Class of ’14 update

Saturday morning, Colleen reported the young cranes were acting antsy so we were wondering if they would continue their northward trek. Winds on Saturday were coming from the east and gusting to 13mph, which would have blown them to the west.

They did fly that day but only 10 miles to the east-northeast and to a lovely wetland area in Gallatin County, IL where they are spending time foraging.


Yesterday (Sunday) brought rain showers in the morning and then periods of heavy rain in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, winds this morning in the area are from the north-northwest and expected to be strong at 13 – 17 mph.

The Story of Eddie

“So Brooke. What’s the real story of #5-12?”

“Well Jimmy, that’s a good question. But first let me tell you the story of Eddie.”

“Eddie who?” Jimmy asked, his eyes all squinted up and head tilted in confusion.

“Can’t say, Jimmy. Besides, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Anyway, when I was in Junior High school, we had a guy named Eddie in our class. Eddie had “stayed back” so many times that he was about 22 years old…. maybe 23. This was, of course, before the days of the government’s “No Child Left Behind” program. It always seemed to me that Eddie was separated from the rest of us by an invisible perimeter of yellow crime scene tape. He was so old he couldn’t get his legs to fit under his desk so he sat with legs spread-eagle’d into the isles on either side.

There was a pack of Camels rolled up in his T- shirt sleeve and a perpetual sneer hung between his thick mustache and goatee. He spent his days staring out the window at something incredibly interesting that only he could see and counted the minutes until the bell rang for his two favorite classes, Recess and Lunch. “If you don’t do your homework, you’re going to wind up like Eddie!” our parents used to say, which served to elevate Eddie to the admirable status of “Reverse Roll Model”…. a kind of One-Way-Do-Not-Enter street sign.

One day we entered the classroom to find Eddie’s desk vacant and Eddie gone. Brian, whose mother seemed to know everything not worth knowing in our little town, said he ran off with a middle aged housewife who woke up one morning and realized she couldn’t remember the name of the spouse lying next to her. She had only two more payments to make on the car and Eddie, of course, had his driver’s license. There are, after all, times in life when a driver’s license is all that’s required. But another kid swore Eddie had run off and joined the French Foreign Legion and already had a tattoo on his arm with the picture of Charles de Gaulle’s nose and below it the words “Vive la France.”

It wasn’t until years later that I was to learn the truth.

“But what about #5-12?” Jimmy asked, his impatience growing.

“Well, after #4-12 and 4-13 flew the coop with #7-14, the hand of Mother Nature dragged and dropped the little fellow back into the pen where he immediately adopted each hanging feeder as his very own personal feed bag. The other chicks would chase him around the pen, using his butt for beak target practice just like they did to #4-12 all last winter. But he was so happy to be back within the security of the pen that he simply remained a step or two ahead of the chicks and took it all in stride. He almost never joined the chicks on their daily flights, preferring instead to stay grounded and enjoy his alone time. In fact, only twice did I observe him flying with the chicks and he was in last place both times.

Looked like a token gesture to me. He was, however, way over due to migrate, remembering that #4-12 left a week before the chicks last year and that the older birds are usually the first to leave. What was he waiting for?”

“Then one day the alien- like migration bug took control of the little fellow, picked him up up and away and thrust him high against a dark, towering cloud so that from my ant-like perspective, he resembled a flea making an ego tripping, “because it’s there” climb, ever higher and higher up the backside of an elephant. The tracking receiver was soon empty of beeps, hanging from my shoulder in silence. Had I been armed instead with my crane coloring book and trusty six pack of Crayolas, I would have colored him GONE! Silence can sometimes be deafening, you know. That’s when the sound of some omniscient voice yelled “Clear” and the flat-lined heart began to beat its withdrawal from that dark tunnel with the light at the end of it and before you could say, “I think I just wet my pants,” he was back in the pen, once again worshipping before the almighty feeder, acting as if nothing had ever happened.

The next morning, he and the rest of the chicks left on migration.

“So what do you think he was doing? Did he return just to lead the chicks north the next day? Did he somehow know they had missed half the migration and needed a guide for the second half… a kind of Moses, somehow genetically hardwired to lead his tribe out of the desert and into the Promised Land?

Or was he just lonely, out of Frequent Flier Miles and afraid to travel solo?”

“You ask some good questions, Jimmy. But first let me finish my story about Eddie. So there I was years later at Disney World. It was hot and people kept accidentally hitting me on top of the head with their selfie sticks, so I sat down on a bench to get out of the line of fire. And who do you think is sitting there next to me but Eddie!

“Eddie!” I said. “How are you doing?”

“Fine” he said. “Still in the Screen Actors Guild doing acting gigs on any project willing to pay. No more of those junior high school gigs, though. After a few of those, you wind up getting typecast and the only acting jobs they offer you are more of those flunky, class clown roles. Sure. When the Board of Education hires you to show the kids the “what not to do’s” and what’s going to eventually happen to them if they don’t do their homework, you think you’re doing something good. But all that looking out the window sure gets to you after a while.”

“You mean…..!”

“Yea….that’s right, kid. Things aren’t always what they appear to be and life’s a twisted plot. About time you figured that out, don’t you think?”

And with that Eddie got up and left. But just as he was about to enter the downstream flow of the crowd and disappear again forever, he turned back, smiled as if he’d just swallowed the canary and waved me farewell. And that’s when I saw it. There, on his forearm was a tattoo of some guy’s nose with some French writing under it.

“Damn!” exclaimed Jimmy “All this stuff really leaves you scratching your head!”

“Yea… or listening to the sound of your hand clapping.”

As We Watch (Whooping cranes)

As you all know, the Class of 2014 has been in Saline County IL for a bit more than a week now. Every day Brooke and I get to our spot at daybreak and watch the chicks. We stay till 1:30 or 2pm. Then head back into town to get rooms, eat and get our Walmart fix, we then go back to the field around 4:30 and watch till they roost. We think positive thoughts, willing them to head north, willing the weather to give them the break they need to do it.

As we’ve watch from afar, we’ve tried to figure out what is planted in the field they have chosen. Brooke thought perhaps it was winter wheat, but we were told it’s not. The nice man we were chatting with isn’t sure what was planted last season. They sure do love it though!  Only once have we seen them fly to an adjacent field to check out the yummies there.

There is not much to do but stare at the Whooping crane chicks as they forage, and they never stop. Whatever it is they love it and never quit snarfing. They are about 500 yards away so we just see tiny white dots on the green background, which means it’s safe for us to walk around the van and truck.

I’ve made a new friend as I’ve explored (meaning hiding behind the pen trailer to, um… answer the call of nature). There is a Killdeer dad, who is diligently protecting his nest, every time one of us gets out of the van. He flutters amongst the corn stubble in the field across the road – acting like his wing is broken. He runs at us screaming then turns on a dime and runs the other way in an effort to get us to follow.

Can you spot the killdeer? (aka Where's Waldo?)

Can you spot the killdeer? (aka Where’s Waldo?)

He has made the waiting a lot more interesting. He’s going to be a good dad!

*Addendum: The chicks have just flown to the small wetland

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Chip IN Winners!

*The following entry was written March 5th when our accountant made the winning draws. Unfortunately, one thing led to another and it was discovered yesterday sitting in the drafts folder. Mea culpa :-(

During 2014 we initiated a fundraising campaign which we called “Chip IN for Cranes” as participants purchased a $20 “Chip” which when registered online, gave them the chance to win prizes – both throughout the campaign and at the conclusion.


We’re thrilled to announce the following as winners of the final prizes!

The following two winners will receive a Citgo fuel card valued at $100 each: Barbara Barber of Wisconsin and Dorothy Nadasdy of Illinois!

Cheryl Yaw of New York will receive $500!

And the grand prize winner of backseat flight with Joe Duff is…. (drumroll) …..

James Pool of Indiana!

Rain, Rain Go AWAY!

Our five young Whooping cranes arrived at their current location (Saline County, IL) on the afternoon of April 6th. As of this morning, they are still there.

Many people have asked why. Take a look at the weather conditions they’ve had since arriving and you’ll understand.


Click to enlarge

Apr. 6 – Arrived afternoon

Apr. 7 – Thunderstorms

Apr. 8 – Thunderstorms

Apr. 9 – Thunderstorms

Apr. 10 – Rain

Apr. 11 – Strong winds gusting to 20mph

Apr. 12 – Storms to the north

Apr. 13 – Morning showers. Cranes thermaled and headed north during a 50 minute flight only to return. Radar showed showers to the north.

Apr. 14 – NNE winds ~10mph. Rain

Apr. 15 – E winds ~9mph. Rain

Regular readers will also recall that 2 yr. old male no. 9-13 is also taking his time returning north. As of this morning he is located at the same latitude as our five youngsters and in the neighboring county. He’s approximately 30 miles west of the Class of 2014.

Patuxent’s Magnificent Whooping Crane Month of May

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:

    • Kids’ Day (all ages welcome) Saturday, May 9, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. – Puppet Shows, Story Times, Crafts, Activities, and More!
    • Whooping Crane Observatory Tours on Sundays (May 10, 17, 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 2 by Dr. John French, Branch Chief at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center; May 16 by Ken Lavish, Volunteer Crane Technician; 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.

Join us on May 9 as we observe two notable days in May on Patuxent’s Kids’ day – International Migratory Bird Day and Endangered Species Day.

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!

Nesting Season Underway

Our partners at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge report a total of 52 whooping cranes have been detected on the Refuge. Several pairs have been observed unison calling, foraging, preening, and displaying territorial behavior (i.e. chasing sandhills). Weather on the refuge has been moderate with large amounts of rain. Although we do not expect any nests have been lost, the water level in several pools with nesting cranes has rapidly increased.

12 whooping crane pairs have been observed incubating.

* UPDATE – During Bev Paulan’s aerial survey yesterday she counted 20 incubating cranes.

Whooping crane 5-12

Many of you have asked about Whooping crane 5-12. This 2 yr old male had spent the winter in the vicinity of the winter release pen and traveled with the five (currently migrating) young cranes from the class of ’14 until they reached Saline Co. IL last week. During an aerial survey today Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan heard his radio signal faintly as she flew over Adams County, Wisconsin – thus confirming he has made it home.

Volunteer Follow up – Clark Schultz

Regular readers will recall we had a rotation of migration volunteers last fall. Each volunteer was scheduled for two weeks of the journey and some did more than their share of work, while others, due to poor weather barely made it to one or two migration stops.

Our first volunteer was fellow Canuck, Clark Schultz – Clark left an impression with our team for numerous reasons, and with all of you as he volunteered to shave his head as a fundraiser. He ended up generating almost $3,000!

Clark has kept in touch with us over the winter and recently sent the following email, which we thought you would find entertaining:

I had another avian adventure today. I was heading out of town on a four lane road, to present an offer for a house, when I noticed a hawk on the road. The oncoming traffic was swerving around it and as I got up to it, I could see a wound on its shoulder. There was a break in the traffic so I pulled a U-turn, put on my emergency flashers and grabbed the thick leather welding mitts I keep in the storage compartment in the back of my Matrix. I took a welding course about 20 years ago, found I was good at creating carbon but not a good weld. Anyway, for the first time in my life I attempted a hawk rescue and made a number of new discoveries…

Discovery # 1 – Hawks have an incredibly strong grip!
Discovery # 2 – It is not easy to get a struggling hawk, flapping its wings through the driver’s side front door of a Toyota Matrix while dodging traffic.
Discovery #3 – It is not easy to get a struggling hawk into a large cloth shopping bag in the front seat of a Matrix.
Discovery #4 – Whoever said that a hawk will calm down when you cover its eyes is a dirty liar.
And Discovery #5 – It is possible to drive and shift gears with your left hand, while holding a struggling hawk in a shopping bag with your right.

I also believe that doing Discoveries #2, 3 and 5 brings good luck, as the gentleman at the wildlife rescue center felt the hawk was not seriously injured, and the offer on the house was eventually accepted. So armed with that belief I went out and purchased a lotto 649 ticket. I’ll let you know if my luck holds out!

All the best,

UP… and Down Again

Our young cranes just provided 50 minutes of excitement and anticipation when they took to the air at 10:20 CT this morning. Colleen says conditions are overcast but are the same conditions, which were present the day they left their winter pen at St. Marks NWR.

She said they thermaled for what seemed like forever then began heading north. Brooke was tracking them while Colleen stayed at the field they’ve been watching since last Wednesday – Just in case they returned.

And return they did unfortunately. 50 minutes later she said she couldn’t believe her eyes when they appeared on the horizon – returning from their short northward foray.

Taking another quick look at the radar (because it may have changed in the 15 minutes since I last checked it) here’s what I found. Another line of showers just north of their location.


Whooping Crane Class of ’14 Report

Winds Sunday were from the southeast – both on the surface and aloft, so we were anxiously waiting to see what the five young cranes, currently on their way north would do. It was the first day with good migration conditions since they arrived at their Saline Co., IL on 7 April.

According to Colleen all they did was forage. all. day. There was a brief time when they began bouncing and flapping shortly after sunrise but they settled back down and began feeding. I checked the radar for their area and a storm system moved through not that far north of them. Perhaps they could sense it?

The female Whooping crane 7-14, who arrived back in central Wisconsin earlier this month appears to have roosted very near to our White River Marsh training site on Saturday night.

Whooping crane 9-13 who wintered on Paynes Prairie is taking his time heading north as well. He is approximately currently 30 miles south of where the 2014 cranes are.

Stay tuned…

EMP Update

The map below indicates the last known location of the Whooping Cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population. This map does not include birds that have not been reported for over one month, have likely moved from a previous location or that are long term missing. Updated band and transmitter information can be found on the attached document.

General – Maximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period was 99 birds (53 males, 46 females). Estimated distribution at the end of the report period included 72 whooping cranes in Wisconsin, 4 in Indiana, 2 in Alabama, 6 in Florida, 13 at unknown locations or not recently reported and 2 long term missing. The total for Florida includes 5 juveniles at the release pen.

Mortality – Juvenile female no. 2-14 was killed by a predator on the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida, during the night of 15/16 March. Her remains were sent to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison.

[Injury: Male no. 18-11 was reported with a left leg injury on 1 April. He has been under observation.]

2012 Cohort – Nos. 4-12 remained at the pensite at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida, until beginning migration with nos. 4-13 and 7-14 on 11 March (see no. 7-14 below).

No. 5-12 remained on and near the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida. He began frequenting the release pen after males nos. 4-12 and 4-13 began migration. [He began migration with the five juveniles on 3 April.]

No. 7-12 remained in Greene County, Indiana, through at least 25 March when she was observed with wild-hatched female no. W3-14. She was not detected at this location during a check on 29 March.

No. 14-12 remained in Osceola County, Florida, through at least last report on 5 March. He was next reported at his previous summering location in LaPorte County, Indiana, on 28, 29 and 30 March.

No. 16-12 was last detected in Jackson County, Indiana, on 6 January. He was confirmed at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, Meigs County, Tennessee, on 8 January and was last detected at this location the following two days. No subsequent reports.

2013 Cohort – No. 4-13 remained at the pensite at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida, before beginning migration with nos. 4-12 and 7-14 on 11 March. He was confirmed with these two birds in Decatur County, Georgia, on 13 March but apparently split from them there or further along on migration and was not detected with the other two in northern Illinois. He was found with no. 7-14 in Marquette County, Wisconsin, during a tracking flight on 31 March.

No. 9-13 began migration from Alachua County, Florida, on 16/17 March. Satellite transmitter readings placed him in Mitchell County, Georgia, on 17 through 28 March. He continued north to the Wheeler NWR, Alabama, on 29/30 March.

No. 22-13 remained at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, Meigs County, Tennessee, until beginning migration (apparently with male no. 37-07) on 8/9 March. Satellite transmitter readings indicated roost locations in Hardin County, Kentucky on 9 March and Morgan County, Indiana, on 11 March. He completed migration to the Necedah NWR, Wisconsin, on 12/13 March.

No. 24-13 remained at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Morgan County, Alabama, until moving slightly north into Giles County, Tennessee, by the afternoon of 12 March. He remained at this location through at least roost on 14 March. Satellite transmitter readings indicated locations in Hopkins County, Kentucky, on 15 March; Gibson County, Indiana, on 16 March; and Vigo County, Indiana, on 18 March. He remained at this location for the rest of the report period.

No. 57-13 remained in Meigs/Rhea Counties, Tennessee, through at least 3 March. No subsequent reports.

No. 59-13 remained at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Morgan County, Alabama, through at least 10 March when she was observed with nos. 38-08, 1-11 and 24-13. She was next reported with sandhill cranes in Rock County, Wisconsin, on 24 March where she stayed for the remainder of the report period. She has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked.

2014 Cohort – Wild-hatched

No. W3-14 remained in Greene County, Indiana, through at least 25 March when she was observed with female no. 7-12. She was not detected at this location during a check on 29 March. Her father, no. 12-02, had begun migration with female no. 4-11 on 18-21 March.


No. 2-14 was killed during the report period (see above).

No. 7-14 began migration from the pensite at the St. Marks NWR, Florida, with older males nos. 4-12 and 4-13 on 11 March. The trio was observed in Decatur County, Georgia, on 13 March. Satellite readings from no. 7-14 indicated roost locations in Morgan County, Alabama on 16 March; Humphreys County, Tennessee, on 18-20 March and Henry County, Illinois, on 22 March. She was detected still with no. 4-12 in Whiteside County, Illinois, on 24 March. She arrived in Green County, Wisconsin, by roost on 26 March and Marquette County, Wisconsin, by roost on 28 March and was found with male no. 4-13 during an tracking flight on 31 March.

Five juveniles remained at the release pen at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida, with male no. 5-12. [They began migration on 3 April.]


No. 19-14 remained with pair nos. 7-07 and 39-07 at their wintering location in Lowndes County, Georgia, until beginning migration on 7/8 March. Satellite readings indicated roost locations in Jackson County, Alabama, on 8-13 March; Logan County, Kentucky, on 15 March and Daviess County, Indiana, on 17 March where she was observed with the adult pair. She completed migration to the Necedah NWR, Wisconsin, on 19 March.

No. 20-14 remained in Jackson County, Alabama, presumably with pair nos. 9-05 and 13-03 until beginning migration on 7/8 March. Satellite readings indicated roost locations in Butler County, Kentucky, on 8-10 March. She continued north on 16 March and low precision readings in the early afternoon on this day placed her in Fountain County, Indiana. High precision readings indicated a location in Benton County, Indiana, on the morning of 18 March and she completed migration to the Necedah NWR, Wisconsin, with the adults on 19 March.

No. 27-14 remained with pair nos. 2-04 and 25-09 in Hopkins County, Kentucky, through at least roost on 23 March. She completed migration to the Necedah NWR, Wisconsin, with the adult pair on 31 March.

Long term missing – Female no. 2-11 was last reported at her wintering location in Marion County, Florida, on 9 April 2013. She has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked.

Female no. 27-10 was last detected on the Necedah NWR, Juneau County, Wisconsin, on 22 April 2014. Her transmitter is likely nonfunctional.

This update is a product of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.  To access our previous project updates and additional information on the project visit our web site at

We thank staff and volunteers from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Andrew Cantrell, Dan Kaiser, Dan Troglin, Rick Houlk, Charles Murray, and John Pohl for tracking assistance. We also thank pilot Bev Paulan (Wisconsin DNR) for aerial tracking assistance.EndMar2015

Class of 2014 Northward Migration Report

The following chart and map shows the progress our Class of 2014 chicks have made to date with 5-12 as their (apparent) leader.

In a discussion with Colleen, it appears that 5-12 has since gone from ‘hero’ to ‘zero.’  She and Brooke had left the birds Wednesday to head to the nearest town to get hotel rooms and in the two hours they were gone, 5-12 seems to have departed as they are no longer getting a signal from his radio transmitter.

The five young cranes are still at the location they’ve been at since Tuesday mid-day. Brooke and Colleen are still monitoring them, albeit from a distance so as not to spook them.

Here’s a chart showing the progress they’ve made in the week since leaving the St. Marks winter release enclosure on April 3rd.

Date Day # Distance Traveled County/State  Notes
Apr 3 1 197 miles Elmore, AL
Apr 4 2 125 miles Fayette, AL
Apr 5 3 206 miles Calloway, KY
Apr 6 4 0 Calloway, KY
Apr 7 5 80 miles Saline, IL Stopped early due to storm.
Apr 8 6 0 Saline, IL Very strong wind/rain. 5-12 signal last heard ~2:30pm
Apr 9 7 0 Saline, IL Storms throughout Illinois



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