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

Date: October 31, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: LaSalle Cty, IL

We started out years ago when we flew the easterly route calling Indiana, 'Windi-anna'. More recently we nicknamed Wisconsin 'Wind-consin'. Looking at what we might have for weather tomorrow makes me think we may have to start thinking about a new moniker for Illinois.

The projection is for winds out of the ESE on the surface and 20 to 25mph out of the WSW aloft. Not what we're looking for at all! It wouldn't be surprising if tomorrow was a Down Day in LaSalle County.

Share |

Date: October 31, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:AND WE'RE READY TO DO IT AGAINLocation: LaSalle Cty, IL

After their release this morning the birds just stood there until Geoff and Caleb got themselves hidden in the pen trailer. Then I waited a few minutes till they settled down. As soon as they started to assume flight posture off we went into the morning sun.

All nine birds followed well with #1 lagging behind. After a few miles he caught up, and we headed on course for a one and a half hour flight to LaSalle County. A few more miles along the way and we approached Highway 20 where it is still a freeway. This seemed to spook the birds and they scattered in all directions.

I circled around picking picking up three of the birds, and then with some persuasion, two more. We, that is me, #1, 6, 7, 10 and 12, crossed back over the freeway and headed on course. Two birds were on my left wing and three on my right. The last bird on my right was tired. It's mouth was wide open and it was breathing hard. I slowed up trying to give it a break, but we were unable to climb and we had more freeways to cross.

I let the trike slip to the right as the two lead birds slid to the left over the wing to join the two on the left. This allowed the tired bird on the right - who it turns out was #1 - to have the wing all to himself  As #1 settled in on the wing he began to close his mouth until finally he closed it completely.

Then we began a slow climb and were able to cross Interstate 39 at 2500 feet above sea level( ASL). Although the birds seemed nervous, they followed across. Soon we were over the wind farms which got them curious, but it was something they could see above us but that I could not that appeared to be making them nervous. And that made them try to fly under my wing.

After much back and forth maneuvering they were once again flying off the wings, exchanging wings and positions occasionally for the rest of the flight. #1, now recovered, seemed the best behaved. He still flew along on the right wing, sometimes back, as other birds came over to take the lead.

As we approached our destination I began a slow decent from 2900 feet ASL. I still needed to circle around about five times to lose enough altitude before landing. The cranes went into the waiting pen easily, and I was off to join up with Walt and David to return to Winnebago County to pick up the travel pen from there.

Meanwhile, Joe and Brooke had rounded up the other 4 birds and led them back to the pen, initially for another try. By that time however, the air was trashy and the birds had to be crated instead.

Caleb and I have now set up our second travel pen at the next stopover in line - in Livingston County. That means we're ready to do it all again.

Share |

Date:October 31, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 23Location: LaSalle Cty, IL
Air Miles:


Accum Miles


From - To 

 Winnebago County - LaSalle Cty, IL
October 31st today....will it be a trick or will it be a treat was the question. Popping outside around 3:30am it seemed to be leaning to 'treat'. As dawn approached and the surface wind started stirring we wondered if it was going to turn into a 'trick'.

In the end we had a Halloween treat. Today's lead pilot, Richard van Heuvelen launched with all nine cranes at around 7:50am CST. From the Departure Flyover viewing location we could see there seemed to be some reluctance on the birds part to go, go, go. Then, what appeared to be a start to the flight disintegrated into a crane rodeo.

At last word, 5 made it to the travel pen set up in LaSalle County and we believe that Brooke and Joe ended up doing a round up to lead the remaining four back to the pen. They may be making their journey in a crate as by that time the air was starting to get trashy. More in the lead pilot's report later this afternoon.

Three recent consecutive flight days followed by just one Down Day in Winnebago County, IL, made comparing our progress irresistible. I just couldn't resist looking up the Migration Timeline to see how we were doing versus previous years. On this date last year we flew from Winnebago to LaSalle County - same as today. In 2009 it was November 15th before we reached LaSalle, and in 2008, the first year on this more westerly route, it was even later - November 18th.

Surely that's something to WHOOP! about!! C'mon...let's hear you Give a WHOOP loud and proud.

Share |

Date:October 30, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Winnebago Cty, IL

Tough call to predict what our chances of a flight tomorrow might be. The forecast calls for a quartering headwind on the surface and favorable but a bit strong winds aloft.

We'd like to believe what's awaiting us in the morning is flyable, but with the Class of 2011's record we're less confident than we might be otherwise. All things considered, we think the odds of flying are perhaps 50-50 at best.

IF it is a fly day, Linda and I will be at the flyover site on Hoisington Road, just outside Pecatonica, IL. Click here for directions to the departure flyover site and a map.

Share |

Date: October 30, 2011 - Entry 2Reporters: Walter Sturgeon and Joe Duff
Subject:DELAYED NEWS RE #2-11 - AND HOW YOU CAN HELPLocation: Winnebago Cty, IL

Note: We have received many, many emails asking for an update regarding #2-11. We know you've been wondering and waiting for a report, but let us explain. The sighting of #2 we had reported came late the afternoon of Wednesday, October 26th. It was after dusk by the time it was checked out everyone made it back to camp. At that time and since internet connectivity has been sporadic at best and in fact, for the most part, non-existent. Couple that with three consecutive fly days (two of those involving crating and transporting birds), breaking camp, and being short drivers, making extra trips from the new stopover back to the previous one to get all our vehicles/trailers moved, etc, etc. I hope everyone will understand that we are doing our best... Liz

The monotony of a Down Day afternoon was broken by a phone just after 3pm on Wednesday, October 26th. A friend of Tom Schultz, (the volunteer who coordinated visits to the blind for us this summer) had spotted a juvenile Whooping crane with a flock of Sandhills in a field about 25 miles to the north of our then location.

After checking with the WCEP tracker to make sure that a DAR bird hadn't wandered into that area, Brooke, Caleb, Richard and I jumped in the two vehicles equipped with tracking equipment and headed for the spot the juvenile had been sighted. It took us about 45 minutes to negotiate the Wisconsin country roads and the seemingly scores of deer that wanted to cross in front of us.

We arrived at the spot to find Tom Schultz waiting at the side of the road keeping an eye on the young Whooping crane through a spotting scope. The bird was with a flock of 150 or so Sandhill cranes behind a pond in the center of a harvested grain field. Tom confirmed that the crane had a black temporary band with an antenna streaming down the leg. There was little doubt that it was our missing #2, especially since we could account for all of the other 17 juvenile Whooping cranes in Wisconsin.

We were not receiving a signal from #2's transmitter; it was clearly no longer functioning. A signal from the transmitters can usually be picked up from several miles away in an aircraft, and the lack of that signal obviously hampered our ability to find #2 during the aerial search done of the area.

Richard and Brooke suited up in their costumes and started into the field playing the crane brood call that the young cranes respond to during training sessions. By the time they got no more than 100 feet or so into the field all the cranes were on alert, including #2. She exhibited no obvious reaction or response to the brood call or to the costumes. As the two costumes moved closer, some of the Sandhill cranes jumped and flew. Others followed closely behind them, including our Whooper. We watched them fly off to the northeast and we tried to follow, but we lost sight of the birds within a few minutes.

In our search we did come across about 250 Sandhills feeding in a field in the general area of where we thought the initial group had landed. But once again, when an attempt was made with the brood call and the costumes, the birds flew off. We didn't see our Whooper among them though, so it's possible that this was an entirely separate group of cranes altogether. By this time it was starting to get dark. We split up and looked around in the harvested grain fields and wetlands in the general area but did not find #2 again.

It was comforting to see the bird and that it appeared in good health, but frustrating that it didn’t respond to either the brood call or the costume. It is going to be very difficult to recover the bird while it is associating with such a large group of Sandhills. Until we can relocate #2 and figure out how to isolate it from Sandhills, will have to be content with watching it from afar.

Each of our birds is fitted with a leg-band mounted transmitter that sends out a radio beep on a specific frequency. We program all the frequencies for our birds into a portable receiver, then we can tune in the frequency of the bird we need to find and use a directional antenna to pick up its signal. All we have to do is rotate the antenna in a circle and listen for the beep. We aim the antenna at the strongest signal and that tells us which direction the bird is from us.

The system is effective, but only works on the line-of-sight theory. That means if the transmitter and the receiver are both on the ground, the signal will be affected by hills and trees, and the range will be limited to only a few miles. If the bird is flying at the time, that line-of-sight is improved and the range increases to maybe 20 miles. The same is true if the bird is on the ground and the trackers are airborne. If we get lucky and both the bird and the trackers are flying, the range can increase to 100 miles – on a good day.

Attaching these units is the hard part. Each bird has to be grabbed and picked up by an experienced handler. The bird is held under one arm with its head extending out the back. That arm encircles the wings and keeps them from opening. The hand of that arm clasps the legs just above the hock, with one finger between the legs to keep them aligned while the other hand holds the lower portion of the leg so they can’t kick out. The birds often settle down in that position but if they struggle, you have to know how to restrain them without squeezing. It takes practice to hold a bird securely without causing strained muscles or soreness. It’s not easy.

Unlike your pet parrot that may like its neck scratched, Whooping cranes do not like to be touched. In fact, pecking or grabbing with their beak is how they assert their dominance. So picking a bird up under your arm is considered a major affront. Often after banding, the birds are wary of us for a week or more. That has had a disruptive effect on our flight training, so instead of fitting them with their permanent tracking devices during our training season, we use snap on bands that can be easily attached without lifting them off the ground. Once we get to Florida and their affinity to us is no longer crucial to the migration, they undergo the insulting process of being held while their permanent radio and ID bands are glued in place.

The temporary radio bands have been used for a number of years. They are fitted in August or September, removed in January, then reused the following season on the next generation. Before they were attached to this group, they were all tested, but there really is no way to knowing when the batteries will die.

That is obviously what happened to #2’s radio band. Without it, there is no way to track the bird except to rely on public sightings, and we hope you will help with this.

It is a juvenile, so its white feathers are still dappled with brown. When last seen it was associating with a hundred or so Sandhill cranes. If we can find it again we can try a slower approach and maybe use our vocalizer to broadcast the call with which it is familiar. That might spark its interest and encourage it to come a little closer. Without the Sandhills all anxious at our presence, it might come to us.

At some point #2 has to be caught and fitted with a permanent marking band. All of the birds that have been reintroduced into the eastern population have been designated as 'experimental' and therefore carry the status of threatened rather than endangered.

The Endangered Species Act carries with it some strict rules that limit how much we can interfere with them. Our techniques go beyond those rules, so the seven States through which we pass on our migration, and thirteen others into which they might disperse, have all agreed to allow that lower designation. However one of the conditions is that they be permanently marked with a leg band. That band has yet to be fitted to #2.

We have never lost a bird before, so this is a situation we didn’t anticipate. We will have to rethink our banding protocol in the future, but for now we hope someone spots #2 and we can capture her. At that point, whether she is reunited with her flock mates will depend on where she is found and how much of the migration she will miss if we move her.

Date: October 30, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 22 - DOWN DAY 1Location: Winnebago Cty, IL

The warmer temperature this morning was a good indication that we'd had a change in wind direction. Coming out of the ESE with gusts in the double digits, it was plain that there would be no planes and cranes taking to the air today. It will be Down Day 1 in Winnebago County, IL.

As we migrated through each state this season, one item of OM Gear will go on sale. While we are in Illinois, our OM Logo'd long sleeve mock neck tees will be marked down from their regular price of $20 to $15!

These soft, comfy tees  have some stretch to them and are available in sizes Extra Small to Extra Large. Don't wait to order though as there are limited quantities of some sizes. Click here to read the description on our MarketPlace webpage or to place your order. Sale ends when we reach Kentucky - or supplies run out - which ever comes first.

Date: October 29, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 21 & PREDICTINGLocation: Winnebago Cty, IL
Air Miles:


Accum Miles


From - To 

 Green County, WI - Winnebago County, IL

No one is sorrier than I am for the absence of an entry here today. For several days I battled connection issues. The odd problem went to sporadic and that escalated until I couldn't get online at all. A visit to a Verizon store this afternoon, a new air card, and some software fixes have got me back in business. Good thing too - I was down to two hairs left to tear out.

What happened today? In a nutshell - WE FLEW. And when I say we flew, I mean three pilots in three trikes with ALL NINE cranes! How do you like them pumpkins?!?!? Joe was lead and got off with all nine chicks. In only seconds, one broke away leaving 6 on his wing and 2 trying their darndest to catch up.

We'll have all the details for you (tomorrow) in a lead pilot update, but knew you'd be anxious to know how today's tale ended. In well under an hour, Joe arrived at the Illinois pensite with 6; Brooke shortly thereafter with 2; and Richard brought up the rear with the one remaining crane.

This was the first migration leg that all nine of the Class of 2011 made the entire journey under their own steam. Hope they remember today's lesson for the next flight.

A flight tomorrow appears unlikely based on what we're seeing on the weather sites. The wind is swinging around to come out of the ESE which will present the cranes with a double digit almost on the nose headwind.

Share |

Date:October 28, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Looking ahead at tomorrow morning's weather forecast I'm currently seeing surface winds predicted to be out of the west-northwest at 6mph and aloft; 15 knots from the northwest. Skies should be clear, and the temperature a chilly 31 degrees so undoubtedly there will be frost to contend with.

The only factor that could prohibit a launch in the morning is that the team is currently in hilly terrain and this could increase turbulence as the wind rolls over the hills. My best guess is that there is a 60% chance of the team saying goodbye to Wisconsin in the morning.

The public flyover location for this stopover is at the top of a hill on County Road N, just north (~1/2 mile) of the intersection of County Roads N and C. Coming along CR N from the north, the apex of the hill is just past Ron Hill Lane (on your right). Coming from the south, if you pass Ron Hill Lane (on your left) you've gone a bit too far. Click here for Google Map.

Please keep in mind that you could make the trip and be disappointed as weather conditions may not permit a departure. And if you do plan on making the trip, sunrise occurs tomorrow at 7:28 CT - and dress warmly.

Share |

Date: October 28, 2011Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:A GOOD DAYLocation:Green County, WI
Air Miles:


Accum Miles


From - To 

 Columbia County - Green County, WI

Most of us on the migration team stick our heads out the door for the first time of the day at least an hour before sunrise. The air is generally calm and all the truck windshields are still clear. But as the horizon lightens up, the frost begins to form. The coldest part of the dark is just before dawn. Last night we managed to get the wing covers on all the aircraft before the dew began to settle and as expected, by sunup they were glistening white.

We took off from the Lodi Airport, where we were camped courtesy of the Lodi Flying Club, and headed north a few miles to the bean field where the birds were penned. Brooke was lead pilot for the morning, so he landed while Richard and I positioned ourselves to fly chase. All nine birds took off with Brooke and followed him through a tight turn to avoid the tress. Within minutes, four birds locked onto his wing while the rest turned back. Knowing that if he turned with them, chaos would ensue, he kept going; content to get at least four to follow. A mile out #7 peeled away from Brooke and headed home and I moved in to pick her up.

Back at the pen Richard collected the remaining five, and after the inevitable aerial rodeo, managed to get them on course. Over the radio everyone tallied their followers and to our amazement we had them all.

Lou Cambier is a long time supporter from Pecatonica, Illinois. He is a retired 747 captain who now flies a Cessna 185. That’s an aircraft normally used for bush work, and Lou flies it like it was fastened to the seat of his pants. He generously volunteered to fly top cover for us this morning, and Linda Boyd, our volunteer outreach assistant, flew as his observer/spotter.

Lou circled over Richard who had most of the problem birds, while Brooke and I headed south with our charges. Around 12 miles from the starting point, #5 made an abrupt turn, leaving Brooke’s wing and heading north. Brooke turned his remaining two birds and chased him back. Number five was low, and so far ahead, that Brooke gave up the chase and called Lou for help.

Brooke then turned back on course and we listened as Lou and Linda searched for a white dot on the Wisconsin landscape. Surprisingly they found him, and we listened to his communication with the ground crew. It was obvious the bird was lost as he kept flying back and forth while Lou sent Geoff and Caleb in circles at the whim of the wandering bird. Finally it landed in a field next to two Sandhills and Lou talked the ground crew to its location. Not yet friendly with his new acquaintances, it was happy to see Caleb and Geoff and it flew right to them.

Meanwhile, Richard was losing altitude trying to keep #6 with him. That is the bird that had to be picked up on two previous flights when he balked at crossing open water. This time it was the highway that sent him back. Rather than lose one in unknown territory Richard landed with them all and sent his coordinates to Lou who relayed them to Walter Sturgeon and David Boyd in the tracking van. Within minutes they were on scene and put #6 in a crate again.

After a rest, Richard took off with numbers 1, 4, 9 and 10 and flew the remaining 20 miles without incident. With the headwind, that took almost an hour. When they arrived, Brooke was near the pen and the other cranes decoyed the last four down. In another hour, numbers 5 and 6 arrived in the van and were delivered to the pen as well. This was a milestone flight as #1 made it the entire way. This was the crane that was lost in the woods with Caleb back in August. His minor injuries kept him out of flight training for a few days and that started his reluctance to fly.

It is hard to know what these birds are thinking, or if they think at all, but for #1, flying only meant a circuit or two around the pensite before landing. We knew if we could get him to follow for at least one leg, he would get the message. Now we have to make sure it is a lesson well learned. A couple of consistent flying days would help.

If Lou Cambier hadn’t volunteered to fly top-cover today, and if he hadn’t spotted that bird in the dappled topography of southern Wisconsin, it would have become familiar with its new Sandhill friends and we might have lost it like #2-11.

Share |

Date: October 27, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:PredictingLocation:Main Office

The entire team is preoccupied today doing everything that needs doing so the lead pilot report will be posted as soon as it becomes available (which may be tomorrow).

Speaking of tomorrow the chances of advancing are looking very good. Surface winds are forecast to be 1 mph and out of the northwest at sunrise (7:26 CT) - aloft, from the same direction and just a bit stronger.

Share |

Date: October 27, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY - 19Location: Marquette Cty, WI
Air Miles:


Accum Miles


From - To 

 Marquette County - Columbia County , WI

Apologies for late posting folks. Enormous connection problems.

As mentioned in yesterday afternoon's "Predicting" entry, today indeed turned out to be a 'definite maybe' but not in the sense it was meant at the time.

Lead pilot Richard launched with the Class of 2011, but it was only moments before they broke and tried to scatter. After a bit of crane rodeo, he managed to get away with three birds. There there was more rodeo activity before Brooke kept one bird on his wing long enough to get going. That left Joe to contend with the remaining five.

On several occasions, the five formed up off Joe's wing and it would look like they'd be off. Each time, one would break and then another and before you knew it, they'd all be heading back toward the pen. On the last attempt I was about to start cheering as the trike with the five cranes behind were close to getting out of sight. As it turns out, it was too soon to be thinking of cheering.

Sweeping around, the cranes cut a wide swath as the trike moved to cut in front and cut them off. Soon the tree line block the view, and it was about then that Joe's voice came over the radio saying one bird had gone down and landed. Next he was heard to say he was bring the other four back to the pen so he could go to the downed bird.

After dropping off the four cranes for Geoff and Caleb to put in the pen, Joe returned to the air to go to the bird on the ground. Geoff and Caleb also raced off in the white van to the coordinates provided by Joe. That's the last I've heard from that threesome.

Meantime, news came in about the 'fliers' - human and avian. Brooke flew all the way with #4, although at one point he lost him when the bird spotted Richard and his birds and tried to descend to join them. Richard got his three cranes about halfway to Columbia County before they took to the ground - led by culprit #6 I gather. Richard called in the Tracking van, and Walter and David boxed up #6 to make the rest of his journey by road. You'll remember that #6 is the crane that has consistently balked at flying over large open expanses of marsh and water.

Without the bad influence of #6, the other two birds, #10 and #12 locked onto Richard's wing and followed like champs the rest of the way.

Between what I witnessed and what I've been able to piece together, that's about all the news I can provide at this point. We'll have to see how close I've come to actual when the lead pilot's report comes in later today - although it may take all three pilots to give us today's whole story.

It may be quite a while before the world of cranes and planes is sorted out today so I think it safe to say any further reports here are likely to be posted late.

Share |

Date: October 26, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Marquette Cty, WI

At best guess, we think that an opportunity for a flight tomorrow could be described as a 'definite maybe'. Nice cold temperature, winds that could turn out to be flyable, and the odds for rain are low. With the unstable conditions we've been experiencing however, we're not getting our hopes up too high at this point.

As usual, we'll just have to wait and see what the morning brings. If only I could remember where I put my crystal ball.

Share |

Date: October 26, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie

While the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center rears many of the birds that are released in Wisconsin, and US Fish & Wildlife Service and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staffs perform monitoring, the lion’s share of the field work on the reintroduction project is conducted by WCEP's two non-profit partners, the International Crane Foundation (ICF) and Operation Migration (OM).

ICF is responsible for the Direct Autumn Release program and tracking the adult population. Operation Migration assists with chick rearing/conditioning and training at Patuxent, operates the Ultralight led program, and looks after winter monitoring at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. As non-profits relying on donor support to fund their work, ICF and OM are keenly aware of the importance of donor recognition.

One of the challenges for all non-profits is figuring out how to appropriately acknowledge the dedicated supporters who make our work possible. Early on in the project, one of the ideas developed by WCEP was a Donor Recognition Board. You may have seen this large, plank signboard adjacent to the old Headquarters Building at the Necedah NWR. Your name may even be engraved on one of its many brass plaques.

Without the contributions made by our individual and corporate supporters there would be no Whooping cranes in the eastern flyway. There wouldn’t have been thousands of awareness-raising media stories, nor the multitude of public education opportunities. There wouldn’t be hundreds of thousands of students a year using lesson plans based on Whooping crane migration (thanks to WCEP co-operator Journey North).

There wouldn’t have been ten years of popular and hugely successful Necedah Lion’s Club Whooping Cranes Festivals drawing people from across North America, nor, in all likelihood, would there be a new visitor’s center at the Necedah Wildlife Refuge. Inarguably, Whooping cranes and the WCEP reintroduction project put Necedah on the world's wildlife conservation map.

Despite reintroductions no longer happening on the Necedah refuge, Whooping cranes will continue to make it their home for many generations. Thus WCEP thought the Donor Recognition Board would remain at the Necedah refuge in acknowledgement of the contributions of those who made it all possible, and of the decade of enormous effort their generosity allowed. However, that was not to be.

With the new visitor’s center completed and other new work planned, WCEP was advised by the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge that they no longer had an appropriate place for the Donor Recognition Board and asked that it be removed. The matter was referred to WCEP's Administration and Communications Team (ACT Team) to resolve. The ACT Team dispatched Richard van Heuvelen and Brooke Pennypacker to remove the Board from the refuge and it was stored in what once was OM's aircraft hangar until a home for it could be found.

Believing that the Donor Recognition Board was an important piece of Whooping crane history - a decade of history that was made in Necedah - the ACT Team felt it should remain in Necedah. With the help of past Lion's Club Whooping Crane Festival organizer Dave Arnold and his fellow Lions, the Village of Necedah Council was approached. They agreed to give this historical artifact a home, and as a result, it will soon proudly be on display there.

The ACT team also wanted to close out ten years of effort at Necedah by honoring the community that extended friendship and support to WCEP's partner organizations and their staffs. As a result, the last name plate to be added to the WCEP Donor Recognition Board acknowledges the contributions of the Village and Town of Necedah, the businesses and individuals in the community and its surrounds, and especially, the remarkable Necedah Lion's Club.

The Village and Town of Necedah, its businesses and its citizens warmly embraced Whooping cranes and the WCEP reintroduction project. Now, they embrace the record of a decade of Whooping crane history, that, in no small measure, their good will and spirit of conservation helped to make possible.

Congratulations to all of Necedah. Along with all its WCEP partners, Operation Migration sincerely thanks you for 10 years of support and friendly hospitality.

In conjunction with the relocation of the WCEP Donor Recognition Board, and to ensure the record of enormous support and contributions committed to Whooping cranes is both maintained and honored, OM agreed to design and create a special webpage for all WCEP partners to include on their websites.

Thanks to OM volunteer and graphic designer extraordinaire, Nan Rudd of Rudd Designs, WCEP now has a beautiful webpage acknowledging and honoring the major contributors to the first decade of work on the Whooping Crane Eastern Migratory Population Reintroduction. Click here to view the new electronic version of the WCEP Donor Recognition Board.

Share |

Date: October 26, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 18 - DOWN DAY 4Location: Marquette Cty, WI

We weren't sure which would keep us on the ground this morning - the wind or the rain. The rain was holding off so we waited and hoped for the wind to die down as sunrise approached. Didn't happen. There will be no flying today.

Raise money for Operation Migration each time you search the Internet or shop online!

Once a year, the search engine, "GoodSearch," disburses funds to partnering non-profits. GoodSearch is a Yahoo powered search engine which makes a donation to us each time you do a search of the internet or shop online at participating stores and select Operation Migration as the recipient.

This year, folks who used GoodSearch for their internet searches and selected Operation Migration to support, generated $285.57 for us, and another $245.99 as a result of their online shopping. This means that in the next while, we'll be receiving a donation check from GoodSearch for $531.56 - and it didn't cost anyone a single penny!

To date, OM has been the beneficiary of $3,790.77 via GoodSearch, and we'd like encourage you to give it a try. Just join – and every time you search the internet or shop online and select Operation Migration, a donation is made to us. Your every day actions will help Whooping cranes and it won't cost you a thing!

Share |

Date: October 25, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation:Main Office

Surface winds are predicted to be out of the north-northeast early tomorrow morning and aloft, out of the same direction. Overnight and up to 7am there is a 50% chance of precipitation, so IF the rain does materialize overnight - and IF it clears out before sunrise at 7:23am, I'm giving a 50% chance of the team advancing to the next stopover.

Share |

Date: October 25, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:OM GEAR MIGRATION SPECIALLocation: Marquette Cty, WI

As we migration through each state this season, one item of OM Gear will go on sale.

While we are in Wisconsin, our Men's and Ladies OM Logo'd Windbreakers will be marked down from their regular price of $30 to the bargain price of $20! Both Men's and Ladies styles are available in sizes from Extra Small to Extra Large. Click here to read the description on our MarketPlace webpage or to place your order.

I love mine. It's perfect for cool, breezy fall days. It keeps me toasty warm, and folds down to take up hardly any space in my purse or backpack. Order yours today. Regular pricing resumes when we reach Illinois.

Share |

Date: October 25, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 17 - DOWN DAY 3Location: Marquette Cty, WI

For the third morning we woke up at Stopover #2 in Marquette County, and it is also where we will wake up tomorrow morning. The overnight rain continued to fall while the storm above us put on a pre dawn light show. Together they guaranteed we were going nowhere today.

In this report, * = females; D = Direct Autumn Release crane; NFT = non-functional transmitter.

According to the WCEP Tracking Team, the maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) as of October 15th was 96 Whooping cranes; 50 males and 46 females. Locations of the cranes based on their last record showed 87 in Wisconsin and 2 in Minnesota. Seven cranes are 'long term missing'.

Long Term Missing (not located for more than 90 days)
D33-05*NFT Last reported in Jackson County, IN February 25 - March 6/10.
13-07NFT Last recorded with D36-09* at Hiwassee WR, Meigs/Rhea Counties, TN November 24/10.
13-09 Last reported flying over Chassahowitzka NWR pensite, Citrus County, FL December 2/10.
27-07*NFT suspected. Last reported on her usual summering area in Kosciusko County, IN March 13/11.
D37-07 Last reported in Jackson County, MI, April 20/11.
16-03NFT Last observed on Necedah NWR May 6/11.
14-05NFT Last observed on Necedah NWR May 18/11.

On October 15, 17-07* was captured in Monroe County, WI to remove a piece of fishing line wrapped around her right leg. She was reported as being "feisty and in good body condition." Subsequent to removal of the fishing line she was released at her capture location.

Joan Garland, Outreach Coordinator at the International Crane Foundation (ICF) advised that the eight Whooping cranes in the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) program were released on Horicon National Wildlife Refuge this past Friday evening.

Joan added that as of Saturday, October 22nd, six of the juveniles were together, one was on the northwest side of the refuge, and the eighth had returned to Horicon pensite area. The trackers' map of the distribution of Whooping cranes as of October 15th showed that there were 2010 Whooping cranes present in Dodge County - the location of the Horicon NWR. Hopefully the newly released 2011 DAR youngsters will find them and follow them on their migration south.

Congratulations to ICF's DAR chief Marianne Wellington and the interns working with her on the successful rearing and release.

Share |

Date: October 24, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:STILL SEARCHING & PREDICTINGLocation: Marquette Cty, WI

The PC terminology used to describe the first few legs of the migration would be, 'stressful'. Our choices would be more descriptive.

It is during that time that the chicks are reluctant to leave the only home they have known, and the concept of migration has yet to sink in. Many of them turn back when we get too far away and each failed attempt only reinforces their resolve. In addition to chasing drop-outs and crating birds that simply will not go, we have all the rigors of moving a camp that has been stationary for the last four months. We also have to winterize the training pen site by taking off the top net, removing the electric fence and spreading lime to break down any bacteria that may have accumulated.

Then we have to pack the aircraft trailer. We use it to return the aircraft from Florida at the end of the migration but on the way south it becomes our portable garage to store everything from bird feed, spare parts and tools, to our project display and outreach materials. We have our rented hangar to vacate, and a storage facility, courtesy of Joyce Prackel, to fill with all the stuff we can’t take along but will need next year.

The stress, pique, and that whole list of things to do goes out the window when we have a missing bird. Number 2-11 launched with the rest of the birds last Friday when we attempted to leave our first stopover site. In the typical chaos that ensued, we had some land back at the pen, and some in fields nearby. Each pilot picked up birds still flying and tried to lead them south. In the middle of keeping track of ten birds we lost sight of #2. Brooke and I searched the immediate area as soon as the rest of the birds were back in the pen. Richard joined us after his failed attempt to get #6 to the next site.

Richard has a tracking antenna mounted to the front of his trike and he can pick up signals from their leg mounted transmitters. We flew back to the summer training site and around Princeton, but did not get a beep. The wind was picking up so we moved the search to the ground vehicles. Later in the afternoon Richard took off again and flew for another three hours.

We continued the search the next day despite finally moving the flock to the next site. Lou Cambier is a retired Boeing 747 Captain and a long time supporter. He flew his Cessna 185 up from Illinois and we loaded in our tracking radios. Bev Paulan (once our Supervisor of Field Operations) volunteered for the weekend. She is now a pilot for the Wisconsin DNR and has gained a lot of tracking experience. She flew right seat with Lou, and together they covered all the area from the summer training site to the Illinois border without hearing a signal.

Fitting the permanent tracking devices on our birds requires that we hold them for some time while they are glued in place. That handling is disturbing and it takes them a week or so to get over the affront and to trust us again. Several years ago we decided to fit them with temporary, snap on radio bands that do not require holding. The adjustment period is very short, and the birds don’t seem to carry a grudge. The permanent bands are fitted in Florida once the migration is over and by then we want them to start paying less attention to us anyway.

These snap on bands have been re-used several times and it may be that they are beginning to wear out. They were tested a few days earlier and #2’s signal worked fine. However, considering the short time it took us to get a tracking receiver up and working, it is doubtful that bird could have moved out of range that quickly. We all suspect the transmitter failed, so that leaves us with only dumb luck sighting.

Coincidentally, the Direct Autumn Release birds were released at the Horicon Marsh Friday evening, so not every juvenile Whooping crane out there is the one we are looking for.

Dropouts along the migration are not uncommon. Most of them we find in a few minutes. Others return on their own once they get lonely. Occasionally we have had a bird out overnight and once, in 2007, it took us five days to find one that we lost in rough air. It discovered how to fly on thermals and moved out of range of our trackers.

We tracked down reports of white things in fields only to find plastic lawn chairs. We checked on several Herons and even a decorative bird in a back yard pond. #33-07 was finally found in a cow pasture fifty miles away and safely returned to its flock mates. That bird had a working transmitter though, and it may be harder to find #2. If we don’t, she will be the first bird we have lost in the eleven years we have been doing this.

As I write this, the team is checking out a sighting in Columbia County. Bev Paulan has asked all the DNR pilots to keep listening while they do the rest of their wildlife tracking. In the meantime our fingers are crossed while we wait out another down day and, as thunderstorms are predicted, likely a third down day tomorrow.

Share |

Date: October 24, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 16 - DOWN DAY 2Location: Marquette Cty, WI

The thunder and lightning storms passed through overnight leaving behind warmer temperatures and relative calm on the surface but occasional strong gusts of wind.

Affecting us today is a high pressure system on one side of us and a low pressure system on the other. The upshot is trashy winds aloft and that is what will keep the Class of 2011 grounded today.

Update re Whooping crane #2-11
The search continued yesterday, both in the air and on the ground, for 2-11, the young crane that went missing on October 21 (Migration Day 13) during an aborted flight from Stop 1 in Green Lake to Stop 2 in Marquette County.

Top cover aircraft brought up from Illinois by pilot Lou Cambier was outfitted with tracking equipment, and he and Bev Paulan flew a grid pattern for more than four hours hoping - as it turns out in vain - to pick up #2's transmitter signal. She is either 'on the move', or, we're searching in all the wrong places, or, her transmitter has failed. We are beginning to suspect the latter, but we will keep looking.....

Share |

Date: October 23, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Marquette Cty, WI

We are sitting here with a temperature in the mid 50's, moderate winds, and lots of rain. We have a threat of late afternoon and evening thunderstorms, but they should pass throught overnight and leave us with just cloudy skies by flight time tomorrow morning.

Monday's forecast is for very light WNW winds, and if this is the case we should be up for an attempt at flying - - IF the trike wings are dried out by then.

Share |

Date: October 23, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Geoff Tarbox
Subject:CRANE MEDSLocation: Marquette Cty, WI

We go by a schedule for medicating the cranes so last Thursday that task was again on our agenda.

First we thaw out a bunch of smelt and load them with one of two different de-worming medications. Some weeks we use Ivermectin, other weeks, we use Panacur. We use them to treat different types of worms and internal parasites that the birds run into while staying White River Marsh. Though which specific bugs we're treating is a question best answered by the ICF staff who are nice enough to prepare them for us.

Medicating the birds is always more fun than a barrel of monkeys. In fact, it's the part of migration that the interns and the Patuxent staff look forward to every year. And for saying that with a straight face, I want an Oscar.

For one, prepping the meds isn't easy. We always load/hide the medication in smelt or grapes, and give them to each bird. Ivermectin's not so bad; all we have to do is pump it into a couple of smelt with a syringe, and boom, you're done. Panacur on the other hand... For one, it's a powder, which means you can't just inject it the way you can with Ivermectin. (I'm told there is liquid Panacur, but we never get it.) So instead, we have to load a couple grams of white powder into little oblong capsules the size of a tic-tac. And that process is every bit as delicate as it sounds.

As the birds get older, we usually end up having to fill more and more capsules. By now, everyone's up to four capsules at least. Next, you actually have to load them into the smelt, usually by shoving them down the fishes' throat, or up their keister.

Thankfully, this year, that isn't too hard since we've got some healthy-sized smelt that can take two capsules at a time. But in previous years, we had some pretty bite-sized smelt that could barely hold one. But the idea is to try to use as few smelt as possible. Caleb and I both noted that we felt like a pair of drug dealers as we played around with a suspicious syringes and white powder that's supposed to make you feel better. But wait a minute, I thought cranes liked smelt! So why would we try to give them only one or two at a time? Well, more on that later.

So now that the smelt are all loaded, it's off to the pensite. Then the real fun begins. The birds usually do one of three things when they get their smelt. They scarf it down without a second thought. Other times, they'll pick up the smelt and run with it, usually to wash it off in a footbath. That's because they probably can taste the meds in the smelt and are trying to wash it off. The problem is, they'll lose the meds if they do that. And finally, there are some birds who just won't eat their smelt, period. They'll pick it up, peck at it, but ultimately, they shake their heads and try to walk away. I've seen little kids who won't eat their peas make the same faces these particular birds make. # 4, #7, and #12 are just some of the birds guilty of this particular quirk.

And if these quirks weren't fun enough, try watching them play out as nine other birds try to steal their brother's/sister's smelt. I've seen too many birds lose their meds to another more voracious bird as they try to run with or play with their food. And if trying to get these, ‘I don’t like peas’ birds to eat just one drugged fish isn't fun enough, imagine having convince them to eat two or three smelt. I won't point fingers as to which one keeps trying to steal meds. But let's just say the bird most likely to do this would just as soon as eat your engagement ring.

On the bright side, Caleb was able to figure out a pretty ingenious system for medicating the birds. We'd lock all the birds in the dry pen and then divide the pen in half. We'd keep all the non-medicated birds on one side, and let them through one at a time. With all the other birds locked and out of the way, we can ensure that no one's engagement medication is going to get stolen by a greedy little bird.

We still have to worry about birds washing or playing with their smelt. But for the most part, all we have to do is act like we're taking their smelt away, and it gives them the motivation they need to eat it up. Once they've chowed it down, we let them back into the wet pen and let the next bird through.

Over the summer, we've had more and more birds play with their smelt, but mostly because they now kind of know what's going to be happening when we try to divide the pen. It'd be nice if the chicks just all got in a line and waited for us to treat them one at a time. But they've decided having free-for-alls for the smelt is way more fun.

That's the way these medications usually go down. And that's how it played out this morning during morning checks. Since we had no dividers in the travel pen to keep things nice and organized, we had to do things the old-fashioned way. I tried to hand out the smelt, while Caleb tried to keep the other birds occupied. #6 was the first bird to bat, and he downed his meds without batting an eye. The next two birds, #1 and #5 were much the same way. But I'd be more alarmed if #5 had been in a picky mood.

Unfortunately, #3 tried to run with his smelt. The other birds were hot on his heels ready to take his smelt away so Caleb and I went after him and pulled the 'we're gonna steal your smelt' routine. That was enough to make him scarf it down, meds and all.

The girls came next. #9 was first, but before she could take her grape a certain ven-lay ive-fay snatched it from my puppet. Thankfully, with #7and #2 it went much more smoothly. Afterwards, #10, #4, and #12 got medicated grapes instead of smelt, since they won't touch a drugged smelt with a ten foot pole. Even #4, who's normally resistant to taking her meds, felt brave this morning and ate her smelt.

Thankfully, we had a back-up medicated grape just for #9 to make up for her smelt. I fumbled the grape a couple times, but ultimately, #9 got her meds before #5 got greedy again. All and all, it was a successful outing.

Now wait a minute, how are they medicated once they're back in the wild? They aren’t. Why, you ask? Okay, to be fair, by that time, they've (hopefully) had enough Panacur and Ivermectin in their systems, so that they've sort of build up an immunity against whatever nasty parasites try to latch onto their insides. Right?

Now if you’ll excuse me, my latest game is calling my name. It's got a 100 floor dungeon filled with nothing but destruction, chaos and terror, as well as the most awesome treasure the world's ever seen. It's all going to be mine, hehhehheh, and I'm gonna slay any monster stupid enough to get in my way - and even the ones smart enough to get out of it.

Share |

Date:October 23, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 15 - Down Day 1Location: Marquette Cty, WI

It was a very slow start this morning. As a result of yesterday's move to Marquette County, we no longer have a hangar for our three aircraft. Because the temperature and the dew point were only two degrees apart this morning, the inevitable consequence was heavy frost on the trike wings.

The pilots scraped furiously at the frost, but it built up again practically as fast as they removed it. At long last, more than an hour after optimum flying time, the trikes took to the air.

Earlier in the morning we had negligible winds, a mere 1mph out of the southwest, and the rain previously forecast for flight time was pushed ahead a couple of hours. That was all good had we been able to launch on schedule. Unfortunately by the time the aircraft were able to get aloft, the wind had picked up and with the earth warmed up the air was very trashy. Add to that the fact that the predicted rain was starting move in and the pilots were quick to return to the ground.

Today will be Down Day 1 in Marquette County.

Remember, you can watch all the action LIVE every morning we fly via OM's TrikeCam. When we are not flying, the camera is set up at the travel pen so viewers can watch the activity of the Class of 2011 on the ground.

As of today we are almost at the half-way point of sponsorships for the 2011 MileMaker. Select your personal mile today!! You could be the recipient of a very special one-of-a kind Thank You Gift. Read the details.

Share |

Date: October 22, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:THE REST OF THE STORY - AND PREDICTINGLocation: Marquette Cty, WI

Between crating the reluctant fliers then cleaning the crates, tearing down the pen at stop #2 and cleaning the pen trailer, driving to stop 3 in Columbia County to set up the travel pen, breaking camp and moving our trailers and motorhomes and the aircraft trailer from Green Lake to Marquette County, and searching for #2 - everyone is hopping.

It is for this reason you will have to settle for a posting by me cobbled together from chats with Joe and the crew instead of a lead pilot report.

Joe was lead pilot today. The plan was to launch with only the good fliers, but with the rest of the birds in the pen right beside them they didn't want to go. After three attempts, he took off with all the birds. But as suspected, chaos ensued. In the rodeo that followed, #10 locked onto Joe's wing and they headed for the next stop.

Brooke and Richard tried an unusual tactic. They took off side by side with the birds in the middle. Eventually, Richard had six and Brooke had one. But 10 miles from destination they broke. Richard was able to get three birds, #4, 7, and 12 to the second stopover. Brooke was left with #6 who was reluctant to cross a large area of open water. Oddly, that is the same bird that wouldn't cross it with Richard yesterday.

At that point, Brooke heard from the crew that there were no birds in sight back at the Stop 1 pen, so he gave up on #6 and led him back to help look for those four.

By the time Joe and Richard flew back to the starting point, all four of the non-flyers were no longer in sight. Using the tracking device on his trike, Richard located #3 about 2 miles east of the pen. He guided Bev and David in the tracking van to #3's location and the three of them crated that bird. Caleb and David delivered him to Stop 2.

Meanwhile, back at the Stop 1 pensite, #1, #5, and #9 came strolling out of the forest. Because of the distance it would require the crated birds to be carried, the costumes walked them, along with Brooke's #6 down the runway and up the hill a quarter mile distance. There they were crated, and then carried over the rough ground that the van couldn't negotiate for transport to the next site.

According to everyone's reports, none of the Class of 2011 appeared any worse for wear. All settled in quickly at their new location, and in no time were feeding and preening.

We're not seeing all that much different from today in tomorrow's forecast with the exception of a 20% chance of rain right around flight time. The thought as of now is that if the rain holds off we might be able to squeeze a flight in.

Share |

Date: October 22, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 14 Location: Green Lake Cty, WI
Air Miles:


Accum Miles


From - To 

 Green Lake County - Marquette County, WI

While it's not yet over, Migration Day 14 can be rated as an improvement if not a total success. The crew are all still out in the field, that is, at Stopover #1, at Stopover #2, and some in the air, some on the roads in between.

Today's scorecard: Four flew from Green Lake to Marquette County - #10 with Joe, and three others with Brooke. We haven't as yet seen or heard from Richard. Four cranes are back at the pensite at Stop #1, and one is just over the hill not far from the pen. All of those five are being crated and will make the trip to Marquette County by road to join their classmates who, unlike them, have now graduated from flight school.

Number 2 is still AWOL, and the search for her will resume once the dust from this morning's action settles.

Share |

Date:October 22, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 14Location: Green Lake Cty, WI

We were greeted with frost again this morning but a warmer temperature by about four degrees. The wind gauge read zero at 4am, then nudged higher as dawn approached. While not overly strong - ranging between 0 to 5mph - what wind there is comes out of the southwest which means the planes and cranes have it right on the nose.

Launch was shortly after 8:00am with Joe as lead pilot today. The Class of 2011 is in the air and on the way to Marquette County - we hope. Click here to watch the flight live via OM's TrikeCam.

Share |

Date:October 21, 2011 - Entry 5Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:LOST NOT YET FOUNDLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI
Multiple searches of multiple areas were not fruitful. No one picked up a signal from #2's transmitter. Not one beep on any of our receivers. We searched until dusk both on the ground and in the air.

It looks like we might have flying weather in the morning. If so, there will be another attempt to advance a migration leg tomorrow, but successful or not, the search for #2 will resume after that.

Share |

Date:October 21, 2011 - Entry 4Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:STILL SEARCHINGLocation:Main Office

One might think that locating a large white bird would be easy but #2-11 has not yet been so easy. The team is still looking for her. Richard will be launching in his trike again shortly as soon as the wind drops.

In the meantime, please have a look at some of the images captured and shared by Tom Shultz. CLICK to see the larger versions in our Flickr gallery.


Share |

Date:October 21, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:ONE STEP FORWARD - ONE STEP BACKLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

Hours of flying, some of them searching, and the end result is that nine of the ten cranes in the Class of 2011 are back in the pen in Green Lake County - eight under their own steam and one by crate.

Number 2 is still out there somewhere and at last report her signal was coming from a spot only a mile or two distant from the location of the hangar we are using. The crew returned to camp to regroup to get armed with receivers and get paired up in vehicles to take to the roads to do a grid search of the area. Enroute, Joe will go to the pen site to deploy the CraneCam so we can keep an eye out in case #2 returns there on her own.

More when there is news to tell and we're all back in camp.

Share |

Date:October 21, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 13 - sort ofLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI
We'll have the 'long story' for you here later, but in the meantime I can report that today's flight will have to be classed as more of a valiant attempt than anything. Keep in mind that the following information is all 'second or third hand'.

My guess is that it was about 1.5 hours in the air before the day finished with 8 birds back at the Green Lake County pensite - either under their own steam, or after scattering, led back by a trike. One bird is missing (#2), and Richard is on the ground about 5 miles from the Marquette County pensite with #6. At last word the tracking van with Bev Paulan (who is tracking for us today) along with David Boyd was on its way to Richard's location to crate #6.

Number 6's destination was being debated. That decision rested on the weather forecast for tomorrow. If we think we can fly #6 will go to Marquette, if not, he will be taken back to Green Lake County so he is not left alone at the Marquette pensite for more than an overnight.

As soon as Richard can fly back, (his trike is equipped with tracking equipment) the three aircraft and the tracking van will be on the hunt for #2.

Share |

Date: October 21, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 13Location: Green Lake Cty, WI

Camp woke to a temperature right on the freezing mark and a layer of frost on everything. With the wind fluctuating between WNW 1-6 mph an attempt at a flight at the very least was on.

Shortly after official sunrise (7:17 this morning) the pilots were in the air for the flight from the hangar location to the pensite. At 7:47am we received word from Caleb at the pen that lead pilot Brooke Pennypacker had launched with all the birds. We waited to hear if it was going to take a crane rodeo to get them going, or if they were actually off and on course for Marquette County.

The answer is..... rodeo. More later this morning.

Share |

Date:October 20, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

We've been wrong before any maybe we'll be wrong again, but we think we just might have some flyable weather tomorrow morning. Let me say a Halleluiah here!! Imagine, we're reduced to cheering the fact that we just might have a chance to fly.

Regardless, the forecast has raised the spirits and lightened the mood here in camp. I'm betting everyone will be out of bed and ready to go early, early in the morning.

Don't forget to Give a Whoop! figuratively and literally...

Share |

Date: October 20, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CLASS OF 2011 WINDY DAY PHOTO ALBUMLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

How are the young cranes faring is a frequent question we get these many Down Days. As you will have read in Joe's October 19th Field Journal entry they had some good exercise yesterday morning. But thinking of the old adage, 'A picture's worth a thousand words,' we asked Caleb to snap some still images at Thursday evening's roost check time. Hope you enjoy the photos of this year's chicklets, although as you can see they are already starting to lose the cinnamon plumage of youth.

#12 #10 in foreground
#3 in foreground #2 in background #1 exhibiting threat posture (getting his adult voice already)
#7 #6
#9 #5
#4 All 10 members of the Class of 2011 (well...9 and a half)
Share |

Date:October 20, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 12 - DOWN DAY 9Location: Green Lake Cty, WI

Much of Wisconsin was on the receiving end of very high winds late yesterday and overnight - up to almost 30mph - and it continued into this morning. By 6:00am the winds had dropped somewhat, but watching the wind gauge it fluctuated wildly between 6 mph and 22mph all in the space of a few minutes.

Today will be Down Day 9 in Green Lake County, WI, tying the record set in 2007 for un-flyable days between our first migration stopover and the second.

Hey folks - we are still looking for MileMakers. Just 570 of the migration's 1285 air miles have been sponsored so far (including all 117 miles in Wisconsin), meaning of course that 715 miles remain unfunded. Can we work up some State rivalry here between Craniacs?

There are just 47 air miles not yet sponsored in Georgia, and only 60 and 62 left to go in Kentucky and Tennessee respectively.  Florida has 130 still unsponsored miles though, and Illinois 162 - surely you Craniacs from those two states aren't going to break your 'always fully sponsored record'.

That leaves Alabama. With the second highest number of air miles flown being over that state, Craniacs there have their work cut out for them. Perhaps the many Craniacs from across the country will chime in to help out our good friends in Alabama.

Become a MileMaker sponsor today. It's as easy as 1-2-3. Just click here! The Class of 2011 thanks you for your support.


MileMaker sponsors have a chance to have their name drawn to receive a very special thank you gift!


OM's multi-talented pilot, Richard van Heuvelen has donated one of his fabulous metal crane chick sculptures for us to use as a Thank You gift! Richard's sculptures have sold for thousands of dollars, and you could be the lucky one to own one of his valuable and unique pieces of artwork. To see examples of Richard's phenomenal metal sculpture art visit his website, The Wooden Anvil.

MileMaker Sponsors' names are entered in the Thank You Gift Draw as follows:
1 entry per quarter mile sponsorship
2 entries per half mile sponsorship
4 entries per one mile sponsorship


Share |

Date:October 19, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

Without doubt I think it is safe to say that we will again not be able to fly tomorrow. Today was windier than yesterday, and the forecast calls for tomorrow's wind to be blowing close to 20mph at flight time, and then increasing later in the morning.

It looks like it could calm down by Friday however, so we're pinning our hopes on having a chance to advance a migration leg that day.

Share |

Date: October 19, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:'TALKING' TO THE ANIMALSLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

Sometimes I wish I had the talents of Dr Doolittle, or maybe Temple Grandin, or anyone, for that matter, with a better insight into the mind of an animal than me. There are so many simple messages that we wish we could convey to our birds if only we could find a way to make them understand.

Our migration began eleven days ago and we have only travelled five miles. That means that some of our birds, the most willing to follow, have been at the first stop for almost two weeks. Since then, the wind has never ceased to blow, and despite several attempts, we can not make any progress.

If we can’t fly for several days in a row, we normally let the birds out for some exercise and, more importantly, a little distraction. It burns off excess energy (and the aggression), and relieves the boredom of being in the same pen too long. That time has well passed but there are reasons we have postponed that part of our protocol.

Firstly, we are only five miles away and it is a valid fear that they may just head back to their home pen. That area has now been open to hunting and the last thing we want to do is risk putting them back into crates for the return trip to the first site.

Secondly, the reason we had so much trouble getting them to leave the Wildlife Area in the first place was their familiarity with what they perceive as home. If we let them fly around the new site, they could rapidly get accustomed to that too.

Additionally there is the fear of releasing birds in high winds. For our aircraft, there is a real danger of crashing when the winds are blustery, but that not something you would expect from a bird. But we have had them hit trees when they are young, inexperienced, and eager to fly after being cooped up too long. There is a reason the most birds hunker down when the winds pick up.

Then of course there was that fateful day during the migration of 2009 to consider. We have been letting birds fly free for years and although they sometimes disappeared over the horizon for a few stressful minutes, they always came back. But Whooping cranes are soaring birds that have evolved to use rising warm air to carry them aloft. We let them out of the pen in LaSalle County, Illinois on a bright day when the sun was creating monster thermals. For the first time in their short lives they felt that upward push of rising air and off they went. They circled higher and higher in what must have been sheer delight until the wind began to push them south. Richard van Heuvelen took off in his aircraft equipped with a tracking device and the ground crew followed in hot pursuit. They chased them for sixty miles and it was only dumb luck that the wind wasn't blowing to the north. He picked them up and led them to the next site and despite the panic, the scramble and the rough ride, it actually worked to our advantage.

That would not have been the case for the last few days. In strong westerly winds, if we had let our birds out, they may have ended up in Michigan.

All of these factors added to our reluctance to release the birds, but it has been eleven days, so this morning we took a deep breath and opened the pen. We only let out five at first, hoping the others might attract them back, but after a few minutes, it was obvious they weren’t going anywhere. In fact we had to run up and down the field to get them into the air. One at a time, the remaining five were led to the gate and released to jump and fly and enjoy their freedom. After the excitement had dissipated it only took a few minutes to coax them back into the pen.

Maybe the term Bird Brain is better applied to us than them.

Share |

Date: October 19, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 11 - DOWN DAY 8Location: Green Lake Cty, WI

Weather-wise, this morning could almost be described as a ditto of yesterday.

Stepping outside the motorhome in the pitch dark of pre-dawn I was initially fooled into thinking there was very little wind. Then, the unmistakable rubbing and rustling of leaves in the tree tops reached my ears. With even the surface winds blowing in the double digits, it was obvious there would be no migration leg flown today.

Several years ago when we were still flying the old, more easterly migration route, wind repeatedly kept us on the ground in Indiana. After a while, we nicknamed the state, "Windi-ana." A couple of migrations later we had the same experience in Wisconsin, and so that year it came to be known as Wind-consin. Now, after eight straight days of either too strong or wrong-way winds - or both, we think it is time to resurrect that label.

So, Wind-consin, settle down and let us GO!

The crew have gone to let the Class of 2011 out for some exercise so hopefully we'll have a report if not some photos for you later this morning.

Share |

Date: October 18, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 10Location: Green Lake Cty, WI

Finally! A day offering some flying weather. Official sunrise this morning was at 7:13, and with light NNW surface winds we were excited at the prospect of a flight.

Camp emptied quickly as the team headed out to get in position. While the three pilots were enroute to the hangar, Geoff and Caleb left for the pensite to be ready to release the birds. In the tracking van, Walter and David Boyd drove ahead to get in position so they would be under the flight path.

Unfortunately it was all for naught. Richard launched to test the air and by tree top level found entirely too much wind for the cranes and planes to cope with. Linda Boyd and I stood gazing skyward and shaking our heads. It was hard to believe the difference a few feet could make as it was dead calm on the ground.

Richard's radioed message from aloft ended attempt number one to fly the second leg of the 2011 migration to our stopover site in Marquette County. How disappointing.

No flight means this morning means today will be Down Day 7 in Green Lake County, and moves us closer to the record number of Down Days before moving from stop 1 to stop 2. That record was set back in 2007 when we had to wait for 9 days for flyable weather.

Why not take up Colorado Craniac Suzanne Johnson's challenge and Give a WHOOP! or sponsor part or all of a migration mile. Right now we could use something to cheer about.

Share |

Date: October 17, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

At the risk of jinxing us, we're predicting that we should be flying tomorrow. The temperature is forecast to be in the mid 30's, and wind around flight time at around 2mph out of the north.

Cross your fingers (and toes) for us.

Share |

Date: October 17, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:THE Wonderful World of the PumpkinLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

One of the greatest pleasures in life is introducing a new thing - any new thing- to a fellow creature be it man, bird or beast. No need to worry if it is a good or bad thing - because it is bound to be some of both. And so it is every year on migration we introduce our little darlings to the “Wonderful World of the Pumpkin”.

Big and orange, hard on the outside and soft on the inside, the pumpkin is at once both Trick and Treat, designed by Mother Nature herself with the express purpose of sending a little shiver of delight up the beak of each and every Whooping crane chick that pecks on it. The pumpkin is also an ally in effort to dissipate pent up energy and potential aggression which can grow from the long migration-less days. Better to hammer on a pumpkin than another chick.

This morning, when Joe and I rolled those two shiny orange orbs into the pen, the scene was reminiscent of the movie, “The Gods Must Be Crazy”, the 1980 movie about the little African bushman in the Kalahari Desert who stumbles across a glass bottle, something he and his tribe had never seen before, and the insanity of civilization which proceeds to pour genie-like from it.

No movie before or since has so successfully explained the human condition. In fact, so powerfully insightful was its message, that it spawned four sequels, and for a time the United Nations entertained the idea of beginning every meeting of the General Assembly with its viewing in the hopes of providing a more solid footing for building understanding and mutual cooperation and respect.

First #3 approached the pumpkin, its beak like a homing device but unsure of its target. With cautious and tentative pecks, his exploration commenced, soon consuming the full focus of every fiber of his being. (What a Whooper chick lacks in intellect he makes up for in focus).

Then the others, schooled in the art of Monkey-See Monkey-Do , succumbed to the pumpkin’s mesmerizing spell. Their wide eyes rhythmically pounded their beaks ever deeper into the orange flesh which soon resulted in a design worthy of a candle and a seat on a house front porch.

We then brought to bear a talent refined in youth on Mischief Nights long ago and smashed the second pumpkin on the hard ground. That disbursed pieces around the pen like shrapnel so as to democratize the experience for all. In no time each chick was proudly carrying around his/her little chunk of “wonderful” in its beak , some proudly and with great purpose heading over to the water bucket to wash it off like a shirt out of the rag bag.

Number 12, a native of New Orleans, sidled up beside me, looked up, and in her ever so special voice…always quiet but with a hint of seduction… whispered, “It ain’t Mardi Gras, but it’ll do”.

It would be an understatement to say, a good time was had by all, not the least of whom included Joe and I. How wonderful a thing it is to see just how much pure joy and pleasure such simple things as a pair of roadside stand pumpkins can provide for our chicks. We should all be so lucky.

Share |

Date: October 17, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 9 - DOWN DAY 6Location: Green Lake Cty, WI

It is the sixth day that the weather, primarily the wind, has kept the cranes and planes pinned to the ground. The west wind continues to blow between 10 and 20mph, with occasional much stronger gusts. I guess it's hardly necessary to say that Monday will be Down Day 6 for us here in Green Lake County.

We repeat here part of a recent Field Journal entry to remind folks of a challenge issued by Craniac Suzanne Johnson of Colorado. Suzanne, as she did last migration, has pledged one WHOOP! for every 'Down Day' from now through the end of the year.

She said, "I know that all OM's supporters are cheering you on, even when you are grounded, and so I want to ask them to join me and also pledge to WHOOP every Down Day - or any accumulated number of Down Days of their choice. i.e. WHOOP once every fifth Down Day."

Those who'd like to take up Suzanne's challenge can click here to WHOOP!

Share |

Date:October 16, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI
The rain and the wind of the morning gave way to sunny skies and relative calm before returning to grey skies and 15 to 25mph winds. The motorhome has been back to rocking since early afternoon, and that may be the condition we'll experience, if not through the night, at least again in the morning.

The 10 to 20mph west winds that are anticipated tomorrow morning will undoubtedly turn Monday into Down Day #6. If that does turn out to be the case, 2011 will tie 2010 with the second longest span of Down Days before moving to the second stopover. The record - 9 days stuck on the ground before moving to the second stop - belongs to the year 2007, which was also not surprisingly, the longest migration on record.

Share |


Date: October 16, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:YOU'VE BEEN CHALLENGEDLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

Longtime Craniac and OM supporter, Suzanne Johnson from Colorado emailed to say, "It's time to get going!" Last year Suzanne pledged to Give a WHOOP! every day that the cranes and planes were grounded. She wrote to tell us she was going to do the same this migration and hoped that others would join her Give a WHOOP! challenge.

Suzanne said, "My pledge is to give one WHOOP! for every 'Down Day' from now through the end of the year. I know that all OM's supporters are cheering you on, even when you are grounded, and so I want to ask them to join me and also pledge to WHOOP every Down Day - or any accumulated number of Down Days of their choice. i.e. WHOOP once every fifth Down Day."

Our thanks to Suzanne for letting us know that whether they are in the air or on the ground she's thinking about the Class of 2011's migration. And also, thanks to any of you who decide to take up her challenge. Click here to WHOOP!

Share |

Date: October 16, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 7 - DOWN DAY 5Location: Green Lake Cty, WI

A combination of early morning rain and uncooperative wind kept the Class of 2011 and its surrogate parents on the ground again this morning.

Brooke and Geoff performed the morning pen check, and reported that their arrival was greeted excitedly by the young cranes. As well as checking the feeders and water supply, they gave all the colts an eyeball once over and found they all appeared healthy. Brooke said the birds seemed very energetic - hopefully that's a sign that they're ready and anxious to get flying.

Share |

Date: October 15, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:CLASS OF 2011 UPDATE and PREDICTINGLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

It‘s day 7 of the migration and the winds are gusting to 30 mph. Not only is there no flying but just about everything in camp has had to be battened down. Today is one of those sunny days that create lots of thermals and the rising warm air is moving fast to the east. In the wild, it would be a good day for birds like Whooping cranes that have evolved to ride those thermals and take advantage of the free lift they generate. They could climb effortlessly, get pushed along by the strong winds and cover great distances, as long as they wanted to go east.

Our birds have never been exposed to thermals and have yet to discover the advantage that will one day carry them from Wisconsin to Florida and back. Until they learn the route south, the only flight advantage they will have is the wake created by the aircraft wings.

Under normal circumstances we would release the birds for a little exercise every third or fourth day, but even for that, it is too windy. For them, riding the air currents is instinctive. It doesn’t have to be learned and if we released them today, and they discovered it on their own, they might end up a hundred miles away - probably in the wrong direction. On top of that, they are only four miles from their summer home and if we gave them the opportunity, they just might head back.

So as much as we would like to see them flying free, they are stuck in the pen at least for another day. When we checked on them this morning, you could tell they were anxious for a little activity. As Caleb noted, they normally greet you at the gate and then go about their business, but on days like this, they follow you around while you tend to the water and feed.

Sorry guys, it’s too windy to fly. Yes I know it’s not fair. I feel the same way.

Predicting - The WNW winds have kept our motorhomes rocking all day and the high gusts have been scattering everything that's not nailed down. With the forecast calling a temperature in the low 40's, a chance of rain, and west wind continuing to blow, tomorrow is not looking good for a flight.

Share |

Date:October 15, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 7 - DOWN DAY 4Location: Green Lake Cty, WI

Already it is getting tiresome reporting that we are unable to fly, and unfortunately that is what we have to report again today. Saturday is Down Day 4 for the planes and cranes in Green Lake County, WI.

The upside to being grounded - if there can be an upside - is that the myriad of little jobs that generally only get tackled once we are underway are gradually getting completed. So, as frustrating as Down Days are, we are managing to complete lots of the little tasks that inevitably are pushed aside in favor of more pressing ones.

During these initial Down Days there has been lots to keep everyone busy. The extra time afforded by not being on in the air and on the road has, among other things, allowed for a re-organization of everything packed in our aircraft/equipment trailer, including the big bins that store the 'crane chow' that the Class of 2011 will consume on the journey south.

Nonetheless, it almost seems that the list grows rather than shrinks. The awning on one motorhome is stuck, and the furnace in another has developed a mind of its own, working only when it feels like it. These two repairs, along with a trip for propane fill ups and a run to drop off recyclables, are just some of the things on today's To Do list.

Tune in again a little later in the day. We'll have a report for you about how the Class of 2011 is faring as they too wait for flying weather.

Share |

Date:October 14, 2011 - Entry 4Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

Since the beginning of the month, up until the last couple of days, if you were judging by the temperature you'd have been hard pressed to know it was October rather than July. That has now changed with both the temperature and the weather generally definitely letting us know it is fall.

Our crisp mornings will be even crisper as of tomorrow. The mercury promises to plummet into the 30's. We are happy to have the cold air and the clear skies, the west winds that are delivering them however - 15 to 25mph - will not be welcomed.

Regrettably, we are expecting to spend a fourth day on the ground in Green Lake County.

Share |

Date:October 14, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Caleb Fairfax
Subject:READY, SET, LET'S GO!Location: Green Lake Cty, WI

The first couple of days of the migration we were fortunate to have flyable conditions. We managed to get three birds to the first site on day one, a single bird the following day, and then crated the reluctant six fliers on day three. An interesting statistic: The Class of 2011 consists of five males and five females. We had to crate all five of our males.

From my pinhole view of the world inside the pen it was difficult to determine exactly what was happening in the air. I did have a radio, which gave me some insight into what the birds were doing above. It seemed most of our birds would fly so far, before breaking off to return to the runway. After spending so much time at the pensite, and only flying above the runway it makes sense that our colts would be apprehensive about leaving their home.

The same day we managed to remove all birds from their training site at White River Marsh, the summer pen site deconstruction began. We spent two days breaking everything down. Runway fencing had to go; the feed shed was gutted; and feeders and footbaths were emptied and taken away. The pump and a football field worth of hose were also removed, and today we’ll go back out to take down the top netting and roll it up for storage.

Our pen site is an empty shell of what it once was - but to tell you the truth, it already had a deserted air about it once our birds were gone. Maybe it was the silence as opposed to expected little peeps when we arrived. Or maybe it was how barren it was versus having the expected greetings by grape-deficient little birds. I’m not sure if I can describe the feeling exactly, but the whole place felt hollow.

Luckily, these feelings are offset when we visit our birds at the first migration stopover. The little tykes are exceptionally anxious to see us when we come into view. Some of the more friendly birds (I’ve taken a new liking to 5-11) even pace up against the fence in our direction as we walk toward the pen.

As much as I disliked seeing our birds uncomfortable and nervous in their new , I hope their initial anxiety will transform itself into a new willingness to follow their surrogate mothers. Maybe unfamiliar territory will make our boys of the bunch a little more willing to follow the trikes, and thus stir the call of the wild within them. Maybe now the species millennia-old travel south will feel more instinctual.

Now we wait for the cooperation of the weather.

P.S. - See the entry below for what's likely in store for the left side of my head. Only YOU can make it happen though.

Share |

Date: October 14, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MATCHING MILES CHALLENGE!Location:Main Office

You may recall that Caleb Fairfax recently had me issue a challenge to the CraneCam viewers and chatters. During the first week of October while he and Geoff were waiting for the fog to dissipate one morning so that training could commence, Caleb sent me a text message which read “Tell them I’ll shave a Green Bay Packers logo into the side of my head for a sponsored mile.”

3 hours later, 5 miles had been sponsored in response to his challenge and Caleb was on his way to a nearby barber shop with a template of the logo in hand – 15 minutes after entering, he exited with the logo shaved into his noggin. You can see a photo of the finished masterpiece in this post where he also admits he’s really a Chicago Bears fan. This little admission captured the attention of a couple of Illinois craniac's; Laura Rowan and Jeff & Julie Weingarz.

Laura, Jeff & Julie are issuing a challenge to YOU – and Caleb… Here’s how it works: IF we can get 10 Illinois miles sponsored by Friday, October 21st, they will DOUBLE them, making it a total contribution of 20 miles!

You’re wondering what Caleb’s part of the challenge is? Well, since he is a Bears fan after all, Caleb will visit a barber shop again, this time with a template for the Chicago Bears logo, which will be shaved into the other side of his head. (He has already agreed).

At 338 miles in total, Illinois is the longest of the seven states the migration covers. Currently there are 194 un-sponsored miles. Jeff, Julie & Laura are hoping you’ll step up for the challenge – and Caleb is willing to provide a bit of fun for your support. Won’t you help?

Please become a MileMaker Sponsor TODAY. Visit this page to Sponsor Online  or Click for Downloadable Donation Form to print and mail.

Share |

Date:October 14, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 6Location: Green Lake Cty, WI

We are on the receiving end of some very strong wind this morning. While it is quickly drying up the accumulated pools of water and muddy ground that recent rains produced, it is also keeping us grounded. This will be Down Day #3 in Green Lake County, WI.

Check back later this morning for an update by Intern Caleb Fairfax. In the meantime, please help the Class of 2011 get to their wintering grounds in Florida! MileMaker sponsorships to date will only carry our ten young cranes as far as Kentucky - our third flyover state.

Wisconsin's air miles are completely sponsored, but there are still many unsponsored miles over Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, and we can't successfully navigate our way there without YOUR financial support. Please become a MileMaker Sponsor TODAY.

Click to Sponsor Online                     Click for Downloadable Donation Form To Print and Mail

Share |

Date:October 13, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

Tomorrow, which will be Migration Day 6, is more likely than not also going to be a no fly day and therefore Down Day 3 here in Green Lake County, WI. The forecast is for partly sunny skies with the odds for rain at just 20%. However, if the rain doesn't get us, the wind will. It's expected to be blowing 15 to 25mph out of the west on the surface.

All's quiet on the home front with the Class of 2011. If you haven't already, why not give them a WHOOP!!?? You can click here to see who has already WHOOPED. C'mon....WHOOP loud and proud...

Share |

Date: October 13, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 5 - DOWN DAY 2Location: Green Lake Cty, WI

The rain that began to fall around midnight last evening hasn't let up and is forecast to continue throughout the day today. The potholes in the lanes around camp and every depression in the ground are already full to overflowing, and every step produces a squelch sound as the mud tries to suck your shoes off. As a result, the zig and zag necessary to make one's way to the Port-A-Potty with relatively dry feet somewhat resembles dance steps reminiscent of a tango.

Today will be a day of organizing 'people gear', and for some of us, a day for laundry, grocery shopping, and miscellaneous errands, all the while keeping our fingers crossed for better weather tomorrow.

Share |

Date: October 12, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

With the temperature and the dew point predicted to be identical in the early hours of tomorrow, we will undoubtedly have fog similar to what we experienced this morning. That, combined with the 80% probability of rain is likely to seal our fate as far as chances for flying a migration leg.

While as usual, we'll have to wait and see what the weatherman serves up, what he's calling for at the moment is not leaving us at all hopeful.

Share |

Date: October 12, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 4Location: Green Lake Cty, WI

At 4:00am visibility in camp was so poor it was hard to make out the other motorhomes just a few yards away. By 5:30 the fog allowed a view extending only to ~100 feet ,and by 6:30 that was up to about 200 feet.

Too bad. Because contrary to the forecast, there was literally no wind. The consensus was however, that the grey blanket we were under was unlikely to lift soon enough to allow for a flight this morning. It's now after 8am and the blanket has only lifted to tree top level.

Planes, cranes, and crew will spend Migration Day #4 on the ground in Green Lake County.

Craniacs in the Washington, DC area might want to take in the Patuxent Wildlife Festival this coming Saturday, October 15th, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM at the National Wildlife Visitor Center. All ages are welcome and admission is FREE!

Help celebrate 75 years of wildlife research at the Patuxent Research Refuge with the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at 11:00 AM, followed by the Film Premiere of “The Patuxent History: America’s Conservation Research Story.” Other features include: Live animals; Engaging & interactive musical performances by Magpie (11:30AM & 1:30PM); Innovative research displays; Behind the scenes research tours; Crane Café, Kids crafts & much more!

The National Wildlife Visitor Center is located off Powder Mill Rd. between the Baltimore Washington Parkway & Route 197 south of Laurel. For directions or more information visit

Date:October 11, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

With continuing south winds from 3 to 10mph and a forecast calling for rain in the morning, at this point at least it seem safe to assume that tomorrow in all probability will be a down day. As always, we shall wait and see what the weatherman actually delivers in the morning, but it is not looking too hopeful.

Long time OM volunteer, Walter Sturgeon, arrives tomorrow afternoon to join the migration crew. This will be Walt's 8th migration with us and we're looking forward to having him here with us. Perhaps he'll change our luck.

Share |

Date: October 11, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day 3Location:WRMSWA & Green Lake Cty, WI
Air Miles:


Accum Miles


From - To 

White River Marsh SWA - Green Lake County, WI

Better than expected conditions this morning quickly altered yesterday's tentative plan. The pilots decided to make one last attempt to persuade the six cranes still at White River Marsh State Wildlife Area to leave the familiarity of the their summer residence.

Despite several tries, it was a no-go. The cranes would not remain locked on the trike wing long enough for the pilots to lead them away. The crew is now crating the birds and they will be transported by road to join their four classmates in Green Lake County before the heat of the day sets in.

We need your help.
A migration of 1,285 air miles across multiple states over an indeterminate number of days makes for a long and arduous journey. In addition to coordinating a daily aerial act with wild birds, there are changing weather conditions, air traffic control, and man-made obstacles to contend with. Then there are the sheer logistics of moving equipment and vehicles and choreographing the roles for each of OM's team members.

The annual migration is a 24/7 job that takes the OM team away from their homes and families for weeks at a time - and in the case of our pilots, it means accepting an element of risk each time they take to the air. With one huge exception, it is likely that few others in the world have given as much of themselves for Whooping crane conservation as the members of OM's Team. That exception is YOU.

MileMaker sponsors are the ones who enable it all to happen. Please sponsor a quarter, half, or mile of the 2011 migration. Click here to become a MileMaker Sponsor and help to ensure a future for this endangered species.

Date:October 10, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation:WRMSWA & Green Lake Cty, WI

We're guessing that we will likely have another 'possible but not probable' scenario weather-wise/flight-wise tomorrow.

Weather permitting, the pilots will make a third attempt (maybe number 3 will be the charm) to lead the six reluctant cranes on the first leg of their migration. Failing the weather and/or the birds' cooperation, the six will be crated for transport to Stopover #1 to join their four classmates who got there under their own steam.

Share |

Date: October 10, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day 2Location:WRMSWA & Green Lake Cty, WI
Air Miles:


Accum Miles


From - To 

White River Marsh SWA - Green Lake County, WI

I'm subbing for lead pilot Richard van Heuvelen - as far as today's Field Journal entry goes that is. The pilots and interns have a list of to-do's longer than both my arms that need to be accomplished this afternoon. Rather than the team losing Richard's help with pen set up and a multitude of other tasks while he wrote his lead pilot update, I volunteered my services. So, while it will be less exciting reading, I'm afraid you're stuck with me.

The morning started out cooler than it has been recently, calmer as well, but considerably more foggy. The latter condition led to quite a wait for both the interns at the pen and the enthusiastic Craniacs waiting at the flyover viewing location.  Eventually, after many glances at our watches, we heard the buzz of the trikes approaching the pensite, quickly followed by Richard's voice over the aviation radio asking, "Everyone ready?"

Some moments later Richard launched from the runway in front of the pen with all seven of the cranes in the Class of 2011 still at White River Marsh. All three pilots remarked to me afterwards that seeing the seven cranes formed up in a perfect line off the wing was a welcome and encouraging sight. Unfortunately it was a sight that was relatively short-lived as the birds broke off, forcing Richard to move in to try and pick them up again.

Once more Richard managed to get them all into the air, but once again they refused to stick with him. This time on their return however, they encountered the Swamp Monster who succeeded in at least keeping them airborne. At this point #1 and #5 wheeled and headed north, and seconds later, Joe was in hot pursuit. Eventually he got them turned around and led them back to the south. By this time #5 was panting and mouth breathing, but it was a happy surprise to see that #1 was exhibiting no similar signs of fatigue.

While this chase scene was taking place, Richard had gotten three other cranes airborne and managed to keep them with him to the point where we 'watchers' were thinking aloud, "He's got 'em. They're gone." Oops. That thought came too soon - we watched as two of Richards's three cranes broke sharply to the left and made a bee-line back toward the pen. Seeing where they were headed, and with one crane still locked on, Richard announced over the radio he would carry on with his one willing flier. And on he went to Stopover #1 in Green Lake County with a cooperative #4 off his wing, and Brooke high and behind flying chase.

Now, back to the drama at the White River Marsh pensite where the six recalcitrants were toddling around the runway. All six got off the ground when Joe again swooped in, but that following scenario too was a short-lived thing. Willing to try anything, Joe radioed to the interns to move #1 and #5 into the pen so he could see if he could get the other four to follow. Not happening. Next he asked for two more birds to be re-penned, and #6 and #3, being closest to the pen gate at the time, were coaxed inside.

Another swoop in and Joe had #9 and #10 on the wing....and awaaaay they went. As the flyover viewing audience rooted for the trike and cranes to go, go, go, they in fact kept going and going. The kept going right past us, crossed the highway, and seemingly were on course for the next site. Just as the thought, "They're gone," was weaseling its way into our consciousness, #10 broke sharply left, obviously pen bound. #9 clung tenaciously to Joe's wing though, even as he turned to attempt to cut #10 off. No chance of that happening however as #10 was zoom-zooming, and Joe was heard to say, "Look at him go! No way am I going to be able to catch up with him."

Now to the day's bottom line. Four of the ten Class of 2011 are safely in the travel pen at Stopover #1 in Green Lake County. With a number of days of almost certain poor flying weather ahead of us, and the need to vacate the White River Marsh site before hunting season opens on October 15th, our initial thought was to crate and transport the remaining six by road today. But - it is very hot here again today, so not wanting to stress the birds anymore than necessary, crating and transporting was postponed.

If tomorrow's weather permits, the pilots will make another attempt to fly the birds. Failing that, and if the forecast remains unchanged - that is, that it's unlikely we'll be able to make any more flights before the 15th, the six will be crated in the cool  morning hours for the road trip to Stopover #1.

Share |

Date: October 10, 2011 - Entry 1 Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject: MIGRATION'S FIRST LEGLocation: WRMSWA & Green Lake Cty, WI

It has been eighteen years since I first took to the air to lead a flock of birds on their first migration. Back then it was Canada geese. Later we assisted Environmental Studies at Airlie in Virginia to lead Trumpeter swans. Next it was Sandhill cranes to see if the same technique could be applied to that species, and this is the eleventh year with Whooping cranes. It is hard to keep track of all those adventures but I don’t recall once when all the birds followed us on the first leg of the migration.

When the birds are young and beginning to fly, their endurance is minimal. Differences in age means differences in ability, and when we train them, we know that some will get tired and drop out before others.

Having birds drop out at Necedah is one thing. There was lots of high ground and most places were accessible with a little walking. But at the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area the open areas over which we fly are mostly wet prairie or grass covered wetlands. That kind of vegetation grows in clumps, and unless you have been in that type of habitat, you have no idea how impassable it can be.

Think of traversing a field of paint cans all spaced with enough room in between to misplace a foot. Now cover it in grass so you can’t predict where your next step will land. If we lose a bird in there, we could be hours getting it out and that’s only if we know where it is. Some of the grass is so tall that a young colt might not be able to open its wings and power its way up and out, in order to return to the pen on its own.

So the safest way to train the birds is to lead them in circles around the pen venturing further out when you think they are capable of following. It’s a good practice for protecting birds, but it leads to bad habits and teaches them to turn back. That is an acceptable consequence because the only time that is really a problem is the first couple of legs of the migration.

Yesterday, on the first day of the 2011 migration, three birds followed Brooke and Richard to the first stop. The others turned back. Three out of ten is the same percentage as followed us in 2009. I refer to that year because it was the season when we had the most birds ever.

Twenty birds took off with us on the first day that year, and only 6 made it four miles to the first stop. The rest were spread out over three pensites at Necedah and all the ground in between. The second leg wasn’t much better but I make this comparison because on the third leg, all of those confused, rebellious, or reluctant birds, lined up in a perfect row off the wingtip of Brooke’s trike and followed all the way to the next site.

So, despite the poor showing yesterday, and maybe even today, we are confident that this will work. All ten of these birds will learn the rigors of migration, and, if we are careful and lucky, all ten will arrive in Florida. How do we know? In almost twenty years and twenty one migration experiments it has never failed. Of course that does not help the anxiety much.

Share |

Date: October 9, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Brooke PennyPacker
Subject: LEAD PILOT REPORTLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI
Air Miles:


Accum Miles


From - To 

White River Marsh SWA - Green Lake County, WI

It’s like Joe Bachagaloop, Poet Lauriat of New Jersey used to say, “The hardest part of a long journey is the first step…or misstep…whichever comes first”, and every year, the first day of migration always proves him right.

Trying to convince our ten, not always so trusting little souls, to leave the security of their familiar pen and training area and exchange it all for a flight into the great unknown is always a challenge. So to make this process less painful, our first stop is always just a few miles away - just far enough to get them off the refuge, and once there, to infect them with just enough insecurity that they are more likely to follow the trike well each of the remaining migration legs to Florida.

This strategy is simple enough but it is never pretty to watch. The idea is to take off with whatever birds are following well, and, with the chase trike not far behind to pick up dropouts, head for the first stop, leaving the others for the third trike to deal with. More often than not, the remaining birds land and either have to be led over to the first stop another day or put in bird boxes for road transport.

This morning’s flying conditions were marginal with warm headwinds and bumpy air, but knowing we were only likely to get a few birds over to the first stop and could make use of tomorrow’s forecasted better weather to get some if not all of the remaining birds there, we decided to go for it.

“I've got a 15 mile an hour head wind.” Joe radioed. “We’ve got to stay at tree top level.” Richard replied. “Fun!”, I radioed to myself on my internal intercom. But there is great exhilaration and drama in the beginning of a thing, and past experience has proven the viability and wisdom of our action as well as its value.

I landed and taxied into the usual position at the pen door. But this was not going to be a pretty textbook take off with its leisurely wait for all the birds to spill out onto the runway while Geoff and Caleb vanished behind closed doors in their well rehearsed choreography. No… this was going to be more of a smash and grab, you snooze, you lose, he who hesitates is lost kind of takeoff, with only the boldest, most enthusiastic fliers welcome.

So as the best five fliers went into launch mode, I gunned it down the runway and up over the marsh while the five made up a line off the left wing. A lone straggler, low, and a hundred and a half yards back, struggled to catch up. Richard moved in to pick him up, and for a while it looked like all five would stay the course. Meanwhile Joe flew in over the runway in a effort to coax the others into an orderly flight.

Then, first one then another turned back towards the other trikes, while #2,#7, and #12 remained, and once far enough away from the pen, we got on course. Another half mile south and the air became more and more turbulent, a roller coaster ride which challenged the three crane’s commitment to the endeavor. Spooked, #2 did a 180 and headed back toward Richard, arriving tired from the change of partner.

Soon the pensite at stopover #1 came into view, and after a slow but lively descent we were standing in front of the away pen. Talk about a pair of lost, confused little puppies! They looked at me then looked around as thought balloons floated above their heads that said, “Where in the world has this clown led us to now! And, where’s the wet pen?”  My mind's voice replied, “Sorry guys. No more wading pool for you for at least a couple of months. Welcome to the wonderful world of migration”.

Soon Richard landed with #2 who displayed the same confused, “Am I hallucinating or what?” look on his face while we coaxed them all into their new home.

Meanwhile, Joe succeeded in getting some of the other birds airborne but they soon chose the familiar over the alternative he was offering, and landed.

And so our long migration begins, populated, we know, by knowns and unknowns, goods and bads, steps and missteps as well as long days of activity and inactivity, laughter, frustration, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and the most generous and wonderful people imaginable.

We know always that we were carried to this starting line on the shoulders of our project partners; the gang at Patuxent (USGS ), the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, US Fish and Wildlife, International Crane Foundation, and guys with names like John Christian, Tom Stehn, Brian Johns, and Terry Kohler. And all those folks from all over the country who believe in this effort and what it represents, and who support Whooping cranes and us come hell or high water… or both. They will be with us every step of the way.

At times like this, while looking down the road ahead for as far as can been seen, one is moved to offer up a silent one word prayer; the prayer of the parachutest and the bungee jumper, and of all who stand on the precipice about to make that great leap of faith. It goes something like this…… “GERONIMO!!!!!!!”

The 2011 migration is underway! C'mon, why not celebrate with us and Give a WHOOP! We make regular draws for Give a Whoop! Thank You gifts, and at the end of the migration there will be draw for a WHOOPING big Thank You gift. Click here to read all about it.

Share |

Date:October 9, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Green Lake Cty, WI

It looks like tomorrow may deliver weather/wind conditions very close to what we had today. IF that is the case, we will all will be on station again in the morning to attempt to get the seven cranes that hung back this morning into the air and on their way to Stopover #1 to join their three waiting classmates. Hope to see you at 7:00am at the Flyover Viewing site!

To read Brooke's lead pilot posting check back here ~5pm CST.

Share |

Date:October 9, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:PARTIAL SUCCESS - Migration Day 1!Location: White River Marsh SWA

The morning got off to a slow start - actually sort of our usual "hurry up and wait' scenario. The three trikes got in the air around 7:35 after standing by at the hangar waiting for the ground fog to burn off.

Brooke was lead pilot today and although he launched with seven of the ten cranes, he ended up getting away with three. While the others dropped out, numbers 2, 7, and 12 stayed with him and he was eventually able to turn and set course for the first stopover pensite ~4 miles distant.

Richard flew behind Brooke in chase position and over the aviation radio we heard him say he thought #2 looked like he was tiring. As the small gathering of Craniacs watched from the flyover viewing area, one crane reappeared followed closely by a trike. We surmised it was #2 bee-lining back to the pen with Richard in pursuit. One deft maneuver and the trike had the crane on the wing; a second wheel-around and plane and crane were headed back toward the Stop #1 pensite. By ~8:30 the three fliers were safely at the first stopover.

Back at the White River Marsh pen, Joe was trying to convince the rest of the Class of 2011 they should take to the air. Next we heard Joe saying the air was getting trashy and asking Geoff and Caleb to get the remaining cranes back into the pen.

An encouraging note was that #1 was not one of the 'early back to the runway' cranes.

Check back later this afternoon for the lead pilot's report.

Share |

Date:October 8, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: White River Marsh SWA

We all gathered this afternoon to discuss our chances for a flight tomorrow morning. Even holding the weather map upside down and sideways was no help.

After checking numerous weather sites, looking at radar, etc, etc, the consensus was, 'possible, but not probable'. With the weight on the scales coming down heaviest on the 'no-go' side, that's about as definitive as anyone cared to get.

Share |

Date: October 8, 2011- Entry 2Reporter: Caleb Fairfax
Subject:FEATHERS & HAIR, BOTH MISSING Location:White River Marsh SWA

With the 2011 ultralight-led migration starting as soon as weather permits, things have gotten a little hectic at camp. There are a lot of things to take care of and I’m sure I don’t even know the half of it. I could write for days journaling all my minor projects, and I believe Joe, Brooke, Liz and Richard would fill a year worth of Journal entries detailing their to-do lists, so I’ll skirt around the subject.

I thought I would feature another aspect of an intern’s job, one that gives both Geoff and I great fear and relief. What could possibly do that? Well…take a look at the picture to the right.

During a recent medication session I noticed this mark on 10-11’s neck. It might not look like much in a low quality picture, (taken at a distance of an agitated, moving crane) but in person it was alarming to say the least. I had not seen anything like it before. My first impression led me to believe that another crane or two had assaulted and pecked him fairly relentlessly. Geoff and I see the colts peck at each other pretty often, but never to the point of ripping out such a generous amount feathers. I had never seen a bald spot before. We isolated the bird, both got a good look, and tried to take the best photograph we could. As soon as we were back to camp we contacted the pilots.

Brooke got back to us and helped abate our anxiety. The response was his customary witty banter; more humorous and well-worded than what I spit out, but can be summed up with the following: there’s no blood, it looks like he got a “crane hickey” and there really isn’t much we can do for that other than watch for further injury.

By the next time I saw #10 the mark on his neck was no longer visible and I was finally able to calm down. When it comes to ‘my’ birds I’m kind of a vicarious hypochondriac (not sure if that’s quite the way to phrase is but I hope you get my meaning). Fear and relief - instant fear at the sign of injury, and instant relief when our worries are routed.

If you watch our CraneCam you may have noticed when I attend the pen in the mornings and evenings I try to spend a little time holding my puppet head out, or crouching down with the colts. As much as I want to pretend I’m just spending time with the kids, I am actually looking over each bird as best I can. It is important to check each bird’s beak, eyes, neck, body, legs and toes to try and spot any injuries that may have occurred since I saw them last. The last thing we want is an injury to go unnoticed and thus unattended.

On another note, this week I issued a challenge to our followers. I sent Heather a text message suggesting a wager. I was willing to shave a Greenbay Packers logo into the side of my head if the CraneCam chatters would be willing to sponsor a mile of our journey south. MileMaker sponsorships are down considerably over this time in previous years and I figured anything I could do might help…even becoming a traitor. I am a Bears fan (and Patriots, but I get the vibe that’s even more taboo in Wisconsin for some reason), which made shaving a rival teams logo into my head unnerving for sure.

My challenge was met, and then some, so…I had to fulfill my end of the bargain. Check out the photo below to see my flashy new skull billboard. Well, as I mentioned to our followers – I care about my birds more than my own ego so…GO PACK GO.

I want to sincerely thank those that met my challenge and donated to our cause. I care deeply about the success of our reintroduction program and the future of the Whooping Crane. And our supporters showed how much they care too. I just hope I was able to make things a little more enjoyable, for all of us, along the way.

Share |

Date: October 8, 2011 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NO DEPARTURE TODAYLocation: White River Marsh SWA

A target, by definition, is something one aims for. Today is the target date for departing on the 2011 migration, but unfortunately for us, there will be no bulls-eye.

The wind coming at us out of the south is entirely too much for the planes and cranes to handle, so the long and the short of the story is that, drats, today will not be Migration Day 1.

Check back here later today for a Field Journal entry by Intern Caleb Fairfax, and again late afternoon for our best guess/prediction for a flight on Sunday.

Share |

Date:October 7, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: White River Marsh SWA

Tomorrow, Saturday, October 8th is our target departure date on the 2011 migration. From what we see on the weather forecast, it appears that it will be just that - a target - and one that in all likelihood we will miss hitting.

Despite today being beautifully sunny and unseasonably warm, it has been a very windy one. Several times throughout the day the wind was sufficiently strong to set the motorhome a-rocking. Some of the same is in the cards for us for tomorrow.

The forecast calls for relatively high humidity in the very early morning hours and winds blowing out of the south. As much as it pains me to say it, I'm going to very surprised if the planes and cranes are in the air tomorrow. (Go ahead weatherman, surprise me!)

Share |

Date: October 7, 2011


Joe Duff


White River Marsh, WI

When Tom Shultz volunteered to host a few tours to our observation blind early this summer I don’t think he realized what he was getting in to. We haven’t kept a count but he was there with a tour group on most days that were flyable and a few that weren’t.

Tom makes the perfect tour guide for White River Marsh State Wildlife Area because he has birded it for more than 30 years. He is the current president of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, and has served as their fieldtrip co-chair for about 23 years.  He is also a successful bird artist and has done many illustrations for National Geographic Society and for the Peterson Field Guide series.

Doug Pellerin lives in Fond du Lac, only about thirty miles away. He was delighted when we moved here because it saved him the long drive he used to make to view Whooping cranes. Doug has been following this project since the beginning and knows the history of the birds as well as the team. Doug retired this year and spent a good part of his summer conducting overflow tours when Tom was unavailable.

This project could not run without volunteers and Tom and Doug are among the best. We are very grateful for all their work this summer. I know it wasn’t easy but nothing about Whooping cranes ever is.

HR: Both Tom and Doug captured and shared many images with us over the summer. The most recent are below - Tom captured the first four during the training session on Wednesday, October 5th, and Doug captured the bottom row yesterday, October 6th. Be sure to visit our Flickr Photostream to view each.


Visit our Flickr Photostream to view these and others in larger size.

Check back later today for a 'predicting entry' from Liz regarding tomorrow's planned departure. Will the weather AND the young cranes cooperate?


COUNTDOWN: The target departure date for this fall's migration launch is TOMORROW but MileMaker sponsorships to date will only carry our ten young cranes as far as our second flyover state - Illinois.

Wisconsin is completely sponsored but there are still many unsponsored miles over Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, and we can't successfully navigate our way there without YOUR financial support. Please become a MileMaker Sponsor TODAY.

Click to Sponsor Online                     Click for Downloadable Donation Form To Print and Mail

Share |

Date: October 6, 2011 Reporter:Geoff Tarbox
Subject:CLASS OF 2011 - WHAT MAKES THE REST OF THEM TICK?Location: White River Marsh, WI

OM Intern Geoff Tarbox continues with his descriptions of the personalities of the remaining half of the flock - If you missed the first half, click to jump to his October 4th entry.

6-11: This fella's probably one of the biggest cranes in the pen.  You'd think a bird as big as him would have no trouble establishing himself in the pecking order - but, you'd be wrong.  Usually when I see him squaring off, he's the one backing down, even to the younger birds like 9-11 or 10-11.  So I guess you could say this makes him a gentle giant. However, I wouldn't say it makes him a submissive bird.  He just doesn't get into as many confrontations as you think he would.

Like his sister 4-11, he applies himself off and on.  I can remember a week or two in the summer where it was always him, 2-11, 7-11, 10-11 and 12-11 who would take off.  Then a week later, he's back to milling on the ground with everyone else.  Thankfully, during the past few training sessions, he's back to flying with the trike.  In terms of friendliness to the costume, I don't think he's either here nor there.  Seeing the costume isn't the high point of his day like it is for 5-11, but he doesn't shy away from it like 4-11 or act hostile towards like 9-11.  For the most part, I'd say he's a middle-of-the-road kind of guy.  Makes sense he's one of the middle children.  However, I've seen him ruin his fair share of 'engagements' like 5-11 does.  But with his size, he's got the reach to do it.

7-11:  Personality-wise, I would say 7-11 is sort of like what'd you get if 1-11 and 2-11 had a kid.  Like her theoretical daddy, she's definitely an assertive individual to the other birds when I'm in the pen.  I've seen her push around birds like 12-11, 5-11 and 6-11.  Heather tells me she has, on several occasions seen her challenge 1-11!

Like her 'mommy', she's one of the best fliers in our flock.  She wasn't one of the first birds to latch onto the trike.  But now that she's latched on, she hasn't let go.  There have been days when she took over 2-11's coveted spot as lead flier (some would say she still is).  And since then, I haven't seen her have as many down days as 2-11 has had (not that she's had THAT many).  What makes her even more endearing is that she's usually fairly happy to see the costume drop by to say hi.  Whereas 5-11 and 10-11 come in from the right, I can see 7-11 approach me from my left.  I know we've told our tour groups we don't typically don't name the birds.  But in light of her superb flying abilities, bold personality, and the fact she's got an orange band, I can't help but call her Bev.  And on that note, I think I found my favorite bird.

9-11: A grouchy little bird. I don't think she likes the other birds very much, and I know she doesn't like the costume. Every time we go near her, she starts buffeting us away from her with her wings, and threat posturing. I've never seen a chick as young as her stand up straight, point her head down and stamp her feet at me. She was doing this to me and Caleb as early as July. I've seen birds like 6-11 wing buffet us, but the only other bird that actually threat postures us is 1-11 (of course). 9-11 doesn't growl at us - yet, but I think she will once her voice starts to change. She normally only reacts this way if you try to get close to her but Brooke says she's strolled up to the aircraft and challenged him on a couple of occasions. 

I think she'd rather be happy and be left alone and do her own thing. When the costumes enter the pen to replenish feeders or clean footbaths, most of the birds will drop what they're doing to come investigate what we’re doing in their home. 9-11 is almost never one of them; she usually stays in the wetpen doing her own thing. I don't see her get into confrontations much but since she's so removed, I guess the other birds don't see any point in bothering her.

10-11: In my opinion, I almost wonder if 10-11 and 5-11 were twin brothers separated at birth (for the record, #5 is from Calgary while #10 is from Necedah).  10-11 is every bit as friendly toward the costume as 5-11 is. I can generally count on him welcoming us to the pen with open wings when I do pen checks.  And if #5 didn't steal my 'engagement grape', it's only because #10 stole it first.  However, I will say that he does put more effort into flying than #5 does.

There was a time when he was a solid flier.  But when 6-11 fell to the wayside, #10 did too. However, I have an idea as to why that is.  The days he wasn't flying, he could be found hanging out in front of the pen door. Caleb and I didn't know what to make of it until Brooke told us that he must've figured out we were back there and felt more like hanging out with his costumed buddies than he did flying. So in light of that, I'd say he's even more attached to the costume than 5-11 is -because whenever 5-11 lands, he just wanders up and down the runway, whereas 10-11 parks himself right at the gate. But he is the baby brother - it only make sense he's clingy to his parents.

Don't ask me why I think this, but I swear, if he were human, 10-11 would be an avid video gamer.  I have no idea what rationale I'm basing this on, but every time I walk by him, I can imagine him playing Legend of Zelda or Super Mario or something. 

12-11: The flock's kid sister.  When we first got her, I didn't think her chances were too good. She was puny, even for a chick her age, her neck looked funny, and the fluffy down on her head was odd in patches. Initially, she required constant tube feeding, which is never a good sign.  But after a few days she got better and was making as much progress as the rest of the chicks were. She was still a bitty little thing compared to rest of the flock, even to this day.  But what impressed me was that she was a little box of firecrackers. When we first socialized her, she wasn't very intimidated by the larger chicks we were pairing her with. I remember her staring down a couple of her flockmates while in the white series pond pen at Patuxent.

What was even more impressive was that she was the only bird who wasn't afraid of the big, bad, ogre-bird #8-11.  She shot him as many dirty looks through the fence as he did to her. Ultimately, 8-11 was still the more dominant bird. But little #12 still hung in there longer than some of the others did. However, that all seems to have gone away now.  Perhaps it comes from being surrounded by nine other birds bigger than her, it could come from 1-11 being a jerk, but 12-11 is now the submissive bird. The spunky little Napoleon from Patuxent is now pretty shy and timid, even around the costume. She's usually the one whose engagement grape gets stolen.

However, while she's unassertive on the ground, she's pretty assertive in the air, and is one of our more reliable fliers!  And unlike 6-11 or 10-11, she hasn't quit on us at any point. I wouldn't say she's going to challenge 2-11 and 7-11's supremacy anytime soon - but as long as she has some place where she can climb a few notches in the hierarchy is aces with me.

Now that my work here is done, I'm off to watch Transformers, Dark of the Moon, just released!  If you don't have your own copy by the end of the week, then you're doing your part in allowing the Decepticons to take over the Earth, and you'll make poor 4-11 cry. Do you want that on your conscience?  I personally do, but I think you're a nicer person than me.

COUNTDOWN: The target departure date for this fall's migration launch is now just 2 days away, but MileMaker sponsorships to date will only carry our ten young cranes as far as our second flyover state - Illinois.

Wisconsin is completely sponsored but there are still many unsponsored miles over Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, and we can't successfully navigate our way there without YOUR financial support. Please become a MileMaker Sponsor TODAY.

Click to Sponsor Online                     Click for Downloadable Donation Form To Print and Mail


Share |

Date: October 5, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:LAST WEEK OF TRAININGLocation:Main Office

The past two mornings have provided ideal weather conditions for aircraft training with the young crane colts. On Monday Brooke took off to the north and seven birds followed him out over the White River Marsh. The flight lasted for 10 minutes and all of the birds seemed to form up nicely on the wing – getting benefit from the vortices. As he approached the pensite most of them peeled off and landed on the runway to join the three non-flyers. Brooke landed and handed out some grapes for a job well done before taking off again, but this time only four cranes followed him into the air.

Geoff reports that the birds seemed to become less and less interested in the trike as training progressed, with fewer birds leaving runway, and even fewer staying with the trike.

Yesterday, the cranes seemed very energetic when they exited the pen and as Brooke took off, again to the north, most of them managed to get ahead, and in front of him. Brooke aborted the take-off to avoid a collision and the birds kept going. They quickly realized they were on their own and turned back to land, which gave Brooke another opportunity to get them to form up behind the aircraft this time.

On the second take-off, all of them followed but a couple of stubborn birds turned back soon after take-off, while Brooke continued with the remaining birds on another 10-minute flight over the marsh.

The target departure date is this Saturday, October 8th - just 3-days from now. The first migration stopover is approximately 5 miles from the training site at the White River Marsh and it selected to allow the team to get the cranes away from familiar territory. As in past years, once they are away from the familiarity of what they perceive as ‘home’ – they tend to be a bit more dedicated to the ultralights.

In the meantime, we’ll hope for good flying weather today and for the next 3-days. Tune in to the CraneCam to watch the action LIVE! beginning ~7am Central time.

COUNTDOWN: The target departure date for this fall's migration launch is now just 3 days away...

Give a WHOOP!, and let everyone know you are 'WHOOPing' in support of Whooping cranes!

Your $10 WHOOP! might just net you a Give a WHOOP! T-shirt as a thank you gift, or perhaps you'll be drawn to receive the WHOOPING BIG thank you gift of a week's stay (including airfare) at beautiful Mot Mot Manor in Costa Rica.

Click here to read the full details about the terrific Give a WHOOP! thank you gifts. Take a minute to view more images in the Photo Gallery and start dreaming of kicking back in fabulous Mot Mot Manor.

What are you waiting for? Join the fun. Click here and start WHOOPING!


Share |

Date: October 4, 2011Reporter:Geoff Tarbox
Subject:CLASS OF 2011 - WHAT MAKES THEM TICK?Location:White River Marsh, WI

Well, it's been five months since I've taken the class of 2011 under my wing. So one would naturally think I know a thing or two about what makes this flock tick. I say 'no', but my bosses tell me 'yes.' So allow me to introduce you to the stars of the Class of 2011 Whooping cranes.

#1-11: Earlier in the year, he quickly asserted himself as the Alpha Bird. And after his little misadventure back in September, that hasn't changed a bit. Even when he was still recovering, he threw his weight around in his own quiet way. A day or two after his misadventure, Brooke and I caught 3-11 sneaking up behind 1-11 as he was laying down, hoping to knock the big guy down a few pegs. However, one sharp look from 1-11, and #3 was sent packing. The whole thing didn’t last more than a minute, and #1 didn't even get up. None of the other birds went near him - It takes a real commanding bird to be that intimidating even when he's at his weakest. He still, (not too forcefully) pecks at birds that happen to be in his way. Plus, he'll often jump-rake other birds on the runway, whether they just happen to be in his personal bubble as they come out the door, or if he's just in a rotten mood.

Despite his tough guy routine, he seems to have developed a narrow comfort zone since coming out to Wisconsin. He doesn't like to leave the pen or the runway. Or at least, not for long. Sadly, it seems imprinted into him now. I'm thinking he's going to have to be boxed the first two stops of migration before he makes any real progress. But as Brian from Patuxent would put it, I hope he doesn't get boxed so much, that he challenges Mike Tyson's title.

#2-11: In my opinion, 2-11 is one of our bolder birds. It probably comes with being one of the older birds of the flock. But I'd say that she's pretty adventurous, and she's not afraid to take a chance every now and then. When we first let her into the pen and back outside through the gate, she was into it every step of the way. She didn't need much help finding her way in or out, nor did she need much reassurance once she was outside. Usually when she was outside, it always took a bit of coaxing to convince her to come back inside so that we could get on with our morning chores, such as cleaning the footbaths.

It looks like she's held onto this attitude through young adulthood. She was one of the first ones to take to the skies, and through most of the summer, could be counted on to latch onto the wing of the aircraft. She had a few days where she hung out on the ground, but everyone has their off days. She also has an independent streak. Some days, she'll shy away from the costume and require extra attention and coaxing to lead, other days she'll greet you with a smile on her beak. What brings about these moods is anyone's guess.

#3-11: Next we have 3-11, who's almost a '1-11 Lite.' Since he's one of our older and bigger birds, he's not surprisingly one of the more dominant ones. However, he's not as pecky as 1-11 is. Deep down though, I think he's the one who wants to de-throne 1-11 the most. As I stated before, there were a couple of times he challenged #1's right to rule a couple times after his traumatic experience. None of them panned out, but he's the only to my knowledge who even attempted a coup. The other birds kept well away from him the whole time. Whether he's a conniving little schemer or just opportunistic remains to be seen.

Another similarity between #3 and #1 is that he too, has a fairly narrow comfort zone, which happens to be on the runway. It wasn't often we got to see him seriously try to fly with the aces like 2-11 or 7-11. But unlike 1-11, he seems to be finally coming out of that shell. The past couple of sessions, he flew with rest of the birds for at least ten minutes each time. So he's at least willing to try when the mood catches him. Though he certainly had a slow, stagnant start. I hope he has no ambitions of ousting 2-11 or 7-11 as top flier. I want to see him fly, but the last thing we need is a little conspirator.

4-11: Caleb and I agree that 4-11 is probably our most shy bird. I don't see her interact much with the other birds or the costume. But unlike some of our other birds, she doesn't get hostile when company approaches her. She just tries to slip off somewhere where you aren't. She's often one of the last birds to come into the pen after training because she doesn't like approaching the costume (unless it has a grape to offer her, then it's her new best friend).

Another thing I’ve noted about 4-11 is that she seems to apply herself sporadically. Earlier in the year, when the birds started flying, she was one of the birds who would take off with the trike. Then from the middle of July to early August, she'd casually watch the ultralight fly above her, wondering why on earth it keeps making that racket over her head - And now she's back to being one of our better fliers again. But after re-reading some of my earlier entries on 4-11, it seems this sort of shtick isn't anything new. Apparently, she did the same thing when we were first teaching her how to eat and drink. One day, she'd drink from her jugs like a champ, and then the next day, look at her water jugs like we were asking her to drink her own pee. It's nice to see some things don't change. It gives you a sense of security, doesn't it?

5-11: To me, this was a chick who always seemed to need more guidance than some of the other birds. Back in Patuxent, he took a little longer to eat and drink than some of the other birds did. I'm not sure how he did training with the trike in the circle-pen back then, but today, that trend seems to hold true. After 1-11, he's probably one of our least reliable fliers. Make no mistake, he's had good flying days here and there. But if there's a bird turning back after take-off, it's probably him. I'm not sure if not all his neurons are firing, or if he can be bothered to go that extra mile or what. I like to tell everyone at camp that he's dumb, but that's because I'm evil and mean.

But what he lacks in ambition, he makes up for in friendliness. He's usually one of the first few birds I've seen come to greet me when I come in for checks and the like. I think Brooke picked up on it before I did though; he told me that 5-11 loves saying 'hi' to him while he's in the trike. However, he does also have a selfish side. Whenever we try to give other birds treats, he usually tries to steal them from the other birds while they're still playing with it.

See, when you give a bird a treat, whether it's a smelt or a grape, they'll react one of two ways. Either A: they'll take it straight from the beak and gulp it down like they're trying to get accepted into a fraternity. Or B: (and this is usually with the more submissive birds): they'll get excited, raise their head up, and stare at it with wonderment. The look they get in their eyes almost reminds me of a girl who is being proposed to, and the grape you're feeding them is the engagement ring. But as the bird stares at the 'engagement ring,' savoring the moment, shocked and touched that you were thinking of him, 5-11 comes up behind him and snatches the 'ring' away; ruining the moment.

So the moral of the story is, if you ever propose to your girlfriend, make sure 5-11 is far, far away. Because while your girlfriend is beside herself with joy, trying to think of what to say, 5-11 will come up behind her and eat the ring. And not only is the moment ruined, but most importantly, you're down thousands of dollars - Lame.

Ed. Note: Tune in later this week to read Geoff's observations of the rest of the class

COUNTDOWN: The target departure date for this fall's migration launch is now just 4 days away...

Give a WHOOP!, and let everyone know you are 'WHOOPing' in support of Whooping cranes!

Your $10 WHOOP! might just net you a Give a WHOOP! T-shirt as a thank you gift, or perhaps you'll be drawn to receive the WHOOPING BIG thank you gift of a week's stay (including airfare) at beautiful Mot Mot Manor in Costa Rica.

Click here to read the full details about the terrific Give a WHOOP! thank you gifts. Take a minute to view more images in the Photo Gallery and start dreaming of kicking back in fabulous Mot Mot Manor.

What are you waiting for? Join the fun. Click here and start WHOOPING!


Share |

Date: October 3, 2011Reporter:Caleb Fairfax
Subject:VIDEOS BY CALEBLocation:White River Marsh, WI

Saturday morning at 9am sharp, White River Marsh sounded like a battlefield. It was the opening day of duck hunting and many were out and ready. I stayed at the pen well after finishing our morning routine to ensure no overzealous hunters stumbled upon our runway and operation. The last thing we need or want is to frighten our colts with close range shotgun thunder. Luckily for me, there were no encounters to be had.

I knew hunting began at nine this morning so I watched my clock. Nine o’clock hit and the audioscape was still. There was total silence until a lone gunman made his move and fired his (or her) shotgun. The initial blast opened the floodgates and what sounded like fireworks followed for at least thirty minutes. I actually got the vibe many shots were simply fired in celebration of the opening of waterfowl season. As far as I could tell most of the blasts were at some distance away as nothing was too jarring. This was good for us, hopefully most hunters will know about us at White River and will maintain a distance when discharging their weapons.

While checking on the birds Saturday morning, I was also able to attain a little video footage actually capturing some of the descriptions of our birds I made in my previous update. In the beginning of the video you can see most of the birds at attention; they know grapes are coming. Directly in front of me with her head popping into the bottom of the frame is 7-11 and she’s in a particularly aggressive mood this morning. 5-11 (yellow band) strolls up to me since, as usual; if grapes are going to anyone they have to get by him first. To the left of 5-11 in the beginning is 3-11 (red band) pecking away at something. 5-11 grabs the first grape (go figure) at the 0:20 mark of the video. I barely have time to outstretch my arm before he has snagged it from my puppet head.

Shortly after I turn to my left to give the chief of our cohort, 1-11 (white band), a grape at the 0:27 mark. 7-11’s beak pokes in and snags the grape before he can get to it. I know what you’re thinking and don’t worry, he got one later. At the 0:42 mark of the video I toss a grape into the crowd of young whoopers. 5-11 darts in from the right to grab it but isn’t quite fast enough. 3-11 downs it before he is even sure what he’s eating. I guess you cant afford to waste time knowing what you’re eating when you’ve got a bird like 5-11 lunging in on you. That grape was used as a distraction.

I know my little baby girl 12-11 (red/orange band) is hanging on the edge of the group at my right and the only way I’ll get a grape to her is by using a deceptive tactic. So at the 0:54 point I turn to my right and hand 12-11 her grape. I told you I make sure she always gets one. This is also a great chance to see her in the usual ‘cower’ posture. As you can see her head is retracted, her posture is hunched and her feathers are slightly ruffled. Her pose is about as textbook as its gets. She perks up a little after she gets her treat, which I always like to see. At the end of the video I manage to get a grape past 5-11 to 2-11 - See how tall he can get when there are grapes? I wasn’t joking when I said he could stretch up a foot (1:17). Also, the colt at the back by the footbath is 9-11. Notice she likes her space?

Ed. Note: it’s difficult for Caleb to conceal the camera in his sleeve while shooting, which is why the finished clip is vertical vs. horizontal. Also the speed has been slowed to half to make it less jumpy - H.

Give a WHOOP!, and let everyone know you are 'Whooping' in support of Whooping cranes!

Your $10 WHOOP! might just net you a Give a WHOOP! T-shirt as a thank you gift, or perhaps you'll be drawn to receive the WHOOPING BIG thank you gift of a week's stay (including airfare) at beautiful Mot Mot Manor in Costa Rica.

Click here to read the full details about the terrific Give a WHOOP! thank you gifts. Take a minute to view more images in the Photo Gallery and start dreaming of kicking back in fabulous Mot Mot Manor.

What are you waiting for? Join the fun. Click here and start WHOOPING!

Share |

Date: October 2, 2011 - Entry 2 Reporter: Caleb Fairfax
Subject: FIFTY YEARS FROM NOW... Location: White River Marsh, WI

Brooke told me as soon as late-September hits, our luck usually changes and the number of days available to train dwindles rapidly. This year has queued up perfectly with previous seasons and his expectations. Currently, it is a good week when we can get three sessions in and an average one if we have two. Thursday, Sept. 29th was no exception; with steadily rising winds and storms looming on the horizon we had to call off our flight plans.

We did take the spare time to replace the cohort’s old leg bands with radio transmitter bands. The new bands hold a slightly larger form and have an antenna pointing down parallel to the birds’ leg. All in all, I cannot imagine them being too obstructive to the birds. It was quite funny, as immediately after we finished putting the new bands on I glanced into the wet pen to see each and every bird head down pecking at their new bands.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the bands as I only bring that up because during banding I was reminded about something else I’ve been meaning to write about. Each of our ten birds here at White River Marsh really is a distinctive, individual organism with unique emotions and actions.

I’m sure some readers will want to oppress my personification of these animals. Even I was taught in school to avoid anthropomorphizing animals I work with, to use only numbers, and remove any emotional attachment from the equation. I’ve read about the shrapnel Jane Goodall received for naming the chimpanzees she studied for so long and admire how she was able to bypass this criticism because she knew something others didn’t.

The reality is, when you spend such a significant amount of time face to face with these birds and have watched them develop from birth into adolescent cranes you would be foolish to try and ignore the traits recognizable to us as emotions or attitudes.

I feel that characterization is unavoidable in my position but I also feel it can be a valid means of generating respect, attention and watchfulness by the public. I feel when people personify an animal they are subconsciously putting the animal on a level equal to their own. They no longer feel an animal is just a machine or an unthinking byproduct of nature but in fact a discrete, feeling, thinking and acting individual that has a right to life. In turn, this may benefit conservation efforts.

By anthropomorphizing these animals it changes from “Bird X stole grapes from bird Y for reason Z” to “That little rascal 5-11 stole 2-11’s grapes because he’s always stealing grapes and is a greedy little bugger. Plus, 2-11 is not much of a fighter when it comes to grapes.” I know, I know, after all I’ve said I’m still using numbers, but that is how I got to know these birds. I’m still trying to maintain my distance, so the numbers are essentially their names to me.

So, what are some of the personalities that have shown through during the past few months I’ve been caring for these birds? Right away I can tell our readers that some birds have much stronger, or easily recognizable (to us humans that is) characteristics, while others are of a subtler breed.

For now, I’m just going to talk about three of our birds that have pretty well - defined rolls. 5-11, 9-11 and 12-11 are probably the easiest to write about so I think I’ll elaborate on them for now.

As I mentioned before 5-11 is quite the…hmm…I’m going to use the term ‘go-getter’. He is always one of the first to the front of the pen when us costumes enter. He is also usually the first to get a grape. I’ve seen 5-11 magically grow a foot in height reaching for a grape as I try to pass it to another bird. If he’s not pecking away at me indicating he wants a grape or snatching it right from another birds mouth he’s trying to seize it right out of my puppets beak. It’s as if he’s that kid in the front of the class on the edge of his seat waving his hand back and forth “Pick me! Pick me!” Although in his case its “GRAPE! GRAPE! GIMME, GIMME, GIMME!” Perhaps eager is a good way to describe him, if only we could transfer that ‘go-getter’ attitude from food to following the trike.

Another unique bird is 9-11. She would be described best as…testy. Of all the birds she is the only colt to have stomped at me on multiple occasions. Approaching this girl from behind or flank is a guaranteed method to set her off; actually, even advancing from the front has aggravated her before. She definitely has a larger ‘personal space’ than any of the other birds and if you breach the perimeter she lets you know rasping, flapping and stomping at you until you back off.

Lastly, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have a favorite bird. I do and her name is “My little baby girl 12-11”. She’s the runt of our cohort in size and age (but she’s also the cutest). When she was barely a foot tall she was throwing caution to the wind and challenged any bird she could. There were even a few times were we watched apprehensively as she challenged 8-11 through the fence (this was when there was still hope for 8-11 and we were attempting to socialize the chick into another group by using an adjacent pen).

At the same time she was a little aggressive ball of down, she had a thing, as I’ve mentioned before, about sitting as close to us costumes as possible. It melted my heart. My little baby girl 12-11 has changed her attitude a lot since coming to White River Marsh. She has turned into one of the - if not THE most - submissive birds of the group. In fact, aside from when she’s soaring above the trees she is constantly in the crane ‘Cower’ posture.

This is one of the more easily recognizable submission behaviors. During a cower a crane retracts it’s head and assumes a hunched posture with it’s feathers ruffled (Scott R. Swengel, George W. Archibald, David H. Ellis, and Dwight G. Smith. Cranes: Their Biology, Husbandry and Conservation. Washington DC: Department of the Interior, National Biological Service and The International Crane Foundation, 1996. 109). She still likes to come up to us costumes and nibble gently when she’s not badgered away by her fellow colts and I usually have to go out of my way to make sure she gets a grape (which I always do). All in all she’s definitely become a quiet little girl.

I could probably keep going and may continue the individual descriptions in a future update but for now I’m sure most of our readers’ vision is starting to fade so I’ll wrap things up.

Our cranes, and animals in general, are irreplaceable creatures and I am blessed and honored people before me have cared enough about the conservation of this special and magnificent bird to keep its flame of existence from extinguishing. Due to their work I am able to have these amazing experiences on a personal level with a wonderful animal. I think about this all the time.

This thought also reassures me when I worry about the current state of global extinction and habitat destruction. As long as there are people willing to fight and dedicate their lives -- these personal and breathtaking experiences will be shared with future generations. Maybe fifty years from now because of Operation Migration’s work, someone else will have a little baby girl #12-61 they can enjoy watching grow and develop into its own special creature.

Share |
#5-11 #9-11 #12-11
Click for larger view Click for larger view Click for larger view

COUNTDOWN: The target departure date for this fall's migration launch is now just 6 days away, but MileMaker sponsorships to date will only carry our ten young cranes as far as our second flyover state - Illinois.

Wisconsin is completely sponsored but there are still many unsponsored miles over Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, and we can't successfully navigate our way there without YOUR financial support. Please become a MileMaker Sponsor TODAY.

Click to Sponsor Online                     Click for Downloadable Donation Form To Print and Mail


Date: October 2, 2011Reporter:Bev Paulan
Subject:THE GREAT CAT ROUND-UP!Location:White River Marsh, WI

As many of you know, I am a cat lover. I have been cat-owned since I was born, having only been without feline companionship for about a year of my life. With this in mind, I am, however, not a lover of free roaming or feral cats. You see, I love the birds, too. And the mice, frogs and other tidbits cats prey on to survive.

This summer I have been extremely fortunate to have been working on a DNR project that has allowed me to spend time in camp with the crane daddies. In fact, I have been able to spend a couple of days a week over the last two months working on the Karner Blue butterfly restoration project. Seems I have this thing for winged endangered species.

The camp is situated on the White River Marsh property at a recently state acquired farm. Most of the summer, we were serenaded by the moos and oinks of the livestock, as well as the aromatic scents of the same. Being a typical farm, there were cats. And not just one or two, but several. Fourteen to be exact. Unfortunately, that also means a lot of dead mice, birds, insects and amphibians.

As the summer progressed, the farmer made several trips with a trailer carting off the cows and hogs. He even removed fencing and some equipment. However, the cats stayed. Brooke asked what he was going to do with the cats and he told us that we could have them if we wanted, but he did not want them. Being now officially DNR property, we knew the cats could not stay. Besides, they are far from being a native species and have no place in the wild.

Now, being the cat lover I am, I couldn’t let these sweet, cute fur faces be “dispatched” and set out to find a no-kill shelter. I also recognized the difficulty involved in capturing 10 adult barn cats and four newborns and had to come up with a plan. It started with food--always a good bribe. It didn’t take long to be able to pet most of the cats while the feeding frenzy was going on and soon was able to pick some of them up.

While this bribery process was proceeding, I never did see any of the cats eating anything other that cat food, but that is not to say that even well fed cats can’t kill.

According to the American Bird Conservancy’s website, in several studies, fed cats were observed attacking and killing birds. In fact, since the 1600s, domestic cats are considered primarily responsible for the extinction of 33 bird species.

Extinct: as in forever. The website continued to state that every year, free roaming cats kill hundreds of millions of birds and more than a billion mammals. Let me state that again: HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF BIRDS A YEAR. And the ABC states that is a low estimate.

The primary birds taken are the more common ones; blue jays, house wrens and cardinals, but also long distant migrants like yellow warblers and indigo buntings. These aren’t the only birds taken though. Recent studies have indicated that feral cats on the east coast are decimating colonies of the endangered Piping plover. In California, the California least tern, the Western snowy plover and the California clapper rail, all endangered, are all negatively impacted by cat predation.

Down in Florida, the only bird endemic to that state, the Florida scrub jay, continues to decline due in large part to cats. Populations that are located in more suburban settings are declining the fastest, so it appears even our beloved housecat, Fluffy, is not innocent if allowed to roam free.

What really got my attention, though, was that very near to Payne’s Prairie in central Florida, there are several FCCs---Feral cat colonies. These are the colonies of cats that well-intentioned but misguided people watch over, catching the cats, neutering them and then RELEASING them to once again decimate local bird populations. A neutered cat still hunts. What’s the big deal about Payne’s Prairie you ask? We have Whooping cranes there all winter. Sandhill cranes nest there. Cats, in theory, could take a newly hatched crane chick. They also can spread parasites.

If this is not bad enough, cats carry diseases. Any pregnant woman will tell you about the warnings of toxoplasmosis, carried in cat feces and known to cause birth defects and miscarriages in humans. Did you know, though that toxoplasmosis also kills birds? The most endangered Corvid in the world, the ‘Alala or Hawaiian Crow of the big island, is now extinct in the wild with only 55 individual birds in captivity. A reintroduction was tried in the mid 90s only to have 77% of the released birds die due to toxoplasmosis. And, yes, there is a high density of feral cats on the big island.

There are also numerous studies done that prove it is much better for the cat itself to remain indoors. The average life span of a free roaming cat is up to 10 years less than that of an indoor cat. Life outdoors is no picnic for any animal. Disease, other animals, vehicles and mean spirited people are all waiting for a cute kitty to roam about the neighborhood. Cats also tend to out-compete natural predators for food. They are extremely efficient killing machines and along with that vole they bring you as a gift, they are also bringing disease. It is much healthier for everyone, cat and cat-owned, for kitty to stay in.

Not that I needed convincing, but after reading all of that, it is obvious cats definitely have no place on the landscape. So the plan for capturing the colony of barn cats was put in place. It took several weeks of bribery and several phone calls to find a shelter; thanks to the good folks at Tricasa in Green Lake, WI; and traps and crates were begged, borrowed and purchased.

Brooke, being up at O-dark-thirty as usual, had the first two cats in a crate by 5 am and the round-up began in earnest by 6. By 7:30, 13 of the 14 cats were in crates or have-a-heart-traps and were in the van awaiting delivery. Food is, by far, the greatest motivator and strategically placed cans of savory salmon stew made our work easy. With just a little blood shed (ours, not theirs) we were off to the shelter and hopefully a healthier, safer future for the cats as well as the local fauna.

For more information about the effects of cats on birds go to: The American Bird Conservancy

Share |

Date: October 1, 2011 Reporter:Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:THE WHEREAREWEESLocation: White River Marsh, WI

When I was a young boy, my friends and I spent many a completely useless Saturday morning playing cowboys and Indians. Each of us wanted to be a cowboy and nobody ever wanted to be an Indian. Seems the thought of attacking a circled wagon train just didn’t hold much appeal for us in those days. But, in the spirit of fairness and cooperation, each of us took our turn.

Recently, I came to the realization that each and every one of us has genuine Indian blood in us, and we are, in fact, all members of a tribe known through time as the “Wherearewees.” The “Wherearewees” were the first “Lost Tribe” whose origins can be traced all the way back to the time when a young Indian boy was abandoned by his parents at Wal-Mart during a Black Friday Sale.

He spent the next several years in the Lost and Found Department until one day he followed the Greeter home and set up a reservation in his backyard. The tribe grew over time and became famous for their practice of never asking their wives for directions. Their favorite pastime was playing Finders/Keepers, a game which no one ever won.

And so now, all these years later, the “They” have evolved into the “We” of the “Wherearewees,” as we migration crew members decorate our tribal dashboards with GPS devices containing little voices telling us where we are and where we are going, while we chant our tribal mantra containing the three most important words in the English language, “Location, Location, Location.”

There is another tribe we must concern ourselves with. Because it is to that tribe our dear little Whooper chicks belong; the “Wherearetheys.” When you’re working on a Whooping crane reintroduction project, it doesn’t do you much good to know where YOU are, if you don’t know where THEY are. So, Thursday morning we placed a temporary snap on radio transmitter on the leg of each chick, each with his or her individualized color, number and frequency.

The ‘snap on’s;’ designed and fabricated some years back by United States Fish and Wildlife Service crane biologist, Dr. Richard Urbanek, were quick and easy to put on, making it a stress free experience for the chicks. Now, if during migration we become separated from a chick for any reason, we can pull out our special tracking receiver and antenna and use standard radio telemetry techniques to relocate the little fellow.

Our tracking van and top-cover plane are equipped for this purpose. Following the beep-beep radio signals of the transmitters is like listening to two Star Wars R2D2’s discussing the political situation in the galaxy. Which is to say, it can make you little crazy. But it works. The louder the beeps get, the closer you get to the bird and vice versa.

Almost all the tracking of the birds is done in this way, unless the bird is equipped with a satellite transmitter - in which case you can sit in the glow of your desktop computer and track, depending, of course, on the transmitter’s programmed transmission regime.

These temporary transmitters will be removed and replaced with permanent ones once the birds arrive in Florida. And, they will continue to beep-beep as long as their batteries last or, as long as the Energizer Bunny continues to beat his drum or, the Fat Lady continues to sing.

Many a mile will be traveled by the “Wherearewees” and the “Wherearetheys” during that time. This telemetry may be, after all, the most elemental of social media, but we wouldn’t trade it for all the Facebook Pages in the world with their armies of ‘imaginary Friends.’

The ability to find a thing of incredible value and meaning is a gift beyond measure. And if you don’t believe me, just remember what General Custer was heard to say in the final minutes of the Battle of Little Big Horn, “Anybody know where I can find the keys to my car?”

COUNTDOWN: The target departure date for this fall's migration launch is now just 7 days away, but MileMaker sponsorships to date will only carry our ten young cranes as far as our second flyover state - Illinois.

Wisconsin is completely sponsored but there are still many unsponsored miles over Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, and we can't successfully navigate our way there without YOUR financial support. Please become a MileMaker Sponsor TODAY.

Click to Sponsor Online                     Click for Downloadable Donation Form To Print and Mail

Share |

Date:September 30, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie

WCEP tracker, Eva Szyszkoski advised yesterday afternoon that Whooping crane #20-05* is now considered to be a mortality and was being removed from the population number.

The female crane, hatched in 2005, had not been confirmed alive since June of 2009. A Whooping crane was reported as being on her usual summering grounds in Jackson County, WI in May of 2010, but the bird's identity was not confirmed nor was it sighted again.

With this removal, the maximum number of Whooping cranes in the EMP is now 96; 50 males and 46 females.

Anyone interested in knowing 20-05's history from hatch to present, can use the following link to visit Journey North's excellent site and read her bio.

COUNTDOWN: The target departure date for this fall's migration launch is now just 8 days away, but MileMaker sponsorships to date will only carry our ten young cranes as far as our second flyover state - Illinois.

There are still many unsponsored air miles over Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, and we can't successfully navigate our way there without YOUR financial support. Please become a MileMaker Sponsor TODAY.

Click to Sponsor Online                     Click for Downloadable Donation Form To Print and Mail

Share |

Date:September 30, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie

In a press release put out this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it will be conducting an in-depth status review of 374 rare, southeastern aquatic, riparian, and wetland animal and plant species to determine if any or all of them warrant being proposed for federal protection as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

Among the species that will be included in this review is the Florida Sandhill crane. The Florida Sandhill is a long-legged, long-necked gray crane that resembles a heron except for a bald patch of red skin on top of its head.

The press release stated, " The Service made this decision, commonly known as a 90-day finding, after reviewing a petition seeking to add a total of 404 species to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, and analyzing information about these species in its files." For more information about this finding, please visit the Service’s Southeast regional web site.

“The Endangered Species Act has proved to be a critical safety net for America’s imperiled fish, wildlife, and plants. Our finding today is the first step in determining whether these species need the special protection afforded by the Act,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.

Click here for more information about the Endangered Species Program or to read the full press release titled, "U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finds 374 Aquatic-dependent Species May Warrant Endangered Species Act Protection."

Share |

Date: September 29, 2011 - Entry 2 Reporter:Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:PACK IT Location:White River Marsh SWA

It’s like the wise man said to his disciple, “If that’s your bag, pack it - if it's not, unpack it.” If this wise man ever worked on a crane project he would know that you spend a good deal of your time doing both at the same time. Because packing and unpacking are the very yin and yang of our existence, and because the time goes so fast that we rarely if ever catch up to the present, our right hand is in a perpetual state of putting something in the bag while our left hand is taking something out. A continuum to be sure.

So it is that for the past two weeks, Richard, Geoff, Caleb and I have been packing things up in preparation for migration. Walt Sturgeon was also here all last week to help and inspire us, and when he left we were especially saddened by his departure since he’s a real guru when it comes to packing stuff up.

I, on the other hand, just continue my life long quest for a bigger bag. As the days pass, the camp is looking more and more like it did when we first arrived at the beginning of summer. And if that wasn’t enough, after we leave, our gracious hosts, the Wisconsin DNR, are going to tear the farm house, barn, silo, and out buildings down, and return the place back to the way it was hundreds of years ago. Time lapse photography in reverse. Like they say, be careful about making your mark in life because there’s always someone following you with an eraser.

But the packing up process is easier this fall than in previous years because we have spent the summer virtually living as we do on migration; completely self contained except for the water hose and electric cables that radiate from each camper. Our bathroom is a port-a-potty, and our bathing situation is such that I heard the Marines now describe it as taking a “migration shower”. There is, as it turns out, great wisdom and utility in camping on a pig farm because no matter how badly you smell, the pigs smell worse. Hooah!

The birds are doing their part also. They have been singing the “Every day, in every way, we’re getting better and better” song. Training flights are now exercises in progress and anticipation, rather than frustration. Even #1 is taking to the skies if only briefly. He has, by the way, made a full recovery thanks to 'Dr. Caleb’s' special, twice daily physical therapy sessions, and I am pleased to report the crane and handler are once again the best of friends. “Live and let live,” I heard #1 say to Caleb at the end of training the other day as the two were seen walking arm and wing to the back of the wet pen for some splashing around time.

Not that more challenges are not still awaiting us just over the horizon. We recognize this period of preparation as the calm before the storm. But it is, after all, the contrast, the ebb and flow that for some of us gives the project much of its appeal.

Each and every day we unpack another little adventure, a drama in which we play our roles as best we can, well knowing that there will be days we will revel in their playing out, and others when we wish they had been written for someone other than ourselves.

It reminds me of my favorite Robert Frost poem, “The Bag Not Opened.” I paraphrase, of course, and my apologies to the poet…and the audience. “Two bags lie waiting in a yellow wood and sorry I could not pack and unpack both 'cause that might have made all the difference”. An open and shut case. Hooah!

Note: In his entry above, Brooke talked about challenges, of which we never have any shortage. Ensuring the Class of 2011 is ready for their big adventure and then leading them south is a big challenge. Equally as big a challenge is raising the funds to enable this to happen.

The target departure date for this fall's migration launch is just 8 days away, but MileMaker sponsorships to date will only carry our ten young cranes to the middle of our second flyover state - Illinois. Not the place we want the Class of 2011 to spend the winter.

We have the heart and the hands to get the job done, but we need YOUR help to make it possible. Please become a MileMaker sponsor TODAY. Ten beautiful young cranes are counting on you.

Click to Sponsor Online                     Click for Downloadable Donation Form To Print and Mail

Share |

Date:September 29, 2011 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:PATAGONIA 2012Location: Main Office

We've previously told Field Journal readers about a travel opportunity described as a "Wildlife Odyssey to the Bottom of the World". Offered by EcoQuest Travel, Inc. one of the co-leaders of this exciting trip to Patagonia is OM's own Walter Sturgeon. The dates for this15 day trip have changed - now, March 7th to March 21, 2012.

Walt's notes about the trip...."Comprising the southern-most parts of Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is a vast land of snowcapped mountains, cold oceans, windswept plateaus and unparalleled beauty. From Chile’s bustling capital of Santiago we will journey south to Punta Arenas and the spectacular World Heritage Site of Torres del Paine National Park. This vast park nestled in the Andes is home to herds of guanaco, Patagonian foxes, diverse birdlife and even the elusive puma is fairly common.

From the glaciers of Torres del Paine we will ply the Straits of Magellan in hopes of seeing Commerson’s and Peale’s dolphins, Magellanic penguins and other seabirds. From Punta Arenas we will travel even further south to Ushuaia, Argentina to search for albatrosses, kelp geese and gentoo penguins along the Beagle Channel and giant Magellanic woodpeckers among the forests of Tierra del Fuego National Park

This trip is designed to highlight the wildlife of Patagonia with a particular emphasis on bird diversity, but we will take every opportunity to see mammals as well. We invite you to join us as we explore the incredible wildlife and breathtaking scenery that makes Patagonia a magical place.

New, is the offer of an optional, 6 day fantastic post-trip extension (March 21st to 27th) that concentrates on the wildlife of Chile’s Lake District and Chiloe Island."

For all the details, contact Walt Sturgeon: (replace AT with the @ symbol)

Share |


To View Previous Field Journal Entries Visit the Site Map 

Home | Our Work |Get Involved |In the Field
Merchandise | Links | Contact Us

©1994-2014 Operation Migration Inc.™ & Operation Migration - USA.™ Not to be reproduced for purposes, public or private without the expressed written consent. To obtain consent please visit the Contact Us page.

Sign our Guestbook  

Bookmark and Share