Expanding (Crane) Horizons

The six Whooping cranes in the Class of ’15 arrived at their winter release site at St. Marks NWR on February 6. They received their tracking devices and permanent legbands on the 9th and were released on the 13th.

Thanks to your generosity in responding to a GivingGrid crowd-funding campaign last summer, three of the young cranes are sporting new GSM CTT units and the information we’re getting from these newer tracking technology devices is pretty darned cool!

Take a look at the following screengrabs from Google Earth. I’ve included details below each grab in the caption to explain what you’re seeing.

The red dots are 'hits' for one crane only (#6-15) and show all hits from Feb 11. There is no doubt that 6-15 is in the top-netted section of the release enclosure at this point!

The red dots are ‘hits’ for one crane only (#6-15) and show all hits from Feb 10 & 11. There is no doubt that 6-15 is in the top-netted section of the release enclosure at this point!

Here’s a grab showing all hits for the same crane (#6-15) for the period of February 12 – 16.

Three days after being released from the top-netted area, we can see that #6-15 is moving around the winter pen - specifically spending time at the feeding station and in and around the two ponds.

Three days after being released from the top-netted area, we can see that #6-15 is moving around the winter pen – specifically spending time at the feeding station (large yellow bulls-eye) and in and around the two ponds.

The following image shows all hits for #6-15 beginning February 28 and up to yesterday, March 3. There is no doubt that she is now quite comfortable flying out of the enclosure to spend time exploring the salt-marsh!

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Juvenile Whooping crane 6-15 has been exploring the marsh surrounding the winter release pen!

Since the release enclosure is located in an area of the Refuge, which is closed to the public, it is acceptable to share this information. Please keep in mind as they begin their northward, return flight we will release location information at County/State level only.

HUGE thanks to everyone who contributed to funding these new CTT tracking devices! We’ll be running another campaign very soon for the 2016 cohort!

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27 Comments

  1. Lu Duncan Frank March 6, 2016 10:28 pm

    This is so cool! Thanks Heather, for sharing! 🙂

  2. Cheryl N. March 5, 2016 9:24 pm

    Thank you for the update, Heather.

  3. PattiLat March 5, 2016 1:12 pm

    Most interesting! Thank you Heather for all you do. I’ll always be there for OM as you approach new adventures.

  4. Sue March 4, 2016 3:59 pm

    What will your roll be once the cranes fly back north, and then again when they return to St. Marks? We are honored to have such a dedicated environmentally conscious team share their winter with us. Thank you so much!

    • Heather Ray March 5, 2016 4:34 am

      Details are still being worked out.

      • Barb March 5, 2016 7:59 am

        Perhaps when the Powers that Be see the error of their ways, Operation Migration will be restored, fully.

  5. westendoldbird March 4, 2016 2:02 pm

    Without all your updates and info. I think I would go stir crazy. Thank you. 🙂

  6. Richard P. Chase March 4, 2016 11:38 am

    You could always start a drive to construct a high-power signal tower on the St. Marks Refuge property. After building it there would be additional sites for eagle nests. Maybe a community condo tower with the eagles at the top and different sized birds as you go down. (Pretty good idea, eh?)

    • Barb March 4, 2016 12:20 pm

      Perhaps Verizon or Bill Gates would understand what a National treasure the Whooping Cranes are and donate to the tower project.

  7. Kat Williams March 4, 2016 11:13 am

    Looking forward to assisting with the 2016 cohort in any way possible. Even if there isn’t an ultralight led group for us to follow we know you will keep us informed on our new chicks and the ones we love so much now. Thank you all so much for the updates and pics!!!

  8. Dave Sapko March 4, 2016 10:47 am

    Did the young male 11-15 get a red-dot unit?

    • Heather Ray March 4, 2016 11:35 am

      He did not… because he is a he and the she’s have a higher priority (as future nesters)

  9. Mary Beth March 4, 2016 10:15 am

    Raising funds for tracking devices on the 2016 cohort? I thought there wouldn’t be a 2016 cohort, at least as we’ve known it. Are these for DAR crane chicks?

    How much funding would it take to purchase/install The Beast II, a remote control camera, somewhere near the winter pen at St. Mark’s?

    • Heather Ray March 4, 2016 10:29 am

      There will be a Parent Reared cohort for 2016. As for installing a remote camera at St. Marks, that’s not the issue. The main issue is there is very little cell reception to broadcast over.

  10. Maggie Turk March 4, 2016 9:40 am

    That is awesome . You never cease to amaze me with all the” techie” stuff in today’s world and how well all of you know how to operate it. Love all of the reports and happy to be part of it here in my sun room in Wisconsin. Thanks loads !!!.

  11. Cathy Fouche March 4, 2016 9:35 am

    So cool! Thank you!

  12. Carol Giancola March 4, 2016 9:34 am

    Great news! Can’t wait for 2016 … whatever the good news brings!

  13. Mollie Cook March 4, 2016 9:32 am

    So great Heather…….thank you & looking forward to new crane adventures in 2016. We’re behind you all the way!!

  14. P. Doms March 4, 2016 9:21 am

    These new tracking devices are wonderful aren’t they? Wildlife Center of VA uses these on some– of their releases and it is very interesting to see where they go, how far etc. Great addition to your tracking abilities. Good Luck….

  15. Elsie Sealander March 4, 2016 9:04 am

    Reading the Field Journey since the Whooping Cranes were in Tennessee and heading for St. Marks, I have been on a Learning
    Journey. Thank you so much for all the info you and the other members of OM have shared.

  16. Leota Hopper March 4, 2016 8:54 am

    Thank you Heather for keeping us posted, I see #6-15 feels quite comfortable in her new surroundings. Others will follow her soon and see what she is up to. lol. Looking forward for more updates on our Whooping Crane’s adventures!

  17. Christine Myers March 4, 2016 7:57 am

    Oh my gosh, this is so awesome! I am jumping up and down!

  18. Shirley Green March 4, 2016 7:49 am

    Absolutely fascinating Heather. And we can assume the other five are also exploring. I look forward to reading the FJ every morning, waiting for information and photos just like today. Thank you.

  19. Barb March 4, 2016 7:03 am

    Good Morning,

    I understand why migration flight exact locations shouldn’t be shared with everyone. But, perhaps, once the new chicks start to migrate North, could just the State be shared so we Whooper fans know they are traveling? Thanks for the great tracking information! It is gratifying to know that they are fearless in their exploration of new territory, without swamp monsters leading the way.

    • Heather Ray March 4, 2016 7:22 am

      Yes, that’s what I said 😉 “Please keep in mind as they begin their northward, return flight we will release location information at County/State level only.”

      • Barb March 4, 2016 7:46 am

        Whoops! Too early in the morning and the brain and eyes are not in sync yet :), and I misread your post. Thanks for setting me straight.

        • Heather Ray March 4, 2016 7:52 am

          No worries – there are a lot of red dots to take in!