When it is time to release the parent-reared cranes, we are each assigned one or two to watch, everyday. Two of the birds released early in the program were female, 26-17 and male 28-17.
We let them go near the known roosting site of adult Whooping cranes 27-14(F) and 10-11(M) in Grand River Marsh which is a large complex of public and private lands in Marquette County. Depending on the landowners, the public side can inaccessible and in this case, we had to rely mostly on their radio transmitters, without visual confirmation.
Number 28-17 is the only bird without a remote transmitter and naturally, he took off almost immediately to parts unknown. In fact this was the last we saw of him:Occasionally, we would get a signal but he has been moving around and is hard to track.
The female, on the other hand, has stayed mostly in one spot using great habitat, but in a very limited range. We always got a signal from the adult, 27-14 in the same general area but it’s seems they were never actually together. The adult male’s transmitter is non-functional. On the rare occasion that we did get a glimpse of either her or the adults, they were always alone.
A week or so ago we arrived just in time to see two adult whooping cranes land beside her. We thought the target pair were finally paying some attention to her but it turned out to be Peanut (4-14) and his friend 11-15.
Over the next few days the trio was spotted by Jo-Anne and Heather and then again by Wisconsin DNR Pilot Matthew Brandt.
Without access to the marsh for behavioral observations, we can’t tell whether the chick wasn’t interested in the assigned target pair or it was the other way around. Each situation appears to be different, depending on the personalities or the mood of the birds involved.
Over several weeks 26-17 and the target pair never seemed to work it out, but after only a short time together Peanut and his friend struck up a relationship with our lonely female chick and yesterday, it appears they began leading her south. Her remote tracking device indicates they left Grand River Marsh and flew to LaSalle County Illinois. That would make her the first PR bird to migrate this year – we think. Her release-buddy: male #28-17 could be in Florida for all we know.