2012 certainly was an unusual season. The eggs were hatched early in the spring and the chicks were shipped to Wisconsin earlier than normal. We began the migration in September and were finished a month before Christmas.
Maybe it was this abbreviated schedule that convinced two of our birds it was time to migrate, or perhaps their extra long stay at St Marks is the reason the two of them left already. The unusual winter could have something to do with it too.
Here in the north we have had record warm temperatures followed by heavy snowfalls. Now we are back to warm weather with lots of melting. Whatever the reason, we now have two birds in the pen at St Marks, and two somewhere out of transmitter range.
The VHF transmitters on the leg bands of the birds help to track them, but the range is limited. If the transmitter (on the bird) and the receiver (held by the tracker) are both on the ground, the range is limited to a few miles, depending on the terrain. If the bird is airborne, that range increases substantially because the whole system works on a line-of-sight principle. If the tracker is airborne and the bird is on the ground, the signal can often be heard from a distance of 50 miles. And if both the tracker the bird are flying, we can pick up a beep for up to 100 miles — on a good day.
The head of the WCEP Tracking Team is Eva Szyszkoski, but she is busy dealing with the birds in Tennessee, so Brooke is spreading his time between monitoring the birds in the pen and chasing around the usual spots, listening for a signal.
No tracking aircraft is available so we are asking for a volunteer.
Anyone who owns a high-wing aircraft like a Cessna who lives around the Tallahassee area and who feels like donating a few hours of airtime is asked to give us a call at 905-982-1096 or email me at infoAToperationmigration.org. (replace “AT” with @)
You could help us do a local search to ensure that the birds have actually begun their migration and are not hanging out somewhere inappropriate. Helping the creatures that taught us all how to fly is a good use of an aircraft.