Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan flew over the Necedah Refuge and surrounding area yesterday and spotted the following chicks still on the landscape:
That’s what I have… In simple terms – I have a fear of snakes.
I’ve felt this way about them for as long as I can remember. There is no basis for my fear. It just is.
Those that know me, or have spent any time outdoors with me knows about this. A friend and I were once birding at the Royal Botanical Gardens west of Toronto. Along the paved path we encountered a baby garter snake. A really weeny one – as in not-much-larger-than-an-earthworm. Karen, my friend, was fawning over it – exclaiming how cute it was. She even bent down and (GASP) touched it! I peed my pants.
A few years ago, I stopped in to visit Craniac Cindy Loken at her home in Adams County, WI. Cindy had wanted to show me a nearby Great blue heron rookery so off we went – traipsing across one of her fields. We were chatting away when all of a sudden Cindy threw her arm in front of me; preventing me from taking another step.
I looked down to see the biggest, ugliest snake I’ve ever seen and executed a sideways long-jump worthy of medal placement at the summer Olympic games.
Turns out it was a hog-nosed somethingerother – ‘harmless’ Cindy said. ‘Ya, right’ I said, and while I never admitted it at the time… I peed my pants.
Imagine my horror this morning when Joe sent along this photo he took a couple nights ago…
You see this is the inside of the CraneCam – the belly of the beast if you will. There, curled up beside one of the large marine batteries are snakes – yes, multiple snakes. Joe said ‘There are at least four but based on the movement I would say more. Some are big so I don’t think they are young of year.’
To which I replied ‘I won’t be breaking down the CraneCam at the end of the season this year.’
Nothing announces the beginning of the new crane season like the arrival of our Sensory Deprivation Chamber/Porta Potty affectionately known to all as “Big Green.” Every spring, it magically appears in camp while we are away… like a giant gift waiting under the tree Christmas morning. Just the very sight of the thing makes you giggle with anticipation and suddenly all you want to do in life is climb aboard and take your seat. It arrives compliments of Packerland Portables, which, in the interest of full disclosure, paid for this endorsement. The name, of course, comes from an old sandlot football team known locally as the Green Bay Packers… a “winning isn’t everything… it’s the ONLY thing” NFL wannabe football team rostered with players so big they could never fit through the door, which is why you will never see “Big Green” on any of the their Sunday afternoon halftime beer commercials. A player might get into it at Half Time, but he would never get out in time for the Second Half. And that’s also why you will never hear them yell, “Hey Coach. Put me in!” no matter how hard you press your ear to the television screen on game day.
But associating “Big Green” with a sporting event of any kind seems like sacrilege. However, this year’s model is so big, I stepped into it the other night and found a local dart team holding a tournament inside. “Take a seat and shut up”, the captain of the team ordered. “You’ll spoil our concentration!” It completely spoiled mine. All I could do was duck! Fortunately, everyone on the team was wearing their sunscreen. That light Packerland put in there this year is BRIGHT! And the new toilet paper is so thin you can hold it up to the light and actually see Russia through it from here.
I guess we got what we deserved when we ordered the biggest unit Packerland had. Though to be fair, our crew is aging and “wheel chair accessible” becomes a bigger issue every year at this time. In fact, the delivery man from Packer, who majored in the same thing as I did in college, had to locate it in a “Handicapped Parking Zone”. But as Confucius used to say, “It takes a big porta- potty in which to think big thoughts” which is why, I suppose, it came fully equipped with a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica with a sign above them that says, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”.
Still, every king or queen deserves a “throne”, no matter how small their kingdom, and so we consider ourselves indeed blessed. Besides, how many places can you walk into where you are guaranteed to feel better when you walk out. Not even the greatest of historic European Cathedrals or massage parlors can make that claim. Now that’s worth waiting in line for, I can tell you. But since I’ve been the only one in camp for the last couple or so months, no lines. It’s been all mine.
Unfortunately, as with everything else in life, it’s not all fun and games. What goes up must come down and what goes in must come out. “Be VERY careful of that door!” the Packerland driver cautioned as he raced out the driveway as if fleeing an imminent explosion. “It’s a killer!” How right he was. The door is held shut by the same cannon spring that for years propelled the “Human Cannonball” over circus crowds. I needed the “Jaws of Life” just to get the darn thing open. Once inside, you know immediately what it’s like to be a fly caught in Donald Trump’s comb over. Then to exit, you have to scream “Geronimo” at the top of your lungs and lunge through to daylight before the door slams shut with such speed and ferocity that it creates a sonic boom that breaks windows in Arizona. “Harry! What was that explosion?” “Don’t worry Dear. That’s just Brooke finishing up his morning Constitutional in Wisconsin.”
So why, you ask, do we take such a risk first thing every morning? Well, that’s like asking the mouse caught in the trap why he went for the cheese. “Because it’s There” the mouse will tell you. Besides, anyone in the recovering endangered species business just naturally likes living on the edge… to say nothing of sitting on it. Like the sign on the door says, “No Life Guard On Duty. Swim at your own Risk.”
But to really understand and appreciate the true value of a thing, you must first take ownership of it… or at least something just like it. Once, in a former life, I actually owned my very own porta-potty. It was old and retired from years of faithful service at various construction sites around the Washington DC area. Now if you’ve ever visited Washington, you know that porta potties are often the most valued of monuments. Of course, the down side is that our politicians wind up spending so much time trying to flush them that they never get any real work done. But in America, it’s the constitutional right of every citizen to own a porta-potty as long as they can pass Homeland Security’s background check. “Have you ever been convicted of Double Parking in a Federal Building Men’s Room?”
Seventy-five bucks later, the rental company manager gave me one of his great big, insincere porta-potty smiles, followed by, “A few patches of fiberglass here and there and this baby will be ready for action. Takes a lickin, keeps on tickin”! as I pulled out of the rental yard and headed off to film an episode of “This Old Porta-potty.” I was smiling ear to ear. There is, after all, a great sense of pride that comes with ownership. However, that pride has a habit of lasting about as long as did the love affair I once had with my best friend’s older sister who was the goalie for the men’s hockey team and never wore a helmet, facemask or mouth guard …the one in the picture holding a hockey puck up to her face, with the caption that said, “Not very tasty, but man, what a chew!” Like they say, the best day in your life is when you buy your first porta-potty. The second best day in your life is the day you sell it.
But there is pride in borrowership too. Or at least that’s what we used to think. Before the day of my grand aforementioned purchase, our ultralight club used to “borrow” porta-potties from construction sites on the day of our Annual Ultralight Club Fly In. That was until the day one of them blew off our trailer during transport, requiring us to stop weekend traffic for half an hour while we loaded it back onboard. Fortunately for us, Billy, one of our club members, who had been comfortably seated inside of it for the first half of the trip to the airfield, ran out of stuff to read and joined us in the truck. “Houston – We have a problem!” Billy always wanted to become an astronaut and he thought riding down the highway in a porta-potty was a way to prove he indeed had the “Right Stuff.” And why not? It is a well-accepted fact in the flying community that former astronauts make the best ultralight pilots… but more importantly, that former ultralight pilots make the best astronauts. That is why, though our club had a policy of never naming our porta-potties, I named mine “Billy.” It’s like they say, “Be good to your porta-potty and your porta-potty will be good to you.”
So anyway, if any of you find yourself in vicinity of White River Marsh and want to take our porta-potty for a test flight, please feel free to stop by. As “The Donald” always says, “Me casa, su casa.” All you have to do is hum the Beatles song, “She’s Got a Ticket To Ride” and it’s all yours. Let me know you’re coming, though, and I’ll get rid of all the football players, the dart team, and the rip-off comic singer Washington politicians. I’ll tell Billy to “Blast Off” and I’ll even leave the light on for you. Until then, it’s like Dr. Strangeglove said in his historic speech to the United Nations all those years ago, “Bombs Away!”
Doug Pellerin was out tracking last Thursday and sent along the following photos:
You may recall #6-15 was a member of a foursome of yearling cranes, which had been wandering since their return from St. Marks NWR in Florida. It seems she and another female #8-15 have each ventured off on their own, which leaves 10- & 11-15 together.
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Wisconsin DNR Pilot Bev Paulan was able to get a flight in over Juneau, Wood and Adams Counties, Wisconsin on Wednesday and reports seeing (and hearing) the following:
Cranes with chicks:
4-11 with W3-16 Wood County (photo below)
29-09/12-03 with 1 chick Juneau County (photo below)
16-02/16-07 with 1 chick Juneau County
1-04/8-05 with 1 chick Juneau County
18-03/36-09 with 1 chick Juneau County (photo below)
18-09/23-10 with 1 chick Juneau County (photo below)
27-06/26-09 with 1 chick Juneau County
9-03/3-04 with 1 chick Juneau County (transmitter of chick not heard)
2-04/25-09 with 1 chick Juneau County
15-09/11-02 with 2 chicks Juneau County
Pairs seen on nests:
24-09/42-09 Adams County
7-07/39-07 Juneau County
10-10/41-09 Juneau County
14-08/24-08 Juneau County
A number of folks have asked about the new pair consisting of male #1-11 and female #57-13 (Latka) and their chick. Sadly, it appears they have lost the chick.
We’re raffling off this one-of-a-kind stained glass Whooping crane panel. This piece was created by yours truly and donated to Operation Migration to help raise awareness for Whooping cranes and funds for our work this year.
Tickets will be available online through end of day August 31st. Thereafter, tickets will be available at the Whooping Crane Festival in Princeton, Wisconsin.
Winning ticket will be drawn at the close of the Whooping Crane Festival on Saturday, September 10th.
Winner will be notified in person (if in attendance), by telephone, or by email.
Shipping costs (if necessary) will be assumed by Operation Migration.
Here’s a photo of the panel:
Guest Author: Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR
I often hear questions as to how am I able to fly and take pictures and run telemetry all at the same time. As one commenter stated, it is the ultimate in multi-taking. There really is no secret. It is a combination of flying an incredibly stable aircraft, 30+ years of flying experience and a very great passion for what I do.
My normal crane survey flight begins long before I ever get in the aircraft. I look over all the satellite and GSM data for all the birds equipped with those transmitters. I receive citizen reports and look over those as well. I ensure my gps is loaded with known bird locations, camera and receiver batteries are fully charged, blank data sheets on my clipboard and the bird transmitter frequency sheets are up to date. I check the antennas that are mounted on the wing struts, not only checking to make sure they are all tightly connected, but also that I have the correct antennas plugged in. (Each critter I run telemetry for is on a different transmitter frequency and thusly different antennas). I also make sure I am in contact with all of the partners in the project, not only to let them know I will be in the air, but also to see if there is any pertinent information I need I couldn’t do what I do without the help of OM, ICF and USFWS.
Once the aircraft is pre-flighted and a weather briefing is obtained, I can finally launch. I fly out of Eau Claire so to get to the first bird is about a 50 mile straight line flight. Once I get close, I descend to about 800 feet above the ground, slow the plane and put in 10 degrees of flaps. This configuration creates a stable platform from which I can start my multi-tasking I use the co-pilot seat to hold the receiver, have a clipboard on my lap with the data sheets, my camera is on the floor between the seats and the gps is mounted on the panel of the aircraft.
If the bird I am looking for has a working transmitter, the frequency is dialed in and the receiver is on and I am waiting to hear the tell-tale beeps. If the particular bird has a non-functioning transmitter, I keep the receiver off to not only save battery power, but my ears as well. Listening to 4-5 hours of receiver static is not fun.
As I fly over the bird, I mark the gps, write the bird id and location (by waypoint number), habitat the bird is in, behavior of the bird and whether or not it is associating with Sandhill cranes. It gets busy quickly, but in reality takes only a moment to do. Even slowed down, the aircraft is travelling at 80-90 mph so I have to make the id quickly, or the circling commences.
If I can’t make an initial id because of a non-functioning transmitter, I open the window, grab my camera and start snapping away to try to get an image of the leg bands. I use my personal camera which is a Canon 5D Mark 3 with a 100-400 zoom and a 1.4x extender. This set up gives me a fast camera and a lens long enough to find chicks and read leg bands. The 1.4x extender was a gift from Karen Willes. Karen is an outstanding photographer and was not happy with the pictures I was getting from the plane, so she sent me the extender. I think you will all agree, the images of the chicks are now pretty acceptable.
When I first started doing these flights I was stunned that a five foot tall white bird could disappear. Even when I heard a very strong signal on the receiver, I sometimes could not obtain a visual on the bird. Since the transmitters we use do not have a mortality switch (this allows a different pulse rate to be transmitted when the animal does not move for 8 hours or more) we as trackers need to obtain a visual on the bird to ensure it is indeed alive. I have circled over some birds for 20 minutes or more trying desperately to get a visual. Eventually the bird emerges from a group of shrubs, or I get a glimpse of white moving through the trees. On occasion I do not find a bird and send a text to the trackers or biologists that I was unable to obtain a visual and they need to check. Sometimes it ends well, sometimes not.
The biggest challenge is when chicks are on the landscape. I do not fly so low as to change the behavior of the birds, so sometimes that is too high to see the chicks. Once again, I grab the camera and fire off several frames to review once I am back on the ground. If I have time while flying, I will quickly preview the images on the camera to see if I can find a chick. If I don’t initially see one, I will circle back and take more images.
So, there’s my flight. Once back on the ground, I need about as many hours as I flew to check the hundreds of images I shoot and process the data sheets. It is a lot of work, but I do love it. Even when the winds are doing not nice things to the plane, or I can’t find birds that are supposed to be on the landscape, I would not give up these flights for anything.
Now here are some photos that didn’t quite turn out…
The 2016 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 both at the Festival AND online! At the Festival’s Friday night dinner we will feature a few super-special items, then have many more items available for fast and furious bidding at Saturday’s Festival. And because we know that not everyone can attend the Festival in Princeton, Wisconsin, we will conduct an 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! 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 (The address is on the item donation form and below) 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 auction committee will determine which auction it best suits, and it will be assigned accordingly. No single item will appear in multiple auctions, and the auction 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 so that it 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)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.
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 12th. 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 12th!
WHEN ARE THE AUCTIONS? The Whooping Crane Festival will be held the weekend of September 10th, 2016. There will be a dinner on Friday night, 9/9, at which there will be a silent auction featuring a small number of items. On Saturday, at the all-day Festival, there will be a much larger silent auction. The online (Facebook) auction will open on 9/6 and close at noon 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 either hold onto it until next year, or 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.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this tragedy.
Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan managed to get in a flight on Tuesday over the Necedah Refuge and surrounding area.
Here is a list of the Whooping cranes/chicks she saw:
4-11 with W3-16 in Wood county
3-11/7-11 with W5-16 in Adams county
18-03/36-09 with W12-16 on NNWR
18-09/23-10 with chick on NNWR
15-09/11-02 with W13-16 (other chick gone) on NNWR
2-04/25-09 with chick on NNWR
W1-06/1-10 with chick on NNWR
12-03/29-09 with W7-16 and W8-16 on NNWR
1-04/8-05 with W9-16 (other chick gone) on NNWR (photo below)
16-02/16-07 with chick on NNWR (Photo Below)
9-03/3-04’s chick was heard (one with an implanted transmitter) but not seen either visually or in images.
Additionally, the following birds are still on nests:
24/42-09 Adams county
14-08/24-08 on NNWR
34-09/4-08 on NNWR
27-06/26-09 on NNWR
10-09 was seen standing on nest — 2 eggs visible.
39-07/7-07 — one bird was standing on nest with 1 egg visible (overdue) Juneau County.
Chick numbers subject to change once hatch dates are determined for all.
It seems Whooping cranes were being spotted all over the marsh last Friday. Tom Schultz spotted the following pair during a drive through White River Marsh Friday morning.
By 1:10 pm the same day, during Mike Callahan’s aerial survey, this pair had returned to their usual summer territory in Marquette County, WI.
On Friday last week Doug Pellerin managed to catch up with four of the ultralight-guided cohort from last year. Specifically, 6, 8, 10 & 11-15.
The week before this foursome had ventured down to LaSalle County, IL for an afternoon before making their way back to Winnebago County, WI where Doug found them frolicking in a flooded ag field.
Both Bev Paulan and Michael Callahan flew surveys late last week for Wisconsin DNR. Bev flew on Thursday and Michael, on Friday.
Here is Bev’s report:
First the bad news: I found the carcass of Whooping crane #12-02, the male of the Wood County pair. His mate, 4-11 and chick W3-16 were alive and well. ICF’s Hillary Thompson went and recovered the remains, to ship to the wildlife health lab in Madison. The text I received from Hillary said there was no sign of predation or injury.
1-04/8-05 have 2 chicks: Juneau County, WI
Birds still on nests:
7-07/39-07 Juneau County, WI
I could not find 3/7-11 and chick. Their nesting marsh is drying up rapidly. Last week they were nearly a mile from the nest. With both having Non-Functional transmitters, I had no luck. I searched the entire marsh area and saw no white birds.
And now Michael Callahan’s findings:
It seems the pair consisting of male 4-13 and female 7-14 have returned to their Marquette County territory. They were spotted on White River Marsh on Thursday afternoon but Mike spotted them at their summer territory at 1:10 pm on Friday.
Also spotted were the pair – 4-12 and 3-14. They were in the center of White River Marsh (Green Lake County) and it seems 4-12’s transmitter is also no longer working.
The 2 yr old female 8-14 was located approximately 1 mile south of the above pair.
Yearling female crane #1-15 was seen in flight by herself, in Dodge County, WI., while the foursome of yearlings consisting of 6, 8, 10 & 11-15 were spotted together in Winnebago County, WI.
Mike also found the female Parent Reared crane #14-15 in Jefferson County, WI along with six Sandhill cranes.