival, mostly tied to recurring drought.

The path to recovery for Whooping cranes remains rocky. It will take increasing vigilance by man if this species is to survive and provide a thrill for your great-great grand children to see, just as they provide enjoyment for Texans and the thousands of visitors from around the world who annually visit Rockport to see this magnificent species.

Date: September 30, 2009Reporter: Erin Harris
Subject: Gearing Up for MigrationLocation: Necedah, WI
With our scheduled migration departure date (Oct. 10) quickly approaching, the crew has been working around the clock, trying to get as many tasks done as possible.

Richard put his talented metal sculpting skills to work by creating six new panel frames, (three for each pen trailer) and many metal support poles, to expand the travel pen for the 21 chicks in the Class of 2009. Last week, Geoff and I spent a day at the hangar, cleaning and painting the metal frames and support poles. Fortunately, we were able to get more paint on the metal, than ourselves. Bev has been doing pen trailer inventory, making sure we have all the supplies that we need for both the trailer and the chicks.

With Cohorts 2 and 3 getting along fairly well, with some occasional reminders from 924 that he’s the dominant chick, it was decided this was the perfect time to integrate Cohort 1. On Saturday, Robert and I were at the Canfield Site, getting it ready for the new arrivals. We completely blocked off one of the dry pens, and we held off separating the wet pen until we received the new chicks.

Playing musical chicks did not go as well as we would have liked. At the North Site, Brooke and Chris were trying to get all nine birds to follow, while Bev and Geoff were trying to keep the chicks from landing. Brooke was able to get five of nine chicks to follow him, and they successfully made the long flight to the Canfield Site. Robert and I were standing on the runway, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our oldest chicks.

Once everyone landed safely, Robert, Brooke, and I put the chicks into their new home. Brooke went back to the North Site to help Chris with the stragglers. Four chicks kept returning to the comfort of their pen. Finally, Chris was able to keep one chick on his wing, and they flew over to the new pen. Once the chick was safely tucked away, Chris took off, back to the North Site.

The Canfield site now housed six of Cohort 1's nine chicks. 910 had Brooke’s wing all to himself, and both of them completed the long flight. It was then decided that 903 and 911 would remain in their “5 star hotel” at the North Site, until we got a chance to fly them over to join up with their group. (Hopefully Cohort 1 will be completely at the Canfield Site today.)

Robert and I entered the enclosure to replace the barrier in the cold water of the wet pen so that both groups can access it. After the pen maintenance was completed, Robert volunteered to stay behind to chick-sit, and I went back to camp to thaw out.

Migration is the third and final stage to a long journey that takes a huge amount of dedication from many people to create. The journey begins when the chicks are hatched at Patuxent, and are taught the basics of life. The next step is to ship the delicate chicks in crates to Necedah NWR to learn how to stretch their beautiful black and white wings, and take to the skies. Once these majestic birds are soaring like eagles, they begin one of the biggest adventures of their lives; migration.

I feel very fortunate to be a part of every stage in this unique journey in a Whooping Crane chick’s life. From watching them grow when they are a wet, awkward moving, ball of fluff, to when they are graceful, flying adults. The completion of our journey will be a successful migration to Florida, and the release into the wild of the Class of 2009.

Date:September 29, 2009Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:INTRODUCING - BUILD YOUR OWN OM CALENDAR!Location:Main Office

Many of you have asked when we’ll be producing another calendar, and while both the 2004 & ’05 calendars were very well received, producing one is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking.

We’ve discovered what we believe to be the answer for those looking for a beautiful wall calendar featuring Whooping MiCalendarcranes, which will not break the OM bank. We hope you’ll take a moment and check out our new calendar building tool.

This interactive and user-friendly tool walks you through the steps required to create your own one-of-a-kind 2010 Wall Calendar – for yourself, and as a truly personal gift for those closest to you, and just in time for the coming Holiday Season.

It’s easy to use – once you access the calendar builder, open the drop-down menu (‘my pictures’ – top left) and then click on ‘all categories’ to see the many beautiful images we have posted for you to choose from.

Select the picture you would like to feature for each and every month from the ones we’ve provided, or upload your own favorite images. Next, add family birthdays, anniversaries, and other events you need to remember right into the ‘date’ boxes of each month.

You can even save your calendar and come back later to finish it but once your calendar is finished, simply confirm your order and your calendar creation will be professional printed and shipped directly to you.

Of course, if you don’t have time to create your own, you can also choose to order our 2010 Calendar Pre-Printed.

We hope you’ll enjoy this new experience. Look for the ‘Build Your Own Calendar’ button in the Marketplace and in other locations on our website.

Date: September 28, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Chris Gullikson
Subject:COHORT 1 MOVES TO CANFIELD SITE - almostLocation: Necedah, WI
It has been an odd year weather-wise here in Wisconsin. We started out with above average snow melt and precipitation. July and August are usually the hottest months, but this year, the headlines were, "Coldest July Ever.”

We usually have many consecutive training days during the summer months, but that was reduced this year - up until September that is. September 1st began a training marathon that lasted up until CraneFest on the 19th. Nearly every day we were greeted with fog and calm conditions.

Despite the fog delays, we were able to take advantage of the calm conditions and train every day for the first 3 weeks of September. However, we now seem to be paying for that stretch of great weather, with Sunday’s storms replaced with howling winds of 30+ mph.

Cohorts 2 and 3 at the Canfield site have been getting along and living with each other in peace since CraneFest. This past Saturday was our first opportunity in a week to fly, so we took that opportunity to ‘try’ and lead Cohort 1 over to the Canfield site. I say ‘try’, because we only succeeded in bringing seven of the nine birds over.

Brooke tried to lead the nine over while I flew chase, but one bird broke formation on the way over. As I attempted to pick up this wayward crane, several more left Brooke and headed for ‘home’. He managed to get five to land at Canfield while I tried to lead four birds away from their home at the North site.

There were two pairs of adults in the area that were distracting the chicks, and at one time I had five birds on my wing - three chicks and two adults. I eventually led these 3 away from the North site and got them almost to Canfield before two of them broke off to once again head for home. I still had one bird on my wing, so I continued on to Canfield where I landed and watched as the ground crew and Brooke quickly got this sixth bird into its new temporary home.

Brooke and I took back off and flew over to the North training site. Numbers 903, 910 and 911 were there waiting on the runway as I landed. I shut the engine off to observe the young birds for any signs of distress, and fed out a few grapes. Satisfied that they looked in good shape and ready for another attempt, I took off with the three trailing behind me.

Looking back, I could just tell that they were not into this flight. They were not climbing much above 10 feet and were trailing me by a couple hundred feet. One bird broke to fly back to the site and soon the other two followed. I carved a quick 180 degree turn in time to see Bev and Geoff dancing on the runway underneath tarps in swamp monster-esque fashion. This seemed to get the chicks attention. They veered away from the scary duo and I began leading them off to the west. They were still lagging behind me so I radioed to Brooke to pick them up if could lure them away far enough.

Brooke managed to pick up 910 but 903 and 911 seemed very reluctant to go, and instead, appeared to be looking for an alternate landing zone. We radioed to the monsters to clear the site, allowing 903 and 911 to land. Brooke was able to lead 910 over to Canfield, but the other two will remain at the North site until our next opportunity to fly - which appears could be Wednesday.

Let's hope that the three weeks of perfect weather are not followed by three weeks of bad weather. We have to get these birds flying as a group so we can leave this place in a couple weeks!!

Date:September 28, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION FLYOVERSLocation: Main Office
It is our hope to host as many, if not more departure flyovers as we did last year on this fall’s migration. With luck, there will have been no changes of consequence on the landscape at last year’s flyover locations, and we will be able to use them again this year.

As we reach each stopover, we will be checking out the previously used locations just to be sure, but keep in mind that in most cases this can only be done a day or two in advance at best. As usual, we will post the location and directions to each flyover site here in the Field Journal once they have been checked out.

Meeting folks at flyovers is almost as exciting for us as it is for you to get a personal look at the Class of 2009 being led by our ultralights. We are hoping for even larger turnouts this season and look forward to seeing both 'old' and new faces.

As our target departure date approaches, (Saturday, October 10th) a reminder note to folks along the migration route may be in order. In order to protect the birds and our stopover hosts’ property and privacy, we never reveal our stopover locations beyond the county level. To ensure WCEP’s isolation protocols are observed, there is NO accessibility or opportunity to view or photograph the young Whooping cranes in the Class of 2009 other than at flyovers.

Keep in mind too, that because our ability to advance each day is entirely weather dependant, we never know where we will be when….or, is that, when we will be where. To give you some idea of the unpredictability of this, check out our Migration Timeline page. This webpage shows the progress of every migration since 2001. Of course you can follow our daily progress, or lack thereof, by checking each day's Field Journal entry. We post to the Field Journal every day during the migration – in fact, on many days there are likely to be several postings.

New to OM’s Migration crew this year are husband and wife team, David and Linda Boyd of Rhinelander, WI. David will be driving one of our vehicles for us, and Linda will be assisting me with outreach and at flyovers. We are delighted to have their help and extend a warm welcome to David and Linda to the OM Team. Very soon their photos and bios will be added to our “Meet the Team” webpage so you will be able to ‘meet’ them too.

The countdown to target departure is on. Will the Team and the young Whoopers be ready? Will the weather cooperate? Stay tuned.

Date:September 27, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:‘DRIVING’ THE CRANECAM – NO MEAN FEATLocation: Main Office
Thanks to the CraneCam, the countless Field Journal entries written over the years by OM team members describing the activities of the day, have been brought to life with live video. Bearing out the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” are the many messages we’ve received from folks telling us how watching the CraneCam has given them a better understanding of what goes on.

The CraneCam gives viewers the opportunity to see these special birds in a way never before possible. Since its launch at the end of July, OM’s CraneCam has attracted a growing audience of devotees. In August alone, more than 26,000 people tuned in to watch our pilots perform taxi training and flight training with the young Whooping cranes in the Class of 2009.

Operational from dawn to dusk, the CraneCam also provides viewers with a ringside seat to watch the antics and behaviors of the chicks while in the pen, as well the interaction between them and the costumed handlers. Equally interesting have been the views of the adult Whooping cranes that have visited the pens. (509 continues to visit the Canfield pensite daily.)

It takes a lot of equipment to bring you these live feeds. From the video camera in the field, to the server that converts the video images, and relays it all over the world via the Internet, bringing live CraneCam images to your computer is a marvel of science and ingenuity.

The CraneCam (at the Canfield pensite) is several miles from where the DSL transmission line is located. The signal first travels to there wirelessly before being beamed to Holland where the broadcast server is located, and from there it gets sent to South Africa for eventual public broadcast via WildEarth.tv. The camera’s distant location, and vagaries of the equipment and connections, inevitably produce breaks in transmission now and then. Weather also can play havoc with transmissions, and on more than one occasion we have been knocked off the air by electrical storms.

Chris Gullikson, our on-the-scene troubleshooter, is backed up by Heather Ray who troubleshoots all the issues that arise that can be dealt with remotely. Between them, this duo handles all the problems that can be worked out at our end, as well as alerting the folks at WildEarth to issues with which their assistance is needed in order to resolve. Throughout what has essentially been a ‘learn as you go’ process, Chris and Heather have been doing a remarkable, if not positively outstanding job.

But there is more to it than just locating and aiming the CraneCam. The camera has to be ‘manned’. Without an operator to pan and zoom, just as one would with a hand held camera, there would be nothing to see but a static view of the pen. You may not realize it takes a full team of camera operators to keep the video coming to you. Because the dawn to dusk hours of operation precluded OM staff from taking this on in addition to our regular responsibilities, a cadre of volunteers was recruited.

Working in shifts, our CraneCam ‘Drivers’ operate the camera remotely from their home computers. The pan and zoom functions are controlled using their computer’s mouse or touchpad. What the Cam Driver sees on their computer screen looks very much like the remote for your TV. Clicking the directional arrows on the device displayed on their computer screen moves the camera left or right, up or down; the more clicks, the further the camera moves. There are also two button controls; one for zooming in and one for zooming out. Doing that is not as easy as it might sound. Getting the hang of it all takes considerable practice.

And there is a catch. The amount of movement the clicks generate isn’t always consistent. Sometimes it is as if the CraneCam has a mind of its own, and the two or three clicks that practice has shown should move the view several feet in one direction or another, can cause the camera to jump way beyond the scene the Cam Driver is trying to capture. If you’ve been watching the action only to be suddenly confronted with a view of nothing but vegetation, or the sky, that unexpected jump is the reason why.

Equally frustrating for Cam Drivers are the occasions when the CraneCam freezes. Sometimes the freeze lasts for just a couple of seconds, sometimes longer. This isn’t so bad when the camera is focused on the birds in the pen, but when the Cam Driver is trying to capture all the action of flight training, every second the camera is frozen is agonizing - for both Driver and viewer.

Operating the CraneCam during flight training can be a toughie. The Cam Driver has to try and anticipate what the pilots will do, when they will do it, which way they will go, and try to click/pan both to the side and up quickly enough to keep them in frame. Add to that the unpredictability of the young cranes and the course corrections the trike pilots make as a result, and you can begin to understand how difficult a task our Cam Drivers can face. The pressure is on - guess wrongly, or lose track of the trike, and we disappoint viewers.

Bringing you live video via OM’s CraneCam is yet another example of what could not done without the assistance and commitment of volunteers. Some of our Cam Drivers (see photo) recently travelled to Necedah and went above and beyond the call by helping to man our booth for CraneFest.

OM's CraneCam Drivers

Back Row - Left to right:
Darlene Lambert, Nekoosa, WI; Dave Kitzman, Port Richey, FL / Stacy, MN; Heather Ray, OM staff; Cindy Loken, Nekoosa, WI; Colleen Reidy-Chase, Havana, FL.

Front Row - Left to right:
Joe Duff, OM Staff; Liz Condie, OM Staff.

Inset:
Mary Woolitz-Dooley, Plainfield IN.

Absent when photo was taken:
David Howell, Tallahassee, FL; Marilayn-Sue Walsh, Brooksville, FL.

Gratitude and applause go to all our CraneCam volunteers. Without their enthusiasm and dedication the wonders that unfold before your eyes would go uncaptured.

If you have a website and would like to embed the broadcast on your site for your visitors to see, please send an email request to: heather@operationmigration.org Heather will send you the code needed to embed the broadcast.

Date: September 24, 2009Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:EXERCISELocation: Necedah, WI
Our protocol is that on the third non-fly day, we bring the birds out onto the runway to exercise them. Since that day fell on Tuesday and we were all attending the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership meetings, exercise day was postponed until Wednesday - which started as foggy as most of our days have lately.

Geoff, Brooke and I headed to the Canfield site to supervise the younger chicks, while Erin, Richard and Robert Doyle of Patuxent went to the North site.

The chicks all came running out of the gate, escaping the confines of the pen and leapt about enjoying their new found freedom. Some playful chasing and bluff jump rakes kept us entertained. To encourage the chicks to fly, we ran down the runway flapping a loose sleeve, and soon all but 925 were airborne.

The birds flew south into the misty sky, gracefully carving a wide arc, creating their own circuit. Some of the less strong flyers peeled off and headed back to the runway, while the stronger ones stayed aloft for a few moments longer. Soon, chicks were landing all about us, puffing from their exertion in the very damp air.

Much probing and poking ensued while they gained their breath. Once they started leaping about again, off we ran for one more flight. This time 8 of the chicks took off to the north.

It was difficult to see the chicks against the white, hazy sky, especially looking through our fogged up visors. Some chicks are more white than brown now, especially their wings, and very quickly they were out of view. We all stood looking north. And looked. And looked. For what seemed like an eternity.

Brooke looked at me and I shrugged my shoulders in an, “I don’t know where our babies went to” response. He headed down the runway with his vocalizer blaring. As we started to become concerned, lo and behold, our wayward chickies appeared, first as mere dots, then took shape into the graceful fledglings that they are.

Again, they lowered their landing gear, cupped their wings and tilted their way down to the ground. We let them relax, catch their breath and poke around for as long as it took. Again, we tried to entice them into flight, but they had had enough and were very content to stay on the ground.

Brooke and I looked at each other and nodded, signaling it was time to put them away. Not quite as eager to go home, the chicks lagged on the runway, but eventually all followed into the pen. With a few strategically placed grapes, the stragglers were enticed through the gate, and after a beak count to ensure all chicks had made it inside, we closed the gates behind us and wandered back up the hill to the truck.

After a quick glance back at the pen, I asked Geoff what he thought. In his philosophical manner, he cocked his head to the sky, squinted, and with one word managed to describe not only the morning’s exercise session, but the morning, the entire project, and the species as a whole. “Beautiful,” he said. And we walked the rest of the way in silence, all of us smiling.

Date:September 23, 2009Reporter: Geoffrey Tarbox
Subject: Watching the Canfield site / Return of the Plant ManLocation: Necedah, WI
I was awoken by the sound soft pitter-patter on the roof of my trailer, thus putting a kibosh on the third straight day of training. At first, I was okay with having a few days off, what with training a few weeks straight now. But now, I was getting a little bummed out. I’ve been itching to see Cohort 2 and 3 fly together ever since they were finally integrated, and Barb saw ten of the twelve birds fly ‘round the pen. Oh, well. Another dream, for another day, I suppose.

Yesterday was destined to be another slow day for this worker bee. The higher-ups were attending more WCEP meetings, the lucky dogs. The travel pen trailers were all hosed down and cleaned up. And we can’t practice putting up the travel pen until the doors on one of the travel pen trailers is patched up. But I got to see the Canfield site Gang around noon when Bev asked me to run some food out there and make sure everyone was still playing nice.

Sure enough, everyone at Canfield was just fine. No birds were stomped in the mud, and no one had flown the coop when I got there. Generally, the kids all behaved pretty well. There were a few stare downs / chases every now and then, but no bodily injury, which is all I was asking for.

Interestingly, I watched the always meek and timid 914 boss around 928. I figured she wouldn’t have it in her to throw her weight around anyone else but 925, another equally passive bird. But then again, I guess it isn’t hard to push around a smaller, younger, asthmatic chick. Even though 914 herself sounds like Doc Holiday from Tombstone.

After watching the babies for a half hour, I went to check on a few babies of my own: the wooly milkweeds growing along the North site's back road. True to my word, I’ve been making a routine out of checking on them, plucking any split, burst or popped seedpods for Rich King. I’ve honestly lost count how many I’ve pulled.

Most of the time, I come home with one to three pods, though I have come home with as many as five. Every now and then, I leave empty-handed. But it’s not uncommon for me to go up there, pluck one or two pods, then find two more that I missed before. So I’m always having to tell everyone that there’s roughly two dozen of them up there.

When Rich said this was the best spot in Wisconsin to find woolies, he meant it. More than even he realized.

Unfortunately, today was a slow day, even for the woolies, and I left empty-handed. But since I found and marked two MORE undiscovered woolies, and I’ve nabbed nearly a dozen over the weekend, who am I to complain? Odds are, this is going to keep me busy until migration, which is aces with me.

But that isn’t all Rich King found to keep me busy. As I was bringing in a hefty haul a week ago, Rich asked me to look into a few more projects going on the side. One of which was checking on Virginia meadow beauties (AKA: Handsome Harry, Rhexia virginica) growing along the Boghaunter trail for any seedpods. (see photo)

This is a striking, low-growing herbaceous plant with four-petalled, very lavender flowers, and equally vivid yellow, almost-tentacle like stamens. You can spot it in sandy swamps, wet ponds, or along sandy, acidic soils during the late summer, early fall. Rhexia is simply a name used by hotshot Roman naturalist Pliny to describe an unknown plant, while virginica Latin for ‘of Virginia’. Here in Wisconsin, it’s a plant of “special concern”, which means it’s on it’s been hit hard by habitat loss, pollution and disturbances, and is on its way to being threatened.

I saw them by chance, growing along the middle of the trail as I was wrapping up a twilight hike ‘round Boghaunter Trail. So I knew exactly what Rich was talking about and where to look for them. While they had finally just finished blooming, none of them were ready to come home, so I left them as is.

Item number two was another state-threatened plant known as rattlesnake-root and white lettuce. Unfortunately, there are a number of plants answering to the names “rattlesnake-root” and “white lettuce”. I didn’t think to ask which specific rattlesnake-root Rich wanted, since I thought there was only one around here. Silly me. So until I have a better idea which rattlesnake-root/white lettuce Rich is looking for, I can’t really talk intelligently about this one. At least not in this entry.

Either way, Rich told me that there might’ve been the state-threatened rattlesnake-root spotted growing along the parking lot at none other than the West site, Cohort 2’s old kicking grounds. Unfortunately, the picture he had of it wasn’t entirely reliable since there weren’t any pictures of its leaves (a key factor in telling rattlesnake-roots apart), and he asked me to look into it. I also pointed out that Bev and I might’ve spotted the rattlesnake-root in question growing along Boghaunter Trail (or at least some kind of rattlesnake-root), which seemed to get his attention.

So once more, back into the breach. As I meandered towards my meadow beauties, I kept a sharp eye out for the rattlesnake-roots I saw earlier on Boghunter trail. As luck would have it, I found not one, but four of them growing along the trail, one of which had been mowed recently (!). I made sure to snap some pictures of my rattlesnake-roots, leaves and all for Rich to examine at his leisure. Whether they’re the mythical, long-lost threatened rattlesnake-root, or just another weed remains to be seen.

Unfortunately, the search continues for the West site rattlesnake-root. This one’s actually kind of embarrassing to me since I’m fairly certain I’ve seen it there before. And you’d think the guy who practically has a sixth sense for wooly pods would have no trouble finding a tall plant with oodles of nodding pinkish-white flowers. You’d be wrong. Try as I may, I couldn’t spot it along the parking lot, or along the road to and from the site. But that doesn’t mean it’s seen the last of me. Since the West Site is along the way to my woolies, I’m content to keep dropping by until I spot it again.

With my plant excursions wrapped up for the day, I retreated back to my cozy tornado chew toy to await roost checks. Around five, I slithered out to Canfield to tuck Cohorts 2 & 3 in to bed. I watched them for another half hour through the blind, just to make sure no new wars were declared in my five hour absence. Thankfully, the kids were just as mellow and agreeable as they were earlier that day. After sweeping up some spilled food, checking the feeders, and braving 929’s too-faithful rendition of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, with me as Julius, I returned home.

The world is safe again. But…For how long?

Date: September 22, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WCEP MEETINGS UNDERWAYLocation: Necedah, WI
The Fall meetings of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) are traditionally held during the week following the Necedah Whooping Crane Festival. It is the time when all the partners and participants in the reintroduction project gather to both review the past year and plan for the next.

This fall’s meetings are particularly important as reports are being presented on the several studies undertaken earlier in the year. Among those, are reports on Nesting, Behavior and Energetics, Black Fly, and Food Availability. One of the reports reviewed yesterday, produced by Dr. Richard Urbanek, was on the structure of the current population. Readers may be interested in this summary.

Adult breeding pairs which have produced eggs (12 pairs/24 birds)
105 and 501*
211 and 217*
212 and 419*
213 and 218*
317 and 303* (sibling pair)
403 and 309*
310 and W601*
311 and 312*
318 and 313*
401 and 508*
408 and 519*
505 and 415*

Adult pairs which have built nests (3 pairs/6 birds)
307 and 726*
402 and D746*
707 and D739*

Sub-adult and newly formed adult pairs (4 pairs/8 birds)
216 and 716*
316 and D742*
512 and 722*
709 and 717*

This gives the population the potential of having 19 breeding/nesting pairs for the Spring of 2010.

Unpaired cranes that summered in the central core reintroduction area containing other Whooping cranes
(13 males / 0 female)
101, 412, 416, 506, 509, 511, 514, 524, D627, D628, 703, 713, 724

Unpaired cranes that summered in areas without other Whooping cranes
(4 males / 6 females)
706, 712 (location unknown), 733, D737 (Michigan) / 107*, 520*, D527*, D528*, D533* (Michigan), 727* (Indiana)

Richard's report highlights the current gender imbalance in the Eastern Migratory Population. Excluding the 2008 yearlings, there are 17 unpaired males and just 6 available females. With only four females in the Class of 2008, the ratio of unpaired males to unpaired females becomes even more disparate. Adding in the ’08 yearlings produces an almost 3 to 1 ratio of males to females; 28 males / 10 females.

The group composition of the 15 yearlings in the Class of 2008 is:
(11 males / 4 females)
804, 814, 818*
805, 812, 824*, 827, 828, 830*
813*
819, 829 (only group summering in the core area)
D831, D826, D838

Long-term missing are 516 and D744.

Date: September 22, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:GATHERED IN THE NAME OF WHOOPING CRANESLocation: Necedah, WI
The education facility at Necedah, commonly referred to as the Classroom, sits on a rise overlooking an expanse of pristine wetland dotted occasionally with Whooping cranes. Standing on the rise, you can see them off in the distance looking as natural as a Whooping crane can. Five feet tall in stark white with a red crown and black wingtips they are the obverse of camouflage. Like an overt statement of defiance, they dominate the landscape and reinforce that presence with a call that can be heard for miles.

Their existence here on the refuge is the reason the Classroom is filled to capacity this week as the world’s leading experts on Whooping cranes gather to discuss their future.

Dr George Archibald, co-founder of the ICF has taken time from his world travels to be here, and Sammy King, USGS Louisiana has joined us. Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service travelled from Texas. Terry Peacock, Refuge Manager at St Marks NWR is up from Florida, along with Marty Folk from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Dr. Peter Adler from Clemson University is the leading expert on black flies and is here to advise us, along with John Christian, USFWS Senior Advisor for WCEP. Dr Phil Miller, SSC / IUCN is the leader of the volunteer WCEP Review Panel and he is here to observe and eventually to provide this group with an evaluation of the efforts so far.

There are many others with equal credentials, along with the field teams from ICF, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, and Operation Migration. In total, 63 people crammed the Classroom. All here to protect those white birds so oblivious to the efforts undertaken on their behalf.

The Eastern Migratory Whooping Crane Reintroduction is facing a serious challenge, but with the combine expertise that has gathered in this room we can’t help but feel optimistic. After all it is only one more hurdle in a long series that are now behind us.

I stood on the observation tower last week to watch the training and spoke with a group of wildlife experts from Louisiana. They were here to observe in hopes of eventually starting a population in their home state. As Richard van Heuvelen led Cohort one over our heads the crowd grew silent,  and I heard from behind me, “If at first it doesn’t seem outrageous -- it is likely of little consequence.”

Date: September 21, 2009Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject: Angels with Dirty FacesLocation: Nececah, WI
Tonight will be the first night we let cohorts 2 and 3 stay together all night. I am sure everyone of the handlers will have a sleepless night wondering how all the chicks are getting along. Will 924 leave 919 alone? Will 927 get his tail kicked, or will he survive the evening unscathed? Will 914 leave 925 alone while she is roosting? These are all the worries we have and then some.

Yesterday morning, since we didn’t fly, we went to the pen to join up the cohorts. We opened the pen gate and they all eagerly came onto the runway. Before I knew it, all but two of the chicks were airborne flying southbound. I looked after them, marveling at their grace and beauty and hoping like heck they would come back.

Truth be told, I was stunned that they flew. These two groups had never flown together before, and I was impressed by the loose formation. 928, the last chick out of the pen, remained on the ground as did one other bird who’s transmitter band was so dirty we never could tell who it was. Judging by the predominance of white feathers, it had to be one of the older birds; either 913 or 918. Four of the younger chicks returned to the runway while the rest continued their circuit, eventually returning to land all about us.

As we stand on the runway, the chicks turn towards us, initially dropping their legs into a landing position, then cupping their wings as they glide to the ground. They tip back and forth as they stall out their wings, losing lift. Soon they are on the ground, running a step or two before stopping. They slowly walk about , poking and probing in the dirt.

The ground is terribly hard, not surprising considering the lack of rain this last month. They continue probing, occasionally stopping to ruffle their feathers back into place after the flight. They stop and look at us as they pass by, each with varying amounts of dirt on their faces.

Most of the overt aggression has passed, but there is still the stare down or chase. We keep a close eye on our charges, making note of who is chasing whom, and who needs to be calmed down. 919 is the tough guy of the morning and I sidle up next to him, proffering a grape to sooth the savage beast, so to speak. He calms, and I walk away.

929 seems to stalk me. I crouch down to seem less threatening and he starts to peck at my costume. My nemesis seems to have lost his imagined grudge against me and never pecks hard. He pecks at the puppet, at my costume, at my sleeve, my helmet. He looks up at me, dirt all over his face and I fall in love all over again. And just like a real mom, I forget all about how badly my child has acted and wish I could do nothing but hug my dirty faced angel.

Date: September 20, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:SUPER EVERYTHINGLocation: Necedah, WI

From the morning's flight training to the weather to the terrific turnout, we have to rate this year's CraneFest as all round just SUPER!

The fly-bys at the Observation Tower were thrilling. Watchers had a rare view of three trikes all in the air at once, all leading birds. Absolutely magical. The pilots gave the crowd gathered below quite a show, leading the birds past on numerous occasions, and even a couple of passes right over the tower. It was a three Kleenex morning.

Center Photo: Pilot Matt Ahrens led a single bird on several passes by the tower. The young crane found the sweet spot off the wing and soared effortlessly behind the trike.

We always look forward to this day every year. It is so great to have the opportunity to renew old acquaintances and to make new ones. It is a marvelous day full of hugs and handshakes. So many of OM's friends and supporters come year after year, and as the day wears on we find ourselves asking each other, "Have your seen so and so yet?"

One of the faces that we, and many others dearly missed seeing this year, was our good friend Nancy Drew. Nancy hails from North Dakota and unfortunately wasn't able to attend. Nancy, we want to let you know that we weren't the only ones who missed having you with us. You'd be very surprized and no doubt touched at how many people were asking after you.

Each year, it seems that CraneFest draws more and more people from farther and farther afield. This year was no exception. We talked to folks from both coasts - California and New Jersey. And from north to south - Minnesota and Florida, and folks from a generous sprinkling of States in between. How rewarding to know how much this Project and Whooping cranes mean to so many people!

Those of you who purchased a raffle ticket on the Heritage Square pattern quilt crafted and donated to OM by Lorraine Gray from Urbana, IL, will be interested to know the outcome of the draw. Kimberly Lacy from Masonville, CO did the honors, and the name of the winner she pulled out of draw box was Karin Zachow of Miami, FL.

We continually say that just about everything OM does is only possible with much help and support from our volunteers. Cranefest is no exception. Pictured in the photo to the right are a just a few of OM's terrific and hardworking volunteers who helped to 'man' our booth.

Left to Right: Mary Woolitz-Dooley, IN (CraneCam Driver); Colleen Reidy-Chase, FL (CraneCam Driver); Vi White, IL (Migration Trivia Chief); Dave Johnson, IL (Sec/Treas of the Board); Cindy Loken, WI (CraneCam Driver); Walter Sturgeon, NC (Director of the Board, Migration Ground Crew).

Date:September 19, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:  CRANEFEST TODAYLocation: Necedah, WI

Today is the Necedah Lion’s Club annual Whooping Crane Festival. After a trip to the Observation Tower on the refuge in anticipation of being able to watch morning flight training, we will scoot over to the fairgrounds to host the booth we have set up there. Drop by for a visit, a chat, and pick up some OM Gear at ‘event prices’.

Sunday morning, once again after a trek to the tower, we will be at the Classroom on the Necedah NWR to host the Annual General Meetings of Members of Operation Migration Inc (Canada) and Operation Migration USA Inc. Join us for the meetings and some delicious homemade refreshments compliments of Craniac Margaret Howden.

If you can’t join us in person, today or Sunday maybe you'll have time to Give a WHOOP! We still need more than 8,000 WHOOPS! to reach our goal of 10,000. We are hoping to achieve that number before we fly the 10,000th mile.

Our 10,000th mile leading young Whooping cranes on their first migration will be flown somewhere over LaSalle County, Illinois. In past years we’ve reached that area as early as October 24th. To do that we need an average of 1637 people to WHOOP! each week for the next five weeks!

If you’ve already WHOOPED! you can help by encouraging others – click here for a printable page of four Give a WHOOP! fill-out forms you can use for this purpose. If every one of our Craniacs used this page to solicit just four WHOOPS! we would reach 10,000 in no time flat.

As of June 30th of this year, the population of North America was 341,831,831. Add to that the population of the rest of the world (6,426,973,337) and it means our little planet sustains almost 7 billion people. Surely it can’t be difficult to find a mere 8,000 who care enough about Whooping cranes to help us sustain them by giving a WHOOP!

Please Give a WHOOP! today. Click here to see what you could receive in return.

Date:September 18, 2009Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:LEARNING TO 'PLAY NICE'Location: Necedah, WI
At this time of year, socialization of the cohorts takes up the most of our time. Right now, we are working with Cohorts 2 and 3.

We flew Cohort 2 over to the Canfield site on September 5th. Since then, we have tried, every morning, to amalgamate the groups. Unfortunately, we have two extremely tough, big, and dominant birds that want to rule the roost.

924 and 919 are our biggest males in the younger cohorts. They are also the most dominant in their respective cohorts. This means that they absolutely positively will not back down to anyone. No way, no how. They each think they will rule the roost. They are each over 4 feet tall, with the infamous 7” beak Brooke spoke of in his last update. Neither one is shy about exerting his dominance. In fact, when in the company of these two magnificent chicks, the testosterone is almost palpable.

When we finish training for the morning, we bring both cohorts onto the runway for their social time. Usually four costumes are present, sometimes only three, but assuredly enough to supervise. 924 is always the aggressor and 919 always picks on the smaller chicks; and Richard, too. Every time Richard is one of the costumes, 919 tries to bully him. Not unlike 929 going after Erin or I.

Chicks jump, flap, scatter. Handlers try to keep an eye on the interaction. It is difficult with 12 flapping chicks running about. Throw in an adult for fun (509) and it gets very busy.

Today the decision was made to put the chicks into the pen all as one group. The pilots took down the barrier dividing the wet pen and the group was allowed free reign. Well, to a point. A costumed handler carefully supervised this process from the anonymity of the blind. First Barb, then Geoff, gazed through the one way window, ensuring no blood would be spilled as these young frisky chicks tried to work out their differences.

Throughout the day, both 924 and 919 would take turns stalking the other, testing the waters so to speak, to see who would come out as top dog. Slowly, but surely, they worked out their differences and by the time we had to divide the group for roosting, 924 seemed to be on top. 919 walked away several times from the younger, but obviously tougher chick.

Meanwhile, the other chicks were all working out their differences as well. 925 and 914, the two most submissive chicks were going beak to beak; sort of a fight for the lowest position. At the end of today, it was still an unknown, although 914 had taken a good peck at 509 who got in her way on the runway.

The saga continues and we don’t know who will be at what position when we show up tomorrow. All we know for sure is that by dividing the cohorts up tonight, we would ensure the safety of the chicks for at least one more night. No major battles will be fought , or if they are, it will only be through the fence tonight.

Date:September 17, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FLASHBACKLocation: Necedah, WI
Craniac Merel Black from Stevens Point, WI recently sent us an interesting excerpt from the 1959 publication, “The Complete Field Guide to American Wildlife” by Henry Collins Jr. We reproduced it below for your reading pleasure.

WHOOPING CRANE Grus americana
This is our only tall, long-necked white bird with black wingtips; very rare.

Description: size, 50 in.; wingspread, 7 1/2 ft. Adult: head with naked red area, bill dark with yellow base, legs black. Immature: tan above, no naked red area, bill all dark. Note: Snow Goose has much shorter bill, neck, and legs; White Pelican is heavy, not tall and slender; egrets lack black wingtips; White Ibis is much smaller and has curved bill. Habitat: marshes. Habits: very wary; moves about marsh on foot; in flight, wing beats slow, flies in single file; sometimes spirals to great height and performs aerial evolutions. Voice: loud vibrating trumpeting. Food: seeds, plants, reptiles, amphibians. Eggs: 2, buff blotched with brown, 3.9 x 2.5 in. Range: formerly bred from Mackenzie to Minnesota and south to Iowa; also in Louisiana; today breeds in se. Mackenzie, winters in Aransas Wildlife Refuge, Texas.

This huge bird was a tempting target for the man or boy with a gun; then its breeding grounds in the West were taken over by the farmer. Now only about 40 individuals are left alive. America watches with bated breath as scientists, press, and public, by all known means of conservation, try desperately to save this magnificent bird from extinction.


In her message to us Merel said, “I think the author Henry Collins, Jr. would join with all of us to say how proud we are of what you have accomplished!”

Our thanks to Merel for sending along the flashback to 1959, AND for the very kind words.

Date:September 16, 2009Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject: Location: Necedah, WI
The photograph to the right is the last thing a frog sees before he begins the next chapter of his journey on the great cosmic organic continuum, which is to say, he caught the last train to “Dirtville." Because as every frog will tell you, “It’s all about the beak, brother."

You see, looking down the business end of the beak of a Whooping crane is like looking down the barrel of a loaded rifle, where at the far end you see the cold, hard squinting aim of the hunter’s eye as the forces of focus and bloodsport collide to place you in the crosshairs.

It is said that nothing focuses the mind quite like facing a firing squad. If so, the poor little frog’s focus must surely equal that of the crane’s, for at the end of a crane’s beak there sits two very large eyes - eyes which do not face sideways as one might imagine but which stare straight ahead, just like our own. And in those eyes there is no hint of the past or future…..no wouldas’, couldas’, shouldas’….only the laser-like energy of the moment with its compliment of power and magic.

One might expect the wings of a crane to be the most cherished part of its anatomy, but I believe this assumption to be false. It is the beak, I would say, that holds this distinction. The beak, after all, is for the crane the gateway to the senses. It unites with the eyes and with the brain to form a single organ giving all that the crane experiences its true meaning. Not only is it the mouth,, the portal of nourishment, and the corridor of breath , but it is also a weapon, and a probe, and a chamber of the voice and, perhaps most amazing of all, a pair of hands.

Watching a crane eat is like watching a pie eating contest at a county fair, where each pie is Ground Zero and the target of the contestant’s Face Plant. (“You ain’t gettin' in my pickup lessin' ya wash that pie off your face, ya hear me Bubba!”) But that is really unfair, because the truth is that the beak is capable of amazing grace and dexterity. It is the absolute master of the most gentle caress, while brandishing the potential of the most brutal and lethal stabbings.

The very act of a crane eating is a motion, or a collection of motions resembling a kind of kinetic poetry; like when it eats its beloved crane chow. The beak closes ever so gently yet with incredible accuracy as the very tip pinches down on a single pellet. Then in a ballet-like motion almost too fast to see, it flings it up into the space between its now open beak while simultaneously jabbing its head forward to catch it in its throat and swallow it as the next pellet is picked up and the motion repeated. As for the frog? I leave that for the next episode of “Wild Kingdom”.

But as I mentioned, the beak is also quite a weapon should the crane decide to use it as such. Seven or so inches of pointed power driven by the hammer-like thrust of its angry head is no fun for man nor beast. In fact, there is a story, an urban legend perhaps, of a man in India who had a great future managing a motel in New Jersey had he not tried to catch a crane. The crane, as the story goes, drove its beak into the man’s eye and brain, turning off his “ No Vacancy” sign for the last time.

Once, while helping Bev with a school program, one of the kids asked me the unexpected question, “Can a crane kill you?” Not wanting to lie to a group of trusting fourth graders, I said, “Well, once upon a time in India there was this guy……….” That was the end of that program because for the rest of the period, the only questions the kids asked were about this tragic event and all the creative ways the poor Indian man could have saved himself.

The power of the crane’s beak is incredible. Recent studies at the University of Whoknowswhere tested the bite pressure of a crane and found it to be many times greater than that of a crocodile, great white shark, and Mike Tyson. Five kazillion tons, they said, In fact, the pressure is so great that last year we financed the entire project by placing small lumps of coal in the crane’s beak, blowing a hair dryer on him while giving him the old 'Poop Sample Squeeze’ which resulted in him spitting out a perfect multi-karat diamond which we immediately sold to a guy from South Africa who had the habit of muttering under his breath, ‘diamonds last forever'.

A recent unpublished paper - unpublished as yet because the authors are fighting over who will be listed as Senior Author and Junior Author - wrote of how the crane beak is an important tool in its ability to migrate. Cranes use their beaks to navigate, the authors hypothesize, by pointing it where they want to go then following it. To test this theory, they implanted a miniature GPS TOM TOM into the tip of a crane’s beak and chose the has-been actor, Mr. T as the voice of command. As the bird took off on migration, the researchers could hear the voice of Mr. T giving the poor bird directions. ”Turn right, FOOOOOL”, “Hang a U’ee, SUCKAAAA”. The bird arrived on a sound studio in Hollywood a month later and immediately got into a fight with the director. The GPS manufacturer gave us free units to put in our trikes and sent Mr. T out here to shoot a promotional spot, but when we put our costumes on, the poor guy took off and we haven’t seen him since.

And so, it is in the words of the late, great philosopher and naturalist, Jimmy Durante as he pointed to his oversized proboscis and would say with a shaking head, “The nose knows!” And if you don’t believe Jimmy, just ask any frog.

Date:September 15, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:UNVEILING A LEGACYLocation: Main Office
Refuge Manager Larry Wargowsky and his staff recently hosted a group of dignitaries, volunteers, and members of the public at Wisconsin’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. The attendees gathered to witness the unveiling of the architectural design and ceremonial ground-breaking for a new Visitor Center and Headquarters facility.

One of the approximately 150 people present for the event was Craniac and long-time OM supporter, Darlene Lambert from Nekoosa, WI. “What made the event most memorable for me,” said Darlene, “was spotting a pair of adult Whooping cranes right from where I was sitting listening to the speeches. Imagine – a Visitor Center where it will be possible to actually view the cranes that have already made the refuge famous!” Darlene also provided the photo shown here of an artist’s rendering of the new Visitor Center.

Each year, nearly 150,000 people visit the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge to hike its trails, watch and photograph wildlife, or, hunt and fish. We encourage you to become one of them.

Date:September 14, 2009Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:THINKING OF LAST WEEKLocation: Necedah, WI

Writing an update twice a week is a good thing for me. It forces me to be more aware of what I do on a daily basis, be more present as the modern day gurus say. It also forces me to review my week; to think over what has transpired and what I have seen. Today I can write about things that happened last week.

When I think back to last week, there is only one thing that is in my head, and that is losing 922. It has become a part of this project, which is life in a micro environment, to lose birds. We have had bad springs at Patuxent. We have lost chicks here at Necedah, on migration, and of course I will never forget February 2, 2007.

We all handle grief in our own way. We all go through the 4 stages of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s theory. Barb grieves openly, the first to shed tears. Erin and Geoff, who accompanied us and 922 to ICF were visibly shaken. The look on Geoff’s face would break the iciest of hearts. Me, I get stuck in the anger. It's not directed at anyone - there is no one to blame. But like so many who grieve, I am mad at the situation; mad that one of our beautiful charges is gone too soon. I stand, stoic on the outside, but wailing on the inside. We all left ICF for the drive back to Necedah and were, for the most part, silent. Lost in our own thoughts and remembrances of 922.

I think back to her as a small chick at Patuxent. Then I think of Brooke’s beautifully written update about her. The one where he wrote, “Today we form our partnership.” I announced in voice only mind could hear. “You, me, and this silly looking contraption of black and yellow. And together we will climb up into the above; that other world of wind and cloud and height, the world where you are the citizen and I the clumsy visitor. And after a time, it will no longer belong to us, only to you, and you will soar high and away carrying on your strong wings our hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow. Think you can handle all that extra baggage, little guy? Trust me. You can.”

The tears begin to flow and I am thankful I am wearing my sunglasses so my comrades don’t see me. I push the update out of my head and continue to drive staring intently at the road. Once back at Necedah I keep busy, doing small tasks while everyone else heads back to their campers.

I scurry about while Brooke watches. Finally he comes up to me and says simply, “Stop.”. He escorts me into the trailer, sits me down, and only looks at me. I see the look on his face, the same shell- shocked expression we all wear. I manage to tell him about the day, then I tell him about training the day before.

When we mixed cohort two and three on the runway, one bird walked down the length of the mowed field to the furthest parked trike. Barb and I watched the chick strut around the trike, stiff legged and showing the crown as if to say, “I am the dominant one you machine. I will be the one to fly as you do your poorest imitation of flight. You don’t scare me, never have and never will.” I laughed silently at myself at the bravado of the chick, doing her best to scare off the yellow and black beast. I admired the courage 922 had to stand up to the trike. As I told this story to Brooke, the tears flowed freely and I let go of the anger, falling into the grief.

It is never easy losing a bird. No matter what our appearance, we all grieve our loss, each in our own way. But then we move on and focus on the 21 other chicks we have in our care. We rededicate ourselves to our task and try to remember that even in the wild population there are losses, yet the birds keep going and thankfully, the population keeps growing.

Date:September 13, 2009Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:DOING THE MATH - TARGETING A DEPARTURE DATELocation: Main Office
By adding up the number of days between the hatch-date of the youngest bird from every year and our migration departure date for that same season, you can calculate an average age of 134 days.
 

YEAR

LATEST
HATCH DATE

DEPARTURE DATE

AVERAGE  AGE
AT DEPARTURE

2001

May 24

Oct 17

146 days

2002

May 21

Oct 13

145 days

2003

May 23

Oct 16

146 days

2004

June 5

Oct 10

127 days

2005

June 3

Oct 14

133 days

2006

May 31

Oct 5

127 days

2007

June 10

Oct 13

125 days

2008

June 15

Oct 17

124 days

2009

June 7

?

?

 

Total

1073 days

 

Average age at departure

134 days

If you apply that figure to this year, you arrive at a potential target date of October 18th. Oddly enough, that is later than we have ever left before. Partly that’s because for some unknown reason the breeding season of the captive flock is getting later each year. It is also a result of accepting younger birds each season.

Back in the early years we only worked with the first birds to hatch each spring in an attempt to give ourselves more time to prepare for the migration. As we improved our techniques, we began to push the envelope and work with younger and younger birds.

The other factor is that the dates in this chart are the days on which we actually left, and not the date we targeted to leave. A target date is when the team is assembled, the volunteers have arrived and everything is set to go. The weather dictates if that will be any time soon.

So all that historic data is completely open to interpretation, or in other words - useless. Instead, we will pick an arbitrary date - like October 10th, and hope we aren’t twiddling our fingers for too long thereafter.

Date:September 12, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATELocation: Main Office

The WCEP Tracking Team’s update as of September 5th, reported no change in the size of the Eastern Migratory Population EMP. The locations of the majority of the birds in the Eastern Migratory Population were known, and for the most part unchanged from the trackers’ previous update. * = Female; D = Direct Autumn Release

Last recorded in Wisconsin but not recently located
520* - last reported on June 16
D628 -last detected June 23
724 - last detected June 26
416 - last observed July 30
703 - last detected Aug 11

Last recorded in Michigan but not recently located
D737 – last reported June 14
D533* - (possibly) last reported Aug 18

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
D744* last detected in Paulding County, OH Nov. 18, 2008
516 last confirmed in Marion County, FL Dec. 22, 2008
706 - last detected in WI May 6
712 - last detected in WI May 6
511 - last recorded in WI May 11
D527* - last observed in WI June 9

WCEP’s Tracking Team consists of Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Jess Thompson.

Date: September 11, 2009Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:COHORT 1 HEALTH CHECKSLocation: Necedah, WI
Driving out to the North site yesterday morning to assist with the health checks on Cohort 1, I marveled at the predawn refuge. The fog was thick in some spots, slowing my drive to a crawl, then suddenly it would open up revealing a pink sky, deer ambling across the fields, ducks lazily swimming across the mirror like surface of the pools.

A pair of adult Whooping cranes announced their displeasure at my passage, loudly protesting before taking wing. To watch the adults fly is to watch poetry come alive. Their tall graceful bodies become even more graceful horizontal. The beautiful black tipped wings stroke the air almost like a caress, slowly, seemingly without effort, just a flick at the top before beginning the powerful downbeat.

We arrived at the parking area well ahead of the vet team, allowing us to make the final preparations. The birds had to be brought into the wet pen, the table and chairs set up and the final supplies carried out. Once we were finished and gave the all clear, the veterinary staff drove out in their white van. The vehicle crept slowly down the runway trying not to create noise and upset the chicks. The fog, still thick, provided extra cover.

After everything was set up, the dance began. Three gray costumed handlers followed Geoff and I to the pen.

I stayed with the birds to be checked on one side of the pen, shuttling them out the door one by one as the handlers replaced whichever bird was just examined. Geoff stood on the ready in the other half, receiving the chicks and watching over them to ensure all were in good shape post-exam. He hovered over them as a protective mother would, and reported any abnormalities to me. Luckily there was nothing serious, just a lot of legs shaking, trying to dislodge the new transmitters and copious amounts of feather ruffling trying to get everything back to just so.

Each bird is given a quick physical, blood is taken, an identification chip injected into its neck, and the transmitter put on. Each check takes a very quick 10-15 minutes. Doesn’t sound like a long time unless you are the one holding a 10-15 pound ticked off struggling young bird. I’m sure for the handlers is feels like 10-15 hours per bird. (Note: All the birds are hooded so they are not exposed to equipment or people. This allows the Vet Team to work unencumbered and with a clear field of vision. The Health team wears grey costumes so the birds will (hopefully) not associate this activity with our white costumed handlers.)

Soon the nine birds were all examined and all were proclaimed to be in good condition. The vet staff packed up quickly and made their way back down the runway before we allowed the birds back into the wet pen. (All the pens are set up so that once confined to the dry pen, the birds have no view of the runway.)

Richard, Brooke and Erin had just finished socializing the birds at the Canfield site, and in no time at all they appeared to help us break down and carry out the visual barriers and shade shelter.

As I looked back at the runway, the only evidence of anything having transpired was some brown tipped white feathers scattered in a six by six area where the exams took place.

Date:September 10, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:A Mentor For All of UsLocation:Main Office

At the tender age of nine my daughter still looks up to me but I expect that will change shortly as she moves into her teens. I’m told I will be lucky if she still speaks to me in a few years. I hope in her life she finds a good mentor, someone she respects and admires and whose advice she might heed when she won’t listen to mine. You don’t get to select your father but you do pick your mentors. I hope she chooses well.

I’ve been lucky to have had several mentors in my lifetime. My first was a commercial artist whose talent was reflected in the design of his home. Wall murals and black ceilings in his modern city bungalow where in contrast to the wallpapered country living of my family. My uncle Ron likely didn’t know it but his example launched my thirty-year career in the arts.

Bill Lishman, the other co-founder of Operation Migration and the first person to fly with birds was another of my mentors. His unconventional ideas were the foundation of Operation Migration and the basis of the work we do today.

When I first began working with cranes I took advice from Dr. George Archibald, Co-founder of the International Crane Foundation and the world's leading crane expert. Later, I came to admire him equally for his ability to engage people, and his fundraising skills.

All of these people have influenced the course of my life but Dr. Jane Goodall has been my greatest inspiration. She came to visit us in Necedah a few years ago and spent some time with the birds. We took her flying with them and she has been a supporter ever since.

I had the honour of driving her to the airport at the end of her all too short visit. I was heading home for my daughter’s birthday and she was continuing her hectic lecture schedule and our flight was delayed for a few hours. I have always been grateful to that airline for the day I got to know Jane Goodall.

Her simple philosophy is to give the world hope, for without it nothing can be accomplished. She acknowledges the problems of the world and fights hard to change them but the weapon she uses is hope. She travels over 300 days a year to spread that message but it’s more that just a lecture slogan. An hour with Jane leaves you encouraged and your spirit is lifted. And anyone who knows me will tell you I am not a spiritual person.

Jane has written a new book entitled Hope for Animals and Their World. She highlights the wonderful work being done around the world to safeguard endangered species and recalls her time with the Whooping cranes. She has begun her U.S. lecture tour and I encourage you to see her if you can. I’m sure like me you will fall under the wonderful spell of Jane Goodall.

Listen to a recent interview with Jane Goodall on National Public Radio

Date:September 10, 2009 Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:922 SUCCUMBS TO INJURYLocation: Main Office
Every year at this time the birds must undergo a pre-migration health check. Why we have to examine them when millions of wild birds make the same trip south without the need of leg bands or blood test is an often asked question, and there are many answers.

WCEP is responsible for introducing these birds, and all the consequences of that action. So we must ensure they are not spreading disease or parasites. In the course of their confinement, bacteria could build up in the wet pen and we could be unwittingly distributing an isolated strain of salmonella or contaminating wild birds with any number of illnesses.

The medical examinations give WCEP's Health Team an opportunity to collect base line data. This gives them a record of the size, weight and condition of each individual bird, and it can be compared to any data collected later on.

But birds aren’t like mammals. They don’t take well to petting or being held, and it takes great skill to hold a bird properly. Even the experienced handlers who volunteer to assist during the health checks have problems sometimes. Larger birds struggle more and can hurt themselves.

Number 922 was like that. The bird struggled mightily soon after being picked up. The handling technique was standard for young Whooping cranes and properly applied, but before the exam had begun, a “pop” was heard and the bird ended up lame on the left leg. The bird was transported to ICF for x-rays and assessment. Before surgery could be performed the bird suffered cardiopulmonary arrest and could not be resuscitated.

Date: September 9, 2009Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:GETTING ALONGLocation: Necedah, WI
Each one of our three pensites on the Necedah NWR has an enclosure built on high ground we call the dry pen, and another built into the marsh where the birds have access to the wetland.

Prior to moving Cohort 2 over to the Canfield site and penning them next to Cohort 3, we took some time to cut the runway grass, do some maintenance, and divide the wet pen.

In the past when integrating two cohorts, we kept the two groups separated while they slowly got accustomed to each other by giving one cohort access to the wet pen, while the other was restricted to the dry pen. We alternated them, but invariably the birds confined on the dry side paced the back fence trying to get to the water. Fences haven’t been a big part of their 60 million years of evolution so they are not equipped to deal with them. They pace relentlessly back and forth leading with their faces and can often get severe beak abrasions.

We tried vinyl covered fencing to make it softer, but the real cure is to somehow give them both access to the marsh. By dividing the pen length-wise, which is what we did this year, they have much more opportunity to see each other, but are calmed by foraging in their favorite spot. The two groups are still trained separately but are both released onto the runway when training is over. This way the pilot and experienced handlers can jump in to deal with any fights that get serious.

It’s a balancing act, because a little aggression is important so they can establish a social order. If you intervene in every confrontation, you only postpone the inevitable until one day when you aren’t looking. The largest birds are now over 4 feet tall so you have to know what you are doing before stepping between two leaping, flapping birds, raking forward with one inch claws, each bent on suppressing the other.

But so far that has not happened with these two groups of birds. It could be the access they now have to the wet pen, or maybe they are comfortable with each other already. Whatever the reason, there have been very few signs of aggression either in the pen or on the runway.

The pre-migration health checks will begin today, Wednesday the 9th. Each bird will be fitted with a temporary leg-band radio device and undergo a quick but thorough medical check. [Due to the heath checks, there will be no flight training this morning and we will take advantage of this opportunity to perform regular maintenance on the CraneCam. It should be back online by ~ 1 to 2pm.] After a few days recovery we will make a judgment on when to remove the divider and make Cohort 2 and 3 into one flock. Then we will bring in the oldest birds and house them on the newly vacated side of the pen.

Whooping cranes are not colonial birds. They don’t gather together in large numbers like Sandhills. The sub-adults do form bachelor cohorts prior to reaching breeding age and finding a mate, so you may see five or six together. But it is not the norm.

We have more birds than ever before this year, so once we remove that final divider we will have assembled the largest flock of Whooping cranes to ever take flight together.

Date:September 8, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NOTICE TO CRANECAM VIEWERSLocation: Main Office
Just a note to let Cranecam viewers know that they can sleep in tomorrow morning.

There will be no training on Wednesday because the chicks Cohorts 2 and 3 will be having their pre-migration health checks. The Heath Team will be going to the Canfield pensite around 6:30am CST and it will take them a good part of the morning to check over all 13 birds.

We are going to take advantage of this opportunity to pull the CraneCam from the field at dusk and take it to our aircraft hangar to charge up the batteries overnight. This will also allow us to do some routine maintenance in the morning.

We will have the CraneCam back at the pensite and up and running as quickly as we can. Our guess is that the CraneCam should be back beaming video to you by no later than 1 or 2 o'clock CST.

Date:September 8, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:BOOK NOTES - DISCOVERING ROSALIE EDGELocation: Main Office
Excerpt from the September Birding Community E-bulletin

For those unaware of the crucial role played by Rosalie Edge (1877- 1962) in American bird conservation history, it’s probably because no full biography of her life has ever been written until now. The recently released ROSALIE EDGE: HAWK OF MERCY, by Dyana Z. Furmansky (University Press, 2009), portrays the implacable and resilient woman whose small, yet powerful, Emergency Conservation Committee (ECC) made an indelible contribution to bird and land conservation.

New York socialite and experienced suffragist, Rosalie Edge did not engage in conservation issues until 1930 when she was in her early fifties. In a very readable book, the author covers Edge’s fearless battles with the Audubon Society, her band of advisors and close colleagues, her skills at reaching thousands of supporters from the lowly to the highly-placed, and her virtues as well as her foibles. The first two chapters may appear tedious for those who wish to see Edge in action, but the wait is all part of the story.

No matter how well one knows the history of American bird conservation, readers cannot help but learn something of value in Furmansky’s book. For example, there is information about the near-secret cooperation between Edge’s Committee and FDR’s Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes.

Or readers will find out that during the Congressional hearings in the early 1930s, literally while some conservationists were testifying that hawks needed no laws to protect them because they were common, Edge’s mentor, Willard Van Name, leaned over to her and whispered, “But the time to save a species is while it is still common.” Edge was astute enough to seize the idea, call her ECC printer, and launch the summation of her guiding conservation principle: “The time to save a species is while it is still common. The only way to save a species is to never let it become rare.”

Despite a few minor errors, the book is packed with stories about major resource battles, shifting alliances, loyal friends and disappointing betrayals, indomitable direction, and awkward family relations that can add up to lessons for any reader.

Date: September 7, 2009Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:MOWINGLocation: Necedah, WI

My absolute favorite part of the summer season is when we have to mow the runways. This very obviously has nothing to do with riding a mower, rather, the fact that I get to be with the birds when we take them away from the pen.

I know it’s a tough job, but someone has to stand with the chicks for two hours in a cool pond while the other team members have to slave away on a hot, loud, smelly machine. What a sacrifice I make.

This last week we mowed both the runway at the North site where Cohort 1 is, and the runway at the Canfield site where Cohort 2 and 3 are housed. On Wednesday, we took care of the very overgrown North site. At one spot on the runway, the big bluestem grass was higher than the pilots seated in the trike. Definitely was time to mow.

After training in the morning, we reconvened in camp to divide up the duties between chick-sitting and operating the mowers and weed whacker. Barb, Brooke and I chose the bird duties and headed out ahead of the mowing team consisting of Chris, Geoff and Joe. We parked our truck at the road and walked the mile to the pen, so the birds wouldn’t catch a glimpse of the parked vehicle when we walked them halfway back out to the designated “hiding pond”.

Upon opening the pen gate, the birds shot out, seemingly in anticipation of another flight. Eager to go, some took wing and flew part way down the runway, while others leapt about and pirouetted on the runway. Brooke took the lead to entice the chicks to follow, I stayed in the middle and Barb brought up the rear stragglers.

When we arrived at the pond, we waded into the knee deep water and the chicks all followed. They seemed excited at the prospect of being in a new spot, unlike chicks in years past that were very hesitant to follow. The chicks roamed around, poking and prodding, even completely submerging their heads in search of whatever tasty tidbit lay in the mud. Even when an adult flew in and perched on a mud pile nearby, they only looked on in curiosity, but never gave chase.

After what seemed like only moments, we received the all clear text message and walked the chicks back to the newly shorn runway. Most flew, but some walked, and all eagerly went back into the pen (enticed by a few well tossed grapes).

The Canfield runway mowing was scheduled for Friday and this time Erin, Brooke and I were to walk and hide the youngest chicks. As we approached the pen, we heard the excited peeps of chicks seeking the freedom of the wide open refuge.

As we opened the gate, they filed out and started leaping, jumping and flying. They followed us on the long walk to our hiding spot, but were not quite so eager to follow us into the pond. It took quite a bit longer to get them into the water than it did with the older birds. Once we had the seven in the pond, they poked and prodded for awhile.

We were able to keep their attention for just over an hour when we had a mutiny. First one chick, usually 929, would walk up the bank through the cattails, then, as soon as we would corral him, another would pop out of the tall grass. The “pop-up” show kept on for quite awhile.

We would wade out of the pond to round up our stray, just to have another pop up further down the pond. Soon enough, two of us were on shore and one in the pond, but even that wasn’t good enough. Sloshing around after the wayward chicks, we quickly realized that we had a full scale rebellion under way.

I took 929 and 926 further down the path away from the mowers and had their attention for several minutes before the other chicks realized that there was freedom to be had from the small pond. Soon other tawny heads popped up from the pond with white costumes in pursuit. We decided via sign language that a walk was in order and off we trooped. Slosh, slosh and flap, flap were the sounds of the morning. Chicks wandered into the long grass, chasing dragonflies and frogs.

As soon as we were under way, we got the all clear from the mowing team and we immediately turned about face and headed back. All was going smoothly when two youngsters took wing and flew the half mile back to the pen. 927 and 928, training buddies since the beginning, soared over the marsh, landed at the pen, tired of waiting for the flightless leaders. Then they flew back to get us.

Soon we had all chicks on the fairway, I mean runway, and without much ado, back into the pen. As always happens during mowing, I learn more about my chicks, their personalities and behaviors, than they ever could learn from me. And, as always, the time goes way too quickly and I am very reluctant to have the time end.

Date: September 6, 2009Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:THREE BECOMES TWO - INTEGRATING COHORTSLocation: Necedah, WI
Some of our birds are over 4 feet tall and it’s hard to believe they have only lived 100 days. It wasn’t that long ago they were fluff balls. Now they are formidable. They have all fledged, even if the younger ones are only flying a circuit or two. We have reached that stage in the season when we begin mixing them together with the ultimate goal of one cohesive flock.

They have spent more than half of their 100 days in the company of their small group of flockmates. Through pecking and posturing they have established their social order, and it is now hard to tell which bird is the most dominant. Displays of aggression are uncommon because every member of their society knows their place and few corrections are needed.

All of that changes when we mix them, and we can only guess what kind of trauma that upheaval causes. It started with a routine flight like on any other morning. Brooke led Cohort 2 over the pen and west in a big circle before taking a course to the northwest. He covered the distance in only a few minutes and all the birds followed him in for a landing; not one drop out or turn-back.

The flight to Canfield is 2 miles or better. In the past we led them a much shorter distance to the now retired east pensite and always had to struggle to get them that far.

I remember a season when I retrieved one bird that had dropped out and turned back. He finally formed on the wing just before reaching his home pen and was encouraged to stay there by the swamp monster on the runway. He followed all the way back to the new site where all his flockmates waited patiently. On the final approach he broke again and headed back home. He made the round trip five times before exhaustion overruled trepidation and he eventually landed with the trike.

There have been seasons when we have left a reluctant bird in his home pen alone overnight before he grudgingly followed to the new site the next day. This is the first year I can remember that none turned back of dropped out.

Naturally, the first cohort to fly is the oldest. In fact, at this stage they can stay airborne for half an hour or more. We could easily lead them to another pensite, so it would seem logical to try and mix them first. But we couldn’t integrate them with the youngest birds because their flying ability is too diverse, plus there is a huge size difference. That means we would have to mix them with the middle age group as their abilities would be more compatible. If we followed that procedure however, it would leave us with one large group of the oldest, best flying birds, and a small, young, still developing cohort. Mixing them would be challenging, and with that disadvantage, they would likely never integrate properly. In fact a few could be lost to aggression.

Instead, we will let the older group stay together for a couple more weeks while the middle group from the West site is mixed with the youngest birds at the Canfield Site. Once they have adjusted to each other we will bring the older, Cohort 1 birds over. They may still be bigger and better established, but they will face a larger group on unfamiliar territory. That balance will help assimilation, and with luck everyone will get along.

Chris trained the oldest birds Saturday morning, leading them around the marsh for 20 minutes or so. He coaxed them up to a few hundred feet - which seems a lot higher than the tree top altitudes the birds of years past were able to reach by early September.

The longer flights, higher altitudes, and fewer dropouts are all a result of better weather. A huge high pressure system is stalled over Wisconsin creating a succession of cool, still mornings. We have flown six days in a row. Now all we need is a month or so just like this.

Date: September 5, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:SILENT AUCTION OPENS TODAYLocation: Main Office
A very special piece of designer handicraft deserves a very special treatment.

The quilted wall art pictured here, crafted and donated to Operation Migration by award winning quilt designer Roberta Williams of Milwaukee, WI will be given the ‘silent treatment’ – via a Silent Auction that is. Professionally appraised by Carol Butzke, quilt historian and an appraiser recognized by the American Quilt Society, its valuation came in at $2,500.

See more photos, read all the details on the hanging itself, and learn how you can place a Silent Bid by visiting OM’s merchandise webpage.

Silent bids will be accepted up to 5:00pm EST on the evening before the last flight of this fall’s migration. (The last flight leg is from Marion County to Citrus County, Florida.)

All bids will be opened on the morning of the final flight and the highest bidder and winner of Roberta’s fantastic work of art will be announced in the Field Journal that same day.

Date:September 4, 2009 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MOVING DAYLocation: Main Office
Assuming the weather and the young cranes in Cohort 2 cooperate, tomorrow could be 'moving day' for them. (Sounds just like a migration morning Field Journal entry doesn't it?)

Today some of the crew walked the Cohort 3 chicks away from their Canfield pensite to get them out of sight and hearing of the rest of the crew so they could bring in the mowers and Whipper Snippers to cut the runway and grass bordering the pen.

Our CraneCam caught all the action. Viewers saw the costumes lead the chicks away; the crew doing the unglamorous job of groundskeeping; and, were able to watch Joe and Chris erect the fencing inside the pen that will keep Cohort 2 separate from Cohort 3 until they've socialized.

It was fun to watch the chicks' seeming reluctant return to the pen. They must have had fun out in the marsh with their costumed friends. In fact, out of nowhere, two of the chicks suddenly appeared on the runway, presumably having flown ahead rather than hiking back with the gang. After looking around for a few minutes, they took off flying low to the ground, back toward the spot where they and their pen-mates had been whiling away the afternoon.

Tomorrow is Saturday, a day on which many like to enjoy a little sleep-in. But if you are up early (6ish CST and 7ishEST), tune in to the CraneCam. We will try to capture the arrival of Cohort 2 at the Canfield pen site for you and the reaction of the chicks in Cohort 3. A word to the wise...we have been experiencing some delays while the pilots wait for fog to burn off (see photo in today's Entry 1), so it's possible you'll have lots of time to dash away and put the coffee pot on.

So, as my Grandma used to say, "Lord willin' and if the crik don't rise..." for the first time ever, we'll get to see for ourselves what happens on 'moving day'.

Date: September 4, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject: Music of the RefugeLocation: Necedah, WI
The refuge can be a very magical place on a foggy morning. Lately it has been almost more magic than we can handle since every morning has been foggy. In fact, as I type this, we are driving out through the fog to start our waiting game. It is while we play this game that we get to experience the sounds of magic.

It is as if the refuge itself were being played like a living orchestra. The underlying buzz of insects, providers the rhythm section, keeping time for the rest of the players. First I hear the brass section, well represented by the geese honking their bassoon like calls. Next entering in are the French horn tones of the Trumpeter swans. Then the Coronet quacks of the female mallard punctuate the foggy morning, each quack echoing across the marsh.

Ravens croak in the distance never revealing their exact position. Their atonal notes, each repeated twice, hint at a saxophone terribly out of tune; perhaps a tenor sax. First two croaks, then two roarks, then two barks, as they form a staccato beat.

As the swirling mists of the fog raise then lower, thin out then thicken, the music changes tone. Sounds travel further, it seems, in fog, so something that seems in reach, eludes visual identification. We have to rely solely on our hearing to figure who the players are, not unlike listening to a concert on the radio. So I sit down, close my eyes to remove my foolish vision, and take in the sounds.

A woodpecker strikes a new rhythm, overpowering the insect chorus. Rat-a-tat-tat goes the Pileated. A Bald eagle flies above the mists and its chirps provide the piccolo. Soon, the sun, which is now higher in the sky, starts to burn through the fog. The warmth caresses my face and I lie back, enveloped by the sounds. The somnambulant buzzing of the insects soon works it effects and I am floating.

A new sound penetrates my brain. It is a louder, but still far off buzzing and I dozily wonder what large insect is heading my way - most likely to come and take a bite of my prone body. I sit up, slightly dazed, blinking at the quickly brightening, but still misty sky. I then am able to discern the sound of two loud buzzes. Then my brain becomes fully engaged as I realize it is trikes I am hearing. They have lifted off from the airport and are heading out to inspect the refuge.

This morning it has cleared from east to west, so training commenced at the West and North sites. I hear each trike land, and then become airborne again with vocalizers blaring. I can envision the chicks trailing behind each machine, jockeying for the coveted wing position. I hear the trikes circle and circle and then one becomes quiet. The chicks at the West site don’t fly as long as the older birds, so their training session finishes first.

I stand up, awaiting the pilot's voice over the radio to inform me of his imminent arrival at the Canfield site. As I don my costume and start walking towards the pen, I hear the final voice in the orchestra—the one I have been waiting for, the voice that always gives me chills. Repeated, I get goose bumps. The very trumpet-like unison call of adult Whooping cranes echoes across the marsh, not only completing the orchestra, but somehow also completing the wilderness experience and giving that finishing touch to the morning concert on the refuge.

Date: September 4, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CRANECAM GIVES PHOTO OPSLocation: Main Office
In addition to thrilling Craniacs and new viewer converts to the Whooping crane project with the CraneCam, we continue to capture other video and still images to share with you. Here are two from Thursday's training.
 

 

This is the fog layer that greeted our trike pilots as they approached the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge enroute to perform Thursday morning's flight training. There was a short wait, but it lifted in time for training to proceed.   Snapped from the cockpit of his trike, Chris Gullikson captured Cohort 1 trailing off his left wingtip. These are the oldest birds in the Class of 2009 and it looks like they've got it down pat.

Date:September 3, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:SIGN UP FOR AN EXCITING ADVENTURELocation: Main Office
Dave Davenport and Walt Sturgeon are still looking for a few people to take the trip to Patagonia they've organized .” Looks like they are just five short of being able to declare the “Odyssey to Patagonia” being a go.

Enjoy a thrilling adventure to the bottom of the world and at the same time help Operation Migration - EcoQuest Travel will donate $200 to OM for each participant. ‘Odyssey to Patagonia’ leaders Dave and Walt will be joined by Chilean naturalist Claudio Vidal.

Scheduled for January 15 – 29, 2010 the trip includes stops in Santiago, Chile’s bustling capital; the Punta Arenas and the spectacular World Heritage Site of Torres del Paine National Park. From the glaciers of Torres del Paine you will ply the Straits of Magellan, then on to Ushuaia, Argentina and the forests of Tierra del Fuego National Park. Although designed to highlight the wildlife of Patagonia - with a particular emphasis on bird diversity - every opportunity to see mammals will be taken advantage of as well.

EcoQuest Travel also offers a fantastic post-trip extension that concentrates on the wildlife of the Atacama Desert and high Andes Mountains of Northern Chile. For a complete itinerary or for answers questions, you can contact Walt Sturgeon or Dave Davenport.

Footnote: Craniacs Vi and Ed White emailed to advise that they had travelled to that part of Chile in the past and said it was one of their most memorable trips. "The scenery is variable and unsurpassed; the food was good; and the people of Chile are some of the friendliest anywhere on the globe," said Vi. "I'd rate it definitely as a five star journey!"

Date:September 2, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CRANECAM REPOSITIONINGLocation: Main Office
CraneCam watchers will be greeted with a different view as of today....assuming the fog ever lifts.

In anticipation of integrating Cohort 2 from the West pensite, with Cohort 3 at the Canfield site, the CraneCam was taken offline yesterday afternoon so it could be moved across the refuge. Prior to the actual re-location, Chris Gullikson repaired some lightening damage while Joe Duff charged the batteries and cleaned the lens.

The Canfield pensite is an extra two miles from our DSL tower and there are many trees in the way. To get the best signal, Joe and Chris hoped to position the camera on high ground next to the blind, but they found that spot was too far away. They then moved the CraneCam closer to the pen only to find that location was too low and they couldn’t get any signal at all. They moved it twice more before finding what they believe is the best of both worlds – as close to the pen as possible yet still within range of the DSL line.

Another consideration was of course to keep the camera out of depressions to avoid the potential of it being in standing water, as well as to keep it far enough from the runway that it would not be a hazard to the trikes.

From the CraneCam’s current position it is difficult to see inside the dry pen, and the angle to wet pen is low. So, Chris and Joe will be investigating the possibility of installing a second camera in the pen. (Keep calm viewers….the key word here is 'possibility'.) This would allow us (hopefully) to switch from close up shots inside the pen to wide shots to pick up flight training.

All of this is new to us and we are still learning as we go - - so bear with us folks. We are doing everything we can to give you the best viewing experience possible.

Date: September 2, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CHANGE 4 CRANESLocation: Main Office
Now that it's September that means back to school. We thought it timely to let teachers and students following the Whooping crane project know that we have just over 100 Change4Cranes kits left. Once they are gone, that will be it for the season.

To order your kit(s), email memberservices@operationmigration.org, or, give Chris Danilko in our office a call - toll free at 1-800-675-2618.

Date:September 1, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CRANECAM BEING MOVED - Broadcast will be offlineLocation: Main Office
This afternoon - likely around 2:00 - 2;30PM EST, we will be cutting off the CraneCam video broadcast of Cohort 2 at the West pensite.

This is being done so we can take the camera back to our aircraft hangar for some regular maintenance. Once this is accomplished, the CraneCam will be relocated to the Canfield pensite.

While we have learned the hard way that technology, like the weather, is never totally predictable, we are hopeful of the CraneCam being back up and running before the day is out - or at worst - early tomorrow.

Before the week is out, the team will be moving the mid-age chicks in Cohort 2 from the West pensite (current CraneCam location) to the Canfield site. Cohort 2 will be housed alongside, but separate from the year's youngest chicks who comprise Cohort 3. Once the Cohort 3 chicks and those from the West site have had an opportunity to socialize and establish a new dominance structure, they will be fully integrated.

With the Cohort 2 birds' flight training progressing nicely, it is likely moving them to Canfield will take place opportunistically, that is, on the first day good weather coincides with them flying cohesively and following the trike well.

Moving the CraneCam to the Canfield site will give viewers their first opportunity to see how the youngest chicks in the Class of 2009 are faring. It will also be interesting to watch the two Cohorts interact - which initially will take place through a fence dividing the pen in half. Pilots and crane handlers will be on hand to supervise when they are allowed outside the pen to socialize.

As with the West pensite, the Canfield site also has visiting White Birds. This too is likely to provide some interesting viewing.

Date: September 1, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: 931 disappearing actLocation: Necedah, WI
928 and 931* are two of the youngest birds in our flock this year. Maybe it is their tender age or just their trusting personalities but both of these birds stick close to the aircraft – in fact too close.

During our taxi training their favorite place is right beside the pilot, one on each side. Unfortunately that’s just ahead of the back wheels and all of us, at one time or another this summer, have had our hearts in our throats.

It is even more dangerous now that they are beginning to fly. At the start of a high speed taxi run you inch your way forward checking one rear wheel then the other. Often you have to use the puppet to gently push one of them away from the wheels in order to move forward. Once you are clear you accelerate down the runway making sure you stay ahead of them.

When it’s time to stop at the other end they will sometimes keep flying a few inches off the ground and land right in front of the trike. While they can come to a stop in only a step or two, the pilot has to stand on the brake and the locked nose wheel slides on the wet grass. We age a year in those few seconds.

Yesterday morning 928 landed directly in front of the trike and the pilot veered to the left in a desperate attempt to avoid him - but unfortunately 931* was right there. Her long legs slipped under the wheel and the momentum of the aircraft carried it over her delicate body.

She was immediately transported to ICF with a severely broken leg and unknown internal injuries. Barry Hartup, DVM of ICF set her leg but 931 did not revive after the anesthesia.

Twenty-three birds were transported from Patuxent to Necedah this spring, and until yesterday our survival rate was 100 percent. When you think of the number that would have been lost if these birds has been raised in the wild, or how complex their care and training has been so far, you soon realize it is unrealistic to target that number – but we try.

Date: August 31, 2009Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:929Location: Necedah, WI
I am glad to be sitting down while I write this Field Journal update. Sunday was a long day, starting with the early morning weather check (too windy, back to bed for some), preparing to mow one of the runways (wind got worse, birds stayed in the pens), then a nice long walk enjoying the late August day.

The only real work of the day for me came when it was time for roost checks. Last night it was my turn to check the youngsters at the Canfield site. 928 is still receiving medication for his respiratory condition, so a smelt was stuffed with a pill prior to jumping into the truck for the drive out to the pensite.

It was a clear, calm evening on the refuge, hinting toward fog for the morning. It was a beautiful drive out, lots of ducks, Sandhills, and even two pairs of adult Whoopers dotting the marshes. The lowering sun and quickly dropping temperatures, coupled with a profusion of golden rod and asters gave every indication that in spite of the calendar date, fall is upon us.

Walking up to the pen it was very quiet, and no chick was in the dry pen when I opened the gate. Soon all the chicks were walking up to me, except for 928. As is his M.O. he was standing in the far back of the wet pen. Trying to capture his attention with a waving puppet and having no luck, I waded back towards him. He met me half way and in swallowed the smelt quickly while I fended off potential thieves.

After medicating 928, I walked back into the dry pen to check over each of the other chicks. One by one, I looked them up and down, carefully checked, eyes, beaks, feathers, feet and attitudes. Everyone looked great and everyone had a great attitude with the exception of one chick.

929 has turned into the typical teenager. He is big for his size and likes to throw his weight around. If he could talk, he would be giving lots of lip. Because he can’t, he uses his beak to communicate his belligerence. He pecks the puppet very aggressively and doesn’t back down when it is raised above his head. (As the chicks work on their hierarchy, the first step is always trying to be taller than the other indicating dominance, thus we do it by raising the puppet above the chick.) He still tries to be tall. When I crowded him, he refused to back down and continued to jab with his beak. I bumped him gently and he stuck out both wings and stomped his feet at me using all the moves he knows at this age. When he finally calmed down, I walked away to check the other chicks.

Because the chicks are still young and short, I must bend over to give each a good look. As I was looking at 922, I felt a sharp blow to my temple, momentarily saw stars and was rocked forward a step. Temporarily confused, I stood up only to see my newly created nemesis, 929, standing tall beside me, challenging me with beak held high.

I towered over him, glowering down through the visor, daring him to try it again. I kept walking at him and he kept backing away, but not down. None too happy with my rebellious teen, I backed him into the fence at which point he had no choice but to turn and walk away from me.

Chalk up one victory for this crane mama. And, as I dizzily write this with the bottle of Advil in my hand, am I ever glad I don’t have real teenagers!

Date: August 30, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Become an OM memberLocation: Main Office
Membership in Operation Migration is a great way for you you to enjoy some exclusive benefits, and at the same time support our work in the Whooping crane project.

Supporting Members receive:
• A complimentary copy of INformation, our semi-annual member-only magazine
• Discounts on OM gear and other items in OM’s Marketplace
• Migration News via our EarlyBird e-bulletins e-mailed directly to your InBox first thing each migration morning
• An invitation to attend OM’s General and Annual Meetings
  Cost is just $50 per year, or take out a two year membership at $90 and save $10.

Sustaining Members receive all of the above, and in addition:
• A complete copy of our Audited Financial Statements
• An opportunity to help govern and guide the organization through voting privileges at OM General and Annual Meetings.
   Cost is $125 per year.

You can become an Operation Migration member in three easy and convenient ways:
 - Online Join (or renew) your membership online using PayPal.
-  By Phone Call our office toll free at 1-800-675-2618
-  By Mail Download and print a copy of our Membership form and fill it out and mail it with your check to:
Operation Migration, 639-1623 Military Road, Niagara Falls, NY 14304-1745
or to
Operation Migration, 3-174 Mary Street, Port Perry, ON L9L 1B7

What are you waiting for? Take a moment and join now.

Date: August 29, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:Give a WHOOP! - THE SUM OF MANY PARTSLocation: Main Office
OM’s Give a WHOOP! campaign has many purposes.

We wanted to commemorate the remarkable feat of flying 10,000 miles leading and teaching young Whooping cranes a migration route AND, we wanted to celebrate that milestone with YOU, the folks who care so deeply about this magnificent species.

We wanted Give a WHOOP! to be meaningful, which is why we set a goal of collecting one WHOOP! for each of our 10,000 air miles, AND, although $10 for a WHOOP is modest, the collective potential is large-scale and would greatly boost our ability to continue our wildlife conservation work.

We wanted Give a WHOOP! to be fun, so we added many draws for thank you gifts, AND we wanted to recognize participants so we created the Honor Roll.

But Give a WHOOP! is as much about a public show of support as it is about fundraising.

To illustrate the huge and widespread interest in safeguarding Whooping cranes, we will be sending all the names on the Honor Roll to the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP); to the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team; to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; and to the Department of the Interior – the agencies on which this project, and Whooping cranes, depend. From this perspective, one $10 WHOOP! from 10,000 people is better than 100 WHOOPS! from 1,000 people.

While the dollars are important, not everything is about money. By helping us to achieve our goal of 10,000 WHOOPS!, you will be sending a message of solid support for the conservation of wildlife, and especially for the work being done to safeguard the Whooping crane from extinction.

If you haven’t already, please show WCEP your support of their work, and at the same time, invest in the conservation of wildlife for the future. Please give a $10 WHOOP! today.

Date: August 28, 2009`Bev Paulan
Subject: Training COHORT 3 at Canfield SITELocation: Necedah, WI

This morning Erin and I headed out to the Canfield site to assist in the training of the youngest chicks. Whoever goes there in the morning goes out a little earlier than the others in order to divide the cohort into 2 groups - the flyers and the non-flyers. As you would imagine, as the chicks are maturing the non-flying group is shrinking.

This was the second morning that the latter group consisted of just 928 and 931. Both of these youngsters are just starting to fly, but just barely, and not well enough to keep up with the older ones.

When we first got to the pen, half the cohort was in the dry pen already and half was in the wet pen. Peering through fog dimmed visors, we squinted to see which chick was where. As is usually the case, 928 was in the far back of the wet pen, 931 somewhere in the middle of the wet pen, and all the others either near the gate or already through it. We quickly sorted out who was who, closed the appropriate gates to ensure the chicks remained separated, and walked back out of the pen to await the arrival of 'our' pilot.

This morning Chris appeared from the east and was soon on the ground in front of the pen giving us the thumbs up. Erin and I swung open the gate and out tumbled 6 very enthusiastic, energetic chicks. We hurriedly closed the doors behind us as we hid back inside the pen.

We heard the trike rev up and soon were treated to the sight of six flapping chicks following closely behind. Chris made a few circuits. Each time, at least one chick would fly right over the pen to land on the runway. What a fantastic view it is from immediately underneath this six foot wingspan, only a few feet over our heads.

Too soon, that session ended and it was time to put the flyers away and swap fencing to let the smallest two have their turn with the trike.

Once again, we awaited Chris’ thumbs up, then swung open the gate. 928 was the first out, although it was not quite the excited sprint of the older birds. Soon he was dancing anxiously beside the trike while we waited for little miss pokey, aka 931, to grace us with her presence. She took so long Chris decided to shut off the trike engine, at which point 928 took off on his own short, erratic flight. Lacking the strength to control his direction, he yawed off the runway and landed in the bush. At that moment, after a few perfectly placed grapes, 931 finally emerged and Chris started up the trike.

After rolling down the runway all of 50 feet, he once again shut off the engine to assist 928 back onto the runway. Both birds now where they belonged, Chris once again fired up and led the way down the runway on a high speed taxi. 928 was airborne the entire way, albeit only a few feet off the ground. 931, running behind with all the speed she could muster, soon became like an Olympic 'hop, skip and jump' competitor. Her strides became longer and lighter, bouncing her into the air with an unexpected grace. She began flat footed, got onto her toes, and then in the blink of an eye, was actually flying, complete with air between her and the ground. First one pass down the runway, then another.

It is always a joy to watch a first of anything; whether a baby’s first step or a crane’s first foray into the air. Pride is the central emotion that is experienced. Not only pride at the discovery of a form of locomotion, but also a prideful glimpse of the future.

First a hop into the air, then circuits, then before we know it migration legs. And awaiting all of us at the end, the future really begins - - that first thermaling flight in Florida when the chicks finally leave us and become the wild Whooping cranes they are meant to be.

Date:August 27, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TWO POPULATION UPDATESLocation: Main Office
Wood Buffalo/Aransas Population
Brian Johns, wildlife biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, reported to us that he and Kathy St. Laurent had completed surveys for fledgling Whooping cranes in the Wood Buffalo/Aransas population. They found 22 family groups, each with a single young.

Johns advised that with water levels higher than he had ever seen them at this time of year, habitat conditions were excellent. “In order to achieve these high water levels a much higher than average amount of rain fell during June (113.6mm, or 2.5 times normal) and July (86mm, or 1.5 times normal). Although the rain was welcome it came at a time when the young were still vulnerable to cool wet conditions and may have contributed to the lower than average survival of chicks to fledging age (0.35 chicks/nest vs 0.47).” He noted however, that the high water levels will ensure that spring 2010 conditions were favorable.

In summary, Brian said, “Given the number of young produced this year, and the number of adults and sub-adults that were lost last winter, the Wood Buffalo/Aransas Whooping crane population number will suffer a decline in 2009.”

Click here to read a recent article re Wood Buffalo/Aransas population quoting Tom Stehn, co-chair of the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team and Whooping crane Coordinator at the Aransas.

Eastern Migratory Population
As of August 22nd, WCEP’s Tracking Team reported that the maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population was 78; 47 males and 31 females. * = female; D = Direct Autumn Release bird.

58 Whooping cranes were last recorded as being in central Wisconsin within the core reintroduction area, and 15 birds were at other locations in Wisconsin - or were last recorded as such. Two birds were in Lower Michigan (D737, and possibly D533*), one in Indiana (727), and the locations of two others (516 and D744*) have not been recently recorded.

Of note…727* who was last been recorded as being in Winnebago County, WI in late May, was reported in Marshall County, IN on August 19.

WCEP’s Tracking Team consists of Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Jess Thompson.

Date:August 26, 2009Reporter: Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:FLIGHT TRAINING PROGRESSESLocation: Necedah, WI
Fog kept us down ‘till 9:30am Sunday morning, and then when I went to test the air it was too rough to fly. It was predicted to be foggy again Monday morning, however, when we got up, it was only patchy, so we headed off to the hanger to find out for ourselves whether or not we could fly. As we flew toward the refuge we saw only a patch near the Canfield site, so it was decided that we would train at the West and North sites.

Chris headed for the West site and Cohort 2 and I landed at the North site to train with Cohort 1. Geoff let the chicks out at my thumbs up and we were off with all nine chicks trying to catch the trike. As I turned back west, the chicks caught up and we headed out over west Rynearson pool. Tiny wisps of fog rose up from the water. Ducks, geese, swans, and other water fowl swam about on their morning feeding, looking up occasionally as if to say, “Hey, where are you going? The food is down here.”

Some of the chicks began to straggle behind, so the rest of us circled around to let them catch up. This worked well as the stragglers caught up. They then took the lead positions and we were once again on our morning tour of the refuge. As we headed over the south end of east Rynearson pool some more chicks began to straggle, so we circled again to let them catch up. But this time was less than perfect. The stragglers had anticipated my move and were now way ahead of me, and, not being used to being so far from home wanted to go back.

The problem was that the West site was between them and home and they decided to fly over to that pensite. Thankfully, Chris was done training there. and as we flew over I caught up and led them away. But as I looked back I saw 905 circle back and land at the West site. I continued on with the other eight and took them back home for a well deserved rest.

After Geoff and I put up the chicks it was off to the West site to retrieve 905. This would not prove to be easy as upon landing he hid under some tall brush and no amount of searching by land or air could find him. After some alone time however, he finally came out on his own and followed Chris and his trike back to the North site.

Meanwhile I headed for the Canfield site for some more fun and excitement. The first six birds came out, promptly got in front of the trike, and just stood there blocking me from taking off. Puzzled by my lack of initiative, some of them took off on their own, circled around and came back to land next to the trike. With my way now clear, we pushed off and were soon airborne for a slow circuit off the south end of the runway.

Dodging around a large tree we came back and landed on the runway were they were given some treats and a rest. Break’s over! Off we went again with five chicks in tow this time. 929 who is younger, landed at the end of the runway. The other five followed nicely and as we landed on the other end of the runway, 929 flew down to join us. The chicks, now tired from two flights, followed the trike walking. After putting them up in the pen, we let 928 and 931 out for some training. As they were coaxed out of the pen 924 escaped and eagerly came up to the trike for some more exercise. Not wanting to confuse the younger chicks we let 924 participate too.

The two younger chicks ran and flapped behind the trike, sometimes flying, while 924 flew past the trike to do a short circuit on his own. We did this a couple more times from end to end of the runway. With 931 and 928 less developed than the rest of the birds they did well by getting airborne but stayed with the trike on the ground as 924 flew around in the air showing off his flight skills. Florida is a long way off buddy!

Date:August 25, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:LET THEM KNOW YOU'RE THERELocation: Main Office
Excerpt from the August BIRDING COMMUNITY E-BULLETIN

TIP OF THE MONTH: STOP BY THE OFFICE
Wherever you go birding this month – a park, a refuge, a state forest, whatever – you should take the time to stop by the agency’s office. Sometimes the visitor center or office isn’t open when you arrive in the morning, but it’s usually open when you are ready to leave. Perhaps you already picked up a map and checklist from an outdoor kiosk, but a brief visit is still recommended.

The staff should know that you’re birding there; they should be made aware if you had a good time, and you should consider leaving some of your bird sightings if they have an observations clipboard.

If you don’t tell them you’re birding there, they will never know that you came. We all need to reinforce the message: Birders use the location and the staff should respond to birder needs.

Date: August 24, 2009Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:THE SEARCHLocation: Necedah, WI

All’s well that ends well is a term we use frequently. Especially on migration. It seems nearly every fly day, some adventure pops up that requires the team to scramble. Whether a flat tire or a bird gone missing we band together, every team member doing their part. And everything always ends well.

During the summer training season, fewer things go wrong, yet they sometimes still manage to. Saturday was one of those days.

It started out a beautiful morning. Clear and relatively calm. Leaves were rustling slightly, but the guys decided to give it a go. Erin and I headed to the Canfield site to help train the youngest birds. I wanted to go there, because the last time we trained at that site, 929 landed on the top netting of the wet pen on the first circuit, then landed out in the marsh on the second. I felt it was best to have an experienced person there, just in case he did it again.

Chris was the designated pilot for Canfield Saturday morning and Erin and I separated the cohort into the flying group and the non-flying group as he approached the runway. As soon as Chris taxied up, we opened the doors and out charged the flying birds (922, 924, 925, 926, and 929).

We watched as he led the chicks on a circuit around the marsh, then saw him fly further taking his fledglings on the longest flight of their short and new lives. As he made the turn behind some trees, we saw one bird flying very low, struggling to remain airborne. Lower and lower he flew until I saw him disappear behind the dike to the west of the pen.

Chris returned to the runway with 4 birds, pulled to a stop and shut off the trike giving the birds a needed rest. After a very short time, he was airborne again, flying in the direction of the missing bird. Often, by doing this, the bird that landed out, will take off from his hiding spot and follow the trike back to the runway. From our position inside the pen, neither Erin nor I could catch a glimpse of the wayward chick. What we did see though, was Chris returning to the runway with now only 3 chicks in trail.

After pulling to a stop in front of the pen, we quickly put the three away and commenced a search for the missing twosome. Soon another trike appeared from the south and I quickly established radio contact with Richard. As Erin, Chris and I walked to where Chris saw one of the birds drop out, Richard yelled over the radio for us to look to the right and sure enough at the north end of the runway was 929, eagerly walking our way.

One down , one to find. As Erin escorted 929 back to the pen, Chris and I walked across the water filled ditch and proceeded down the dike where I last saw the chick. Chris stayed on the dike as I wandered into the marsh, willing my baby to be there. With vocalizer screaming, I struggled across fallen trees, waded through knee deep water and bushwacked through grass taller than my head. Soon I heard Robert Doyle’s voice over the radio, quickly followed by Brooke asking if we needed more assistance.

Soon the whole team was on site mounting what must have appeared to be a major man, or in this case, chick-hunt. Two trikes were circling with pilots peering through tinted visors into long grasses, ground crew wandering up and back and across, searching, searching for the missing youngster.

As I radioed up to Richard to give me a bearing back to the dike, I scrambled my way back, somehow knowing that the chick was not where I last saw him. The search continued north of the runway and soon I heard a voice over the radio, that the still tawny chick had just appeared walking his way back towards the runway. It turned out it was 924 and he was a mixture of happy (which, before I can be accused of anthropomorphizing, he was trilling the contented, happy sound) and tired.

Once I sloshed my way back to the pen, he was safely ensconced inside and we could continue with training the non-flyers (927, 928 and our youngest, smallest, 931). 929 was none the worse for wear and 924 was standing with wings drooping indicating he was pooped, and boy could I relate to that feeling.

And, as it always goes, all’s well that ends well.

Date: August 23, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:APPEAL TO CRANECAM VIEWERSLocation: Main Office
OM’s CraneCam is beginning to attract quite an audience. As of August 20th there were 128 sites referring visitors. The CraneCam has so far garnered 15,620 unique viewers; a number that grows daily. Our GuestBook and email inboxes are filled with comments expressing your delight at being able to watch the CraneCam and your gratitude to Duke Energy for helping to make it possible.

This appeal is directed especially at CraneCam viewers. If every CraneCam viewer would give just one WHOOP! it would put our Give a WHOOP! campaign over the top. Please take a moment right now to Give a WHOOP!

Give a WHOOP! in celebration of our soon to be achieved 10,000th mile in the air teaching generations of young Whooping cranes a migration route, and at the same time, let the the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership know that you support their work to safeguard the Whooping crane from extinction.

Our Give a WHOOP! campaign has a dual meaning and purpose. It is as much about people indicating they care about the survival of Whooping cranes as it is about raising funds. A list of names of 10,000 people who have said that they care about the future of Whooping cranes will send a clear and strong message like no other.

Date:August 22, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION LOCATION UPDATELocation: Main Office
Beth B. Kienbaum, Whooping Crane State Coordinator for the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources sent along this summary report on the mid-August locations of the Whoopers in the EMP. ~ 78 Birds (47 M, 31 F) * = female; D = Direct Autumn Release, NNWR = Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

Mid-August 2009 Whooping Crane Locations

Wisconsin County

# Cranes

ID#

Adams

1

524

Chippewa

1

733

Columbia

3

D831, D836, D838

Dodge

9

804, 814, 818*, 805, 812, 824*, 827, 830*

Fond Du Lac/Dodge

1

107*

Jackson

1

520*

Juneau

3

506, 707, 739*

NNWR

45

105 & 501*, 211 & 217*, 213 & 218*, 317 & 303*, 403 & 309*, 310 & W601*, 311 & 312*, 318 & 313*, 316 & D742*, 401 & 508*, 408 & 519*, 512 & 722*, 307 & 726*, 10l, 216, 402, 412, 416, 509*, 514, D527*, D627, D628, 703, 709, 713, 716*, 717*, 724, D746*

Lincoln

1

813*

Marathon

1

D528*

Monroe

2

819, 829

Wood

3

212, 419*, 703

Total

71

 

 

Missing/Current Location Unknown

ID#

Last Known Date

Location

511

May15/09

NNWR

706

May/06/09

NNWR

712

May/06/09

NNWR

727*

May/03/09

Winnebago Cty, WI

737

June/10/09

Jackson Cty, MI

D533*

March/15/09

Hardin Cty. KY

D744*

December/09/08

Wayne Cty. IN 

516

December/22/08

Marion Cty. FL

NOTE: Unidentified cranes reported in MI - May/18/09 Van Buren Cty; May/13/09 Eaton Cty; May/7/09 Tuscola Cty

Date: August 21, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NOTICE OF ANNUAL GENERAL MEETINGSLocation: Main Office
On Sunday, September 20th, (the day after the Necedah Whooping Crane Festival) the Annual General Meetings for Operation Migration Inc, and Operation Migration USA Inc will be held at 9:00am in the Classroom adjacent to Headquarters on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

The primary items of business to be transacted at the Annual General Meetings will be:
• Report on the affairs of the corporations for the completed fiscal year
• Membership motion instructing the Board to meet government insurance requirements
• Presentation of the 2008/2009 Audited Financial Statements
• Ratification of the actions of the Board over the last fiscal period
• Appointment of the organizations’ auditing firms for the 2009/2010 fiscal year
• Election/Acclamation of Board of Directors
• Announcement of the Volunteer of the Year

Why not plan to be on the Observation Tower for early morning flight training and then join OM staff and our Board of Directors for the meetings. Coffee and light refreshments will be offered.

Our thanks go to Refuge Manager Larry Wargowsky and his team for kindly allowing us the use of his facility.

Date: August 20, 2009Reporter: Erin Harris
Subject: The True MeaningLocation: Necedah, WI

As usual, the annoying sound of my alarm woke me up around 4:45am. Time to start another day! By 5:30am we’re huddled together, trying to figure out the agenda. As we are handed our aircraft radios so we can hear the cheerful talk between pilots, we are discussing which site we would like to do training at. Once decided, we all scramble into vehicles to make it out before the pilots get there. Today, I had the pleasure of training at the North site with the oldest chicks.

When I arrived at the site, I peeked through the peep holes drilled into the wood panels to see what the chicks were up to. Even though the view is limited, I heard lots of peeping, so I knew my presence had not gone unnoticed. With the aircraft radio in hand, I could hear the pilots talking, so I knew they were on their way.

Shortly, I saw 3 trikes, all following each other like geese in a row. The first and third trikes veered off to travel to their destination, while the middle trike flew to the North site. I hid the radio, turned my vocalizer on, and stepped into the pen to get all the chicks ready to go. After all the chicks were at the ‘starting gate’, I stepped outside to wait for the pilot to land.

Once Brooke landed, and gave me the all clear signal, I opened the door, and out came 9 beautiful Whooping Crane chicks, full of excitement and grace. Since we were not able to train Tuesday due to high winds, they all flew to one side of the runway, stretching their wings, as if to say, “I’m free!” Once they all flew back and got in formation, Brooke floored the trike, and off they went.

Brooke flew over the marsh behind the pen with all 9 chicks in tow. I stood in the pen watching in awe. The first flying session lasted around 10 minutes. One by one, the chicks start to tire, and fly back to the pen. As Brooke was flying with the 4 strongest chicks, I was peeking through the holes, keeping my watchful eye on the 5 chicks on the ground. I had not yet seen the resident adult pair that call the North site home. Then I heard the sound of wings; wings much more powerful than the chicks’.

The adult pair flew onto the runway and immediately started to display threat postures. My heart started to race, but I did not run out there immediately because they were not doing any physical harm to the chicks. The threat postures soon turned into the adults trying to chase the chicks and that’s when I knew it was time to protect “my babies”.

While Brooke was still in the air, I came marching out of the pen, puppet held high, and chased the adults back into the marsh. This was not easy! The adults got separated because they ran in opposite directions. I chased one into the marsh, and then turned my attention on the other one.

While I went after the second adult, I noticed some of the chicks not too far behind me. They were my backup crew. Once both adults were in the marsh I walked back into the pen, not to be seen again until training was completed. The adults left the chicks alone for the remainder of the session.

Brooke landed, and all 5 chicks that hadn’t followed him quickly flew over to the trike for treat time. He taxied the chicks to the other side of the runway and was off again, this time with only 7 chicks in tow. 901 and 907 decided to stay behind and watch everybody else do all the work.

It wasn’t long before they were joined by other chicks that dropped out. When Brooke landed for the last time with the chicks he gave me the signal to open the doors, and we got all 9 chicks back into the pen safe and sound.

Watching the chicks follow the trike is an iconic image and reminder of why we are here. This sends a message that humans are here to show Whooping Cranes the way to survival. It reminds me of a quote that I saw at ICF, “Endangered means there is still time.”

That’s why we are here….because there is still time.

Date: August 19, 2009Reporter: Geoffrey Tarbox
Subject: MOONLIGHTING AS A PLANT KILLERLocation: Necedah, WI
Even though my mind was still trapped in a semi-conscious stupor, I could tell the morning was off to a shaky start as I shambled out of my trailer. I could feel a gentle breeze blowing against my face, and the tops of the trees were shaking. Never a good omen. Still, we decided to give it a whirl seeing we had nothing to lose by trying, and the kids would need checking up on anyway. By the time I reached the West site the wind was really picking up and the tops of the trees and grasses were dancing, so we had to call off training for the day.

Thankfully, the kids were fit as fiddles. They were all milling about out in the pen, ready, willing and eager to stretch their wings. Even the infamous 918 was cooling his heels in the dry pen, waiting for me to throw the doors open and turn him loose on the morning sky…or turn him loose on the marsh, so one of us could swim after him.

Unfortunately, their excitement would have to wait another day as I went about looking them over. As I went about my business, the pair of adults residing at the West site watched me intently and disapprovingly, as though I were an alligator swimming in the community pool. But thankfully, they remained silent, and didn’t unwittingly scare the chicks. After restocking their food, cleaning up the spilled pellets, and making sure no one was limping, wheezing, bitten, or badly bruised, I slinked on back home to camp to await a less blustery day.

With the high point of my day a bust, I turned to another project I had going on the side. As an intern, my day mostly consists of training at sunrise, roost checks at sunset, and a host of other odd jobs in between, like repainting feeders, or cleaning water pans. While this is easily the most rewarding and horizon-broadening jobs I’ve ever taken, it’s anything but hectic or fast-paced once the birds get as independent as they are right now. Looking for something to keep me occupied, I got my hands dirty with some ongoing invasive plant management on the refuge.

A month ago, one of the refuge biologists, Rich King, heard about my past stints as a paid plant killer, and asked me to yank up a patch of spotted knapweed on the back road to the North site. This is a nasty, invasive little sucker that first snuck into the US in the early 1900s through contaminated hay  from Eastern Europe. It takes over by helping itself to every drop of rain and groundwater with their taproots, while contributing to erosion and wildfires. (Note: Click here to read Geoff's bio and his exploits as a plant killer.)

Add to that, these plants are allelopathic, meaning that they emit chemicals from their roots that slow down the roots of other native, more beneficial plants. This lets them waltz in and take over the place. And as if this plant wasn’t genuinely unlikeable enough, its stems and leaves are coated with a substance similar to poison ivy that can cause ugly reactions to anyone who’s allergic to it. It’s pretty hard to get a good handle on this stuff, since it spreads pretty quickly, makes a mess, and is hard to kill since it is (in my experience) fairly resistant to garden-variety herbicides.

Folks at the refuge were worried that these invasive varmints would creep their way to the runway at the North site, get lodged in the wheels of the trikes, and cause all sorts of mischief as their seeds are carried to other locations and over the refuge. Normally, the refuge tries to stay on top of the invasive plants themselves. But since this patch was growing on a stretch of road overlooking the North pensite, they couldn’t go up there without costumes. So, they offered me the job instead. Never one to turn down a chance to terrorize invasive plants, I happily agreed.

But before I left, Rich also told me to keep a sharp eye out for wooly milkweeds (Asclepias lanuginose), a species of low-growing, green-flowered, fuzzy-leaved milkweed that’s threatened, here in Wisconsin. Normally, they make their homes in dry prairies, or in sandy or gravelly soils - which Necedah is in no shortage of. By the by, its fancy-shmancy scientific name, Asclepias is a reference to Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine and healing, since milkweeds were frequently used to treat a myriad of afflictions, including heart disease and pulmonary ailments'; Lanuginose is Latin for wooly or downy, much like its leaves are.

Necedah is one of the few and proud places where you can see these unique and elusive wildflowers. No one had seen them grow along this back road in years. But Rich asked me to keep an eye out for them anyway, since it had been a hotspot for them in the past. Four garbage bags of knapweed later, I was on cloud nine to find not one, not two, not even a dozen, but just shy thirty wooly milkweeds; twenty of them with pods.

That was back in July. A month later, I returned to the scene of my greatest triumph this season. Rich had asked me to check up on the milkweeds, and bring him any ripe pods so that he and his staff could cultivate them in captivity. After yanking up some more knapweed rosettes that snuck past me the first time, I checked up on my stand of milkweeds. Sadly, a few of them had wilted away, but those that did were under the weather to begin with.

The rest of the plants were in rare form though, and some of the pods had turned browner and riper since I last saw them. One of them had even split open and released some of its seeds. That pod is now in Rich's hands so that its seeds can be grown and nurtured under his watchful eye.

I plan to make checking on these fellas a daily ritual. Some of them look like they could be ready in a day or so, tops. And with any luck, the wooly milkweeds will bounce back much like our beloved Whoopers. Besides, I’m already helping one threatened/endangered species get back on its feet. Why not help another if I can?

Date: August 18, 2009Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:TO MADISON AND BACKLocation: Necedah, WI
Rain pounded hard hard on the little rectangular aluminum box we call home as another, “No training - rain” went into the log book. Coffee’d and showered, up as usual at the still dark hour, I’m visited by that all too familiar, “all dressed up and no place to go,” feeling. But thoughts of the previous week’s highlights come to mind. The ‘highlightest’ of which was Monday’s trip to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine with our proud, but ailing little 928. His breathing has sounded lately like the ‘Little Engine That Could’ climbing up a steep grade, so it was decided a CT scan was in order to better diagnose the problem.

Sadly, since test results are not always favorable, such journeys to Madison in the past have often been one way trips for the birds. So it was with great trepidation that Robert, Erin, 928 and I headed to Madison after morning training on Monday.

The waiting room looked like the bar scene from Star Wars with animals of every size and description patiently waiting with their owners for what could have been the boarding call for Noah’s Ark. Soon we were greeted by Barry Hartup, our ICF vet, and his assistant Betsy. Their professional, competent, and assured demeanor immediately seemed to lift some of the weight of worry from our shoulders as we wheeled the box containing 928 to the awaiting CT scanner.

Because of my unfortunate propensity to place my body into places where my body has no business being, I am no stranger to these machines. In fact, I have taken so many rides in these noninvasive diagnostic wonders that I was awarded Frequent Flier Miles for each ride. Perhaps 928 and I should plan a trip to Hawaii after the project, or….Florida!

After a few, “put your hands here, put your head there,” the staff was costumed up. With Robert and Betsy holding 928, anesthesia was administered and his migration to ‘Z Land’ commenced. Erin and I felt like we were at the aquarium watching divers wearing white and fish with wings as we observed the action from the adjoining glass-walled operator’s room. Captain Nemo would have been proud.

As we watched, a vet student entered to also observe. A brief conversation revealed her to be in her fourth year of vet school which she began after four years of undergrad and five years of grad school earning her doctorate in genetics. She said she was going to specialize in Exotics and wanted to use her education and talents to make things better. Feeling the need to respond, I informed her of my own academic achievements, the highlight of which was the two years I had spent in the fourth grade.

Soon the procedure was over, and Erin and I stared at the results like dogs watching television as blotches of light and dark stared back at us from the computer screen like a child’s chalk scribbles on a blackboard. “Good news!” it said in code too soft for us to hear until Barry amplified its message into audible relief. “No mass in the lungs.” Erin broke into a broad smile which expressed better than could any words the emotion which immediately filled the room. No lottery winner ever smiled with more delight.

And in no time we were on the back runway at the Canfield site walking 928 back to the pen and a reunion with his cohort mates. If this were a cowboy movie, they would have already given away his boots and saddle and given his horse a new name. But not today, for he, and we, had dodged a bullet and we knew it. No spinning plate has fallen from our juggler’s stick to smash into pieces on the stage, though the performance does continue and the vigilant spin continues.

As we returned to the van, I couldn’t help but think of those folks back at the University of Wisconsin and ICF, and how they, for that brief but special time, had made our bird their own; how they had used their education, their skills and their competence to such positive effect. And I even began to entertain the prospect of going back to school myself. Only this time, I think I’ll repeat the 9th Grade!

Date: August 17, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:PROGRESSLocation: Main Office

For those of you who have been watching early morning flight training of Cohort 2 (the mid-aged chicks) at the West pensite, you will have noticed a change in the behavior of 918 and that of 213 & 218, the visiting adult pair. 918’s attitude/attentiveness to the adults seems to have cooled off somewhat. Now that he’s flying, his visits to the marsh have waned, and he excitedly follows the training trike along with his pen mates.

In previous Field Journal entries, Joe has explained why 918 could not be ‘handed over’ to the two White Birds, however, he is working on a draft protocol for WCEP’s consideration should a similar opportunity present itself in the future.

Cohort 1, the oldest chicks in the 2009 generation, are flying larger and longer circuits. (Bev provided these images captured during this morning's training session with the oldest group)

As you’ve likely seen mornings via the CraneCam, the Cohort 2 birds have all fledged, but they are only flying brief, short circuits so far. At the Canfield site, the youngest chicks, with the exception of 931, are all starting to fly in ground effect. Despite not yet finding air, 931 ensures he is not left out and runs enthusiastically behind the trike.

Several of the young cranes have been carefully monitored for health issues. 928 was recently checked out via a CT scan for a respiratory issue and he is being treated with meds. 901 and 914 both have a cough, but so far it does not appear to impede them in any way. 927 has a swollen hock, which appears to be on the mend.

Once Cohort 3, the youngest birds, are flying, Cohort 2, the mid-aged birds will be moved to the Canfield pensite to join them. (OM’s CraneCam will be relocated from the West pen site to the Canfield site when Cohort 2 is moved to there.) After the two youngest groups have been socialized and have had an opportunity to establish a new pecking order, the oldest birds – those in Cohort 1 – will be moved there as well.

WCEP’s Health Team will soon be setting dates for the Class of 2009’s the pre-migration health checks....a sure sign migration departure is around the corner. Where did the spring and summer go? I've got to stop blinking!

Date: August 16, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NECEDAH CRANEFESTLocation: Main Office
According to Dave Arnold, one of the Necedah Lion's Club members who does much of the organizing of the annual Necedah Whooping Crane Festival, things are falling into place for the September 19th event. In this the 9th year of the Whooping crane project, and the Lion's Club is marking their 9th consecutive year hosting the festival.

Dave tells us that in addition to a roster of speaker presentations (including "Flying With Birds" by OM's Joe Duff) there will be activities for the young folk, displays of arts and crafts, and a number of raffles and silent auctions. You won't go hungry as the Necedah Lion's Club offers a variety of food for sale throughout the day, finishing with an evening BBQ dinner featuring live entertainment to kick up your heels to. Click here to to visit the CraneFest website and get all the details.

Operation Migration, along with several other member organizations in the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, will be exhibiting at the event. We invite all attendees to stop by OM's booth where we will have a trike on display, as well as all sorts of OM gear and other merchandise for sale. (If you haven't become a MileMaker sponsor or given a WHOOP! by then you can do that there too.)

At the close of the event, OM will be making the draw for the gorgeous quilt crafted by Lorraine Gray of Urbana, IL. Click here if you haven't as yet got your raffle tickets.

All in all it is a fun-filled day and an opportunity to rub elbows not only with fellow Craniacs, but with many of the folks involved in WCEP. Hope to see you there!

Date: August 14, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:LARGEST GENERATION EVERLocation: Main Office
In addition to the 20 plus Whooping crane chicks designated for the Ultralight Class of 2009, Whooper chicks were also assigned to the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) operated by the International Crane Foundation (ICF) and US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Three recent posts to ICF’s website by Marianne Wellington, Aviculturist and WCEP DAR Co-chair, document information on the DAR cranes included in that program. Marianne introduces the first four DAR chicks here; the next three here; and the last three here.

Assuming the continued well being of all the ’09 generation of chicks, this fall’s release will see the largest ever number of Whooping cranes added to the Eastern Migratory Population in one season.

Date:August 11, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:Give A WHOOP!Location:Main Office

The Give A WHOOP! celebration kicked off almost 3 weeks ago and since, we've heard 1165 celebratory WHOOPS! from thirty-six of the fifty U.S. States; six of the thirteen Provinces and Territories in Canada, and from as far away as South Africa!

We'd really appreciate your help in spreading the word to get as many WHOOPS! from around the globe - Take a look at the promotional video below and forward it to your friends and family, and in turn, ask them to forward it to their social circles. 10,000 airmiles is something to WHOOP! about--it's almost the equivalent of flying halfway around the world!

If you haven't WHOOP'ed why not visit this page to make your voice heard?

If you can help by forwarding this video to your friends please copy this link: http://bit.ly/BopAu

Date:August 11, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATELocation: Main Office
As of August 8, the maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population was 78; 47 males and 31 females. The majority of the Whooping cranes, 59, remained in the core reintroduction area. In this update - * = female; D = DAR/Direct Autumn Release birds.

Recent Locations Undetermined
506 – last detected June 5
509, 511 – last recorded May 11
516, D533*, D744* - have not recently been recorded. (One of these birds is believed to be in lower Michigan.)
524 - last confirmed July 26
D527* - last observed June 9
706, 712 – not detected since May 6
727* - last recorded May 25
D737 – last reported in Michigan June 14

WCEP’s Tracking Team consists of Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Jess Thompson.

Date: August 10, 2009Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:ROOST CHECKSLocation: Necedah, WI
Every evening two of us go out to the pensites to do roost checks. This consists of going to each site, checking each bird by looking at its eyes, beak, legs, toes and feathers. We also replenish food and clean up any spilled food under the feeders.

Each group of birds behaves differently. The youngest stay with us the longest at roost check. Milling about us, they trill contentedly, poking at our costumes, preening at our feet, stretching their strengthening wings. As we walk away from the pen at the Canfield site after completing our chores, we can hear the chicks still peeping after us.

The mid-aged birds at the West site are the most independent group. This is obvious during training, and in the evening. We stand in the pen for several moments before they lazily wander our way. 915 is always the first one into the dry pen, followed by 912, 913, 914, 919, and last but certainly not least 918.

All birds accounted for, feeders filled and spilled food cleaned up, we depart the pen. I stand in the middle of the runway waiting for my partner to lock the gates when I look up and notice an adult Whooper on the runway. The bird struts towards me, then leans forward, and with a powerful beat of its wings, becomes airborne flying right at me. I hold my breath at the beauty and majesty and stand in awe as it flies past me and into the marsh. It lands behind the wet pen and trumpets loudly, declaring its territory.

At the North site where Cohort 1 is penned, the chicks come running into the dry pen every evening when we walk in. They gather around us, jockeying for position, peeping and trilling. After we check over each chick, we turn off our vocalizers and let them do as they please. Soon one chick starts to flap and jump and before we know it, the entire cohort is flapping. One bird will run into the wet pen and very quickly the others follow, enthusiastically flapping and skipping across the water. Loudly splashing, the chicks run back and forth through the water, before settling in the back of the pen for the evening.

At each site there is an adult pair. The most aggressive pair is at the North site. They disturb training in the morning and  they really give us the business at roost check time. The pair, 726* and 307, stalk us as we walk away from the pen. 726, whom I raised from an egg, is the more aggressive of the two. She runs up behind us, stamping her feet and stabbing at us with her long stiletto like beak. I turn and face her, remembering her as a cute fuzzy little chick, running enthusiastically behind me, waving stubby wings trying to keep up. I remember feeding her meal worms, coaxing her to follow the trike and  not be afraid. Now, I have to stand up to her, and chase her from the runway where she learned to fly behind that very same trike. (Right: Before photo -726* as a chick)

She greets us with a crouch threat, laying all the way down on the ground in anticipation of leaping up and jump-raking us. Then she turns and struts with stiff legs, showing her glorious red crown, trying to intimidate. She then goes through every threat posture possible, telling us that this is her territory, and chicks or not, she is staying put. I stand my ground, mostly because I am so impressed by this incredibly beautiful, incredibly graceful creature that I helped nurture. She is now truly wild, doing the things a wild bird would do, acting the way a wild bird would act. Trying to scare off the intruder even if it was her 'mama'. (Left: After photo - 726* today)

As we walk away, leaving the two adults on the runway, I look back at the pen full of chicks and can’t help but wonder if in a couple of years, if these chicks be will doing the same thing; giving their 'mama' guff? And I think to myself - - I certainly hope so.

Date:August 9, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WIND-CONSINLocation: Main Office
As if the days of rain weren't enough, today it was too windy for training with the Class of 2009 at the Necedah refuge. The team stood down around 5:45am. The weatherman is forecasting a 60% chance of thunderstorms for tomorrow but currently is calling for clear skies and light wind for Tuesday. Looking like it could be a great morning for training.

Excerpt from the August BIRDING COMMUNITY E-BULLETIN - BIRDING: DEMOGRAPHICS AND ECONOMICS
Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released “Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis.” The report gleans the birding information available from the larger 2006 “National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.” This invaluable birding survey includes numbers of birders, their age distribution, income, education, gender, race, regional distribution, and birder expenditures.

The survey indicates that around-the-home birders in the U.S. number 42 million and away-from-home birders 20 million. The most significant trend in the area of avidity since 2001 is the increase in the number of away-from-home birders - an increase of eight percent.

In general there are large numbers of birders who are well-educated, almost equally balanced in gender, fairly well off financially, not particularly young (slightly more than half are older than 45), and spend oodles of money on our pastime. Click here for details.

Date: August 8, 2009Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:DSMLocation:Necedah, WI

The fact that we are not allowed to talk while in costume does not prevent us from uttering a few choice words to ourselves. In fact the inside of my helmet was blue yesterday morning, which went nicely with fog on the visor from my exaggerated breathing, the mud on my face and the thirty or so mosquitoes trapped in there with me.

I was hoping to help out Bev, who was handling the birds, and Chris who was doing the flying at the West site. Our plan was for me to show up early and try to flush the adults; 213 & 218 away from the back of the pen. Then I was to make my way out into the marsh, find an appropriate spot to hunker down into the tall grass and wait for my opportunity to discourage number 918. Yesterday morning I was the DSM - Designated Swamp Monster.

I think everyone on the team has written something colorful about 918. Coerced by the adult pair who have laid claim to the territory and everything in it, he often wanders off into the marsh to join them. Since acquiring tentative wings he now follows the aircraft to the end of the runway; then turns right and the team spends the next 30 minutes coaxing him out of the water. So far it’s been a pleasant experience for him--He gets to fly with the aircraft, play with his buddies and then go visit his adoptive parents in the wetland. After that the costume comes out to feed him treats and convince him its time to come home. Yesterday, I had hoped to make it a little less enjoyable.

At night birds are always wary of nocturnal Fpredators and are sensitive to any kind of disturbance. My arrival before first light put everyone on alert and set the tone for the morning. I did manage to chase off the older pair but only till my back was turned. They took my change of direction as a sign of cowardice and heralded my retreat and their victory by unison calling – which heightened the level of anxiety in the pen.

With a puppet in one hand, a vocalizer in the other and the swamp monster tarp stuffed under my costume I must have looked like a billowy white cloud with dirty feet tripping and splashing across the back of the pen to my hiding spot in the tall grass.

There is no high ground in that area of the refuge. All of it is wet. If you walk on the grass and reeds you have a better chance of not sinking up to your knees but not much.

When Bev arrived I was in plain view from the back of the pen. As she tried to move the chicks into the dry pen I thought it was best to simply stand there quietly instead of donning the tarp and scaring them into an uncooperative frenzy. When Chris arrived in the aircraft I crouched as low as possible and quietly slipped under the camo-tarp. I sat on my haunches for 20 minutes and struggled with my pocket knife until finally cutting a slit in the tarp to see what was going on. CO2 bailed from the slit like a chimney and a fog of mosquitoes formed a queue to get inside. They joined the hundred or so I’d already trapped by covering their little patch of wetland. My thighs burned and my toes cramped in rubber boots filled with water while my feet sunk deeper until my butt was submerged in mud. The heat, the sweat and the moisture fogged the visor and there wasn’t an inch of dry material to wipe it clean. I slipped off the helmet and peeked out of the slit.

Bev was still encouraging a bird from the back of the pen but he kept staring in my direction. Chris had taxied to the north end of the runway. He was waving his puppet toward two birds that had landing in the grass a hundred yards beyond him. And I was in the middle; wet, frustrated and absolutely worthless to either of them; in fact I was a hindrance. So I slipped out from under and left my tarp in the grass as I sloshed back to the runway and out of the way.

As it turned out 918 was with Chris the whole time--It was 914 and another bird that landed past the end of the runway and 913 who was late coming out of the wet pen.

With each encounter we learn a constant truth. No plan involving Whooping cranes is guaranteed and I make better mosquito bait than a swamp monster.

Date: August 7, 2009Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:ON THE STEPLocation:Necedah, WI

When an airplane equipped with pontoons begins a takeoff run it ploughs through the water with its full weight on the floats. As it speeds up and the wings begin to take some of the load, the floats lift up onto the surface and begin to hydroplane like a speed boat. The reduced friction with the water allows the aircraft to gain enough momentum to finally become airborne. That process of skimming over the water before the transition from boat to aircraft, is called running on the step. Our youngest cohort is at that stage. They are running on the step and will soon cease to function in 2 dimensions and begin to live in three.

When our birds first arrive in Necedah they are intimidated by the new surroundings and pay close attention to the handlers -- at least for a while. Once we let them into the wet pen and they discover what must be Whooping crane nirvana they soon forget about us. We regain their interest when we lead them out to the runway but even that losses its appeal with familiarity. Their personalities seem to change dramatically as they evolve from clingy to nonchalant and back with each new experience. Life if good when they follow well but holding the attention of a disinterested Whooping crane is as frustrating as keeping your 2 year old focused on his Cheerios.

Number 922 has recently been the last to come out of the pen in the morning and often had to be coaxed. Once out he will follow the aircraft but only from a distance and all the while he stares out into the marsh. We’ve been paying special attention to him to make sure his experiences outside are positive. He gets more than his share of treats but something in the marsh mysteriously holds his interest and he’s always the first one back in the pen. That’s all changed in the last few days because he has discovered flying.

A fixed action response is the scientific term for what we call instinct. When faced with a particular stimulus, all members of a species will react in the same manner. It’s that mechanism that compels them to open their wings whenever they run even though for the first few months they are awkward, heavy appendages that serve no purpose except to throw them off balance.

They can’t know that these cumbersome accessories that make up more than half their size will one day carry them aloft. But as muscles strengthen and feathers grow their wings begin to take the load.

We have the privilege of witnessing that revelation as we taxi beside them. Running on the step with their wings stretched and their feet barely touching we can look them in the eye and see the penny drop. It’s the moment when they understand that the burden they have been carrying really has a function and what has encumbered them for so long is about to become their greatest asset -- and the envy of every pilot.

Date:August 5, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject: MileMaker CAMPAIGN Location:Main Office

Just a reminder to all of our existing MileMaker's that it's time to download the August E-calendar for your desktop! August(thumbnail view of August)

If you are a MileMaker, you will have received a secret URL address where you can access the E-calendar images each month - this is our way of sending a special thank-you to you for your early commitment in helping to ensure that the fall migration will be funded.

If you haven't yet selected, or sponsored a mile (or 1/4 or 1/2 mile), or would like to learn more about the MileMaker campaign, please visit this page.

Currently 326 miles have been paid for, which means we still have 959 miles available to sponsor. Here is a list of the flyway states, which the migration will pass through, and the number of miles still available in each. We hope you'll help out with your own sponsorship, or by passing this along to someone you know.

State
Miles Available
WISCONSIN
10
ILLINOIS
276
KENTUCKY
75
TENNESSEE
90
ALABAMA
276
GEORGIA
62
FLORIDA
170
Total:
959

Date: August 5, 2009Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:CRANECAMLocation:Necedah, WI

In order to keep our birds wild we have to limit human access – even our own. The only people allowed near the birds are pilots, handlers and veterinarians.

The young Whooping cranes are housed in a closed area of the refuge, isolated during the migration, and on their spring return trip, the nearest info you will get from us is the county level.

All of these restrictions can sometime add to the mystique of an already rare and precious animal. Supporters have had to live vicariously through the writings of the crew and occasional flyovers at Necedah or along the route south. That, however, has changed.

Thanks to the generosity of Duke Energy we now have a CraneCam that broadcasts LIVE video of the early morning training. You can also watch the interactions during the day as the chicks forage in the roosting pen and draw the attention of a pair of wild adults who have claimed it as their territory.

This project uses a lot of modern technology like MP3 players for the crane-call vocalizers and GPS units for navigation but it’s not all off the shelf.

Our camera was custom built in South Carolina by Netvision Mobile. It is a self-contained trailer with several hundred pounds of batteries, a 30 ft. tower to elevate two cameras and an onboard computer. It was designed originally for security purposes and had to be adapted for internet broadcasting and that became Chris Gullikson and Heather Ray’s job. They both worked hard to make the needed adjustments.

Once the camera is in the field it has three methods of transmitting the images it captures. We can use the wireless signal from the router if we are close by or for longer distances we can use a cellular aircard. That’s the little plug in device you can put into your computer to reach the internet via the local cell phone tower. We also have a booster antenna for that but the problem is most cards are limited to 5 gigabytes of data each month and when dealing with streaming video... well it adds up quickly and we could only bring you a couple of hours or so each day.

The final method uses a 900 Mhz radio. A yagi antenna atop the 30 ft. tower sends a signal over several miles to another yagi connected to a DSL line. That is the system we are using at Necedah now but it is not without the occasional weather-related glitches.

Two nights ago, we lost our router during an intense storm which brought almost constant lightning. That’s all repaired now and each morning before we arrive at the training site we will text Heather back in Canada. She can pan, tilt and zoom the camera remotely to follow the birds and the aircraft. In fact she will leave it running in the corner of her computer screen most of the day and re-focus it when something interesting catches her eye.

Once we have reached the DSL line the image is sent to the ZapLive server in Holland before being picked up and broadcasted over the internet by WildEarth.tv in South Africa. So we have a Canadian organization deploying an American camera and sending the signal to a Dutch server, which is then broadcasted by a South African host.

Putting a camera where there is no power or internet connection used all of our expertise and a little help from our friends. There will be times when it is unavoidably down. We will do our best to get it back up but in the interim you could check the other wildlife broadcasts on WildEarth.tv – In fact they just began streaming live from a wild dog den!

It’s all exciting stuff and we’re still testing some other situations such as the possibility that during the migration we can take a camera with us into the air and broadcast the video feed back to the camera trailer via the wireless router, which would in turn, send the images to you. We’re also looking into connecting to a scanner so you could listen to all the radio conversations between our pilots and groundcrew.

We will keep improving this system so that we can, for the first time, bring you with us, so come and join the adventure and tell your friends.

Date: August 4, 2009Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:WEATHER WORRIESLocation:Necedah, WI

At this time of year the weather in central Wisconsin is generally hot with cool, still mornings. Instead we have had more than our share of rain and the winds feel like mid-September.

We are used to consecutive days of training until you almost wish for rain but lately it has been blustery in the morning with heavy, low clouds that like to eat ultralights.

Last night we had so much rain that even though it was fairly calm at sunrise there was standing water on all three runways so we couldn’t fly. And it was likely the lightning from that storm that took out the router for our DSL line and shut down our crane camera. (it should be back up in this morning sometime)

We have 23 birds this year in three cohorts, all at different stages of development. The oldest ones are flying circuits around the pen while the birds at the Canfield site are still running behind the aircraft.

Every year we have a certain percentage of dropouts that for whatever reason can’t or won’t follow us to the next site. Leading birds with an ultralight is like having them all attached to the wingtip with a very thin thread. If you pull too hard the thread breaks. With 23 birds there will be a higher percentage of dropouts and the only cure for that is to practice with them now in the early stages when the weather is good and we can get lots of airtime in.

Maybe we will get all the bad weather now and in the fall we get a good long Indian summer just in time to start the migration.

Date:August 3 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CRANECAMLocation: Main Office
6:20am CST: The CraneCam is back online...the onboard computer just needed a reboot.

Joe advises there will be no training today however. It is too windy and too wet. Hopefully they will have better weather tomorrow.

Date:August 3, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CRANECAMLocation: Main Office
5:40am CST: The CraneCam is offline. The crew at Necedah is aware there is a problem and are checking it out. At this point we don't know whether or not it will be back up in time for views of training this morning. Please check back later.

Date:August 2, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NOTE TO CRANECAM VIEWERSLocation: Main Office

The CraneCam was down for a while this morning but technical difficulties have been resolved and it is back broadcasting live video now.

Many of you have emailed to ask what time training takes place in the morning so you can tune in. Here is your answer, although I’m not sure it’s one you’re going to like to hear.

As with our departures on migration mornings, taxi and summer flight training with the chicks at the Necedah NWR takes place shortly after dawn. The CraneCam is focused on the West pensite which houses the mid-aged cranes, Cohort 2, and the time training begins there – again not unlike migration mornings - depends on several things, not the least of which is weather. Rain, wind, or fog can mean a delayed start as the crew wait for the condition(s) to improve. (Assuming the weather isn’t bad enough to call training off all together.)

Another factor that can affect the time training starts is how many pilots are on duty, whether all three Cohorts are able to be trained simultaneously, and which Cohort is trained first. Moreover, when one pilot has to train at more than one pensite, the time before he can get to the second group can depend on anything from how quickly the first group came out of the pen to how well their training session progressed.

Soooo, the answer is, that similar to when we are on migration, we’re never sure what’s going to happen on any given day, or at what time, until the last minute. Our best suggestion is that like us, you tune in around 6:00am CST, keeping in mind you could have a wait until training begins.
 

Date:August 2, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TRAINING UPDATE - AND - COOL VIDEO CLIPLocation: Main Office
CraneCam viewers were give a special treat this morning as they watched training with Cohort 2 at the West pensite on the Necedah NWR. The treat? We saw almost all of the chicks take to the air - and not just flying in ground effect! What a sight!

This morning's session went well despite the adult pair's attempts to lure the chicks away. Although a couple of the chicks looked very tempted at times, costume and trike won out today as they maintained the chicks' loyalty.

Chris Gullikson shot a short video the other day which you'll undoubtedly enjoy. He was at the North site for training with our oldest Whooping cranes, the nine birds in Cohort 1.

His camera captured 307 and 726* chasing off an unidentified interloper. Watch rare footage of them threat posturing and stamping their feet - and then listen as they trumpet their triumph.

Date:August 1, 2990Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CRANECAMLocation: Main Office
If we live to be as old as Methuselah, I doubt we’d have as many wrinkles as we encountered in trying to work out the myriad of details necessary in order to be able to provide you with live video via our CraneCam. (See camouflaged camera and trailer pictured below)

After months of research, learning, testing, and much scrambling, the wrinkles finally all got ironed out and we were able to ‘go live’ yesterday. The entire process entailed a steep learning curve on several fronts, and primarily for Heather Ray and Chris Gullikson, who took on the brunt of the load, and, as a consequence also bore the majority of the frustrations.

Although it might seem as simple as sticking a camera on a pole and aiming at the pen, it sure was NOT. This project has involved more than you could ever imagine. And, we’ve learned that it will take more time and effort than WE ever imagined to keep the video coming to you.

This aside, the rewards have already started as many of you have already written to express your pleasure and delight at witnessing the never-before-seen views.

Those of us engaged in this project continually say, “It’s all about the Whooping cranes.” In the case of the CraneCam however, it’s something we’ve done for YOU. If you enjoy watching the CraneCam there would be no better way to express your pleasure than by giving us your support.

PLEASE become a MileMaker or Give a WHOOP! today.

Date:July 31, 2099 - Entry 3Reporter: Chris Gullikson
Subject:DARN IT ALLLocation: Necedah, WI

Sorry to those who were hoping to watch training early this morning on our new Cranecam. We had a technical glitch on opening day – a problem that did not materialize during weeks of testing. The cameras are controlled from a remote location (currently our office in Port Perry, ON) and one of the cameras decided it would ignore its pan/tilt/zoom functions.

Training Update:
On Wednesday I trained the mid-age cohort at the West site. As usual, 918 was slow coming out of the pen, and while Erin and I gently coaxed him out using positive reinforcement (treats), 12, 13, 14, and 15 took to the air and flew half the length of the field in ground effect.

918 soon joined us on the runway, coming out on his own to grab a grape that was tossed near the door. There are times when it is necessary to physically guide a bird by holding the tertiary feathers of both wings and walking along behind the bird, steering it like a wheelbarrow. This can be a negative experience for the bird and make it gate shy, we much prefer to have the bird come out on its own.

I waited for the four birds to re-join us back at the pen then quickly taxied east with all six following well and flying in ground effect. I shut off the engine at the east end of the runway and was not surprised to see 918 wander out into the marsh. While I fed out a few grapes to the five chicks who were hanging out with me near the trike, one of the adult birds flew from the rear of the wet pen and landed near 918. For some reason, and to the delight of my still dry boots, 918 decided to slowly amble back to the runway and accept a few grapes from my puppet head.

I took this opportunity to fire up the trike’s engine and taxi back west, with all 6 once again following well and with some flying in ground effect. As I passed the beginning of the two foot flight fencing that helps keep the young chicks on the runway, I looked back, fully expecting 918 to dash off into the marsh instead of staying on the runway. To my surprise (and delight of my boots) he continued to follow, albeit a bit slowly.

I parked the trike near the pen with the wing lowered, trying to get 918 to take treats from the puppet head and poke and prod at the wing like the other chicks usually do. His interest quickly waned and he went back to pacing the flight fencing, the lure of the marsh just too strong.

I cut the session short, wanting to end this on a positive note for 918 (and my boots). I gave Erin the signal to open the pen doors and we soon had the six back inside their beloved wet pen.

Today I trained the oldest group, Cohort 1 at the North site. I have been gone for the past couple of weeks and have not trained them since they have been flying. I was excited to fly with birds again, and they were excited to see the trike – they busted out of the pen as soon as Geoff opened the pen doors.

I quickly powered up to stay out ahead of the lead birds and looked behind me to see a flurry of flapping wings. I eased the trike off the grass strip and made a gentle left turn out over the marsh, about 20 feet over the sedges and small trees. Eight of the birds landed at the end of the runway while one bird continued on flying.

I increased the angle of my left turn to fly back over the grass strip where I had become airborne, closing the distance to the lone chick who was trying to catch me. The eight birds on the runway took back off as I flew over, with three of them joining up with me for a circuit of the field.

With chicks scattered about on the runway, I had nowhere to land and continued flying short circuits about the field with birds taking off to join me and others landing out to take a rest. After the fifth circuit or so, I finally had the northeast runway to myself and landed short, my front tire skidding in the wet grass as I jammed on the brake to avoid hitting any chicks who were now flying directly at me.

I shut off the engine to count heads and feed out a few grapes. One bird appeared from out of the marsh while another slowly ambled up from the south end. Once I was sure I had all nine accounted for, I went to deal with the lone adult number 509 who had just shown up as I landed.

This bird has been a frequent visitor lately, and he likes to interrupt the training session. I tried to get him to fly off by acting like a crane – walking tall and slow with my puppet head held high in an aggressive pose. This did nothing and I ended up looking like a fool as I uselessly chased him around the trike, some of the chicks joining in the chase. I hopped back in the trike, fired up the engine and taxied back to the west, 9 chicks and one adult in tow.

Once stopped at the west end of the runway, the adult pair that frequents this site came out of the marsh and quickly accomplished what I had been unable to do – chase off 509. Their unison calls and ability to fly convinced him that he was trespassing, and after a brief chase by one of the adults, he went flying off to bother us another day.

I did a quick high-speed taxi back to the northeast with all birds flying with me, then led them back to the pen and signaled to Geoff to open the pen doors. These young Whooping cranes always become a challenge to get back into the pen after they fledge. As pre-fledglings, most will always follow you right into the pen after training. Once they have experienced the joy of flight however, they are often reluctant to go back inside and prefer to poke and prod at the trike or just forage in the short grass.

While Geoff blocked the doors from escaping birds, I coaxed the remaining six or so back into the pen using strategically tossed grapes from the puppet head while cutting of their escape route with my body and crowding them towards the door until they walked inside on their own.

Once airborne I looked over to the west site and saw that Brooke had finished up training with Cohort 2 and was on his way back to the hangar. I landed at the site to investigate the CraneCam and soon had it working on camera two.

Hopefully the rain will hold off tomorrow and you early risers will be able to see us train!!

Chris Gullikson's newest photos

Cohort 1 chicks forage on the runway after training at the North Site 307 on the right and 726* on the left make a visit to the North Site runway

Date:July 31, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: LIVE VIDEO STREAMING NOW Location: Main Office
After an early morning technical glitch, the Cranecam is NOW broadcasting live views of Cohort 2 in their pen at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

Date:July 31, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:OM’s CRANECAM TO LAUNCH TODAY!!Location: Main Office
The Duke Energy Foundation and Operation Migration are proud to announce the launch of the world’s first Whooping Cranecam!

Thanks to Duke Energy’s generosity, Operation Migration’s CraneCam will be streaming video and audio around the globe, providing never-before-seen views of one of the world’s most endangered birds - the majestic Whooping crane.

Currently located on Wisconsin’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, the CraneCam’s first focus will be on the young-of-the-year as they are prepared for their ultralight-led migration south this fall. CraneCam viewers can watch as Operation Migration’s pilots and crane handlers condition the young Whooping cranes in the Class 2009 for the biggest adventure of their lives – their first migration.

To tune in, click LIVE CraneCam (or click on the graphic link to the right)

Come migration time, early to mid October, viewers will be able to watch each morning’s departure as the cranes and planes make their way south - a journey of over 1,280 miles. Viewers will also be able to watch the Class of 2009 in their travel pen at the conclusion of each migration flight leg. (At all times, ability to broadcast will be dependent on connectivity at our remote/rural locations.)

On completion of the migration, the CraneCam will be trained on the young Class of 2009 Whooping cranes at their winter release site, Florida’s St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge. Viewers will have an unprecedented opportunity to watch them mature over the winter and the CraneCam will provide a ringside seat to witness their “soft release” into the wild.

Duke Energy, sponsor of Operation Migration’s CraneCam, has a distinguished record of support for endangered birds, including significant support for habitats and the wildlife that depend on them. Julie Griffith with the Duke Energy Foundation said, “We join with environmental groups such as Operation Migration to protect our natural resources because the company can accomplish far more in partnership than alone. We see this project as an opportunity to reach people who might not otherwise be aware of this critically endangered species.”

Thanks to Duke Energy, busy people like you and I can connect with nature and vicariously enjoy the outdoors. We think it will be difficult for people not to become wildlife conservationists after spending some time watching these rare and beautiful birds.

As exciting as simple viewing is, we also expect the CraneCam video to be put to other good uses. Teachers can use the CraneCam to educated children about places and birds they may never see in person. Researchers and scientists can use it as a resource to document behavior and changes in the birds as they mature. Archived video footage may also provide WCEP project personnel with otherwise unavailable insights.

It is important to remember that we may not always manage to keep up a constant stream of live video. Keep in mind the challenges we face obtaining and sustaining internet connections from the ‘middle of nowhere’ under unpredictable and often extreme conditions.

Operation Migration welcomes the world to its CraneCam. We hope you enjoy what we believe is the very best of reality viewing.

Date:July 30, 2009Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:THE QUESTION OF 918Location: Necedah, WI
One of the greatest pleasures of my life is watching the personality of my nine year old daughter emerge as she gets older. Each day there is a subtle difference in her perception, her view point, and the way she handles life. Watching Whooping crane chicks mature is a little like that, but it happens much faster.

In the early stages they can grow an inch a day and their personalities can change as dramatically. A few positive experiences and new found confidence moves them up a level in the dominance hierarchy. A lost battle and they can instantly lose that advantage.

Crowding them through the pen gate for early morning training may inadvertently cause anxiety and make them gate shy. If unchecked or unnoticed this can lead to reluctance to leave the pen, then missed training, and eventually an unwillingness to follow the aircraft.

We watch closely for all the telltale signs of trouble and apply a variety of cures. Eventually, after a lot of work, they come around, and in the nine years we have worked with Whooping cranes so far we have never lost one because it wouldn’t follow us.

Our current problem lies with 918. Already independent by nature, that only increased when the adult pair began interfering at the west site. Torn between the familiarity of its flock mates and the lure of the marsh, he will often abandon training to wander out to where the adults are calling. Still influenced by their parental instinct to nurture a chick, this pair have become possessive of their visitor and seemingly are trying to ‘adopt’ him. That complicates everything, makes it harder to properly train that bird and the others, not to mention the ‘up to his pockets’ retrieval that Richard recently described in his Field Journal entry.

We have reported on the difficulties of number 918 a few times in our Field Journal and that has prompted the obvious question. Why not simply let this attentive pair adopt 918?

In fact, this idea has been proposed before. Glenn Olsen DVM, veterinarian at Maryland’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, suggested that WCEP conduct a parent-rearing study. Under such a program, a few chicks would be raised by captive parents in Maryland and sent to Necedah in the fall well after they have fledged. They would be released with established pairs in the hope that they would be adopted. This is similar to the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) project, except the costumed human element would be removed or greatly reduced.

Based on the behavior of 213 & 218 at the West site and other adult pairs, we suggested a variation to this study. Rather than captive parents raising the chick in a pen at Patuxent, why not release it at Necedah when it is much younger to foster parents who are still feeling in a parental mood after their nest failed.

We have always thought the ultralight program could accommodate 24 birds, and thanks to a tremendous effort by everyone - especially the team at Patuxent - this year we are very close. The more birds we can release, the more will survive to reach breeding age, and the more chances they will have of producing young and growing a self-sustaining population. Also, the more birds we can put out there the greater the return on the dollars you donate to this cause.

Those simple equations have driven us to be ‘bird greedy’. But our ambition has always been to maximize the number of birds released into the wild in Florida, not just to maximize the ultralight flock. A parent-reared bird achieves that same goal with all the advantages that a wild parent provides naturally and we only try to mimic.

There seems to be obvious advantages. So, back to the question of why don’t we simply let 918 wander into the marsh and be adopted by 213 & 218? The answer is that the risks are too high. Back in the spring we proposed releasing a Sandhill chick to see if the pair would adopt it. But without such preliminary research, it’s a huge risk to let this pair take over the care of a rare and valuable chick. They abandoned one nest, and who is to say they won’t lose interest again. In the dense vegetation around the pen area we couldn’t monitor them very well, and an abandoned chick would be lost in minutes without the protection of attentive parents.

Without having tried it with Sandhills first the results are completely unknown. Considering we have no idea of what would happen if we simply released it, I think the chances of it surviving and making it to Florida are greater with us than with wild foster parents. It’s all a matter of playing the best odds.

Date:July 28, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATELocation: Main Office
In the WCEP Tracking Team’s most recent update (for the period ending July 25th) it appeared that once again little had changed from their previous report.

The maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population remains static at 78; 47 males and 31 females. 59 Whooping cranes were located in the core reintroduction area, with 15 also in Wisconsin but outside the core area. One crane was in Michigan. The location of the last three birds has not be determined since ~April.

Date:July 27, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MORE NAMES DRAWN FOR GIVE A WHOOP! TEES Location: Main Office
Since Give a WHOOP! launched last week the WHOOPS! have been bonging in. YEA!!

On Thursday, once the first 50 WHOOPS! arrived, we made draw number one for an I Give A WHOOP! t-shirt, and draw number two was made on Friday.

With the number of WHOOPS! that came in over the weekend (now over 700) we needed to play catch up today. It meant making 12 more draws for thank you gifts. Emails notifying the 12 folks whose names were drawn this morning (and asking for their preferred t-shirt size) are going out today. Visit the Give a WHOOP! Names Drawn page to see the latest additions.

Thanks to everyone who has already WHOOPED! Your names have been added to the Honor Roll. We're still a loooong way from our 10,000 WHOOP! target, so if you haven't yet WHOOPED! ..... All it takes is a 'spare' $10......

Date:July 27, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:TRAINING THREE COHORTSLocation: Necedah, WI
It’s been an exciting few days here at Necedah as chicks begin to fly.

The excitement started several days ago when I was training Cohort 1 at the North site. 903 flew the entire length of the runway with 904, 905 and 908 close behind. The next day I decided try flying a short circuit.

When Robert Doyle let the chicks out of the pen all nine came out promptly and we all took off simultaneously. We were airborne quickly and I turned south over the swamp. As we did so the chicks, confused with a new training procedure, began to land at the end of the runway as they were used to doing in the past. But as the trike continued to circle around they got the message that we were going flying, and wings flapping they gained back some altitude.

While a couple of them did land, some attempted to follow the trike. As it came back around they circled, each landing at different spots along the runway. 903 however, flew along and landed with the trike at the end of the runway. We waited there as the others either walked or flew to the trike.

After resting and having some treats it was time to try again. All nine birds chased after the trike as it took off and they tried to keep up as I circled to the north. This time all of them followed as I circled around - 903 was off the wing and 904, 905 and 907 were close behind.

As we came back over the runway some of the other chicks began to land. 903 again landed with the trike and this time 904, 905 and 907 came right behind. As we turned on the ground to see where the others were, 908 flew in so low over the tall grass she almost somersaulted as her legs got tangled in the long grass. Then, having got airborne again, the other 4 chicks came in and landed as well.

The next day I trained at the Canfield site with Cohort 3. All eight chicks came out of the pen well with the exception of 922 who had to be coaxed out after the trike and the other seven chicks had left.

The seven chicks followed eagerly and they gobbled up their treats when we reached the end of the runway. As 922 seemed to just hang out at the pen, I taxied down to the pen area to let her join the training session. She followed as we taxied to the north, but stopped part way down refusing to go to the end of the runway. When we taxied back to her ‘comfort zone’ she came up to the trike for some treats.

After settling her down we headed to the far south end of the runway, and she seemed comfortable with that end. On subsequent attempts she would follow to the south but would not follow all the way to the north end. When the others were returned to the pen, we kept 922 outside for some alone time with the trike. Although this worked well, she still refused to go to the north end of the runway.

On Saturday I trained at the West site with Cohort 2. As usual, 918 was slow to come out of the pen and we left on the first lap down the runway without him. The other eight chicks followed well.

On the return leg, 918 now outside the pen doors, greeted us and followed to the south. Then, with 918 hugging the short fence that separates the runway from the swamp, we taxied back to the north. He followed to where the fencing ends at which point he met up with the swamp monster (deployed from the trike by yanking on a string attached to a broom out in the swamp.) That convinced both 908 and 914 who had decided to join him to run back out of the swamp. They leapt over the fence as if it wasn’t there and were back on the runway.

With all of the chicks now following extremely well, we charged down the runway to stop south of the pen. We were almost finished for the day, when 918 leapt over the fence and went off into the marsh. As the other chicks watched in envy I revved up the engine and sped back to the pen - and all five followed…Whew!

After penning the five, Erin Harris and I went after truant 918. While Erin attempted to coax him back to the runway I tucked the swamp monster tarp under my costume and snuck around the other side in an attempt to get behind the wayward bird. I hid behind some bushes to transform into monster-man and then ran out into the swamp myself. I expected 918 to join Erin back on the runway but instead he just hunkered down. Erin and I turned and looked at each other as we realized that plan wasn’t going to work.

Dejected, I went back to my bush and took off my super hero/monster outfit and came back out a crane. We then had to follow him around the perimeter of the pen and extricate him from the adult pair who had now taken possession of him. Because I was plodding through water and mud up to my pockets I was much shorter than the adult Whooping cranes. And, they knew it! But at long last, after much jump-raking and many back and forth threats we managed to get 918 away from the pair and back into the pen.

With boots full of water I flew back to the hangar pondering life without the superhero/monster tarp and - - maybe without 918!

Date:July 24, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FIRST GIVE A WHOOP! T-SHIRT GOES TO WISCONSINLocation: Main Office

The Give a WHOOP! campaign got off to a running start yesterday and it wasn't long before the first 50 WHOOPS! had come in.

That meant it was time to make the first draw for one of our limited edition I Give a WHOOP! t-shirts. We asked Joe Duff to do the honors, and from the 50 names in the WHOOP box he pulled out that of Jan Sutton from Poynette, WI. We've contacted Jan to ask her size preference and her tee will be on its way to her soon.

How delighted were we to hit 100 WHOOPS! today!? With a second 50 WHOOPS! recorded on our Honor Roll it was time for another draw and this time Chris Danilko dipped into the WHOOP box. Very shortly, Mary Dooley of Plainfield, IN will be sporting her new I Give a WHOOP! t-shirt.

Jan and Mary's luck may not end here however. Their WHOOPS! have gone back into the WHOOP box. This means they are still in the running for more t-shirt draws, the week's accommodation in Florida, and that all expense paid 5 day Backstage Visit to Necedah.

Hope this tells everyone that WHOOPING! early means you'll have more chances to have your name drawn.

AND, please don't forget to Ask-A-Friend to WHOOP!

Date: July 23, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: CELEBRATING 10,000 MILES LEADING WHOOPING CRANESLocation: Main Office


On this fall’s journey south, (somewhere over Illinois) we will mark the 10,000th mile Operation Migration has flown leading endangered Whooping cranes on their first migration. Imagine, 10,000 miles! – that’s the equivalent of flying almost halfway around the world!

CELEBRATE WITH US
To commemorate this monumental milestone we're inviting you to Give a WHOOP!

Our goal is to compile an honor roll consisting of one ‘WHOOP!’ for every migration mile we’ve flown leading young Whooping cranes. That’s right, we’re reaching out to people all over the world in hopes of receiving 10,000 WHOOPS!

For a $10 contribution you can Give a WHOOP! - either online, or by mailing your check marked, ‘GAW’ to our Canadian or USA address. Visit our new Give a WHOOP! webpage for all the details.

Give a WHOOP! and
  -  You will be added to OM’s email list to receive our 2009 EarlyBird e-bulletins.
  -  You will receive an invitation to participate in our live, online worldwide 10,000 mile WHOOP! IT UP celebration.
  -  You will have 200+ chances for your name to be drawn to receive a Give a WHOOP! thank you gift. Potential gifts include:
         >  limited edition I Give a WHOOP! t-shirts
         >  one week's accommodation at Pelicans Beach House in Fort Meyers Beach, FL
         >  a five day, all expense paid Backstage Visit for two with the OM Team in Necedah, Wisconsin.
Click here for all the details

This is going to be great fun! What are you waiting for Craniacs? C’mon, Give a WHOOP!

Date: July 21, 2009Reporter: Erin Harris
Subject:MY FIRST TIME AT NECEDAHLocation: Necedah, WI
On Monday, July 13, around 6:30am, Brooke and I set out the long drive from Patuxent in Laurel, Maryland to Wisconsin's Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. The further west we went, the more beautiful the scenery. It went from the rolling hills of western Maryland, to the gorgeous mountains of West Virginia, to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, then to Wisconsin.

Once we got to Ohio, the earth went completely flat like a pancake. We stopped in Bloomington, IL for the night, then continued our journey northward towards Necedah. We traveled for over 12 hours to Illinois, then another 6 to Wisconsin. This was my first time traveling this far west. All I could think was, “Wow!” I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.

When we finally got closer to our final destination, Brooke said to me, “What does that sign say?” In my 'very excited that the drive was almost over' voice I said, “Necedah!” I thought the drive was never going to end. When we finally got to our campsite, I settled in to my new home away from home. I live in a camper known as The Fox, the same camper that Trish Gallagher and Bev lived in before me.

Later on that evening, I went with Bev and Brooke to do a roost check. My first thought was, “Oh my goodness! This refuge is amazing!” As we were driving, I got the grand tour of the different habitats. It was incredible to see Sandhill and Whooping Cranes in the wild. I was also shown some carnivorous plants such as Sundews and Bladderworts. I was amazed at how small they were.

When we visited the pen sites, I was in shock over how much the birds had changed, especially Cohort 1. When I last saw Cohort 1 at Patuxent, they were starting to get white feathers and their primaries (the black wing tips). Now, their bodies and wings were mostly white, and their primary feathers almost fully in.

Cohort 2 chicks were also starting to turn white, and their primaries slowly but surely growing. Ditto for a couple chicks in Cohort 3, but the younger chicks were still brown, although their primaries were starting to make an appearance.

Fast forward to today. Cohort 1 is flying! Most of the chicks fly only a foot or two off the ground, but they are starting to get the hang of it. 903 flew at the height of the wing! Cohorts 2 and 3 are still on the ground, but are making wonderful progress.

I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of this whole project, from assisting in the care of these chicks in the ICU to their release in the wild. The way I view this, is that we all have 23 babies that think we are the best parents in the world. We keep them out of danger, teach them to play nice with others, and make sure they have a constant supply of gourmet crane chow.

This is my second season as an OM intern. Last year, I only worked at Patuxent because I had not yet graduated college. Now that college is completed, I have the opportunity to go the whole way. I admit, releasing the birds in Florida is going to be tough because you can’t help but get attached to them. When they are released, we can only hope that we have prepared them the best we could for life out in the wild.

Date: July 20, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:COHORT 1 NOW FLYING / COHORT 2'S 918 IS PROBLEM CHILDLocation: Main Office

Richard van Heuvelen was the duty pilot today at the North and West pensites. He told us that all the chicks in Cohort 1 left the pen eagerly this morning, with two of them flying off a little way when they exited. They joined the group when the trike passed by however, and all nine completed a length of the runway. Although all the Cohort 1 birds are now flying, Richard stuck with taxi training this morning due to low lying fog.

After doling out some treats, he made a high speed run down to the grass strip with 903, 904 and 907 flying the entire way. 905 and 908 landed just behind them. 901, 910 and 911 landed part way down the strip before running and then flying the rest of the way to the trike.

More treats preceded another training leg as Richard taxied all the way to the opposite end. This time, 903, 904, 905, 907 and 908 flew the entire length. The rest flew three-quarters of the way, landed, and then ran the rest of the way. When training time eventually ended Richard taxied back to in front of the pen doors. Only 903 needed coaxing from intern Erin Harris to go back into the pen.

With Cohort 1 tucked away, Richard flew to the West pensite to train with Cohort 2. When Robert Doyle opened the doors, all the chicks but 918, the perennial truant, sauntered out. Richard taxied away with the five following fairly well. Trike and chicks paused at the dogleg in the runway to give Robert time to shoo 918 outside. When he emerged 918 ran along the fence line toward the trike, but in the lull before Richard could taxi in his direction to ‘pick him up’, 918 veered off into the marsh.

In hopes of drawing 918 out of the marsh, Richard and the other five chicks carried on past him down to the end of the runway. The strategy didn’t work. Back the other way with the five chicks following well, but again appeal of the marsh was stronger than 918’s attraction to the trike.

After completing training with the cooperative five chicks Richard and Robert put them back in their pen. Then Richard taxied up and down the runway hoping to draw 918 out, but by then he said he could no longer even see him. Finally, he spotted the chick over by the wet pen, with – you guessed it – the adult pair 213 & 218*.

Pulling the trike close by and leaving the vocalizer on, Richard dismounted and headed into the marsh. Robert came to lend a hand to herd 918 away from the adults and back inside. As Robert shepherded the chick from behind, 213 boldly strode up practically right on his heels. It took threats from Richard’s puppet to make 213 back off. Once away from the adult, and wanting to end on a positive note, Richard led 918 under the wing of the trike for treats before returning him to the pen.

Wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Date: July 17, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CLASS OF 2009 UPDATELocation: Main Office
For the second day in a row it was too windy at Necedah for the team to train. Not sure if the cold front brought the wind – it was just 57 degrees there this morning – or if the wind brought the cold front.

Bev said that although there was no taxi-training today the crew would still be working with the birds; most particularly socializing Cohort 3. Yesterday the entire cohort spent much of the day in their wet pen and they all got along well. Despite their seeming congeniality, Robert Doyle and Barb Clauss felt it prudent to keep them separate overnight. 924 had the entire wet pen to himself. In the divided-off dry pen were 922, 927, and 929 on one side, with 925, 928, 926, and 931 on the other.

Training is going well with Cohort 1. Richard reported to Bev that to varying degrees, every bird is now getting airborne in ground effect. Overall the cohort is doing well, and 908, who was returned to this group when she belatedly arrived at Necedah with Cohort 3, has fitted right in as if she’d never not been there.

Taxi-training with Cohort 2 is progressing but not without its challenges due to incessant visits by the adult pair, 213 & 218.  918 still prefers the marsh to the runway, not at all a bad thing in the long run of course, but for now he needs to pay attention and ‘learn his lessons’.

Bev is off for a bit of a respite so for the next few days our updates and postings will be coming from Brooke, Richard and Erin.

Date: July 17, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: HEARTBREAKLocation: Main Office
According to word received from USFWS Tracking and Monitoring team member Dr. Richard Urbanek, Wild901, has disappeared.

Wild901, the first of just two wild-hatched Whooping crane chicks in the Eastern Migratory Population this season, was last observed with its foster parents 212 & 419* on their territory in Wood County on July 12. When the family was next checked on July 15 the chick was not found.

The 2009 season's other wild-hatched chick, Wild902 the offspring of First Family parents 211 & 217*, disappeared in late June.

Date:July 15, 2009 Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:COLOR US BUSY, BUSY AT NECEDAHLocation: Necedah, WI
Things have suddenly gotten very busy here at Necedah. We are training at all 3 sites every morning, as well as socializing Cohort 3.

Most of the birds in Cohort 1 are up and flying in ground effect. 908, who was held back due to an injured leg, has healed nicely and is indistinguishable from the rest of her cohort during training. She runs just as fast and is getting air each morning. The recuperative powers of these birds never cease to amaze.

The Cohort 2 birds are where the problem children reside. 918 loves the marsh and spends the entire training session running along the fence that separates it from the runway. Richard spent a good deal of time this morning trying to maneuver the trike between 918 and the fence. He was successful, and the chick even followed the trike for a pass before becoming distracted by the siren song of the wetland.

We also have a pair of adults at the West site. These adults are very attentive to the chicks and seem to have excellent parenting instincts. Whenever a costumed handler approaches the pen, the adults are right there trying to intimidate us away.

Once we are in the pen, they stand adjacent to the fence and alternately alarm call when we approach the chicks, or are trying to draw the chicks away from us. During training this gets to be a problem and sometimes the trike is employed as a chaser to drive the adults off the runway.

Yesterday we integrated Cohort 3 for their first joint training session. They did beautifully, all following with no attention to one another, only the trike. There is a large age spread in this cohort, and thus a large size difference. 922 is the dominant bird and only will peck at 924, who wants to be dominant. 924 in turn, full of displaced aggression, will peck any and all other chicks. These two are the largest, and since 931 is still so young and very small, we are keeping the 5 oldest on one side of the pen and the three youngest on the other.

Throughout the day, we try different combinations of chicks to see who gets along with whom. So far it seems, if we remove 924 from the equation, all the other chicks get along fine. As I type this, 924 is by himself in the wet pen and all the other chicks are together in the dry pen socializing. I expect in no time at all, the entire cohort will be integrated and peace will reign o’er.

Brooke and Erin arrived yesterday from Patuxent and Chris left. We gave Erin a tour of the refuge and led her through a dry run of a morning release at the East pensite. This morning she was right up to speed and assisted in the release of the chicks at the West site. Brooke taxi-trained the youngest chicks while Richard flew into the North and West sites to train the older birds.

The rest of the day will be taken up by socializing Cohort 3, grocery shopping for the two new crew members, and getting them signed into the refuge. Before we know it, we will be doing roost checks and the day will be over. Then the mosquito patrol begins!

Date: July 14, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATELocation: Main Office
As of July 11th, the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) consisted of a maximum of 79 birds; 47 males, 31 females, and 1 wild chick. According to trackers, distribution at the end of this report period had not changed since their previous report (see June 27 entry below).

Legend: * = females; D = direct autumn release; NFT = non-functional transmitter, & = Pair; B = Breeding Pair.

In Core Reintroduction Area
101, B105 & 501*
B211 & 217*, B212 & 419*, B213 & 218*, 216 & 716*
307 & 726*, B310 & W601*, B311 & 312*, 316 & D742*, B317 & 303*, B318 & 313*
B401 & 508*, 402 & D746*, B403 & 309*, B408 & 519*412,
B505 & 415*, 506, 509, 511, 512 & 722*, 514, B515 & 415*, 520*
D627, D628
703, 707 & D739*, 709, 713, 717*, 724
804, 813, 814, 818*, 819, D527*
(last recorded June 9), D528*
727* (last recorded in May), 733, D737 (last reported in Michigan), D831, D836, D838*
W901

Outside Core Reintroduction Area
107*

Locations Unknown
416 (last observed April 19)
516, 524, D533* and D744* (A bird reported in Van Buren County, MI in April was likely one of these birds.)
D527* (last recorded June 9)
D528*
706, 712 (not detected since May)
727* (last recorded in May)
733, D737 (last reported in Michigan)
805, 812
(locations unknown as of June 27)
824*, 827, 828, and 830* (last detected in Juneau County June 25)

This report was compiled from data supplied by the WCEP Tracking Team consisting of Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Jess Thompson.


Parents 212 & 419* with foster chick, Wild901.

Photo by Jess Thompson, ICF

Date: July 14, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WILD901 AND MORELocation: Main Office
Beth Keinbaum of Wisconsin DNR sent along a photo of Wild901 taken on July  8th by volunteer Perri Liebl. W901 is the foster chick of parents 212 and 419* that was hatched at their nesting site in Wood County, WI.

As you can see from the photo, between the chick's coloration and the long grass, it is well camouflaged. Perri reported that while she only caught a few glimpses, parents and chick seemed to be doing fine.

In other 'chick news'
The International Crane Foundation (ICF) currently has 11 young they are raising for the 2009 Direct Autumn Release (DAR) program. The DAR chicks are housed at Baraboo in ICF's isolation rearing facility. Prior to the end of July they will be shipped to the Necedah NWR where they will be penned at Site 3.

Marty Folk with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also has chick news. The Florida Non-Migratory Population (FNMP) has a fledged chick.

In his report Marty said, "I’ve been waiting to announce that our chick fledged. The chick is 111 days old today [July 9]. It is likely the chick fledged long ago, but I haven’t reported it yet, because we have not verified this."

"There are at least several reasons - this is a relatively immobile pair that doesn’t go anywhere. Apparently their territory supplies everything they need; there is no hurry to fly. Secondly, about the time the chick would have been fledging, the male shed his flight feathers. (It takes 44+ days to re-grow them.) Because crane families like to stick together, this means the family is grounded for a while. We expect the male to be flight-capable again in a couple weeks."

Marty said that the FNMP nesting season concluded with 4 nests and 1 chick.

Date: July 13, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TAXI TRAINING COHORT 2Location: Main Office
This morning when pilot Chris Gullikson pulled his trike up to the front of the pen, the doors opened and out popped five chicks with no prompting. While Chris crouched down under the wing with the five, Patuxent's Robert Doyle and Intern Geoffrey Tarbox went back inside to coax 918 out.

Moments later, engine revving, the trike with six chicks in hot pursuit zoomed down the runway. At the midway point (read, a stop for treats), the two usual visitors (213 & 218*) appeared walking through the marsh just along the edge of the runway. They had been calling and calling earlier. One can’t help but wonder what the chicks make of it.

Carrying on down to the end they went, and as Chris stopped and dismounted to turn the trike around, all the chicks but one gathered round for more treats. One lolli-gagger - who else but 918 - stood off to the side of the runway tempting the adults to head for him. Chris, alert to potential trouble, strode toward them, and the white birds backed off.....a few feet. Their retreat was short-lived.

Back at the trike, Chris crouched down and the chicks gathered closely around him. Meanwhile, the white birds kept edging closer. Chris again went over to them, waving his arms in an attempt to chase them off. They retreated, but only a few yards, and in a “I’ll show you who’s boss” fashion, began to call, and call.

Chris re-started his engine, and like champs, the chicks gave their loyalty to the trike as it set off back down runway. Two chicks led the group displaying a flurry of cinnamon, white, and black wings. The others, wings folded, trotted behind until they caught up to make the last ‘hundred yard dash’ in an almost straight line off the left wing.

Past the pen they went to the other end of the runway and another stop for a reward for good behavior. The white birds again began calling as they hurriedly trekked their way through the marsh to be with the chicks. As they called, all the heads of the curious chicks swiveled in their direction. Spooked, 918 took off into the marsh.

Although the two adults seem captivated by the chicks, aggressive or harmful behavior is always a possibility, and the crew doesn’t want to take any chances. So, leaving the five chicks beside his trike, Chris went after 918. Despite his height, he almost disappeared from sight as in places, the grass is as tall or taller than him. When he re-emerged shepherding 918, there was a blur of white. You guessed it. The determined and obviously chick-infatuated white birds were right there too.

The chicks’ attention was drawn to the white birds as they stood sentinel on the other side of the runway fence. Taking control, Chris manually pulled his trike away and all but two chicks followed. They were totally focused on the adults, now just feet from the runway fence and calling to them. Eventually, Chris and the trike won the tug-a-war for their attention however.

With the trike now back in front of the pen doors, Chris gathered the six chicks around him. Costumes Robert Doyle and Geoff Tarbox opened the pen doors, and, seemingly as if they’d had enough for the morning, five chicks eagerly strolled back inside. The sixth stood and stared at the adults for a minute or two, but the costumes waved their puppets, and it too soon followed them inside.

The adults in the meantime had moved about as close to the pen fencing as they could get without actually being inside. Chris decided to take another stab at hazing them off. It was a stand off of sorts for a few moments before the birds finally backed down and although not far, moved off. The white birds are clearly not intimated by the costume despite it being the 'bigger bird’.

While the presence of the adults made for a shortened training session this morning, it was nonetheless successful. For the most part, and even though it’s early days, the chicks displayed remarkable loyalty to the trike despite the tempting distractions.

Good for you chicks – and good for you too our patient crew.

Date: July 12, 2009 Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:THIS WEEK IN PICTURES Location:Main Office
Bev sent in some lovely photos taken this past week when Cohort 3 arrived in Wisconsin at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. (click on thumbnail images to see larger)
922 & 924 extend their heavy and growing wings. Geoffrey Tarbox spends some time with the new cohort searching for tasty treats. 928 runs excitedly while extending his wings. Geoff runs alongside the newest (and youngest) members of the Class of 2009

Date: July 10, 2009 - Entry 3Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:COHORT 3 IS WESTWARD BOUNDLocation: Laurel, MD

There's a country and western song with the line in it, "Don't see nothin' but the taillights." It's about a guy whose girlfriend drove off in his pickup truck leaving him standing on the side of the road at night; a situation which would have been much worse had she taken his dog or his beer cooler, but that's another song.

This musical masterpiece did, however, start playing in my head as I watched the Patuxent van heading out through the gate for the last time carrying Cohort 3 to the airport. They were off to meet the Windway plane for the trip to Necedah on the next leg of their journey into the great beyond.

"Kind of sad, isn't it?" Dr. Olsen said, as we watched the van disappear carrying our little friends away. "Sure is," I sighed.

Patuxent is a place of beginnings and endings, with enormous amounts of concentrated effort, hard work and wide emotional swings in between. And the reason, the focus, the purpose of all of this has just left us; each bird resting comfortably in its crate just forward of those taillights.

The crew at Patuxent, truly the unsung heroes of this project, have passed the torch to the rest of us, and our job now is to not let them down.

Word from Bev at Necedah is that the thunderstorms predicted for the Necedah area have moved south which should make for a smooth flight. Now, all our little friends have to contend with is the In-flight movie, "Fly Away Home"! Our sympathies go with them - (grin).

Date: July 10, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:TRAINING UPDATELocation: Necedah, WI
As I was laying in bed this morning listening to the wind and rain I thought there would be no way we would be training today. When I looked at the time and realized it was only 4am, I rolled over and went back to sleep. When I was rudely awakened by my alarm an hour later, I realized that the only sound I heard was that very alarm. No more rain, no wind, just beautiful silent calm air.

I dragged myself out of bed, got dressed and met the rest of the crew. Robert Doyle greeted me with the message that I would be training the Cohort 2 chicks at the West site. My eyes lit. I felt my face break into a large smile and I was almost running for the truck. What a nice surprise!

This is my fourth summer here at Necedah and I have never gotten to taxi train the birds. I train them all spring at Patuxent, but once here, I am relegated to opening the pen for the pilots. Needless to say, I was ecstatic at the prospect.

After driving out to the pensite and as we pulled up to the parking area and looked down the drive to where the trike was parked, we saw a weasel jumping and running around the trike as if to say, “Hurry up, you got chicks waiting!”. His energetic movements got me revved up and I jumped out of the truck ready for action.

The taxi training trike, sans wing, sat waiting for me, and after having Robert help me to start it, (I injured my back recently and the pull start was more than I could handle) I was off and rolling out towards the runway.

My first task was to chase the resident pair of adult Whoopers off the runway. After successfully intimidating them, I pulled in front of the pen and doing my best trike pilot impersonation, gave Robert the thumbs up to open the door. I’m not sure who was more anxious, the chicks to get training, or myself to train them.

Four of the six practically leapt out of the pen and quickly joined me and the trike. 918 was a little more hesitant, but was enticed out with the promise of a grape. 914 never did materialize and Robert closed the door. We didn’t want to waste the energy of the other birds by waiting too long for the one lagging behind.

Off we went down the runway, trike leading and five gangly chicks flapping in trail. I paused at the end after turning around, fed some grapes to the birds, then took off again. What a thrill it was to train here. The wide open runway with no fence, the marsh on all sides of us, the adult cranes standing off to the side of the runway, it made for a beautiful morning. The seat of the trike is a much better place to view training than peering through a peep hole from inside the pen.

918 is our little water rat, and just as he does every morning, he wandered into the marsh. This morning, though, he didn’t go far, and after leaving him for one pass with the other chicks, he came out as soon as I got back to the spot where he stood. The chicks followed well, and 20 minutes went by in the blink of an eye. Too soon I pulled up in front of the pen and Robert, right on cue, opened the door and the chicks all filed in. After helping check and clean wet feeders (pilots take note!)I restarted the trike and taxied it back to its parking spot. Pulling the tarp over it, I couldn’t help but smile broadly over this wonderful, surprising morning.

Date: July 10, 2009 -  Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONSLocation: Main Office
Libby from Philadelphia wrote in our GuestBook, “Could we please have an update on the birds, and who is still left behind at Patuxent? I can't figure out which of the cohort #1 was left behind, or why (genetic holdback?). OM seems to have a great crop of birds this year, and I'd like to update my own records...Cheers to all crane wranglers!” Not long after, Peter from Santa Fe emailed to ask if there was going to be a Cohort 3 this year.

The answer to Peter's question is, yes, there will be a Cohort 3. In fact those chicks are being flown by Windway from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge today. This also partially gives Libby the information she was looking for. This is the last shipment so there will be no cranes for the ultralight-led program remaining in Maryland after today.

For those of you who, like Libby, keep your own records, here’s a summary of the Class of 2009 by Cohort.
Legend
* = female
PWRC = Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Maryland
NNWR = Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin
CZ      = Calgary Zoo, Alberta, Canada
ICF     = International Crane Foundation, Wisconsin
SAZ    = San Antonio Zoo, Texas

COHORT 1 - Eight chicks shipped June 25

Chick#

Hatched

Egg Source

Notes

 

901*

5/03

PWRC

Having respiratory problems

903

5/04

PWRC

 

904*

5/06

PWRC

 

905*

5/06

PWRC

 

906

5/06

NNWR

Parents 309* & 403

907*

5/07

PWRC

 

910

5/09

CZ

 

911

5/11

CZ

 

COHORT 2 - Six chicks shipped July 2

Chick#

Hatched

Egg Source

Notes

 

912

5/14

CZ

 

913

5/14

CZ

 

914*

5/16

ICF

Having respiratory problems

915*

5/16

PWRC

 

918

5/25

PWRC

 

919

5/26

PWRC

 

COHORT 3 - Nine chicks being shipped July 10

Chick#

Hatched

Egg Source

Notes

 

908*

5/8

NNWR

Leg injury. Held back when Cohorts 1 & 2 shipped. To be reintroduced into Cohort 1 post arrival at NNWR. Parents 309* & 403.

922*

5/28

PWRC

 

924

5/28

CZ

 

925*

5/29

CZ

 

926*

6/03

ICF

Having leg problems

927

6/07

PWRC

 

928

6/05

ICF

 

929

6/05

PWRC

 

931*

6/10

ICF

 

In total, 31 chicks were hatched at Patuxent this season. Below is a summary of the chicks that for reasons shown, will not be a part of the Class of 2009.

Chick#

Hatched

Egg Source

Notes

 

902*

5/03

SAZ

Weak since hatch.

909*

5/08

NEC

Research holdback. Parents sibling pair 303* & 317

916*

5/18

PWRC

Genetic holdback

917

5/22

PWRC

Euthanized due to blindness

920

5/26

PWRC

Euthanized due to unspecified condition

921

5/27

PWRC

Weak since hatch

923

5/28

PWRC

Genetic holdback

930

6/07

PWRC

Genetic Holdback

Date: July 8, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WIND PREVENTS TRAININGLocation: Main Office
Yes, believe it or not, the wind has caused taxi training to be cancelled for this morning.

But why is that? The chicks aren't flying yet - haven't even fledged you say. Pilot and trainer Chris Gullikson has the answer for you.

"We have rain slowly approaching the refuge this morning, and while that mightn't be an issue, we also have surface winds out of the east blowing about 10mph. Winds of that velocity can cause the wing on the trike to move around quite a bit. Because the chicks are so new to having the wing in place, wind driven unexpected movement can spook them. Rather than give them what could be a negative experience and potentially cause a setback, we decided to forego training this morning."

Date:July 7, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Chris Gullikson
Subject:ANOTHER DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD...Location: Necedah, WI
It's great to be back in Necedah and working with these beautiful young cranes!

This year we have 8 cranes making Cohort 1 at the North Site, and 6 cranes at the West site. We have some concerns for 901 who has had a respiratory issue and coughs occasionally. She is under close scrutiny but has shown promise the past few days with very little coughing noted and she is training quite well with the trike.

We introduced the winged trike to Cohort 1 last Friday, and as usual there was the typical shyness as they checked out the giant delta-shaped wing that suddenly appeared on their noisy escort. This morning things were all back to normal and as I rolled up to the pen and gave Bev the thumbs up to open the doors.

All but 901 and 910 came quickly out to join me. This is usual behavior and just something we deal with every year. At this stage, some of the young cranes prefer their independence and the comfort of the wet pen. Bev soon coaxed these two outside and I began a taxi to the northeast end of the runway with 8 gangly cranes trotting behind, their heavy wings held out displaying their developing black primary feathers.

After feeding out a few grapes with the engine turned off, I again fired up and repeated the procedure to the southwest end of the runway. Back again to the northeast I noted that a few stragglers were beginning to lag behind and stare longingly back at their wet pen. This was my cue to taxi back to the pen doors where Bev waited in hiding. We soon had them back inside where they took a cool drink and began foraging around in their expansive wet pen.

You know the rest from Liz's earlier update, although that was not Bev but me she saw dumping muddy water out of my boots. 918 is going to be a challenge as he has a history of exploring the marsh in search of water.

Just another day, just another pair of boots to be dried out...

Date: July 7, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: DOUBLE DUTY Location: Main Office
With pilot Chris Gullikson performing double duty this morning - that is - doing taxi training with both cohorts, I took the opportunity to watch the Cohort 2 chicks in their West pensite while I waited for him to arrive from the North site and training with Cohort 1.

At 6:33am my phone beeped with a text message from Bev telling me to get ready; Chris's ETA at the West site was in 5 minutes. Ain't technology cool? When it works that is.

And right on time at 6:38 there was Chris in his trike and two costumes opening the pen doors. Once again, three birds immediately came out, quickly followed by two others - no coaxing for them needed today. The costumes went back into the pen to shoo the one slowpoke out.

Heather, also here in Ontario, is manipulating the pan and zoom of the camera from her computer until those functions can be automated, and she focused in on the chicks converging on the trike. Holey speeding bullet! Just like that they were off! At the midway 'treat station', two chicks wandered off to the edge of the runway and it looked as if they might head into the marsh. Quick thinking Chris, turned around on a dime and headed past them back toward the pen. That convinced the wannabe wanderers to rejoin their buddies.

Down at the far end of the runway, Chris turned off the engine, dismounted, and manually pulled his trike around to face back in the opposite direction. As he crouched down under the wing all the chicks eagerly clustered around to receive the now expected treats.

Heather zoomed the camera out to include a view of one of the costumes hiding inside the pen and peering out through the fencing to watch how the chicks were behaving.

Not long and engine revving, they were off again. Chris did a quick turn and back they came.  Up and down. Down and up. When the trike finally stopped in front of the pen doors, some chicks stayed with Chris but some strolled off, appearing to be headed for the marsh. To attract the gypsy birds, Chris started up the trike and moved a short way down the runway. Aha - he fooled some of them. Pay attention Class!

When taxi training time drew to a close there were two little critters who wanted to stay outside to play. Bev offered treats, waved her puppet and flapped her arms, but the chicks weren't impressed. It was like they were teasing, strolling back and forth along the edge of the runway just 30 or so yards from the pen. Okay, on to the next strategy. Chris fired up his trike to see if they would follow.

Partial success as the costumes rounded up one chick and led it into the pen. In the meantime the other truant had ventured deeper into the marsh. The costume in pursuit moved slowly through the water, mud, and long grass, eventually catching up with the little devil and then shepherding it along the pen fence line. Then, as it rounded the corner of the pen it saw the open gate, and just like a horse who spots the barn, galloped inside.

The next minute or two was spent watching the costume (Bev?) taking off her boots to empty out the water that obviously flowed in over the top on her marsh excursion. Hope the accumulation was only water and there were no creepy crawlies in there. Ewww. The costumes went into the pen to perform their duties, and with the morning's taxi training done, Chris took to the air.

Once Chris has had time to get back to the hangar and then look after his trike, I'll give him a call to see if I can cajole him into writing an update on how things are going over at the North site with Cohort 1. On second thought, perhaps I'll wait a while. Maybe he'll be more receptive if I let him have time for some breakfast first.

Date: July 6, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TAXI TRAINING Location: Main Office
It was just a minute or two after 6am when a costumed Geoffrey appeared outside the pen doors at the West pensite. Inside the pen, several of the chicks in Cohort 2 could be seen moving around, the odd peep-peep carrying softly in the cool dawn air.

Small skifts of wispy morning mist hung low over the marsh, a few escapees tried valiantly to cling to the ground along the edge of the grassy runway in front of the pen. It was a serene, quiet vista until the waking sounds of the many denizens of the refuge floated through the air; honks, quacks, caws and chirrups. Bev joined Geoffrey at the pen, and before long, the buzz of man’s machinery joined Mother Nature’s morning symphony as the familiar sound of the approaching trike reached our ears.

Chris Gullikson waited beside his trike just in front of the pen doors. Chris had the wing on the training trike - the first taxi training day with the wing on. Bev and Geoffrey opened the doors and two of the chicks immediately came out to investigate. Encouraged by Bev’s arm flapping and puppet waving, a third followed. Waiting, waiting, waiting. While one costumed crouched by the doors, the other went back into the pen for the other three who were obviously needing some coaxing to come out.

All three costumes crouched down under the wing, coaxing the chicks close with treats to give them an opportunity to become comfortable with the wing overhead – and the shadow it cast. While one chick hung back for a time, gradually they all clustered beneath the wing, seemingly unconcerned.

Now, it was 7:15am and time to get down to real business. Bev and Geoff moved off to hide in the pen so the birds wouldn’t be distracted. Chris fired up his trike, slipped into the seat, and with his puppet stuck out to one side, started rolling slowly down the grass runway. And quicker than you can say, ‘Unison Call’, the chicks formed up off the right wing and the morning’s taxi training was officially underway.

Off they went, and I watched as they became small brown and white dots in the distance. At the far end of the mowed strip they stopped, and I waited not so patiently through the pause which I knew was a stop for Chris to dismount and dispense treats. Then back came the trike, closely followed by….oops…. only four of the six chicks were following back down. Where did the other two go? Ahhhh, into the marsh.

Another stop midway for treats then the trike and four birds were back in front of the pen doors. How cool is this!?! Oh, oh. What’s that? Two white birds coming for a look-see. Bev kept an eye on them while the other costumes quickly herded the four chicks back into the pen. Chris tried hazing the adults away and off the opposite end runway. I think they were laughing at him as they nonchalantly kept just steps ahead of him.

Into the marsh went Bev and Geoffrey to round up one stray. Successful, they led the delinquent into the pen. Back into the marsh they went yet again for the last escapee, and with considerable coaxing, it too was returned to the pen to join its mates. Whew, just in time, because there came those two curious and determined white birds again.

Reluctant to see the end, end it did as Chris taxied down the runway and took to the air to return to the hangar.

Are you wondering why the heading for this Field Journal entry shows that I am at OM’s main office yet it seems to be written as if I’d seen the action myself? Very observant of you. The answer is simple. This morning I was watching all the action live via our new CraneCam. While there are still a myriad of things that have to be resolved, we are in what we are hopefully calling, the ‘final testing’ stage.

Thanks to the generosity of DUKE ENERGY, in the not too distant future you too will be able to experience never-before-seen views of not just taxi training and flight training, but of the chicks in their pen (exactly what is they do when no one’s around?), and of course you will be able to share the excitement of migration – the next best thing to being there!

We have no firm timeline for going live as yet, but watch this space for more on the CraneCam in the coming days. Already it has taken an enormous effort, countless hours, and much hair pulling. It also presented us with a gigantic and very steep learning curve, most particularly for Heather Ray, and for Chris Gullikson our resident meteorologist and also teckkie.

We are thrilled and excited about the CraneCam, and we’re betting you will be too. Now, cross your fingers that the remaining tasks and hurdles can be overcome in short order. Oh, how about uncrossing them long enough to post an entry to our GuestBook to make sure DUKE ENERGY knows how grateful and excited you all are at the prospect?

Date:July 5, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:LOSS OF WILD902Location: Main Office

In an email update received yesterday, Dr. Richard Urbanek advised us of the loss of the First Family's chick, Wild902.

Hatched near Site 3 on the Necedah refuge ~June 15 to parents 211 & 217*, Urbanek said that, "Chick W902 was last visually confirmed at 1:00pm on June 28th. The parents were last observed in apparent chick attendance behavior around 7:00pm on June 29th when views of the chick were obscured by marsh vegetation."

Richard reported that, "The parents were first observed behaving as if no chick was present shortly after noon on June 30th, and subsequent movements of the parents have confirmed the loss."

As of the most recent visual observation which was made at 1:00pm July 4th, Wild901, the chick being fostered by 212 & 419* continues to do well.

Date:July 4, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WINDS OF CHANGELocation: Main Office

Excerpt from American Bird Conservancy News.

Progress on Protecting Birds from Wind Turbine Collisions - Winds of Change Begin to Blow at Wind Farms
Pressure from ABC and other environmental organizations to make wind energy bird friendly and therefore truly green is showing some initial signs of changing the attitude and behavior of wind developers and the federal government. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service advisory committee has now begun the task of writing recommendations to protect birds from habitat destruction and collision risks associated with wind farms, but much work remains to be done to convert an industry and their regulatory agencies that have long viewed wind power as environmentally benign. Read the full story here.

Date:July 3, 2009Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: TRAVELLING IN STYLELocation: Necedah, WI
Cohort 2 had the VIP treatment this morning.

In the fleet of aircraft operated by Windway’s Aviation Department, their Cessna Caravan is best suited for transporting birds. It’s a single engine turbo prop (jet engine powered propeller) and can carry about ten passengers in comfort. The seats can also be removed to carry any like of cargo, and Caravans are often used as bush planes or by delivery companies. It’s like a million dollar pick up truck or more accurately, a luxury station wagon with fold down seats. They also have a Cessna Citation which is more like a Ferrari.

Most often they use the Caravan to deliver birds from Patuxent to Necedah. The trip takes about 5 ½ hours with a fuel stop at their home base in Sheboygan. Today, because of crew work load and the fact that they were already on the East Coast, they picked up the birds in the Citation at about 10 AM Eastern.

By 10:45 AM Central they were rolling to a stop at the Wisconsin Dells airport just north of Baraboo. That’s one hour and forty five minutes at a cruise speed of just over 500 miles per hour. Of course the chicks were standing in their transport crates the whole way, oblivious to the leather seats and wood paneling that surrounded them. I guess luxury for a Whooping crane is a pond full of mud with lots of wrigglely things in the bottom.

The normal Windway destination is the Necedah airport, but they chose the Dells Airport for two reasons. Their determining factor was the much longer runway; ours was its proximity to ICF. If something untoward happened, the International Crane Foundation with its full veterinary facilities is only minutes away. Because that option was so readily available, Barry Hartup DVM took the opportunity to check one bird that was down in its crate.

Normally they stand the entire way, but 918 was sitting on his hocks. This could have been a sign of injury and Barry wanted to make sure before it endured the one hour van ride to Necedah.

It only took a minute to stand the bird up. It was alert and steady and we had only just started our drive when it sat down again. As long as there is no injury it is likely a safer way to ride except for the possibility of overheating. We took care of that by cranking up the A/C to max. My fingers turned blue on the steering wheel but that’s a small price to pay for healthier birds. Besides it was only an hour and you can survive anything for that long. Just ask any pilot who has led birds over the Cumberland Ridge, or handler who has stood vigilant over the birds in 90 degree temperatures in full costume.

Once we arrived at the pen the crates were loaded onto a weight scale. After the birds were released into the pen the crates were re-weighed. For the rest of the afternoon we took turns watching the birds from the blind. Before long it looked as if they had always been there. Just before roost check a pair of white birds flew in to check on the chicks too. It looks like they are going to fit right in.

Note: Making the trip yesterday were: 912, 913, 914, 915, 918, and 919.

Date:July 2, 2009`Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TIME TO BUY YOUR MIGRATORY BIRD STAMPLocation: Main Office
Excerpt from the July BIRDING COMMUNITY E-BULLETIN

July is the month to buy your new Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp at your local Post Office, National Wildlife Refuge, or various sporting outlets. Some 98 percent of the proceeds go to secure National Refuge System wetland and grassland habitat, and the Stamp also serves as a pass for refuges that charge for entry.

To highlight this fact, we draw your attention to a new, revised listing of Migratory Bird Conservation Fund amounts (MBCF) is sustained by Stamp dollars plus other funding - some import duties, permits, fines, etc.) as percentages of the funding used to acquire individual refuges in the past. The list is very revealing. For example, here are some of those percentages for a small selection of popular and much-birded refuges:

Parker River in Massachusetts - 99.3%
Bosque del Apache in New Mexico - 99.2%
Pea Island in North Carolina - 99.2%
Quivira in Kansas - 99.1%
Horicon in Wisconsin - 98.7%
Muscatatuck in Indiana - 98.9
Santa Ana in Texas - 94.9%
Okefenokee in Georgia - 88.2%
Laguna Atascosa in Texas - 86.0%

These past investments and the continual use of Stamp funds for refuge habitat are outstanding examples of reasons to buy a Stamp.

Date:July 1, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATELocation: Main Office

As of June 27, the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) consists of a maximum of 80 birds; 47 males, 31 females, and 2 newly wild-hatched chicks. According to trackers, the distribution at the end of this report period was: approximately 60 birds in the core reintroduction area of central Wisconsin, 15 at other locations in Wisconsin, 1 in Lower Michigan, and 4 with no recent record of location (at least 1 of these was in Lower Michigan).

In this report, * = females; D = direct autumn release; NFT = non-functional transmitteR, & = Pair; B = Breeding Pair.

In Core Area
101, B105 & 501*
B211 & 217*, B212 & 419*, B213 & 218*, 216 & 716*
307 & 726*, B310 & W601*, B311 & 312*, 316 & D742*, B317 & 303*, B318 & 313*
B401 & 519*, 402 & D746*, B403 & 309*, 412, 416,
506, 509, 511, 512 & 722*, 514, B515 & 415*, 520*
D627, D628
703, 707 & D739*, 709, 713, 717*, 724, also 706 and 712 but neither have been detected since May.
Class of 2008
804, 814, and 818* in Jefferson County thru June 24.
805 and 812 location unknown as of June 27
813* Lincoln County
819 and 829 Clark County
824*, 827, 828, and 830* last detected south of the refuge on June 25.
D831, 836, and 838* Dane County
Wild901, Wild902

Outside Core Area
107*,
D527*, D528*
727* (last found in May), 733, D737 (last reported in Michigan)

Human Avoidance
Reports of 824*, 827, 828, and 830 being in a garden in Juneau County were investigated and mylar ribbons were deployed. The birds did not return to the site.

Locations Unknown
516, 524, D533* and D744* (A bird reported in Van Buren County, MI is likely one of these birds.)

This report was compiled from data supplied by the WCEP Tracking Team consisting of Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Jess Thompson.

Date: June 30, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:GENETICS Location:Main Office
In a recent GuestBook entry, Lisa Johnson wrote, “The issue of genetic diversity and "hold backs" of whoopers is a fascinating subject to me. What I truly don't understand is this: If, at one point, the overall population of Whoopers was nearly wiped out how than there be possibility be enough genetic diversity that some chicks are considered "genetically" valuable. Don't get me wrong -- it's indeed a miracle. I have been under the impression that in order to retain (maintain) true genetic diversity that once a population to less than 2,000 or so contributing to the gene pool that genetic diversity is next if impossible. Any input on that issue from anyone? Thanks!”

To shed some light, we’ve updated an article from a past issue of our member magazine, INformation, “GENETICS – key to a sustainable future”

Despite there now being a total of +300 Whooping cranes migrating between different summering and wintering grounds in two separate flocks, it goes without saying that this species still has a way to go. However, by any standard, the Whooping crane is at least part of the way along the road to species recovery.

The modest success of this reintroduction number-wise allows us to pay some attention to ‘quality’ as well as quantity. That is, while striving to keep the number of birds to be reintroduced at the highest possible level, WCEP is also focused on ways to improve the genetic makeup of the Whooping cranes being added to the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP).

Pedigree
Because every living Whooping crane stems from the 15 birds still surviving in the 1940’s, significant inbreeding has obviously occurred. This makes genetic diversity an even important consideration for the species’ human helpers, because numbers alone won’t ensure the flock’s ongoing viability and sustainability.

As the eggs released to the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership reintroduction project (WCEP) for use in establishing the EMP all originated from the captive breeding population, the ancestry of all the reintroduction project’s birds is known - with the exception of instances of indeterminable paternity. By charting the ancestries, university biologist and WCEP geneticist, Ken Jones, keeps a demographic and genetic analysis of the reintroduced population.

Demographics – Growth and Gender
As of 2005 the EMP, which then stood at 64 birds, was growing at an average of 12.8 birds per year. Dr. Jones projected that if this rate could be maintained, the goal of 125 birds could easily be met by the project’s tenth year. His analysis at that time also revealed that then ratio of males to females, (36 to 28) was originally skewed in project years three and four as the result of an attempt to correct a similar gender imbalance in the captive flock.

Genetics
Ken’s genetic analysis of three years ago indicated that 52% on the EMP stemmed from only two females. The remainder of the population was split between 12 other female lines. Because this represented a disproportionately high number of offspring from two half-sibling females the genetics of the EMP flock had become heavily skewed towards the ancestry of these females.

To quote from Ken’s 2005 report: “This genetic skew has produced a flock with a higher mean kinship than that of the other two populations: Eastern Migratory = .06; Florida Non-Migratory = .04; and, Captivity = .02. As the mean kinship of a population is equal to the inbreeding expected in the next generation of breeding, the over-representation of these female lines is producing a population where, under an assumption of random pairing, a high rate of sib-sib matings should be expected.”

Population Recommendations
In his 2005 report Ken noted, “Other than a temporary reduction in females that were available for release in 2003-2004, the EMP is in good shape demographically.” It was Ken’s recommendation that, “With the demographics of the population in a stable situation, attention should now be turned to the long term genetic health of the population.” However, Ken was quick to point out that high levels of inbreeding, that is sib-sib matings, are known to produce a decline in hatchability and juvenile fitness in many species of birds. For this reason, he strongly recommended WCEP work to correct the genetic skew in the current population.

“In order to make these corrections,” said Ken, “WCEP’s Project Direction Team will need to suspend the release of offspring from over-represented females, and preferentially, release chicks from females currently under-represented in the flock. Doing this will increase the gene diversity of the population, and ultimately reduce the overall inbreeding realized in the population as a whole.”

Genetic diversity is one of the three forms of biodiversity recognized by the World Conservation Union as important for conservation. It is important to conserve genetic diversity because it is necessary for evolution to occur; and, because genetic diversity directly correlates with population strength. Inbreeding, per se, isn’t bad. It is the consequence of inbreeding that is bad. Inbreeding results in loss of the alleles* which allow genetic diversity, and without which reproductive fitness is reduced.

The recommendations drafted by Ken Jones in 2005 included:
1) To ensure the population maintains a healthy female population the release cohorts should contain an approximate 50/50 sex ratio.
2) To improve the overall genetic health of the population, the genetics of the EMP should be analyzed annually in parallel with that of the captive population, and the resulting analyses be used as the basis of annual chick allocation. In general:
a) Retain half of chicks genetically valuable to both populations for future captive breeding, and release the remainder for reintroduction into the EMP.
b) Do not release chicks that would significantly decrease the gene diversity of the WCEP population into the reintroduction program.
c) Allocate all chicks for reintroduction that would reduce the gene diversity of the captive flock but bolster that of WCEP’s flock.
  i) With 21 surviving offspring in the reintroduced population, chicks from captive female 1135 should no longer be released
  ii) Chicks from captive female 1136 should only be released if sufficient numbers of chicks are not available from other more genetically suitable pairs.
  iii) Until the population grows sufficiently to assure a low occurrence, full sib matings that do occur should be discouraged. Possible methods include:
  iv) Allow the related pair to continue breeding and to swap the eggs produced with those of an outbred pair. (This would alleviate the problem in the short term, however, removing the eggs from a particular pair selects against the genes of that family line.)
  v) Removal of the male alone of the pair from the population. This would permanently solve the inbreeding problem caused by that pair. By removing only one of the two birds, we would allow the genes of that family line to be contributed into the population. Additionally, as sib-sib matings are likely to occur only when a family line is highly over-represented, removing the male would also help equalize family representation in the population.

So yes Lisa, we are working with an extremely narrow gene pool, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to ensure as much diversity as humanly possible. Last season at least one captive female laid that had previously never produced an egg. Such diversity is important given the species’ limited genetics. However small the measure, everything that is believed to have a chance at improving the species’ well being for the future is worth pursuing.

* Allele: An alternate sequence of a gene. For example, there are different sequences of “eye color” genes that code for brown and blue eyes. Recessive versus Dominant Alleles: Most genes have multiple alleles that code for different variants. (i.e. When an individual carries two different alleles, only one of the two variants will manifest in the individual. In the case of eye color, even if both parents have both brown and blue alleles, you will have brown eyes because brown alleles are dominant. Blue alleles are always recessive and are masked by the brown. The only way to get blue eyes is to have two blue alleles.)

Date:June 29, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WOOD BUFFALO/ARANSAS POPULATION UPDATELocation: Main Office
Lea Craig-Moore who is with the Species at Risk Recovery Unit of the Canadian Wildlife Service provided an update on the Wood Buffalo/Aransas population's nesting season.

June chick surveys were conducted June 16-20 in Wood Buffalo National park by Jim Bredy and Tom Stehn from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Lea Craig-Moore from the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Lea advised that, "a total of 52 chicks were seen from 62 nests (61 nests had been found in May, and one additional family was found in June). Two chicks were seen at ten nests, one chick at 32 nests and 18 nests had no young. Two nests were still being incubated on the last day of surveys. This year's June production is 0.84 chicks per nest which is on target with the long term average of 0.8 chicks/nest."

The surveyors also noted that May's water conditions had been excellent, but had dropped over the past month due to negligible precipitation. The next survey is scheduled to begin about the 18th of August.

Date:June 28, 2009Reporter: Patricia Gallagher
Subject: Arriving at NecedahLocation: Necedah, WI
Cohort 1 and I both arrived at Necedah on Thursday. I got introduced to my new pen, which is an Arctic Fox camper complete with an air conditioner, and Cohort 1 got introduced to its new pen. I think they’ll be happy here once they get over their plane ride.

I have spent the last year traveling, so I am quite familiar with the indignities of air travel. However, it’s a different story for OM’s young charges. While they don’t have to deal with the TSA or find room for their carry-on bags, they get lured into crates and have to stand up the whole time. Then they get lifted into a van and driven somewhere, loaded onto a plane and flown somewhere, and then driven again – all without seeing what is going on or hearing human voices. And while a few of them traveled to Patuxent by plane before they hatched (from other breeding sites, including Calgary Zoo, San Antonio Zoo, and the International Crane Foundation), until Thursday they had a relatively sheltered existence.

Bev and Joe already described their trip here, which was adventure enough, but at the end of it there was a new pen too. What is the new pen like? There is a wet pen - which I will tell you about in my next entry - and a dry pen. The dry pen is probably about 40 feet by 80 feet with a top net. It has a fence down the middle with gates at either end so birds can be separated if necessary. There are two shade shelters with feeders, one on each side of the fence.

There is a big tub of water that is hooked up to a solar pump so the water is continuously refreshed while the sun is out. If you look at Joe Duff’s pictures from June 25th, you can see two costumed handlers standing under one of the shade shelters. The tub of water is in front of them and the other shade shelter is directly behind them. To the left is the wet pen.

How was the cohort introduced to the new pen? After the crates were opened, Robert Doyle, a member of the crane crew from Patuxent, showed them around. He showed them the feeders and the water and walked around the pen a few times. We always do this when we introduce the chicks to something new, just like their parents would in the wild. We dip the puppet bill in the water to attract their attention to it and do the same with the feeders. We also walk around the perimeter of the pen to encourage them to explore the full extent of the pen.

Robert stayed in the pen with them for about an hour and then moved to the observation blind. Geoff Tarbox, another intern, and Chris Gullikson relieved Robert and then it was my turn to go out to the pen with Joe.

I sat in the blind observing the chicks for about 90 minutes. Joe instructed me to look for aggression and also to make sure they were all behaving normally. Most of the chicks were sleeping, but not 905. She was crying nonstop. Peep! Peep! Peep! That’s not normal. I sent her comforting thoughts, but it didn’t help. Peep! Peep! Peep! I was surprised that it wasn’t 907, who tends to be a worrier, but she was taking a nap. That’s not normal either. She usually paces. Peep! Peep! Peep!

This went on the entire time I sat in the blind. I resisted the urge to go in and comfort 905. I imagined she was saying “Where am I? This doesn’t look familiar! Where are the earthworms?” The rest of the chicks ignored her for the most part, although they sometimes would halfheartedly join in and peep once or twice. Maybe they were too tired to protest, but not 905. Peep! Peep! Peep!

After a while, the rest of the chicks woke up. Maybe 905’s peeping finally got to them too. There was lots of stretching and unfolding of wings, which is always a beautiful sight. 903 took a bath. 904 had a snack and wandered around. 901 and 910 had a staring contest while they were standing next to each other at the feeder, but one of them backed down and wandered away. That was as close as they came to a conflict.

There was lots of pecking at their new leg bands. Some even investigated the bands of other chicks. And 905 cried on. I worriedly listened to her peeping as I walked away, but Robert later reported that she eventually settled down and went to sleep. By the next morning she was back to normal as if nothing had ever happened.

In my next posting, I’ll tell you about introducing the chicks to the wet pen.

Date:June 27, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WILD 901Location: Main Office
Earlier in the week, Perri Liebl, a volunteer for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, captured a photo of parents 212 & 419* with their foster chick, W901. The first to hatch in the wild this season, W901 is from an ICF egg placed in the pair’s re-nest when their own eggs were found to be infertile.
 

Our thanks to Beth Kienbaum, Whooping Crane State Coordinator for WI DNR for sending these photos along.

The  monitoring log for June 24th gives us some insight into what a day in the life of this family is like.

11:30am - Signal from 419* picked up coming from her usual foraging area. Had a visual of 212 on thin strip of marsh east of nest site near woods.
11:50am - 419* flew in from east. 212 standing in one place preening, many head-shakes, head rubs – no sign of chick.
12:20pm - 212-02 flew to near foraging area.
12:30pm - Tried to find a good observation spot from woods without cranes seeing me. Saw parents , but no chick.
1:20pm - 212 returns.
1:45pm - Changed locations. Both parents visible across water.
1:50pm - Visual of chick through spotting scope! Chick standing between adults. Saw one of the cranes put beak down toward chick while chick craned neck upward (feeding?). One crane (usually 419*) always stayed close to the chick. Both adults foraging and doing a lot of head rubs, head-shakes, pecking at legs.
3:10pm - 212 flew to near foraging area. 419-04 standing in one spot, couldn’t see chick.

As exciting as spotting the new chick must have been for Perri, think of this scenario. The humidity was high and temperature that day was around 90 degrees. Imagine yourself all alone sitting as still as a statue hidden in the woods/marsh. You stay dead quiet, even as you swelter and are feasted upon by mosquitoes and deer flies, and, you do this for hours on end.

From hatch at Patuxent through to release in Florida and beyond, this reintroduction would not be possible without the tremendous contribution of time and effort by dozens and dozens of volunteers. OM sends out three cheers for the dedication of every single volunteer on this project.

We, that is the organizations involved in the reintroduction, unfailingly recognize and thank all our financial supporters, and rightly so. But maybe it's time we shone the spotlight too on all of our hard working volunteers, who, more often than not, go unnamed and unsung. Many have even been around longer than some of our project's staff!

Let's all of us give them some well deserved acknowledgement and recognition. What about an honor roll of past and present project volunteers WCEP? Wouldn't that make a great addition to the www.bringingbackthecranes.org website!!

Date:June 26, 2009Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:MANIC MONDAYLocation: Laurel, MD
"Just Another Manic Monday" was a tune running thru my head today. A popular 80s hit by the Bangles, I re-titled it "Another Manic Thursday".

Thursdays are our busiest day here, and not just because Cohort 1 shipped out yesterday. Any normal Thursday consists of feeding the entire Patuxent flock, some 180+ birds strong, and we always have a staff meeting at 1pm to go over everything. This is on top of the usual weighing, training, swimming, walking, and socializing of all the chicks we normally do.

Yesterday everyone showed up by 6am to help box up Cohort 1 for their big trip. Brooke and Barb were here by 5:30 to bring the chicks back to the propagation building from their communal ponded pen. By 6, the chicks were in individual pens with crates sitting by the gates. By 6:30 all the birds were boxed and loaded on to the van and ready to be driven to Baltimore-Washington Airport. By 7:30 the chicks were on board the plane, and shortly thereafter were airborne on their first flight.

Costume gently encourages the chick to the specially designed transport crate. Two costumes slowly and carefully move a crated bird to the van for the trip to the airport . Patuxent's Charlie Shafer checks Windway's precious cargo prior to takeoff.

Brooke trained the rest of the birds, and as soon as he was done, birds were shuttled from the white series communal pens back the prop so all the white series, including the ponds could be mowed. While mowing, I swam some birds and footbaths got cleaned.

The mowing finished in time for a lunch break just prior to the meeting. As soon as the meeting was over, Cohort 2 was taken to the ponded pen for socialization time. This cohort consists of 912, 913, 914, 915, 918 and 919. 918 and 919 are little stinkers. 914 is the queen of the group, and they forget their place which leads to confrontations. 919 has quickly learned you don't mess with the queen, but 918 is a slow learner. Luckily he is also smart enough to know when to back down, so there were not too many battles today. After three hours of supervised social time, we brought the chicks back to their pens and called it quits for the night.

The underlying feeling here today, besides mania, was one of a very subtle sadness. I couldn't put a finger on it, but all morning I was feeling kinda blue and was a little weepy. Not sure of the cause, I kept about my business. When I had a chance to talk to Erin, who had accompanied the chicks to the airport, she said how sad she felt at watching them go.

That was it! The feeling I couldn't quite tap into was sadness. I was sad to see the birds go - although I will be seeing them next week when I arrive at Necedah. But I always have a feeling of sadness and a little worry when they travel. Like any mom, I worry if they will be safe. I worry if they will adjust to their new home. I wonder what they are thinking as they experience flight for the first time via airplane. I worry if they can handle change. (I tend to project human emotions on them and think they hate change as much as people do.) I worry if their pent up energy from travel will result in aggression towards the other birds. (It hasn't.)

I just plain and simple worry. And I get teary. I can't help it. I have been one of their mamas since they hatched and along with the entire crew here at Patuxent, I have grown to love these birds. I know their personalities like I would a child. I know who is brave, who is chicken, who is independent, who is dependent, who is adventurous and who is a mama's boy. I call them by name (now you know where my vote was) and I wish them well. I guess it is not unlike letting go of your child when they go to college. And I guess that makes me a helicopter mom, hovering over and not letting go.

To say I can't wait to get to Necedah next week would be an understatement. At least then some of the worry will subside. And a whole brand new bunch of worries will start.

Date:June 25, 2009Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:FIRST FLIGHTLocation:Necedah, WI
This is year nine of the Whooping crane reintroduction project. If you count the Sandhill cranes we led south to test the migration route in 2000 we have trained birds at the Necedah NWR, ten times. Through it all Windway Capital of Sheboygan, Wisconsin has supported us in many ways, not the least of which is providing flights between BWI airport in Baltimore and Necedah 'International' Airport.

That first year we only had two cohorts but every season thereafter, we worked with three. That’s a total of twenty-three round trip flights without a single injury--Today they made their 24th.

In their turbo prop Cessna Caravan the flight from Maryland to Wisconsin takes approximately 5 hours with a fuel stop in Sheboygan. During that short layover they checked on the thunderstorm, which was building over central Wisconsin and decided to divert to the Wisconsin Dells Airport; 40 miles to the south.

There was a good possibility they could have safely reached Necedah airport but if the weather closed in and they had to choose an alternate while enroute they wouldn’t be able to contact us until they were on the ground. Then of course they would have to wait for us to arrive and all the while the birds would be in their crates. Once the aircraft is shut down the air-conditioning not longer works and with an outside temperature in the mid 80’s it wouldn’t be long before we had overheated birds.

The weather did clear over Necedah and hindsight is always 20/20 but a professional pilot always makes the wise choice and there is no question about the skill of the Windway pilots.

We loaded eight young cranes, each in individual crates into a pre-cooled van and took an hour and 13 minutes to carefully drive back to the refuge. Cruising along at highway speed we could make good time but we had to slow for corners and prepare for stop signs about a quarter mile out. The last few hundred yards into the pensite are the worst. Smoothing the bounces over a rutted road built out into the marsh takes patience but before long we pulled up in front of the pen.

Sara Zimorski and Betsy Reichenberg from the International Crane Foundation were on hand to check the birds for signs of stress. As they were offloaded from the aircraft to the van they checked to ensure they were still standing by peering through one of the ventilation holes. Once the crates were moved into the pen the birds were released into their new home. It only took a moment or two before they lost their wobbly legs and looked quite at home.

We took turns in one hour shifts watching the birds for signs of aggression but they were a very sociable group and seemed relaxed with each other. Most spent the afternoon lying in the cool grass. Robert Doyle from Patuxent stayed till almost dark.

Tomorrow we’ll get them out onto the runway for the first time and maybe Saturday we’ll introduce the aircraft again.

Work is progressing nicely on the west site in preparation of the arrival of Cohort Two on July 2nd; thanks again to Windway Capital. The 2009 season is in full swing.

Click the thumbnail image or here to view images from today

Date:June 25, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:COHORT 1 MOVES TODAYLocation: Main Office
Boy oh boy, did I screw up. I recently upgraded my MS Outlook, and in typical hit the ground running fashion, worked on adjusting the settings on the fly. Bad move. My calendar settings - where I keep my appointments and list of tasks - were off. The result was that I thought that Friday was the 25th, and as that was the shipping date for Cohort 1, that is what I previously posted here. Not so.

Today is the day that Windway picks up the first group of the Class of 2009 at Baltimore airport for transport to the refuge at Necedah. Cohort 1 had been designated as chicks 901, 903, 904, 905, 906, 907, 908, 910, and 911, but last night we heard that it was possible only eight would be shipped.

Until we hear from Bev this morning we won't know for sure if a group of eight or nine will be travelling. Check back later for a further posting.

Date:June 24, 2009Reporter: Patricia Gallagher
Subject: My going away partyLocation: Laurel, MD
Saturday was my last day at Patuxent. I am going out to Necedah for the next two weeks to be a caretaker for Cohort 1 and then my internship will be over. I am excited about the time I will spend at Necedah, but I am also very sad that my time with the chicks is almost over. I don’t care whether the birds are named or not, after six weeks of being with them five days a week and worrying about them on the weekends, you get attached.

I got to do a lot of my favorite things during my last week. I spent a lot of time in the ponded pen with Cohort 1, watching the dynamics while they got more used to being together as a group. I spent time watching them take baths and forage for worms and trying to decide on my current favorite – was it 904 or 905 or 910? I also paid a lot of attention to 907 and 908 because they are the worriers in the group and they pace sometimes, but I think it’s 905 that I love most today – no maybe 910. And 911 is fine, but I never fully recovered from that time he ran away from me.

I also got to sit with 912-915, who are the oldest chicks in Cohort 2. I had a wonderful time sitting with them in the white series. 914 is a feisty little bird who wants to be the queen, but the others have learned to back down when she gets pecky, so there is little bickering that goes on when they are together. I watched 914 take a bath in the small footbath we put in the pen – it holds about 2 gallons of water and is just big enough to fit a month-old crane in it, as long as her legs are all folded up.

I also got to walk lots of chicks – in groups and singly – which is one of my favorite treats. I love the way they stop to peck at worms and then notice that you are farther away than they thought. They come running, full speed ahead, wings stretched out as if they’re going to take off. It’s so hard not to laugh out loud.

I saw 925 pick up a worm that must have been 4 inches long and he was trying to figure out how to eat it. 926 saw it too and took it away from 925, so 925 had to get it back. I think they might have pulled it enough that it broke in half and then each one of them could manage the size of it. And remember when I told you that 919 is a big crybaby? That hasn’t changed a bit. He’s much bigger now, but still cries all the time. Peep! Peep! Peep! And there’s nothing wrong except that you’re not paying attention to him.

And then it was time for me to go, but Barb Clauss said she wanted to give Cohort 1 a smelt and grape party and did I want to stay for it? She knew I would say yes, and now I think maybe she wanted to give me the party as a going away present.

Brian Clauss and I got a bunch of grapes and cut a bunch of smelt in half and made our way out to the ponded pen. Brian warned me that they would fight over the smelt and try to take it away from each other, so I was very careful to make sure each bird got some.

I wasn’t very coordinated as I tried to stick the puppet beak in my pocket and grab smelt out of the ziplock bag, so I usually had 3 or 4 chicks around me as I held the smelt out in the puppet beak. I tried to get each bird away from the others, so its treat wouldn’t get stolen by a faster chick, but it was nearly impossible.

907 wasn’t too quick with eating hers, so it took me 4 tries before she managed to eat it before it got stolen. Then I moved on to the grapes, tossing them around so the chicks would find them later. There were happy trills all around as the day ended and we left the pen. The birds went back to foraging while I said my goodbyes to the crane crew.

Please, may I do this again next year?

Date:June 23, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WIND FARMSLocation: Main Office
In a recent article, journalist Renee Schoof wrote about wind farms in Texas. The tag line, "Texas wind farms" deploy radar so birds - not feathers, can fly will give you some insight into her story's content. Click the link above to be taken to the article.

Date:June 22, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject: Flights of FancyLocation: Laurel, MD
When I am training the chicks, I have to admit that sometimes my mind wanders. Brooke admits to this too, but usually his wanderings are more practical than mine. This is actually very easy to do, especially now that we are training most of the chicks at the Half Moon field – a long straight away training site that keeps a fence between the trike and birds ensures no squashed chicks.

The first order of business is just getting the chicks to the field, and due to the very wet conditions and throngs of worms, that’s not easy. No time for fantasizing here. Lots of cussing under the breath, but attention is very focused on getting the birds through the puddles. Yesterday it took 30 minutes just to walk the birds 100 yards from pen to field, so you can see what we are up against.

Once at the field with the chicks safely on one side of the fence, I step over, turn on the vocalizer and start the engine. I then mount up and off we go, trike in the lead and chicks trailing behind flapping heavy wings and jostling for position.

I feel like Walter Mitty at times and the fantasies begin. I imagine myself in the pace car at the Indy 500 or, in another scenario, I am in the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby with nine high-strung thoroughbreds dancing in anticipation of the starting gun.

In between these flights of thought, I am scanning the chicks looking for limps, leg issues, wing issues, hierarchy struggles. If they stop and stare skyward, so do I, looking for an airborne predator. And there I go again, on patrol on some unnamed island in the pacific, sitting in a foxhole with my young comrades looking for enemy aircraft. Seeing no aircraft, …er, predators, I resume taxiing down the straight away, chicks running to keep up.

Looking over my shoulder at my charges, I imagine I am Queen Boudica astride my trusty steed, leading my soldiers to battle, sword thrust out before me. Okay, so it’s only my puppet and I am only fighting a battle against the worm hoards, but, hey, it’s my fantasy.

After turning the trike around at the end of the field, which is no easy maneuver (picture turning the trike 180 degrees in a tear drop course while trying to keep the chicks from pecking each other and flipping a 4 foot long puppet to the other side) while eyeballing all of my motley crew. Then it’s off we go again, racing for the other end. This time I am Santa Claus in my sleigh with my 9 reindeer. I call them by name, urging them on and on and fly away home.

When I turn the trike to the west and look back, my breath is momentarily taken away. No more fantasy. It is much more spectacular than that. With the early morning rays of the sun catching the soft down of the chicks, they are enveloped in a golden halo, each glowing brightly as they trot along behind me.

They are magical creatures from a far off time and land. They transport me to a place of peace and beauty, and for a moment, I am so awestruck that my mind goes still and all there is are my glowing chicks floating above a green field. And a tear comes to my eye as I try to imprint this image in my mind permanently before resuming training.

Date:June 22, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TAKE A FRIEND TO A BIRDING FESTIVALLocation: Main Office
Excerpt from the June BIRDING COMMUNITY E-BULLETIN

Increasingly, birding festivals have become THE gateway to birding experience for many new observers. Festivals are overwhelmingly family-friendly, welcoming, and geared to introducing budding new bird watchers to the birding experience. As such, it’s a good time for all of us to consider taking a mildly bird-curious friend to a local birding festival in the next few months.

We are not promoting any particular festivals – large or small – in the E-bulletin for obvious reasons. There are many deserving attention, but we simply don’t have the space to give them all adequate exposure. Nonetheless, there are a number of interesting-looking festivals coming up in the next few months which certainly deserve your attention.

The states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, South Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Washington all have some great birding festivals, but there are even more. We urge you to explore some of them online, but more importantly, support them by going to one, and by all means, take a friend.

Date: June 21, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHOOP IT UP!!Location: Main Office
Let's Whoop It Up for the First Family!

Two Whooping cranes from the ultralight-led Class of 2002, pair 211 & 217 (aka the First Family), have successfully hatched a chick! The product of a re-nest, chick Wild902 is the First Family's second successful hatch.

In 2006 the First Family hatched twin chicks, Wild 601* and Wild 602. The latter was predated on the Necedah Refuge in early fall. Wild601* fledged however, and made its first migration with her parents that autumn. W601* has since made two complete migrations and is currently mated with 310.

As early as June 14  the parents' behavior seem to indicate that they were tending to a chick, but due to the vegetation around the nest site, it wasn't until June 18 that visual confirmation was made.

The First Family hatch means the Eastern Migratory Population now has two families engaged in chick rearing. June 12, also the result of a re-nest, the pair 212 & 419* hatched a chick. Their chick, Wild901, came from an egg taken from ICF's captive flock and placed in the pair's nest to replace their two infertile eggs. (Photos by Richard Urbanek, USFWS)


 


 

Home | Our Work |Get Involved |In the Field
Merchandise | Links | Contact Us

©1994-2009 Operation Migration Inc.™ & Operation Migration - USA.™ Not to be reproduced for purposes, public or private without written consent. To obtain consent please visit the Contact Us page.

Sign our Guestbook  

Search OM's website