Heading South!

It would appear yesterday’s blast of frigid air in Wisconsin convinced a good number of Sandhill cranes to head south and along with them, some of the Parent Reared Whooping crane youngsters!

Colleen is currently in Florida after driving the tracking van there so that Brooke can use it during the winter. She’ll be flying back to Wisconsin today to resume tracking duties.

While she was away, Doug Pellerin volunteered to monitor 29 & 39-16 in Adams County, WI, however, upon arriving there yesterday, there were no Whooping cranes. Anywhere. Overnight we received a PTT hit for 39-16, which placed him in Kendall County, IL. We can only assume that 29-16 is with him as these two have always been together since release but until we receive a GSM email for #29-16 we won’t know for certain.

Also on the move is female whooping crane #71-16. This young gal was released at White River Marsh in late September and promptly headed southwest to join a large flock of Sandhill cranes. Until yesterday, she had been in Marquette County, WI. We received a GSM email from her remote device late yesterday, placing her in Lake County, IN – southeast of Chicago.

The young whooping crane Joe had been monitoring disappeared yesterday morning along with alloparents 3-14 and 4-12. This is the only crane that does not have a remote tracking device. As luck would have it, it’s also the only Parent Reared crane that appears to have been adopted by adult cranes in Wisconsin and the female (3-14) does have a PTT device.

In the meantime, we received a public sighting overnight from Samuel B. Burckhardt in Chicago who had access to a rooftop in the downtown area and watched thousands of Sandhill cranes pass over yesterday. 

Just one of the many groups of Sandhill cranes to pass over Chicago yesterday. Photo: Samuel B. Burckhardt

Just one of the many groups of Sandhill cranes to pass over Chicago yesterday. Photo: Samuel B. Burckhardt

Mr. Burckhardt granted permission to include some of his photos below (Thank you!). Here’s the information he included with his report: I saw from about 11 AM to about 4:30 PM some 30,000 Sandhill Cranes migrate over the City of Chicago. Among them were four Whooping Cranes, at first three: two adults and a juvenile, and later a lone juvenile.”

Flying over Chicago amid a group of Sandhill cranes are 3-14, 4-12 and juvenile 30-16. Photo: Samuel B. Burckhardt

Flying over Chicago amid a group of Sandhill cranes are 3-14, 4-12 and juvenile 30-16. Photo: Samuel B. Burckhardt

I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that the two adults and a juvenile he saw are the three whooping cranes from White River Marsh that Joe was monitoring! 

Here’s a closer look:

Whooping crane trio 4-12, 3-14 and 30-16. Photo: Samuel B. Burckhardt

Whooping crane trio 4-12, 3-14 and 30-16. Photo: Samuel B. Burckhardt

Based on the location of his observation and the GSM hits for 71-16, it’s also a pretty safe assumption that the lone juvenile he saw was 71-16. 

Pretty cool!

Meanwhile Jo-Anne Bellemer who returned to Wisconsin last week so that I could head home (thank you!!!), is still monitoring 31-16 and 38-16 in Marquette County. They seemed quite antsy yesterday flitting from field to field and since everything is now frozen over and winds today will be shifting from a northerly direction by noon, well, we’re all hopeful they’ll get the message and move on!

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  1. Missy Cleveland December 10, 2016 12:28 pm

    wow!!! i just identified these beautiful birds thanks to this website. 3 groups flew over yesterday afternoon and i was initially alerted by the sound in the distance. amazing!

    • Christine December 11, 2016 10:14 am

      Just curious, where did you see them? I saw 3 groups overhead in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Dec. 8. It was one of the most wonderful natural beauties I’ve ever seen!

  2. Catherine Wohlfeil December 8, 2016 10:08 pm

    This is wonderful news!! Hip Hip Hooray!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Pete Weber December 8, 2016 9:09 pm

    George and Gracie aka 9-03 &3-04 usually spend much of the winter here (SE Illinois) and head down to Wheeler in Alabama when conditions here get too severe. It will be interesting to see the migration pattern of W18-15 who spent much of last winter here with parents, G&G, who were still here yesterday. W10-15 was here in early November before G&G arrived,and for a day or two there were 6 WB’s here!

  4. Cheryl N. December 8, 2016 8:47 pm

    Thank you so much to Mr. Burckhardt for his photos and observations. Godspeed to the birds as they begin their migration. Thanks for the news, Heather! What a relief to know they are on the move at last.

  5. Jean P. aka CrabtowneMd December 8, 2016 6:41 pm

    Awesome photos. Thank you for sharing them Samuel and thank you Heather for posting them.

  6. Richard P. Chase December 8, 2016 6:17 pm

    ;Thank you Heather. 😉

  7. Christine December 8, 2016 4:15 pm

    I live in south Kenosha, Wisconsin and at about 2pm, I think a group of cranes passed over. It looked like about 3 different groups of about 30-40 each. Could this be possible?

    • Heather Ray December 8, 2016 4:31 pm


  8. Maggie Turk December 8, 2016 2:14 pm

    That sure is a plus of living in Chicago Sam—thank you for the outstanding photos and we sure have all of the cranes in our thoughts and prayers.

  9. Dora Giles December 8, 2016 1:21 pm

    So good to receive great news about our colts this year beginning to migrate even if with Sanhill Cranes. At least they will be heading towards warmer weather and better eating habitats. Thank you so much for keeping us informed. Love all the articles.


  10. Mindy December 8, 2016 12:30 pm

    Mr. Burckhardt, if you are reading this, thank you so very much for taking these great pictures as you observed the Sandies and Whoopers flying over! And for letting us all see them too! What a sight that must have been to behold! We have been watching from White River Marsh all summer and waiting almost without breath to see if the juveniles would stay with adults in order to learn to migrate. Your pictures made me cry with joy to see that youngster Whooper (who is probably the parent reared 30-16) , flying with adults. I pray they make it safely to Florida and the blue crabs that await them. Heather thank you so much for this good news!

    • Samuel B. Burckhardt December 8, 2016 6:18 pm

      It was indeed a great spectacle to watch. I look forward to this time, every year, with anticipation. Not only seeing the birds but also hearing them is very special.

  11. marcella December 8, 2016 12:22 pm

    Hearing the cranes pass by my office in Arlington Heights has brightened this otherwise cold day. What a special treat to see and hear them on their southward journey.

  12. Mollie Cook December 8, 2016 11:54 am

    Excitement & tears of joy! Ok 31 & 38-16……….you need to make a move south!!!! Thanks for the great update Heather & enjoy your time at home.

  13. Grandma December 8, 2016 11:02 am

    I am so happy to read this update this morning. It brought tears to my eyes realizing this dedicated team is seeing the desired results of many hours of patience observing these precious birds. Thank you to everyone at Operation Migration.

  14. Linda December 8, 2016 10:56 am

    Safe travels my friends! See you in the spring.

  15. Bobbie (piscesbobbie) December 8, 2016 10:45 am

    WOW! So happy to hear the WB and their ‘adopted’ youngster are on the move together. Thank you to the person who provided the photos!

  16. Karen Anne December 8, 2016 10:14 am

    This is a little public service announcement 🙂 for those of us older folks who have 20/20 vision but the problem almost everyone has as we get older of difficulty reading low contrast type to background.

    If you are in this boat, you will have no doubt noticed that a lot of websites now use faded colors against whitish backgrounds, like OM’s website designer does in the field journal. Apparently this is a well known problem, but since most website designers are young, they have either no idea what we older folks are talking about or don’t care.

    Here is what I have found out that is of some help in increasing readability. So far I have only made progress with Firefox.

    What doesn’t work: The AddOn Blacken seems to do nothing. The AddOn NoSquint is not longer being maintained and does not work on the current version of Firefox.

    What does help: The AddOn PerfBar (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/prefbar/) is easy to install. It does create a toolbar, but you can toggle the toolbar showing or hidden with F8. If you remove the checkmark in the Colors button, it displays text in the system default color, which is usually Black. This improves the type in the field journal just enough so that it gets out of squinting territory into about readable. The type is still thin, but at least it’s something.

    When you go back to a page that has good contrast, you can just check mark Colors again and hide the toolbar.

    • Heather Ray December 8, 2016 10:19 am

      You might also want to increase the magnification of your screen? CTRL SHIFT + does this. To decrease is CTRL SHIFT –
      Our font is dark brown by the way.

      • Madeline December 8, 2016 11:30 am

        Ctrl + does it, BUT the text gets bigger, but the text doesn’t automatically WRAP, so now we have to scroll left and right to read each sentence.

        Life on the sunny side of 21 😉

    • Dorothy N December 8, 2016 10:34 am

      Thanks for the helpful info, Karen. Suggestion: make the web designers wear cataract glasses!!

      • Karen Anne December 9, 2016 3:10 pm

        I love it, Dorothy. That’s like having someone walk around in one of those suits that mimics walking with arthritis 🙂

  17. Samuel B. Burckhardt December 8, 2016 10:00 am

    This is the second time I have seen Whooping Cranes mixed in with Sandhills migrate right over the City of Chicago. How amazing to get the full story behind the birds from Heather. Thanks.

    • Heather Ray December 8, 2016 10:08 am

      Thank you Sam! Incredible photos!

  18. Lindi Allen December 8, 2016 9:45 am

    Such great news, hoping all goes well for all of them and the crew too.

  19. Anna M Osborn December 8, 2016 9:36 am

    Thank you so much. I hang on to every word as my heart goes with these beautiful birds. Finally saw 9 in the wild in the marshes off Rockport, TX (from Capt.Tom’s boat)

  20. Jean P. aka CrabtowneMd December 8, 2016 9:30 am

    WHOOP ! WHOOP! that is absolutely awesome news ! ! ! and from this morning’s windytv, those cranes in southern IL and Indiana should have good tailwinds to finish their migration 🙂 🙂

  21. fisher December 8, 2016 9:23 am

    This message takes my breath away

  22. Marje lloyd December 8, 2016 8:53 am

    great news! good to know they are on the move, thank you all for the long hours you have spent observing these birds.