Adult Cranes in Green Lake County?

We’ve been getting a number of questions about the number of adult Whooping cranes located at White River Marsh.

I have to keep reminding myself that just because I respond to a question on the chat, which accompanies the live stream, not everyone reads/see it, so here you go.

Currently there are eight whoopers located in and around White River Marsh in Green Lake County. They include: 3-14/4-12 (The Royal Couple), 5-12 & 30-16, 4-13 & 10-15, and 4-14 (Peanut) and 11-15. 

Some are wondering why we’ve not seen them at the site where the modified costume reared young cranes are. The easy answer is that they’re birds and they fly around and don’t have to keep a schedule.

The more complicated response is that it’s molt time. Whooping cranes molt every couple of years – this means they lose all flight feathers, along with the ability to fly and are essentially grounded until the new feathers grow back. The timing of this is usually when they have young (flightless) chicks to tend to and to protect.

Here’s a recent photo of whooping crane #14-12 in Michigan. As you can see he is currently waiting for his feathers to return.

Male Whooping crane #14-12. Doesn’t he look odd with no black feathers? Photo: Andrew Simon

We did see the two young males, 4-14 and 11-15 at the north end of the runway the day after the CraneCam began streaming but as far as we know, they are the only two that have dropped by.

If it’s any consolation, we did hear a pair unison calling very early this morning.

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Brooke shared the following photos he captured this week of the whooping crane cohort currently being raised at White River Marsh in Green Lake County, Wisconsin.

If you’d like to arrange to visit the viewing blind, which is open on Thursdays, give Doug Pellerin a call to check for availability and to reserve your spot. 920-923-0016.

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They Can FLY!

And fly they did yesterday morning!

All seven of the modified costume reared whooping cranes can now fly, at least the length of the grass strip which used to serve as a runway and at most a couple of circuits. 

Some of their landings are less than graceful but they take off with such exuberance, you can’t help but smile. 

If you want to watch for yourself, tune in at roughly 6:30 am CT and watch the action LIVE. Here’s a link to the CraneCam

Yesterday’s outing lasted just under 90 minutes and they explored, flew, foraged, poked, prodded and played with a rather large snake skin. (personally, I’m thrilled it was empty).

Here’s a photo of our eldest crane this year, number 1-17 checking out the snake skin, which was, at first, in the tall grass adjacent the wet area.

Photo: CraneCam grab

And here’s the actual snake skin

Photo: Colleen Chase, snake wrangler

It was really interesting watching the various reactions of each crane colt when they approached the skin. Number 1-17, a dominant male was very apprehensive. He poked and pecked but jumped back each time he made contact.

Next up was Mr. Pokey, Number 3-17. The watchdog of the flock – he grabbed it, without hesitation and shook it violently. He also quickly lost interest.

Whooping crane #3-17 checks out the snake skin

Finally, The other male, number 4-17. (Don’t tell anyone but this guy is my favorite). I love how he acts on impulse and then considers the consequences with an almost “oh crap, now what” attitude. He too, grabbed the snake skin and actually carried it briefly before tossing it aside and moving on the something else. 

(hmmm, it just occurred to me that the only three cranes to actually investigate the snake skin were males!)

You really should try to watch today if you can! They’re maturing and changing so quickly!

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Snakes in the Battery Box – Coming to a Theater Near You.

Sunday morning started out as nice as could be. I had the honor of taking Dr George Archibald out to the pen to meet the chicks. He kept the birds busy while I did chores. Number 3-17 did his watchdog impression but quickly settled down.

Dr. George Archibald, co-founder of International Crane Foundation.

When it was time to go I double checked the gate and connected the fencer wires. 

As always, when one leaves the pen, the last thing to do is to turn the hot wire on. I touch it with the back of my finger to make sure it’s working. Well it barely bit me, so I hugged Dr. Archibald goodbye and whispered the the fencer was grounding out somewhere and I needed to do a lap around the pen to fix it. He set off on his journey and I started weeding my way around the pen and checking the wire. It looked fine, not touching anything, not slipped off the insulators. Hmmmm. Brooke changed the battery a week ago, but that was the only other thing to check, so I took the lid off the battery box and there was the resident Garter Snake. 

Ugh, ok, I can handle this I told myself. I took a couple of pictures as he slithered down. I stared at the box for a minute, willing him to slither out and off. He did not. So, I took a deep breath and picked the battery up and set it in the shed. It was very bright out and the box was in the shade, and I had a fogged up helmet on, but I was pretty sure I saw 2 snakes! I took a picture and sent it to Bev Paulan, who was at Pat Fisher’s Osprey banding, to show her she was not the only one having fun on a Sunday morning and one to Heather, cause she hates snakes and it’s always fun to freak her out.

Now came the tough part I had to dump these 2 snakes out, which meant I had to get my hand semi near the snakes. I told myself, they are on the inside they can’t bite you through heavy plastic. It took a minute to convince myself this was true, there was no doubt that I had to do it, so I took a deep breath, reached my hand down… and my phone vibrated, one of the ladies was texting me back, YAY! I could read my text and postpone my task for a few more seconds! As I was getting it out of my costume pocket it vibrates again. Both Bev and Heather said the same thing. 3!!!

3!!! I can’t tell you why, but 3 instead of 2 was way worse. In a creepy kind of way. So I took another deep breath before I could ponder the creepy aspect any further and dumped at the same time doing a little dance backwards. 

I am glad no one was in the blind. Off they went behind the shed. I replaced the battery, the fence bit me nicely and off I went toward the van thinking I deserved both combat pay and to drink my breakfast.

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Aerial Survey

Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan was able to get a flight in yesterday over Juneau, Adams and Marathon Counties, and reports we’re down to just three wild hatched Whooping crane chicks currently surviving.

W13-17 was seen with 29-09 & 12-03  Juneau County  ~42 days old
W7-17 was with 14-08 & 24-08  Juneau County  ~48 days, and
W3-17 with 24 & 42-09  Adams County  ~72 days. This oldest crane chick should be capable of taking short flights with its parents now.
This nesting season, eighteen chicks hatched from four first nests and ten re-nests in Juneau, Adams, Marathon, St. Croix, and Green Lake counties, Wisconsin. 
Being a small, flightless crane chick isn’t easy. There are predators everywhere – on land and in the air. Often, eggs are predated before they hatch as was the case with the Green Lake County nest on May 8th when an interloper Whooping crane landed very near to the nest.

Nesting pair 3-14 & 4-12 chase off 4-14 (Peanut) from the nest area.

Both parents left the nest to chase off male crane #4-14 and a coyote moved in to get the two eggs that were within a day or two of hatching.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the three remaining wild crane chicks and hope they reach the age when they can fly to escape the terrestrial predators.
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Call For Auction Items!

The 2017 Whooping Crane Festival is just around the corner, and with it comes one of OM’s most exciting fundraising campaigns, our annual auctions. We are excited to announce that most auction items will be posted ONLINE! At the Festival’s Friday night dinner we will feature a few super-special items, then have those items too unwieldy to mail available for fast and furious bidding at Saturday’s Festival. Because we know that not everyone can attend the Festival in Princeton, Wisconsin, we will conduct the online auction on our Facebook page.

How can you help make our auctions successful? I’m glad you asked! You can help in three ways. First, if you have an item you’d like to donate, we’d be thrilled to accept it. Second, you can help us by thinking of businesses who might be interested in making a donation. Lastly (and most importantly), you can BID BID BID when the auctions open! 

To donate an item, click here. Fill out the online form and click “Submit.” Then, just ship or mail your item to the Princeton Chamber of Commerce (104 E. Main St., Princeton, WI 54968). 

Once we have received your item, the auction committee will assign it to the auction it best suits. No single item will appear in multiple auctions, and the auction committee reserves the right to make this determination. For example, most of the items that are light weight and easily mailed will be assigned to the online auction. Heavy and bulky items will be featured in one of the auctions held on Festival weekend so that they can travel home safely with the winning bidder.

If you come up with businesses that might be interested in making a donation, email the information to me at jbellemer(AT), including the name of the business, the address, and a brief description of what they do and/or what you think they might offer. I’ll then send a solicitation letter to the business explaining OM’s mission and the auctions.

Below are some FAQs that hopefully will answer your questions. If not, feel free to email me!

HOW DO I DONATE AN ITEM? Use our online form to tell us about your item and then ship it to the Princeton Chamber of Commerce at 104 E. Main St., Princeton, WI 54968.

CAN I DECIDE WHICH AUCTION I’D LIKE MY ITEM FEATURED IN? While we wish we could offer that option, it simply isn’t feasible due to the many items and the amount of work we have to do. The auction committee will decide which auction is best suited for your item in the best interest of OM.

CAN I SUGGEST AN OPENING BID FOR MY ITEM? The only opening bids that will be set are to cover postage costs for items that will be mailed to the winners. Otherwise, we can run afoul of IRS rules and regulations. (see next question/response)

WILL I RECEIVE A TAX DEDUCTION RECEIPT FROM OM? No, OM cannot issue tax receipts for goods donated without running into IRS rules about “fair market value”. The IRS states that to issue a tax-deductible receipt for a donated item “Fair Market Value” must be determined by obtaining three appraisals for each item. As you can imagine, this simply isn’t feasible.

WHAT IS THE CUTOFF DATE FOR SENDING IN MY ITEM? Our cutoff for receiving items is August 19th. This allows us enough time to inventory the items, determine which auction they go in, photograph them, and write descriptions. As you can imagine, we have a lot of work to do and cannot leave many items until the last minute. On a case-by-case basis we can make exceptions, such as if we make other arrangements for your item because it is being driven to Wisconsin. Other than that, August 19th!

WHEN ARE THE AUCTIONS? The Whooping Crane Festival will be held the weekend of September 9th, 2017. There will be a dinner on Friday night, 9/8, at which there will be a silent auction featuring a small number of items. On Saturday, at the all-day Festival, items unsuitable for mailing will be auctioned. The online (Facebook) auction where most items will be featured will open on Saturday, 9/16 and close at noon on Saturday, 10/7 (3 weeks).

WHAT IF I DON’T USE FACEBOOK – CAN I STILL PARTICIPATE IN THE ONLINE AUCTION? Facebook is our best online venue as there are large numbers of supporters communicating regularly there. To bid on Facebook, you can either set up an account there temporarily, just for the auction, and then close it afterwards, or have a friend who DOES use Facebook submit your bids.

WHAT IF MY ITEM DOESN’T SELL AT ONE OF THE AUCTIONS? Occasionally we are unable to contact someone who posted a winning bid. In that event, we will simply hold onto the item for next year’s auction.

Any other questions can be emailed to JBellemer(AT)

Viewing Blind Visits

We’re thrilled to let you know that once again, we’ll be inviting visitors to the viewing blind at White River Marsh!

The blind is located close to the pensite where there are currently seven young-of-year cranes being costumed reared in preparation for release this fall.

Visitors can visit the blind on Thursday morning but must be on site and ready to head out to the blind by 6am. Don’t forget your camera!

If you’d like to reserve your spot – contact Doug Pellerin at 920-923-0016 

Here are some photos that Rich Smith captured from the viewing blind recently!

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More on Patuxent Closure

Last week we told you the Whooping crane propagation program at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center will be closing this year. We also said we would keep you informed when we learned more.

Patuxent’s Director John B. French, Jr., Ph.D. has released the following fact sheet:

FACT SHEET  –  14 July 2017

Closure of the Whooping Crane Propagation Program at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center 

Background:  Fifty years ago USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center initiated the North American effort to breed endangered Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) in captivity, and together with many partners over the years, developed a comprehensive program for Whooping Crane conservation. Patuxent has been a leader in that effort ever since, and the program has become an example of endangered species conservation and recovery known world-wide.  Whooping cranes are still endangered, but the overall population has grown more than 10-fold in that period.

The Whooping Crane Propagation Program at Patuxent will close in FY18 and birds will be moved to other institutions.  Several factors contribute to that decision including that propagation for release does not fit easily in our current research mission, and USGS will focus limited resources on filling gaps of information for species at risk that are not well studied.  Closure of the propagation program will present some challenges for the many partners who are now involved with Whooping Crane reintroduction’s.

Actions:  The proper disposition of approximately 75 Whooping Cranes now in Patuxent’s care will require time and resources to accomplish.  Breeding Whooping Cranes at Patuxent will be sent to other captive breeding centers, hence will not be lost to the program, but there likely will be a disruption of reproduction in those birds for the 2018 season and beyond. The disposition of cranes now in Patuxent’s care will follow the recommendations of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the captive flock. The SSP is a formal set of procedures that allow all captive WCs to be managed as a single population, no matter where they are housed.  The considerable expertise among Patuxent staff, ranging from animal husbandry to reintroduction methodologies to results of scientific studies, will be available for consultation and training to make the transition as effective as possible.

Conservation impact:  Whooping Crane captive breeding for reintroduction in North America is one part of the strategy for conservation and restoration of the species.  That strategy is guided by a joint US/Canada International Recovery Team as described in the Whooping Crane Recovery Plan.  The impact of closing the Whooping Crane Propagation Program at Patuxent may be to slow the rate of production of chicks for reintroduction of Whooping Cranes, at least temporarily.  In the long term, we foresee no detrimental impact on whooping crane production in captivity and we expect that conservation actions that benefit the growth Whooping Crane numbers will continue.  


John B. French, Jr., Ph.D.                               


Patuxent Wildlife Research Center                                                            

(301) 497-5502


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Go To Jail…

Go directly to jail. Do not pass go… That’s where the now 20-year old Trey Joseph Frederick of Beaumont, TX is heading, because surprise, surprise… He violated the terms of his parole.

In October 2016 Frederick’s original probation sentence handed down by U.S. Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn, was five years in length. Frederick had pleaded guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act after he was convicted for shooting two Whooping Cranes on Blair Road in Jefferson County in January 2016. 

Yesterday, Frederick returned to federal court because he violated his probation terms by using an AR-15 assault rifle to hunt from a roadway in Jefferson County.

Frederick’s probation terms specifically prohibited him from owning or possessing firearms, or any kind of dangerous weapons. He is also not allowed to fish or hunt anywhere in the United States.

During his court appearance yesterday, U. S. Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn sentenced Frederick to 11 months incarceration to be followed by a one year term of supervised release.

Read more 

And even more. 


I normally don’t have a cruel streak. I’m a nice person, I empathize too much probably. So, I am kind of ashamed to admit how interesting and funny I think it is that #3-17 has been like a watch dog attacking the new person in the yard! 

The first time Doug Pellerin joined us on an outing with the young cranes, you could see the thought bubble above #3’s head “I don’t know you – Game on!” He went after Doug and his puppet. He pounded Doug in the ribs, leg and butt, every chance he got! He did not come round and buddy up the following Thursday either. Poor Doug got the same treatment again. We thought it was the puppet Doug uses. 

To give you some idea of what this might feel like – imagine being poked – really hard – by chopsticks!

We try to turn away and just disengage when this happens. One does not want to teach or encourage aggression. So Poor Doug is feeling like a poking bag.

This past Monday Dr. Barry Hartup, ICF’s veterinarian and his residents (whom Brooke will introduce you to in his next post) came to give the birds their Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus immunizations and collect poop samples to check for parasites. Our little watch dog #3-17 attacked again. He went after the tech that was using MY puppet… So much for the puppet theory. 

Today #1-17 joined the Wham On Doug club. I figure this is a good thing (not for Doug), we want them to be wary birds. If they stay away from what they don’t know, and wail on something strange that is too close it increases their chances of making it. I really want them to make it.

So sorry Doug, I am giggling silently while you weave and dodge.

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Ch ch ch ch changes…

The youngest of our whooping crane chicks, #8-17 is now 70 days old. She is the smallest also, a tiny girl.

She has been the most timid of the birds, definitely at the bottom of the pecking order. She submissively ducks her head when another bird gets too close. 

Though little, she is a smart girl, on buggy mornings, as we walk the runway she has learned that if she lays down in the tall vegetation it keeps the bugs off her legs.

Young whooping cranes 8-17 and 2-17 hunker down in the tall grass to protect their legs and escape the biting insects. Photo: Colleen Chase

Last week we lost sight of her briefly. Before we went into the marsh to find her Brooke whispered to me to watch where I walked, she would be so hunkered down we had to be careful to not step on her. Well, Brooke found her and she followed him happily getting her fair share of grapes, which are used as positive reinforcement. They only get one if they come to the costume.

In the past week she has gotten really grabby when it’s grape time. I think she has gotten tired of other birds stealing her share of the treats. But, even though she’s gotten grabby with the grapes she’s still been submissive. Until yesterday morning, we were about to head back to the pen, and everybody was at the South End of the runway coming out of the marsh. We couldn’t believe our eyes when our mousey little timid girl took a swipe at number 7-17 poked her hard in the back because she was in her way!

It’s so much fun to watch a baby of any species grow up and change and change is happening!

whooping cranes 3-17, 8-17 and in the background 7-17, out for some exploration and exercise. Photo: Colleen Chase

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Man Sentenced for Shooting Whooping Crane

Lane Thibodeaux, 21, of Gueydan, Louisiana was sentenced by Federal judge Carol Whitehurst to serve 45-days in jail and pay a fine of $2500. If the fine is not paid in full within a year, he could return to jail for an additional 6 months.

Thibodeaux pleaded guilty late last week to five charges related to shooting and injuring a whooping crane that ultimately had to be euthanized.

The bird, which was first released by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in January 2014, was found in November of that year near Gueydan, with a gunshot wound to the leg. The crane was transported to LSU Veterinary School, but could not be saved.

READ more.

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Register Now!

2017 Whooping Crane Festival in Princeton, Wisconsin

The festival takes place the second weekend in September with activities getting underway Friday, Sept. 8th with a field trip to nearby Marsh Haven Nature Center near Horicon Marsh. Your field trip will include a presentation about Birds, Bees and Your Yard followed by lunch and a boardwalk stroll. Bus transportation to/from is provided.

Friday evening the festival kick-off dinner gets underway at 6pm at the American Legion Post 306 in Green Lake, Wisconsin. We’ll have a fantastic buffet dinner, followed by a presentation by Operation Migration’s CEO Joe Duff. 

Saturday, Sept. 9th brings the all day FREE festival for all ages at the Princeton School. Kids can take part in one of the interactive and informative sessions with David Stokes – the snake, turtle, frog man. Kids can also build their own birdhouse, have their face painted or take part in some of the other fun activities. 

We have a fabulous speakers line-up this year for the adults, so check it out and make plans to attend one or all of the sessions throughout the day.

NEW this year! We’re thrilled to offer a Nature Photography Workshop! 

Love taking photos of birds? Butterflies? Flowers? Mystified by the camera settings? This workshop is for you! Check out the details and register here. Space is limited.

Arrive early and take part in the pancake breakfast put on by the Princeton School students. The hotcakes start flipping on the griddle at 8am!

Stay for lunch and enjoy many local food offerings, including brats, cheesecake and many other favorites. Place bids on the silent auction items lining the school hallways! (Winning bids will be announced at 2:30pm).

The Vendors Marketplace will open at 8am and what a great opportunity to support local artisans and get your holiday shopping started! If you’re a vendor and would like to reserve a booth, we still have a few spaces left but you had better hurry. Please email:

Saturday evening we’ll see a Crane Trivia re-match! The VFW Lodge in Princeton will be the place for this epic brain battle. Will team OMG win back the title from team Chix’s Chicks? Beforehand, we’ll relax and enjoy pizza, pasta and salad from Christiano’s.

Be sure to pre-register for this as space is limited.

CHECK out all the events taking place in and around beautiful Princeton, Wisconsin during the Whooping Crane Festival – September 8 – 10, 2017 – we hope to see you there!

Amazon Prime Day

The 3rd annual Amazon Prime day with special deals for all Prime members begins tonight at 9pm ET. We wanted to remind you before you head over to Amazon, to please use this link and Operation Migration will receive a portion of your purchases.

Since the AmazonSmile campaign kicked off, Operation Migration has received: $3,015.24 So you can see that it all adds up. 

When you #StartWithaSmile on #PrimeDay, Amazon donates to Operation Migration-Usa Inc. Shop for great deals at


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