Whooping Cranes Confirmed in Wisconsin

Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan was able to fly a survey on Tuesday over the core reintroduction area and reports the following cranes are back on, or close to their established territories in the core reintroduction area.

*NFT = Non-functional Transmitter

7-07/39-07, 5-05/32-09, 17-07/NFT (likely 10-09), 29-09/19-14, 22-13, 13-03/NFT  (likely 9-05), 34-09/NFT (likely 4-08), 1-10/W1-06, 27-06/26-09, 13-02/NFT (likely 18-02), 11-02/26-07, 3-11/19-11/NFT, 9-03/3-04 in flight Juneau County, 16-04 and 12-02.

In addition to the cranes listed above, PTT data indicate 7-11 (and likely her mate 10-11) are back in their Marquette County, WI territory and 4-11 (and her mate 29-09) have returned to Wood County as well.

As of yesterday morning 7-14 and 4-12 (and possibly 4-13) had advanced northward to Carroll County, IL.

If you happen to spot a Whooping crane please use this link to report your sighting.

We thought it a good time to remind everyone of the recommended guidelines should you be fortunate enough to encounter a Whooping crane.

  • To protect these Whooping cranes we will not divulge the exact location of the sighting.
  • We ask that you please do not approach them closely, even in a vehicle, to avoid habituating the birds to human presence. Habituation is one of the greatest dangers that whooping cranes face because it puts them at greater risk from vehicle collisions, predation, and illegal shooting.
  • Please be respectful of the property of others and do not trespass.

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership encourages birding listserv administrators and managers of social media page(s) to not release exact location information of Whooping cranes in the Eastern flyway. In an effort to protect these young and impressionable cranes, WCEP releases county level location information only.

American Birding Association Principles of Birding Ethics

Aransas NWR Aerial Survey

How many Whooping cranes can you count?

Preliminary survey data indicated 308 whooping cranes, including 39 juveniles, in the primary survey area (approximately 153,200 acres) centered on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

I’ll Be Back

Whooping crane 5-12

Who could ever forget Arnold Schwarzenegger’s great line in the movie “The Terminator”?  #5-12 certainly didn’t on that not so long ago Christmas Eve when his old buddy, 4-12, kicked him out of the pen and into exile. Unfortunately, “Terminatee” was the movie the poor little guy found himself starring in.  But the world belongs to those who wait… “Patience, Grasshopper.”

So wait he did. He moved for a while over to a nearby ranch and played nice with a small herd of cows.  Nothing like a pasture full of cows to take the sting out of loneliness. But later the cows were moved, either to a different ranch or somebody’s dinner plate and so it was back to the marsh for #5-12.  Not that any of this was new.  In fact, it was a rerun of last year when #4-12 kicked him to the curb.  The poor little fellow probably thought he was watching a rerun on “Me TV.”  Still, the world eventually belongs to those who wait.  Just ask any cockroach.

Meanwhile, he lurked in a neighboring marsh, watching and waiting for opportunities. When the pen population would take their morning feeding flight to a nearby creek, he’d fly into the pen, rush to the feeder, and do his impersonation of “Cool Hand Luke” eating hard boiled eggs while keeping a wary eye on the horizon.  The whole affair was done with the speed and precision of a NASCAR pit stop.  Then those familiar white dots would appear pen bound in the sky and it was “Up, up and away” for #5, often with #4-12 and 4-13 hot on his six-o’clock.  He must have read the book, “Cat Burgling Chow for Dummies.”  It was almost like a game. A team sport… without a team.

All that changed a week and a half ago when “The King” left the building with 4-13 and took little #7-14 along, just as a tease.  You see, there was a small measure of hope the old boy would take the “Class of 14” on migration back to Wisconsin, leading them over the half of the migration route they missed coming down. Only 7-14 had the winning ticket.  And yesterday, her last PTT hit placed her and hopefully the other two, firmly in northern Illinois.  The rest of the chicks just looked on in confusion before settling into winter flock minus three mode.

Meanwhile, the ever patient 5-12 watched from his hiding place in the adjacent marsh and before you could say “He who hesitates is lost”, he was in the pen gulping down large beak fulls of crane chow.  In fact, he was so hungry he almost ate the feeder!  “Easy boy!” we cautioned from the blind.

Whooping crane 5-12

Whooping crane 5-12

Soon it was clear that food wasn’t the only thing he was hungry for.  Companionship!  He was lonely.  When the chicks took an unscheduled last minute flight over the tree line one evening and I began my all too familiar trudge out to eyeball their exact whereabouts, 5-12 released his grip on the hanging feeder and flew out to land at my side.  “It’s a cold and lonely world out there.” I commented. “I should have been hatched a sandhill,” he replied.

So now we watch from the blind as his little reptilian crane feet carry him from one feeder to another around the pen like the hands on a clock. The question is, will he migrate before he pops!  And if he doesn’t completely explode from his ravenous food intake, will he be too heavy to get his butt off the ground!  And there is, of course, that other question: when he does migrate north, will he take any of the chicks with him?  After all, he loves company even if he is at the bottom of the pecking order. Seizing the initiative and launching on migration could change all that.  After all, the last thing they heard him say before he left Wisconsin last fall on migration was, “I’ll be back!”

Let’s hope so.

It’s Like Being Pregnant Again…

It’s getting close – you know it is, but you have no idea when it’s going to happen. Could be today or tomorrow but Thursday looks best. Or maybe a week from Saturday. It’s just like being pregnant, you have no idea when the big event is going to happen. When will our Whooping crane colts take off?!

Will 5-12 take 8-14? The don’t seem bonded but they do hang together, sort of. I am ready and waiting.

And waiting…

So, the van is packed! I have clothes, a sleeping bag (just in case) every bit of tracking info Eva has given me is printed and ready to review. The tracking receiver is spruced up and working well. I have my costume and puppet and a spare in case whoever joins me does not have one. Two pair of boots. And so we wait, and wait…

The one difference I can see between this waiting to track cranes and being 9 months pregnant and waiting to have the baby is, once you have the baby you know where it is and don’t have to chase it (well at least for the 1st year) whereas I’m going to be doing some major chasing and hide and seek.

So right now, I’m just as nervous as when I was waiting for that 1st labor pain many many years ago.

Eagle With Mini Camera

We just had to share… COURTESY OF “FREEDOM CONSERVATION”
Highest recorded bird flight from man-made structure filmed on Sony Action Camera in effort to draw attention to eagle conservation. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, and the magnificent centerpiece of Downtown Dubai.

Post by RT.

Whoopers on the Move

Enjoy these images of Whooping crane 1-11 taken while this crane made a brief stop in Winnebago County, IL this week.

This almost 4 year old crane spent the winter in Morgan County, Alabama and is heading back to Wisconsin for the summer. No word as yet on whether he has selected a mate but at four years of age, he should now be of breeding age.

1-11_WinnebagoCo-IL_Mblassage_031915

Whooping crane no. 1-11. Photo: Mark Blassage

1-11_WinnebagoCo-IL_Mblassage_031915_2

Photo: Mark Blassage

Doug Pellerin visited Horicon National Wildlife Refuge yesterday and found no. 18-11.

Photo: Doug Pellerin

Photo: Doug Pellerin

DSC_8091_18-11_DPellerin_032015_1

Photo: Doug Pellerin

WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need. Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards; remain in your vehicle; do not approach in a vehicle any closer than 100 yards.  Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you. Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph whooping cranes. Please report your sightings

Calling All Auction Items!

The 2015 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 pleased to announce that, like last year, the auctions will be held in multiple formats – online, silent, and LIVE! Yes, at the Crane Festival dinner we will conduct a live auction featuring a small number of super-special items. And because we know that not everyone can attend the festival in Wisconsin, we will also conduct an online auction using Facebook.

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! Read on for more details!

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 who has graciously offered to receive and store all our items until the Whooping Crane Festival in September.

Once we have received your item, the committee will determine which auction it best suits, and it will be assigned accordingly. No single item will appear in multiple auctions, and the committee reserves the right to make this determination. For example, many of the items that are light weight and easily mailed will be assigned to the online auction. If it is heavy or bulky, it will be featured in one of the auctions held on festival weekend (live or silent) so that it can travel home safely with the winning bidder.

The committee also reserves the right to limit the number of items in certain categories. We believe that if we receive too many of certain types of items (e.g. framed photography), then none of them will receive as much attention as they deserve. If this happens, the committee will either donate it to a worthy organization in the Princeton area, or will return it to you – you decide!

If you come up with businesses that might be interested in making a donation, email the information to me at jbellemer(AT)operationmigration.org, 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.

WHAT IF MY ITEM IS TOO BIG AND BULKY TO MAIL OR SHIP TO PRINCETON? CAN I MAKE OTHER ARRANGEMENTS? Yes! Given the geographic spread of Craniacs attending the Whooping Crane Festival, there’s a good chance that we can arrange to have your item picked up and driven to Wisconsin. Just contact me at jbellemer(AT)operationmigration.org and we’ll figure something out.

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 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 possible.

WHAT IS THE CUTOFF DATE FOR SENDING IN MY ITEM? Our cutoff for receiving items is August 7th. 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 7th!

WHEN ARE THE AUCTIONS? The Whooping Crane festival will be held the weekend of September 12th, 2015. There will be a dinner on Friday night, 9/11, at which there will be both a silent and live auction, each featuring a small number of items. On Saturday, at the festival, there will be a large silent auction. The online (FaceBook) auction will open on 9/1 and close on 9/25.

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? We have never had an “orphaned item” at prior auctions, but in that unlikely event, we will donate the item to a worthy charitable organization in the Princeton, WI area.

Any other questions can be emailed to JBellemer(AT)operationmigration.org.

Canada’s Boreal Forest Needs More Protection

Top birding and nature organizations in Canada and the United States are pressing government for increased protection of boreal forests, including portions of northern Alberta.

The coalition, which includes the Audubon Society and Ducks Unlimited, is launching a campaign Monday that seeks to have at least half of North America’s boreal forest set aside from development to protect billions of birds (Including the Whooping crane) that rely on the habitat for breeding purposes.

CLICK to read full story

2,000 Snow Geese Drop Out of the Sky

This just in from CNN – Idaho wildlife officials have retrieved 2,000 dead snow geese that fell from the sky this week.

The birds, whose carcasses were collected over the weekend, appear to have died of avian cholera, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said Tuesday.

“The migratory birds were on the return leg of their migration from the southwestern United States and Mexico to their breeding grounds on the northern coast of Alaska,” said Steve Schmidt, a regional supervisor.

They died near Dubois, Terreton and Roberts — all in the eastern part of the state.

It’s unclear where the geese picked the bacteria from, but authorities are scrambling to ensure that other birds don’t feed on the carcasses and spread the disease.

CLICK to read fully story (with video)

Avoiding Predators

(Reposting: Originally published: January 9, 2013)

Over the years, many people have asked us if we have considered teaching the birds to avoid predators and it’s a question we have discussed many times ourselves.

One of the problems is which predator to simulate. In most cases it is hard to determine exactly what killed a bird. The leg mounted transmitter will lead the Tracking Team to the scene of the mortality, but often there isn’t much left. Whatever killed the bird could have consumed it, or scavengers may have found it dead. If there is enough left to be necropsied, medical tests can provide some evidence, but there is not much to be learned if all that is left are feathers and bones.

Bobcats are known predators, as are coyotes and feral dogs. Power line impact is listed as the primary cause of death, but unless the bird is found near wires and reasonably intact, it is hard to know if that was the cause. It could be that the impact injured or stunned the bird and left it vulnerable to predation. Aside from marking all the power lines that dissect wetland habitat and the surrounding fields, there is very little we can do about birds flying into wires they can’t see.

Still we could do some general predator avoidance conditioning. The problem is how?

Teaching animals to avoid certain things is not easy. As an example, the best dog to have if you live near a highway is one that has suffered a near miss with traffic. That lesson will never be forgotten. I have a friend whose golden retriever will run along the ditch for a quarter mile to use a culvert to cross the road, but it took a broken leg to learn that behavior. That’s not a risk we want to take with a predator encounter, either staged or real.

That is not to say that it cannot be taught. There are experts who can teach amazing things to animals and maybe they can offer advice, however there are some complications in our case.

In the wild, a chick would learn avoidance behavior from the parents. Adult Whooping cranes have a range of calls that indicate concern, alarm and fear in escalating volumes. Those calls could be recorded and used judiciously, but we are not sure of the exact message we would be conveying, or what actions need to accompany them. We could be crying wolf and teaching complacency rather than evasion. In the presence of real danger, the adults would take flight and lead the chicks away. Using an aircraft to stage an escape is more complex than simply flying to a safe distance.

When birds from previous generations return to the summering grounds they will occasionally take up residence near our training areas. They can be aggressive in their territorial claims and cause problems with the chicks in training, so we attempt to act like wild parents and chase them off.

Their reaction to our antagonism is surprisingly minimal. Rather than fly away in alarm, they will retreat just far enough. No amount of running or arm waving will scare them off. Many times we have exhausted ourselves running the full length of the runway with the birds trotting ahead just and out of reach. I have personally been lured out into the marsh in pursuit of adult birds only to have to have them fly back to the runway and mock my gullibility with a unison call to mark their victory.

Maybe the fact that we are dressed in a familiar costume is the reason they don’t react as we expect, but it adds to the worry of staging a simulated predator situation. What if we brought in a well trained dog to chase the birds and they didn’t run? What if they simply stood their ground and we ended up trying to explain to the owner why his dog was suddenly afraid to come out of his travel crate?

The lesson we would then be teaching is that taking a stand is better than running away. Taking the first option in the “fight or flight” scenario might lead to problems if a real predator didn’t cease the attack when its trainer called him off.

Predator avoidance conditioning is not simple, and it is made more complex with a creature that we are trying to keep wild. We are open to ideas but it will require serious preparation with lots of options for plan B. So far, teaching them to migrate has proven simpler than teaching them to be wary of furry things with teeth.

An Unfortunate Loss…

We’re sad to report that we’ve lost a young Whooping crane from the Class of ’14. Female crane number 2-14 was taken by a predator late Sunday evening.

Brooke reported all of the cranes except for 2-14 returned to the release enclosure as darkness fell Sunday and it was odd for her not to return with the others after a day of exploring the coastal marsh.

Fearing the worst, Brooke went out yesterday to search for her radio signal and found her very near to the location where the remains of  5-13 were located in November. We’re very sorry…

A quick update on 7-14 – the female that left the St. Marks winter site March 11. High quality PTT hits place her in northwest Alabama this morning. There’s no way of knowing if she’s still traveling with 4-12 & 4-13

Report Your Sightings

We’ve been receiving a good number of public sightings over the past couple of weeks as introduced Whooping cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) advance northward and return to their summer habitats. If you happen to spot a Whooping crane please use this link to report your sighting.

We thought it a good time to remind everyone of the recommended guidelines should you be fortunate enough to encounter a Whooping crane.

  • To protect these Whooping cranes we will not divulge the exact location of the sighting.
  • We ask that you please do not approach them closely, even in a vehicle, to avoid habituating the birds to human presence. Habituation is one of the greatest dangers that whooping cranes face because it puts them at greater risk from vehicle collisions, predation, and illegal shooting.
  • Please be respectful of the property of others and do not trespass.

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership encourages birding listserv administrators and managers of social media page(s) to not release exact location information of Whooping cranes in the Eastern flyway. In an effort to protect these young and impressionable cranes, WCEP releases county level location information only.

American Birding Association Principles of Birding Ethics

Rowe Sanctuary Crane Cam

It’s that time of year when we’re receiving reports from the southeastern states of large groups of Sandhill cranes heading north.

Each spring, as many as a half million Sandhills will stop to rest and fuel up at Nebraska’s central Platte River at an 80-mile stretch of the river.

The most popular place to see the Sandhills on the Platte river is the National Audubon Society’s Rowe Sanctuary in Gibbon, just outside Fort Kearney. If you can’t make the trip, you can still watch the action via Rowe Sanctuary’s live video feed. You may even see a Whooping crane among the smaller gray cranes…

Thousands of sandhill cranes will stop at the Platte River in Nebraska at the height of their northward migration. Photo: Melissa Groo

Thousands of sandhill cranes will stop at the Platte River in Nebraska at the height of their northward migration. Photo: Melissa Groo

NEWSFLASH! Whooping Crane 7-14 Returning North!

Juvenile female crane no. 7-14 has begun her return migration!

Brooke reported that she failed to return to the winter pen on Wednesday evening with the other six in the Class of 2014 cohort.

Low quality PTT hits placed her north-northwest of Tallahassee that evening. This morning we received two high quality hits that place her approximately 16 miles from our Decatur County, GA migration stopover at 7am this morning.

Colleen and Brooke drove up just a short while ago and confirmed that she is indeed traveling with the two 4’s (4-12 & 4-13). Colleen was able to capture the following photo with her phone.

Personally, I’m not surprised she’s the first to leave. This is the crane that kept getting in front of Joe’s aircraft wing on the southward migration. She always was in a hurry!

7-14, 4-12 and 4-13 are heading north.

7-14, 4-12 and 4-13 are heading north.

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