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The festival takes place the second weekend in September with activities getting underway Friday, Sept. 7th with a guided tour of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Museum where one of our ultralights is now on display!

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 and Associate Professor Misty McPhee, lead researcher overseeing research taking place at Necedah NWR. Advance reservations are required!

Saturday, Sept. 8th 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.

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. 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 7 – 9, 2018 – we hope to see you there!

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10 Ways to Help Birds This Summer

With summer in full swing now, read up on ways you can make life easier and safer for the birds in your environment.  Right now most are raising their young but will soon start preparations for fall migration. 

Let’s give them the best possible chance to make it to their wintering territories.

Read more…

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Caption This!

Friday the 13th was a lucky day for the field team and they managed to capture this wiley Sandhill crane colt, which had evaded capture until then.

Meet Sandhill crane #BP9.1.

Jeff Fox prepares to release the young Sandhill crane now that it has a radio tracking device on it. Photo: C. Chase

Don’t you agree this photo is begging for a caption? Aaaaaaand Go! (leave your caption in the comments)

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Empty Nest Syndrome and Nostalgia

The definition of nostalgia is:

a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Last week was a nostalgic week.

Last summer Brooke and I were parents to seven Whooping Crane chicks. Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8-17.

Last Saturday two of our chicks, 6-17 and presumably 4-17 flew over White River Marsh. In this screen grab of #6-17’s GSM hit you can see her flight path in relation to camp. I wish I had been looking up at the right moment.

Today Doug and Mako Pellerin came to camp to visit and brought me a present! Mako took two of Doug’s photos from last summer, transferred them to fabric and made pillows of them!

The day Doug snapped these photos was a fun morning, the chicks were eating Dewberries and I was trying to hide. The weaning process was different for each chick. You see my two little clingers, numbers 8 -17 and 4-17 were not ready to have mom out of sight.

One my favorite things to do with them was teach them to explore and forage. Dewberries and snakes were a favorite find. 


Brooke, who is the most patient man on the face of the Earth with birds, had to lure them into the North Pond the 1st week or so. They were nervous in a new place.

Here at the North Pond is where most of the weaning took place. At first Brooke would hide in the willows while they slowly wandered away from him. Then he sat in a camo’d blind for hours a day watching to make sure they were safe, while the chicks learned to forage and explore alone.

Raising those seven chicks from hatch to first migration was a once in a lifetime experience. I am profoundly grateful that I got to be mama to seven Whooping Crane chicks. How lucky am I? Really really lucky!

The Greek word nostos means return. Algos means suffering. So, nostalgia is the suffering caused by unappeased yearning to return. It bites hard sometimes.

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Monarch Butterflies – Another Long-Distance Migrator!

Each year in the early part of summer, these orange and black beauties begin to arrive in Wisconsin and other areas north of the 40th Parallel in search of milkweed leaves and nectaring plants. 

But did you know they make the trip from central Mexico? 

Wait, let’s back up a bit… 

Each Autumn, when days get shorter and the temperatures begin to cool off, monarch butterflies begin to leave breeding territories in the north, in search of a warm place to spend the winter. For monarchs, that overwintering ground can be found high up on just a few mountains in central Mexico. Once there, the monarchs huddle together by the millions on the branches of oyamel fir trees.

Those that survive the winter, reverse course in the spring and begin heading north. Some will make it to Texas where they find milkweed to deposit eggs on. Those eggs hatch – the caterpillars emerge and eat – a lot – before spending 10-15 days inside a chrysalis – and eventually emerging as a beautiful Monarch butterfly.

The new Monarch flies several hundred miles north, visiting nectaring plants along the way for nourishment. When the times is right, it finds a mate, and deposits fertilized eggs on Milkweed plants, before it eventually dies. The new offspring continue the journey northward. In fact it could take 4 or 5 generations to make the trip. 

Yesterday Colleen sent along the following photo, which shows two adult Monarch butterflies (and a couple other pollinators) nectaring on, and perhaps checking to see if the plant was suitable for ovipositing eggs. 

A. tuberosa (Butterfly weed) is the host plant for Monarch butterflies. Photo: C. Chase

This lovely orange-flowering plant is the lesser-known milkweed here in the north. It’s proper name is Asclepias tuberosa. Every garden needs this spectacular orange beauty. You never know – if you plant some, you may end up with some flying orange beauties during the too-brief time they spend here in the north.

READ more about efforts in Wisconsin to help the Monarch

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36 Year Climate Change Record Found in Cycle Racing Footage

I recently stumbled across this article from National Geographic. What caught my eye was the reference to cycling.  My husband is an avid mountain biking cyclist and watches The Tour de France every year.

I’ve learned about cycle racing by osmosis; just being in the same room as the television. The idea that video footage of a race held in the same place every year could show evidence of climate change was intriguing.

I just HAD to read the article. 

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Here I sit, surrounded by wildflowers, it’s one of the prettier of my hiding places.

The view from here. Photo: C. Chase

Much nicer ambiance here. Yesterday morning was a spot in the woods. It was pretty too, but hard to see the field.

Last night’s hiding spot was a piece of farm equipment. Photo: C. Chase

Hiding is an art, I  have to be perfectly still, but comfortable enough that my legs don’t fall asleep, because when the time is right there is no time to wait for the feeling to return. I can’t jump and yell when a Garter Snake drops by to visit, nor when the biggest freaking spider EVER crawls down my arm. Bug jackets are a wonderful thing.

Brooke is on the other side of this field, somewhere.

Brooke watches and waits for twin Sandhills to arrive so they can be captured and re-tagged. Photo: C. Chase

We are hunkered down waiting to catch our Lois’ Pond twins.

About a half hour ago one of the adult Sandhills came into the field, but it came alone. It’s fascinating to watch a crane so close and it not know I am here. We are hoping the whole family comes through soon. Really soon, my legs are getting tingly again. Time to oh-so-slowly shift around again.

Wish us luck!

Can you spot Colleen?

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Sandhill Crane Colt

Meet BP7.1 – the latest Sandhill crane colt captured and radio-tagged at White River Marsh and the newest participant in the Sandhill crane productivity study currently taking place.

Credit: C. Chase

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Do Birds Understand Other Birds?

I’ve always been curious if the language of birds is universal and do they understand the calls of each different species.  Apparently the answer to that question is yes! (Kind of). 

Read more…

Did you know the Black-capped chickadee adds “dee’s” to the end of it’s call to signify danger?

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It’s AUCTION Time!

The 2018 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 18th. 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 18th!

WHEN ARE THE AUCTIONS? The Whooping Crane Festival will be held the weekend of September 7th, 2018. There will be a dinner on Friday night, 9/7, 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 shortly after the festival. 

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)

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How do Birds Beat the Heat?

For the last week or so, here in Ontario, we have been experiencing a prolonged heat wave with lots of humidity. I know I spend most of the winter dreaming about the warmer temperatures of summertime, so I’m not going to complain about how hot it is but boy, is it ever HOT! 

That got me to wondering about if birds experience the excessive heat the same way we do. 

Learn more…

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It’s a Frog-eat-Quail World Out There!

Radio-tagging birds can shed a lot of light on the activities of birds. 

Research is currently on-going at Necedah NWR, White River Marsh and Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin to determine breeding success among Sandhill cranes so when I saw the following headline, it grabbed my attention.

“Radio tagged birds tracked to last place you’d imagine — another animal’s stomach”

I just had to read the article…

If you’re at all squeamish, you may not want to read the story or have a look at the following photo.

You can see the antenna and the foot of one of the quail chicks in this photo. Credit:

Just Another Fractured Fairy Tale

Sometimes life seems like a series of fractured fairy tales. A boxed set. You know the ones.  They always begin with the usual hope and reassurance… ”Once upon a time in a Galaxy… far, far away”. But it’s not long before the story goes rogue, wobbles off its axis and starts rolling around the place like an idiot’s eyeball, taking you with it.

Like the “Story of the Chick Magnet” – once upon a time in a strange, far away land called the Jersey Shore, there was a boy who, like all boys everywhere, woke up one morning to find himself cast adrift in a turbulent sea of hormones and confused expectations, secretly hoping that he would one day grow up to be so good looking and charismatic that he would be the last thing the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders thought about when their heads hit their pillows at night and the first thing they thought about when they woke up in the morning.

Then one day after school, he and his friend, Tom, were cleaning out his grandmother’s attic when he came across a strange looking lamp. “Hey, that looks just like Aladdin’s Lamp”, Tom announced with a laugh. “Why don’t you rub it and see if the Genie grants you your wish?” The boy thought for a minute, rubbed the lamp… and waited. Nothing.  “What did you wish for?” Tom asked.  “Oh… just the usual” the boy replied, a little embarrassed, and back to work they went cleaning up the attic.

Decades later, in another far away kingdom called the “Land of the Cheese Heads”, where the men were men and the women were glad they were… especially on Sunday afternoons when the  Packers were playing, the boy, now a man, was working on a sandhill crane chick mortality study (SCMS).

One morning, after hours of stomping around in the marsh searching for crane nests with all the grace and dignity of a blind pig looking for an eggcorn, he dragged his wet, muddy self back to the parking area and sat down, exhausted.  And that’s when he suddenly realized he was covered in… TICKS! “Holly Sh*t!” his coworker, Colleen exclaimed.  “Looks like you’re a real TICK MAGNET!”

Every fairy tale has a moral. Even the fractured ones. And they’re usually pretty obvious. Like, “If your name is Little Red Riding Hood, don’t crawl into bed with a wolf… unless you’re packing”, or “The early bird catches the worm… but only if there isn’t a giant raptor standing next to it.” However, sometimes they hide within the story like a number in a Rorschach test and must be teased out… carefully.

But one thing is for sure. The next time I rub that damned lamp, I am going to wait a few minutes before I make my wish. That will give the Genie enough time to put in his hearing aids.

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Canadian Government Commits to Wood Buffalo National Park

Last week we told you that Wood Buffalo National Park was under consideration of being added to the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in Danger, following a 2014 petition submitted to the World Heritage Committee by the Mikisew Cree First Nation.

Last Thursday the Government of Canada announced a $27.5M investment over five years in the development of, and early implementation of, the action plan for Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site. 

“As I have said many times before, the findings and recommendations of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee represent an important call to action. Today, our Government continues to take action with this new, substantial, and long term investment. Our commitment is real and we will continue to work with all of our provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to secure the future of the Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site for generations to come.”

The Honourable Catherine McKenna,
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada 

Parks Canada is working with the 11 Indigenous communities associated with Wood Buffalo National Park through a co-operative management committee that strives to respect both the mandate of Parks Canada and the cultures and traditions of Indigenous peoples.

As one of the most significant investments in nature conservation in Canadian history, Budget 2018 will increase federal capacity to protect species at risk and put in place new recovery initiatives for priority species, areas, and threats to our environment.

READ more…

© Parks Canada / John McKinnon

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