Whooping Crane #38-17

Regular readers will recall that this young parent-reared crane failed to head south for the winter. She is quite capable of flight and when I monitored her last fall, she was observed several times associating with Whooping Crane #71-16 in Dodge County, Wisconsin.

Despite this, she stayed in Dodge County for the entire winter – and anyone in the area will attest to the fact that we had some VERY cold days in December and January. 

Several attempts were made to try to capture her and she just flew away. Refuge staff have been putting food out for her, which she heartily consumed and we suspect she was eating snow for water. 

Lately, she has been staying in the marsh and not really venturing out much so on Tuesday when I noticed her GSM hits placing her back in a nearby field she frequented in the fall, I messaged Doug Pellerin and he drove over to get a good look at her.

See for yourself. She looks to be in very good condition despite spending the winter in Wisconsin.

Whooping crane #38-17 in Dodge County, WI. Photo: Doug Pellerin (CLICK photo to enlarge)

Foraging for corn. Photo: Doug Pellerin

To the best of our knowledge, #38-17 is the first Whooping crane in the EMP, which failed to migrate south.

Thanks Doug for checking on her again and sending along the photos!

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Sad News about Bryce

Operation Migration hates to be the bearer of sad news, but we also want to keep our readers informed. This morning we learned that parent-reared Whooping Crane 70-16, also known as ‘Bryce’, had to be euthanized at the Louisville Zoo. 

You may remember our report on February 7th that Bryce had been found tangled in a fence and was unable to fly. Then, on February 9th we reported that Bryce had been transferred to the Louisville Zoo. 

The Zoo has concluded that Bryce’s injuries were too severe to expect a recovery so they had to make what must have been a most difficult decision. 

Trio of Nesting Eagles

Last February we told you about a live camera, which was documenting nesting activities of a trio – yes a trio – of Bald Eagles. The trio consists of two males and one female, and while these three are nesting again this year – it’s not the same three eagles.

Sadly, “Hope” the female from 2017 died while defending the nest against two intruder eagles. The two males, named “Valor 1” and “Valor 2”, went on to raise the two eaglets and they successfully fledged at the end of May.

These two boys much have buckets of charm as they’ve now convinced another female to join them for the current nesting season. In fact, the trio already has two eggs! 

The first egg was laid February 10th and the second egg arrived 3 days later on the 13th. 

You can check out the camera, hosted by the Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge by visiting this link.

Two of the trio on the nest.

Many thanks to Lori Verhagen for bringing me up to speed on this nest and it’s occupants!

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71-16 Heading North

It appears that female Whooping Crane #71-16 is on her way north as well! We just received hits from her remote tracking device, which place currently her over Tennessee at an altitude of 1205 meters and heading north-northwest.

She spent the winter in Madison County, Florida very close to parent-reared juvenile #36-17. Hit’s received for this young crane earlier today have her still in Madison County.

Heading Home

With a full month left on the calendar until the official start of spring, it appears some of the Whooping Cranes in the EMP are eager to begin heading home to Wisconsin.

Craniacs Shelly Taliaferro and Cathy Fouche are on an epic road trip that began Saturday morning in Indiana. They made it to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Decatur, Alabama just in time to see thousands of Sandhill Cranes and 10 Whooping Cranes head off to roost.

Sandhill cranes as seen from the observation tower at Wheeler NWR. Photo: C. Fouche

Here are some of the Whoopers Shelly and Cathy found late afternoon on Saturday near the Refuge…

Seven Whooping Cranes forage along the edge of a pond before settling down for the night. Photo: C. Fouche

Cathy reports the next day there were perhaps half the number of Sandhill cranes still visible from the viewing blind and remote tracking data indicates some of the Whoopers also began heading north.

A hit from female crane #10-15 confirms she left on Sunday, February 18th and made it to Hopkins County, Kentucky by early evening. She is very likely traveling with her mate #4-13 and I’m anxious to see where this pair returns to in Wisconsin as late last year, they appeared to have established a territory fairly close to White River Marsh in Green Lake County. 

While Whoopers aren’t considered to be of breeding age until they are 5 years old, it’s not unheard of for a 3 year old female to successfully breed so this pair may just have a nest this spring!

Huge thanks to Cathy Fouche and Shelly Taliaferro for sharing their road trip with us!

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Whistling Kites

From the “Whoa! that’s cool!” files… 

Australia is home to the Whistling Kite, which is sometimes referred to as “firehawks” as they have this incredible ability of starting fires… yes fires – to drive out prey!

During the dry season, flocks of whistling kites, black kites and brown falcons hunt near bush fires, snapping up small animals flushed out by the smoke and sparks.

If a fire begins to flicker out, locals claim, some of the birds will keep it going by carrying burning sticks to new locations.

READ more

Photo: Bob Gosford


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Become a Whooping Crane Guardian

Now is the perfect time to pledge your support with a monthly contribution for Whooping Crane conservation!

Monthly donations can be processed more efficiently than single or one-time gifts, resulting in a higher percentage of your gift being directed to our work. It also allows us to better budget our resources if we know what our monthly revenue will be ahead of time. 

At any time, you can increase, decrease, pause or stop your support, all at your convenience simply by logging into your account.

Your monthly gift will help ensure that we are able to continue our work to safeguard Whooping cranes and continue our education and outreach efforts through our IN The Field blog.

When you become a NEW monthly donor, OR increase your current monthly donation amount, you will receive a special hand-folded origami crane made by Mako Pellerin.

Mako has very graciously offered to create a limited number of beaded hanging origami cranes made from the paper used to create last year’s GIANT origami crane, which greeted Whooping Crane Festival attendees in Wisconsin.Students from the Princeton School – along with Mako, very carefully folded the origami crane pictured above, and which boasted a wingspan of more than 30 feet and stood close to 10 feet tall!

Mako saved some of the paper from that special crane to create these smaller origami “off-spring” cranes for you!

In Japanese culture, the crane is a mystical creature and is believed to live for a thousand years. Cranes represent good fortune and longevity and are referred to as the “bird of happiness.”

We hope this very special origami crane will bring you all of these qualities… In addition to your special origami crane, we’ll also send you an instruction sheet for folding more origami cranes!

When you become a monthly supporter you help to provide OM with a reliable, low-cost stream of revenue that sustains our ongoing work and allows us to better forecast for budgeting purposes.

It’s super easy to join and you can contribute any amount you like on a monthly basis: $
10, $15, $25, $50 – Every gift helps! Visit this link to learn more or to enroll today!

If you’re already a monthly supporter (thank you!) and would like to increase or change your gift, don’t forget you can login to your personal account at any time to do so using this link: LOGIN 

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Wow – Wow – Wow!

Every birder has that one day they’ll never forget… The day they saw a life bird, or their nemesis bird, or a very special sighting in terms of species or numbers. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018 is a day Anne Martin will likely not forget. Check out the photo below and you’ll understand why.

This fantastic shot shows 8 adult Whooping cranes foraging in Morgan County, AL (Click image to enlarge). Photo: Anne Martin

The group includes, from left to right: #69-16/1-11/59-13/10-15/4-14 (aka Peanut)/4-13/11-15 & 67-15.

Anne, thanks so much for sharing your lovely photo with us!

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Great Backyard Bird Count

Despite the name, you don’t HAVE to stick to your backyard to count birds. The weather here in the north is supposed to warm up for the weekend so all the more reason to get out to your favorite natural area to see which feathered friends are present.

However, or wherever you count birds – 2018 is the Year of the Bird, so why not participate in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count!?

This annual event takes place this weekend from the 16th – 19th and the information gathered is invaluable to researchers and scientists who look for changes in bird population data over the 21 years since the program began.

To participate, observers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists at birdcount.org. Easy peasy!

CLICK to learn more

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s day was intended for humans but we see nothing wrong with celebrating it by featuring the Royal Couple on their wintering grounds in south Georgia!

Brooke and Colleen paid them a visit last week and found them waaaaaay out in the middle of a field foraging. Here’s a photo to show you just how difficult it was to spot them:

Can you see them? Look in the middle of the photo. Click image to enlarge

It appears they have their own pond for roosting on the left side of the photo and a fairly secluded field full of tasty treats in which to forage. Who could ask for more…

Here’s a zoomed in photo. That’s the male #4-12 on the right keeping a watchful eye, while his mate, female #3-14 eats. Let’s hope they have better luck this year nesting in Greek Lake County, Wisconsin.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Looking ahead to the Return of Spring – and Whoopers!

MADISON, Wis. – Sixteen young Whooping Cranes released in 2017 successfully migrated south for the winter. Restoration partners are now eagerly awaiting the birds’ return and hoping the coming breeding season exceeds the promising results achieved last year.

“We are very pleased with the good survival of last year’s released cranes and are looking forward to the return of these birds and our older cohorts,” says Trina Soyk, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who co-leads communications for the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership leading the restoration project.

The 2017 cranes represented a mix of birds hatched in the wild, birds hatched in captivity and raised by adult cranes at the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin and the U.S.G.S Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, and birds hatched at Patuxent and raised by Operation Migration’s costumed handlers in Wisconsin and released over the summer into the company of adult cranes.

Costume-reared cohort of seven juvenile Whooping Cranes along with adult cranes 5-12 and 30-16 foraging near White River Marsh in Wisconsin. Photo: H. Ray

Partners are also keeping close tabs on a captive-reared crane released in Wisconsin last fall that did not migrate south with other Whooping Cranes. Earlier efforts to trap the bird and transport it south weren’t successful. With Whooping Cranes soon starting their return trip to Wisconsin, partners decided to let the bird remain at its wintering location. They have been providing supplemental food and checking on the young crane frequently.

“Whooping Crane 38-17 has so far successfully wintered in Wisconsin, and that’s a novel event as far as I know,” says Davin Lopez, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist working on the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.

Anne Lacy, Crane Research Coordinator from the International Crane Foundation, added, “It does amaze me how resilient cranes are, even in our bitterly cold winters. Their body fat reserves and down coats are built exactly for this situation. Though this is definitely a rare situation, we do not expect it to happen often.”

The 2017 breeding season yielded some exciting results: two wild chicks hatched and survived to fledge, and a young pair nested for the first time in an area biologists refer to as the Wisconsin Rectangle in the southeastern part of the state. The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership has focused on placing birds in this area that includes Horicon Marsh and White River Marsh since 2011. Prior to that, the focus was in Juneau County in central Wisconsin, until it was discovered that biting black flies contributed to cranes and other species abandoning their nests. Partners are also conducting research in Juneau County to determine causes of chick pre-fledge mortality.

Says Operation Migration’s Joe Duff, “We are committed to finding answers that will help the Eastern Migratory Population reach a self-sustaining level.” Duff added, “This year we plan to expand the research that began in 2017 to include a greater geographic footprint, which will provide even more valuable data for evaluation by partnership scientists.”

Whooping Cranes have historically started spring migrations in February. The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership asks anyone who encounters a Whooping Crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need. Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards; remain in your vehicle; do not approach in a vehicle any closer than 100 yards. Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you. Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph Whooping Cranes.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

Click here to report a Whooping Crane sighting. For more information on the project and its partners, visit the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership website.

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Heading North… ALREADY?

Last fall, two young (male) Parent-Reared Whooping Cranes were released in Marathon County, Wisconsin in the company of two (female) whoopers, numbers 28-05 and 2-15.

The youngsters, #19-17 and 25-17 were the first two Parent-Reared birds to be released last fall and they did indeed form a bond with the two older females and even followed them south, more than 800 miles to northeast Alabama.

The foursome remained in the area until late last week when the two older females apparently began heading north. They were spotted on Friday in Hardin County, Kentucky some 200 miles to the north. 

According to the remote tracking devices worn by each of the now almost-1-year-old males, indicate they both stayed behind in northeast Alabama. 

It will be interesting to see when they decide to head back to Wisconsin, whether they return to the area where they were released last fall, or like most of the young birds when they return, will they wander around.

Enjoy this photo captured by Georgia Roberts.

Whooping crane 28-05 on the left and 2-15 on the right. Photo: Georgia Roberts

If you’re fortunate to spot a Whooping crane please send us a report! 

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Madison County, FL

It has been driving me nuts that we have not yet been able to get eyes on the two Madison County Whooping Cranes. I hear beeps galore, but I wanted to see cranes and see if the two of them are together, or are they just in the same place at the same time.

Last Wednesday morning I headed to Madison County, ready to hang out till they flew to a favorite AG field to forage. The only chance of a visual.

I got to the swamp and only got beeps for #36-17, I hurried north to check the AG field and sure enough, #71-16’s transmitter beeped loud and clear!

I introduced myself to the landowner and explained what I was looking for. I held my breath waiting for her reaction.

One time, a lady gave me permission to go on her property. When Brooke went back to the van to get something, she was sitting in her truck, so he went to say hi and thank her. She had a gun on the seat by her and kept her hand near it. Gulp!

This lovely lady was not in that category. She said “let me get the camera and we’ll go out in the Gator!”

She hugged the perimeter of the field and stopped well back. There was our bird, #71-16 with at least 100 Sandhill’s. All waiting patiently for the deer feeder to spray out breakfast!

We watched a while then headed back to her house. The birds picked a beautiful place. It’s private and they will be safe when they visit here. The landowners are wonderful. Perfect scenario!

She was kind enough to send these pictures and will send more if she can.

That’s 71-16 way over there waiting patiently for the deer feeder to fling some corn.

Dancing with sandhills.

Zoomed and cropped. 71-16 sure stands out in a crowd.

Now we know these two birds may be near each other at times, but they are not best buddies, yet anyway. We also know 71-16 likes a free meal.

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Bryce Moves to Louisville Zoo

On Wednesday we told you about “Bryce” aka Parent-Reared Whooping Crane #70-16. Well that same day, he was transported to the Louisville Zoo where he will continue his rehabilitation behind the scenes.

READ more…

Bryce at the Louisville Zoo (Photo: Kyle Shepherd/Louisville Zoo)

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