At last word from Brooke Pennypacker who is monitoring the nine young birds in the Class of 2011 at Alabama’s Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, they have yet to show any signs of leaving. Brooke told us the weather forecast for the next few days does not look particularly favorable for migration, so it is not likely they will be heading north in the next few days at least.
There have been public reports of sightings of Whooping cranes in Illinois. While credible, they have yet to be confirmed. As we reported the other day, the DAR cranes wintering at Wheeler NWR have already departed, and Brooke believes that 19-09 has as well. He has been scouting the refuge with his radio receiver in an attempt to pick up the signals of the two Whooping Crane pairs that were also wintering at remoter location, but so far, no success. That could mean either that they just haven’t been located as yet, or that they too have left for the north.
With this year’s early northward movement by many avian species it would not be a surprise to have many of the cranes in both the western and eastern population also launch their return well in advance of their ‘usual’ timing for spring migration.
The International Whooping Crane Recovery Team, composed of 50% US and 50% Canadian representatives, gathered this past weekend in Rockport, Texas for their winter meeting. Invited to attend and present were representatives from the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), Chair, Peter Fasbender of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and OM’s CEO and Project Leader, Joe Duff.