Meet one of the few forensic ornithologists in the world.

We ran a story last year about forensic ornithologist Pepper Trail (Yes, that’s his name) so in this, the Year of the Bird, we thought it appropriate to make sure you read more about him.

“I identify the victims of wildlife crime—if the victim is a bird.” That’s how forensic ornithologist Pepper Trail summarizes his job. The position is so rare that he’s one of just two people in the United States to hold it.

Continue reading

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Fly South Already!

Parent-Reared Whooping Crane #38-17 was still in Wisconsin late last week and attempts were still being made to capture her to drive her south.

Doug Pellerin was able to snap this photo, which shows her to be in great condition despite the cold weather.

PR Crane #38-17 in Dodge Co., WI. Photo: Doug Pellerin

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Whooping Cranes NEED You!

Start the new year off with a recurring contribution for Whooping Crane conservation!

Monthly contributions can be processed more efficiently than single or one-time gifts, resulting in a higher percentage of your gift being directed to our work – and you are in control! At any time, you can increase, decrease, pause or stop your support, all at your convenience.

Your monthly gift will help ensure that we are able to continue our work to safeguard Whooping cranes and continue our education and outreach efforts.

When you become a NEW monthly donor, OR increase your current monthly donation amount, you will receive a special hand-folded origami crane made by Mako Pellerin.

Mako has very graciously offered to create a limited number of beaded hanging origami cranes made from the paper used to create last year’s GIANT origami crane, which greeted Whooping Crane Festival attendees in Wisconsin.Students from the Princeton School – along with Mako, very carefully folded the origami crane pictured above, and which boasted a wingspan of more than 30 feet and stood close to 10 feet tall!

Mako saved some of the paper from that special crane to create these smaller origami “off-spring” cranes for you!

In Japanese culture, the crane is a mystical creature and is believed to live for a thousand years. Cranes represent good fortune and longevity and are referred to as the “bird of happiness.”

We hope this very special origami crane will bring you all of these qualities… In addition to your special origami crane, we’ll also send you an instruction sheet for folding more origami cranes!

When you become a monthly supporter you help to provide OM with a reliable, low-cost stream of revenue that sustains our ongoing work and allows us to better forecast for budgeting purposes.

It’s super easy to join and you can contribute any amount you like on a monthly basis: $
10, $15, $25, $50 – Visit this link to learn more or to enroll today!

If you’re already a monthly supporter (thank you!) and would like to increase or change your gift, don’t forget you can login to your personal account at any time to do so using this link: LOGIN 

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Wandering Whoopers

Regular readers may recall that three of the Whooping Cranes raised at White River Marsh over the summer/fall of last year seemed reluctant to leave and were eventually captured by Colleen and Brooke and transported to Greene County, Indiana for release on December 12th.

It didn’t take long for them to catch the travel bug and cranes 1-17, 2-17 and 8-17 stayed at the Goose Pond location in Indiana for about 27 minutes before taking wing and heading even further south.

The trio settled at a fantastic location along the Tennessee River in Tennessee for approximately two weeks before taking to the skies again. This time they headed toward Memphis – staying only a couple of days – before heading south then east then north – and yep, you guessed it, they were almost back to where they began their meandering path… In fact they came to within 10 miles of the location on the Tennessee River.

But they didn’t stick around – they headed east again and then eventually south, before arriving at their current location in Talladega County, Alabama.

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THIS WEEKEND! Wheeler Festival of the Cranes

Date: January 13 – January 14, 2018
Saturday 6:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
3121 Visitors Center Road
Decatur, AL 35603

Over 14,000 Sandhill Cranes, along with a growing number of Whooping Cranes from the eastern migratory population, now spend the winter at Wheeler NWR. Festival attendees are able to view the cranes from an enclosed, heated observation tower. Some festival events and activities will include:

• Auburn raptor show
• Brian “Fox” Ellis will appear as John James Audubon
• David Akoubian of Bear Woods Photography (professional wildlife photographer)
• Michael Graham Allen (flutist and builder of ancient flutes of North America and band COYOTE
• A guest speaker from the International Crane Foundation
• Bird walks lead by the Alabama Ornithological Society and Tennessee Valley Audubon
• Children’s activities
• Sunrise breakfast/birding walk with Dwight Cooley

Make plans to visit Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge!

Parent-Reared Whooping Crane #30-17

You may recall this young female crane was released in Winnebago County, Wisconsin on October 5th. Jo-Anne Bellemer was tasked with monitoring her, as well as number 72-17 – a young male Whooping Crane released in the same area a week earlier.

Number 30-17 promptly hid along the edge of a wooded lot adjacent the marsh where she was released, prompting Jo and I to take a not so leisurely stroll into the woods to confirm she was either upright (yay!) or horizontal (boo!).

After a 30-minute trek, we did find her upright and breathed a collective sigh of relief. 

Jo continued a game of cat and mouse over the next few weeks before this young crane flew south – WAY SOUTH in fact!

By the third week of November Whooping Crane #30-17 had gone as far south as she possibly could have gone, while still keeping land below and she had arrived in the Mississippi Delta area of Louisiana – some 1100 miles from where she was released in Wisconsin.

Eva Szyszkoski, formerly with ICF and the Eastern Migratory Population but now with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), sent along the following photos to share with readers. LDWF pilot Michael Chauff carries out aerial surveys over the dispersal area for the non-migratory Whooping Cranes in Louisiana. Knowing there was an EMP crane in the area, they dialed in her VHF frequency during the December 22nd flight and had no problems locating her in ideal habitat.

The red arrow indicates the location of #30-17. Photo: Michael Chauff, LDWF

Love the crane shadow! Photo: Michael Chauff, LDWF

Very little chance of human disruption in this area. Photo: Michael Chauff, LDWF

Green Lake Peeps!

Tuesday, January 9th – 6 pm: Join the Green Lake Bird and Nature Club at Town Square in Green Lake as Bryan Lenz, Director of Bird City Wisconsin engages bird enthusiasts in the community with his presentation on Bird City Wisconsin and the things an ordinary person – as well as an organization – can do for our fine feathered friends.

By the end of the night, perhaps a few New Year’s Resolutions can be made on behalf of the birds!

Bird City Wisconsin (BCW) recognizes communities for their conservation and education activities that promote and protect birds and their habitat. For more information visit:

Any questions, please call Tom Schultz President of Green Lake Bird and Nature Club at 920-960-1796 

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Drones and Other Toys

The beep from their leg-mounted transmitters will assure us that a crane we are searching for is close by, but sometimes we can’t get actual visual confirmation. It’s not always possible to get permission to enter private property or sometimes the birds are just too deep into the marsh to reach. It’s not always important to see them but it’s nice to know if recently released Whooping crane chicks are making good habitat choices, or found a mentor. Plus a number of the older birds have non-functioning transmitters. If their mate’s VHF unit still works, we can assume they are together, however assumptions are not good enough for the database. To get us into the inaccessible locations, we have occasionally used a drone to help make those confirmations.

Our DJI Phantom drone is registered with the FAA and we have commercial operator’s permits, but there are still a lot of limitations.

Federal and state agencies restrict the use of drones on public lands and most homeowners get upset if you fly over their property. In truth, everything above the ground is called National Airspace and flying in it – anywhere, is under the authority of the FAA. Property owners and government agencies can stop drone operators from landing on or taking off from their land but flying over it is legal, unless it’s FAA controlled airspace like airports and Military Operations Areas, or you are posing a danger to people on the ground. Still, many landowner wouldn’t question a Cessna flying overhead but those drones must be up to no good and many get so irate, they threaten to shoot them down. That is a federal offence and doesn’t make any sense but there is no point in arguing the finer points of the law with an irritated farmer with a shotgun.

Apart from those problems, the drone we use is a marvel of electronics and aerodynamics. From two miles away, it can link to your cell phone or a tablet that mounts above the handheld controller. The GPS unit knows if you are in appropriate airspace and it’s safe to fly and it records its takeoff point so it can return automatically if you press the “home” button. It has proximity sensors to avoid obstacles on the way back and you can pan and tilt the high-definition camera to view the world from its perspective — on your phone — in real time. It can fly for twenty minutes on a single battery charge and automatically stops climbing at the four hundred foot altitude restriction placed on drones by the FAA.

Most impressive though is the stability. Press the auto-takeoff button and it climbs to one meter and stays there, even in a stiff breeze. If you drag it off a few feet and let it go, it returns to that spot and waits for your next command. The controls are simple; one for up and down, another for forward and back and a third to rotate for turns. Let go of those levers — and it stops and waits. The operator is supposed to keep it in sight at all times but if you did lose it, just let go of the controls. It would stop where it is, and wait patiently. If, for some reason it were still lost, it would hover until the battery level dropped. Then it would fly back and land beside you, a few inches from where it started.

If you will excuse the pun, drone technology it taking off and it’s only a matter of time and better batteries before people are flying around in computer directed, multi-copters. One of many in the development stage is the Kitty Hawk Flyer. It is a single person, eight-motor, recreational craft that so far has been limited by the FAA to 15 feet up, and only over uncongested water.

So far, it’s like those water jet boots except it is not tethered to a hose and a high-pressure pump. Soon the redundant computer systems, radar altimeters, laser guidance and GPS positon lock with simple, intuitive, controls will make them reliable and the manufacturers will be asking the FAA for greater flexibility in their operating range. They will be like ATV’s without the need for trails; the ultimate in go-anywhere vehicles with built in safety features and no loud engine noise. The whole ATV, dune buggy, off-road motorcycle industry is growing. There are hundreds of machines available in all price ranges and the bigger it gets, the more pressure they put on wildlife areas and public lands. Most of them require trails so regulating agencies can limit assess. Snow machines or sleds are the main exception. With good snow cover, they can go anywhere but the advantage to nature is, that open access is limited to a season when a lot of wildlife is dormant – or gone.

Don’t get me wrong. I love technology and toys and going fast but I hope someone is thinking of the long term impact on breeding animals trying to raise young in a world when people have access to everywhere, at any time. Wetland habitat, favored by creatures like Whooping cranes, was once inaccessible except to determined explorers who trudged along in hip waders at turtle speed. Airboats opened up many of those areas especially in the south but mostly they stick to waterways. They are loud and give wildlife some warning of their approach but imagine a nearly silent craft that can criss-cross the marsh without knocking down the cattails and removing all isolation for nesting birds.

Personally, I can’t wait to try one. But the long-term impacts, that no one seems to talk about, scare me.

Proper Viewing Etiquette

We’ve had a number of reports from folks concerned about the behavior of birders and photographers at Goose Pond in Greene County, Indiana.

As you know, there are a number of Whooping cranes currently spending time at this ideal location. There have been several instances of trespassing by people who are trying to get photos or better looks at the Whooping Cranes.

Whooping Cranes are rare and beautiful birds, and it is amazing that you can see them in your state. If you encounter Whooping Cranes, whether you are viewing or photographing them, here are some important guidelines to follow:

If you encounter a whooping crane in the wild, 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.

If the cranes you are viewing change their behavior, such as going from feeding and relaxing to being alert, walking away, or flying away, you are too close to the cranes.

If you notice anyone violating these guidelines, please report him or her to (800) 847-4367 (Indiana poaching hotline) or call local law enforcement. 

If YOU spot a Whooping crane, be sure to complete the public sighting report form, which is then distributed to the WCEP Monitoring and Management Team.

Thank you!

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EMP Monthly Update

Whooping Crane Update – January 3, 2018 

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. In the last month most Whooping Cranes have reached their wintering grounds. A huge thank-you to the staff of Operation Migration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources, the International Crane Foundation, and all of the volunteers who help us keep track of the cranes throughout the year. We appreciate your contribution to the recovery of the whooping crane eastern migratory population.

Population Estimate
The current maximum population size is 110 (50 F, 57 M, 3 U). As of 3 January, 1 Whooping Crane is still in Wisconsin, 7 in Illinois, 32 in Indiana, 8-10 in Kentucky, 8-9 in Tennessee, 26 in Alabama, 2 in Georgia, 5 in Florida, and 2 in Louisiana. The remaining birds’ locations have not been confirmed in the last month. See maps below.

2017 Wild-hatched chicks
W3_17 (U) is still with its parents (24_09 and 42_09) in Hopkins Co, KY.

W7_17 (F) is still with her parents (14_08 and 24_08) in Morgan Co, AL.

Parent-Reared 2017 Cohort
19_17 (M) and 25_17 (M) are still in Jackson Co, AL with adults 2_15 and 28_05.

26_17 (F) was found dead on 16 December in Wabash Co, IL (see below).

28_17 (M) has not been seen since November in Walworth Co, WI. He has likely left this area but has not been confirmed further south.

24_17 (M) left Jasper Co, IN with adult 63_15 and is currently in Randolph Co, IL.

72_17 (M) is still in Hendry Co, FL.

30_17 (F) is still in Plaquemines Parish, LA.

38_17 (F) is alone in Dodge Co, WI. Capture attempts are being made to translocate her further south.

39_17 (F) left Wisconsin during December and is currently in Jasper Co, IN.
36_17 (F) left Jasper Co, IN and is currently in Madison Co, FL.

Costume-Reared 2017 Cohort
3_17 (M) and 7_17 (F) continued south and are currently in Morgan Co, AL.

4_17 (M) and 6_17 (F) left Wisconsin and are currently in Effingham Co, IL.

1_17 (M), 2_17 (F), and 8_17 (F) were translocated on 12 December from Green Lake Co, WI to Greene Co, IN. That same day, they continued further south and are now currently in Madison Co, AL.

Parent-Reared 2016 Cohort
29_16 (M) and 39_16 (M) are still in Dyer Co, TN.

30_16 (M) and 5_12 (M) are still at St. Mark’s NWR in Wakulla Co, FL.

31_16 (M) has not been seen since November in Wisconsin.

33_16 (F) is still along the Mississippi River either in Clinton Co, IA or Carroll Co, IL.

69_16 (F) is still at Wheeler NWR in Morgan Co, AL.

70_16 (M) is still in Knox County, KY.

71_16 (F) left 63_15 and 24_17 in Indiana, and went to her previous wintering area in Jackson Co, IN before heading to Rhea Co, TN and now Madison Co, FL.

The remains of 26_17 were found on 16 December in Wabash Co, IL, where she had been for a few weeks. The cause of her mortality is unknown.

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Father Goose Flies Away Home

William A. Lishman 1939 – 2017

Bill Lishman was a man of many talents. Listed on his curriculum vitae were diverse abilities like photography, metal sculpting, writing, film-making and architectural design. He created his own underground home, leaving the local building inspectors scratching their heads. He built the machines that cut the material for his wife’s world-renowned fur fashion business and was the first person to fly in formation with a flock of birds.

Bill’s self-taught occupations could produce dynamic, powerful or sometimes whimsical results but the quality of the outcomes were remarkable. Paul Lishman knitted fur fashions were innovative and sold around the world. Their home in rural Ontario was a local tourist attraction and his sculptures graced institutions, town centers and World Fairs. His first flights with birds led to the reintroduction of Whooping cranes into the Eastern Flyway.

In the late 1980’s Bill taught himself to fly. Long-time employee, associate and friend, Richard Van Heuvelen would repair the hang-glider after his many early mishaps. Eventually, Bill added an engine to his aircraft and after seeing local film maker, William Carrick lead Canada geese with his boat, Bill tried it with his ultralight.

He produced a homespun video called C’mon Geese which won international awards and attracted the attention of Dr. George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation.

Whooping cranes learn migration behavior by following their parents but when the birds that once used the Eastern Flyway were wiped out years ago, those routes were lost. Bill’s efforts to lead geese held the key to human taught migration. Bill’s adventurous flights and George’s insight led to the  100+ Whooping cranes that now migrate in the east, the first in over a century.

Bill Lishman passed away this weekend. Our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

Return of the Polar Vortex

With much of North America experiencing deep freeze temperatures, many wonder how birds (and other wildlife) survive these frigid conditions.

Have a listen to naturalist Brian Keating as he explains that birds must “migrate, hibernate, or tolerate.”


READ more from CBC News

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Tax Overhaul Means Change for Non-profits and Your Charitable Deductions

The Republicans’ tax overhaul, which President Donald Trump signed into law last week, has some serious implications for non-profits that rely on donations from individuals.

Nonprofits, including Operation Migration, are bracing for the effects of the federal tax overhaul, hoping people will continue to make charitable contributions in 2018 even though fewer taxpayers are expected to itemize deductions next year.

Some experts are recommending you get a jump on charitable contributions. If you are someone who is donating to charity in order to itemize deductions in 2017, will take the standard deduction in 2018 and are anticipating making charitable donations in 2018, consider making 2018 contributions before December 31.

“While charitable donations will still remain deductible under the tax reform, some historical itemizers may find it more beneficial to take the standard deduction due to the fact that it will be doubling,” says Alexander Rupert, a financial planner in Cleveland, OH. “Donating any 2018 earmarked funds before 2017 year end will provide a larger benefit in an individual’s 2017 taxes who are anticipating not itemizing in 2018.” Source:

If you would like to make your 2018 contribution to Whooping Crane conservation in 2017, you still have 4 days to do so. Give us a call at 800-675-2618 – Our office is closed this week but we are checking messages and returning calls several times throughout the day.

You can also click the red DONATE button above or login to your personal account.

Thank you!

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Goose Pond Whoopers

Craniac Deanna Uphoff shared this photo with us so that we could share it with you. Deanna visited Goose Pond in Greene County, Indiana in early December and managed to capture 13 Whooping Cranes in one field as they came in to roost for the night.

11 whoopers on the ground and 2 others coming in for a landing. Can you spot them? (Click to enlarge). Photo: Deanna Uphoff

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