2015 Whooping Cranes

You may recall last week I said all the juveniles in the 2015 aircraft-led cohort had pretty much stayed put.

This week it’s a different story. After staying at their Marquette County location for about a week, the group of four moved east to Sheboygan County, WI. We know they’re exact location but will not divulge so as to protect them.

Doug Pellerin checked on them yesterday during his weekly volunteer tracking rounds and sent us the following photos to share:

Young cranes: 6, 8, 10 & 11-15 foraging in corn stubble in Sheboygan County, WI yesterday. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Young cranes: 6, 8, 10 & 11-15 foraging in corn stubble in Sheboygan County, WI yesterday. Photo: Doug Pellerin

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Photo: Doug Pellerin

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Photo: Doug Pellerin

Doug reports there is a private wetland where the group appears to be roosting in the evenings.

Female crane #2-15 remains in Door County, Wisconsin and we’ve had to telemetry data on crane #1-15, which means she’s in an area with no cellular service.

Have you checked out the CraneCam yet? Yesterday was the first day of broadcasting a live stream from White River Marsh and we had four Whooping cranes sightings!

Pictured below is the pair 3-14/4-12 on the wing.

Capture: Cathy Fouche

Capture: Cathy Fouche

The Beast Lives!

There’s a new buzz in the world today – it’s electric and palpable. It’s the CraneCam‘s (aka The Beast’s) bits and bytes traveling through the air 3.5 miles from White River Marsh to the antenna on the silo at camp, down the cable, into the router, over the internet to WildEarth in Africa, back to Ustream in the U.S., up to Operation Migration’s website in Canada, and then to your computer screens. Yep, you got it – the CraneCam is LIVE!

I think no one was more surprised than Heather that The Beast was so cooperative. Check out this photo of her and Joe, taken by Doug Pellerin when she found out the cam was streaming!

Heather and Joe when the CraneCam worked

Heather and Joe when the CraneCam worked. The reason she’s so surprised is that Mike Deline didn’t need to make his annual trip to the marsh to get it up and running. Heather got the beast running with help from Joe and Doug Pellerin.

It didn’t take long for the chatters to discover that the CraneCam was streaming live this morning. One by one they popped in and said either “Wow!”, “Yay!”, “Where is this?”, “Hi everyone, long time no chat!”, or all of the above. Heather manned (personned?) the controls and, in no time at all, had 5-12 (Henry) in view. Then 2 sandhills and then female 3-14. Wow!

Besides “Wow!” and “Yay!”, the next most frequent posts were “Which way are we looking?” and “Where is the beast sitting now?”. It was obvious that we weren’t viewing from the usual location next to the pen, but it wasn’t so obvious exactly where we WERE based on the new orientation. Here’s the lay of the land around the pensite:

The new position of "The Beast"

The new position of “The Beast”

It promises to be a very interesting CraneCam season as we explore the White River Marsh and see what we find – please join us!

“Henry”

Yesterday morning we drove by Mile Rd. along County Rd. D outside of Princeton and low and behold there was 5-12 foraging in the field.

Doug Pellerin was traveling behind us in his vehicle and had expressed some concern that perhaps 5-12’s VHF transmitter may have stopped working. We had two receiver’s and two antenna’s with us so to rule out a non-functional receiver, we both tried his radio number. Nothing, nada, zip… His battery has officially died. It is, however, 4 years old.

5-12 (aka Henry)

5-12 (aka Henry)

While we were there Lois and Edward came out of their house on the corner. Many of you have met this lovely couple over the past few years and they look forward to the cranes return each spring, as much as they love to greet CraneFest visitors.

Lois excitedly said “I’m not sure if it’s a boy or a girl but I’ve named it Henry”!

Just because it’s Lois – Henry it is!

And now, because we’ve had this song stuck in our heads since then, so too should you…

Musings on Street Names

What a boring street I live on. I don’t mean my neighbors – they’re not boring. I mean my street name. Frank Street. Wow, what an image THAT evokes – NOT! Could be worse I guess. It could be Smith Street. Or Jones Street. Or FRANK SMITH Street – OMG!

I never really thought about it until I started doing merchandise and Give-A-Whoop wristband mailings for OM. As I write the addresses on the envelopes, I am amazed at the assortment of descriptive streets our supporters live on. Take Brookforest Drive and Fallbrook Court – can’t you hear the water trickling and the leaves gently swishing in the breeze? Even Linden reminds me of the basswood trees planted in downtown Providence. Another good one – Possum Creek – more trickling going on in my head with that one.

Here’s a good one – East Hidden Lake Drive – I’d love to visit there so no one would find me for a few weeks. Then I would come back refreshed and live on Happy Valley Drive and giggle. Or maybe, since it’s been chilly the past few days I’d rather go to Needle Palm Way – that MUST be down south. I just noticed a few more favorites – Petunia Lane, Arboretum Road, Birch Lane, Wildflower Drive, Chokeberry Road, Fox Fire Place – and my stress level dropped another few notches.

So this makes me wonder… since our supporters are obviously conservationists, do they only seek out nature-related streets when they search for houses? I’d love to do a study of other types of organizations to see if their supporters have similar affinities. Do YMCA supporters live on Swimming Pool Place or Treadmill Terrace? Do Audubon supporters live on Yellow Rump Road or better yet Pileated Place?

Finally, here are my two favorites – Marine Drive because I can’t wait to get the boat launched, and Kinchafoonee Creek Road because it’s just such a cool word!

Pssst, if you’ve not yet WHOOP’d to receive your wristband there is still time! CLICK HERE

The Hope Business

“And what are YOU selling?” my old friend Broadway Freddie used to ask when introduced to someone for the first time. I secretly winced those many years ago when I bore witness to this unique exercise in human discourse. But to Freddie, everyone was selling something… an idea, an agenda or just themselves. And they didn’t have to be wearing a Willie Loman “shoe shine and a smile” either. It was just Freddie’s “keen eye for the obvious” perspective on things; one that defrocked the camo from life and reduced all things to the simple, shade your eyes, brilliant clarity of a movie starlet’s matrimonial diamond.

Those days are gone now, as is Freddie.  But as I drove through the predawn darkness to begin this morning’s nest observations of whoopers 24 and 42-09, Freddie’s face suddenly appeared amongst the myriad reflections that danced just on the other side of the windshield. He was looking in at me, smiling that classic sideways Broadway Freddie pre-ignition smile, telegraphing as it always had his unique, welcome to my world question of introduction. “So Brooksie.  (He used to call me “Brooksie”) What are YOU and your friends selling?”

I wriggled uncomfortably in my seat for a few moments, then answered him as I had myself so many times during the long, frustrating years of our whooping crane introduction project. “Hope, Freddie.  We’re selling Hope. We’re in the Hope Business. Hope that an endangered species can have a future. That tomorrow will be better than today. And that dreams… if they are right and worthy, really can come true. After all, “Hope” is the strongest drug there is. It’s the stuff that makes the world go around.  And when you think about it, it’s not such a bad addiction to have, is it”?

“Funny thing, Brooksie. I just never figured you for the drug dealer type. Sounds like you’ve been sampling some of your own product! But tell me something. You sure the “Hope” you’re talking about isn’t spelled with a great big “D”… as in “Denial”?

“Well Freddie, just take a minute and look at the two pictures below. They tell the story better than I can. Besides, it’s like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words… and I’m running out of ink.”

Freddie whipped out his laptop, placed it firmly against the windshield while he stared intently at the pictures for a few moments. Then he said, ”Well, Brooksie, I think I’m getting the picture. We need beginnings… and do-overs and second chances and places to do it all over again, only better. Why, if I had another chance at life, I would… Hey, wait a minute! You’ve become quite the salesman!  But seriously, do you think there’s any chance I could come back to life as a whooping crane?  I think I’d make a darn good one. And besides, I always wanted to be a red head.”

“One can only hope. Keep the faith, Freddy.”

Female Whooping crane 42-09 checks what appears to be a single egg before settling down to incubate.

Female Whooping crane 42-09 checks what appears to be a single egg before settling down to incubate.

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Mom (42-09) settles down to incubate while Dad 24-09 keeps watch.

Gettin’ Around

The 2015 juvenile Whooping cranes from the aircraft-led cohort have pretty much stayed put since we last checked in with them late last week. The group of four includes: 6, 8, 10 & 11-15 and they’re still in Marquette County, WI. Female #2-15 is still to the northeast, in Door County and we had a hit come in late yesterday, which placed female #1-15 in Columbia County, WI.

Still no confirmed sighting on 4-14 (Peanut) though a local told Doug Pellerin that he sees him regularly in a field he spent quite a bit of time in last spring upon his first return to Wisconsin. It could be that his transmitter has died, as has the VHF transmitter on female 7-14. At least she also has a PTT device as well as an established territory in Marquette County with her mate 4-13.

In the past 10 days, Joe and I have driven vehicles from Ontario to White River Marsh in Green Lake County, Wisconsin. We then flew to Tallahassee, Florida and with Colleen Chase, drove to Orlando to celebrate Earth Day with our friends at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

From there, we drove back to St. Marks, Florida Saturday — dropped Colleen off, hooked up the aircraft trailer, picked up the other travel pen and are now on our way back to White River Marsh. We have another 500 miles or so to go, which means we have already logged 3100 miles.

Traveling that distance gives one an opportunity to think — a lot. In no particular order, here are some of my musings:

I am fairly certain ACDC’s song Highway to Hell was written about Interstate 69 in Michigan.

Mile after mile of orange and white cones signals the arrival of construction season!

I decide I need to learn Spanish and download Pimsleur’s Spanish Level 1 – Yo no hablo español.

Last time I was in the south I saw barren trees and boring shades of brown. Now there are a million shades of green, punctuated with the occasional puff of lavender wisteria and bright white dogwood blossoms. 

Traveling south to north is just like reversing the migration but at 5x speed. I silently say hello/goodbye to the friends we’ve made along the way. Hola/Adios.

Obnoxious billboards. feo.

Tire shrapnel. Muy feo.

It’s quite possible I’ve crossed the Tennessee River 16 times in the past 6 months.

Quiero ir a casa…

Earth Day

Doug Pellerin was out tracking yesterday and came across four of the 2015 Whooping cranes. Doug sent along the following images:

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Juvenile cranes 6, 8, 10 & 11-15 in Marquette County, WI.

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This group of four juveniles includes 6, 8, 10 & 11-15.

Doug was unable to locate 1-15 and we’ve had not hits from her tracking device, which means she’s in an area with little, if any, cellular reception.

2-15 remains IN Door County, WI.

We’ll be celebrating Earth day today with our friends at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Be sure to do something kind for our planet today.

Whooping Crane 5-01/Levi

Yesterday, Colleen Chase, Joe Duff and I traveled from St. Marks to Orlando, FL and along the way we decided to stop at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park to pay a visit to Whooping crane 5-01 (now named Levi) and his friend Peepers.

Here’s a photo of the two together yesterday and below the photo is their story…

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(Originally published July, 2011)

Whooping crane 5-01/Romeo/Levi had been searching for love since 2007 when his first mate was predated in Hernando County, Florida. He succeeded in finding another only to lose her to a bobcat. Perhaps because he had lost two loves to predators or because there weren’t a lot of available females of his kind; for whatever reason, this unlucky-in-love male Whooping crane – a member of the first-ever ultralight-led cohort from 2001, decided to select a pretty little female Whooper named Peepers as his eventual soul mate.

Peepers was safe from wild predators so the chances of him losing her were slim. Peepers was one of two captive Whooping cranes that resided at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. She shared her space with a male whooping crane named Rocky but theirs was a purely platonic relationship. Whereas 5-01/Romeo/Levi had other intentions.

Six times in the past few years, our lovelorn male crane has flown to the park to visit Peepers in her enclosure. And six times his visits ended with him being crated and transported away. Not the happy ending he had been seeking.

In spring 2007, a few weeks after his first mate was found dead, 5-01/Romeo/Levi paid his first visit to Peepers, much to the surprise of the staff at the Park in Citrus County. Costumed handlers, who were nearby monitoring the newest cohort of ultra-cranes were called in to remove him so that he would continue to migrate with the rest of the Eastern Migratory Population. They released him in Pasco County and the next day he returned to Peepers.

He was captured again and this time driven to the Hiwassee State Wildlife Area in southeast Tennessee. Later that spring, he returned to Wisconsin to summer and migrated south to Florida the next fall. In the spring months of 2008, 5-01/Romeo/Levi met a new lady crane and on at least two occasions, over the next two years, he brought her to the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park to also visit Peepers. In the spring of 2010 a bobcat predated his second love.

Again he returned alone to Wisconsin to spend the summer and migrated back to Florida last fall – by himself – and promptly stopped in to visit his girl Peepers.

What to do with a tenacious-in-love Whooping crane who refuses to leave his captive love? After much consideration and weighing of options, the tough decision was made to pull him from the migratory population and allow him to stay with Peepers.

But what to do with Rocky – Peepers’ buddy with whom she shared her enclosure? You see, Rocky had a condition which made it difficult for him to vocalize and produce unison calls – and that is how Whooping cranes and other crane species reinforce pair bonds. 5-01/Romeo/Levi was a professional unison caller as evidenced by the two previous loves he had wooed and then lost.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C had been on the waiting list of facilities approved for an educational Whooping crane but needed more time to get their display ready. Officials at Homosassa Park agreed to keep all three Whooping cranes until the National Zoo was ready to receive their newest resident Rocky.

Park staff divided the Whooping crane exhibit and kept Rocky and Peepers together on one side and placed 5-01/Romeo/Levi, who will from now on, officially be known as Levi, on the other side. Too much change at once can cause displaced aggression.

A few weeks ago, Rocky made the trip to the nation’s capital. A few days ago, Levi made the trip through the gate, to at last be with his love Peepers.

Yesterday, Colleen Chase, Joe Duff and I traveled from St. Marks to Orlando, FL and along the way we decided to stop at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park to pay a visit to Whooping crane 5-01 (now named Levi) and his friend Peepers.

Here’s a photo of the two together yesterday and below the photo is their story…

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(Originally published July, 2011)

Whooping crane 5-01/Romeo/Levi had been searching for love since 2007 when his first mate was predated in Hernando County, Florida. He succeeded in finding another only to lose her to a bobcat. Perhaps because he had lost two loves to predators or because there weren’t a lot of available females of his kind; for whatever reason, this unlucky-in-love male Whooping crane – a member of the first-ever ultralight-led cohort from 2001, decided to select a pretty little female Whooper named Peepers as his eventual soul mate.

Peepers was safe from wild predators so the chances of him losing her were slim. Peepers was one of two captive Whooping cranes that resided at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. She shared her space with a male whooping crane named Rocky but theirs was a purely platonic relationship. Whereas 5-01/Romeo/Levi had other intentions.

Six times in the past few years, our lovelorn male crane has flown to the park to visit Peepers in her enclosure. And six times his visits ended with him being crated and transported away. Not the happy ending he had been seeking.

In spring 2007, a few weeks after his first mate was found dead, 5-01/Romeo/Levi paid his first visit to Peepers, much to the surprise of the staff at the Park in Citrus County. Costumed handlers, who were nearby monitoring the newest cohort of ultra-cranes were called in to remove him so that he would continue to migrate with the rest of the Eastern Migratory Population. They released him in Pasco County and the next day he returned to Peepers.

He was captured again and this time driven to the Hiwassee State Wildlife Area in southeast Tennessee. Later that spring, he returned to Wisconsin to summer and migrated south to Florida the next fall. In the spring months of 2008, 5-01/Romeo/Levi met a new lady crane and on at least two occasions, over the next two years, he brought her to the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park to also visit Peepers. In the spring of 2010 a bobcat predated his second love.

Again he returned alone to Wisconsin to spend the summer and migrated back to Florida last fall – by himself – and promptly stopped in to visit his girl Peepers.

What to do with a tenacious-in-love Whooping crane who refuses to leave his captive love? After much consideration and weighing of options, the tough decision was made to pull him from the migratory population and allow him to stay with Peepers.

But what to do with Rocky – Peepers’ buddy with whom she shared her enclosure? You see, Rocky had a condition which made it difficult for him to vocalize and produce unison calls – and that is how Whooping cranes and other crane species reinforce pair bonds. 5-01/Romeo/Levi was a professional unison caller as evidenced by the two previous loves he had wooed and then lost.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C had been on the waiting list of facilities approved for an educational Whooping crane but needed more time to get their display ready. Officials at Homosassa Park agreed to keep all three Whooping cranes until the National Zoo was ready to receive their newest resident Rocky.

Park staff divided the Whooping crane exhibit and kept Rocky and Peepers together on one side and placed 5-01/Romeo/Levi, who will from now on, officially be known as Levi, on the other side. Too much change at once can cause displaced aggression.

A few weeks ago, Rocky made the trip to the nation’s capital. A few days ago, Levi made the trip through the gate, to at last be with his love Peepers.

An Honor and Privilege

By definition, a privilege is an honor granted or bestowed upon someone deserving. I’m not sure about the deserving part, but being allowed to work with birds for a good part of my life has been a privilege.

We started with common Canada geese and worked our way up the species list to less abundant Trumpeter swans, then Sandhill cranes and finally the icon of endangered avian species. The only thing we could aspire to now would be to soar with California condors or find the elusive Ivory billed woodpecker.

Whooping cranes have such celebrity that those lucky enough to fly with them are dragged along for the ride. As Robert Porter Allen said, “If we succeed in preserving the wild remnant that still survives, it will be no credit to us; the glory will rest on this bird whose stubborn vigor has kept it alive in the face of increasing and seemingly hopeless odds.”

The reward for hard work and long absence from home has always been to fly with the birds, but there are other benefits. Recently, Heather and I were privileged to spend an hour or so chatting with Dr. Jane Goodall. She was passing through Toronto on one of the 320 days a year that she travels to promote conservation. She spoke to 3500 people, two days in a row and was off to Washington DC before heading to Hawaii and then Africa. She told us that in the last 4 years she has flown on 385 airlines.

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At 82, her stamina is incredible but it is her character that is most appealing. Since she flew with us in the back seat while we led Whooping cranes around Necedah, she has been a supporter of this project and a friend to the birds. She has helped us in so many ways but the most important is difficult to define. There is something in her kindness, her experience, her commitment and the generosity of her friendship that lifts you above the difficult times.

When things get tough you need a little Jane Goodall to help you though. Knowing her, at least a little, is like flying with birds.

Nests Abandoned

With warm weather peaking over the weekend the staff at Necedah NWR were busy collecting eggs from abandoned Whooping crane nests.

Adult cranes walk away from their nests when Black flies emerge in the warm conditions and literally drive the incubating birds away.

It was reported that all nests except for one were abandoned — the pair still incubating as of yesterday is female 13-03 and male 9-05.

16 eggs were transported to the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo yesterday and will be used for release in the EMP.

Meanwhile, at the Marsh…

After setting up the RV’s at the White River Marsh camp yesterday, we met with Doug and Mako Pellerin. Earlier that day Doug had been out checking for signals and heard all five recent returnee’s just off the north end of the training strip.

This group includes: 1, 6, 8, 10 & 11-15 so we can now officially state that they have returned HOME!

Doug also heard male Whooping crane 5-12 off in the marsh to the west of the pensite calling and calling. You may recall he spent the winter at the St. Marks pensite, along with three other sub-adults.

When we returned to the pensite with the Pellerin’s to again check for signals, we could only hear the beeps of the female #1-15 BUT it seems she was in the same location as the male #5-12! Of course they are acquainted with each other from the winter spent at St. Marks but hopefully they’ll become a bonded pair.

We’ll have to wait for data to arrive to find out where the other four youngsters ventured off to. It would appear the group of fice took a small excursion on Saturday — flying northeast to Green Bay before returning southwest.

Here’s a screen grab of what that little excursion looks like:

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We received a PTT hit yesterday for female #2-15, which places her northeast of the Wisconsin rectangle in Door County, Wisconsin. Hopefully, this is typical spring wandering and she’ll eventually return to the rectangle.

While driving out from Ontario, Joe and I stopped to check on the four DAR cranes in Genesee County, Michigan. They appear healthy and were gobbling waste corn from a field which had been flooded due to recent rains. It is hoped that they will retrace their flight and get on the west side of Lake Michigan and back to the core reintroduction area.

THEY ARE HOME!!!

I still haven’t received data from the new GSM units, which essentially means they are not in a great cellular area. I jokingly said to Colleen earlier today “Well, we both know how great the signal is at White River Marsh so they must be there”!

I received a satellite hit for Whooping crane 10-15 placing her in Green Lake County, Wisconsin!

It appears she (and very likely the other four she traveled from Florida with) roosted approximately 5 miles from their former pensite last night! Of course, I’ll feel more confident once we do get eyes on them, or they happen to be near a cell tower and we receive data.

Hopefully, tomorrow morning I’ll receive a satellite hit for 2-15 so we can include her in the list of official returnees.

I should be on site by noon – guess what I’ll be doing?

Why not Give A WHOOP! to celebrate the successful return of the Class of 2015!

Quick Update

We’ve still not received any hits on the new devices but late yesterday received a PTT hit for female 2-15, which places her in Washington County, WISCONSIN!

Also female 8-14 arrived in Columbia County, WISCONSIN.

We suspect the other five are also now in their home state but without confirmation… well, you know.

Speaking of Wisconsin, it’s time for me to hit the road also. Will update this site with news once we receive it.

White River Marsh

We have a couple views to share with you showing the Whooping crane pair 4-12 and 3-14*

Bev Paulan did a quick check of the White River Marsh area on Tuesday and spotted this pair from the air:

Male 4-12 (bottom) and female 3-14 foraging in the marsh. Photo: Bev Paulan

Male 4-12 (bottom) and female 3-14 foraging in the marsh. Photo: Bev Paulan

And the second vantage point is from the ground – captured yesterday by Doug Pellerin.

Photo: Doug Pellerin

Without legbands it’s difficult to tell the birds apart, but the one on the right appears slightly larger so is likely the male 4-12 Photo: Doug Pellerin

We have not received any data from the remote tracking devices since our last update. We’ll post news of the Class of 2015 as soon as we have it!

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