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Help us Celebrate!


Date: October 5, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:THE FIRST STOPLocation:Necedah, WI

When multiple migrations take a month and a half just to get past the Chicago vicinity, you get the feeling that weather is not your best friend. In fact, it is so consistently bad that you can depend on it to disappoint you but even that predictability is not guaranteed.

With fewer birds this year we ambitiously picked an early departure date only to postpone it by a few days when weather delayed the uniting of the two cohorts. As our new target date looms we are scrambling to get ready. There is so much to do, both in Necedah and at home, that getting it all accomplished in time is daunting. And just when we were counting on a delayed departure, like every other year, the skies clear and the wind drops. In true contrarian fashion, the weather produced the perfect Indian summer when her usual wind and rain would give us a little margin. It’s almost as if the weather could hear us say, “we never leave on the target date anyway.”

Knowing we will all be away from home for a long time, we try to let everyone have one last visit with friends and family before we hit the road. Brooke and Geoff have been holding down the fort for the last week, working their way through the extensive to-do list of preparations.

Walter Sturgeon joined them on October 1st and Liz and I were supposed to be there yesterday. At 6 AM on Sunday morning, we were cruising though southern Ontario in our 15 passenger diesel van with a fourteen hour drive ahead of us. Two hours later the tow truck driver was dropping us off at the local Super 8 Hotel after leaving our disabled van in the deserted parking lot of the truck dealership. Nothing, in the way of diesel repair facilities is open on Sunday morning in rural Ontario. A faulty fuel pump was finally replaced by noon on Monday and we were back on the road.

After a summer of flying circles around their home pens, our birds are often reluctant to leave the familiarity of the refuge. In the early years of this project, our first stop was 23 miles to the south. That’s a short distance compared to the 100 or so miles they can cover once we are underway but it is long for their first flight away from home. Generally, about halfway there, most of them would turn back and only about twenty percent would follow us all the way to the first stop. We would spend the afternoon tracking down the drop outs and those that returned to the pen sites. Each one would be carefully loaded into a crate and driven to join the few adventuresome birds that flew the entire way. By late afternoon, the first leg of the migration would be complete, one way or another.

For the last few seasons we have made our first stop only five miles from the refuge. Just when the birds are beginning to look back over their shoulders, we land in an open field next to the travel pen. This tactic seems to work and we get most of them to follow us but it makes for an anticlimactic beginning. Once they are in a new pen at a new location, they seem more attuned to the idea of migration and Zugunruhe kicks in (see my last update)

Unfortunately, because of heavy rain this fall in the Necedah area, our five mile stopover is too wet to use. We will have to cover the full 23 miles to the original first site and deal with the drop out birds as we have in the past.

To get the birds over their reluctance to leave, we have tried to use the technique of a new pen and a new site, while we are still on the refuge. Laskey Field is near our old Site One training area and refuge biologist, Rich King agreed to let us depart from there. The original plan was to move the birds to Laskey Field on Monday and depart on Tuesday but the Refuge has scheduled a tour bus to pass right by that area. The risks of exposing them to a vehicle that close is too great so we have decided to postpone the departure until Wednesday morning. By then the tour will be over and more of the team will have assembled to better handle the long first flight. The weather is forecast to be good all week but that is about as reliable as a fortune cookie prediction.

Date: October 4, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:PLEASE SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!Location:Main Office

US Fish and Wildlife Service is Seeking Feedback on the Proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. The dream of a national wildlife refuge in the Wisconsin/Illinois bi-state region is moving closer to reality. Staff members from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be hosting four public meetings this October to seek input from local residents and user groups on the potential refuge. They are also taking comments via their web site.

The proposed Hackmatack NWR includes a variety of rare natural communities, including oaks savannas, tallgrass prairies and emergent wetlands which support sensitive populations of uncommon plants and animals. In particular, the study area lies in the whooping crane migratory flyway; The Eastern Migratory Population whoopers stop at local natural areas on a regular basis.

For those of you who are not close enough to attend one of the meetings, please consider supporting the refuge by commenting through the USFWS project website.

If you are close enough to attend, the meetings offer members of the public the chance to spend one-on-one time with service staff members to ask questions, offer comments and provide ideas about the refuge. Each open house will be held from 4-8 pm.

Tues., Oct. 12- McHenry County Government Center Administration Building, 667 Ware St, Woodstock, IL
Wed., Oct. 13- Lost Valley Visitor Center in Glacial Park, Rt. 31 & Harts Rd, North of Ringwood, IL
Wed., Oct. 20- Bristol Municipal Building, 19801 83rd Street, Bristol, WI
Thurs., Oct. 21- Lake Geneva City Hall, 626 Geneva Street, Lake Geneva, WI

This is your chance as a Friend of Hackmatack to show the USFWS that there is strong grassroots support for the refuge. For more information on this project, check out the Friends of Hackmatack website.

Date:October 3, 2010Reporter:Liz Condie

According to an article that appeared on the site, the ultralight-led technique pioneered by Operation Migration and employed to teach endangered Whooping Cranes a migratory route is being adopted to help the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis in Europe. Recovery Team Chair Tom Stehn brought the postings on the subject to my attention and you will find links to the website articles below.

An article posted on the MIGRATIONS blog says, “Apparently taking a cue from Operation Migration’s efforts with Whooping Cranes, there now appears to be an effort to reintroduce the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticuseremita) to parts of Europe. These birds were driven extinct there in the 1700′s after collectors scaled cliffs to take chicks and eggs. It is now one of the rarest bird species on the planet. There remains just one large colony in the wild of about 350 birds on the Moroccan coast.

The current plan is “to teach the birds, which have an aversion to flying and bad sense of direction, the instinct to fly the 400-mile journey to Tuscany, Italy, in autumn and back to the Austrian Alps in spring on their own,” according to The Telegraph. As with the Whooping Crane project in the US, they’re attempting this by using microlight planes to teach the Bald Ibises to migrate once again. And so far it seems to be working, but the project appears still in its infancy, having started only in 2007.”

If one believes in the maxim, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," OM can take pride in having inspired another project to safeguard an avian species - and wishes the Waldrapp research team and the University of Vienna every success.

If you would like to read more about the Northern Bald Ibis reintroduction, visit the team's website (select the NEWS tab and scroll to the bottom to English, German or Italian) They've just completed the 2010 migration to Tuscany last week.

Date: October 2, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:ZUGUNRUHELocation:Main Office

(zoo-gun-roo-ha) is a great German word that describes the excitement and increased anxiety birds experience just prior to migration. It’s an instinct that is present in most wild birds and even in domestic geese that charge back and forth across the barnyard on wings too short to carry their bulk. The study of zugunruhe has been linked to elevated hormone levels and changes in the photoperiod or the amount of sunlight in each day.

Besides being one of those words that rolls off the tongue and is fun to say, it accurately describes the change in our birds that happens as we begin the migration. All the birds are following the aircraft now or at least they know how. There are little quirks in their behavior now and then and we know they will be reluctant to actually leave the refuge but we expect improvement as the zugunruhe takes hold.

When you deal with endangered species and all the funding issues that govern their recovery, you spend a lot of time searching for silver linings. Fewer birds will hopefully mean an easier migration. It will also mean a smaller, more efficient migration team. That translates to fewer pilots, a top-cover team only when they are truly needed and the decision not to bring the CraneCam.

When we first investigated the idea of a live camera, it was a tall order. Our mandate was to bring you a 24 hour, close-up look at what is normally a closed project. Providing a signal from multiple remote locations without power or any fixed internet connection is problematic. It required a self-contained, self powered unit. We needed a tower to give the cameras perspective and the antennas a clear view. It needed heaters to deal with frost and fog on the lens and cooling fans to stop the electronics from overheating. And it needed to be able to provide enough bandwidth for two-way communication. One way to send the signal out and the other way to receive pan, tilt and zoom instructions. Put it all together and it becomes what the people on the chat line refer to as “the beast.”

Despite the name, it filled our requirements very well but unfortunately, it also required a full time person to operate it and relocate it and that meant another bed and another vehicle.

On the other hand, the trike camera can be used in the aircraft because it is on for short periods and is not subjected to the elements, except of course, the cold temperatures. This year we will use it on every flight as long as we can get a signal. On the days when the weather is good, we will also try to set it up in the pen. We won’t be able to pan and zoom to follow the action and we will be limited to dry weather but we will try to make it work as best we can. has agreed to continue hosting our camera, despite the likelihood of less LIVE airtime, so the chat feature will remain active. We are grateful to them for their continued support and to the CraneCam chatters and all of the people who support this project so enthusiastically and to all those who use their social media outlets to pass it on. In order to continue bringing you a close up look at this project we will try to provide more updates and photos throughout the migration.

All these decisions are hard ones and required a lot of discussion but in the end, it is all about the birds. The more efficient we can be, the better we can fulfill our obligations to our supporters and the more we can do for Whooping cranes.

Date: October 1, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:UPDATE ON #11-10Location:Main Office

As the quantity of any commodity dwindles, the value of what remains increases. The less there is of anything we consider important, the more we prize what little is left, like diamonds or gold --- or endangered species. When there were only 21 Whooping cranes, each individual was precious and most important of all were the females of breeding age. With a little over 500 birds in existence now there is a little room to breathe, but only a little.

The laws of supply and demand also apply to the wetlands on which Whooping cranes, and so many other creatures, depend. In fact, if one were more plentiful - the other would not be endangered.

Apart from the inherent value of a rare and endangered species, there is the monetary value that increases proportionately with the effort made to safeguard it from extinction. A whooping crane raised in captivity represents all the work and facilities that are needed to keep it healthy and breeding so it can produce the offspring that are used for reintroduction into the wild.

A chick raised by hand and taught to follow a surrogate parent so it can learn to migrate, carries with it all the research and effort it took to get it there. And it carries the hopes of dreams of all the people that care enough to try.

Yesterday we lost number 11. A large mass was found in his trachea that was likely to grow. This was the cause of his ongoing respiratory problem. We were hoping against the odds that he would improve but as the demands of flying increased, his capacity to keep up didn’t.

We take small consolation in the fact that number 11 will not have to struggle for breath and if the thirteen birds we have worked with all summer had been raised in the wild, only a few would have survived.

As I said, it is small consolation.

Date:September 29, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
The myriad of usual preparations for the annual fall migration are in full swing at Operation Migration. These range from stocking supplies and checking all the equipment necessary for the care of the Class of 2010, to ensuring the roadworthiness of all our vehicles, trailers, and motorhomes. On a personal level, OM’s migration crew are organizing and packing their belongings to get ready to for the shift to their assigned spaces in what will be their homes away from home for the upcoming weeks/months on the road.

We will be a smaller and leaner operation this migration. There will be a paring down of crew and vehicles as a result of a combination of two things: fewer Whooping cranes in the Class of 2010; and, financial necessity. The economy has not been our friend in the recent past, and with a projected deficit in excess of $60,000 for this fiscal period, cutbacks and restraint in all aspects of our operations is imperative. Due to this financial pressure, and the Class of 2010 consisting of the fewest number of Whooping cranes to be led south since the project’s inception in 2001, we will be making several changes to our migration team and use of resources.

Pilots: We will be reverting to the practice of past years of using only three ultralight pilots on the migration. Chris Gullikson, our most recent hire, will not be on the migration this year. Chris has made five migrations with us. We thank him for his past service to Operation Migration and for his contributions of expertise and effort on behalf of Whooping cranes.

Top Cover Aircraft: Our top cover pilots have thoroughly researched and developed a well thought out flight plan to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of top cover while minimizing crew numbers as well as vehicle and travelling expenses etc. Also, rather than travelling in a separate vehicle, Top Cover personnel will share OM’s trailer and motorhome accommodations this season.

CraneCam: Unlike 2009, the CraneCam will not be accompanying the 2010 migration. As much as we value the added awareness it brings to OM, the CraneCam significantly impacts our financial and human resources in that it requires extra crew, an additional vehicle to tow it, and all the attendant expenses. Having been made aware of our anticipated financial dilemma, Duke Energy, whose generosity allowed OM to acquire the CraneCam, is fully supportive of this crew/vehicle/cost cutting measure.

We know this will be a disappointment to regular CraneCam viewers – and none more so than to the hugely enthusiastic CraneCam Chatters group. However, we also know how committed and selfless they are. What these folks and other Craniacs have in common is a deep dedication to overall success of the project and to Operation Migration’s ability to fulfill its role within the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership. We thank them, along with all of OM supporters, for their understanding. We are now working to determine an affordable alternate method(s) of providing our supporters with imagery throughout the migration. We will keep you posted as to what we are able to arrange as soon as we know more.

Support Staff: To address decreased revenues and also to further reduce our migration costs on the road, Heather Ray will not accompany the migration this year. Heather has considerable experience with fundraising, and working from our Port Perry office she will focus her much of her efforts on grant writing and developing other means to increase funding.

What remains entirely unchanged is of course Operation Migration’s commitment to accomplish the goal set for us at the outset of the project; that is, to meet the target of reintroducing 125 migratory Whooping cranes in the Eastern flyway – with the hope that the population will, along the way, self-establish 25 breeding pairs.

As we transition from flight training season to migration mode, Operation Migration once again counts on both your financial and moral support. Although it goes without saying that we rely on you for the dollars we need to operate, we cannot over emphasize the impact of your positivity, enthusiasm, and encouragement - for which we are sincerely grateful.

Be assured we are working even harder to ensure that every penny of your donor dollars also works harder, and, that they first and foremost go toward what is in the best interests and necessary for the well-being of the Whooping Cranes you are so passionate about safeguarding.

Date:September 28, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
With less than one week to go before the scheduled launch of the 2010 ultralight-guided southward migration, we have 463 migration miles sponsored in this year's MileMaker campaign. The 2010 Class of young Whooping cranes has been training hard, each day weather has allowed and during yesterday's 30+ minute flight they looked better than ever!

Although they have no idea what is in store for them - we do, and we can't make it happen without your financial support. This is the 10th year that we've been guiding a new generation of Whooping cranes to Florida and at more than 1200 miles per trip, well, that's a lot of miles that you, our supporters have helped to fund.

The payoff for you is that there are now almost one hundred Whooping cranes migrating in the new Eastern Migratory Population. And as was pointed out in the recent WCEP meetings, that is something that has never been done before! We, along with our fellow Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership members have established a brand new, migratory population of endangered Whooping cranes - and we could not have done it without your generous contributions.

We hope that as the target departure date of October 5th charges full steam ahead toward us, you will consider helping out again. Here's the current State by State breakdown of sponsored and unsponsored miles.

Wisconsin 117 117 sold out!
Illinois 338 102 236
Kentucky 93 27 66
Tennessee 109 27 82
Alabama 324 70 254
Georgia 76 38 38
Florida 228 82 146

This leaves a total of 822 miles currently looking for sponsors so we could really use your help! Won't YOU become a MileMaker sponsor TODAY? Click here to make that happen. For those folks that prefer a graphic over numbers to tell the story, here's the migration map. That's a loooong way to fly!

Date: September 27, 2010Reporter:Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:SIMPLICITY - A Recap of Yesterday's TrainingLocation:Necedah, WI

No matter how hard I try, I can never tell when the moon is truly full or whether it’s in a state of gonna be or already was. Maybe that’s because the moon sits in the sky right next to the constellation “The Glass” and I can never tell if ‘The Glass” is half empty or half full. Guess it’s just another one of life’s tough calls. But whatever phase the moon was in this morning at 4am, it was pure magic. It hung there in cold silence as my ears strained the darkness for the telltale whisper of wind… wind that might awaken and grow as the minutes pass and conspire against an otherwise perfect morning for training.

On such mornings, the world seems like such a simple place. Surely it was on a morning like this one years ago that Henry David Thoreau emerged from his one room cabin on Walden Pond and decided to write his treatise on the virtue of the simple life. Indeed, life is now simple here at camp. Crane Fest and the WCEP meetings are finally over and the entire crew is gone except for Brian, Geoff and myself… and of course the birds. The effort has become once again pure, less frenzied - even noble, for this is the calm before the storm, the eye of the hurricane, for me the tastiest morsel of the entire project feast, for soon the drama will rise again in the great crescendo that is migration and gone will be the quiet, the simplicity, the solitude.

Later, the sun has pushed the moon from the sky as the wing above me transmits even the most subtle burble of fresh morning air through the control bar and into my grip. Before me lies a panorama that seems to pass beyond the distant horizon and on into forever. Below all is crisp and clear and standing in bold defiance against the coming seasonal change while here and there serpentine-like chains of ground fog meander through the trees, foraging. Far in the distance the two white specks of Brian and Geoff walk towards the pen door - visitors on the land but not of it.

And then I am no longer alone as 12 birds pound their wings against solid air for the lift and the speed that will maintain their connection to this strange craft they have come to trust and to follow. A combination of thrill and strained effort show on their faces as first they taste the freedom of flight and then embrace it like an old friend they have never met. The gifts of evolution that lie within them reveal themselves at such moments and one can only sit and watch as an awed spectator as this drama unfolds. But still the pilot must focus, must stay in the moment, must maintain a state of hypervigilance as he pulls ahead and climbs to dominate the strong flier, while slowing and losing altitude to coddle the weaker one, combining his turns, climbs and descents to accommodate the flock and to be always the good and loving Sheppard. At such times seconds seem to contain minutes and minutes hours and sweat continues to flow against the coldest of temperatures. Head on a swivel, maintaining the spin of 12 plates on tall sticks as the ground rushes by, the pilot forsakes all identity in exchange for safe passage in the adventure.

Number 1-10 and 2-10 break from the flight and bullet back towards the pen. Not a problem. The rest remain with the trike in respectful obedience for more than half an hour until birds, trike and pilot land softly, thus ending the flight where it began. The pen doors open. Brian and Geoff appear and soon the birds have left the stage and the curtain closes after a near perfect performance.

As I head back to the airport I wonder what Thoreau would have written had he been flying this morning instead of me. I would of course know the answer because I would have had to study it in college. “Operation Walden Pond” would no doubt have been required reading and even I would have understood at least some of its meaning without the aid of Cliff Notes. You can’t help but think of such things on mornings like this one when, as the poet said, “God is in his heaven and all is right with the world,” and I would humbly add, “The Glass is half full.”

Date:September 26, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NEW BOARD ELECTED AT AGMLocation: Main Office
As has become tradition, last Sunday, September 19th, the day after the Necedah Lion’s Club Whooping Crane Festival, Operation Migration held the Annual General Meetings of its two corporations, Operation Migration Inc (Canada) and Operation Migration USA Inc. The meetings were held at the Necedah Town Hall through the generosity of the Town of Necedah and made possible thanks to the kind arrangements of Roger Herrid and his staff.

The 2009/2010 Board of Directors and Sustaining Members in attendance dealt with several matters of business before moving on to the Election portion of the meeting.

Board Chair Bob Rudd advised those present that as only four nominations had been received for the five vacancies on the Board, the candidate nominees were acclaimed to office. The 2010/2011 Board of Directors (which governs both corporations) is as follows:

Chair, Paul Young of Aurora, Ontario
Vice Chair, Dale Richter of Leesburg, Georgia
Secretary-Treasurer, Jamey Burr of Ottawa, Ontario
Director, Jane Duden of Minneapolis, Minnesota
Director, Laura Erickson of Duluth, Minnesota
Director, Jamie Johannsen of Rockford, Illinois
Director, Walter Sturgeon of Spring Hope, North Carolina
Director Ex Officio, Joe Duff of Port Perry, Ontario.

We invite you to read about the members of the 2010-2011 Board of Directors by visiting our Meet the Board webpage.

Date:September 25, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray

An effort to replace North Dakota power lines knocked out by storms last winter with underground cable has proven to have a secondary benefit: reducing the mortality of endangered whooping cranes. After storms last winter took down thousands of power poles, the Federal Emergency Management Agency revised its criteria for replacing the damaged lines, encouraging rural electric cooperatives to bury wires whenever possible.

FEMA’s primary goal is to help storm-damaged communities recover, but the whooping cranes’ migratory path now is an environmental consideration, the agency said. FEMA consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which concurred that burying the lines benefits the cranes. Service officials say collisions with power lines are the No. 1 source of mortality in whooping crane chicks. “When descending or taking off, the cranes are often unable to avoid power lines,” Jeffrey Towner, field supervisor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Bismarck, said in a statement. “Their large body is not so maneuverable, and visibility may be limited during inclement weather or low light conditions.”
CLICK to read the entire news story.

Date:September 24, 2010Reporter:Geoff Tarbox
Subject:SOCIAL SHENANIGANSLocation:Necedah, WI

Well, it’s been a week since we put the two cohorts together. We’ve been socializing the whole lot of them since last Friday just before Cranefest. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when we put the birds together. Put two chicks next to each other, and it could go either way. They could run down the field, frolicking and flapping their wings like little 15-10 and 17-10 did back at Patuxent. Or they could throw down every chance they could, like 19-09 and 24-09 did last year. As a lowly intern, I can only speculate as to what goes on in their bitty little heads, or how they pick and choose the battles that they do.

For starters, 16-10 surprised me right off the bat. I would’ve thought she burned through her mean streak back at Patuxent before she shipped out. All this time, I was convinced she was a bird who went with the group. She wasn’t even one of the more dominant birds of the cohort any more. That sort of went out the window when we introduced her to her big brothers and sisters in Cohort One. Those first one or two times we let her out on the runway with the other cohort, I ended up watching her more than half of the time. I don’t think there was a single, solitary bird in Cohort One that she didn’t try to shake down. She even had big birds like 3-10 and 1-10 on the run. And seeing the feisty dame jab, pursue, or even stomp some of these other chicks sent shivers down my spine. That isn’t to say no one stood in her way. Number 2-10 didn’t take guff from her back at Patuxent, and he wasn’t gonna start now. He remembers that we used him to knock some sense into her before we shipped her out. I just wished she remembered that too.

Number 17-10 was almost her understudy, as he also didn’t take kindly to a few of the newcomers, either. I don’t think he cares for 1-10, 3-10, 4-10, and 6-10. He didn’t care for the no-nonsense 2-10 either. That was sort of a mistake on his part, but he held his own up until we took the fence down. But in the end, 2-10 doesn’t hold his (as far as I know) undefeated title for nothing.

So even after the socializing from last year, I’d say those first few times we let the birds together were still kinda scary. You never quite know who’s going to pay the new birds no mind, or who’s going to make like Jack Nicholson at the end of the Shining. But to 16-10’s and 17-10’s defense, imagine you practically had a house all to yourself and your brothers and sisters all summer long. You’ve finally sorted out whose room is whose, and who’s the boss of who. And all of a sudden, all these strangers come out of nowhere one day, move into your house and take up all your space, and they tell you they’re the boss of you, wouldn’t you be a little peeved?

But then again, there were a few birds who didn’t surprise me. As I sort of hinted at earlier, I’m not surprised to see 2-10 hold onto his undefeated title. After seeing 16-10 and 17-10 go on their rampages, I’m sort of glad he did. If even 2-10 bowed before those little hellions, 16-10 and 17-10 would be some seriously pretty scary birds today. 1-10, 3-10, and 8-10 are still high up the food chain, as they’ve always been. And at the other end of the spectrum, are 11-10 and 15-10. 11-10, who’s not the youngest bird, but with his respiratory bug, doesn’t have it in him to throw his weight around. I once saw the poor fella get tagged by 1-10, 6-10, and 8-10 in succession just trying to get out of the wet pen. Guess nobody likes a wheezer. And 15-10’s just a runt and he knows it. As far as he’s concerned, 2-10, and even the younger 17-10 can be top dogs, so long as he gets do his own thing.

Well, now the dust has more or less settled. Things have been quieting down ever since Cranefest. 16-10 and 17-10 are back to their normal selves, 1-10, 5-10, and 9-10 are back to flying a single lap then landing on the runway (argh), and I can sleep at night without wondering if someone’s gonna get jacked overnight. Now if you excuse me, I must get back to my next big video game. A whole slew of demons have moved into my quaint, mist-filled, New England town. And as a troubled discharged soldier, I must show them the door while sorting out my own messed-up past.

Date: September 23, 2010Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:TRAINING IN THE FALLLocation: Necedah, WI

The only thing dependable about the weather in the fall is its unpredictability. We wait for three or four days for what is forecast to be a calm morning only to wake to strong winds or heavy fog. Wednesday morning was supposed to be blustery but just as the predicted good days often turn out bad, occasionally days when we think we can sleep in surprise us with calm cool air.

The Crane festival is over for another year and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership meetings have ended but there were still a few people around with departure flights scheduled for yesterday afternoon out of Madison. They were all eager for one more chance to see the birds fly after days of cancelled training and we were anxious to get the birds some much needed exercise.

Brooke and I likely get the same amount of sleep but our circadian rhythms are not aligned. He starts his day at four something while I end mine at two-ish. Just as I was crawling out of bed he rapped on the door, all chipper and clean and told me to listen to NPR. They were running an hour long show about cranes and Claire Mirande from the International Crane Foundation was being interviewed. I drove the six miles to the hangar and listened to her expert description of all the species and learned a few things I didn’t know. Then they introduced Dr. George Archibald who was calling in on his cell phone. George is the co-founder of ICF and the world’s leading authority on cranes.

One of George’s most endearing talents is using his love of nature and his vast knowledge to entertain any audience with fascinating descriptions of all things wild. George can turn a simple walk in the country into an enchanting morning of pure enlightenment. Just as I arrived at the airport I listened as he described the scene around him. He told the radio audience he was standing in front of the hangar at Necedah airport waiting for the Operation Migration pilots to arrive. The sun was just rising and there was a blush of frost on the grass.

It was odd to hear his voice over the radio yet to see him standing there with the phone to his ear waving to us as we pulled up. He continued his description as we pulled out the aircraft and he generously gave our small organization a plug on national radio.

As Brooke and I flew to the north site, we formulated a plan over the radio. I was to land first and launch with the birds while number 11 was held back. Then, once we were on our way, he would try to encourage that lone bird into following him on a short flight to test his endurance.

You may remember that number 11 was shipped to Necedah later than the rest. He had a respiratory condition that put his future in question and the team at Patuxent wanted to observe him a little longer. It is hard to know what will happen with a young chick with a slight wheeze will do when it comes time to fly and the team took a chance sending him to Wisconsin and we are still hoping it was the right choice.

While I flew a few large circuits around the refuge, Brooke took off with number 11 who immediately landed in the marsh. He managed to get him out just as I radioed that I was losing one of the birds. At one point I led the birds past the now empty Canfield site and over the head of 9-05 who seems lonely now that the chicks have left. He threw his head back and although I could not hear it, I knew he was sounding his forlorn call. Two of the chicks responded by veering away from the aircraft towards him. They didn’t land but that put them well behind and in their efforts to catch up one of them used up all his reserves and landed in an open field.

By this time Brooke was airborne and had the bird in sight. While I landed with 10 birds he circled above the tired bird to let him catch his breath. After a few minutes he took off to join Brooke and followed him back to the North site where he landed with the rest of us, still panting. We moved all the birds back into the pen but left number 11 out. I taxied to the far end of the runway out of the way while Brooke tried one more time to get number 11 to follow him. Despite a number of attempts he only flew far enough to land in the marsh next to the pen. By the time we got him out he was still wheezing badly so we put him back with his buddies.

Later this week we will take him down to Madison for an examination and by then we should be able to evaluate his condition and know better if he will be able to join us or end up as a display bird at a zoo.

All in all it worked out well. George’s friends had an enchanting morning and had a good view of the birds flying past the observation point, OM got a good plug on the radio and the birds had some much needed exercise.

We make progress one day at a time.

Date: September 22, 2010 Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject:COUNTING CRANES Location: On Some Hwy, WI

One would think that after 10 years that I'd be able to stop counting cranes. Not so. No matter how many times I've been honored to watch these incredible birds fly past overhead, my first instinct is to count them. I just can't help it, so this morning when Colleen Chase offered to take over driving the CraneCam so I could go to the public viewing area to see, for the first time this season, the Class of 2010 - LIVE and in 'person' (or is that 'in bird'?) I jumped at the chance to count more cranes.

Joe flew in the lead position and departed the North Site with nine crane colts giving it their all to try to close the gap between the aircraft and the lead bird. Brooke hung back so that he could work one-on-one with #11-10 while Joe was off with the others but when three youngsters decided to stay back with Brooke and #11-10 on the training strip, his plan was foiled again.

Joe's flight lasted almost 15 minutes when he decided to head back to land because two birds had fallen way back from his main group. He eventually landed with eight in front of the pen and one tired colt in the marsh about a quarter mile short of his destination. I hope you enjoy some of the images I captured this morning from the viewing area. Click on each image to view a larger version.

Date:September 21, 2010 Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NO FLY DAY Location:Necedah, WI
With winds out of the south-southwest currently at 16 mph, and an approaching line of thunderstorms there will be no training today. however, craniacs Doug and Mako Pellerin were kind enough to send the following two images they captured of Sunday morning's flight. Enjoy! (Click each thumbnail for a larger view)

Date: September 20, 2010Reporter: Trish Gallagher
Subject:COSTUME WASHINGLocation: Necedah, WI

I need to stop washing my costume. It seems that the day after I wash it always involves a trip into the marsh, whether it’s to move the hot wire up or to take the chicks to the pond for mowing, or to lure a wayward chick back to the pen. Saturday night I washed my costume and Sunday morning the weather was good for flying. I didn’t want to jinx the day, so I didn’t say anything. I even thought that maybe it would be different this time. But since I’m starting the story like this, you can guess that it was the worst yet!

The day started off just fine. Joe and Richard wanted to take advantage of the weather and move the birds over to the North Site. There’s some work that needs to be done by refuge staff near the Canfield site, so we needed to move the birds as soon as they were socialized into one cohort. Geoff and I headed out to Canfield, while Charlie and Ali headed over to the North site. There were lots of folks at the viewing area, so Geoff and I stopped to say good morning and give them the good news that we were flying.

We got to the pen just as we heard the buzz of the trikes in the distance. When the pilot signaled, we opened the doors to the pen and seven birds headed out. This could have been my first warning – they all usually make a mad dash out of the pen, so this was a little unusual. Everyone on the runway took off after the pilot except one, who stood there watching them fly away. Geoff and I shrugged and turned our attention to the stragglers still in the pen. They didn’t seem too interested in leaving the wet pen, but I turned on my vocalizer and got out my grapes (thank goodness I remembered them!) and soon they were in the dry pen. We shut the gates to the wet pen behind them. By this time, another pilot had arrived to pick up the rest, but they weren’t all that interested in flying, the little goobers. Finally, Geoff transformed himself into the swamp monster and chased them off the runway. A rodeo ensued and it was hard to see what was happening at that point. I know at least one bird went off into the marsh because I could see him land behind the wet pen. I wasn’t sure about the others, but I thought there were a few in the marsh.

Geoff and I headed off to collect the bird behind the wet pen – who else but 11-10. We started through the marsh and I stopped for a moment to reconsider, because we could have stayed on dry land if we walked around on the dike – but Geoff waved at me to hurry up, and I did. Three steps later, I slipped and fell and was up to my waist in water. Jeez! My cell phone was in my pocket!! I pulled it out as fast as I could a dried it off, hoping desperately that it would keep working since it is also my vocalizer! Of course, my costume was wet too, so there was only one remaining dry place for it. I tucked it in my bra and kept going. Thank goodness I’m a woman and I have an extra place to stash stuff!

11-10 wasn’t too interested in coming back to the pen, but I don’t think he saw that 9-05 was on the dike behind him. As 11 lollygagged, 9-05 grew impatient with the interloper. 9-05 did the threatening walk, but 11 kept poking along and ignoring 9-05 (and me and Geoff too, but that’s beside the point). Finally 9-05 had enough and chased 11 and went in for a peck on the back of the neck. That got 11’s attention and he picked up the pace, sticking a little bit closer to the safety of the costume. Meanwhile, Joe and Richard were flying overhead, searching for the other wayward chicks. After a while, they landed and I asked who was out there – Richard said it was 1-10 and neither he nor Joe could see him anywhere. Richard was about to go for the tracking equipment when Charlie radioed to say that 1-10 arrived at the North Site on his own.

With all present and accounted for, Joe and Richard decided to try to fly 11-10 over there once more. Well, that was a big mistake – he took off after the swamp monster chased him, and then flew into the marsh even farther than he had before! Oh good grief! Since I was already soaking wet, I volunteered to go in after him. Richard came with me and we approached him from two sides. Richard got to him first and we finally managed to get him out of the marsh and onto the dike.

At that point, we put him in a crate and took him back to the pen. He peeped a little as Geoff and I carried him – it’s really awkward trying to carry those crates, so we inevitably jostled him a little bit – but he seemed fine when we opened the crate to let him out. As I watched him walk into the empty wet pen, I imagined that he looked a little forlorn – after all, he was alone for the first time in months. Then I thought better of it – cranes are solitary birds, so I decided that he was happy to finally have some alone time. Geoff and I were happy to leave him to his solitude and so we headed back to camp for a change of clothes.

Date:September 19, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CONGRATULATIONS!Location:Necedah, WI

The tenth annual Whooping Cranes and Wildlife Festival was held yesterday in the town of Necedah and we send congratulations to the Necedah Lions Club and all of the volunteers who worked to organize and host another great event. It was great fun getting reacquainted with old friends, and meeting a lot of new ones that stopped by our booth. I hope to have some event photos later today, or tomorrow to post.

As I type this, winds are calm and the sky is clear, which means those craniacs still in the area should head to the new public viewing location at the intersection of Speedway Rd. and 7th Avenue on the refuge to watch this morning's training session with the Class of 2010 young Whooping crane colts.

Pilots Richard van Heuvelen, Brooke Pennypacker and Joe Duff will lead them in flight and attempt to guide the cranes over to the North training site where they will be housed to allow refuge staff to do some invasive species weed control back at the Canfield site over the next few days.

If they're successful, and as soon as we can, we'll relocate the CraneCam to the North site as well so it will be down while in transit.

Date:September 17, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:FENCESLocation:Necedah, WI

On September 11th Cohort One was flown over to the Canfield Training site to join the younger chicks in Cohort Two, and even though they were in the same pen they were divided by a fence to allow them to sort out their differences from each side of the fence. Since that date the two groups were flown separately a couple of times and allowed out of the runway to socialize a few more times.

This morning, once the fog that prevented flight training lifted both groups were let out to fly and cavort one final time on the runway and while they were out, two handlers were busy inside the pen, opening up the two ends of the divider. This means that the Class of 2010 is officially one flock!

Date:September 16, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CRANECAM DOWNTIMELocation:Necedah, WI

We'll be pulling the CraneCam out of the Canfield Site this morning so that we can move it into the hangar and perform some maintenance on it. As a result the video feed will be down beginning around 7am Central time until we complete the necessary modifications, which I hope will be early this evening.

It is currently raining and a windy so there will be no training today. 

Date:September 15, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:YESTERDAY'S TRAININGLocation:Necedah, WI

Liz, Joe and I arrived in Necedah about mid-day yesterday and since we were on the road very early in the morning, I had to rely on one of our volunteer camera drivers to control the pan, tilt and zoom during yesterday’s training. This may sound easy but trust me; it’s not and it can even be a little daunting. It’s not as if each morning prior to training the pilots actually file a flight plan.

Like any pilot, they must land and take off into the wind to get maximum lift and well, each morning the direction could change. Add to the equation that there are young Whooping cranes and well, the morning flights don’t always go according to plan – if there was a plan to begin with.

With Joe behind the wheel of the truck, and Mary Dooley behind the wheel of the camera from her Indian home, I was able to log in and watch the training. Two trikes arrived shortly after sunrise. Richard van Heuvelen in one and Brooke Pennypacker flying the other. Richard gave the thumbs up to the handlers to release the older, Cohort One group of eight and in a flurry of white they came charging out of the pen as he revved his engine and headed north.

It’s a bit difficult to actually count the birds as they flap their impressive, almost 8-foot wingspans all at once and charge after the trike but I’m fairly certain I counted nine birds. Mary did a fantastic job of tracking Richard as he led them away from the Canfield site.

Next was Brooke’s turn to take the younger, Cohort Two group of five out on a flight. With Richard and his birds far enough away from the training site, Brooke gave the handlers the okay to release them and only three of the normal five came running out of the pen. I quickly did the math: Richard appeared to have nine and Brooke only had three – where was the 13th bird? As Mary panned the camera back to the south to follow Brooke and his group as they flew past the pen, I’m pretty sure I could see one crane still in the wetpen beside the Dummy Mummy decoy.

Brooke landed about 15 minutes later with his birds dutifully following him in and they were soon joined by the two adult Whoopers; 9-05 and 13-03* - it was fun to watch the adults posturing with the occasional drop wing threats and unison calling as Brooke kept a watchful eye for any signs of aggression. After about 10 minutes Richard appeared with his group and landed a bit further down the training strip and as they all touched down, it was confirmed that indeed, he had an extra bird.

Both groups were allowed to forage and mingle in front of the pen for a while and it would appear that they are beginning to socialize. When they first met each other last week for ‘social hour’ there was a lot of jump-raking and charging going on and yesterday, there was little, if any, of that happening.

Here’s what I found out once we arrived in camp and I had a chance to talk with Richard and ask him about the extra bird: it turned out that when the costumes were releasing the Cohort One group, two of the younger, Cohort Two birds; 10-10 and 17-10 somehow managed to slip out past the handlers and joined in. AND they flew the entire 25 minutes with the older birds! And that number 5-10 never did find her way out of the wetpen, which explains the extra bird I thought I saw as Brooke flew past with his smaller than normal group.

*A note to viewers that the CraneCam will be down for a couple of hours today while Joe and I relocate it.

Date: September 14, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray

With the 10th annual Whooping Crane Festival taking place this coming Saturday, I wanted to remind everyone that is planning on attending that there are no longer flyovers taking place past the observation tower as in past years.

However, there is a good location that may even be better and certainly more accessible for those who have difficulty with the stairs and crowded upper deck of the observation tower. We have included a link to a map of the public roads that dissect the middle area of the refuge. For those familiar with the refuge it is the corner of Speedway Road and 7th Avenue. It can be reached by heading north from the main intersection in the town of Necedah on State Highway 80. Turn left or west on 17th St West and north again on Speedway Rd. In a few miles you will come to a sharp right turn at 7th Ave. There is lots of parking there and if you look south west, you will see an open vista. That is our main training area. The Canfield site is less than a mile to the west and the North Site is one and a quarter miles to the SSE.

As always, we can’t tell you exactly when we will be flying but clear air and calm winds are good indicator. If we see a few cars there early in the morning, we will try to lead the birds overhead. Of course, now that we're combining the two cohorts into one flock, we often don’t make all those decisions and at times it's the birds that are in charge. To obtain an electronic copy of the map to the new public viewing location CLICK here.

If you are planning on attending the festivities this weekend don't forget that for the first time a 10k run/walk will be held in conjunction with the Festival.

Whoop-It-Up 10K is a point-to-point course run along the beautiful scenic roads of Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and the Village of Necedah. A section of the route even goes through an area on the refuge normally closed to the public. The 6.2-mile course begins in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge at the Visitor Center and finishes at the Necedah Lions Park – the grounds for the Whooping Crane & Wildlife Festival.

Click here to register for the run, and here to read more about the Crane Festival. Organizers are looking for participants and volunteers so why not get in touch with Dan Peterson and see if he can use your help?

Date: September 13, 2010Reporter:Liz Condie
Subject:ULTRALIGHT-LED MIGRATION TURNS 10!Location:Main Office

If there is one thing we’ve learned throughout the years we have been working on the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Project, it is that it appeals to and attracts folks from every walk of life, every social and financial strata, every ethnic background, and every age group from 8 to 88. But in addition to the primary ‘tie that binds’ – Whooping Cranes – all of us, every single one, have one other thing in common. Every year we will all celebrate a birthday. Like the song says, “It’s celebration time…..C’mon!”

With the launch the 2010 migration we will mark our 10th year rearing, conditioning, imprinting, and leading endangered Whooping Cranes on migration. How time flies! We have designated our target departure day, October 5th, as the date of our 10th Birthday.

On YOUR birthday would you commemorate our 10 years of work safeguarding Whooping cranes from extinction by sending the Class of 2010 a virtual birthday card with $10.00 in it? Would you ask your family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances to celebrate your milestone by doing the same? What a perfect, eco-friendly, altruistic, non-consumeristic, and affordable gift solution!

What do you say? Will you celebrate your Birthday with us and ask others to celebrate too? All those who say, “Yes, I’m in,” please click here. Or, if you want to celebrate but don’t want to wait for your Birthday to roll around – click here.

Date: September 12, 2010 Reporter: Trish Gallagher  

It was too windy to fly Friday morning and it looked like Saturday will be a down day too. The crew was getting a little antsy about socializing the birds and getting them flying together, so we decided to let the two cohorts out on the runway to socialize on Friday. Charlie, Ali, Brooke and I headed out to Canfield and it was another beautiful morning in spite of the wind. We stopped to greet the Craniacs at the viewing area and give them the disappointing news that we wouldn’t be flying.

I realized when we got out there that I had forgotten my helmet and I was crushed! I so wanted to be there with the birds and the handlers, not be sitting in the truck without my helmet! Fortunately, Ali had a spare, so I was able to go after all. First, we let Cohort 2 out on the runway. They took off for a spin around the runway as we stood watching. I turned back towards the pen and saw the Cohort 1 chicks with their faces plastered against the netting, itching to get out. 1-10 was even trying to climb the plastic fence in his desperation to get out. It’s the first time they’ve had an extra fence between them and the open doors. There’s nothing right about it! But once Cohort 2 landed and settled down, Brooke went over and opened the fence and Cohort 1 came busting out of the pen.

There was lots of jumping and flapping as Cohort 1 escaped their prison. Four of the chicks took off down the runway and flew a circuit around the pen, while the other four stood there and watched. Once everyone returned to the runway, the party began. There was lots of foraging by everyone, but the more interesting part was watching the skirmishes – there was lots of jump-raking going on as chicks started to get to know each other. It was interesting to watch. I think 17-10 thinks he’s going to be the boss. 3-10 isn’t so sure about that, nor 1-10, nor 8-10, nor 2-10. There are probably some others too – I just couldn’t keep track of them all. There was lots to watch and not too many squabbles that needed to be broken up. When the chicks started getting antsy and doing their posturing, we would distract them by heading down the runway, flapping our arms.

Shortly after everyone got out on the runway, a pair of white birds joined us – 9-05 and 13-03. They landed at the end of the runway and gradually walked over to join us. I guess the chicks are feeling adolescent jauntiness or have that hoodlum pack mentality – different chicks kept trying to run the adults off – first 11-10, then 1-10, then either 8-10 or 1-10 again. It was quite interesting (and a little scary) to watch the jump raking and chasing going on. Eventually the white birds tired of being chased and started unison calling, “This is our territory! Scram, you little punks!” But the punks outnumbered the white birds and wouldn’t back off.

As Joe mentioned the other day, this type of behavior has to happen eventually, so we don’t like to step in and break it up. On the other hand, we don’t like to be too far away from the action either, in case someone has to intervene. It’s a fine line and the adrenaline flows, I assure you. 3-10 was really jumping high and those claws were getting awfully close to another chick (I couldn’t see the band) and I was having a lot of angst. The other chick backed down and I thought it was over, but then she started on a different chick, jumping up and saying “Oh yeah? That’s what you think! Check out these claws, pal.” Brooke, are you sure her mom isn’t from New Jersey? She’s a feisty gal and I admire the spunkiness – and oh, she can jump so high!

Eventually, it was time to get the chicks back in the pen and go on about the day. There weren’t any mishaps, and we got everyone on the proper side without too much ado. Hopefully, we’ll get more flying time in soon.

CLICK each thumbnail to view larger image on our Flickr page.

9-05 and 13-03 frequent the Canfield Site. Often the younger cranes are the ones that chase them off. The chicks stalking the adults as the costumes watch for moments when they may need to intervene.
And here's some video shot on Friday morning:


Date: September 11, 2010Reporter:Trish Gallagher
Subject:FLYING AGAIN!Location:Necedah NWR, WI

Recap of September 9th events:

What a relief to finally have good weather for flying! I think everyone was tired of waiting around, especially the people. Chicks are much better at taking things as they come than we are. Brooke and Richard headed to the airport around 6:15 and Charlie, Ali, Geoff and I headed out. I was originally going to go to the North site with Geoff to let Cohort 1 out, but at the last minute I bailed on him so I could go where the action was. Geoff looked at me a little strangely when I stopped the truck and jumped out and asked Charlie and Ali if I could go with them, but he’s a good natured fellow and he just shrugged as I ditched him. Charlie and Ali were good natured about the switch too, and I squeezed in beside Ali and we headed for Canfield.

We stopped to greet some Craniacs at the viewing area and by the time we got out to Canfield, Brooke and Richard were already in the air and waiting for Geoff to get to the pen to let the birds out. We hustled out to the pen – there was still work to do before Cohort 1 could share the pen with Cohort 2! You may recall that last week Charlie and Geoff put up netting to split the wet pet in half, but we left the ends open so the chicks could use both sides of the pen until Cohort 1 arrived.

As Brooke flew by with Cohort 1, Charlie headed for the wet pen and asked me and Ali to get the Cohort 2 chicks on one side of the dry pen and split it. It sounds easy enough. The chicks were all in the dry pen anyway since they heard the trike flying by, so we shut the door to the wet pen and got to work. There are two mesh fences that are used to split the dry pen in half and we quickly had them closed. Unfortunately, there were four chicks on one side and one on the other. None other than my favorite Zoey Flower Child Woodstock was on the “wrong” side of the pen. She saw Charlie back in that wet pen and she didn’t think there was anything right about him being there and her being in the dry pen (after all she’s a crane and he’s a … well, he’s not a crane, so he doesn’t belong in the wet pen!). Zoey paced back and forth, trying to find her way into the wet pen. I tried to lure her to the other side of the dry pen of with grapes, but she wasn’t giving me the time of day. Finally, I got behind her, Ali opened the fence, and I made myself big. She didn’t really have anywhere else to go but to the “right” side of the pen with her classmates, so she reluctantly crossed over and we secured the fence.

About this time Brooke landed and started hanging out on the runway with the birds. I went back into the wet pen to help Charlie finish up, and soon we were letting the Cohort 1 birds into their new home. I held my camera in the sleeve of my costume to shoot some video.

The Cohort 2 chicks took it all in – the new fence, the plethora of costumes, the new birds, and especially that the new guys were getting all the grapes! Richard noticed that too, so he tossed some grapes some over the fence for Cohort 2.

In short order it was done and Richard and Brooke shut the doors and looked like they were leaving. I didn’t like the looks of this and neither did the Cohort 2 birds. It wasn’t windy and I thought they were going to let Cohort 2 fly after they brought Cohort 1 over. Peep! Peep! Peep! Translation: “Hey, we want to fly too! That’s not fair! You came with the noisy thing and we want to fly!” But Brooke was just getting out of the way so the chicks wouldn’t be confused by two planes. He took off and flew away while I listened to the chorus, “Peep! Peep! Peep!” I mentally told them to be patient. When Richard started his engine and gave us the signal, we opened the door and Cohort 2 went running out of the pen. Off they flew, happy at last, and now it was Cohort 1’s turn to complain. Peep! Peep! Peep! Translation: “Hey, we want to fly too! That’s not fair! Why do they get to fly and we don’t?” I mentally told them they already had their turn, but they didn’t like that answer and continued to peep. They stood at attention when Richard flew overhead, maybe hoping that he’d notice and let them fly again. Well, my little ones, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait for the next flying day.

A short while later, Richard landed with four birds – apparently 16-10 landed in the marsh. We got the other four in the pen while Brooke lured her out of the marsh. Ali and I took care of the chores – filling feeders and sweeping up spilled food – while Charlie went to walk 16-10 back to the pen. We left the chicks in the dry pen to settle down and get used to the new situation before letting them in the wet pen. Our morning’s work done, we headed back to camp, happy that we finally got to train and that it was such a beautiful morning and that all of Cohort 1 flew so well and so long (Brooke said they flew most of the way up to Sprague Mather and could have gone farther, but he wanted to get back so we could train Cohort 2) and that Cohort 2 got to fly too.

Date:September 10, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:BIRD POLITICSLocation:Main Office

As usual, the inclement weather of fall begins the first day of September. We go from flying every day - to once every other day - to once every two weeks. This always happens just when we are about the mix the cohorts together to form one flock.

As soon as the oldest bird are able to follow the aircraft long enough to reach the other site, they are moved over and penned next to their new flock mates. They posture and strut on either side of the chain link fence that divides them and begin their campaign for leadership. We train them separately and often, after the rigors of a long flight, we will let them out on the runway together to meet beak to beak. The posturing escalates and we step in to stop the serious battles but the little squabbles are all part of crane politics and we let them happen naturally.

Before long, a new hierarchy takes shape with the more aggressive birds rising to the top. Once each bird has found its place in the dominance structure, it only needs the occasional poke to maintain the order and calm settles over the flock with everyone seeming to get along.

If you are prone to looking for silver linings, the fact that we only have 13 birds this year means that we only have two groups to mix. If that had happened in late August as we planned, the birds would have had over a month to vote in a new leader and assign each of them a place in the pecking order. Of course, the weather has been so bad that flight only took place yesterday. Richard and Brooke were able to lead the eight birds from the North Site to Canfield.

In a week or so we will be able to remove the barrier between them and start to fly with them as one flock. This will all happen around the time we normally mix the second cohort so any advantage we had, due to early socializing, has been foiled by the weather, once again. My overly ambitious projections of an early start are now history. Instead of targeting a departure date of October 1st we are now planning to leave on the 5th.

This all proves that planning is an essential part of the process but has very little to do with the outcome.

Date: September 9, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:AND THEN THERE WAS ONE...Location:Main Office

...Cohort, that is!

The weather finally held this morning and allowed Brooke and Richard an opportunity to fly the older group of birds, which were still at the North Site, the 1.7 miles over to the Canfield Site to join the youngest group of five cranes.

All eight birds flew beautifully behind Brooke's aircraft while Richard flew above and behind, in the chase position, keeping an eye on them in case any birds broke away, or couldn't keep up. In fact they flew so well that upon approaching Canfield, they kept on going and made a sweeping pass well north of the pensite.

Both groups - or 13 young cranes, are now in the Canfield enclosure with a fence dividing them. This will allow them to sort out their squabbles through the safety of the fence over the next few days. Now if we could only get some good flying weather so that we can continue training...

Here's a video edited together to show all the components of the way the events of this morning unfolded:

Date: September 8, 2010Reporter:Barbara Corcoran
Subject:MIGRATION MILE-A-THON!Location:Main Office

To get the young generation thinking about wildlife conservation, and at the same time promote health and fitness, we are asking teachers throughout North America to involve their classrooms in a “Migration Mile-a-Thon.”

The Operation Migration Team and the young Whooping Cranes in the Class of 2010 challenge students of all ages to walk 1,285 miles - the same distance the Whooping cranes fly on their ultralight-guided migration from Wisconsin to Florida. It’s not as hard as it might sound. Here’s how it could work.

How: Use the running track at your school, or measure and mark off a ¼ or ½ or 1 mile distance in the school yard, a nearby field, or other safe area. You could even ask permission to do laps in your gymnasium! During recess, at lunch time, or after school, students in each class walk as many ¼ or ½ or 1 mile laps as they are comfortable with, keeping track of the distance they’ve covered. Each day the total of all the laps the entire class has walked is added up and recorded in the classroom’s Migration Mile-a-Thon Log Book.

When: The target launch date for the 2010 migration is October 1st, but the Class of 2010 is happy to give you a head start. You could begin your Migration Mile-a-Thon anytime.

A class of 30 students each walking just ½ a mile a day could chalk up 75 miles in a week! Ah….but at that rate the cranes might beat you to Florida -- and there’s the challenge!

Ideas: The OM Migration team and the young Whooping Cranes travel through 7 States on their journey to Florida. Follow Operation Migration’s Field Journal and mark the Class of 2010’s progress alongside yours on a map and turn the challenge into a geography lesson. Weather and the terrain they fly over can affect the crane’s ability to migrate which presents opportunities for learning about climate and wildlife habitats.

Why not challenge another class or grade within your school? Or challenge another school in your area for some friendly rivalry! You could even challenge a class or a school in another state!

Does your local wildlife park or other deserving organization need help? If your school allows it, why not consider making your Migration Mile-a-Thon a fundraiser. Ask local businesses and adults you know to sponsor the miles your class walks. If 30 students each found 10 sponsors at just a penny a mile your class could raise $385.50!!! to support their work.

Finish line: There is no way of knowing how long the migration will take. Over the last 5 years the average number of days it took to complete the journey was 83. (If that happened this year, all you’d need to log to beat them to Florida is 16 miles a day.) You could do that in a snap, right? And, unlike the cranes and planes that can’t fly on bad weather days, when that happened in your area, you could still gain miles on them by walking indoors.

Sign up: Click here to register your class or school as a Migration Mile-a-Thon participant. Each class or school completing the 1,285 miles will receive a Wildlife Hero Certificate, and each student participant will receive a special memento autographed by one of OM’s migration team members.

Date:September 7, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:EMP STATUS UPDATELocation:Main Office

Report Period: 22 August – 4 September 2010 - Females are indicated by *. DAR = direct autumn release.

General: Maximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period was 96 birds (52 males, 42 females, and 2 chicks). As of 4 September or last record, 85 whooping cranes (plus 2 fledged chicks) were in Wisconsin, 2 in North Dakota, 1 in Michigan, 1 in Indiana, 2 were not located since spring migration, and 3 were long-term missing.

Reproduction: The two wild-hatched chicks were confirmed fledged during the report period.

12-02/19-04*: Wood County, renest, initiated 9-11 May. A captive-produced egg from Patuxent WRC was substituted for the two infertile eggs on 6 June, and chick W3-10 hatched on 7 June. Fledging of the chick was verified on 31 August. The family was reported in a nearby cornfield on 3 September. They were found back in the nesting reservoir on 5 September.

3-04/9-03*: South of the West Training Site, renest, initiated 29-30 April. Two chicks hatched 30-31 May. One chick (W2-10) disappeared between the mornings of 6 June and 7 June. The parents and remaining chick (W1-10) remained in the general wetland area containing the nest until at least 31 August. Fledging of the chick was confirmed on 29 August. The family was found feeding in corn and soybean fields south of the refuge on 3 September but returned to the refuge to roost. They were detected (signals of adults) just NE of Camp Douglas on 4 September.

Many thanks to the WCEP tracking and monitoring team for the above report

Date:September 6, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NEED A WEATHER WINDOWLocation:Main Office

It has been a week since the weather cooperated and allowed training. This morning there was a beautiful lightning storm that we all watched via the CraneCam, with me controlling the pan, tilt and zoom with my fingers crossed for luck that our router didn't get knocked out again by the storm.

With the slow moving system seemingly stalled barely east of Necedah, Richard was reluctant to become an airborne lightning rod and stayed firmly on the ground. Because the birds haven't been out for the past week, Charlie, Trish and Geoff first drove up to the North Site to let the eight young cranes in Cohort One out for some fun times of flapping and pecking about the grass on the training strip.

When these guys were put back in their pen, the trio of costumes arrived at the Canfield site and let the little gang of five out to frolic as we watched it live. A few took off in a wide sweeping circle and returned to forage with the costumes in a large puddle on the strip, formed by all the recent rains. Next they strolled oh so casually to the north end and on the return walk back, in comes the adult male #9-05 to join in the fun.

He really is striking in comparison to the cinnamon chicks and it was great fun watching him while the costumes were attempting to herd the youngsters back into the pen.

Date:September 5, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:JOURNEY NORTHLocation:Main Office

As the Fall season approaches, teachers, students and the general public are invited to sign up now for Journey North's 17th annual global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. Thanks to Annenberg Media, Journey North is a free Internet-based citizen science project, which allows students across North America to watch the seasons unfold.

Students monitor migration patterns of whooping cranes, monarch butterflies, hummingbirds, and other animals or the blooming of plants; and changing sunlight, temperatures, and other signs that signal the changing seasons. They can share their own field observations with classmates across North America, becoming citizen scientists.

Operation Migration has contributed material to Journey North since 2001 to assist with their Whooping crane program and lesson plans. Click here to register now for the 10th year – the Journey South is almost ready to begin!

If you would like to find out more about each of the 13 young cranes which comprise the Class of 2010 visit this link on Journey North’s Site

Date: September 4, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CRANES OF THE WORLD FESTIVAL!Location:Main Office

Mark September 24th and 25th on your calendar! The International Crane Foundation is celebrating their 37th Anniversary with festivities getting underway on Friday, September 24th. Events include a theatrical performance benefiting ICF and the historic Al. Ringling Theatre in downtown Baraboo.

Saturday’s festivities will take place at their world headquarters just north of Baraboo and will include scheduled events throughout the day and conclude in the evening with the Annual Member Banquet at Ho-Chunk Casino Hotel and Convention Center.

CLICK to see the scheduled activities!

Date: September 3, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CRANECAM PLAYERLocation:Main Office

Those that log in to the CraneCam this morning will notice a BIG change in the player! Since we launched the cam back at the beginning of August, we've been having to use code provided last year by Zaplive. Unfortunately, Zaplive is not longer in business and the folks at have been frantically pulling together the pieces as best they could.

This is why some viewers were receiving a very annoying message stating that "Maximum Viewers Limit has been reached." Well, no more max viewers - now we can accommodate as many viewers as want to login!

There is also a big change to the chat feature that accompanies the video stream. Personally, I find it much easier to read and to follow along, however, chatters will have to make up their own minds and I would very much appreciate feedback, so that we can continue to make improvements. keep in mind you don't need to participate in the chat if you don't want to but it is a very friendly bunch. You can, however, still just choose to view the video feed if that's what you prefer.

Users WILL have to re-register simply because now the chat is operated by and Zaplive is completely out of the equation. You can, however, still use your former login credentials and there are now two ways to register: either manually, or if you're a Facebook user, you can register using your Facebook login. There are a few advantages to using this method over the manual method including:

1. Its easier to login
2. You don't have to remember extra usernames or passwords
3. Facebook is trusted by many users due to its recently improved privacy policies
4. You can auto login - so if you return you don't have to always log in
5. In the future users can post photos from the video stream with comments on their facebook walls
6. Accountability for users - If a user is breaking the terms as a facebook user there is more accountability
7. More personal
8. Facebook has the standard for social applications

I know we're not going to please everyone with these changes, but hope that most will enjoy them. Here's a look at the new player. Once it loads for you simply click on the orange arrow on the lefthand side, which will initiate the live stream.

Please drop me an email if you're experiencing any issues with the new player - We've tried to work out all the kinks prior to launching it but with so many people, using various browsers, and different operating systems, there are bound to be some that we've missed. We'd appreciate it very much if you would let us know and thanks in advance for your patience with the new system.

Date: September 2, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:THE END OF THE GOOD WEATHERLocation:Necedah, WI

For awhile there we were flying almost every day. Each morning we would wake to cool, calm air that would last long enough to train the birds and then some. Later in the summer, the fog delayed most morning flights but we could still fly once it cleared. Now however, it seems fall is here and as this inclement season begins, we are only flying once every three or four days. Naturally, this happens just when we need to mix our two groups of birds.

With thirteen chicks this year, we only have two cohorts instead of the usual three. That means that socializing them won’t take as long. On the next decent day, we will lead the oldest group of birds in cohort one, over to the Canfield site and pen them next to the youngest birds. They will face off through the fence that divides the pens and do a lot of posturing. We will train them separately but when they have each had their turn, we will let them both on the runway. They will pick fights and we’ll step in to stop the big ones. We will let them battle the small skirmishes so they can determine the new social order.

Within a few days they will have it all worked out and we can remove the barrier. We will watch them a little longer to make sure there is no aggression and begin to train them together. A week or two of good weather and we could be ready to start the migration early. We have targeted October 1st as our departure date but the wind will dictate when we actually leave.

The last time we trained the birds it was windier that we would like. Rather than risk drop outs or hitting one of them in the trashy air, we did some high speed taxi runs. We race the length of the runway with the birds flying behind. It’s not great exercise but it is some.

Date: September 1, 2010 Reporter:Trish Gallagher
Subject:MOWING ADVENTURES Location:Necedah, WI

Monday was mowing day. This happens once or twice a summer when the grass on the runway and in the pens gets too long. We mowed at the Canfield site in anticipation of moving Cohort 1 from the North site to Canfield later in the week. It was breezy enough that Brooke was a little concerned. I know, it’s no big deal using a lawn mower in the wind – it’s not an ultralight! But Brooke’s concern is always about the birds and comes from years of experience wading through marshes after wayward chicks. When it’s windy, the birds want to fly, and the last thing we want to do is have a chick decide to fly home with mowers on the runway. But rain was forecast for Tuesday and we didn’t know when the next opportunity would present itself, so off we went to Canfield in good spirits.

I was torn between wanting to hang out with my babies in the marsh and wanting to cut down the tall grass in the wet pen. I have been doing behavioral observations (that’s a post for another day) and I find it difficult to read the bands when the birds are in the back of the pen. It’s more difficult when there’s tall grass back there and I know just the spot where I want it whacked. But Brooke and I were elected to stay with the chicks in the marsh while Geoff and Charlie mowed and weed whacked and divided the wet pen with a mesh fence.

As Brooke and I costumed up, I noticed that Brooke took his tee shirt off before putting on his costume. I figured he was onto something (it was hot!), so I followed suit – discreetly behind the door of the truck, of course. The plan was to walk the chicks north up the runway, across the access road and then continue north on an unused access road to a pond that’s out of sight of the pen. It might have been a half mile, maybe less, but those distances seem long when you’re in boots and a costume and leading chicks with minds of their own, not to mention the people waiting for you to get out of sight so they can do their job.

The chicks agreeably followed us onto the runway and walked along behind us – a change in routine is fairly novel for them and they’re interested in adventure as much as anyone. When we got to the end of the runway and started to cross the road, #11-10 decided it was time to fly – right back to the pen. Brooke continued on with the rest and sent me back to collect the wayward boy. He was in the marsh beside the wet pen and I coaxed him out and began the process again. He followed behind me for a while and then flew again. I had been entertaining visions of a (not-very-funny) game where I would lead him down the runway and he would fly back to the pen again and again, so I was happy when he flew across the road into the marsh. It took a few minutes, but I coaxed him to the end of the pond he was in and then he stopped. I waved my puppet and threw grapes to no avail. Then I walked over and realized the grass was tall, so I acted like a crane mama and stamped it down. He followed me out and we continued down the road. Eventually, we made it to the pond where Brooke was waiting for us with the other four. This process took a solid half hour – and Geoff and Charlie hadn’t even begun to mow!

I texted Charlie that the coast was clear – cell phones are the best! Brooke and I were ready to settle in with the chicks, but they weren’t quite ready to settle down. I waded into the pond to encourage Eleven to join the others, walking carefully along the uneven bottom. Cell phones are the best, but they don’t take kindly to water, and I didn’t want to lose my balance and have my means of communication disappear. With my second step the water overtopped my boots, guaranteeing that I would have a cooling system for the rest of the adventure. Number 11-10 didn’t want to come into the pond and stayed up on the road, eventually luring 16-10 out of the pond to join him. The temptation was too much for the remaining chicks and they headed out of the pond to join numbers 11 and 16. I looked over to Brooke, who shrugged and we followed them up to the road and walked north until we found another pond. This time, we managed to lure all the chicks into the pond and there we stood for the next two hours. The chicks wandered around foraging. We would toss grapes occasionally when they started looking bored. As time walked slowly on, it became more difficult to keep them interested. At one point, three of the chicks headed for the bank, so I walked over to a patch of vegetation and started pecking at it with my puppet, piquing their interest. Then I started picking up vegetation, dipping it in the water, and feeding it to them from the puppet. Eventually, they were just done with this particular pond, so they headed for the grass on the bank. There was some wing flapping and foraging, but mostly, we all just hung out in companionable silence with the regular purring from the brood call.

After two hours, Brooke and I grew restless too. I texted Charlie and Geoff and of course they were still working. Time passes slowly when you’re standing in a pond keeping chicks occupied. I imagine that the time flew by for Geoff and Charlie as they mowed and weed whacked, hurrying to get the work done so they could get out of there. By this time I texted, they had mowed and whacked the weeds and were in the process of dividing the pen. Finally, a half hour later, we got the all clear and headed back. I was tired – I love these chicks, but standing in a pond for that long without being able to sit down is very difficult – so when three of the five flew off into the marsh, I wasn’t too happy. I rolled my eyes and mentally grunted. Brooke was tired too and I think he might have also had a few less-than-idyllic thoughts.

Fortunately (or so I thought), he sent me on with 10-10 (my Zoey Flower Child Woodstock) and 11 while he looked for the wayward three. As we made our way back to the pen, Zoey and 11 would fly short distances and then wait for me to catch up. I thought we were home free and that they would happily walk back into the pen – big mistake! Just when I was tired and done and thinking about getting back to camp, 11 decided to land on the topnet! Good grief! Another thing that I forgot to ask about during intern training! Now what? I’m all alone with two birds and one is on the topnet! I whipped out my cell phone and texted Charlie and Geoff. “11 landed on the topnet and I need help!” I waved my puppet at him, but that didn’t do squat. I ran around to the front of the pen and saw Brooke. Thank goodness! He knows what to do! I waved to him to come – and he didn’t start running, so I did a double arm wave and finally he started running.

Now you experienced crane handlers out there know this is no big deal – when Brooke got there, he calmly walked into the pen and put his hands under 11’s feet, gave him a boost, and off he flew – but this novice had visions of his leg poking through the netting and broken legs and all the terrible things that come with that. So thank goodness it was no big deal and we finally lured everyone back into the pen. The bonus is that Brooke now has something else to tease me about, which is always a good thing. Later this week, we hope the weather will permit the pilots to lead Cohort 1 over to Canfield, which will likely give me another adventure to write about.

Hangin out in the pond Still hangin C'mon - let's go! #10-10 & 11-10 heading back

CLICK for larger views

Date: August 31, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) is celebrating another success in its efforts to reintroduce a wild migratory whooping crane population in eastern North America. Two wild-hatched whooping crane chicks have recently fledged, or become capable of flight. This is only the second time in over a century that naturally produced whooping cranes have fledged in the wild in the Midwest.

The chicks, #W1-10 and #W3-10 (W = wild hatched) were both observed flying with their parents this weekend. Number W1-10 is located on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in central Wisconsin, and #W3-10 is on private property in Wood County, Wisconsin.

Seven chicks initially hatched this year in the wild, the largest number to hatch in WCEP project history. Wild-hatched chicks face a precarious existence in the first weeks of their lives, and natural loss of chicks due to predation is common. The survival rate for WCEP with these two chicks is within the range of survival rates for wild sandhill crane chicks in south-central Wisconsin currently being studied by the International Crane Foundation.

The two wild whooping crane chicks are the result of renesting. Early this spring, nine breeding pairs of whooping cranes built nests and laid eggs, but all nine pairs abandoned those first nests. The nest abandonments earlier this spring are similar to what has been observed in previous years. WCEP is investigating the cause of the abandonments through analysis of data collected throughout the nesting period on crane behavior and black fly abundance and distribution.

Date:August 31, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray

OM’s Walter Sturgeon invites you to join him on an incredible bird watching journey in Japan.

“When the cranes have fed, they move away a little and, joined by the immatures, begin to leap and bow, using the cold twilight wind to pick them up, legs dangling, four or five feet into the air. As the sun sets behind the wooded ridge and faint stars appear in the fading blue above, the white birds dance forward and lift off the snow into the north wind. To observe red-crowned cranes dancing in Hokkaido’s snows is the ultimate pilgrimage for ornithologists.”-- Peter Matthiessen, “The Birds of Heaven,” 2001

EcoQuest Travel is proud to offer an incredible bird watching journey to the extraordinary country of Japan. From the crowded bustle of Tokyo and the glitter of skyscrapers to the still forests of Hokkaido and the quiet reverence of ancient temples, Japan is a land of contrasts.

The Land of the Rising Sun is known more for its cultural riches, but the birdlife of Japan is rich and varied. We have chosen to travel in February to take advantage of the abundance and diversity of cranes and waterfowl in particular.

Our visit will include three of Japan’s main islands: Honshu, Hokkaido and Kyushu. We begin in the far north in a land blanketed by snow and chilled by Siberian winds. Hokkaido is a breathtakingly beautiful place and this is punctuated all the more by the sight of red-crowned cranes dancing against a backdrop of snow and green conifers. No less spectacular is the huge gatherings of Steller’s sea-eagles; large rafts of harlequin ducks, Steller’s eiders and alcids; and a chance to observe the rarely seen Blakiston’s fish-owl hunting. From the cold expanses of Hokkaido we journey far to the south to the rice paddies and wetlands of Kyushu. The marshes of Arasaki are famous for their flocks of wintering cranes.

Thousands of hooded and White-naped cranes are often joined by Eurasian, Sandhill and sometimes even Demoiselle and Siberian cranes. Ducks, geese, cormorants, gulls and other water birds are also abundant, and along with the bugling cranes, add to cacophony. From the south we will return to Honshu and travel up into the Japanese Alps to witness snow monkeys soaking winter’s chill away in the hot springs. The opportunity for dramatic photographs of the monkeys with snow and ice upon their fur is not to be missed.

We invite you to join us as we explore the fantastic birdlife, natural wonders, cultural sites and magic that is Japan. The trip will be led by Dave Davenport, Zoologist and President of EcoQuest Dave Davenport Travel, Inc and Walter Sturgeon, Crane Expert and Operation Migration Team Member. The trip will be limited to 10-14 participants and a portion of the receipts will benefit Operation Migration. Contact Walt Sturgeon at sturgeon2(AT) or Dave Davenport at ddavenport(AT) (please replace (AT) with @ in emails)

Date: August 30, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:AIRBORNE AGAINLocation:Necedah, WI

I liked it a lot better when all I had to do was work with birds. During the first year of this project, there were really only three of us here at Necedah for most of the summer. Deke Clark was here along with Dan Sprague (spelled off by Brian Clauss) and me. Now I spend a good part of my time in the office and not near enough working with the birds. For three weeks at a time, the only thing I get to fly is this computer. Despite its ability to carry you into cyberspace, it lacks that third dimension that you can only find once you leave the ground.

When I am away from home for any length of time, I notice subtle changes in am daughter when I return. Miraculously she is slightly taller, a little quicker and far prettier. When I get back to Necedah I notice changes in the birds too and as the pen opens and I see them for the first time in three weeks I am always struck by the amount they have grown. They are taller by at least 4 inches, and far more white as their juvenile camouflage is slowly replaced with adult plumage.

The blend of those two colors, the stark white that is visible for miles with a tawny brown, as rich as gold creates a spectacle that is beyond words. Despite having seen it countless times, the flurry of feather as they burst into the air is still impressive and seems completely out of place in the subtlety of a wetland.

There are a million variations in the greens and browns that are visible in any marsh but for the most part they can all be described as earth tones. Whooping cranes do not follow that rule. They are as camouflaged as a beacon and their sonorous call as subtle as a siren.

Brooke has weekends off this summer. Imagine that!! Not that I don’t enjoy every moment of his company but when he is away for those two days I get to train with both groups of birds myself. This morning was windier that we like but the birds have not been trained in four days. We started with the older birds at the north site. We took off together but as usual only a few found the wing. After a couple of circuits, number 4-10 found his place just off the wingtip and held on tenaciously.

You may remember that 4-10 was the bird held back at Patuxent because of a leg injury. He and number 11 were shipped out together a few weeks later than the others. His injury left him with only one noticeable consequence. When he flies, his legs don’t trail behind in parallel. Instead, one hangs down a few degrees making him easy to identify in the air.

When he and I returned from our ten minute flight, the other birds had landed on the runway. When we set up an approach from the north, they all flew towards us in greeting. Number 4 landed but I had to go around for fear of hitting one of them. When I approached from the other direction, they again flew towards me. Soon we had birds at both ends of the runway and no place for me to go. Eventually they got tired of the back and forth and I managed to get on the ground. Thereafter we did a few high speed taxi runs with the birds flying for the length of the runway.

The wind picked up by the time we trained at the Canfield site so we were confined to ground work but all the birds got some exercise and I got a chance to fly. Everything has a price however so I’m back flying this computer.

Date: August 29, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CAMERA RELOCATION DELAYLocation:Main Office

Yesterday afternoon I mentioned that we would be off the air 'for a bit' while the CraneCam was being relocated. Well the beast has a reputation to uphold and as Joe lowered its 30 ft. mast, shut down the system and packed it up to get it ready to move, the beast rebelled.

The camera trailer is equipped with a set of 'Power Wheels' - these allow us to drive it remotely, meaning that we don't need a vehicle, which the cranes would see, to maneuver it into its final position. The Power Wheels operate off a 12V car battery and it seems there was just enough juice in the battery to get the trailer to the waiting vehicle, which was parked out of sight of the crane enclosure.

Fearing that he wouldn't have enough battery power to walk it into its new location at the Canfield training site, Joe made the decision to bring the unit back to camp and give it a full charge, before deploying it this morning. Unfortunately, this will have to wait until after training, if indeed there is a training session.

Date: August 28, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CRANECAM & CRANES MOVINGLocation:Main Office

We’re going to be relocating the camera this afternoon to the Canfield training site where the youngest chicks in this year’s Class currently are. Chicks 10-10, 11-10, 15-10, 16-10 and 17-10 have been housed at the Canfield site since they arrived from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center on July 9th.

Each of the youngest group of cranes are flying circuits now, so it’s time to begin socializing the two Cohorts in the larger drypen at Canfield. This will be done by erecting a temporary fence inside the pen; dividing it in half, with one group on either side. The fence is a chain link style, which will allow the young birds to see and interact with each other through the fence as they begin to sort out their social hierarchy.

We anticipate moving the older group of birds, who are capable of flying the 2-mile span between the two sites, at the first window of opportunity the weather provides.

Of course this will give viewers an opportunity to get reacquainted with the adult male # 9-05 who quite often shows up just in time for training! And it also means the camera will be off the air for a bit this afternoon while it's being moved.

Date:August 28, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:EMP UPDATELocation:Main Office

Maximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period (21 August) was 96 birds (52 males, 42 females, and 2 chicks). As of 21 August or last record, 85 whooping cranes (plus 2 chicks) were in Wisconsin, 2 in North Dakota, 1 in Michigan, 1 in Indiana, 2 were not located since spring migration, and 3 were long-term missing.

No. 40-09 (DAR) was euthanized on 16 August after additional radiographs and physical findings at the International Crane Foundation. The bird had a severely dislocated left hip of chronic duration and was in much pain. No. 40-09* had been reported with an injured left leg in the Mill Bluff area on 1 August. She was captured and transported to the West Training Site at Necedah NWR for care and treatment, but the injury, of unknown origin, did not improve.

Two wild-hatched chicks were alive at the end of the report period.

Our thanks to the WCEP Tracking Team of Dr. Richard Urbanek, (USFWS) and Eva Szyszkoski, (ICF) for this update.

Date: August 27, 2010 Reporter:Dummy Mummy
Subject:VERY IMPORTANT ROLELocation: North Site, Necedah, WI

Ever since those white billowy beings placed the CraneCam near the enclosure at the North Site where I live, apparently all kinds of new viewers are watching me… and the crane chicks, but I like to think they’re just watching me.

When I first arrived at the pensite, they placed me under the feed shelter, which was nice because during the really hot weather, I had constant shade. But it’s time to encourage my little feathered friends to learn the importance of water roosting, so this week I was moved to the wetpen. Apparently my relocation has caused a wee bit of confusion for viewers because the girls at the office recently received the following email messages:

From your webcam, there appears to be a crane enmeshed in the overhead netting, over the water, about two posts out from the gate. Its head seems to stay in the same place as its body sways in the wind. When other cranes are approaching the apparently enmeshed bird, their legs are clearly visible, yet none are visible beneath this swaying bird. Is it a decoy of some sort, or is it really stuck?"

and then this:

"Hi there.
A couple of colleagues were watching the feed from your webcam online and noticed that one of the cranes is hung up in mesh fencing. The camera has panned over now, so we're assuming that someone is working to free the bird, but we just wanted to make sure you're aware of this so the poor thing doesn't stay that way for long.

Now, a couple of things occurred to me when I heard about these messages. 1. People that watch the CraneCam (and of course, me) are really caring folks! and 2. They don’t seem to know much about me and just how important my role as Crane Guardian is.

Okay, so I am made of plastic and don’t actually have feathers like the chicks do, but judging by the amount of time they spend preening their feathers, well I’m not sure I’d want any! Those fluffy things look like they require a LOT of upkeep and maintenance. And yes, okay, sometimes those silly chicks DO try to preen my plastic, but they’re young, so I cut them some slack and consider it part of our bonding process.

And then there is the leg issue… But really, c’mon, dontcha think legs are a bit overrated? I’ve seen these chicks try to bend those loooong legs and it requires a good bit of coordination! Why sometimes they get so tired of managing both of them that they often just use one to stand on anyway. Ugh, and let’s not forget that they’re constantly in cold, wet water! Who wants to have wet feet all-day, everyday?

You see, my role is very important – I’m the Keeper of the flock, the Guardian, Attendant, Bird-sitter; I’m the Warden, Supervisor, Defender… I AM the Dummy Mummy!

My job is to soothe and comfort them, to provide reassurance, to listen to their troubles, to be their preening-practice mannequin, to act as a role-model for these growing chicks… And they DO look up to me! Okay, it’s probably because I’m hanging from the topnet of the wetpen now, suspended over their heads, but even if I was at eye-level, they’d still look up to me, for I AM DUMMY MUMMY!

And this fall, when these chicks begin their first southward migration flight following those yellow mechanical flyers, I’ll be right there with them! Hmm, well, okay, I’ll be riding in the trailer that holds the travel pen, but I’ll be with them in spirit! Encouraging them and cheering them on, mile after mile, just like the rest of you! And when we make our stops along the way, I’ll get to hang out with them again – literally – and comfort them in each of their new surroundings. Why? well because everybirdy needs a Dummy Mummy!

Date: August 26, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NECEDAH CRANE FESTIVALLocation:Main Office

The Necedah Lion's Club hosted the inaugural Whooping Crane Festival in 2001 – to coincide with the first year of the Eastern Migratory Population reintroduction. As we celebrate a decade of guiding young-of-year Whooping cranes along a new migratory route; beginning at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin and ending at either the St. Marks or Chassahowitzka NWR’s, so too does the Lion’s Club celebrate their 10th anniversary of their Crane Festival.

Dave Arnold and his fellow Lion’s Club members have been busy finalizing the myriad details for this upcoming festival, which will take place on September 18th at the Necedah Lion’s Park.

Featured speakers this year include: Lisa Hartman & Michael Mossman who will be presenting “Natural History of Turkey Vultures in Wisconsin” and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Joel Trick, , whose talk will focus on “Kirtland's Warblers in Wisconsin.” In addition to these, presentations will be made by Horicon National Wildlife Refuge’s Erin Railsback, John French from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bob Anderson from the Raptor Resource Center, and Jim Backus will offer a seminar about nature photography, so bring your cameras and your questions!

To end the day of speakers, at 3pm, Joe Duff will present his program, which includes beautiful images of Whooping cranes, captured from the pilot seat of his ultralight aircraft.

In addition to the speaker line-up there will be youth activities, arts and crafts, raffles, silent auctions, food and live entertainment. And this year there will be a WHOOP IT UP 10K RUN/WALK, which will take place on the refuge and include some areas normally closed to the public.

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 and say “hi!” We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at the festival!

Date:August 25, 2010Reporter:Trish Gallagher
Subject:SUNDAY'S (RE)TRAININGLocation:Necedah, WI

I got back to Necedah Saturday night after two weeks at Drexel University, which was spent in a whirlwind of activity as I caught up with my “real” job. I was excited to see my feathered babies, so I woke up bright and early for training Sunday morning.

There was dense fog on the ground as Barb and I headed out to the North Site, so when we got there, we sat in the van for a few minutes catching up. As we walked out to the runway to wait for Joe, we watched Richard fly by on his way to the Canfield Site. Shortly, we heard the buzz of Joe approaching. There was still some fog and we weren’t sure Joe could land, so we approached the pen in the high grass so the chicks couldn’t see us. Barb hates the looks of disappointment on their little faces when she checks the chicks on days they can’t fly. Fortunately, Joe was able to land and in a moment, we were ready to open the doors.

As usual, the chicks came bursting out of the pen and immediately started jumping and flapping. Joe revved the engine and took off down the runway with the birds flying behind. I stood there transfixed, open-mouthed with wonder and delight. Thoughts flooded my head: They’re so beautiful! They’ve grown so much! They’re so graceful! Look at them fly, they’re all right behind Joe!

All of a sudden, Barb grabbed my sleeve and yanked me back into the pen. “You have to get back in the pen!” she whispered. “You’ll confuse the chicks!” And indeed, little 5-10 was standing there, looking first at Joe and the others departing and then back at me, not quite knowing who to follow. I snapped back to the present and sheepishly hung my head. Joe, unaware of the drama, and thinking he had a reluctant flyer, circled around with seven birds in tow. 5-10 flew after him, but she wasn’t able to catch up and shortly returned to the runway.

I spent the next few minutes looking out the peephole, silently telling #5 that I was sorry for distracting her and willing her to fly when Joe came back around. And then Joe flew back into sight and I could watch my glorious chicks again, this time from safely inside the pen. Words defy me. It is simply the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.

Luckily, when Joe took off for a second round, 5-10 went with him. And after training, Barb and I reviewed everything, especially the part about letting the birds out and then going quickly and quietly back in the pen. Oohing and aahing is perfectly acceptable, as long as you’re not distracting the birds.

Date:August 24, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration ProgramLocation:Main Office

Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a story focusing on the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (NRDAR). As the Service's response to the BP oil spill continues to evolve, NRDAR is playing an increasingly larger role.

The Service recently posted an explanation on how this important program works (see below), and just released a video of a NRDAR team out in the field patrolling for oiled wildlife. The video features an interview with Ingrid Brofman, an intern at Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge:

Here's an explanation of how NRDAR works:

Record keeping an important role in oil spill response

Daphne, Ala. - What’s broke, and how do we fix it?

That’s the simplified version of a little-known process called the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (NRDAR), which is currently operating in five states affected by the BP oil spill.

Pete Tuttle, who coined that quick summary of NRDAR, is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contaminants specialist based in Daphne, Ala., currently serving as the Department of the Interior Case Coordinator for NRDAR on the spill.

The process Tuttle is helping to administer is likely to receive increasing attention from the public as its importance in restoring the wetlands, marshes, beaches and habitats of the Gulf region becomes more prominent and receives more media attention.

The purpose of NRDAR is to assess the extent of damage to natural resources during an incident such as the oil spill, and make sure that the resources are restored at no cost to the American taxpayers. Instead, the party or parties responsible for the damage pay for the restoration.

NRDAR is separate from the claims system for individuals and businesses that BP has set up; its purpose is to restore damage to “trust resources” – resources that are owned by the public, which can include national wildlife refuges, military bases, parks, endangered species and their habitats, drinking water supplies, etc.

It is also separate from many of the response operations, such as rescuing birds, deploying boom, and cleaning oil from shores and beaches.

“The response in this incident is to stop the release and clean up the spill. When they clean up the spill, the ecosystem starts to restore itself. You have natural recovery even if you just leave the system alone,” explained Jim Haas, who is currently serving as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service NRDAR project leader.

“If we were just to stop at the response of cleaning up the oil that reaches the shore, we would be left with a degraded ecosystem that would take years to recover, if it ever does completely,” he continued. “Part of the purpose of NRDAR is to accelerate that recovery curve so the system is restored back to where it was more quickly. We have primary restoration projects directed at specific resources, such as an injured beach or a refuge. That’s primary restoration.

“But there is also a category where the ecosystem has been damaged during a block of time, and you have lost the services that ecosystem could have provided. Those cannot be recovered, and primary restoration is not going to get those lost services. Those become part of compensatory restoration,” Haas said.

NRDAR operates under three laws: the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA); the Clean Water Act; and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), which was passed in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill.

Under NRDAR, any government agency that has trust resource responsibilities can become a Trustee in the process. The Trustees are all on a steering committee that supervises NRDAR assessments and restoration for the entire spill region; they are equal partners. Current trustees include the Department of the Interior (including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and other bureaus), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and agencies from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida; more agencies are expected to sign on as Trustees.

The Trustees have formed 13 Technical Working Groups (TWGs) that are creating the study plans for determining the extent and severity of the injury to broad resource categories, such as migratory birds, fish, sea turtles, etc, Tuttle explained. The Fish and Wildlife Service has the lead on the Bird TWG, but is a partner in the other TWGs.

The Bird TWG for all five states operates out of a hotel conference room in Daphne, Ala.; other NRDAR operations are spread throughout the Gulf. The NRDAR Operations room buzzes with activity, and is the place from where teams are deployed to walk miles of beaches and shorelines, taking photos and recording data on wildlife and oil damage.

“I’m really proud that we have assembled the best damage assessment people and the best bird people from across the Service, the states, academia, and non-governmental organizations to help us create the best possible plans for assessing and addressing potential injuries to birds from this spill,” Tuttle said.

 The BP oil spill presents challenges for NRDAR personnel because it is the largest geographic area the program has ever addressed, and because the oil continued to flow even as NRDAR operations were underway. “But we had a  lot of time to plan, since it was three weeks before the oil first reached land, so that made us more efficient,” Tuttle said.

 “We have signed a funding agreement with BP to fund some of the NRDA activities,” said Haas. “The actual restoration claim will hopefully be a negotiated settlement, not litigation. BP essentially will get a bill. We won’t know what the size of that is going to be for several years.”

But even when a settlement between NRDAR and BP is reached and much of the restoration work is complete, NRDAR will continue monitoring the restoration of so much valuable land and wildlife habitat. “It will be decades before we understand the full impact of the spill on the region,” said Tuttle. “In terms of monitoring, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re looking at 30 years.”

Date: August 23, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CRANECAM IS BACK!Location:Main Office

We're back online and streaming live from the North Training site at the Necedah NWR - Thank you everyone for your patience. To join in and watch the broadcast click HERE.

You can watch anytime of day as the camera is operated by a fantastic team of volunteers, however, to catch the early morning training; weather permitting of course, join us at 6am Central/7 am Eastern.

Date: August 23, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CRANECAM & TRAININGLocation:Main Office

It's that time of year when early morning fog over the Necedah refuge is almost certainly guaranteed. Fog forms when the difference between temperature and dew point is generally less than 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Such was the case on Saturday morning AND afternoon. Since the camera was knocked offline by a storm the previous evening, I only had text messages from Geoff Tarbox to keep me informed. Every hour or so, I'd text him with "Still fog?" to which he responded "yep."

As the day went on, my hourly messages became "STILL fog?" - and his response "oh ya!" - It persisted until 2 pm that day.

Then yesterday morning the fog seemed to be late in forming as I received the following text message from Joe Duff: "Flew this morning but now its too foggy to get back to the airport so I'm sitting at the North Site waiting." Realizing he was likely bored I asked him how the training went with Cohort One? he replied all the birds flew. I took them up to the new viewing area but nobody was there. Three formed on the wing and others followed on two flights. Ten minutes at least each flight.

As I type this, Joe and Richard are at the hangar waiting for the fog to clear, and hoping that once it does, it won't be too windy to train.

We hope to have the router for the CraneCam repaired today and we'll let you know as soon as its operational again.

Date:: August 22, 2010 Reporter:Geoff Tarbox
Subject:RETURN OF PLANTMAN Location:Necedah, WI

It’s been so long I’ve talked about plants, that you thought the Plant Man would not be riding again this year. Shame on you! I’ve been keeping myself busy with the plants I’ve come to know and love here at Necedah. I’ve just been keeping quiet since there haven’t been new plants I’ve been sent to find. I’m still keeping my eyes out for Virginia meadow beauty (Rhexia virginica), rough white lettuce (Prenanthes alba), wooly milkweeds (Asclepias lanuginosa) and yellow-eyed grass (Xyris sp.)

Now, over the course of a few months, I’ve snagged just shy 300 Virginia meadow beauty pods for refuge biologist, Rich King. Those little fellas are even more bustling than they were last year. On that little stretch on Boghaunter trail, there must be easily several hundred more I could pick up, once they’re ripe. The rough white lettuce isn’t far behind either. I’m still seeing it right where I left along the early stretches of Boghaunter. They were still blooming when I last saw them, so their seeds still need a little time to cook before I can snag them for Rich King. But I think we’re in for a good harvest of those, too.

Sadly, the only thing that’s not bustling is my pride and joy from last year, the wooly milkweeds. I’ve gone up to the stretch of back road leading to the North Site several times now, but there hasn’t been much sign of my little darlings. I saw only two, which wasn’t enough for harvesting. Rich and I suspect that this year’s wet spring might’ve been a turn off for them. And the fact they’re sharing this back road with wall-to-wall two or three feet tall bluestem doesn’t help much either. Especially when you’re only two or three inches tall. It was never this overgrown last year. Oh well. Maybe the yellow-eyed-grass over by the North Site will be more promising this year.

But I can tell you one thing we aren’t short of: mosquitoes! I’ve heard that this is one of Wisconsin’s worst skeeter seasons on record, and I personally believe it. You can’t even leave your trailer to hit the bathroom without donating a pint or two at the skeeter blood bank. And woe be to the fool who leaves their doors open. For skeeters will just rush inside as though you were offering them free plasma screen TVs. Once you’re inside, you could spend an extra five or ten minutes swatting skeeters who want to crash at your place.

In my own little mind, I like to think someplace, somewhere, there is a parallel universe, where whoopers are plentiful, the Gulf spill never happened, I’m President of the United States, and the only way that we can save mosquitoes from certain annihilation is to put on silly costumes and have them follow an ultralight. And naturally, we would be so over that. Totally. I’d get up every morning to let the little skeeters out of their pen for training. I’d watch them fly through the little peepholes, change their feeders, and watch them mingle and interact through a blind. Necedah would throw a Skeeterfest every year, we’d have a Skeeter Cam, and you all would be our faithful Skeeter-iniacs or something. Wouldn’t it be beautiful? No.

It’ll teach them to suck me dry and buzz in my ear while I’m doing more important things... Like video games. Now if you excuse me, I’m off to play a game where I’m one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who’s been wrongfully accused of triggering Armageddon.

The world is safe again, but for how long?


Rhexia virginica

Prenanthes alba

Asclepias lanuginosa

Date:August 21, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CRANECAM DOWNLocation:Main Office

It would appear the lightening storms, which moved through Necedah yesterday at the dinner hour knocked out our router and effectively halted the broadcast. It will be a few hours, at least, until we're able to reset the router.

Just one of the many issues we must deal with when streaming video from a wildlife refuge - Mother Nature.

Date: August 21, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray

Marty Folk, Avian Research, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sent an update on the Florida non-migratory flock of whooping cranes. The final update on this year’s breeding season in Florida describes eight of 11 pairs nested this spring; from 9 nests (1 of which was a re-nest) 3 pairs hatched 4 chicks and 1 chick survived to fledge.

Marty explained that this spring, in addition to collecting data on incubation behavior with video surveillance equipment, they deployed artificial data-logging eggs into nests of 5 whooping crane pairs and 1 Florida sandhill crane pair in a pilot study of incubation temperature. One of the most important findings was that there were lapses in incubation by whooping crane pairs at night.

We have not documented this problem previously because our video surveillance equipment was not suitable for recording in darkness. Lapses in incubation could affect hatchability of eggs.

Deployment of cameras with night-vision capabilities at nests may allow identification of the reasons for these incubation lapses. A larger sample size of experimental nests (of both whooping and sandhill cranes) will accommodate comparisons of incubation behavior and temperature between successful and unsuccessful pairs. Therefore, they are considering another breeding season of data-collection for this purpose.

Date: August 20, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced yesterday in the Federal Register it is seeking public comment on a proposed rule to reintroduce the endangered whooping crane into habitat in its historic range on the state-owned White Lake Wetland Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana.

The Service and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) will attempt to establish a non-migratory flock that lives and breeds in the wetlands, marshes and prairies of southwestern Louisiana. If this proposal is approved, the reintroduction effort could begin during early 2011.

“With just under 400 birds in the wild, the vast majority of which winter along the Texas coast, whooping cranes are among our nation’s most threatened species. Our proposal to reintroduce a population in Louisiana would not only help protect this iconic species from extinction but would also help us take another big step in our campaign to restore the Gulf Coast’s wildlife, marshes, and coasts to health,” said Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior.

The reintroduction is being proposed as part of an ongoing recovery effort for this highly imperiled species, which was on the verge of extinction in the 1940s and even today has only about 395 individuals in the wild (550 worldwide); none in Louisiana. The only self-sustaining wild population of whooping cranes migrates between Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas and, like those in the eastern populations, remains vulnerable to extinction from continued loss of habitat or natural or man-made catastrophes. Multiple efforts are underway to reduce this risk by increasing populations in the wild, including ongoing efforts to establish a migratory population in the eastern United States.

CLICK to read the full press release

Date: August 19, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:NEW PUBLIC VIEWING AREALocation:Main Office

Necedah National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1939 as a refuge, breeding grounds and inviolate sanctuary for migratory birds. That mandate has been marginalized for the last 10 years, as the refuge became the reintroduction site for the only eastern migratory population of Whooping cranes.

Five pensites have been constructed in what is normally closed to everything except wildlife and four of those areas include grass runways for our ultralights. From mid August to early October, we take to the air whenever the weather is good and lead our flock on circuits around the refuge to get them familiar with what will become their summer home for the rest of their lives. When our birds are young and inexperienced, our flights are low and slow and we stay out over the marsh so if one goes down, or we do, we are not over the trees. As they get stronger, we begin to gain some altitude and a little margin of safety.

In the fall, as the days grow shorter and the temperature drops, Necedah becomes a stopover for many water birds as they begin to head south. Our aircraft, and the accompanying Whooping cranes make a noisy and disquieting spectacle that may disturb these wild migrants.

In order to find a balance between the birds that we teach to migrate and the ones that learned it naturally, training zones for the Whooping cranes have been established. A block of airspace around the Canfield and the North sites has been opened for the training as well as a corridor up to Sprague Mather. The southern parts of East and West Rynearson ponds have been reserved for wild birds. That is the area that can be seen from the observation tower so this fall no training will be visible from that location.

However, there is a good location that may even be better and certainly more accessible for those who have difficulty with the stairs and crowded upper deck of the observation tower. We have included a link to a map of the public roads that dissect the middle area of the refuge. For those familiar with the refuge it is the corner of Speedway Road and 7th Avenue. It can be reached by heading north from the main intersection in the town of Necedah on State Highway 80. Turn left or west on 17th St West and north again on Speedway Rd. In a few miles you will come to a sharp right turn at 7th Ave. There is lots of parking there and if you look south west, you will see an open vista. That is our main training area. The Canfield site is less than a mile to the west and the North Site is one and a quarter miles to the SSE.

As always, we can’t tell you when we will be flying but clear air and calm winds are good indicator. If we see a few cars there early in the morning, we will try to lead the birds overhead. Of course, in the early stages we often don’t make all those decisions. It is hard to know who is teaching whom.

CLICK for a pdf copy of the map

Date: August 18, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray

From Nine wild whooping crane chicks in remote Canada are wearing high-tech jewelry, courtesy of a pair of Nebraska scientists.

The endangered chicks were outfitted with miniature Global Positioning System transmitters and color-coded identification bands during a milestone research initiative by the Crane Trust, based near Wood River, Neb. The telemetry banding was a first for wild whoopers in their nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Northwest Territories, Canada.

It's a historic moment for whooping crane conservation and for the Crane Trust,'' Dr. Felipe Chavez-Ramirez said Monday. Chavez-Ramirez, the Crane Trust science director, led the Canadian enterprise. The GPS devices, he said, will document whooping crane movements throughout the North American migratory route and help identify actual or potential causes of death, such as power lines.

Migration period mortality accounts for more than 80 percent of annual whooping crane deaths, Chavez-Ramirez said. Nearly three dozen whoopers died migrating in 2009. Despite the widely known plight of the species, scientists do not know the main cause or locations of whooper deaths during their migrations.

Only about 260 wild whooping cranes remain. Once nearly extinct, about 500 whoopers exist in three North American flocks.

The Crane Trust owns or manages more than 10,000 acres of land along the Platte River to provide habitat for whooping cranes and other migrating birds. Wood Buffalo National Park is the only known nesting site of whooping cranes, one of the world's most endangered species.

Chavez-Ramirez's team included Jessica Rempel, the Crane Trust's GPS project leader, and a couple of Canadian biologists. The team scouted the area in a small airplane one day and dropped into the wetlands via helicopter the two next days. The researchers pursued chicks on foot across wet and brushy terrain and captured the birds by hand. Each chick was measured and weighed, fitted with a telemetry device and checked by a veterinarian. Blood was drawn to determine gender and other things. The birds were released unharmed.

“It was an intense experience,” Chavez-Ramirez said. “We tried to intercept them as they ran. They'd lay flat on the ground, or freeze in vegetation, to hide. Once you get close, they'd try to get you with their beak. We learned to distract them with one hand and grab behind their head with the other.' Eleven targeted chicks got away.

Chavez-Ramirez said the team was proud of reducing stress on the birds — some birds were captured, handled and released within 17 minutes from the time the researchers jumped out of the helicopter. The longest pursuit and handling time of any bird was 22 minutes.

Each telemetry device is riveted to two bands placed on a chick's left leg. The device weighs less than 3 ounces. It's about 2.5 inches long, 1 inch wide and 1.5 inches high. It has a 6-inch antenna. The solar-powered devices have a life expectancy of at least three years. The devices don't interfere with the cranes' ability to fly, pair up and nest, Chavez-Ramirez said.

Data from each device is recorded every six hours and uploaded to a satellite every 52 hours. Chavez-Ramirez said scientists already are tracking the chicks' movement around the wetlands. The scientists also put three colored bands on each crane's right leg to allow researchers to identify the crane long after the transmitter quits working,

The chicks were born in early June and already have reached their adult height of about 5 feet, Chavez-Ramirez said. The Wood Buffalo National Park cranes will start to migrate south in mid-September.

Date: August 17, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:TRAINING UPDATELocation:Main Office

Richard van Heuvelen and Geoff Tarbox headed out to the North Training site this morning to work with Cohort One; our oldest group of cranes. From my vantage point in the drivers seat of the CraneCam, I could see an adult pair land on the runway just before Richard arrived in his aircraft.

Geoff, in costume, of course, approached the pair, but they refused to budge. it looked as if they were sensing that something exciting was about to take place and they didn't want to give up their front row seat. As Geoff returned to the front of the crane pen, the two stalked him from behind. Richard soon landed in the aircraft and attempted to convince the two adults that they should leave but they ignored him, and the ultralight, just as they had ignored Geoff.

Hoping that they wouldn't interfere with training, Geoff released the chicks from their enclosure, as Richard applied the throttle. Five youngsters immediately flew off after the trike and followed it into the air (good birds!). The other three, however, stood their ground on the training strip in front of their pen, and proceeded to chase after the two adults (bad birds!).

Since the camera's pan, tilt and zoom functions were not functioning well, I decided not to risk trying to follow Richard and his faithful followers, and instead pointed the camera at the chicks on the ground. There was a lot of wing flapping and charging and eventually the three youngsters managed to chase the two very white adults off into the marsh!

Just as they were celebrating their victory, Richard flew overhead and they were airborne to try to catch up with him. I did manage to convince the camera to pan left and right, so the viewers were able to watch some of the training and as Richard landed at the east end, we counted only seven chicks. It seems that #5-10 landed out, in the marsh, perhaps she was one of the three that chased off the adults and was unable to catch up to the trike.

Eventually, she was coaxed out of the marsh and was returned to the safety of their enclosure with her flockmates - no doubt she and the other two are sharing the details of their triumphant victory with the others and bragging about winning the battle of the North Site training strip.

Date: August 16, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:W1-10 CHICK UPDATE!Location:Main Office

Doug Pellerin and his lovely wife, Masako have been Craniacs since 2006 and even though they reside in Fond du Lac, WI, they make regular trips to visit Necedah NWR, located some 2 1/2 hours to the northwest. I mean regular as in every weekend regular!

Doug recently acquired a long-lens for his camera that I've been envious of since he first showed it to me last fall and this past Friday - yes, Friday the 13th, he had an opportunity to put it to good use. Doug ventured out to the observation tower with this camera, tripod and long-lens and began scanning the wetland.

Before long he spotted a pair of adults and the unmistakable cinnamon color of their chick! He said he was so excited he could barely click the shutter, and each time he did the chick would quickly drop down again, hiding in the vegetation. He waited, and waited - more than two hours and eventually his patience paid off when he captured the image below.

The photo clearly shows W1-10 with its natural parents, 9-03 and 3-04.

W1-10 is getting to be fairly big - almost as tall as its parents, and if it hasn't already, it should fledge any day now.

The chick is now 11-weeks old today and the average age at fledge is typically 80-90 days.

Many thanks to Doug for his patience in acquiring this photo and for sharing it with WCEP partners!



Click to see larger image

Date: August 16, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MILEMAKER UPDATELocation:Main Office

We currently have 390 migration miles sponsored in this year's MileMaker campaign. With the planned departure date for the southward migration set as October 1st, we have less than 6 weeks before we begin guiding this year's cohort on their first-ever migration flight.

Here's the current State by State breakdown of sponsored and unsponsored miles.

Wisconsin 117 117 sold out!
Illinois 338 76 262
Kentucky 93 21 72
Tennessee 109 25 84
Alabama 324 50 274
Georgia 76 32 44
Florida 228 69 159

This leaves a total of 895 miles currently looking for sponsors so we could really use your help! Won't YOU become a MileMaker sponsor TODAY? Click here to make that happen.

Date: August 15, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:WHOOP IT UP! - 10K RUNLocation:Main Office

While we're on the topic of running, a 10k run will be held at 9am, September 18th, which is also the date of the Necedah Lion's Club Whooping Crane Festival, which this year celebrates its 10th year!

Whoop-It-Up 10K is a point-to-point course run along the beautiful scenic roads of Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and the Village of Necedah. A section of the route even goes through an area on the refuge normally closed to the public. The 6.2-mile course begins in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge at the Visitor Center and finishes at the Necedah Lions Park – the grounds for the Whooping Crane & Wildlife Festival.

Click here to register for the run, and here to read more about the Crane Festival. Organizers are looking for participants and volunteers so why not get in touch with Dan Peterson and see if he can use your help?

Date:August 14, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:THE CHICAGO MARATHONLocation:Main Office

The Chicago marathon will be held this year on 10/10/10 and this year, Craniac Lisa Saunders of Illinois will be running. Lisa competed last year and finished the 26 ¼ mile course in a personal-best time. Well, Lisa is currently training for this year’s marathon and has another goal.

She plans to raise dollars for the Class of 2010 so that they can complete their own “migration marathon” this fall! Lisa is hoping that you will sponsor a quarter, half, or full mile through the annual MileMaker campaign and designate it as a “marathon mile.”

She has even offered to personally sponsor the first 3 miles and the last 3 miles of the 26 ¼ mile marathon course! So please, let’s show our support for Lisa as she trains for the Chicago Marathon, and also for the Class of 2010 Whooping crane chicks, who are currently in training at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland.

Visit the MileMaker page, select a quarter, half, or full mile and designate it as a “marathon mile” – Lisa hopes to have all 26 ¼ miles sponsored by race day. I think we can do it before then!

Craniac Lisa Saunders after completing the 2009 Chicago Marathon

Date: August 13, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:DISTANCE RECORD SET!Location:Main Office

On 13 January, OM supporter and Craniac Fred Dietrich of Tallahassee, Florida, banded a female Rufous Hummingbird at a yard near his home. The hummingbird was apparently born in the summer of 2009.

Dietrich had been helping others band hummingbirds for about 10 years, but he has only been banding on his own in Tallahassee for the past year or so. He was well aware that Rufous Hummingbirds, western breeders, typically spend the winter in Mexico, although they are increasingly being found wintering in the southeastern U.S. and occasionally in southern California. Accordingly, it was notable that he had banded this hummingbird, but not extraordinary. He had banded Rufous Hummingbirds before.

What was extraordinary was the news he recently received. The female Rufous Hummingbird that Dietrich banded on 13 January 2010 in Tallahassee was recaptured by Kate McLaughlin on 28 June 2010 in Chenega Bay, Alaska! That’s about 3,530 miles away “as the hummingbird flies” – and it’s hardly likely that the migration route was in a straight line.

This record is the longest migration for any hummingbird that has ever been documented. The bird was released alive and well in Alaska, and, with luck, it could be preparing to head back to Florida again this winter.

The previous long-distance record was a was held by a Rufous Hummingbird banded in Louisiana and found dead on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, a distance of at least 2,200 miles.

While it has long been believed that Rufous Hummingbirds that winter in the southeastern U.S. may come from as far away as Alaska, this is the first time that bird-banders have been able to document the fact on both ends of the migration route. Without banding much of our knowledge about hummingbird migration would be mere speculation.

Fred Dietrich has posted some photos of this record-holding hummingbird that he took when he banded the bird in January.

Date: August 12, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:THE BEASTLocation:Main Office

By now, we had hoped that the radios, which broadcast our feed last year from the Necedah NWR would be repaired and back in place. One had sustained some water damage over the winter months while in storage, and we removed the innards of a portable radio to replace the damaged insides of the unit that normally sits atop the cameras 30ft mast.

That radio sends the video feed wirelessly via yagi antenna to a receiving yagi and radio, some 2.5 miles away which is mounted on a tall tree. These radios need a bit of tweaking to get them to communicate with each other and it will be a few more days unfortunately.

In the meantime, we've been able to broadcast using cellular data cards but these cards have a limit and much like we did during the southward migration last year to avoid exceeding our limit, beginning today, we're going to have to reduce the amount of broadcast time each day.

I really don't anticipate that it will be for much longer, in fact, I'm hopeful that the radio situation will be rectified this coming Monday, but until then we'll have to rely on the data card and this means a limited schedule of two hours each morning (6-8am) Central, and two hours each evening (5-7pm) so that we don't go over our limit. Aircraft training normally takes place each morning, weather permitting, at around 6am.

The Beast, unfortunately, is living up to the moniker it earned last season.

Date:August 11, 2010Reporter:Richard van Heuvelen

Five of the eight chicks from cohort one finally flew away from the north site. All eight came bursting out of the pen to follow the trike down and off the runway to the northeast. As the young birds gained altitude over the trees east of their training site, three of them turned back toward home.

Turning the trike south to intercept the remaining five worked well and soon the trike and five chicks were headed north over Williams field. One chick was falling behind so we circled again to let the slower bird catch up. Now with five birds on the wing we headed north toward Canfield road to explore the refuge.

All five did really well and followed back to site four where the three chicks on the ground became airborne and followed around before landing with the three farthest back birds. Two birds continued to soar off the wing climbing to about a hundred feet. After landing they were all rewarded with treats as they investigated the trike, their new best friend.

Normally after training one of us will fly over parents 9-03 3-04 and their chick to check on them, this morning it was not possible due to a patch of fog over that area of the refuge. Yesterday it was not possible due to getting caught in the rain. However on Saturday I had a good viewing of the parents and chick who is getting big and beginning to get some white on him or her. The chick is seventy-days old today and will be flying very soon. Once the chick fledges it will be more difficult to find but much more exciting as it to begins to explore the refuge.

Date: August 10, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CRANECAM DOWNTIMELocation:Main Office

Just a quick update to let you know that the Duke Energy Sponsored CraneCam will be down for what we hope will be a brief time, between 4:30 - 5:30pm Central Time. During this time we'll be reinstalling the now-repaired 900 MHz Avalan radio, which will allow us to send the video feed via our DSL line.

Thank you everyone for your patience as we keep working out the kinks.

Date:August 10, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:OIL TAINTED BLUE CRABLocation:Main Office

To assess how heavy a blow the BP oil spill has dealt the Gulf of Mexico, researchers are closely watching a staple of the seafood industry and primary indicator of the ecosystem's health: the blue crab.

Weeks ago, before engineers pumped in mud and cement to plug the gusher, scientists began finding specks of oil in crab larvae plucked from waters across the Gulf coast.

CLICK to read the full story on

Date:August 9, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:FRONT ROW SEAT!Location:Main Office

If you didn't tune into the CraneCam feed this morning you missed a great show! The group of 8 young cranes in Cohort One are all flying now and 3 or 4 managed to follow pilot Brooke Pennypacker in at least 4 circuits around the North Training site.

Some of the younger birds chose to drop out of the flight early and just wait on the grass strip for the aircraft and it's faithful followers to return but those that did stick with the trike looked as if they were even able to find the sweet spot just inches off the trailing edge of the wing and surf the vortices that flow from it, much like the wake a boat makes as it travels over water.

Training begins (weather permitting) each morning at approximately 6 - 6:30 Central time and it's really fun to watch! We hope you'll get a chance to watch tomorrow if the weather cooperates.

Date:August 8, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CraneCamLocation:Main Office

I wanted to let viewers know that there may be some intermittent, and hopefully brief periods of downtime for the CraneCam later this morning and early afternoon as we work to bring our Avalan 900 MHz radio online. This unit had to go in for repairs but is now ready to re-install and once in place will give us a more reliable feed, as well as a clearer picture and audio.

As I type this, a line of storms is currently moving through the Necedah area so training today is a bust, but you can still tune in to spend time with Cohort One, the oldest group of the Class of 2010. Hopefully, tomorrow the weather will improve and allow for training. This typically takes place between 6 - 7am Central time and most of this group has now fledged and is following the aircraft in circuits around the North Training site at the Necedah NWR.

Date:August 7, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:SPECIES LOSSLocation:Main Office

In the latest issue of Science Matters, award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki, and Faisal Moola, Science Director for the David Suzuki Foundation warn that species loss is a silent epidemic that threatens our planet.

The two warn that the twin threats of climate change and wildlife extinction threaten our planet's life-support systems, including clean air, clean water, and productive soil. Awareness about the causes and consequences of climate change is growing, leading some governments to look for solutions in areas such as clean energy.

Species extinction, however, has gone largely unnoticed by government leaders. In an article in the Guardian newspaper, France's ecology secretary and the World Resources Institute's vice-president of science and research argue that "Unlike the impacts of climate change, biodiversity - and the ecosystem services it harbours - disappears in a mostly silent, local and anonymous fashion. This may explain in part why the devastation of nature has triggered fewer alarm bells than a hotting-up planet."

Sadly, this is true. Unlike the devastating forest fires, deadly heat waves, and violent storms that have ravaged the planet as a result of climate change, the disappearance of plants and animals seems only to get the attention of politicians when it results in serious economic and social upheaval - such as when overfishing led to the collapse of cod stocks in Atlantic Canada, throwing thousands of fishermen out of work.

The unraveling of food webs that have taken millennia to evolve is happening all around us. With every patch of forest cut, wetland drained, or grassland paved over, our actions are destroying wildlife habitat at an unprecedented rate. Scientists warn that we are in the midst of a human-caused catastrophic wildlife crisis. Of the species we know about, some 17,000 plants and animals are facing extinction, including 12 percent of birds, nearly a quarter of mammals, and a third of amphibians. Some of the species most vulnerable to human impacts are iconic, well-loved creatures. For example, of the eight distinct bear species that grace our planet, six are now in serious trouble, including sun bears, pandas, and polar bears.

The response of our leaders has for the most part been abysmal. The United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. Countries are now reporting on their progress in reducing biodiversity loss as required under an international treaty called the Convention on Biological Diversity that most nations, including Canada, have signed. However, the UN has admitted that governments have failed to meet the treaty's objectives "to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth."

Despite our collective failure to meet the 2010 biodiversity target, countries are preparing to negotiate new global targets to slow the rate of biodiversity loss. A flurry of international activity is now underway that will include a special session of the UN General Assembly on the biodiversity crisis in September. It's easy to be skeptical about the effect these negotiations and meetings in plush hotel ballrooms will have on protecting life on our planet, given the lack of meaningful progress so far. But one recent outcome of the global biodiversity talks gives us hope.

Government negotiators from around the world just met in Busan, South Korea, where they approved the creation of a new global science body that will act as an "early warning system" to inform government leaders on major biodiversity declines and to identify what governments must do to reverse these damaging trends. This global Biodiversity Scientific Body will be modeled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which, through science, has catalyzed world-wide understanding and action on global warming.

Despite the efforts of huge multinational oil companies to discredit its work, the IPCC has compiled the best available science on the causes and impacts of global warming, as well as charting the most effective ways for us to solve the problem. In doing so, it has ensured that climate change has remained a priority for governments, and has proven to be an invaluable tool to help the media understand and report on the issue - independent of politics or PR spin. We hope the newly created "IPCC for Nature" will play a similar role in educating, inspiring, and mobilizing policy-makers and the public to take decisive action to stem the biodiversity crisis. Learn more at

Date:August 6, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:TAP LAWSUIT MOVES FORWARDLocation:Main Office

The unique ecosystems of the Aransas area include a number of estuaries and bays, as well as the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, winter habitat of the federally endangered whooping crane. These Aransas area bays and estuaries depend on a balance provided by freshwater inflows of the Guadalupe River Basin. The Blue crab population is critical to the health of the Whooping cranes wintering in the area and the number of crabs available for the cranes is suffering from the lack of freshwater reaching their breeding areas. The record-breaking death toll of the whooping cranes in 2008/2009 coupled with the poor fishing season tell us that not enough freshwater is reaching the bays.

Water is an economic commodity, especially in Texas, and this resource must be managed responsibly. Economic interests of the Aransas area depend on tourism and outdoor recreation—all reliant on the health of the bays. If the bays are unable to survive, it is only a matter of time before the entire river basin is put in jeopardy.

The Aransas Project (TAP), is a nonprofit organization formed to protect water resources in the Aransas Bay region, filed a lawsuit against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in March after an unprecedented 23 Whooping cranes died during the 2008-2009 winter. The organization believes the TCEQ’s over-allocation of fresh water upstream from the Aransas Bay marshland, where the birds winter, caused the fatalities. That constitutes an illegal “taking,” that is, harm or harassment, of the bird under federal law, TAP contends.

At a hearing last Wednesday, the defendants in the suit — including the TCEQ and the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority and the Texas Chemical Counsel, which have both intervened in the suit — asked Judge Janis Jack of the Southern District to dismiss the suit over the Aransas flock, questioning whether the plaintiffs could prove that the cranes’ deaths were directly connected to the lack of freshwater in the marsh. Judge Jack denied their request and set the trial date for March 2, 2011.

Date: August 5, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CRANECAM IS LIVE AGAIN!Location:Main Office

Thanks to the generosity of Duke Energy we launched the CraneCam in 2009 – just in time for the summer field training at the Necedah NWR in Wisconsin. It wasn’t without its issues but with patience and determination we overcame them and eventually took the camera along on the southward journey.

This allowed us to bring you for the first time ever, a LIVE look into this reintroduction. We’re thrilled to let you know that effective immediately, the Duke Energy CraneCam is once again LIVE and will be providing a front row seat for early morning training sessions. 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.

The CraneCam is located at the North Training site, which currently houses Cohort One – the oldest group of 2010 Whooping crane chicks. Training takes place each morning, (weather permitting) roughly between 7-8am Central (8-9am Eastern).

The CraneCam is several miles from where the DSL transmission line is located. The signal first travels wirelessly over this distance before being beamed to Holland where the server is located and from there it gets sent to South Africa for internet broadcast via Inevitably, there are breaks in transmission now and then but it always amazes me that this signal is traveling thousands of miles and with only a 2-3 second delay.

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. 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.

We’re currently broadcasting using a cellular card because the 900 MHz radio is in for repairs but it should be fixed and installed over the weekend, which will produce a less-pixilated, and more reliable stream. You may also experience a few glitches in the chatroom until the changes that is making to their website and video players are completed. We hope that you’ll bear with us until these minor glitches are worked out.

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(AT) - Once I have the final version of the embed code from WildEarth, I’ll be glad to send it along!

Once again, many thanks to Duke Energy for making this possible! Now click this link and watch the young Whooping cranes!

Date: August 4, 2010Reporter:Trish Gallagher
Subject:Zoey "Flower Child" WoodstockLocation:Necedah, WI

I usually don’t name the chicks. To me, One or Ten is just as good a name as Chloe or Sam. Now don’t confuse not naming them with not getting attached. I get attached when I hear them peeping in the shell! I have various terms of endearment – Sweet Pea, perhaps, when it’s roost check and a chick is trilling at me while I check his eyes and beak. You Little Goober is another favorite when a chick does something particularly klutzy or funny. And yes, I have been known to call a chick Peckerhead when she’s pecking and pecking and pecking at something, like my helmet or my boots.

But this year, 10-10 got herself a name – first, middle, and last. It’s Zoey “Flower Child” Woodstock, which suits her perfectly. Here’s why. From the time she first saw flowers, she has been crazy about them. Completely, utterly obsessed, especially with purple clover. Back at Patuxent, purple clover grows everywhere. There was a clump in the aisle way to the outdoor runs and she wouldn’t go back into her run after a walk until she ate every last flower. She would attack them with ferocity, pulling them off one by one and swallowing them whole. Occasionally, you could see the bulge travel down her neck as the buds made their way down her esophagus. This was especially funny when she was little and the flower would hardly fit in her mouth. Once she got to the ponded pen, there was a whole stand of clover, and she would stand in there and feast on them (the picture shows a younger 10-10 in the clover patch at the ponded pen at Patuxent). I called her the Flower Child and figured she might grow up to be a vegetarian.

The first week I was out at Necedah, 10-10 did something particularly funny and Brooke and Robert and I were talking about her. “I call her the Flower Child,” I said. “Really?” said Brooke. “I call her Woodstock because she’s always so spacey and running around after flowers. When I used to train at Patuxent, before I would bring her out I’d walk around and pick them all so I could get her to follow.” Robert chimes in, “Yes, before I used to take her for a walk I would do the same thing – I’d go out to the field and pull up all the flowers.” I listened quietly. I didn’t think it necessary to tell them that I used to point out the flowers to her because I knew she loved them so much. And I’d make sure to walk her in places where I knew there was clover.

A few days later, Geoff and I were sitting on the runway with the birds after the flood and he started texting me his names for the chicks. He calls 10-10 Zoey, after a character in one of his video games. And in that moment, she got her full name and it has stayed with me since. Zoey “Flower Child” Woodstock. It has a nice ring to it.

I haven’t seen much clover at Necedah, and there’s none in the vicinity of Site 5, but there are some small yellow wildflowers that she snacks on from time to time. The dry pen flooded again last week, and as Robert and I were sitting out on the runway with the youngsters, I snapped this picture of him offering her some.

Do you think it would be against protocol for me to pick some clover from the roadside and take it to my little Flower Child?

(Click thumbnails to see larger images)

Date:August 3, 2010Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:ROAD TRIPLocation: Necedah, WI
Sitting in the Burger King parking lot at closing time is like looking into an aquarium…only without the bubbles. “Have It Your Way!” they say. We should all be so lucky. It was 11 pm last Tuesday night somewhere in Indiana as I sat anxiously awaiting the arrival of Ali and Peggy from Patuxent with our two little ‘left behinds,’ #4 and #11 who, as many of you know, were not able to make the trip to Necedah with their respective Cohorts due to health issues which now have hopefully been resolved. The plan was simple; they leave Patuxent at noon , we rendezvous about 11:00pm, transfer both the birds and Peggy into the OM van, and head off to Necedah, arriving around sunrise for the much anticipated reunion.

I arrived a couple of hours early to scout out a good location for the transfer, which is how I wound up parked way in the back of the Burger King parking lot in the shadow of the dumpster, the very presence of which was somehow familiar and comforting to me after the long ride. A wonderful thing, a dumpster. Right up there with the fly swatter, garage door opener, and Pez.

I mean, something that takes all the stuff you don’t want and makes it disappear leaving you room to go out and buy new stuff is an integral component in our consumer driven economy. In fact, if they really wanted to turn this place into a cash cow, they’d build a “Dumpster Drive through” and have an acne-faced high school kid lean out and ask you if you want fries with that as you wrestle that old washing machine out of the trunk with the help of your wayward brother in law - the one you haven’t spoken to in years but who will do anything for a case of beer.

It was about then that I saw the security camera on the roof interrupt its sweep and stop in my direction and I could feel the hairy eyeball behind it wondering what I was up to as his fingers itched to tap out the 911 call. Probably thought I was a Dumpster Diver preparing for my Open Dumpster Checkout Dive required for my final Certification. If this was the case, I’d be in good company since legend has it that Jacques Cousteau got his start diving into dumpsters in France way back when.

Suddenly the lights of the Patuxent van swung into the parking lot next to me and the ‘Deal Goes Down’ began. Ali and Peggy are smiling and cheerful s always. We quickly exchange greetings and began to transfer our precious cargo. The hairy eyeball had to wonder what we were up to as we slowly and carefully moved the bird crates as if they contained nitroglycerine; a task for which Ali was uniquely qualified since he spent eight years disposing of bombs while in the Army. I too had experience with nitro, only mine came from watching Saturday morning westerns as a kid when they were always transporting a wagon full of nitro to a mine or railroad somewhere and there was always a guy named Slim who would open a box and start messing with the stuff and just as the cowboy with the white hat would yell, “Careful Slim. That’s Nitro!” there would be an explosion and all that would be left of Slim was his smoking boots.

We bid Ali farewell as he headed to a motel for some much needed rest and Peggy and I resumed the journey to Necedah. When you transport birds, it’s all about your feet. You must visualize an egg resting under each pedal, the object being to arrive at the destination without standing in an omelet. And to really feel the pedals you have to remove your shoes. Standing for hour after hour, mile after mile can’t be any fun for the birds and the worry of how they are handling it weighs heavily on us. All we can do is turn on the Seatbelt Sign and hope for the best.

As we blast on through the dark I am amazed at how much it feels like being in some giant video game, or rather the great grandmother of all video games, a pinball machine. The night turns into a kaleidoscope of lights, colored and flashing and always moving as we found ourselves ricocheting down the road as if kept in play by a giant pinball wizard on speed. All too frequent glances at the way too bright digital panel clock proved once again that nighttime minutes last longer than daytime minutes which explains why it always takes longer to produce a widget while losing more fingers working Third Shift than on the other two and why Federal Express and UPS can fit more packages on an airplane if they load it at night than they can if they load it during the day.

And all the while Peggy and I sit in silence like an old, long ago talked out married couple abiding by the 12 th Commandment, “Thou shalt not talk around the birds.” But that’s fine with me because Peggy has a special gift of always providing good company without ever having to say a word. Besides, we are playing a CD of Mother Nature’s favorite garage band called “Marsh Sounds” which Noah recorded on the Ark during the second day of the oil spill…err, I mean flood, when every other critter on board got to contribute. And as everyone knows, all animals have rhythm whether it be wing beat, stride, or breath. Of course, after several hours of this, along with sipping the cocktail of fatique, worry, and white line fever, I begin to hear other things, like rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen swear on his mother’s grave that he’ll never drink again and Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger chronicle every love affair he’s had since the age of 16. I can’t help wonder what #4 and #11 are hearing.

This songfest is eventually interrupted by the arrival of thunderstorms as if thrown in for effect and the ensuing light show and pouring rain add drama to our traveling funfest. But this too passes as the Necedah sign, sure and welcome, drifts into view and soon we are at the Canfield site with Robert and Joe carrying #11’s box to the end of the runway for his release.

The “What’s Behind Door Number Three” feeling of worried anticipation grabbed us all as the door slid open and #11 strutted out seemingly none the worse for wear. Relief! One down, one to go. When he was safe in the pen, we proceeded to the North site with #4 who’s history of leg problems added to our anxiety. Then out she popped, a little unsure at first but with no limp. Soon she was airborne on a short flight to the pen door, then safely inside and like a downed pilot returning to her squadron, the celebration began.

My celebration was more subdued for I have long ago learned that to celebrate even the smallest of victories is to tempt fate, to awaken it, raise its ire and invite an all too familiar ‘ slap down’. Even the mere thought of performing a touchdown victory dance is enough to cause fate’s referee to throw the penalty flag - Excessive Celebration - and as we have learned well, it’s the penalties that can cost you the game.

So I returned to camp tired but satisfied, weary but hopeful. It was then that Heather handed me a letter from the IRS. As I opened it, I felt the soft breath of the penalty flag as it flew by inches from my face. “Dumpster Diving in the Bahamas!,” I thought, the idea coming suddenly out of nowhere. Now there’s a project I can really get my head around.

Date:August 1, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TARGETSLocation: Main Office

In addition to today, August 1st, marking Canada's Civic Holiday, it is also marks the beginning of the countdown to the target date of the launch of the 2010 ultralight-led migration. That's right, the target departure date for the Class of 2010's departure on their epic first journey is October 1st.

Despite the fact that the juvenile cranes are not yet flying as one group with the trikes, this is the time our thoughts must turn to the the planning for their fall odyssey. Like any good travel agent, we want to ensure everything will be in place so that their trip go smoothly, and that involves completing a long list of preparation task and ironing out a host of logistics.

While we focus on the October 1st target, we keep one eye on another. That target is the total sponsorship of all 1,285 MileMaker miles. As of today, we are 937 miles off target. Each year we dream of having the migration totally sponsored by the target departure date. We have never achieved that goal, but that doesn't stop us from dreaming, hoping, wishing.

Doing the math, we'd have to maintain an average of 15.6 miles of sponsorships a day for the next 60 days to make our dream a reality. Broken down that way it sure seems achievable...doesn't it?

Here's the current State by State breakdown of sponsored and unsponsored miles.

Wisconsin 117 100 17
Illinois 338 70 268
Kentucky 93 21 72
Tennessee 109 24 85
Alabama 324 47 277
Georgia 76 24 52
Florida 228 62 166

To borrow an old cliché, "There's no time like the present." Won't YOU become a MileMaker sponsor TODAY? Click here to make that happen. 

Date:July 31, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MEMORABLE MOMENTLocation: Main Office
Depending on traffic, I have about a 40 minute commute from home to our Port Perry office. After about 15 minutes at most, my drive becomes rural, passing through farmland dotted with homes and the odd business site. It is a pleasant if not idyllic drive, and with the speed limit dropping to 40mph in places, I am able to take in the scenery.

Yesterday the scenery included something I had never before seen in our area. As I rolled down into a valley between two steep hills, two coyotes emerged from the trees lining the road on my left. Tails streaming behind they raced across the road 50 feet in front of me and disappeared into the underbrush on the other side.

As I recovered from my surprize, the sighting brought to mind the only other time I ever saw coyotes. That happened last year while on migration and it was the subject of my 'Most Memorable Moment', a short piece each team member was asked to write as part of the 2009 migration wrap-up for INformation magazine. For those who don't receive our magazine, here is a reprint of that piece.

My Most Memorable Moment
On a migration of 89 days of which just 25 were ‘fly days’, one might rightly reason there were days and more days that - shall we say – were less than exciting. While because of their inevitability, ‘down days’ are borne with some measure of equanimity, when the weather hits us with a lengthy stretch of going-nowhere-days, anxiety and frustration mount.

Such was the case when for the third consecutive year we faced the reality of the migration running over into the New Year. Although once or twice in the past finishing in time to get home in time for Christmas was a bit of a squeaker, that timing was the rule until the Marathon Migration of 2007.

On December 20th this past year as we contemplated a forecast of at least a week of unfavourable flying weather, we knew a return to pre-Christmas finishes was not in the cards. So it was that the next day the crew began departing for their respective homes for the holidays with their families, with three of us (Robert Doyle, Geoff Tarbox and I) staying behind to hold down the fort.

What I didn’t know at the time was that staying behind to keep the CraneCam operational would put me in line for a most unexpected experience – and memorable moment.

The weatherman produced day after day of cold, wet, windy, mind-numbing, misery-inducing weather. It wasn’t too many days before I would groan at the mere thought of the four times a day ritual of layering up, sticking my feet in icy, rubber boots, and, laptop in tow, trudging through the mud down to the camera trailer where I’d sit, nose dripping, toes freezing, my mouse manipulating fingers gradually stiffening from the cold, and question my sanity at having volunteered. Until… trip to the CraneCam changed it all.

That morning when tucking the truck out of view behind a forested hill, my peripheral vision caught a blur of movement. As started my trek down the hill to the camera, I peered through the early morning half light to see what it was that had caught my eye. Holeee! Coyotes! Headed toward the pen!

They had seen me too, and for long moments, heads lowered and ears perked, they stood stock-still staring me down. Frozen in place I gaped open-mouthed while my brain raced. “Oh my gawd! Oh my gawd! What do I do? What do I do?” Then my brain said, “Go get back in the truck, stupid.” Never knew my short, fat legs could move so fast.

Secure in the cab, I watched the coyotes circle and sniff the air with one eye, while with the other I cast about for potential weaponry should they look like they were intent on having a Whooper for breakfast. It was quickly apparent however, that short of running over and beaning them with my laptop, the truck itself was my only weapon – and exposing the birds to it was a huge no-no. “Okay,” I thought, “So now what?”

Long before I figured it out the coyotes trotted off in the other direction, casting what I thought was looks of sheer distain over their shoulders. In the aftermath of the heart palpitating encounter, I of course remembered the hot wires around the pen, and half marveled, half chuckled at the ‘protective mother instinct’ the threat to the chicks had aroused.

While day in and day out I treasured and had toiled for these 20 chicks, they had become, if only for a few minutes, as much mine to personally protect as they ever would. That feeling of possessiveness went beyond the norm. They weren’t WCEP’s chicks. They weren’t even ‘ours,’ as in OM’s chicks. They were MY chicks. Scant seconds later I rightly returned their ownership to all the world, but not before I indulged myself fully in that memorable moment.

Indeed, these gorgeous youngsters not only belong to the world, but by the time you are reading this they will be out on their own in it. And the world better be careful - - woe betide the human that messes with my, er, our kids, because I think I could be the mother from hell.

Date:July 30, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
The Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) numbered 97 Whooping Cranes at the end of the July 24th reporting period. This number breaks down into 52 males, 45 females and 2 wild-hatched chicks.

EMP ‘Families’
Parents 12-02 & 19-04* along with chick W3-10 remain in the area of their nesting marsh in Wood County.
Parents 13-04 & 9-03* with their chick W1-10 remain in the general wetland area of their nest.

At the end of the report period (or as of last record) 86 whooping cranes plus 2 chicks were in Wisconsin.

Of Note
The Tracking Team reported that on July 8th, “D7-07 and D39-07* were captured and removed from their location because of diazinon spraying in their use area. They were held in the pen at Site 2 on the Necedah NWR until re-release on their territory July 19. While in the pen D39-07* incurred a minor wing injury of unknown cause, but a previously incurred leg injury was much improved by the time of release. Inspection of wing feathers during a health exam indicated that they had completed molting of primaries earlier in the summer.”

The Tracking Team took advantage of the opportunity to replace the transmitters on both cranes, and the functional time-limited PTT on 39-07* was also replaced with new color bands.

North Dakota
Ransom County
13-09, 19-09 (last reported May 25)

Marshall County
27-07* (last reported ~July 14 -18)

No Recent Record
16-03NFT (last observed on NNWR May 6)
14-05 NFT (last observed on NNWR May 18)
13-07 (last observed on Meadow Valley Flowage May 22)
20-05*NFT (may have been the unidentified whooping crane reported in Jackson County May 24)
6-05 (last detected on NNWR May 31)
5-05NFT & 15-04*NFT (last observed on NNWR June 16)

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
5-08, 12-08 - Columbia County, WI -Dec. 10, 2009
D36-08 - Lawrence County, TN - Dec. 11, 2009
D33-05* - Jackson County, IN - Mar. 6, 2010
27-09 - Waukesha County, WI - Apr. 10, 2010
D37-07 (last reported In Jackson County, MI April12)

OM joins all WCEP partners in thanking ICF Tracking Intern Matt Strausser for his service. Matt completed his internship mid July. “He did an excellent job since joining the Tracking Team last winter,” said Dr. Richard Urbanek, “and the rest of us much enjoyed his insights gained from his past and current work on endangered species. We wish him the best as he moves on to a graduate program at Yale University.”

This update was compiled from data supplied by the WCEP Tracking Team of Dr. Richard Urbanek, (USFWS) Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Matt Strausser (ICF).

Date: July 29, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:COHORT ONE - VIDEO CLIPLocation:Necedah, WI

Cohort One is up to its full compliment of eight birds now that #4-10 has been reunited with the group. Joe ventured out this morning, shortly after 5am to begin training this group, while Brooke headed a bit further north to work with Cohort Two at the Canfield pensite.

Trish and Geoff opened the gates and all eight birds charged out, eager to train with the aircraft. Of course since #4 just arrived yesterday, she hasn't yet seen the large wing so was a bit leery at first but Joe said it didn't take her long to accept it as just another appendage of the ultralight and she charged down the runway with her flock mates, getting airborne for the first time.

Here's a brief video clip that Joe managed to capture during one high-speed taxi run.

Date:July 29, 2010Reporter: Geoff Tarbox
Subject:TOGETHER AGAINLocation: Necedah, WI
I was conscious enough yesterday morning to register the sound of pouring rain and realize that I might as just well go back to my dreams of fighting off the zombie apocalypse. Sure the morning was a washout, but I knew it was going to be a monumental day nonetheless.

It was the day when my pointed optimism was going to pay off and our flock was finally going to be whole. No leg problems, no blood cooties, were going to stop 04-10 and 11-10 from hitching a ride to Necedah to meet up with their brothers and sisters, big and small. Brooke had spent untold hours making the journey from Necedah, to the Indiana halfway point (where the chicks changed hands from Patuxent to ours) and back again.

The birds arrived around daybreak while I was still shooting zombies with shotguns in my semi-conscious mind. 4-10 reunited with her old pals at the North site while 11-10 met up with his buddies at the perennially soggy Canfield site. It wasn’t until 9:30 that Robert asked me to personally check in on them to see how they were taking to their new accommodations.

The North site was my first stop. I crawled into the blind and watched the birds do their thing from behind heavily tinted glass. 04-10 was still adjusting to the move, so we had her cornered off away from the rest of the flock behind some partition fencing. Even though this means she's got half the dry pen to herself she can’t get into wet pen, nor can she really mingle with her old buddies. But we need to be able to get to her pronto if she has any complications, and since she’s been away for so long, there’s no telling how she'd fit in the pecking order here at Necedah - if she fit in at all. So we have to keep her separated, at least for one day, so we can know for sure her arrival isn’t going to turn things upside down.

She spent most of her time pacing behind the fence, looking for any place to slip through as the fence silently mocked her, as it always does in these situations. The rest of the flock paid her no mind, and if anything, seemed more interested in the partition fence than the bird it was imprisoning. It was disheartening to see her in such a funk even though I knew it was for her own good. On the bright side she wasn’t so worked up that she was forgetting to eat, nor was she open mouth breathing. After ten minutes of watching 04-10 in action, I made for the Canfield site.

I had hoped the morning's storm hadn’t again made the pensite the unofficial eighth sea. Call me crazy, but I don’t think leading the chicks down south using Sea Doos instead of ultralights is going to catch on. Thankfully, when I arrived at the pensite I did not have to raise my puppet to the sky to part a flooded runway as though it was the Red Sea.

When I saw 11-10 from the blind he was busy taking in the sights on his side of the pen, munching on the feeder, and playing in the waterpan. As with 04-10, there were some worries that 11-10 was going to have to re-establish his niche in the pecking order after being away for so long. And since he had been the resident bully back in Patuxent, to the point where he had to be trained and socialized separately, some were worried he would go back pecking birds on the head, and giving them wedgies and pink bellies. But thankfully, 11-10 wasn’t interested in going back to his old habits and just went about his own business, as did the rest of the chicks.

I checked the birds again around 3:30 to make sure they were still enjoying their new home. 04-10 seemed to be in a calmer mood, as I found her laying down (by the wet pen, naturally) preening her feathers. None of the other birds were inclined to jab at her through the fence, nor was she, but I didn’t think she would. She was never the terror that 11-10 was.

Speaking of 11-10, he wasn’t quite as laid back as he was in the morning. I could hear him peeping, as he paced the fence near where the rest of Cohort 2 was hanging out. My guess was that he was starting to miss his old pals. Either that, 15-10 made the mistake of counting his lunch money in front of him again. But that wasn't likely the case, as neither bird on either side took any shots at each other through the fence. Not even 10-10, who squared off with 11-10 at Patuxent more than anyone. Since he was still eating and he wasn’t open mouth breathing, I saw no cause for alarm.

However, Cohort 2 was too busy battling their own fence to really care about what was bugging 11-10. The nefarious wetpen fence had reappeared and cut off their route the marshy goodness that they should’ve been sick of after having their pen flooded twice already. 10-10 and 16-10 took frontline positions next to the wetpen gate, while 17-10 covered their flanks. 15-10 was resupplying at the feeders, preparing himself for the long bitter struggle that lay ahead. They tried everything from laying down next to the fence, to staring at it, to really really wishing it’d go away. But the battle waged on, even after I left. They just wished whoever was peeping would shut up already.

Yes, at long last the whole flock’s finally made it to Necedah. It was a day I’d been on pins and needles for as long as I can remember. And I know Cohort 1 still has a place in their hearts for the always pretty 04-10. And I know 11-10 isn’t going to feel the urge to hang 11-10 from the topnet by his underwear. The family’s together again.

Now if you excuse me, I have to muster the remaining Autobot forces to battle against the evil Decepticons that have taken over the home planet of all Transformers. Granted, I spent all of this week helping the Decepticons conquer and corrupt it, but there’s no need to point fingers or anything.




Top Left: Cohort 2 at the Canfield pensite.

Top Right: 17-10 is in the foreground at the waterpan while 11-10 naps in the fenced off area of the pen.

Bottom Left:  17-10 and 11-10 spend some time getting re-acquainted through the protective fencing.

Photos by Joe Duff


Date:July 28, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TWO ADDED TO CLASS OF 2010Location: Main Office
4-10 and 11-10's almost 1,000 mile road trip from Laurel, MD to Necedah, WI ended today when they arrived at the refuge around 6:30am. Both have been ensconced in the same pen as their Cohort mates - #4 with Cohort 1 and #11 with Cohort 2, but both fencing separates them from the other birds until the crew can be sure they will all 'play nice' together.

The photo to the right was snapped by Joe Duff with his phone at the North site after 4-10 was released onto the runway in front of the pen.

Date:July 28, 2010 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:COHORT 2 TRAININGLocation: Main Office
The cyber gods smiled on us and allowed the crew to hold a signal long enough to send us some photos taken during yesterday's taxi training session with Cohort 2 at the Canfield site.
The costumes in the photo disguise pilot Joe Duff on the left and handler Geoff Tarbox on the right. They keep an eye on the four Cohort 2 chicks as they enjoy some 'free time' after their morning taxi training session.

As the photo illustrates, there is no evidence in this shot of the grassy strip runway of the flooding as a result of the recent heavy rains at Necedah. The dry pen is back to being dry. The water level in the wet pen now fluctuates within normal range.

That is 17-10 you see in the foreground. To the right in the middle background, the white bird making an appearance is none other than 9-05 who was also a frequent (and disruptive) visitor to the the pensite in 2009.

Last September when all of the Class of 2009 were socializing together he interfered once too often. Some of the chicks, perhaps emboldened by their numbers, put 09-5 on notice with displays of aggression.

Date:July 27, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
The word is that the two chicks, which for health reasons were left behind when their respective cohorts were shipped, will be travelling today.

4-10 was held back when its seven Cohort 1 classmates made the trip from Patuxent's Wildlife Research Center to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin on June 30th. 11-10 missed the Windway Capital flight with its four fellow Cohort 2 chicks when they were shipped on July 9th.

Both chicks have now been cleared to travel by the Vet Team. They will be departing Laurel, MD in the care of Patuxent crew around noon today and met by Brooke at the halfway point (likely somewhere in Indiana) for a hand off which should take place around 10:00pm tonight. That should put Brooke and his two passengers back in Necedah around 5:00am Wednesday morning.

The chicks will be housed with their respective Cohorts, but separated at first until they have time to socialize/reintroduce themselves.

The weather is cooperating this morning and as I type this, Brooke is training with Cohort 1 at the North site. The water level is dropping at the Canfield site allowing the trike to land, so Joe will be training there with the youngest chicks - those in Cohort 2. Intern Trish Gallagher is armed with a camera today, so if a strong enough signal can be maintained long enough to transmit photos, we could have visuals to post here tomorrow.

For some reason cell and internet signals have been unusually unreliable this season - so unreliable/intermittent in fact, that it is rare that we can complete even a short conversation before the call is dropped. Lately our conversations consist of a lot of repetitions of "ARE YOU STILL THERE?" and, "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?!?!?"

Date:July 26, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CLASS OF 2010 COULD GROWLocation: Main Office
Cohort 1, which was shipped from Laurel, MD’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge on June 30th, should have consisted of eight young Whooping cranes. Instead only seven made it onto the Windway Capital flight. 4-10 was held back due to leg problems. Subsequent to its pre-departure health check, 4-10 was observed limping and it was decided not to chance exacerbating the problem by crating and shipping.

Similarly, 11-10 was held back when its Cohort 2 classmates made the same journey west on July 9th. 11-10 had developed some respiratory problems, and as a result, what the future held for this chick was uncertain.

Thanks to the excellent care and attention of the Crane Ecology Crew at Patuxent, it appears that both these chicks may be joining the rest of the Class of 2010 in Necedah very soon. They have been cleared for travel by the Vet Team, and a plan is being developed to transport them by road. It is likely that a vehicle from Patuxent will be met half way by a vehicle from Necedah for the hand off of the two crated cranes.

While perhaps not as ideal as a zippy flight in Windway’s jet, it should not be a problem for the birds. OM’s resident crane expert, Walter Sturgeon, raises several species of cranes and provides them to a variety of facilities around the country. When they have to be transported, they make the journey via Walter’s van, arriving none the worse for wear.

Not to 'count our cranes' before they leave and arrive safely, but, the happy prospect of returning the number of young Whoopers in the Class of 2010 to 13 is difficult to not celebrate.

We will update you on what is happening with 4-10 and 11-10 as events unfold. Fingers crossed.

Date:July 25, 2010Reporter: Trish Gallagher
Subject: Look Mom, We’re Flying!Location: Necedah, WI

Friday morning Brooke and I were training together at the North site. We hadn’t trained Thursday, so the chicks were eager for some action. They exploded out of the pen, and even 9-10, who is a lollygagger most days, was standing there at the back of the pack and didn’t have to be coaxed out of the wet pen.

Almost immediately, three of the chicks started running down the runway flapping their wings and then they were off the ground, flying a good distance down the runway. As I stepped back in the pen and pulled the door closed the other four ran after them, flapping. I hesitated for a moment, watching them through a crack in the door, and then reluctantly closed the door all the way.

I usually watch the training through peepholes in the fence in case the pilot needs assistance. On this particular morning, however, I was sweeping up food under the feeders while Brooke trained. I heard a noise and looked up to see a wondrous sight – three chicks were flying over me. But wait, they were over the dry pen and then the wet pen, and heading straight for the marsh! They looked like novice bike riders who can’t steer very well, and end up careening into the lamppost.

I imagined they were having a moment of panic, thinking, “Good grief, where am I going to land? I thought there was open water there, but there’s something on top of it! I’m going to crash!” They landed a few seconds later in the marsh near the back of the pen, none the worse for wear from my imaginings. And while they weren’t out too far into the marsh, it was far enough that I had a moment of worry about luring them back out of that nice wetland and into their boring pen.

I stepped outside the pen and walked over towards the edge of the runway where the tall grass begins. I could see three chicks out there among the tall grass, just standing there, perhaps not quite sure how they got there or what they should do next. They were just about the same height as the grass and blended in nicely, but since I knew what I was looking for, I could spot them.

As Brooke taxied over, I looked behind him for the other four birds, but there were only the two youngsters of the cohort,  8-10 and 9-10, walking calmly along behind the trike. I didn’t know where the other two were, but I figured three in sight was better than two out of sight, so I switched my focus back to the three in the grass. I flapped my arms a little and held up my puppet while I waited for Brooke. I didn’t want them to get any ideas about heading farther into the marsh.

Brooke came up and whispered that he knew four were in the marsh and did I see where the fifth went down. He went back to the trike for his puppet and vocalizer and I turned back to the marsh. As I looked closely, I could now see another tawny head blending in with the grass. I turned on my vocalizer and started flapping in my arms in earnest, with the intent of luring the chicks back to the runway. I didn’t want to go in to get them because I didn’t want them to head farther into the marsh.

They stood there for a few minutes, but the lure of the costume and the vocalizer were too great. The first to join me on the runway was my pal 1-10, who is usually in the dry pen in the morning to greet me. After giving him a silent look of praise, I looked back in the grass and still saw four heads, so I was relieved to have spotted the last wayward chick. Brooke joined me with his puppet and vocalizer and we patiently lured them back onto the runway, one by one.

Luckily, it was a minor misadventure for the kids. And oh, the sight of my babies flying overhead! Look Mom, we’re flying! Yes, my darlings, and you look beautiful.

Date:July 24, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CHICK PATROLLocation: Main Office
As faithful Field Journal readers will know, just two of the season’s seven wild-hatched chicks still survive. While that number is not what we were wishing for, the positive outcome of the season remains the record nesting successes.

The surviving chicks are Wild1-10, the first hatched of the season, and W3-10. The wild chicks’ parents are 9-03* & 3-04 and 19-04* & 12-02 respectively. 3-10 came from an egg supplied by the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center which was substituted for the parents’ two infertile eggs.

Subsequent to the end of the nesting season during which OM’s pilots flew multiple aerial nest surveys daily, the flights were switched to chick monitoring. The multiple flights per day are now reduced to once daily – weather permitting of course.

On one such chick patrol flight (this past Wednesday), flying backseat with pilot Joe Duff was spotter Heather Ray. Heather was able to snap off a photo of Wild 01-10 with its parents. In the photo above, the adult nearest the chick is the female,    9-03* with the male, 3-04, seen on the right. Even from a distance it is evident how much the chick has grown.

Date:July 23, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: DON'T REPEAT MISTAKES SAYS ABCLocation: Main Office
A report entitled, "Gulf Oil Spill: Field Survey Report and Recommendations," was released by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) July 19. Announcing the report’s release, ABC said it showed that, “some of BP’s oil spill cleanup efforts are actually causing harm to birds and their habitats rather than helping them.”

The report was “based on a just-completed week-long field assessment by ABC staff, who observed oil impacts and cleaning operations from Louisiana through Mississippi to Dauphin Island, Alabama. As part of the overview, ABC staff toured affected areas by boat with local and federal officials and charter boat captains. With Coast Guard officials, they also undertook an aerial over-flight of the spill area and points northwest of that location.

Restoration needs to start as soon as major coastal oiling has been effectively addressed. The Gulf doesn’t have the decades it took to resolve the legal wrangling that followed the Exxon Valdez spill. The hydrology of the Mississippi Delta and the surrounding area is already facing dire threats from climate change, erosion, and hurricanes. Let’s not repeat the same mistakes we made in Alaska twenty years ago,” said ABC Vice President and report author Mike Parr.

Click here to view ABC’s entire report.

Date: July 22, 2010Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:SURF'S UP!Location: Necedah, WI
When you spend your life aboard the “Crane Train,” you'd better be prepared to hit the ground running at each stop…or in the case of Necedah lately, swimming.

I arrived in Necedah last Tuesday having been followed for two days by our Sierra trailer. If we could just get the birds to follow as well as the Sierra does, we’d have it made. Trish arrived later that night driving my car which she refers to as a “toaster oven” due to its lack of air conditioning. “Hey, twenty years ago when that car was new air conditioning hadn’t been invented yet!” I shrugged as she blew past me on her way to find a scale to see how much weight she’d lost on the trip.
It was my ninth year driving into Necedah and for the ninth straight year the local high school band did not line the street to play my favorite song welcoming me back.

The next day, this being Indian country, somebody inadvertently did a rain dance followed by a tornado dance so while I was at the local Wal-Mart filling out an application for the Greeter’s Position, the sky turned black and began dropping a curtain of solid water as the tornado warning sirens chorused in the distance.

I stuffed the half completed application into my pocket and hurried back to the refuge where I found half the camp running for the safety of the headquarters basement while the rest headed for the annex bathrooms. I chose the latter because I’m getting older and tornado warnings can last a long time, and well, you know.... But even a tornadic cloud comes standard with a silver lining, which is in this case the fact that a bathroom is a great place for a reunion and an opportunity to catch up on things with folks you haven’t seen for a year.

Then Bev called from her DNR flight base in Eau Clare to say weather radar was showing a short break in the storm coming and that it might be a good opportunity to go out and check the birds. Robert and I stripped ourselves of everything metallic, which in my case included all the quarters I’d pulled out of payphone coin returns for the last month, and we headed out to the Canfield site while Trish and Geoff left for the North site. Before they left, Trish asked Geoff to wear his hat with the big shiny metal hat band. Since he’s taller than she is, as is everyone else on the planet, she felt comfortably immune to a lightning strike.

The birds were fine. The chicks at Canfield were in the bathroom, and the ones at the North site were in the basement.

The next day we trained the chicks at the Canfield site with the ground trike and they did great. The huge military tent/ refuge blind overlooking the site did not do as well having been blown down and shredded during the storm. But the refuge staff located a new one, and were soon performing an 'out with the old -in with the new' dance while we stood in the pen calming the chicks.

It was about then that the water began to rise, and rise, and rise...until the pen and 80% of the runway were under water. In the midst of this, my cell phone began ringing. It was Noah asking me what time he could sail his ark in and pick up the chicks. Funny guy, that Noah. A real Jerk! Robert and transformed our costumes into genuine deep sea diving apparel and re-configured the hot wire around the pen before leaving for the night.

In the morning, after a futile attempt to trade in our yellow trike for a yellow submarine, we walked the birds through the runway/lake and up onto the only remaining dry spot in the area to allow them to lie down and rest.

At first they jumped around excitedly in their new found freedom, so Robert and I knelt down and soon the birds, except the ever energetic #10, dropped down next to us, folded their heads back into their wings. Before long their bodies were heaving in deep regular breaths as they slept the sleep of the dead. Even whooper chicks sleep better at the beach.

Then two adults suddenly appeared. One of them, instantly recognizing the genuine appeal of beach life, flopped down next to the chicks and joined them in slumber while the other stood guard. Robert, always one to promote calm and security, walked over to the pen and put up a 'Lifeguard On Duty' sign. “Just in case they want to go swimming,” he said.



They say that, "Life is no day at the beach,” but every once in a while in Crane Land, it is. And after a couple of hours it was time to shake the sand out of the blankets, take down the umbrella, find out what Grandpa did with his metal detector, put all the empty cans and bottles in the cooler, and head for the car…...I mean the pen.

It would be three days before the water dropped to any appreciable degree, so there were more beach days to come. We even took the brood call off our MP3 players and replaced it with some old Beach Boys tunes, and checked to see if we had any crane costumes that would fit Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

Last night , as I left the chicks to exit the pen door at the Canfield pensite I could swear I heard #15 call to me, “Surfs Up, Moon Daddy!’ I turned and grinned. “Hang ten…errr I mean six, #15.”

Date: July 21, 2010Reporter: Trish Gallagher
Subject: The Great FloodLocation: Necedah, WI
Last Wednesday, around 5:00 in the evening, it got so dark that I thought I must have mistaken the time because it looked like nightfall. I was supposed to do roost check, so I jumped up to get out there quickly! But then I heard the news – a tornado had touched down west of here and was heading down Highway 21 toward Necedah.

Geoff and I hunkered down in the annex, which is the building adjacent to our campers with some offices and the restrooms. We were careful to collect our valuables out of our trailers just in case a tornado materialized and flung our campers about.
There was lots of tension and drama as we listened to the weather radio, but the tornado veered north, so we were lucky to just get a severe thunderstorm.

We got out to do roost check around 7:30, during a lull in the storm, and then it continued to rain all night. We heard that the tornado hit north of us in Wood County, and that the storm dropped 7 or 8 inches of rain up there.

Thursday morning dawned clear and bright and beautiful. When we got out to the Canfield site where the babies are, there was some water on the runway and the dry pen was a little wet, but the chicks were none the worse for wear. The day before the wet pen had been nearly dry, but there was plenty of water in it Thursday morning and we joked about too much of a good thing. Little did we know…

All the rain that fell up in Wood County had to go somewhere, and Necedah happens to be downstream from there. When we arrived Thursday morning, we didn’t know it, but the water was just beginning to rise. By early afternoon, the dry pen was entirely under water, as was a large stretch of the runway. It was over the top of my boots – I measured and they stand 14 inches above the floor. At the height of the flood I would guess the water on the runway was at least another inch or two above the top of my boots.

The flood would not have been a huge problem if the chicks were older, because after a time, they roost standing up. But these chicks are still young enough that they roost on the ground. The water looked like it had stopped rising by nightfall, so it was decided that the chicks could stay in the pen overnight while we figured out what to do. Brooke and Patuxent's Robert Doyle lifted the electric fence wire so it was out of the water and could be turned on and we left them in the pen and retired with some anxiety, but confident that all would be well by morning.

Friday morning, Robert and Brooke took the chicks out, not for training, not for a swim, but for a nap on the dry part of the runway. According to their report, 15, 16, and 17 got to dry land, heaved a sigh of relief, and conked out. #10 is a little older, and she foraged around, apparently not tired enough for a nap.

Geoff and I took them out for a nap that afternoon, and it was a repeat of the morning. #10 wandered off into the marsh and foraged while 15, 16, and 17 slept. After about an hour, 10 finally conked out and she was down for the count like the others. Even the adults at the Canfield site decided to join the slumber party, so everyone except the interns had a good rest. We had the rare privilege of sitting with the babies and adults, watching them sleep, then waking up to preen, and then dozing off again. Just before sunset, we guided them back to the pen for the night.

Saturday was similar to Friday – morning and evening naps for all. The chicks were all happy to come out of the wet pen and rest on dry land, even 10, who gave up the pretense of being too old for a nap. After an hour or so of rest, they would get up and start wandering around, occasionally giving the adults an exploratory peck, and then sit down again.

The water started receding Saturday and we were hopeful that there would be a “dry” pen again by nightfall, but no such luck.

The pattern continued until finally, Sunday night, a few tussocks of grass emerged and it looked like we would have “dry” land by morning. And indeed, when Geoff and I got to the pen Monday morning, 10 and 17 were roosting on the ground. When they stood up, their fronts were all wet, but they looked rested in spite of their dampness.

After training, Geoff and I took 15 and 16 out for one last nap. The adult and chicks and Geoff and I spent one last quiet hour together. I think we were all relieved to see land, except maybe the adult, who seemed to enjoy hosting the slumber parties.

Photo to the right shows adult 09-05 and 10-10 hock sitting beside one another.

Photos by Trish Gallagher

Date: July 20, 2010Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:JUST TOO CUTELocation: Necedah NWR

Maybe if we were working with snails or trying to reintroduce an endangered cactus it would be easier to maintain the proper scientific aloofness. If it were anything less regal than a Whooping crane, it would be simpler to stay emotionally detached. As it is, we use numbers instead of names and minimize the amount of time we spend with them but it is still hard to remain impartial. We keep our distance so they can be wild creatures but it is not easy.

When they get older and after they have been on their own for a while, they tend to be a little more aggressive. Each encounter starts with a little posturing. But when they are young and covered in fluff, more legs and feet than body, they are just too hard to resist. When they run behind you in unquestioning loyalty with wing outstretched for a purpose they have yet to comprehend, they are just too damned cute.

Necedah sits roughly in the center of an ancient 1800 square miles glacial lakebed. The elevation from one end to the other is only a few feet so when 8 inches of rain fell on the area last week it left a lot of water that is slow to run off. The refuge hydrologist John Olsen has been manipulating water structures to deal with the excess but he can’t let too much go or he risks flooding downstream.

By noon the next day, even the dry pen at the Canfield site was flooded. It kept rising until the runway was also underwater. The chicks of course, loved it. They probed and poked and kept themselves cool in the 90 degree temperatures, but young birds like these need to rest once in a while. Unlike adults, they can’t stand all day and all night so we started letting them out. We lead them to high ground where they immediately drop down to hock sit.

The joint that is half way up a bird’s leg is often mistaken for a knee that works backwards. In fact, it’s their ankle and it works the same direction ours does. Birds walk on their toes and all the bones that form our feet are fused together in birds to form what many mistake for the shin. A bird’s real knee is just hidden by the feathers and their hips are even higher up. When wading birds get tired and are secure enough with their surroundings, they will often hock sit. They look like disproportioned penguins with long necks and huge feet.

Just as everyone was getting comfortable, number 9-05 walked onto the runway from his normal foraging spot just behind the pen. No one objected so he sat down beside us to take in the afternoon sun.

So there we were, Geoff Tarbox and me, sitting is the short grass surrounded by four sleepy chicks and a relaxed 5 year old adult. Puffy clouds were drifting by, the buttercups were poking through and a thick layer of cute was starting to form. It reminded me of one of those happy Beatles song from the 60’s like Strawberry Fields Forever.

After an hour and a half, the chicks began to stretch. Number 9-05 wasn’t ready for it to end and he issued a throaty little call to the first chick that wandered away. It was more of a rattle than the brood call we use. Who knows what was said but the chick didn’t go any farther. Eventually our lazy afternoon in the sun ended and we put the rested chicks back into their pen.

Yesterday morning we introduced them to the wing for the first time and 9-05 was eager to help. He dutifully followed the trike up and down the runway and I even noticed that when one of the chicks stopped to poke in the grass, he came up behind it and gave a gentle poke of his own to get it back on track.

(Be sure to click the thumbnails to view full-sized images)

Date: July 19, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:SUMMER FIELD REPORTLocation: Main Office
Word from the field out of Necedah has been scarce lately, something that hopefully will change this week.

The last news we've received came from Joe Duff, who recently arrived on site to relieve Richard van Heuvelen from his scheduled weeks of duty. Joe texted to say that he had trained with both Cohorts 1 and 2 on Saturday, but that the session had to be cut short when storms with lightning moved into the area.

His aerial vantage point did give him a glimpse of one of the wild chicks, but with darkening skies he wasn't able to take a photograph.

With the 'chick patrol' flights added to normal duties this season, it is even busier than usual at Necedah. We know you are all hungry for news about the Class of 2010 - as are we. Please bear with us. We hope to have more reports this week.

Date: July 18, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:C'MON TO NECEDAH!Location: Main Office
Each year the entire OM Team looks forward to the third Saturday in September and 2010 is no exception. That day is always the first date on the ‘Whooping crane calendar’ that gives us a chance to meet hundreds of Craniacs and OM supporters face-to-face.

The event that gives us that opportunity every year is the Necedah Lions Club Whooping Crane Festival. (Use this link to see complete information and the festival schedule.)

This September the third Saturday falls on the 18th, and it marks the tenth year the Necedah Lions Club have hosted the ever popular event. Held at the Town of Necedah Fairgrounds, the festival that we affectionately call, “CraneFest”, continually attracts bigger and bigger crowds. Visitors come from all over the U.S. and each year area accommodations are booked up earlier and earlier. We would not be surprised if a count proved that the population of Necedah doubled on that September weekend.

In addition to an abundance of exhibitors’ booths to visit, attendees can sit in on a variety of bird and wildlife seminars put on by expert presenters. Arts and craft displays dot the grounds as do many booths offering most everything you’d expect to see at a country fair. There are activities for youngsters, and opportunities to win special items via raffles and silent auctions.

As always, Operation Migration will have a booth at CraneFest. Outfitted with our photo backdrop, and fronted by tables laden with OM branded gear for sale, our booth is manned by OM crew, members of our Board of Directors, and other volunteers - and all are hoping you will stop by and say hello. Folks can also get an up close look one of our ultralight aircraft that will share our booth space.

We encourage you to make plans to attend, if you haven’t already. Join us early, early morning on the Observation Tower at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge to watch flight training of the Class of 2010 and then head to the Fairgrounds for the Lions’ All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Breakfast.

The exhibits open at 9:00am and the seminars start then too. Catch one of the special buses for a tour of the refuge or join the guided walk. And you can polish off your day of fun with even more fun. The Lions Club serves a BBQ chicken dinner which you can enjoy while listening to live music (or even kick up your heels if the spirit moves you).

You can’t beat a great day in the outdoors, an opportunity to meet lots of other Craniacs, and hopefully see some Whooping cranes – all wrapped up in warm Wisconsin hospitality! See YOU there?

Date: July 17, 2010Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:CALLING ALL PILOTS....Location: Necedah, WI
Just when you think it is all going well, nature has a habit of pulling the rug out from under you.

Last year at this time we had 23 birds in our flock. All three pen sites at Necedah were full, and everyone was working at top speed. Every time you took off it was like a big party with white and fawn feathers everywhere. This year we are down to only 11 birds, and rather than being excited about finally adding to the wild flock and growing the eastern population, we are hoping instead to hold our own against the natural attrition.

There are many reasons for the low numbers this year. The propagation centers like U.S.G.S. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the International Crane Foundation (ICF) maintain large captive flocks, but only so many eggs are produced every season and there is only so much the staff can do to promote Whooping crane passion. Thereafter they try the less romantic methods like artificial insemination. Additionally, there are all the ailments and afflictions that complicate the early development of the Whooping crane chicks. And occasionally a few are held back to ensure that important genetic lines are protected.

During all of this, the flock managers and the chair of the Whooping Crane Recovery Team must tackle the problem that we have been told all of our lives to avoid -- counting our chicks before they hatch.

Because breeding has been a problem at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, (NNWR) at least until this year, many members of the Recovery Team are reluctant to keep putting birds into that ecosystem. There are strong arguments on both sides of that debate, but in the interim the State of Louisiana has expressed interest in having Whooping cranes back in their wetlands after a 70 year absence. This provides an opportunity to hedge the bet, (is that a real term??) so a small resident population will be started there early next year to test the environment.

For the last five years, Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) has been testing the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) method. It was designed to augment the population once we reach our magic numbers and the Eastern Migratory Population became self-sustaining. In years of low production, or if some genetically important birds need to be added, the DAR method would be ideal for boosting the flock a little whenever it was needed. Over the years the program has been struggling with small sample sizes. Every reintroduction scientist will tell you that it is all about numbers so this year the DAR project has been assigned a full cohort of birds to finally test the program's viability. Luckily, with the 11 chicks assigned to the Ultralight method and the 11 currently in the DAR cohort we still have a reasonable number to add to the eastern population.

Originally, we had 14 birds that we were training at Patuxent, but two were held back at the last minute for health reason. One had a high white blood cell count and the other a respiratory issue. Everyone is working hard for these two birds, hoping they will recover, but in the interim, 04-10 and 14-10 have missed the last flight to Necedah.

Each season, Windway Capital from Sheboygan, WI donates the use of one of their corporate aircraft to deliver our birds from Maryland to Wisconsin. So far they have made 28 trips back and forth in either their Cessna Citation, which is a very fast corporate jet, or their ten passenger turboprop Cessna Caravan. These are not little side trip for them when they happen to be in the Washington area. They are full, dedicated round trips with an overnight stay in Baltimore so the birds can be moved in the cool morning air. We cannot tell you how grateful we are to Windway Capital and their team.

After that kind of generosity, we can’t ask them to be on standby in case one or two of these birds recovers. Besides both of the Windway aircraft a booked solid for the rest of the summer.

We are not sure if either of these birds will recover or, if they will be too old by that time to transport and risk leg injury. They may even be reassigned to the Louisiana project, but just in case we thought we would ask you for help.

If any of the many pilots out there who follow this project might be in Maryland in the next week or so, and might be heading in the direction of Necedah, WI, and might have room for a crate or two, perhaps you would give us a call. Who knows, it may work out, and you could be part of the team to save Whooping cranes.

If you are a pilot and can help us and two Whooping cranes out, you can reach us by calling us toll free at    1-800-675-2618. We would be eternally grateful.

Date: July 16, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:HEROES STAND THE TEST OF TIMELocation: Main Office
Growing up in rural northern Ontario, my early years were blessed with unbounded enjoyment of nature and the outdoors. A single strand of electric wire kept the neighbor's cows out of our backyard, and a giant idle grain hoist standing in a nearby hay field was the perfect jungle gym for me and my friends.

Early spring and fall were exciting times. Our Mom’s would let us pack picnic lunches, (oh how I loved those bologna and ketchup sandwiches) and see us off on a trek through the fields to a not so distant woodland. There, we would spend the day as adventurers extraordinaire, the Daniel Boones and Davey Crocketts of our time. Much of what I learned during our forays into what we thought of as wilderness, came from my friend, Cheryl. A full-blooded Algonquin Indian, she knew more about the flora and fauna we encountered than the rest of us put together. And she imbued us all with a respect for nature that seemed her natural heritage.

So it was, that even at our tender age we had an appreciation for the wild violets, crocuses, daffodils, trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits and pussy willows that abounded there. When I think of it now, I marvel at how long an energetic bunch of kids could sit soundlessly and perfectly still; long enough for squirrels, chipmunks and birds to accept us and venture close by.

We weren't allowed to pick any flowers, and each departure began with a lecture about how our future fun in the woods depended on our leaving no trace of our visit. My Mom would say, "Remember, don't make Mother Nature angry. She should never be able to tell you were there." (Unlike the pretty, cheery version portrayed in today's TV commercials, I always pictured Mother Nature as a wizened and scary ogre; a bent and gnarled old hag in drab rags, sprouting leaves and trailing moss.) Perhaps not the best psychological approach or one that would work today. But back then it did its job. We left our 'playhouse' as we found it, and the only souvenirs our forays produced came a couple of weeks later when the grainy black and white photos we took with an old box Brownie camera came back from the drugstore. (Oh my, a Brownie camera - how's that for dating one's self!)

Perhaps it was those special experiences combined with my inquisitive nature that first attracted me to Dr. David Suzuki. For years it was a toss up. I couldn’t decide if I was going to marry him when I grew up, or my fun cousin Don, or Myles, my parents’ exceedingly handsome insurance agent . David Suzuki’s TV show, “The Nature of Things” topped my favorites list. He became my hero and, in later years my inspiration and motivation to participate, at least in some small way, in caring about and for the earth and its creatures.

By the 1960’s, the work of primatologist, Dr. Jane Goodall also became a fascination. I read more, learned more, and as I came to understand her philosophies, had to nudge Dr. Suzuki over a bit so there was room for Dr. Jane on my personal heroes pedestal. High on the list of things I owe to Whooping cranes is the opportunity they gave me to meet Dr. Goodall in person when she visited us in 2006. Today, when worry or despair about Whooping cranes or our project creeps in, I just have to conjure up Jane’s face and words. She is hope for our planet personified.

While I haven’t always agreed with all of Dr. Suzuki’s positions, inevitably he raises awareness and more importantly provokes thought. All this is leading up to telling you about an article I read recently that talked about learning from nature. The closing paragraph of the article entitled, “What the beluga can teach us about ourselves,” jumped off the page. It seemed to me the perfect takeaway, and something that can’t be repeated often or loud enough.

It said, “What we do in our lives affects our entire world - its soils, its rivers, lakes and oceans, its atmosphere, and all the living things that share our planet. We must understand that when we do something that harms the beluga, or the grizzly, or the spotted owl, we are also harming ourselves.”

How right my Mom's simple philosophy of ensuring that Mother Nature never knew we were there was. How typical but sad that I had to grow up before I was smart enough recognize her wisdom and include her as one of my heroes.

Click the image if you would like to read the full article from “Science Matters” by the David Suzuki Foundation.

Date:July 15, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
The Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) has shrunk by three with the loss of wild-hatched chicks W4-10, W6-10 and W7-10. The latter two chicks disappeared approximately 10 days ago. The carcass of W4-10 was found yesterday.

W6-10 was last seen alive with its male parent 12-04 on July 3rd. When 12-04 was observed on July 6th it was without the chick. W7-10 was also last seen in the early morning of July 3rd, and it too was no longer in evidence when checked on July 6th. Parents 17-03 & 3-03*and their chick W4-10 frequented Pool 13 on the Necedah NWR. Twin chick W5-10 disappeared mid June.

These losses reduce the EMP to 97 Whooping cranes; 52 males, 43 females and 2 chicks.

The photo to the right supplied by Richard Urbanek shows parents 17-03 & 3-03* with their now demised chick W4-10.

EMP ‘Families’
Parents 12-02 & 19-04* along with chick W3-10 remain in the area of their nesting marsh in Wood County. Hatched June 7, this chick was produced from an egg supplied by Patuxent WRC that was substituted for the parents’ two infertile eggs.

Parents 3-04 & 9-03* with their chick W1-10 remain in the general wetland area of their nest. Chick W2-10 also hatched by this pair disappeared in early June.

Note: The female of pair 12-04 & D27-05*NFT disappeared between the morning of June 29 and the afternoon of June 30 but reappeared July 12. In the interim, the male continue to attend to the chick (W6-10) until it disappeared ~July 3-6.

North Dakota
Ransom County
13-09, 19-09 (last reported May 25)

Jackson County
D37-07 (last reported April12)

Kosciusko County

No Recent Record
16-03NFT (last observed on NNWR May 6)
14-05 NFT (last observed on NNWR May 18)
13-07 (last observed on Meadow Valley Flowage May 22)
20-05*NFT (may have been the unidentified whooping crane reported in Jackson County May 24)
6-05 (last detected on NNWR May 31)
5-05NFT & 15-04*NFT (last observed on NNWR June 16)

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
5-08, 12-08 - Columbia County, WI -Dec. 10, 2009,
D36-08 - Lawrence County, TN - Dec. 11, 2009,
D33-05* - Jackson County, IN - Mar. 6, 2010,
27-09 - Waukesha County, WI - Apr. 10, 2010,

This update was compiled from data supplied by the WCEP Tracking Team of Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Matt Strausser.

Date: July 14 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:...AND THEN THERE WERE TWOLocation: Main Office
In an email from Dr. Richard Urbanek that came in at 6pm this evening we learned that a fifth wild-hatched chick has been lost.

In his note Richard said, "This morning Necedah NWR staff discovered the intact carcass of whooping crane chick W4-10 in its usual area on Pool 13. The chick had last been observed alive with its parents, 17-03 & 3-03, on the previous evening. The carcass has been forwarded to the National Wildlife Health Center, Madison, Wisconsin, for necropsy."

This mortality leaves just two of the seven wild-hatched chicks surviving.

Date:July 14, 2010 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CRANIACS' GENEROUS GESTURELocation: Main Office
We recognize that there are many worthy charitable causes out there, many of which are unknown to us, and we suspect to our Field Journal readers too. One such endeavor came to our attention recently when we learned of a philanthropic gesture made by long time Craniacs Dale Shriver and Judy Rogers of Marengo, Illinois.

It seems that for some time now Dale has been wondering what to do with his, "little spunky plane of 29 years.” On discovering Wisconsin based ’88 Charlies Inc’ Dale and Judy paid them a visit to check them out. Thrilled with what they found, Dale and Judy donated his aircraft, ‘Greenie’, to the cause.

The 88 CHARLIES Restore A Plane foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting aviation by giving students the opportunity to restore real airplanes. “Our wish has been granted,” said Dale. “As kids learn about science, engineering, and aviation, Greenie will also help them to learn about themselves and about life. He added, “Being in Wisconsin, these kids are within Whooper range and in case they don't already know it, I will definitely make sure they are aware of the Whooping crane story.”

To repeat what I wrote on 88 Charlies Inc’s FaceBook wall, What a good friend Dale and Judy are to 'fliers'! They are hugely supportive of endangered Whooping cranes through their support of Operation Migration and now they are also benefactors to fliers of the two-legged variety. Congratulations to 88 Charlies Inc and to Dale and Judy for their wonderful generosity. Click here to see photos.

Date: July 13, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TWO WILD CHICKS MISSINGLocation: Main Office
Yesterday we received the latest news on the wild-hatched chicks from WCEP's Administration and Communications Team leader, Joan Garland. She advised that in a July 9th update from the Monitoring and Management Team they reported that there were now only three surviving wild-hatched chicks. These are:
W1-10 (parents 9-03 & 3-04)
W3-10 (parents 12-02 & 19-04)
W4-10 (parents 3-03 & 17-03)

In all, the 2010 hatch season saw a total of seven wild chicks hatched. W2-10 (parents 3-04 & 9-03*) disappeared June 6-7th, and W5-10 (parents 12-04 & D27-05*) seemingly had disappeared by June 16. The parent female, D27-05*, is also missing having not been seen since approximately June 30th.

Joan noted that, "The two youngest chicks, W6-10 (parents 12-04 & 27-05) and W7-10 (parents 11-03 & 12-03), have not been seen for awhile, and there’s every indication that they are unfortunately no longer alive."

Date:July 12, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:YOUNG CRANIAC HONOREDLocation: Main Office

The Richter’s, (Dale and Karen) of Leesburg, Georgia are justifiably proud of son Taylor.

Fox31 News recently reported on Taylor being awarded a $1,000 college scholarship. The scholarship, awarded to him for his volunteer efforts, was part of a program operated by Kohl’s department stores. (Click here for the full story including video.)

At the tender age of 12, Taylor is already a veteran Craniac. Not only has he undertaken making presentations about Whooping cranes to peer groups, he has been a contributing writer to OM’s magazine, INformation. Several years ago, with some assistance from his dad, Taylor successfully campaigned the state legislature of his home state of Georgia to have November declared, Migratory Bird Month.

Congratulations to Taylor for earning the scholarship- and to Dale and Karen for their outstanding parenting.

Date:July 11, 2010Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:CAGE MANLocation: Laurel, MD

Those of you who have followed our project through the years have no doubt become familiar with the names and even some of the faces of our team. But there is one team member you never hear about; one who resides mysteriously behind a veil of anonymity and yet contributes greatly year after year to the success of the project. His name is Cage Man.

Cage Man is the creation of Patuxent’s very own Brian Clauss, who one day after suffering a bout of heat stroke while sitting in the White Series pen socializing a cohort of chicks, arrived at a point in his life where art intersected utility, form collided head on with function, ingenuity trumped heat prostration, and where all that had been difficult became easy.

On that fateful day, Brian crawled in his debilitated state from the pens to the shop, and seizing a role of wire mesh with one hand and a pair of wire cutters with the other, embarked on a veritable frenzy of creation. The resulting humanoid-like armature was soon clothed in a white crane costume, and faster than you could say “Dr. Frankenstein, I presume," Cage Man was born.

Soon after, he was hanging in the White Series pen where he underwent a metamorphosis from Scarecrow to Love Crow. In the years that followed, he would preside over the socialization of cohort after cohort of Whooper chicks just prior to their shipment to Necedah and all that came after. His presence would calm them, reassure them, give them comfort.
If this was Hollywood, that would be the end of the story. But this is real life so the story gets crazier.

It seems our little Whoopers weren’t the only chicks to fall under Cage Man’s spell. Soon, women from all over the Refuge, then all over the town, were lined up outside the pen with the sole intention of getting next to the old boy because it turned out that deep within all that mesh and cloth there resided a small pearl of cosmic wisdom, which in this case turned out to be the secret of how to make women happy. And what was the secret? TO LISTEN! Cage Man was nothing if not a good listener.

Hour after hour they shared their innermost feelings with him. Day after day they poured out their hearts to him while the Whoopers sat nearby, holding their hocks tightly over their ears, reminding themselves the noise could be worse, it could be a “John Tesh’s Greatest Hits” album . And the only time he showed any emotion at all was when a breeze picked up.

Then relationship guru Dr. Shades of Gray came to interview Cage Man and that interview provided the basis for his best selling book, “Male Whoopers Are From Necedah, Female Whoopers Are From St. Marks”’. Soon, Cage Man was on “Oprah” (“What’s your favorite color?” she asked. “White.” he replied. Cage Man did not leave with a new car) Then it was ” Face the Nation” and eventually the “Jerry Springer Show” when they found out there was a trailer parked near the bird pen on which he hung. People Magazine voted him “Sexiest Man of the Year” and a famous actress and tabloid darling claimed he was the father of 8 of her 16 adopted children and that he had better moves than her hunk actor husband. Then President Bush visited Patuxent and spent an hour talking to Cage Man. The President, in a subsequent interview, stated that Cage Man was the most interesting man he had talked to while in office.

June 30th, the day Cohort One left, was thankfully cool. The dew covered ground glistened while the sun peeked over the tree line and we lined the bird boxes up in front of the pen. Cage Man looked on as we entered the pen, led each chick into a box, then on to the van, and he watched, as did I, while the van and the other costumes disappeared, leaving us to the morning’s stillness. And that’s when he said it, in a whisper so soft it could have only have come from my own within, “Sometimes…just being there says all there is to say.”

I shook my head and popped a smile as I gazed back at Cage Man. The old boy always did have a way with words.

Date: July 10, 2010Reporter: Geoff Tarbox
Subject:MOVING - SETTLING INLocation: Necedah, WI
I had a good feeling about the day before me as I staggered out of my dingy lair in the morning. For starters, I was optimistic that we were in for a good day of training with the big kids at the North pen site. Sure, 2-10 and 3-10 have always had a bad habit of refusing to come out of the wet pen for training. And it always takes a lot of sweet-talking, pleading, bribing, and even a little Sicilian death curse invoking to get them to come out (if they ever do). But I took the time to lock all the birds in the dry pen. This morning, they had no choice but to come out for training. Sure, it left them at the mercy of the evil, sadistic wet pen fence for the night. But if that doesn’t whip them into shape, nothing will.

Nonetheless, the kids did every bit as well as I hoped they would. Everyone including the increasingly independent 2-10 and 3-10 came out to play with the trike. And they all did marvelously. Sure, 2-10 and 3-10 mostly just brought up the rear, but they still followed the trike. And watching the birds running after the trike, flapping their wings as they beefed up those flight muscles, the ground effect so close they could taste it, is nothing short of endearing.

After a few quick final touches to get the Canfield site ready, all we had left to do was wait for the birds’ big arrival. When they arrived at 12:45 at Necedah Airport, it was much like it was with Cohort 1. OM waiting patiently along the runway for the plane to make its grand entrance. The ICF vet crew talking with us and amongst themselves. The only difference was that the refuge rounded up a few lucky locals and photographers to witness the big event.

Once the plane arrived, we off-loaded the birds and the vet crew looked them over. I tried not to think about how poor 4-10 and 11-10 weren’t among the birds on the plane, and how they may not be coming at all thanks to their respective bugs in their plumbing. And how sweet old 14-10, one of our best and brightest this year and my recurring favorite, would never come at all.

But thankfully, the hardworking folks at ICF assured us that 10-10, 15-10, 16-10, and 17-10 had a clean bill of health and were ready for the next big step in their journey. After ferrying them to the luxurious Canfield site, we turned the kids loose and left them to their own devices. They couldn’t have been happier. Each of them took off in their own separate direction, exploring their new little world. Some of them stopped to gobble up any unsuspecting bugs, tiny frogs, and rocks unfortunate enough to cross their path. From the blind, I even saw 15-10 and 10-10 playing in one of the water pans. From the way they were dipping their feet and sipping up the water, I think it’s the start of a beautiful friendship.

The birds were still good spirits when I checked them several hours later. They had moved under the shade to get out of the deceptively oppressive Wisconsin sun. Good ol’ 10-10 was still getting familiar with his surroundings. Part of it was that I think the poor guy was a little lonely. His oldest training buddies, 11-10 through 14-10, the first birds he was introduced to, had gone their own separate ways. Although he’s had plenty of time to get to know 15-10 and 17-10 my gut tells me that bond isn’t as strong as the one I watched him forge between 13-10 and 14-10.

But that didn’t stop him or any of the other kids in Cohort 2 from eagerly embarking on the next big phase in their life. They’re all happy to be here, and they’re ready for everything that Necedah has to offer them. And from what Robert Doyle told me this morning, there’s still a chance that 11-10 and 4-10 could get better enough to catch a later flight. And when they do, I know they’re going to be every bit as stoked as their bigger and younger siblings were. Or if they don’t, that blood parasite and that respiratory bug have made themselves an enemy.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must continue my ongoing struggle against the zombie apocalypse in one of my video games. The game will give me an award if I kill 53,595 zombies. And I’m still at a pitiful 38,931. Pitiful.

Date: July 9, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:COHORT TWOLocation:Main Office

The second cohort of Whooping crane chicks made their first flight this morning - all the way from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD to their new summer home located at the Necedah NWR in Wisconsin.

Of course they didn't fly that distance on their own! they barely have wings yet - instead, chicks 10-10, 15-10, 16-10 and 17-10 were carefully led into individuals crates this morning by the Patuxent crane crew and driven to the BWI airport in Baltimore. Once there, they were loaded into a single turboprop Cessna Caravan, owned and operated by Windway Aviation, who just last week made the same flight with the seven cranes that make up Cohort One.

Windway pilots flew the aircraft containing the special passengers, at an altitude of ~8,000 ft. from Baltimore to Muskegon Airport in Michigan for refueling before crossing Lake Michigan and heading to the Necedah airport.

As I write this there are 8 minutes remaining in the flight, which we've been tracking online. We have asked OM intern extraordinaire, Geoff Tarbox to draft an update regarding their arrival, which we hope to post over the weekend.

Date:July 9, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TIP OF THE MONTHLocation: Main Office
In its July “Tip of the Month”, THE BIRDING COMMUNITY E-BULLETIN talked about recycling and we liked the twist they put on it.

“Recycling your bird-and-nature magazines can be so much more than simply using those paper-recycling bins once or twice a week. You can make sure that those wonderful magazines do not disappear, underappreciated.

We know people who will keep every single copy of BIRD WATCHER’ S DIGEST, WILDBIRD, BIRDER’S WORLD, BIRDING, LIVING BIRD, and every local or regional bird publication that they get. But we also know people who make sure that these magazines will have a second life in somebody else’s hands.

You can give the magazine to a friend or neighbor who is modestly curious in birds. How about your doctor’s or dentist’s office, or a school library? Remember: a good bird magazine is a great way to reach all sorts of people with a message about the wonder of birds and nature.”

This form of recycling struck us as a terrific alternative to one-time-use. As we currently work on the fall issue of OM’s semi-annual magazine, INformation, we thought we should encourage our membership (who receive complimentary copies of INformation) to do the same and help expand OM’s outreach and raise awareness for the Whooping crane project.

Not yet a member? If you’d like to become one click here.

Note: Sometimes folks mistakenly think that by virtue of making a donation they automatically become members of Operation Migration. This is not the case. Ethical fundraising practices require that funds designated for a specific purpose must be used for that purpose. For example, a MileMaker sponsorship to help offset the cost of the annual migration cannot be applied to Membership. Membership in Operation Migration is kept totally separate from all fundraising campaigns and unless funds are designated as being for that purpose they are not applied there.

Date:July 8, 2010Reporter: Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:TRAINING UPDATE - COHORT 1+Location: Necedah, WI
Wednesday morning’s training went very well with nine birds following the trike with uncommon obedience.

The sky was overcast, and sporadic fog hung over the refuge. As the fog had me grounded, we decided to ground train the chicks before I went on my morning wild-chick monitoring flight.

Geoff and Robert opened the pen doors and all seven chicks kind of jumped out all at once. When we roared off down the run way two adults joined in. They ran along with the trike and chicks, their buts wiggling back and forth as they attempted to keep up to the young chicks. Soon they gave up running and just flew along side the young cohort of chicks. When training finished up and the chicks were put back in the pen the two adults sauntered off down the runway.

Morning training concluded, I drove back to the hangar anticipating a chick monitoring flight, but was faced with a wait for the fog to clear.

Date:July 7, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHITE’S WHOOPERTHON – IT’S A WRAPLocation: Main Office
Continuing her Mother’s Day tradition of several years, Illinois Craniac Vi White once again conducted her fundraising Whooperthon. As in the past, joining Vi for her day of birding were daughters Ellen Savage and Lynn O’Connor. The 2010 version of Vi’s Whooperthon took place on May 14, a clear, sunny, but windy day that following days of rain had left them wondering about their chances of pulling it off.

The trio began their bird spotting adventure at The Grove, a national landmark on the outskirts of Glenview, Illinois. Once home to Robert Kennicott, a famous 19th century explorer-naturalist, The Grove’s walking trails wind through acres of woodlands and marsh. Although as it turned out they sighted most of the 45 species of birds they racked up for the day at their first location, they also spent some time in another riverside forest preserve not far down the road.

Vi told us that one of the treats of the day was being able to observe a very busy and vocal pair of Black-Capped Chickadees excavating a nest cavity in a dead snag. Their most unusual and notable bird spotted was a Black-Billed Cuckoo.

Much like the walk-a-thons we are all familiar with, Vi’s annual Whooperthon asks folks to pledge an amount per bird sighted. While some preferred to commit to contributing a lump sum, the end result was a grand total of $3100 raised. What gives Vi’s yearly fundraising initiative even more impact, is the matching funds added to the pot by another Illinoisan. Someone Vi calls, ‘an Anonymous Angel’, matches the Whooperthon total dollar for dollar.

Vi said, “Years ago, this Mother’s Day outing started out as just a fun day of birding with my daughters during which they included treating me to lunch. At one point we decided to add a conservation twist and turned it into a fundraising vehicle. For the past four years our intent has been to add visibility to the plight of the Whooping crane and to engender interest in Operation Migration’s work to safeguard the species from extinction. And together, we have a marvellous time doing it!”

All of us at OM are thrilled with the result of Vi, Ellen, and Lynn’s efforts. We are sincerely grateful to you, and to your ‘Anonymous Angel’. It just goes to show what individual initiative can do to help the cause. We wish we had a hundred Vi Whites.

Date: July 6, 2010Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: FAMILIARITYLocation: Main Office
You would think after ten years most of what we do would be routine. Admittedly some things are familiar, but it is surprising how much can change and how quickly.

This spring started early with warm temperatures and the discouragement we have become accustomed to as one by one the nests were abandoned. Then the weather cooled and re-nesting was delayed just long enough to miss the second wave of black flies, and from the ashes of yet another failure grew the promise of seven wild hatched chicks. Five pairs with a chick each and two sets of twins changed everything. Our budget went out the window as the team went from two flights a day checking on the nests to four daily trips to monitor chicks.

One chick from each set of twins was lost over the next few weeks but that is normal for Whooping cranes. Richard van Heuvelen reported yesterday that the search continues for 27-05, the first DAR bird to produce offspring. She was paired with 12-04 in Juneau County, but has been missing since last Wednesday. She has a non-functional transmitter so she can’t be tracked, and has not been seen anywhere in the area despite the fact that the male and the chick are still there.

Richard told us the 24 day old chick (W6-10) is now referred to as super-chick for its ability to cover ground. The male frequents two ponds almost a mile apart. They seem to be travelling back and forth, and the chick keeps up. The male could be anxious and looking for its mate, or avoiding whatever took the female.

The end product of this entire project is wild-hatched chicks that learn the migration route we taught to their parents. With so many years of nesting failure, many among us were starting to lose confidence. Ideas and alternatives began to emerge that ranged from ending releases in Wisconsin to finding new introduction sites, and from controlling the black fly population to changing the rearing methods. Some of those ideas still have merit and should be explored, but there is renewed faith that we have not been wasting our time over the last ten years.

Robert Doyle, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Geoff Tarbox, OM, and Richard van Heuvelen have been working with the seven birds from Cohort 1. They are also preparing the Canfield pensite for the arrival of Cohort 2 planned for July 9th.

Brooke Pennypacker changed everything again today when he reported from Patuxent that number 14-10 was lost as a result of an accidental broken leg. Number 14 was one of the strongest birds. That leaves only 6 birds for Cohort 2 and no Cohort 3 at all.

Last year we had 20 birds. This season we will be lucky to have 13. There are many reasons for that low number. Part of it is lower production within the captive flock. Also, in years past, several eggs were collected from abandoned nests at Necedah and transferred to Patuxent. They were trained to follow the ultralight, then returned to Necedah and we became surrogate grandparents. We only have one of those chicks this year.

Part of the mandate of the Whooping Crane Recovery Team is to establish three discrete populations so that one catastrophe does not threaten the entire species. Partly because of the ongoing nest failures at Necedah, they decided to begin a resident population in Louisiana. Those birds will be released next January but they were hatched this spring and reduced our numbers substantially.

This is the fifth year for the DAR experiment and a critical one to test the method. We all agreed that program should be allocated a full cohort this season to finally determine if it is a viable release method. Currently there are 11 birds at ICF being prepared for Direct Autumn Release.

There was also a proposal to conduct a Parent-Reared study this season. Four birds were to be raised by their captive parents at Patuxent and released in the fall in Wisconsin to see if some parental instinct that would keep them on their nests was missed by birds hatched in an incubator. Also, a couple of genetically surplus birds were to be sacrificed to test the impact of Infectious Bursal Disease (IBD) on Whooping cranes. Neither of these studies was prepared in time so they were not conducted but we could have had even fewer birds this season for the ultralight program.

As the summer training begins, year ten looks a lot different than year nine. After this many seasons maybe it’s the constant change that becomes familiar.

Date:July 5, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Excerpt from the July Birding Community e-Bulletin

In mid-June, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced that the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC) approved a total $5.3 million in Federal Duck Stamp funds to add more than 1,849 wetland acres to six units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

These acquisitions have been funded with proceeds from sales of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, otherwise known as the Federal Duck Stamp. These acquisitions include:

- Cache River National Wildlife Refuge (Arkansas) - 180 acres of bottomland wetlands,
- Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (California) - 110 acres of the last remaining riparian habitat along South Stone Lake, as well as associated wetlands and uplands,
- Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (New Jersey) - 243 acres of wetlands and upland fringes, the last natural open space on the northern portion of Barnegat Bay,
- Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (New Hampshire) - 162 acres of northern forest wetland
- Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge (Tennessee) - 866 acres of wetland and associated habitat, and
- San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge (Texas) - 288 acres for the protection of a wetland complex.

For every dollar spent on Federal Duck Stamps, ninety-eight cents goes directly to secure vital habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System. To date, more than 5.3 million acres of wetlands have been purchased using more than $750 million in Stamp revenue.

The most recent Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (2010-2011) was released on June 26. Birders and conservationists can get their Stamps at Post Offices and National Wildlife Refuges across the country.

Date:July 4, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
As of June 26, the end of the most recent report period, there was no change in the number of Whooping cranes in the Eastern Migration Population (EMP). 86 of the EMP’s 100 cranes were located in Wisconsin, two in North Dakota, one in Michigan, and one in Indiana.

In their report, the WCEP Tracking Team, consisting of Dr. Richard Urbanek, (USFWS) Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Matt Strausser, (ICF) noted that two Whooping cranes have not been located since spring migration and that three have been missing long-term.

Five of this season’s seven wild-hatched chicks still survive. They are:
Wild 1-10 – Parents   3-04 &   9-03*
Wild 3-10 – Parents 12-02 & 19-04*
Wild 4-10 – Parents 17-03 & 03-03*
Wild 6-10 – Parents 12-04 & D27-05*
Wild 7-10 – Parents 11-03 & 12-03*

Date: July 3, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:A BIRD BY ANY OTHER NAMELocation:Main Office

If you have followed this website for a while, you will remember that there has been lots of discussion over the years about numbering or naming the birds. Some feel that names would personalize them and makes it easier to generate support for a project that lives on donations. Others contend that numbering the birds removes the impression that they are pets and discourages anthropomorphism.

Lately it hasn’t been the naming under scrutiny as much as the numbers themselves. Since our first migration with Canada geese back into the early 1990’s we have been using a numbering system that begins with the common denominator. We put the year first followed by the number of the individual bird beginning with the first hatched. The lower the number, the older the bird.

Another system evolved in the early years of the Whooping crane project. That listed the bird number first with the year at the end. When this change took place we had a large website audience and to avoid confusion we kept using our numbers while the rest of WCEP adopted the other method.

In truth, we don’t have to deal with the year portion of the numbers very often because we work with a new class every season. To us they are just one, two and so on and it’s only when they are released that it becomes important to distinguish them from the ones and twos of other years. We now have a hundred birds migrating in the eastern flyway and the WCEP numbering system is far more commonly used than ours. In fact, newcomers to our site are often confused by the two systems so we have decided to finally switch over. It is going to be perplexing for a great many people but it will be a short term bewilderment rather than an ongoing confusion.

There are thousands of pages of information on our website and the mechanics of switching over all of that archived material are frightening. So we will simply start using the other system and post a note warning of the discrepancy for anyone searching older pages. Journey North also uses our numbering system and they agree that it is time to switch over.

We apologize to all of our readers for the confusion this is likely to produce but maybe it is better to eliminate the inconsistency once and for all.

Date: July 2, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:A BIRD IN THE HAND... GULF SURVIVALLocation:Main Office

Readers familiar with the Eastern Migratory Reintroduction are no doubt familiar with the name, Mark Chenoweth. For several years, Mark volunteered his time to write and produce a podcast, titled Whoopers Happening. Mark has recently moved on and is now producing a regular podcast for the Endangered Species Coalition but he hasn’t stopped thinking about Whooping cranes and keeps in regular contact with us. He sent me the following yesterday and I asked if he would mind if I posted it in the Field Journal.

I had the privilege to talk with a guy very much in the current media spotlight, Jay Holcomb, the Executive Director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center out of California, with a facility now in Fort Jackson, LA. His team, along with others and Tri State Bird Rescue, were brought in by BP to rescue oiled birds, assess their situation, and save as many as possible.

This is not work done by the faint of heart; what they are doing in Fort Jackson makes it possible to see 72 Brown pelicans fly back into freedom last Sunday morning at the Aransas NWR in coastal Texas (the same home to Whoopers each winter, and which should, we hope, continue be a safe haven for them). There are concerns, and you can hear what he said in the latest podcast I did for the ESC which can be found at this link.

Many people have offered their services to help clean oiled birds, only to learn that rightly so, there are strict regulations in place to ensure only licensed wildlife rehabbers are called into action. Some have said that those who rescue birds and clean them do so just to ‘feel good,’ mentioning the poor survival these birds may have after their release. I asked Jay about this, and he responded, ‘Well, I have to tell you… holding dying birds in your hands and watching this horrific event is not a ‘feel-good’ experience for me or any of the staff here. And there’s nothing wrong with the ‘feel-good’ part of it, which is using your skills to give something a second chance for life.’ It’s almost made like it’s a bad thing because you feel good about your job. Jay says such criticisms are often a result of evaluating old data recorded from different situations with other species. And in some cases, based on old legband returns, which are not reflecting what is happening now with more resources and the intense care these birds are receiving. Some data was nearly a decade old.

The work that the folks at Patuxent do is not a world apart from those saving birds in the Gulf right now. The birds in the Gulf are mostly healthy and became oiled as a result of this man-made disaster, while the issues they have at Patuxent are from genetic weakness perhaps, or the fragile chicks can become ill very quickly, developing respiratory problems that can result in mortality. Dr. Glenn Olson and his team, which includes OM’s Brooke Pennypacker, interns, and Brian and Barbara Clauss, do a job no less spectacular, though removed from the public and TV cameras, caring for, nourishing and insuring the best health possible to the young Whooper chicks. The degree of dedication and the emotional ‘roller coaster’ that Brooke wrote about in the June 26th entry are the same ride, and they also hold the young chicks in their hands at times, with too many dying even as they look at them. It is a job that few of us could comfortably perform, but one that must be done by special people.

Cleaning the oiled birds from the Gulf, perhaps the most visual aspect, is not the most important job performed when birds are rescued. Jay says assessment, nourishment and treatment to keep them warm and under watchful eyes is vital initially, and that many times the oil cleaning occurs later, sometimes even days after they are brought to the center in Fort Jackson. Birds regard those who rescue them as predators… the cleaning process is traumatic, and their strength to endure it must be ascertained before it begins. Cleaning oiled wildlife is something most of us would do, and it is a ‘feel-good thing’! Seeing wildlife trapped, fighting thick, gooey oil patches and sludge would motivate most of us to want to save them and want to see them as they were. But the trauma of this and time in the hot sun, combined with toxic effects the crude oil has on such fragile life forms often make death inevitable.

Watching life ebb and then disappear from the creatures we love and want to be with us is never easy, and those who do this have a special calling. The Patuxent Chick Rearing Team and those at the IBRRC are in a special comradeship, and while few may actually know each other, they share a bond of dedication and skill few of us ever will.

Holding a dying bird you are unable to help is not high on the bucket list for any of us I am sure, but special people at Fort Jackson, Patuxent, and many others, do what they do with our best wishes and prayers! Their work makes most of us feel pretty good, and that means they are entitled to feel great! Our heartfelt thanks go out to Jay and his dedicated team, those with Tri State Bird Rescue and many others, and always of course… thanks Brooke!

Date: July 1, 2010Reporter: Geoff Tarbox
Subject:JUNE 30TH - MOVING DAYLocation: Necedah, WI
The morning was dull and uninteresting, as I waited for the first cohort to arrive at Baraboo. But that all changed as soon as Windway's jet touched down on the runway at 10:30.

June 30th was Cohort One’s long-awaited big day. The day when they’d would leave the simple life of Patuxent behind them and stretch their wings at the luxurious Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. I was bummed that poor 1004 wouldn’t make this flight, thanks to that pesky blood parasite in his/her plumbing. But I’ll bet you clean money he’ll/she’ll make the next flight. He’s/she’s come too far to let this bug get the best of him/her. But I digress.

Once the kids were offloaded from the plane, Dr. Barry Hartup and his trusty entourage from ICF examined each of them through the air holes in their crates and assured that they were in tip-top shape. From there, we were homeward bound back to Necedah. We turned them loose in their new digs at the North pen site, the same pen that Cohort 1 hung out at last year, and Patuxent's Robert Doyle and I spent the rest of the day taking turns watching them from the blinds.

I’m not ashamed to say, the kids took the move very well when I checked on them at 3:00pm. It didn’t take them long for acclimate to their new surroundings. They were already foraging, pigging out at the feeders, and strolling around like they’ve always been there. And when I saw them again at 6:00pm, they still seemed more or less happy with their new home.

The wet pen was starting to catch their eye. I counted at least four birds, including 1001 through 1005 hovering around every chicks’ archenemy; the chain-link fence that blocks off the wet pen from the dry pen. Those four were trying everything from pacing (not frantically) to sweet-talking it, to shooting it dirty looks. But for whatever reason, the fence remained adamant even after I left. Sadly for them, outsmarting a chain link fence isn’t as easy as outsmarting the ICUs at Patuxent. If Robert and Richard van Heuvelen think Cohort One does well enough tomorrow or the day after, maybe we’ll see how cocky that fence is against our uncanny ability to open doors.

But in the midst of all this, I had a sense of déjà vu creeping over me. I felt like could’ve been watching my little pretties from 2009's Cohort One. They've got the same lovable, five year-old mentality and curiosity, the same charm, and the same hankering to get into that wet pen. And of course, that same old bitter rivalry with that same sinister wet pen chain link fence.

Really, wouldn’t you do this job again? I just hope they don’t have the same rocky start to the migration that the Class of 2009 had last year. Chasing and flagging down birds like 918, 926 and 910 is one slice of nostalgia I don’t need.

Now if you excuse me, I’m off to watch my favorite musical number from 'Brave Little Toaster', then play a video game where I’m one of four survivors slugging it out in the zombie apocalypse. I’ve got over 1200 zombies to kill and the evening’s still young.

Photos by Geoff Tarbox

Cohort 1 gets offloaded from the aircraft. Travel crates lined up outside the North pen site.

One by one Cohort 1 chicks are released. Checking out their new digs.

Appearing to gaze longingly at the wetpen. The footbath is the closest they'll come to water for today.

Date: June 30, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:COHORT ONE ARRIVES AT NECEDAH!Location:Main Office

One would think with this being the tenth year we've done this that it would be old hat but let me assure you, we still hold our breath and sit on the edge of our seats each time an event takes place. This morning, just like they have for the past ten years, Windway Capital pilots were waiting at BWI airport in Baltimore, ready to transport some precious cargo.

First, we heard from Brooke Pennypacker that 7 of the 8 planned for birds in Cohort One had been crated and transported from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD to Baltimore by Charlie Shafer. It turns out that #1004 currently has a blood parasite that must be treated before he/she can make the trip to Necedah, so this bird will make the trip with the second cohort in a week or so.

We tracked the flight online and as the screen updated we began to relax ever so slightly but it wasn't until just a few minutes ago when a call came in from Richard van Heuvelen that we completely exhaled. Richard reported that they touched down at the Wisconsin Dells airport at 10:19 and were quickly checked by Dr. Barry Hartup from ICF to ensure that each chick was still upright inside its crate.

As soon as this was completed they were loaded into a waiting air-conditioned van and transported north the the Necedah NWR - their new summer home and the first location they will see from the air in a few short weeks once they begin to fly.

Our sincere appreciation and thanks goes out, yet again, to Windway Capital Corp and to today's pilots: Mike Frakes and Matt Waage!

Date: June 30, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
OM’s trucks, vans, and assorted trailers and motorhomes are somewhat obvious on the road as we ride the highways and byways from Wisconsin to Florida on the annual migration. This is especially true when we travel in a caravan from one stopover to the next.

All our vehicles are workhorses, but by wearing our corporate logo they do double duty as they draw attention and raise awareness for the Whooping crane project. Folks spotting our logos, passing us on the road or pulling up beside us at stop lights, will honk or blink their lights and wave or give us the thumbs up. More often than not when we make a pit stop or pull in somewhere for fuel or for groceries, at least one or two people will come up to us to say hello and to chat.

Operation Migration is a small organization with a big job that is perennially a challenge to fund. Because we are inevitably maxed out expense-wise just meeting our project obligations, and despite the attention and potential for support that advertising, marketing, or promotion could attract, they are not things that ever make their way into the budget.

That is why we were thrilled when our corporate sponsor, Southern Company, stepped in to raise our ‘on the road’ profile and to afford us an opportunity to recognize their generous support of Whooping cranes at the same time.

When you see what Southern Company  has done to our aircraft/equipment trailer, we think you will agree that it will be very difficult to miss us whether we are on the road or standing still. Talk about Whooping cranes making a statement!

Southern Company is well known for its commitment to the environment and conservation. 2010 is the third year that Operation Migration and Whooping cranes will benefit from a grant generated by Southern Company through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

During our three year association with the good folks at Southern Company I have met many of them personally and have learned how heavily involved they, and their company are, in fostering partnerships to conserve ecosystems and habitat and protect wildlife.

Speaking about the stewardship of species and habitats, Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation said, "Strong programmatic, philosophical, and financial support can achieve meaningful and significant benefits. We are seeing results through focused conservation investments we've made with Southern Company through programs like Power of Flight and Longleaf Legacy."

You don’t have to take our word for it though. Click the links to read about Southern Company’s
  -  philosophy on environmental stewardship

  -  participation in wildlife and natural resources conservation programs

  -  efforts to restore ecosystems

  -  rivers, wetlands and coastal restoration programs

  -  programs for land management

  -  employees' community service and philanthropy

Sincere thanks to Southern Company for adding promotion and outreach to their many efforts on behalf of the environment and wildlife - most especially, Whooping cranes.

Date:June 29, 2010Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:THE BOXLocation: Laurel, MD
“There just ain’t nothin in this big bad world like a good ol’ box.” Emperor Confusionus proclaimed back in Roman times. “And if you don’t believe me, just ask any turtle.” And he did. “How’s life, little fellow?” “Cool, man. Real cool.” the turtle replied.

I know this to be true because when I was a kid, the most exciting event in our lives was when one of my friend’s mothers took delivery of a washer or dryer or stove and WE got the box. We literally swarmed around it like ants to a dead bug and soon we carried it off to some secret place for the transformation to begin.

My friend David - his mother wouldn’t let us call him Dave - wore thick glasses and owned a sharp pencil so he was our design team while the rest of us cut and carved and created until our space ship was born, one rivaling anything we’d seen on TV. It became our stairway to the heavens, transporting us through the galaxies of our imaginations, taking us to places no boy had gone before .

As our hands worked the crayoned controls and our eyes gazed out the cut out port holes in awe, we visited places where all was exciting and wondrous as we imagined the unimaginable. Then, thrilled and spent, we gently returned back to Earth and to the safe and warm familiarity of home. It was enough to make Peter Hawkings give up astronomy and do karaoke full time…or even trade voices with Carl Sagan.

And so it seems somehow fitting that tomorrow our eight little intrepid voyagers of Cohort 1 should experience the Friendly Skies for the first time on their first big flight from Patuxent to Wisconsin in a box…or rather, in eight of them in the back of a Citation business jet, compliments of Terry Kohler and Windway Aviation.

Nature has dictated that each chick hatches with enough Frequent Flier miles to make the trip so tomorrow morning, the trip will begin, followed on July 9th by the remaining six chicks of Cohort 2. With a whole lot of luck, all 14 chicks will survive the summer at Necedah and begin their next big flight the middle of October when our annual migration to Florida begins.

Meanwhile, “Keep looking up!” and call me collect when the new stove arrives. I want the box. “Walt Disney, eat your heart out!”

Date:June 28, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:PATUXENT NEWSLocation: Main Office
Brooke sent us these photos over the weekend. So you can get an idea of the size, one of Patuxent's Interns poses inside one of the travel crates that will be used on June 30 to air transport the chicks to Necedah. In the second photo, several of the Cohort 1 chicks enjoy the water in the ponded pen.

Date:June 27, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:BABY - TOT - TWEENLocation: Main Office
The first cohort of the Class of 2010 has been getting a preview of their soon-to-be life on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. The last stop on their learning curve while still at Maryland's U.S.G.S Patuxent Wildlife Research Center is spending time as a group in the ponded pens.

While visited and tended to during the day by the costumes, they have been experiencing undisturbed nights in the great outdoors, giving them the opportunity and freedom to forage at will, and to discover and practice the all important skill of water roosting.

In the pen with them is the usual adult Whooping crane dummy, (seen in Brooke Pennypacker's photo to the right) providing them with familiar company and acting as an imprint model.

Scrolling back through previous Field Journal entries with photos you can see how much and how fast the chicks have grown. Sprouting at an average of one inch a day, even the chick crew marvels at the speed at which the little brown fluff-balls morph from baby to toddler, and now to tween.

Bits of white plumage now break up the rich cinnamon brown coloration of the eldest birds. Three more sleeps and they will be taking their first flight - although it will be one that requires no effort on their part. Early this coming Wednesday morning they will be jetting their way to the Necedah NWR in first class fashion compliments of Whooping cranes' long-time good friends of Sheboygan, Wisconsin based Windway Capital.

Date:June 26, 2010Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:1013'S ROLLER COASTER RIDELocation: Laurel, MD
It was simply not possible to grow up on the Jersey Shore without having your horizon line broken somewhere by the giant tangle of trestle and track called the rollercoaster.

Each and every summer evening of my youth was a soundscape dominated by its undulating roar, like a huge piece of machinery tearing itself apart again and again, backed by a pulsing chorus of shrill screams and muffled hollers. From my bedroom window I could see it, hear it, feel it.

Mr. Munley, who lived across the street ,was its operator. From June to September, seven nights a week, he awakened this restless giant, tamed it, maintained it, and made it do all that roller coasters do. “Never lost a rider yet,” he used to say with understated pride.

My appreciation for this ever-present monster grew even greater when I learned the history of its kind. Legend has it that back in the late 1800’s while building the transcontinental railroad, a crew of over 2000 men of many nationalities and races, some having served under flags of both the Union and Confederacy, returned to work one morning after a night of revelry, commemoration, and intoxicated inspiration, and set about creating a railroad with no beginning and no end, to stand forever as a lasting symbol of how the world really works. It was an instrument of highs and lows, one that would thrill a man out of all feelings of lust and loss and release him whole at its final stop spent, relieved and purposeful.

The foreman arrived later that day from a mandatory political correctness meeting. Upon seeing what the men had constructed and recognizing it to be as much philosophical statement as it was a construct of their collective imagination, he immediately ordered an assemblage.

As the men, wringing with sweat and bursting with pride, crowded close to absorb his displeasure , he spoke the words that would resonate again and again through subsequent decades, describing pretty much half of what some would refer to as the human condition. “Men,” he said, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Or not. But what the hell. Let’s call it a Roller Coaster.” The men gave up a resounding cheer which is said to have lasted well into the night.

But it is the roller coaster of emotion that is life’s true monster ride. One minute it cradles and carries you on its upward trajectory to the very heights of hope and excitement, to an arching place of true joy and satisfaction. Then, with a speed so great you don’t think your body parts will hold together, it drops you with utter contempt into a dark abyss of sadness and despair. This is the roller coaster one climbs aboard when one passes through the gate into Patuxent.

Why all the talk of roller coasters you may wonder. Simply because it’s easier than writing about the loss of our special little friend, #1013, who despite the heroic efforts of our medical staff and crane crew, succumbed yesterday afternoon to a respiratory illness which had attacked suddenly the day before.

As is so often the case, he seemed fine in the morning, his demeanor characteristically jubilant and sure. Then there came a cough, and then another and another. The passing minutes cast an ever dimming shadow over him until the very act of breathing soon became his challenge. Emergency surgery offered us hope, and for a time, he seemed to be improving. But the fates, always lurking in the shadows, eventually intervened and he was gone. We had shared this world together for 34 days. We can only hope he enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed his.

Date:June 25, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:UNBROKEN STRING OF SUPPORTLocation: Main Office

For years, Operation Migration has been a grateful recipient of funding through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF).

We recently learned, that for the tenth straight year, the DWCF has awarded OM a grant for our work with endangered Whooping cranes for the 2010/2011 season. One of the few, if not the only organization that has supported OM every single year since the Whooping Crane Project’s inception, DWCF’s continuity of support has provided our organization with a degree of vital funding stability.

Established in 1995 as a global awards program for the study and protection of the world’s wildlife and ecosystems, the Disney Worldwide Conservation makes awards to nonprofit conservation organizations. Since its inception, the fund has contributed $15.6 million, distributed to more than 800 projects in 111 countries. Whether they swim, fly, crawl, slither, or hop, endangered animals are the fund’s focus. Through awards from this fund, Disney helps ensure the survival of wildlife and wild places in all their beauty and diversity.

In addition to financial support, Disney also supports the Whooping crane project in other invaluable ways, not the least of which is providing vet support, as well as assistance with winter monitoring at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

Date:June 24, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: WILD-HATCH CHICK MISSING   -   1013 PROVIDES A SCARELocation: Main Office
It is probable that one of the twin chicks belonging to the sibling pair 317  & 303* is dead. The weekly Friday summary reports provided by Necedah refuge biologist, Rich King and which usually come to us via WCEP has not been received, so this news is unofficial. Reports are however, that the chick has not been seen since some time last week.

If the chick's demise is confirmed, it will leave five pairs, each with one chick. The other four parenting pairs are: 403 & 309*; 212 & 419*; 311 & 312*; and 412 & D527*.

Recent weather, in the form of rain and/or thunderstorms, has put a crimp in aerial surveys of the territories of the five pairs with young-of-the-year. OM trike pilot, Richard van Heuvelen, took over 'chick patrol' duties on the weekend relieving Chris Gullikson.

The latest word from Brooke at Patuxent is that Class of 2010's #1013 took a very bad turn yesterday with a respiratory problem. Some fast action by the vet team there seems to have helped as Brooke reported that the chick now appears to be doing better, giving rise to hope for its survival.

What a rollercoaster ride this season is turning out to be. The Kleenex supply is taking a beating and I'm turning holding my breath into a fine art.

Date:June 23, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:GETTING READY FOR 'MOVING DAY'Location: Main Office
The action in Maryland these days consists of getting ready.

With Cohort #1’s journey to the west just one week off, getting them and their costume handlers set for the trip is the order of the day. Their crates, specially built for their flight to Necedah, are all clean and ready to go, and Patuxent’s Robert Doyle and OM intern Geoff Tarbox are busy this week preparing for their road trip from Laurel, MD to Necedah, WI. They will make their way there this weekend in order to put things to rights in the chick’s new environment prior to the arrival of the eight eldest chicks in the Class of 2010. (1001, 1002, 1003. 1004, 1005, 1006, 1008, and 1009)

Speaking with Brooke last evening he reported that the eight chicks are acclimating well to the ponds in the White series pens. “Not only are they getting along great,” he said, “they are enjoying being in the water for the first time. They are wading birds after all, and the frogs, snakes and other critters they are finding to snack on there are their own reward.”

The time in the ponded pen has another benefit. “Being in the pond helps boost their collective sociability,” Brooke said. “Because they are so busy investigating everything, discovering the water and all its delights, they are less interested in being aggressive to each other.”

In anticipation and preparation for their soon-to-be new home, tonight may be the time that Cohort 1 experiences their first night left alone in the ponded pen. They'd better get used to it - because that’s life at Necedah.

Date: June 22, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NEW OM GEARLocation: Main Office
Thanks to the generosity of North Sails, we have added a cool designer logo’d t-shirt to our line of OM Gear. Available in white or yellow, the tagless tee comes in unisex sizes small through 2XL.

This current support of Operation Migration by North Sails is far from the company's first. Craniacs and Field Journal readers will recall that not long ago North Sails stepped in to save the day when we were struggling to produce five sets of wing covers to protect our trike wings from inclement weather and frost while on migration.

North Sails’ beginnings date back to the late 1950’s. Recognized as the world’s premier sailmaker, the company has 63 major lofts and 56 service, sales, and satellite lofts in 29 countries.

For the days that a t-shirt alone isn’t enough, cover up with one of OM’s lightweight windbreakers. A new item this year, the jackets have a zipper front closure, elastic cuffs, and come in both men’s and ladies’ styles.

Last but not least, don’t miss the newest addition to OM’s line of jewelry. You have to see the 8 miniature gold cranes stacked inside their glass pendant to believe it. A lovely piece, and it makes a great gift.

Date:June 21, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:THE 'AWWW' FACTORLocation: Main Office
What is it about babies, human, animal or avian, that arouses an instinctive response in us? What is it that makes us want to coddle and protect them to enable if not ensure their survival?

Konrad Lorenz, a Nobel Prize winning zoologist, proposed it is the way they look – miniature, almost caricature-like replicas of the adult form – that elicits the protective parental response. While in fact the biological basis for this is not proven, I suspect it is the rare individual who has not experienced such a response.

This season, with the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) producing seven wild-hatched chicks, elation and optimism both within and without the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) soared. The hatches, coming as they did subsequent to end of the primary black fly bloom, seem to suggest that with some human help, the repetitive nest abandonments at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge might be mitigated if not resolved in the future. What is in the cards for the EMP’s 2011 nesting season will be determined once all the research studies performed this spring have been collated and analyzed.

Meanwhile, what we are left with is the sheer excitement of having had hatch success and chicks ‘on the ground’. Put that excitement together with our instinctive response to seeing a bunch of fluffy, little bundles of joy, and what comes out of the mix is a recipe for emotional highs and corresponding lows. Why? Because nature’s law of averages says that it is more likely than not that no more than half will survive. Our Whooping cranes are first-time parents, and first-timers are notorious for not getting it right first time around so it is possible if not probable that the chick survival rate could be even lower.

So while we rejoice the hatch successes, we have to temper the celebration with a dose of pragmatism. Of the seven wild-hatched chicks, one has been confirmed lost so far (one of 309* and 403’s twin chicks). A rumored loss of a second chick of another pair is not yet confirmed.

As we’ve pointed out before, a lot can happen between hatch-fledge-migration. At the same time, being realistic about our expectations – or should I say wishes and dreams – is easier said than done. But keeping nature’s way in mind helps to maintain perspective and to ‘keep it real’.

Date:June 20, 2010Reporter: Trish Gallagher
Subject: Out for a swimLocation: Laurel, MD

From the time a chick is about a week old until it’s about three weeks old, it gets a daily exercise period in the swimming pool. You might think this is no big deal because cranes are birds that hang around water all the time, right? But they hate it!

I used to wonder why until I realized that they’re actually wading birds. Have you ever seen a heron swimming around the wetlands? Probably not. The reason we swim young chicks is because it helps them develop strong legs and can prevent some of the problems that can occur when they’re raised in captivity. So really, we’re doing it for their own good and they like it about as much as your kids do when you tell them it’s for their own good.

Chicks are carried to the pool by a costumed technician, gently placed in the pool, and then swum around for 20 minutes. Almost all of the chicks hate it, if you can gauge their emotions from their peeping. This year I was promoted to a chick swimmer. I have now been trained to swim the younger chicks in the small pool, which is about 10 feet long, 4 feet wide and 2½ feet deep. It’s placed up on blocks so it’s about hip height.

Now I must confess that after a while, sodden, crying chicks all look alike, so this story is really a composite. It’s dedicated to all of the chicks who are afflicted with curved legs – they have to swim TWICE a day instead of once. As you might have experienced in your own life, when you have to do something that you dislike twice a day, your feelings about it don’t just double – they multiply.

When I first started swimming Peeper (not his real name!), he didn’t seem to mind swimming. He would trill occasionally, mostly when he swam close to the costume, and peep sometimes, but mostly he would swim along without too much difficulty. A few times during each swim, I toss some meal worms into the water when the chick has his back turned. That tasty treat provides a reward that keeps the chick swimming. During early swims, when Peeper would turn and see the worms floating on the surface, he would zoom over and gobble them up, trilling happily. But each time he went for another swim, his enthusiasm dimmed a little more.

Yesterday was the culmination of a week of daily swims. When I went into Peeper’s pen, he assumed his alarm posture – standing up straight and tall (all 6 inches of him!) and peeping loudly as I approached. After I scooped him up, he gave a quiet little peep and then settled down while we walked to the pool. But as soon as he saw the pool, he started crying again.

As I gently lowered him into the water, he started hollering and continued in that vein the entire 20 minutes. A few times during the swim, I tossed some meal worms into the water when he wasn’t looking. When he would turn and see the meal worms, his loud hollering would settle down to minor peeps while he snatched the worms out of the water, and then he would resuming his loud complaining. There was not a single trill.

Finally, when we were done with his exercise, I scooped him out of the water. He trilled his delight, as if to say, “Thanks for ending my misery!” Then he realized he was being held and started peeping again. I walked back to his pen gently set him down on the grass outside.

He was still dry on his topside, but sopping wet underneath. He shook himself a little and then ran over to the adult in the next pen and peeped as if to say, “There’s nothing right about it! Why do they keep dragging me over to that pool and making me swim when you don’t have to do it?” He shook himself again and started preening.

When I checked back a few minutes later, he was all dry and fluffy again. He even trilled at me the next time I went into his pen, so I assume there are no hard feelings. Well, at least until the time comes for his afternoon swim.

Date:June 19, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:OM TEAM GROWSLocation: Main Office
The Eastern Migratory Population is not alone in adding to its numbers. Operation Migration itself has recently added to its personnel roster.

Barbara Corcoran, a resident of Uxbridge, a neighboring community to OM’s Port Perry headquarters location, recently joined OM’s admin staff. Barbara's title is Communications and Fundraising Assistant, but as with all OM staffers, she will without doubt find herself wearing any number of hats.

Her primary focus however will be helping to lighten my load with communications relating to volunteers and memberships, and assisting with the creation of media, website and outreach documents, including our magazine, INformation. Her journalism background will be a great fit for this. Barb will also be gradually working her way into supporting and assisting our fundraising efforts too.

Barbara works 10 to 5 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, so the new voice you hear when you telephone OM will be hers. Take a moment to welcome her to the OM family when you call. You can read Barb's bio on our Meet the Team webpage.

Date:June 18, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
In this update, * = female; D = Direct Autumn Release bird; NFT = Non-functional transmitter

For the period ended June 12, the WCEP Tracking Team reported they estimated the size of the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) as being 101 Whooping cranes. This consisted of 52 males, 43 females and 6 chicks. In comparison, their mid-May report listed 58 males and 44 females for a total of 102.

The difference between the mid-May and mid-June population numbers can be accounted for as follows:
     - The number of males was reduced by six due to the recent mortality of 709, and long-time missing birds 511, 516,      D628, 706, and 724 being presumed and declared dead. (see list below)
     - The number of females was reduced from 44 to 43 with long-time missing bird D744* being presumed and declared dead. (see list below)
     - The addition of the six wild-hatched chicks.

North Dakota



Detected May 16 in flight over core reintroduction area in Wisconsin. Last reported May 22 and 25 in Ransom County. No subsequent reports.



Last reported April 12 in Jackson County.



Last reported May 5-12 in Kosciusko County.

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)


Last reported Feb. 25 - Mar 6 in Jackson County, IN.



Departed Columbia County, WI Dec 10, 2009.


Disappeared from Lawrence County, TN between November 29 and  December 11, 2009.

Missing – Presumed dead and now removed from population number


Last recorded in Paulding County, OH Nov 18, 2008.


Last recorded in Marion County, FL Dec 22, 2008.


Last detected south of NNWR May 6, 2009.


Last detected on NNWR May 11, 2009.


Last detected on NNWR June 23, 2009.


Last detected on NNWR June 25, 2009.


Juneau County

101, 412 & D527*, 713, (last observed May 22), 908*, 914*, 915*, 918


105 - observed June 6 pre-copulation calling

211, 213 & 218*, 216 & 716*

317 & 303*, 307 & 726*, 310 & W601*, 311 & 312*, 316NFT (last observed May 6), 313* (remained with 509 and was observed unison calling June 6), 318 (former mate of 313*)

403 & 309*, 401, 402 & D746*, 408 & 519*

509, 508*, 505NFT & 415*NFT, 506 (last detected May 31 with 926*), 512 & 722*, 514NFT (last observed May 18 with D831)

D627 (sometimes associating with 926*)

712 (sometimes with D831), 717*NFT (mate of mortality 709)

803*, 804 (not detected since June 4), D831,

Fond du Lac County


Wood County

212 & 419*, 703, D838*

Monroe County

416, 904* (suspected)

Jackson County

520*NFT (suspected), 707, D739

Adams County

524 & D742*, 733, 901, 905*

Marathon County


Dodge County

814, 824*, 828, 907*

Waukesha County

927 (last detected at a spring migration stop April 10)

Vernon County

827, 829, 906, 910, 911, 912, 924, 925*, 929, D932*, D937*, D938, D940*, D934*, D935*, D941, D936*, D942*

Taylor County

813* (last reported April 19)

This update was compiled from data supplied by the WCEP Tracking Team of Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, and Matt Strausser.

Date:June 17, 2010Reporter: Trish Gallagher
Subject: The First Time the Engine StartsLocation: Laurel, MD
The other day I got to help Brooke train. He usually trains alone because the chicks get confused if there’s too much going on, so one handler and one trike are enough for the chicks to manage. But once in a chick’s life, Brooke starts the engine for the first time. On this day, he likes a second person there to act like a brood model and provide a safe haven for the chick when the engine starts.

Inside the prop building we play a wetland recording and outside there aren’t any loud noises. There can be a dull roar from cars on roads outside the refuge and the noise of occasional plane flying overhead, but in general, it’s quiet and peaceful (this is also a bonus for the handlers who live in cities most of the year!).

Imagine being six inches tall and following a giant over to a big yellow thing. It’s logical that you would follow the giant – it has meal worms and they taste so much better than that kibble back in your run! There you are, enjoying your snack, trilling your happiness and enjoying the sounds of the meadow. And then, all of a sudden, the yellow thing starts roaring!
PEEP! PEEP! PEEP! The chick looks around wildly. What the heck is that????

That’s where I come in. After Brooke leads the chick into the circle pen, I step inside too. I sit on the ground between the chick and the trike and I spread my costume out so the chick has somewhere to run for comfort while he gets used to what must seem like the end of the world. After all, the noise sounds loud to me and most of the time I live in a world of cars and trains and lawn mowers.

I sit there with a puppet holding a meal worm and gently encourage the chick to go back to his snack. Gradually, the chick starts eating again, maybe even trilling a note or two. Once the chick calms down, Brooke starts revving the engine.
PEEP! PEEP! PEEP! There it goes again!!!! What the heck???

We repeat the process. If all goes well, the next step is for me to exit the pen and walk beside the trike while Brooke drives it around the circle pen. The chick follows along and we stop now and then to dispense more meal worms from the puppet.

It might be a nerve wracking day in the life of an ultralight chick, but it’s a special day for me because I can act like a real crane mama and brood my chick.

Date:June 16, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:AERIAL SURVEYLocation: Main Office

On his 'chick patrol' flight this morning, ultralight pilot Chris Gullikson managed to take photos of some of the new chicks.


Top Left: 403 & 309* attending 18-19 day old chick, Wild1001, on their usual territory.

Top Right: 311 & 312* bracket their new offspring about 200 yards southeast of their nest which is at the edge of very small wetland. Perhaps the adults will move their chick to better habitat.

Bottom Left: Lone adult (either 412 or D527) stands sentinel.

On his flight this morning Chris did not spot both adults of the 412/D527 pair. (What he saw is shown in the photo above.) He noted that the second adult is often seen foraging in a wetland about a mile to the south southeast.

Sighted just southeast of their nest location were 317 & 303*. Chris could see that they were attending one chick. The second chick was not visible, but Chris said it could have been there because they are very hard to pick out.

Date:June 16, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EMP REPRODUCTION FINAL RE-CAPLocation: Main Office
The re-nesting (and late nesting) of seven pairs is finished. All incubated for full term and five pairs hatched a total of seven chicks. The nests of the other two pairs contained non-viable eggs.




403 & 309*

April 29-30

Two chicks hatched May 30-31. One chick disappeared June 6-7.

212 & 419*

May 9-11

Two infertile eggs were swapped with one captive-produced egg from Patuxent June 6. Chick hatched June 7.

311 & 312*

May 9-12

One chick confirmed hatched June 12. Second egg did not hatch.

412 & D527*

May 10-15

One egg was seen in water June 10 and did not hatch. Chick hatched from second egg June 11.

317 & 303*

May 11-12

Second re-nest had hatched one chick by at least June 10. Two chicks were visually confirmed by June13.

  Not Successful

402 & D746*

April 29-30

One egg incubated past full-term was found to be infertile when collected June 7.

213 & 218*

May 6-8

The single non-viable egg was incubated past full-term and was collected June 14.

Date:June 15, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:THE CLASS OF 2010Location: Main Office
I am undoubtedly not alone anxiously waiting to hear how, in addition to Wild1001, the five new wild-hatched chicks are fairing. While we, (or at least me) are waiting not so patiently for more Necedah chick news, thanks to Brooke, and Geoff’s great personality notes, I can fill you in on the ultralight-led Class of 2010 at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. (Perhaps we can twist Geoff’s arm to give us the lowdown on the rest of the chicks.)

Geoff reports that 1001 through 1009 are now living completely outdoors in the White Series Pens. “1001 to 1005 are housed in a two-pen suite, while 1006 to 1009 have a separate pen to themselves,” he said. “This is one of the final steps in their socialization regimen before they get shipped to Necedah. Chicks 1010 to 1017 are still living in the chick propagation building, each in their own separate pen."

Brooke advised that yesterday, all of the chicks designated for Cohort 1 and scheduled for air transport (compliments of Windway Capital) to Necedah on June 30th, had their pre-shipment health checks. Happily, all passed with flying colors.

Eight chicks will comprise Cohort 1. They are numbers 1001, 1002, 1003. 1004, 1005, 1006, 1008, and 1009. Cohort 2, made up of 1010, 1011, 1013. 1014, 1015, 1016, and 1017, won’t make the trip to Wisconsin until they are a little older and have had more training time. Their anticipated arrival date at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is July 9.

The photo to the right shows you one of the ways the Chick Crew at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center keeps track and can tell at a glance exactly what is on tap for each of the chicks on any given day.

If you’ve done the math you will have figured out that the ultralight-led Class of 2010 will consist of a maximum of 15 young cranes. Here’s hoping none develop any problems and they all stay healthy.






Patuxent WRC

May 1


Calgary Zoo

May 4

Always curious, and not afraid to try new things. Trusts the costume, but doesn’t put up with hassling from fellow chicks and isn’t afraid to ‘get in their face’. Is being walked with 1001 in the hope of ‘putting him in his place’.


Necedah NWR

May 4

Can be pretty aggressive towards specific birds, for instance, when being socialized with 1004, would take shots at him whenever he got close enough. 1004 did what he could to keep his distance but 1003 seems to have gotten it out of his system now that both are housed together in the same outdoor pen.


Calgary Zoo

May 5

Gets along with its training partner, 1003.


Patuxent WRC

May 8

Tends to be very stubborn and was always a little more challenging to rear when still a wee chick. It can take handlers as much as a half an hour trying to get 1005 on the walk on scale and stay there long enough to get a reading.


Patuxent WRC

May 11

Seems to be a loner, an introvert, and not fond of confrontations. Is content to wander off and do his own thing. This made 1006 a little hard to raise as a baby chick since its attention was focused elsewhere. It’s been kind of amusing to see him just wander around the white series pens happily foraging while 1008 and 1009 tried to hang out with the costume.


Patuxent WRC 

May 13

Died May 21


Patuxent WRC

May 13

Oddly enough, 1008 seems to be the big cheese of the pseudo cohort of 1006 to 1009. Isn't afraid to throw its weight around even with the bigger birds like 1006 if it thinks it can get away with it. How it will do with the even bigger/older birds, including the no nonsense 1002, remains to be seen. (Geoff says his money is on 1002.)


Patuxent WRC

May 16

Very clingy and dependant. In the White Series pens it goes out of its way to hang out with the costumes to the point it would rather sit and bake in the sun with the costume than go into the shade on its own and get a drink. When trying to wean 1009 off the costume, it spent most of the time trying to find it, or hanging out where it thought the costume was hiding. Now that it is living in the White Series pens without much contact from the costumes it has gotten more independent but is still the first to greet them when they show up.


Calgary Zoo

May 16

Very casual, laid back, and not particularly demanding. Typically goes along with the costume.


Patuxent WRC

May 18

1011 is the Thug. This chick has to be walked separately, although it should be getting walked with 1010 and 1013. Extraordinarily aggressive, it has gone out of its way to go after other birds when it sees them. When leading it by 1008's and 1010's pens it tried to take shots at them from behind the bars. “This scared both of them, and me,” said Geoff. “I actually had to physically push him away from 1008 and 1010 with my puppet since there was no other way of getting him to stop.” 1011 is now being walked with 1002 in the hope that it will show it who’s the boss. Reports are it is working and that 1002 is putting 1011 in its place.


Calgary Zoo

May 19

Died June 2


Patuxent WRC

May 20



Calgary Zoo 

May 21

Seems to be a fairly quick learner and is a pleasant bird to be around.


Patuxent WRC

May 24


Patuxent WRC 

May 26


Patuxent WRC 

May 26

Date:June 14, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHAT A WEEKEND!Location: Main Office

When we headed for home on Friday the latest word we had was that there was still just one wild hatch chick in the Eastern Migratory Population. The chick, Wild1001, was the surviving twin of the hatch by parents 309* and 403.

Recently returned from Wisconsin, Richard van Heuvelen came in the office this morning and gave us some amazing news -
                                          we now have five more wild hatched chicks!!

The Hatch Report Card

212 & 419*: A fertile egg from Patuxent Wildlife Research Center’s captive population was swapped for their two infertile eggs by ICF staff. The day following the swap the chick hatched.

303* & 317: After two failed nesting attempts, they succeeded in hatching two chicks.

412 & D527*: This pair laid two eggs but one was lost due to falling into nearby water. The chick that hatched is the first ever by a Direct Autumn Release bird.

311 & 312*: On his last over-flight, OM pilot Matt Ahrens, reported spotting one chick and one eggs still in this pair’s nest.

With no remaining active nests, it appears the nesting season is officially over. 213 & 218* are still nesting, but being almost a week past the anticipated hatch date that nest is not likely to be productive. One other nest, that of 402 and D746*, was also incubated long past the anticipated hatch date. The egg from that nest was collected and determined by ICF veterinary staff to be infertile.

A lot can happen between hatch / fledge / and migration, and it is likely unrealistic if not over-hopeful to expect 100% survival. But…there’s no denying that the Eastern Migratory Population is working hard to prove they CAN do it.

Date:June 14, 2010 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TRIP TO JAPAN - ACT NOWLocation: Main Office
OM's own Walt Sturgeon, along with Zoologist Dave Davenport, is leading an extraordinary tour to Japan. In addition to special opportunities to view cranes and other birdlife, the tour being arranged through EcoQuest Travel includes visits to cultural sites and the country's natural wonders.

Walt tells us they still have spots left, but the time to express your interest is now. Click this link to read an earlier Field Journal entry about the tour, and to access how to receive more details/information.

Date:June 13, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Thanks to Billy Brooks, from USFWS Jacksonville, FL office, for this suggestion.

Below you will find two links to two absolutely fascinating audio stories about bird migration on the award winning NPR show “Talk of the Nation”. The first one was done at Cornell and consisted of a panel of leading ornithologists and the latest research on migration. They’re MP3 files and you can listen to them via your computer’s speakers just by clicking on the links. I’m sure you will enjoy them and find them quite interesting and worth your time.

 Note: The first one is 47:13 long; the second is only 7:26, but we think you will find both are fascinating and well worth listening to.

Date:June 11, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
A new tool to help us all identify North American birds is now available thanks to financial support from Environment Canada and USGS Geological Survey, and, in-kind support from the Mexican Biodiversity institute CONABIO.

According to its website, “Dendroica is an interactive site developed to help students, volunteers and professionals improve their skills at identifying birds by sight or by sound, particularly so that they can participate in nature survey and monitoring programs.”

Originally developed to aid participants of the Breeding Bird Survey and other scientific surveys of Canadian bird species to develop their bird song identification skills, Dendroica has been expanded to allow anybody to use the program to develop their bird identification skills using both sound and pictures.

The website includes birds from throughout Canada, USA, and Mexico, and participants can contribute new photographs and sound recordings so it will continue to improve over time.

Dendroica allows you to browse through lists of species found in a particular region to see their pictures and listen to their songs and calls. You can then quiz yourself, based on songs or photos or both, to see how well you have learned the species. You can develop your own custom list of species for study.”

To use all the program features or to submit your own photos or sound recordings, you must register and sign in – but it is free. If you prefer, you can use the site as a guest.

Date: June 10, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NEW ITEM IN THE MARKETPLACELocation:Main Office

We've added a new item to the Marketplace that we hope you'll really like! The latest addition is a really neat vial pendant - complete with 8 teeny tiny metallic gold origami cranes inside it. Each little crane has been carefully folded from textured Kingin Washi paper by origami artist Kimberly Vu - a student at York University in Toronto.

I purchased one of these from Kim a couple of months ago and have been wearing it since. I'm constantly getting compliments on it because it's so unique and it's a great way to start a conversation about my favorite subject - cranes!

Everyone here at headquarters liked it so much that we commissioned Kim to create a limited supply of the necklaces so that we could offer it to you. Be sure to check it out - I hope you like it as much as we do!

While you're in the Markplace, be sure to have a look at the other new items that have been added recently. The ballcaps have been re-stocked, and we've added some nice windbreaker jackets, which are ideal for spring and fall birding adventures.


Date:June 9, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:PATUXENT IN THE NEWSLocation:Main Office

Washington Post journalist and reporter, Ed O'Keefe recently visited the crane ecology crew at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. I thought you would enjoy seeing what goes on behind the scenes and meeting just a couple of the many people that work tirelessly all year long, but especially so at this time of the year when all the crane chicks are hatching. Enjoy!

Date: June 8, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NESTING UPDATELocation:Main Office

With Chris Gullikson back following a successful storm chasing trip, he has now relieved Richard van Heuvelen as the pilot at Necedah NWR for nest/chick monitoring duties. Each day, weather permitting, flights are made in the ultralight to monitor the nesting activities, and to check on any chicks.

Using the ultralights allows for low level passes and since the birds are already familiar with these aircraft, they barely even glance skyward as it passes overhead. It's much less intrusive than approaching the nest location on foot - if it's even accessible by foot.

This season twelve pairs initiated nesting - some as early as the first week of April. All of the early April nests failed but this gave those pairs ample opportunity to re-nest, and those pairs that waited to build their first nest of the season till the end of April and into mid-May seem to be sticking to their incubation duties.

The following table provides information on which pairs nested, and when, as well as the outcome or current status.
D=Direct Autumn Release bird, *=female


Est. Date of Incubation


Nest Status

311 & 312* May 9-12 June 7th PM flight: Adult standing on nest. 2 eggs visible
D746 & 402 April 29-30   1 egg seen on previous flights. June 7th AM flight: nest was being incubated.
past expected hatch date. Determined un-viable. Removed from nest. Adults no longer at nest during PM overflight.
505 & 415 Discovered April 1   Nest failed. 2 eggs collected April 6, taken to ICF. 1 egg hatched.
310 & W601* April 3   Nest failed. 1 egg collected April 9, taken to ICF.
303* & 317 April 2   Nest failed. 2 eggs collected April 12, taken to ICF and transferred to PWRC. Both hatched.
Re-nest May 2-3   Nest failed. 1 egg collected for transfer to PWRC.
2nd re-nest May 11-12 June 7th AM flight: Nest was being incubated. second adult flew in. Nest exchange observed. 2 eggs seen.
313* & 318 April 5   Nest failed. April 11-12
212 & 419* Discovered April 5   Nest failed. April 14. 2 eggs determined infertile
Re-nest May 9-11 possible unknown. 30 miles northeast of refuge prohibits frequent aircraft checks.
309* & 403 April 2-5   Nest failed April 11
Re-nest April 30 Hatched 2 chicks May 31st. June 6th AM flight: Both chicks observed being attended to by both parents. June 7th AM flight: Chicks were not seen on first pass, both adults were very close to nest. Returned 20-30 minutes later and saw one chick with parents in same location, near nest. June 7th PM flight: still only 1 chick visible. (Photo below)
213 & 218* April 2-5   Nest failed April 12. No eggs.
Re-nest May 8 June 7th PM flight: Nest was being incubated. 1 egg seen on previous flights
401 & 508* April 4   Nest failed April 7th. 1 egg collected. Taken to ICF
D527* & 412 May 10-15 June 7th AM and early PM flights. Nest was being incubated.
408 & 519* April 4   Nest failed. 2 eggs collected April 9. Taken to ICF.


Above: Adults 309* & 403 tend to their single chick on June 7th. The pair hatched two chicks on Memorial Day.

Date: June 7, 2010Reporter: Trish Gallagher
Subject:THE BEST JOBS IN THE WORLDLocation:Laurel, MD

I have the two best jobs in the world. The first is as a faculty member, where I have the privilege of teaching very bright engineering students, advising graduate students on their research, doing research on sustainability and engineering, and working to incorporate sustainability across our curriculum, all while serving as a role model for women in engineering and science. Two of the many freedoms of being a faculty member are that I can set my own hours and I can work remotely if I don’t have a specific need to be on campus. These freedoms are what allowed me to take my other best job as an OM intern.

Chick season starts about 6 weeks before our spring term ends, so I devised a clever plan to allow me to do both of the best jobs in the world. I started at Patuxent the week after Mother’s Day. In preparation, I crammed all of my on-campus responsibilities into 3 days a week so I could spend long weekends working with my babies. My routine is to get up before dawn on Friday mornings and drive the 2½ hours to Patuxent, where I spend 4 days with my crane “kids.” I do the rest of my academic work in the evenings. Monday night I drive home to get ready for work Tuesday morning. Then I work at my academic job Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, where I interact with my student “kids”, finishing just in time to leave again Friday morning.

“Are you crazy?” I hear this frequently when people learn about my avocation, but especially when they hear about my current schedule. There have been a few days recently where I have pondered this question myself, and the past week brought me many occasions where I doubted my ability to keep up the pace – at least with my sanity intact. It was especially tough Friday morning when the alarm went off at 4:45. I longed to stay in bed and I actually hit the snooze several times before I mustered the will to get out of bed.

I arrived at Patuxent just in time for cleaning pens. I caught a glimpse of one of my babies as they were locked outside for cleaning. I scooped poop, filled feeders, and mopped the floors, still wondering if I could keep up the pace. When we were done, Barb asked me and Geoff to walk 6, 8, and 9 together. I found a puppet and a vocalizer, put on my costume and headed outside. I opened the latch to 8’s door and then went down the aisle to let 9 out. 9’s head came up as the door opened and he chirped at me – the happy little trill – and then came running towards me. As we exited his pen, he did a happy dance, stretched out his wings and took off running. 8 was chirping too and I opened his door after 9 went by and the three of us walked out to meet Geoff where he was waiting with 6. We spent a blissful 20 minutes in the farm pond field, walking back and forth in the shade, watching our kids running around exploring their world. Periodically one would stop to forage while the rest of us kept going. A few moments later, it would look up, see us ahead, stretch out those featherless wings and run like crazy to rejoin us. I listened to the sounds in the meadow, punctuated with the peeps and trills from the chicks, and breathed deeply. I marveled at how big they had gotten during the few days I was gone. How could I possibly miss this?

On Friday I will attend commencement and watch my other “kids” graduate. I will personally hood my two graduating Ph.D. students and marvel at their intellectual growth, and be proud of their persistence and motivation in pursuing such a challenge. How could I possibly miss that?

“Are you crazy?” Absolutely. And brimming with pride over both species of kids. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Date:June 7, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:BE ON THE LOOKOUT (BOLO)Location: Main Office
The June issue of THE BIRDING COMMUNITY E-BULLETIN noted that they had been specifically asked by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), “….to spread the word about one aspect of the current BP oil issue.”

“Birders have a special opportunity to ‘be on the lookout’ (BOLO) for oil slicks and oiled birds outside the area of direct impact. Pelagic birders and folks watching shorebirds might even take photos and make reports of oiled birds from as wide an area as possible, not just in the Gulf area, but along Atlantic Coast as well.

According to USFWS, "Even anecdotal reports will help to determine the extent of oiling geographically. It would be particularly significant if any oiled birds or remote slicks were observed in the Gulf Stream."

The US Fish and Wildlife Service advised that oiled wildlife should be reported to a BP hot line set up for this purpose. The number to call is 1-866-557-1401.

Date: June 6, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MORTALITIESLocation:Main Office

Dr. Richard Urbanek advised that yesterday International Crane Foundation Tracking Intern Matt Strausser and Operation Migration pilot Richard van Heuvelen discovered the decomposed carcass of adult male whooping crane no. 709 in a jack pine woodland 1 mile south of the southeastern Necedah NWR boundary.

The area was not crane habitat, and no. 709 may have dropped while airborne. No. 709 was last observed alive on May 22nd and was apparently dead by May 24th, the next date when his mate no. 717 was observed alone. The remains will be forwarded to the National Wildlife Health Center, Madison, Wisconsin, for necropsy.

Nos. 709 and 717 had remained together since they were members of the same juvenile cohort. They had a history of sporadic inadequate human avoidance, but none of these problems were documented during the current spring. The two birds were old enough to become a possible breeding pair in 2010; however, they did not establish a territory. The estimated maximum size of the eastern migratory population of whooping cranes is now 101 birds (57 males, 44 females).

We also received word yesterday that chick no. 1012 died as a result of persistent respiratory issues.

Date: June 4, 2010Reporter: Christine Barnes
Subject: When is Enough, Enough?Location: Northfield, Vermont
The Greek and Roman Empires were legendary in their opulence and power. But the Greek tragedies written at the time revealed an awareness about their culture: characters in Greek tragedies usually had a hamartia, or fatal flaw. Hubris, or pride, presumption and arrogance, was one of the chief character traits which brought down peasants and emperors alike.

Have we learned nothing? “It’s just human nature.” Our arrogance seems to be okay, forgiven, passed off as acceptable, regardless of the consequences. How dare we allow an oil rig in the fragile Gulf of Mexico to exist with no failsafe to prevent a catastrophic event? When is ‘NO’ to the plan for more coal mines, more oil rigs, not loud enough? The money to build these destructive facilities, where too many people die every year, is desperately needed to fund creative solutions to our energy crisis.

How is it that financial institutions in this country can bring us to our knees, peering over the edge of the precipice, as close to the brink of economic disaster as we dare to imagine, as we were in the 1930s? Must we regulate everything, because ‘human nature’, in its avarice, is predictably not trust-worthy? Whatever happened to being ‘my brother’s keeper’?

How many destroyed lives do we have to witness before we harness the destructive traits of greed, arrogance and self-centered lack of concern for others and the greater good of our planet? People are already without homes, jobs, and now an entire fishing industry is going under - all because we seem unable to make any substantial personal sacrifice, or to demand that action be taken to save us from ourselves. The ensuing destruction of these coastal wetlands will result in a domino-effect, consequences we will feel as a nation for decades to come.

For 80 years, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast in northern Florida has been a source of hope and restoration. People who visit seem to understand its mission in the big environmental picture. They see it as a safe haven for themselves, for wildlife. Now the refuge and its wild population lie in the path of millions of gallons of oil, oozing their deadly suffocating way into the waters and wetlands.

The refuge serves thousands of migrating birds each year, is home to countless wild residents, from alligators to salamanders, from Monarch butterflies to Gopher Tortoises. It serves as a nursery for invertebrates, fish and crustaceans that feed humans and animals alike. The refuge is one of the two migration destinations for the Whooping Crane Recovery Project. My husband and I have worked at St. Marks for three consecutive winters as resident volunteers: we mourn the impending loss of wildlife about to be engulfed by this disaster.

It is deeply painful to watch this polarized country bicker over its responsibilities to this planet and to each other. We are so blinded by consumption, so unaware of the consequences of our irresponsible over-population, so full of denial about the evidence that indicates that we are in trouble – all because it’s too inconvenient to change: it’s someone else’s problem.

The Greek and Roman Empires are gone. One has to wonder how much longer we can sustain our own culture, given our willful disregard of the numerous warning signals. The Copenhagen climate negotiations fell short of a global consensus for action.

No one demanded that BP America place dead-sure shut-off valves on its rig. Nuclear waste is a disaster waiting to happen. We can recycle, buy more efficient cars, put up a couple of solar panels and a wind turbine. We can put our money under our mattress instead of trusting Wall Street. But we need so much more.

Some say we don’t need or want big government. But it’s clear that we do. We need leadership and action, regulations and legislation. And we need them now.

Note: In addition to being a freelance journalist, wildlife advocate, and a committed environmentalist and conservationist, Christine, along with husband Gordon, assist with monitoring of the ultralight-led 'Class of the Year' wintering at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

Date: June 3, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:GOING IN CIRCLESLocation:Main Office

OM intern extraordinaire Geoff Tarbox sent me a quick email update last night and reports that he and the rest of the crane ecology crew at Patuxent have had 24 chicks hatch, but with the loss of #1007 to a respiratory condition, they are currently caring for 23 chicks. Now, it's important to remember that not all of these 23 chicks are destined for the ultralight reintroduction - in fact some will be delegated to other reintroduction methods, but they do need to be cared for and tended to.

Initially, each chick is trained individually for approximately 20 minutes in the circle pen. This process involves leading the chick, using the puppet head, from the propagation building, out to the circle pen. Once at the pen, the chick is lead to the inside and then the handler will get into position in the wingless ultralight, which is on the outside of the pen. The puppet head is extended over the low fence which separates chick from trike and prevents the young bird from accidentally getting under the wheels of the aircraft.

The handler will then start the ultralight engine and slowly begin moving it around the perimeter, while encouraging the chick inside the pen to follow the puppet head, which dispenses mealworms from time-to-time. If all goes well, it looks like this:

As time goes by and the chicks are adept at following the trike as individuals, they are then trained in pairs. That's the stage that some of the older chicks are at now. Numbers 1001 and 1002 are currently training together, as are 1003 and 1004, 1005 and 1006, 1008 and 1009, 1010 and 1011, and finally 1012 and 1013.

Geoff reports that the youngest chicks, including 1014, 1015 haven't even begun circle pen training but have passed the "start/stop" trike test, so should begin very soon, possibly even today.

Date: June 2, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:BLACK FLY COUNTSLocation:Main Office

Jeb Barzen, Director of Field Ecology with the International Crane Foundation has been conducting black fly sampling at several locations in the southern portion of Wisconsin every two weeks for the past few months. He recently submitted results from the most recent sampling and I thought it would be interesting to include them in the table below to compare numbers.

Location April 28 May 15 May 27
Mud Lake 50 - 80 0 <10
ICF 2 1 0
WI River 75-100 30 - 50 150
Necedah 7,000 - 10,000 2,000 - 3,000 15
Schoenberg 15 - 25 10 - 20 <10
Briggsville 10 - 20 20 - 40 20
Horicon 10 - 20 30 - 60 1
Poygan (Wolf River) 10 - 20 5 - 10 0

Date: May 31, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:THIS NEWS JUST IN!!Location:Main Office

Adult Whooping cranes 309* and 403 have successfully hatched TWINS!!!

Operation Migration pilots have been flying reconnaissance flights over the refuge whenever weather permits since the beginning of the nesting season. During each flight details are gathered on the location of one or both birds in each nesting pair, and submitted to the nest monitoring team.

Richard van Heuvelen just called with the fantastic news and reported that he was unable to fly over the refuge last night or this morning due to rain but did get airborne at lunchtime today when he spotted both chicks with their parents. During yesterday's noon-hour flight, one bird was still sitting on the nest. This leads us to believe that one chick hatched out late yesterday and its sibling very likely hatched this morning. Richard also stated that both parents appear to be tending to the chicks and that he'll attempt to capture some images soon.

UPDATE: As promised here's a photo showing both chicks and one parent, still at the nest. (click image for larger view)

Those of you who have been supporting our work and following along since 2003 may recall that #309 has had quite travel itinerary. You can read about her travels and subsequent capture and relocation here.

Congratulations to the entire Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership!

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