Knockin Your Socks off!

We hope you’ll get a kick out of these new Whooping crane socks available exclusively to Operation Migration!

Pre-order yours today! They’ll be ready to ship at the end of June.

Each pair features a Whooping crane in flight, coming in for a landing, adult with a young chick, crane catching a Blue crab and on a nest with an egg. Lightweight crew style made from 90-94% Cotton, 3% Nylon and 3% Spandex to maintain shape.

Available in two sizes.

IMG_20150522_113848WHCR_socksfront_1Perfect for yourself and for gifts!

You’re going to love them so much that you’ll want clear footwear so everyone can still see your socks!

Wood Buffalo Tours CANCELLED

Back in February we told you about helicopter tours at the only nesting grounds for the naturally occurring flock of Whooping cranes – Wood Buffalo National Park. Tours were made available to the public at a cost of between $1300 – $3800.

It seems this plan created a bit of a flap when aboriginal groups were not consulted.

Tours, which were set to begin yesterday and continue into June have now been cancelled until such consultation takes place. Thirty people had made reservations to take the tour.

READ the story.

Checking on the Chicks

ICF’s Eva Szyszkoski went along on two aerial survey flights late last week. Both flights were provided by Windway Aviation and we’re grateful for Windway’s support they provide to the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping cranes.

Eva reported seeing/hearing the following cranes in the Wisconsin rectangle area during a flight on Thursday, 20 May: 8, 9 & 10-14 in Columbia County, 27-14 in Dodge Co., 4-13/7-14 at Horicon NWR. Also at Horicon was 9-13. A bit to the northwest in Green Lake County, 20-11, 5-12 and 4-12 were spotted.

During a flight on 22 May the following birds were seen/heard in Juneau, Adams, Monroe and Wood counties: 5/12-11, 16-12, 16-04, 7-12/6-09, 22-13, 14/24-08 on nest, 9-03/3-04 on nest, 11-02/20-14, 2-04/25-09 with W10-15, 11/15-09 with W2-15 (photo below), 37-07, 1-10/W1-06 on nest, 27-06/26-09 on nest, 13/18-02, 18-03/36-09 and W5-15 (recently burned area – photo below)
13-03, 29-08/W3-10 and W8-15 on territory *did not see second chick* (photo below).

Also present were 10-09/17-07 and W3-15, 12-03/29-09 on nest, 16-02/16-07 on nest, 1-04/8-05 on nest, 7-09/26-10, 5-05/32-09 on nest, 7/39-07 on nest, 6/15-11, 12-02/4-11, 5-10/28-08 with W6-15 and W7-15 on territory (photo below), 24/42-09 on nest – although Eva reports this nest is 8 days overdue. Finally, 3/7-11 on nest, and 19-14/24-13 were spotted.

Wild chick 2-15

Wild chick 2-15 with either Dad (11-09) or Mom (15-09)

Wild hatched chick 5-15 with Dad (18-03).

Wild hatched chick 5-15 with Dad (18-03).

Mom (W3-10) with chick W8-15.

Mom (W3-10) with chick W8-15.

Pair 5-10 (Mom) and 28-08 (Dad) with twins W6-15 & W7-15.

Pair 5-10 (Mom) and 28-08 (Dad) with twins W6-15 & W7-15.

Eva, Whooping crane tracker extraordinaire is leaving WCEP. For several years Eva Szyszkoski of ICF has been the principal tracker of EMP Whooping cranes. It has always amazed us how she could report on 100 birds spread out over half the country with any semblance of accuracy – but she did – every month.

She may be leaving ICF but she is not leaving Whooping cranes. Eva will join the team working with the Louisiana non-migratory flock. We wish her well and want her to know she will be missed.

It’s Almost Auction Time!

The Class of 2015 is hatching, and that means the Whooping Crane Festival is just around the corner! It also means it’s time to get serious about one of OM’s most exciting fundraising campaigns, our annual auctions. Just like last year, there will be multiple formats – online, silent, and LIVE! WHOOP!

Won’t you consider helping make our auctions successful? Maybe you have an item you’d like to donate. Or do you have ideas for businesses who might contribute an item?

Please think about it – we would really appreciate your help!

To make a donation, click here. Or, if you want to learn more, click here.

Outdoor Wisconsin Feature Wins GOLD Award!

Last year producer Tiff Pua from Milwaukee Public Television worked to create a news story featuring the Eastern Migratory Whooping crane reintroduction to share with their viewers.

Tiff emailed yesterday to let us know that the feature they created about Operation Migration just won a GOLD award from the Milwaukee Press Club’s “Excellence in Journalism” awards for “Best Feature or Lifestyle Story or Series”!

Congratulations Tiff and Milwaukee Public Television!

In case you missed it, here is winning feature.

Boreal Birds Need Half

Each spring, an estimated 1 billion to 3 billion nesting birds make the long journey north to the boreal forest from wintering grounds throughout the United States and central and South America. A new report, Boreal Birds Need Half, cites science showing that boreal bird species require expansive, landscape-scale habitat conservation in large, interconnected protected areas to maintain healthy populations. Science shows that conserving half (at least 50%) of the boreal forest provides birds the best chance to survive over the long term.

Nearly half of the species commonly found in Canada and the U.S. rely in part on the boreal forest for their existence – including the Whooping crane.

The Boreal Birds Need Half initiative seeks to see at least half of North America’s boreal forest protected from development while ensuring responsible and sustainable management throughout the remainder. Already, two provinces — Ontario and Quebec — have stepped up and committed to protecting at least half of their northern boreal regions.


Help spread the word! Use the #borealbirdsneedhalf hashtag when tweeting, or posting on Facebook.

It’s TWINS x 3!

Yes! you read that right – we currently have THREE sets of twins in the core reintroduction area of Wisconsin!

Wisconsin DNR’s Beverly Paulan performed an aerial survey yesterday and reported the first set of twins belong to 5-10* & 28-08. (click on each photo to enlarge)

Mom 5-10 (or Dad 28-08) tending to TWO newly hatched Whooping crane chicks

Mom 5-10 (or Dad 28-08) tending to TWO newly hatched Whooping crane chicks. Photo: Bev Paulan, WI DNR

Next on the roster is W3-10* with mate 29-08 with their two young offspring. Note: this would be second generation wild produced Whooping cranes, since Mom (W3-10) is a wild produced Whooping crane.

Both parents providing for their two offspring. Photo: Bev Paulan, WI DNR

Both parents providing for their two offspring. Photo: Bev Paulan, WI DNR

Not to be outdone is Mom 25-09* and mate 2-04 with their set of twins.

Not to be outdone is Mom 25-09* and mate 2-04 with their set of twins. Photo: Bev Paulan, WI DNR

Also observed during the survey was 11 & 15-09* and their new chick W2-15, Adults 17-07* & 10-09 with their chick W3-15.

Pictured below is 18-03 & 36-09 provisioning their chick number W5-15. Look very closely…

More often than not, chicks aren't visible until photos are downloaded and scoured over. Bev noted this photo as 'Where's Waldo'?

More often than not, chicks aren’t visible until photos are downloaded and scoured over. Bev noted this photo as ‘Where’s Waldo’? Photo: Bev Paulan, WI DNR

To summarize, we’ve now had 11 wild produced crane chicks so far this season. Nine are currently surviving. Additionally, there are 14 pairs still incubating.

We should caution readers the chances a pair of Whooping cranes will successfully raise twins isn’t great. Still, we and I’m sure each of you, remain hopeful.

* following crane number denotes female

If it Wasn’t for Bad Luck…

Mark Twain once said that the harder he worked, the more luck he had.

Despite the great adventure Heather and I had collecting the last two birds from southern Illinois and north Kentucky last week, we really were lucky.

We were lucky that Lou Cambier was available and generous enough to fly down and conduct an aerial search. We were lucky the weather, for once, cooperated. We were lucky enough to spot both birds within the first hour of flying. We were lucky when we found number 3-14 feeding in an accessible field instead of her ususal roosting site deep in the marsh. And that she was still there after we landed and drove 50 miles for the capture.

Our luck continued the next day when Matt Mangan and Donvan Henry got us to Wabash Island to collect 4-14.

There was a lot of running around and coordination but it really did go more smoothly than we expected. We arrived one day, found the birds the next, collected them both in two days and headed north.

But all that luck must be earned. If you don’t work hard enough, there is a good chance it will run out – or even turn on you and the tide changed on our overnight drive north.

I was driving the van with the birds in the back. Heather was right behind in our large Dodge diesel pulling the 30 foot aircraft trailer. An hour in and it started to rain – hard.

Our tracking van is old, which is why we left the travel pen trailer behind. No point in pushing fate and risking a breakdown with that extra load. However, it was the truck we thought was reliable that gave us the trouble.

At 2 in the morning the Dodge panel lit up with warnings so we pulled over. Eventually, we left it at a truck stop and continued with the van and the two cranes.

On the return, we spent a day at a Dodge Dealer in Mendota, Illinois. Once it was repaired, Heather headed for home in the Ford truck and I drove back to White River to drop off the trailer… or at least that was the plan.

Fifty miles later, in Beloit Wisconsin the lights came on again – the very same lights. However, by now it was after closing time on a Saturday afternoon.

From a rest stop on the highway I called a few 24 hour emergency services places and eventually one of them showed up. After an hour they wished me well and left with my $185.

Nothing I could find on the internet was open on Sunday so I nursed the truck along to the nearest hotel. Unfortunately, it was graduation weekend in Beloit and every room was booked. On the fifth try an innkeeper took pity on me and gave me a room that had been reserved but the guests were late.

I twiddled my thumbs on Sunday and was waiting at the dealership door at 8 am Monday. Naturally, I didn’t have an appointment and Mondays are busy so by 1 pm the truck was pulled inside.

It seems that modern diesel engines have an anti pollution device incorporated into the exhaust system. A filter collects all the unburned particles and when that filter gets full, fuel is ignited which, turns all those particles into ash and cleans the filter.

Something was wrong with the sensors and electronics in our truck so that burning off process was not happening and the filter was full, which effectively plugs the tailpipe. By the end of Monday I learned that it needs replacement and the only one in the area is in Chicago. Maybe it could be delivered by Tuesday but the complete bill would be $2500.

Our 2011 truck has 85,000 miles on it and is still covered by a warrenty – in Canada.

Seems Chrysler USA does not cover Canadian vehicles but Chrysler Canada should, except Monday was Victoria Day in Canada and everyone was off work – except me.

Without a warrenty to cover the parts, I had to pay for them before they would approve the order.  So here I sit for at least another day, paying for all that luck in cash, time and frustration wondering when we will be even again.

Addendum: I arrived this morning at the dealership to learn that the truck was fixed and ready to go, except it needed one more sensor that they could get in by Wednesday. Maybe luck and I are finally even because they said I was safe to drive it home before getting that final part.

To test that theory, I sat in the truck and called Chrysler Canada now that everyone is back to work. After a long conversation and lots of paperwork, the $2500 was refunded and all that work was covered by the warranty.

Thanks very much to the great people at Bryden Chrysler Dodge in Beloit Wisconsin.

Patuxent’s Magnificent Whooping Crane Month of May Continues

The Friends of Patuxent Refuge invite you to celebrate the Whooping crane during Magnificent Whooping Crane Month. Admission is FREE and many fun, family activities will be taking place, including:

Whooping Crane Observatory Tours on Sundays (May 24, 31), from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Registration is required; call 301-497-5887 for reservations.)

Whooping Crane Presentations on Saturdays May 23 by Brooke Pennypacker of Operation Migration; May 30 by Dr. Glenn Olsen, Veterinarian, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. All presentations will begin at 1:30 p.m.

Measure Up Activity – discover how tall you are compared to the height of a Whooping Crane; see if “your wingspan” is as wide as a Whooping Crane’s.

Whooping Crane Videos – watch these endangered birds and see them dance!

Exhibits featuring Whooping Cranes and efforts to save them from extinction.

See entire calendar of activities at:

Location: National Wildlife Visitor Center, 10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop, Laurel, MD 20708, just off Powder Mill Road between the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Rt. 197, see detailed directions here. Call 301-497-5887 for more information and special accommodations.

Coordinated by the Friends of Patuxent Adopt A Whooper Committee.  Contact person:  Ken Lavish; 301-384-4557;  All programs and activities are FREE; donations to the Adopt A Whooper Program are greatly appreciated and tax deductible!

Auction Items Needed

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), 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) 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)

Photos From This Morning

When we released 3 &4-14 this morning at the White River Marsh SWA, 4-12 was calling off in the distance.

It never ceases to amaze me how much that sound carries over a marsh.

The two youngsters took couple tentative steps together footing and then launched into the air immediately.

They flew out over their former pen site and then circled back and flew over our heads, eventually disappearing into the fog to the south.

As we were breaking down the two crates, I glanced back to the grass training strip and there they were, standing in front of the pen…


3-14 stepping out. Photo: Doug Pellerin


4-14 makes his exit. Photo: Doug Pellerin


Off they go...


Photo: Doug Pellerin

6:10 pm to 5:36 am

Nothing is ever easy. After getting very lucky finding number 3-14 in an accessible ag field rather than her very remote roosting site. And capturing number 4-14 just as coyotes were stalking him, we thought our drive north would be a simple task of staying awake.

We planned to dismantle the pen and leave it at the Crab Orchard refuge because it is a burden on our old tracking van. We will have to retrieve it at some point but we’ll do that with a heavier truck. We thought that was a safer option than risking a breakdown with our cargo of birds.

The refuge staff were generous in assigning us a parking space at their visitors center and they gave us a key to the gate.

But once the trailer and birds were loaded we found that the key didn’t work. So we had to return it to the set-up site and call to let them know they would have to move it for us. Again they were very accommodating.

We left at 6:10 pm and hit rain most of the way. I was driving the van with 3 & 4-14. I had the AC on full blast to ensure they didn’t overheat in their crates, which meant I wore gloves and a coat with the hood pulled up. I even tucked my pant cuffs into my socks to stop the cold air from running up my legs.

Heather was driving our Dodge diesel pulling the 30 foot aircraft trailer loaded with trikes.

Fifty miles south of Chicago the truck dash lit up with warnings that the exhaust filter was 90 percent full and service was needed now. We pulled into a truck stop and called a 24 hour mobile truck repair service, which it turns out is not as advertised. So we parked it among all the big rigs with their sleeping drivers and drove the last 4 hours together, shivering in the van.

We arrived at 5:36 am and had to wait an hour for daylight. The entire time the birds never made a peep. It makes you wonder what they thought when we opened their crates and they realized where they were. Migration must be as mysterious to them as it is to us.

Now all we have to do is go get the truck, adding 8 hours to the drive before we head for Ontario.

Planes, Boats and Automobiles

While still in his egg, number 4-14 heard his first airplane at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Once he was old enough, he learned to follow it in the circle pen.

After he got to know his team mates (all girls) he took his first real airplane ride.  This time it was a turboprop Cessna to Wisconsin, although he didn’t get to see much because of the crate he was in.

Over the summer and into the fall he dutifully followed the little yellow aircraft up and down the runway and then on his first migration to Florida. He had a little break while he wore a hinged hock brace and missed a bunch of training but he never lost his spirit.

During his recovery, he had his first car ride but again, it was in a crate after he dropped out of the flight. He got to ride in lots of vehicles on his way south. In fact he covered more of it in a crate than he did flying.

In the spring he finally got a chance to test his  own wings when he and a few of the girls covered 700 miles following 5-12 to southern Illinois. Thereafter 4-14 decided to have a little alone time. He found the perfect spot in a flooded ag field in the middle of his own island.

The next airplane he saw did a low pass yesterday as he fluffed his feathers and threatened the intruder. Then today he heard a familiar call and flew over to investigate. He ventured too close for that last grape and ended up in the crate again. Thereafter he had his first boat ride, then into the van and finally the pen he had lived in every night of the migration south.

Hopefully tomorrow night he will have his last ride in a vehicle. He has traveled in planes, boats and automobiles but for him, they are all the same. He is familiar with the inside of the crate and the only difference is the volume of noise outside and the frequency of the vibration.

If we are lucky, all of those conveyances will be part of his history, never to reoccur. But as artificial as they were, it was all done as a means to an end. From now on the only way he will move will be under his own steam and that was the goal from the beginning. It just took a little longer for him.

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