Class of 2011

  

 

 

Two release methods were used in 2011: Ultralight-guided (Group One) and Direct Autumn Release (Group Two). Group Three includes any successfully fledged wild hatched whooping cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population! 

This is the first year reintroduction efforts moved away from the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County, Wisconsin due to biting black flies driving the nesting cranes off their nests.

The ultralight-guided method began functioning from White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake County and the Direct Autumn Release cranes were moved to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Dodge County, Wisconsin for release in October.

 

Group One – Ultralight-guided Whooping cranes
1-11 2-11 3-11 4-11 5-11
 

Susp. dead ’15

Died Jan ’17

 

6-11 7-11 9-11 10-11 12-11

Died July 2012

 

Group Two – Direct Autumn Release (DAR) Whooping Cranes
13-11 14-11 15-11 16-11 17-11

Pres. Dead

Shot July ’13

18-11 19-11 20-11

Predated Nov ’17

Died Jun ’15

Group Three – Wild Hatched Whooping cranes

Group 3 chicks are wild-born. Their parents raise them and teach them to migrate. This is the natural way cranes learn to migrate. One day, this flock will be large enough for wild-born parents to take over. Then human-assisted migration will no longer be needed.

Four chicks hatched in 2011 in the Wisconsin wild. Unfortunately, none survived past July 1.

 


All Whooping cranes released in 2011 under the aircraft-guided method learned a migration route by following Operation Migration’s aircraft from Green Lake County, Wisconsin’s White River Marsh State Wildlife Area to Wheeler NWR in north Alabama. 

Incessant south winds delayed the southward migration over and over again and eventually the young cranes simply refused to follow any longer. Operation Migration CEO and Lead Pilot explains: “There is something, not entirely known, that stimulates a southern migration in birds. It may be temperature, or the angle of the sun, or a surge of hormones, but at some point that urge wears off.
Because of weather delays and south winds, we may have passed that point with the Class of 2011. In addition, these cranes are reaching the time in their lives when they become independent of their parents. In the end, none of this means much to the birds. They are still part of the Eastern Migratory Population and will still migrate back north. All that is left for us to do is to cross our fingers and hope they make it back to Wisconsin’s White River State Wildlife Area.”


Crane #1-11

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: April 28, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: green/red/white

Personality and Characteristics: This first-born crane started off acting fairly neurotic. When he started eating on his own, he seemed to level out a bit. He wasn’t too scared of the trike when Brooke first started the engine, and as always, he learned pretty fast not to run from the trike, reports Geoff. Caleb said #1-11 was a little “pecky” when the chicks were put together to socialize. He didn’t pick fights, but he did remind the other birds who was “top bird.” He especially did this with any chick that was in the footbath when he wanted to be in it. Before long he didn’t have to act so much like king of the hill because the other chicks learned not to challenge him. Because he is IS king of the hill, he doesn’t scare as easily.

#1-11 and #3-11 take a dip.

By mid June, they’d been walked together and were training together as one big unit. On June 21 all but one (crazy #8) of the 11 chicks were together at last in one big wet pen. All were playing nicely except #1-11! Being biggest and oldest, he feels entitled to nip at birds who happen to be in his way. For example, once he beak-jabbed #10 while #10 was just lying down, minding his own business. This behavior doesn’t make #1-11 a model citizen, says Geoff. “But as long as he doesn’t go for the face, peck too hard, or start chasing after birds like #8-11 does, then I won’t lose sleep over it. He’s not looking to throw down like #8-11, but just say ‘Get out of my way.’

Notes from “Flight School” at White River Marsh in Wisconsin: Male #1-11 arrived in Wisconsin on June 28, 2011 with the rest of the chicks in the Class of 2011.

July 11 was a thrilling day for Geoff and Caleb, watching the chicks through a peephole during training. “We saw two birds soar for a couple dozen yards, feet off the ground; I couldn’t tell which birds I was looking at since their bands were too far out. But if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say they were # 1 and #2, since the older birds are typically the first ones to experience flight.”

By August 1, none of the colts were able to take off with the trike quite yet. Except for cranes #2, #4 and #6, the rest slammed on their brakes as soon as the trike took off. But #1 surprised the team on Aug. 12. The team had been training the best fliers, #2, #4 and #6, by themselves. But when they accidentally released #1 instead of #6, Geoff exclaimed: “He flew with #2 for about as long as she did, which has never happened before!” Maybe he just needed this special chance. However, when ALL TEN birds took off with the ultralight on August 23, crane #1 dropped way back and landed in the marsh to spend the next two hours. As of August 25, crane #1 still had not made a real effort to leave the runway. Geoff says they are lucky just to get him to take off, if only briefly.

Crane #1-11 is very possessive. Whenever another bird has an interesting stick or a frog or even a clump of mud, #1 charges over and tries to take it away. He has always liked his personal space, and has never been afraid to jab at birds who get too close or get in his way. Watching the crane cam, Heather concluded that #1 is the BULLY of the group. “Every time another bird is resting (hock-sitting or lying down), #1 never fails to stroll over and peck the resting bird in the butt! On August 30, however, #7 chased him off three times. He got out of her way FAST for the rest of the day.”

Sep. 11: Lost and Found. Instead of taking off with the aircraft and 9 other birds, #1-11 flew just above ground level and straight north as if on a mission. Then he plopped down and disappeared in a tangle of thick, tall brambles. Joe radioed the location to Caleb, who headed there in the tracking van to find and retrieve the wayward bird. What followed was a huge scare for both Caleb and #1-10. It turned out okay, but you’ll want to see Caleb’s story: A Gut Wrenching Day

When Joe was finally able to locate and rescue them both, #1-11 was too exhausted to walk. They carried him to the crate, placed it in the van and slowly drove back to the pen. The young bird was fatigued, parched, aching, and wounded. After just a few minutes in the quiet pen, the Joe and Caleb were excited and encouraged to see #1-11 get up and walk over to a water bucket. He was kept alone to rest for the next 30 hours. By then the team knew he wanted obvious he wanted back with his cohort and into the wet pen. He was moving around and even pacing by the fence to the went pen. No training took place for the next 3 days.

Crane #1 seemed rather standoffish to the costumes. He wasn’t himself. He didn’t fight others for grapes; he didn’t care about smelt, and avoided confrontation with other birds. It was a good sign on September 14 when all the birds— including #1—ran up to greet Brooke as soon as he (in his costume, as always) entered the pen. The birds had their next training session Sep. 16. Crane #1 came out of the pen with enthusiasm, but he didn’t open his wings and stuck close to the pen. Same thing the next day, and the next. He has not been following the trike and when let out onto the field, he paces and looks for a way back into the safety of the wet pen. Then the team began physical therapy—stretching and exercising #1’s wings by moving them. It seems to help, and he’s getting better. A happy surprise came when #3-11 challenged #1-11, locking eyes with him. When #3 looked away first in submission, it was a victory for #1-11. It’s a slow process but #1-11 is coming back.

On Sep. 23, the team let #1-11 out of the pen after the second flight training to join his classmates for grape treats, but as soon as Brooke started up the trike engine, #1 turned and headed for the pen. They were happy to see #1 run and fully extend his wings several times. He is looking better every day, but the team had worried about him being trike-shy. If that continues, it may happen that they will have to crate him and move him away from the pen to get him flying again.

Flying Again! Led by Richard’s trike, all ten of the colts got airborne on September 26! Our boy #1 few but landed at the end of the runway while the rest continued on behind the trike. When they all landed, #1-11 was eager to join the fliers for some treats near the trike. Good!!

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane#1-11: “Earlier in the year, he quickly asserted himself as the Alpha Bird. And after his little misadventure [getting lost and injured] in September, that hasn’t changed a bit. Even when he was still recovering, he threw his weight around in his own quiet way. A day or two after his misadventure, Brooke and I caught #3-11 sneaking up behind #1-11 as he was laying down, hoping to knock the big guy down a few pegs. However, one sharp look from #1-11, and #3 was sent packing. The whole thing didn’t last more than a minute, and #1 didn’t even get up. None of the other birds went near him. It takes a very commanding bird to be that intimidating even when he’s at his weakest. He still pecks at birds (but not too forcefully) that happen to be in his way. Plus, he’ll often jump-rake other birds on the runway, whether they just happen to be in his personal bubble as they come out the door, or if he’s just in a rotten mood.

“Despite his tough guy routine, he seems to have developed a narrow comfort zone since coming out to Wisconsin. He doesn’t like to leave the pen or the runway. Or at least, not for long. Sadly, it seems imprinted into him now. I’m thinking he’s going to have to be boxed the first two stops of migration before he makes any real progress.”

First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane: Crane #1-11 was one of the five birds who took off from White River Marsh SWA when the migration began on October 9, 2011. He flew for a short time but turned back, and did not make it to the first stopover on Day 1, 2, or 3. He (and the other 4 males in the class of 2011) had to be crated and driven to Stopover #1 after the third attempt to fly (Day 3). Find day-by-day news about the flock’s migration and read more about #1-11 below.

Day 20, Oct. 28, 2011: This was a milestone flight: Crane #1-11 made it the entire way! (He was lost in the woods with Caleb back in August. His minor injuries kept him out of flight training for a few days and then be became reluctant to fly.) Today he flew his FIRST entire leg of this migration and in spite of challenging events. He and four others were flying with Richard when Richard started losing altitude trying to keep a spooked #6 with him. Richard landed with all five birds rather than risk losing one in strange territory. After a rest (when #6 was crated and driven), Richard took off with cranes #1, #4, #9 and #10 and flew the remaining 20 miles in the headwind, which took almost an hour. Hooray for Crane #1-11

Oct. 29, Day 21: Crane #1-11—and all nine other birds in the Class of 2011—flew the distance today! It’s the first day of the migration for the whole group to go the whole way. (The class is down to nine because missing crane #2-11 turned up with a big flock of wild sandhills.) But Crane #1 is back!

Day 32: Nov. 9, 2011: Crane #1-11 has been the target of aggression from other cranes in the long, boring confinement at the Livingston County stopover in Illinois. He’s been bitten on the neck, and then had more feathers on his neck plucked out. The team is worried, and hopes each day to get the migration moving again.

Day 43: Nov. 20, 2011: Crane #1-11 took off with his flock mates after 15 down days, but he dropped down 22 miles into the journey. He landed, took off again. Luckily he landed again, which helped trackers reach him and box him up for the drive to the Piatt County Stopover.

January 30, 2012: Still in Alabama, the team ended the migration after wind and weather woes delayed it beyond the time when the cranes were willing to migrate. This is the first time in this 11-year project that the planes and cranes did not reach their Florida goal.. The birds will stay in the travel pen for a few days until leaders of the Whopping Crane Eastern Partnership decide a good nearby place for them to spend winter.

February 4, 2012: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 became the first to finish their migration in a road vehicle. They were crated at the travel pen in Winston County, Alabama and driven to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to finish the winter and learn to be independent. Banding took place Feb. 8. Brooke will watch over them as they slowly become wild and free. Check this bio page for further news in the life of of crane #1-11! 

Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North: Crane #1-11 had not been seen since he left the Wheeler NWR wintering grounds with his flockmates on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. — until he finally showed up in Columbia County, Wisconsin on July 31! His location was only about 40 miles from the pen site at White River Marsh where he and the Class of 2012 learned to fly with the ultralight. Well done, #1-11!

Fall 2012: Migrated south to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2013: Migrated back to Wisconsin on or by April 1.

Fall 2013: Found in Monroe County, WI, on 12 November 2013. Moved to Sauk County, WI by 19 November, remained through at least 21 November. Next reported at his wintering location at the Wheeler NWR in Alabama on 30 November.

Spring 2014: Began migration prior to 2 March when he was reported with #18-11 in Gibson County, Indiana. They remained at this location through at least 8 March and were not detected there on 14 March. He was reported in Price County, Wisconsin, on 23 April and remained at least through early May 1.

Fall 2014: Began migration from St. Croix County, WI sometime the week of Nov. 4th and spent winter at Wheeler NWR, Alabama.

Spring 2015: Male #1-11 was photographed when he made a brief migration stop in Winnebago County, Illinois around March 20. Nearly four years old now, he spent the winter in Morgan County, Alabama and is heading back to Wisconsin for the summer. It’s not yet known whether he has selected a mate, but he is now of breeding age.

Photo: Mark Blassage

Fall 2015: Migrated from St. Croix County, WI and wintered at Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2016: #1-11 and his new mate #59-13 DAR (Latka) returned together by April 1 from their wintering location at Wheeler NWR to #1-11’s summer territory in St. Croix County, WI. They nested and on May 17, new chick #W6-16 was first seen with the parents. The chick was no longer alive by July 1.

Fall 2016: Male #1-11, with Latke (DAR#59-13), migrated in November to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2017: Male #1-11 and mate DAR#59-13 were on territory and nesting by early April! Unfortunately, their first nest was predated. The pair renested and it too was predated. 

Fall 2017: Number 1-11 and his mate Latka (#59-13) were the first two Whooping cranes confirmed at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in mid-November.

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Crane #2-11

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: April 29, 2011
Legbands: Escaped during first leg of migration. Did not receive permanent bands.

Personality and Characteristics: Female #2-11 started off calmer than #1-11 and was a good average learner for eating, drinking, and going in-and-outside. But she got more jittery as she got older. “When #1-11 seemed to stop pacing after brood model Sadie, #2-11 started pacing after her (or the costume) more,” said Geoff. “And, as the week went by, it wasn’t uncommon to hear #2 peeping more than #1-11 did. The peeping is only a problem if she’s losing weight, but that wasn’t happening. So whatever worries #2 from time to time doesn’t seem very serious.”

Geoff calls #2-11 and #4-11 his “swamp girls” because they like the water so much. They’ve became good leaders to show the other chicks how to enjoy the ponds. Chick #2 (and 4) made Caleb think that girls mature faster because whenever one of the older chicks got them nervous enough to start peeping and pacing, they were always the first chicks to calm down again.

Notes from “Flight School” at White River Marsh in Wisconsin: Crane #2-11 arrived in Wisconsin on June 28 with her Class of 2011 flockmates.

July 11 was a thrilling day for Geoff and Caleb, watching the chicks through a peephole during training. “We saw two birds soar for a couple dozen yards, completely off the ground; I couldn’t tell which birds I was looking at since their bands were too far out. But if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say they were #1-11 and #2-11, since the older birds are typically the first ones to experience flight.” Hooray!

Crane #2-11 became the ace flyer. By August 1, none of the colts were able to take off with the trike quite yet. Some of them, like #2, #4, and #6, tried to follow the trike as it gained altitude, but inevitably they end up looping around and then landing. By August she was the best flyer. She followed the plane dependably. By the end of August the other young cranes would follow her lead, although about half of the birds would usually turn back. Crane #2 is still the leader. Richard says she follows as if tied to the wing of the trike!

This is crane #2-11 on July 19 as she got airborne following Richard’s trike during a high-speed taxi run along the grass training strip.

 

August 16: Keeping up with the ultralight plane! Photo: Doug Pellerin

On August 22, she flew well on the first and second take offs, but NO cranes took off on the pilot’s third take off. It took swamp monster to scare them into the air, but #2 and five others managed to catch up and follow the trike to a remote field. They landed with the plane, had treats, and flew back. She remains one of the top fliers.

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #2-11: “In my opinion, #2-11 is one of our bolder birds. It probably comes with being one of the older birds of the flock. But I’d say that she’s pretty adventurous, and she’s not afraid to take a chance every now and then. When we first let her into the pen and back outside through the gate, she was into it every step of the way. She didn’t need much help finding her way in or out, nor did she need much reassurance once she was outside. Usually when she was outside, it always took a bit of coaxing to convince her to come back inside so that we could get on with our morning chores, such as cleaning the foot baths.

“It looks like she’s held onto this attitude. She was one of the first ones to take to the skies, and through most of the summer, could be counted on to latch onto the wing of the aircraft. She had a few days where she hung out on the ground, but everyone has their off days. She also has an independent streak. Some days, she’ll shy away from the costume and require extra attention and coaxing to lead; other days she’ll greet you with a smile on her beak.”

First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane: Crane #2-11 left White River Marsh SWA on her first migration on October 9, 2011. She was one of five in the Class of 2011 to take off. When the air got bumpy, she turned around and headed back, but Richard swooped in as chase pilot and #2 then flew the the rest of the way with Richard. She was one of only three to go the 4.6-mile distance to the first stopover on Day 1. Find day-by-day news about the flock’s migration and read more about #2-11 below.

Day 13, Oct. 21, 2011: Crane #2-11 launched with the rest of the birds when pilots attempted to leave the first stopover site. In the typical chaos that ensued, some birds turned back to land at the pen, and some in fields nearby. Each pilot was trying to lead birds still flying. In the middle of keeping track of ten birds, they lost sight of #2-11. Trackers could not find her, and the search for her continues. They suspect that her transmitter has failed and no longer gives off a signal. She may have caught a thermal and kept flying. They hope someone will catch sight of her and call the team so they can bring her back.

TERRIFIC NEWS!!! Missing female #2-11 was seen with flock of sandhill cranes on Oct. 26! A birder spotted her and news went out. The OM tracking vans were on the scene as soon as possible but unable to capture her when the flock flushed and took off. Her transmitter is indeed not working, but she is alive, well, and with good migration guides. However, Operation Migration hopes and needs to recapture her so she can have a permanent leg band attached. Being banded and identified is a government requirement for all Whooping cranes in the new Eastern flock.

2-11 among a flock of Sandhill cranes after she escaped from the migration flight. Photo: Tom Schultz

She was seen again on November 6, in the same location. Photo: Tom Schultz

By mid November, the 7-month old female was considered RELEASED by WCEP.

Nov. 21, 2011: A Whooping crane (was it #2-11?) was seen migrating in Georgia today, on a course about 21 miles northeast of the Gordon County stopover on the old (more easterly) migration route used by Operation Migration pilots until the route was altered in 2008.

December 14, 2011: Hooray! Escaped crane #2-11 completed migration! She was confirmed with sandhill cranes at Allatoona Lake, Georgia, on 19 November 19 and had reached Lake County, Florida, by November 27. She is with many sandhill cranes and one Whooping crane (#10-10) during a telemetry flight by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

First Migration North: Spring 2012: She remained with Whooping Crane #10-10 and Sandhill cranes in Lake County, Florida, until beginning spring migration on February 13—the very day that ICF tracker Eva’s team was hoping to capture #2 to attach a tracking band. She was last positively identified at the Hiwassee WR in Tennessee on Feb. 16; however, one unidentified JUVENILE was seen and photographed with sandhill cranes in Barren County, Kentucky, on Feb. 18th,” reported Eva. “I’m guessing that this crane was probably her, but the only thing we can really be sure of is that the bird still has a brown head (juvenile).” Good news came on March 26: #2-11 was confirmed in Adams County, Wisconsin, thanks to her band and an ICF Field Ecology Intern who saw her. She is with a couple hundred sandhill cranes and at a location with two other adult Whooping crane pairs [#24-09 & #42-09 (DAR), and #5-09 & #33-07]. She was still in Adams County in June .

Fall 2012: Runaway #2-11 wintered in Florida. She was reported with sandhill cranes in Marion County, Florida, on February 25.

Spring 2013: She was reported still at her wintering location in Florida on the morning of April 9. According to ICF tracker Eva Szyszkoski, that’s the last sighting of her.

Fall 2013: Female #2-11 has not been seen or detected since April 9, 2013 in Florida.

Spring 2014: Still missing.

Fall 2014: Still missing. She cannot be tracked because her transmitter doesn’t work. Trackers suspect she has died. She was removed from the population totals in April 2015.

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Crane #3-11

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 4, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: red/white/green

Personality and Characteristics: Geoff started out thinking #3 was the brains of the flock “It doesn’t take him long to catch onto the swing of things. For instance, it didn’t take him long to figure out how to drink. Back when he was in the ICU, he would drink out of the gold bowl at least five times a session. Once he got to his own pen, he started drinking out of the small jug like a pro. One time I counted him gulping down 20 sips of water. Usually, it’s a trial to get a chick to drink half that much. I think we can expect good things from this kid.”

But it wasn’t long before Brooke had nicknamed him “Squeaker.” Even when a costumed caretaker was keeping him company, #3 peeped or paced. Brooke and Geoff could usually identify #3-11 because he was pacing under the plastic crane decoy. (Still, he still paused to forage or catch a drink) To be fair, all the kids freaked out a little at one point or another, either because they heard rifles going off at nearby Fort Meade, or adult birds in the next pens over were alarm calling. But #3-11 doesn’t calm down often. He gets the other birds nervously nervously peeping too if a costumed person doesn’t come back by him. Geoff, Brooke and Caleb hope #3 will get better as the days go by. He’s a worrywart!

By mid June he was finally brave enough to take a dip in the large pond. This is important for cooling off on hot days. He showed a little more independence when the whole group was together. Geoff was concerned that #3’s worrisome and clingy attitude would hold the group up and keep them from maturing sooner, but there are a few hopeful signs of progress.

Notes from “Flight School” at White River Marsh in Wisconsin: Chick #3-11 arrived in Wisconsin with his flock mates in the Class of 2011 on June 28. He made normal progress in following the trike as it taxied on the ground, and was getting off the ground a bit in July. But by mid August, he was in the group of 6-7 birds who still were not getting airborne behind the ultralight plane. This group usually slammed on their brakes and stayed on the runway as soon as the trike took off to the air. They’d rather “chill” at the end of the runway than take off and follow! The team hoped for a surge of progress soon, and they got it.

By the end of August, all ten could get airborne with the trike. On August 27, #3 was one of the four cranes that turned back, even after bribes and treats to make him follow. A few of the chicks always turn back. But the surprising thing about #3 is that he still has no interest in leaving the runway, even if he takes off with the others. What is he thinking?

Well, he changed his tune in September. HE’s now one of the cranes to consistently take off with the trike! The team dubbed this crane the “gardener,” as he loves to probe and peck at the shrubbery in the wet pen.

Crane #3-11 challenged the injured #1-11, but soon discovered that #1 still wants to be top crane. When the two birds locked eyes, #3-11 was first to look away in submission.

Photo: Doug Pellerin

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #3-11: “He’s almost a ‘#1-11 Lite.’ Since he’s one of our older and bigger birds, he’s one of the more dominant ones. However, he’s not as pecky as #1-11 is. Deep down though, I think #3 is the bird who most wants to de-throne #1-11. As I stated before, there were a couple of times he challenged #1’s right to rule a couple times after #1’s traumatic experience of getting lost in the marsh. None of his challenges panned out, but #3 is the only one I know of who even attempted a coup. The other birds kept well away from him the whole time.

“Another similarity between #3 and #1 is that #3, too, has a fairly narrow comfort zone, which happens to be on the runway. It wasn’t often we got to see him seriously try to fly with the aces like #2-11 or #7-11. But unlike #1-11, #3 seems to be finally coming out of that shell. The past couple of sessions, he flew with rest of the birds for at least ten minutes each time. So he’s at least willing to try when the mood catches him—though he certainly had a slow, stagnant start. I hope he has no ambitions of ousting #2-11 or #7-11 as top flier. I want to see #3 fly, but the last thing we need is a little conspirator.”

First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane: Crane #3-11 did not make it to the first stopover on Day 1 or Day 2. Instead, he (and the other 4 males in the class of 2011) had to be crated and driven on Day 3 after they again failed to fly. Find day-by-day news about the flock’s migration and read more about #3-11 below.

Oct. 22, Day 14: Crane #3 was one of five birds that had to be crated and driven to the next stopover because they wouldn’t fly and follow the ultralight.

Oct. 28, Day 20: Crane #3 (along with #12) stuck with Brooke’s ultralight the whole flight today, even after #7 turned around and left them.

Oct. 29, Day 21: Crane #3—and all nine other birds in the Class of 2011—flew the distance today! It’s the first day of the migration for the whole group to go the whole way. (The class is down to nine because missing crane #2-11 turned up with a big flock of wild sandhills.)

Nov. 20, Day 43: After 15 down days, the birds and trikes finally got to fly again! Crane #3 blasted out of the pen and flew one hour and 17 minutes with Richard’s plane to Piatt County, IL.

February 4, 2012: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 became the first to finish their migration in a road vehicle. They were crated at the travel pen in Winston County, Alabama and driven to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to finish the winter and learn to be independent. Banding took place February 8. Brooke will watch over them as they slowly become wild and free. Check this bio page for further news in the life of of crane #3-11!

Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 ALL began their first journey north together from Wheeler NWR in Alabama on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. Three of the birds (#4, #7, and #9) are wearing PTT units so they can be tracked by satellite. GPS data showed they roosted the first night only 10 miles from their journey south stopover site in Union County, Kentucky. On their first full day of migration they covered about 231 miles and made it to Gallatin County, Illinois. PTT data indicate an April 15th daytime location in Wayne Co., IL for Whooping crane #9-11. Were they all together? Data from the same evening have cranes #4 and #7 at a roost location in Bureau County, IL. “It is possible that the nine cranes are still traveling as a group, however, we have no way of confirming this,” said Operation Migration’s Heather Ray. They did not travel April 16. By April 19 tracker Eva confirmed: The 9 ultra-light birds have split into at least two groups. When the birds were closer to their ‘home” at Wisconsin’s White River Marsh, signals from cranes #3-11 and #6-11 were picked up near #4-11, whose PTT signals April 20 put her in southern Columbia County, Wisconsin— a short distance south of White River and very near to the third migration stopover used on the Journey South. Hooray!

Whooping cranes #3, #4, and #6-11 are traveling together, as the WCEP tracking team detected radio signals from all three at the same location. It was later learned that crane #5 was also with this group. The group with #3, #4, #5, and #6 arrived in southern Columbia County, WI., approximately 40 miles south of the White River Marsh SWA on April 20, eight days after departing the Wheeler NWR where they wintered. WELL DONE! By May 14 they had not moved much and were still together. Hardly any sign remains of their rust-colored chick feathers. On May 31 a citizen scientist sent a photo of the four of them, still together, in Green Lake County, WI. This location is less than 3 miles from where they took their first flights with Operation Migration’s aircraft last summer.

May 31, 2012 in Green Lake County, WI. Home!

Fall 2012: Migrated south to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2013: Completed migration back to Wisconsin on March 29 together with #4, #5 and #6 from his 2011 cohort.

Fall 2013: Migrated to Wheeler NWR in Alabama with other whoopers.

Spring 2014: Crane #3-11, #4-11, #17-11, #19-11, pair #26-09 & #27-06 and DAR #38-09 began migration from the Wheeler NWR in Alabama on 15-18 February. This large group was reported in Gibson County, Indiana, on 21 February. They then moved to Lawrence County, Illinois, by the next day and were seen with an eighth (and unknown) bird that might be #26-10. Crane #3-11 remained in Illinois/Indiana until at least early March 2014. He was found in Adams County, Wisconsin, the end of March and remained at this location through at least late May. He moved to a new location in Adams County by early June and began associating with #7-12 at this location in mid-July. The two were still there in early October.

Fall 2014: Crane #3-11 departed Oct. 31 from Adams County, WI to migrate south to Knox County, Indiana with #7-12, #24-13 (from the 2013 parent-reared chicks) and #38-09 DAR. Pair #29-08 and #W3-10 joined this group by 18 November and #18-09 joined them by 23 November. By early January, up to 11 Whooping cranes were associating in this area.

Spring 2015: Crane #3-11 was back in Wisconsin by the pilot Bev Paulan’s aerial survey flight on March 25. He paired with a new mate, female #7-11. They nested in Adams County, Wisconsin. On May 28 the pair was seen with a new chick—and 1 egg still in the nest! On June 4 at least one chick was seen with the pair, but it did not survive the month.

Fall 2015: Crane #3-11 migrated with his mate to Indiana for the winter.

Spring 2016: Crane pair #3-11 and 7-11 returned to Adams County, Wisconsin, where they nested and hatched chick #W5-16, first observed on May 12. As of July, the chick was no longer alive. 

Fall 2016: Crane pair #3-11 and #7-11 migrated in November to Green County, Indiana.

Spring 2017: Mate #3-11 and mate #7-11 returned to their territory in Adams County, Wisconsin and were nesting by early April. They hatched chick #W5-17, shown in this photo taken on May 12 and was still doing well at age 17 days when seen on Bev’s May 25 flight.

Photo: Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR Pilot

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Crane #4-11

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 5, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: white

Personality and Characteristics:  Chick #4-11 is the moody sibling to #3-11, reports Geoff. But he has to give her credit for already for eating and drinking by herself at a mere two days of age. However, Goff said nothing would get #4 to go near either the big or the small water jug: “It was as if those jugs had grown a second head and scared her!” Notes on the chick’s chart said that sometimes she only drank from a gold bowl she used back when she was in the ICU. But Geoff figured if he could get her to drink out of a jug once, he could do it again. After 20 minutes of trying, Geoff gave up and went in search of the gold bowl so the chick would drink. “I took it back to the kitchen to fill it up with some nice, cool, clean water. By the time I got back, I found her drinking out the large jug completely on her own, like that jug was her best friend in the whole wide world. Kids!” Speaking of water, chick #4 liked to swim. 

Caleb called her pretty mellow. “Every now and then #3 and #4 peeped or paced, but they usually only did it because some other bird got them worked up. But these two were never the first ones to break down, and they were the first to calm back down when they saw the costume again. I guess girls really do mature faster than boys. They are maturing faster than #4’s brother, #3-11.”

Notes from “Flight School” at White River Marsh in Wisconsin: She arrived in Wisconsin on a small private jet with her flockmates on June 28, 2011. She paid attention in flight school and was one of the early birds to get a little bit airborne. By August 1, none of the colts were able to take off with the trike quite yet. But #4-11 (along with #2-11, and #6-11) will try to follow the trike as it gains altitude. They usually end up looping around and going in for a landing, but soon the first magical take-off will happen!

August 16: flying higher! Photo: Doug Pellerin

September 8, 2011. Photo: Geoffrey Tarbox

By August 1, none of the colts were able to take off with the trike quite yet. But #4 (along with #2 and #6) try to follow the trike as it gains altitude. They usually end up looping around and going in for a landing. These three are the best fliers.

By August 16, #4 was among the three best fliers, able to fly behind and follow the ultralight plane. On August 27, when all ten birds finally took off with the ultralight, she was one of the six who stayed airborne until the end of the flight. She remains a leader and a good influence on the others.

On August 22 she didn’t take off on the pilot’s first two runs, but NO one took off on the third pass until swamp monster scared them all into the air. Some couldn’t catch up with the plane, but #4 did, and followed the plane all the way to a remote field. She and the other five got treats before the pilot led them on the flight back to the pen. 

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #4-11: “Caleb and I agree that #4-11 is probably our most shy bird. I don’t see her interact much with the other birds or the costume. But unlike some of our other birds, she doesn’t get hostile when company approaches her. She just tries to slip off somewhere else. She’s often one of the last birds to come into the pen after training because she doesn’t like approaching the costume (unless it has a grape to offer her, and then it’s her new best friend).

“Another thing I’ve noted is that #4-11 seems to apply herself sporadically. When the birds started flying, she was one of the birds who would take off with the trike. Then from the middle of July to early August, she’d casually watch the ultralight fly above her, wondering why on earth it keeps making that racket over her head. Now she’s back to being one of our better fliers again. But after re-reading some of my earlier entries on #4-11, it seems this isn’t anything new. Apparently, she did the same thing when we were first teaching her how to eat and drink. One day, she’d drink from her water jugs like a champ, and then the next day, look at her water jugs like we were asking her to drink her own pee. It’s nice to see some things don’t change. It gives you a sense of security, doesn’t it?”

4-11’s VHF transmitter and legband. Photo: Brooke Pennypacker

First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane: Crane #4-11 successfully flew to Stopover #1 on day 2 of the migration, Oct. 10. She was the only one of the seven cranes who did what the pilots hoped all seven would do on the second day of trying. She was one of only four to fly the distance on the flight to Stopover #2. Again, she was one of only three birds to fly the distance to Stopover #3. Find day-by-day news about the flock’s migration and read more about #4-11 below.

Crane #4 gets her deworming medicine inside a grape, since she won’t touch a smelt with a 10-foot pole. (Cranes usually love to eat smelt, a tasty small fish, in which the team puts de-worming medicine so the cranes will get their meds.)

De-worming meds inside a capsule and stuffed inside a grape.

Oct. 22, Day 14: Crane #4-11 was one of only four birds that flew instead of being crated and driven to today’s Stopover.

Oct. 28, Day 20: Again the great Crane #4-11 flew the distance. She had an unexpected landing when Richard landed with his five birds rather than risk losing #6 as it spooked and staring dropping out. Trackers came to the scene and crated #6 for the drive. But after a rest, Richard and cranes #1, #4, #9 and #10 took off and finished the flight! They flew the remaining 20 miles in a headwind, which took almost an hour.

Oct. 29, Day 21: A GREAT day! Crane #4—and all nine other birds in the Class of 2011—flew the distance today! It’s the first day of the migration for the whole group to go the whole way. (The class is down to nine because missing crane #2-11 turned up with a big flock of wild sandhills.)

Nov. 20, Day 43: After 15 down days, the birds and trikes finally got to fly again! Crane #4 blasted out of the pen and flew one hour and 17 minutes with Richard’s plane to Piatt County, IL.

February 4, 2012: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 became the first to finish their migration in a road vehicle. They were crated at the travel pen in Winston County, Alabama and driven to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to finish the winter and learn to be independent. Banding took place February 8. Brooke will watch over them as they slowly become wild and free. Check this bio page for further news in the life of of crane #4-11!

Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 ALL began their first journey north together from Wheeler NWR in Alabama on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. Three of the birds (#4, #7, and #9) are wearing PTT units so they can be tracked by satellite. GPS data showed they roosted the first night only 10 miles from their journey south stopover site in Union County, Kentucky. On their first full day of migration they covered about 231 miles and made it to Gallatin County, Illinois. PTT data indicate an April 15th daytime location in Wayne Co., IL for Whooping crane #9-11. Were they all together? Data from the same evening have cranes #4 and #7 at a roost location in Bureau County, IL. “It is possible that the nine cranes are still traveling as a group, however, we have no way of confirming this,” said Operation Migration’s Heather Ray. They did not travel April 16. By April 19 tracker Eva confirmed: The 9 ultra-light birds have split into at least two groups. Readings for #4-11 indicate a 17 April roost location in Grant County, Wisconsin.” This location was 34 miles southeast on the Wisconsin River. and she then corrected her course to fly due east to southern Columbia County, Wisconsin— a short distance south of White River and very near to the third migration stopover used on her journey south with the ultralight planes. Hooray!!!

Whooping cranes #4, #3, and #6-11 are traveling together, as the WCEP tracking team detected radio signals from all three at the same location. It was later learned that crane #5 was also with this group. The group with #3, #4, #5, and #6 arrived in southern Columbia County, WI., approximately 40 miles south of the White River Marsh SWA on April 20, eight days after departing the Wheeler NWR where they wintered. WELL DONE! By May 14 they had not moved much and were still together. Hardly any sign remains of their rust-colored chick feathers. On May 31 a citizen scientist sent a photo of the four of them, still together, in Green Lake County, WI. This location is less than 3 miles from where they took their first flights with Operation Migration’s aircraft last summer. On June 19 and 29, crane #4-11 was REALLY home, roosting on White River Marsh about a mile from the pen site where she fledged last summer, according to Heather Ray at Operation Migration’s headquarters. (They could not determine if the group of four is still together.)

May 31, 2012 in Green Lake County, WI. Home!

Fall 2012: Migrated south to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2013: Completed migration back to Wisconsin on March 29 together with #3, #5 and #6 from her 2011 cohort. The photo below was taken in early April when she was with the two adult Whooping cranes whose usual territory is Adams County, but none of her classmates were around. “She looks awesome,” said Doug, who is part of the Operation Migration ground crew each summer and fall.

Fall 2013: Migrated to Wheeler NWR in Alabama with other whoopers.

Spring 2014: Crane #4-11, #3-11, #17-11, #19-11, pair #26-09 & #27-06 and DAR #38-09 began migration from the Wheeler NWR in Alabama on 15-18 February. This large group was reported in Gibson County, Indiana, on 21 February. They then moved to Lawrence County, Illinois, by the next day and were seen with an eighth (and unknown) bird. ID on this last bird is still pending, however tracker Eva believes that it might be #26-10. After migration, crane #4-11 took a new mate: #29-09.

Fall 2014: Migrated south to Greene County, Indiana, where she as seen in December with cranes #29-09, #12-02 and his youngster #W3-14, and #19-10 DAR. This group left left Greene County, Indiana, and moved south to Lawrence County, Alabama, the first week in January. This group returned to Greene County, Indiana on February 7, 2015, where they remain.

Spring 2015: Crane #4-11 had returned to Wood County, Wisconsin by March 26. She was reported on an active nest with male #12-02 in early May, but they had no nesting success this spring.

Fall 2015: Female #4-11 and her mate #12-02 were confirmed in Green County, Indiana by November 12 after migrating sometime within the two previous weeks.

Spring 2016: Female #4-11 and mate #12-02 were observed on their Wisconsin territory by March 30. They nested and were first seen with their little chick, #W3-16, on May 3. The chick was still alive as of June 1 but in sad news, its father, male    #12-02, was found dead a few days later with no sign of injury or predation. This left #4-11 to raise the chick on her own, which she did until mid-July when the chick was predated. Mom #4-11 remained in Juneau County, WI, associating with another male.

Fall 2016: Female #4-11 migrated south from Juneau County in mid-December. She was on her wintering grounds in Greene Co, IN a week later.

January 3, 2017: Tragically, this valuable female—now in her reproductive years—was shot and killed at her winter location in southwest Indiana in early January 2017.  Anyone having any information about the poaching is asked to please contact the Indiana Conservation Officer Dispatch at 812-837-9536. Every effort is being made to bring the criminal to justice. Indiana Conservation Officers are collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate this crime. If you have information about this case please contact the Indiana Conservation Officer Dispatch at 812-837-9536.

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Crane #5-11

Gender: Male 
Hatch Date: May 7, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: white/red/green

Personality and Characteristics: Chick #5-11 was moved to an ICU around noon on his hatching day. He was barely awake a total of 45 minutes as hour after hour went by. Geoff introduce him to the puppet during his waking moments. Geoff also tried to help him. “He lost interest however, and fell asleep in about three minutes flat. But since this was the first time he’d seen the unfamiliar puppet, and he didn’t really know where on earth he was, I wasn’t expecting any miracles. The second time I came in, I got him to weakly acknowledge the puppet and eat a few nibbles before he zonked out. Again, for a chick who was just hatched just you can’t expect much, but for the rest of the afternoon, he would spend a few minutes drinking and eating off my puppet before falling asleep again. He did eat more each time I worked him, so he at least warmed up to the puppet.”

#2, #3 and #5 explore. Photo: Operation Migration

He made progress and by June 13 Caleb’s notes called him a pretty level-headed bird. “He’s not as prone to panic attacks as #3-11. However, he also seems quite attached to the costume since he was the one who visited me the most when I was in the pen with him. A couple times I didn’t know he was there until I turned around and saw him looking straight up at me. Unfortunately, if #3-11 starts getting jittery, #5-11 is usually one of the first to panic along with him. Strange! Chick #5 appears to have enough guts to challenge #1-11’s supremacy every now and then. Granted, he hasn’t come out on top yet, but his optimism is a welcome sight.”

Notes from “Flight School” at White River Marsh in Wisconsin: Chick #5-11 arrived in Wisconsin on June 28, 2011 with his flockmates in the Class of 2011, ready for Flight School!

#5, way in the back, searches for more bugs to gobble up. Photo: Operation Migration

During taxi training (running along behind the trike) he often wanted to go off and do something more interesting. He spent more than one training session wading in the marsh. While he didn’t do that on July 11, Geoff watched him lag behind the trike, making no real effort to catch up. “I could tell he wanted to jump in that marsh if that plastic fence wasn’t in his way. But no worries; all it takes is a little discipline, regular training, and some grape bribes to straighten him out.”

Good news! During the August 11 training, both #5-11 and #6-11 were confirmed to fly with the plane. They followed the trike off the runway and “completed something resembling a large J-shaped flight path.”

By the end of August all ten took off with the ultralight, even though some of them turned back or dropped out. On August 27, all birds flew with the trike again after some treats and bribes, but #5 was one of the four who still turned back after a second takeoff. Does he need more treats and bribes? On August 22, he took off after swamp monster scared the birds into following on the pilot’s third try, but then dropped out and returned to the runway.

September 8, 2011. Photo: Geoff Tarbox

By September, he had made progress and is flying pretty consistently. You can see this if you watch Operation Migration’s CraneCam during morning training. Go, five!

On Sep. 20, nine cranes took off and flew about 10 minutes with the ultralight — but eager cranes #5 and #7 flew another ten minutes longer!

As migration nears, Caleb note: “#5-11 is quite the ‘go-getter’. He is always one of the first to the front of the pen when us costumes enter. He is also usually the first to get a grape. I’ve seen #5-11 magically grow a foot in height reaching for a grape as I try to pass it to another bird. If he’s not pecking away at me indicating he wants a grape or snatching it right from another bird’s mouth, he’s trying to seize it right out of my puppet’s beak. It’s as if he’s saying ‘GRAPE! GRAPE! GIMME, GIMME, GIMME!’ Perhaps eager is a good way to describe him, if only we could transfer that ‘go-getter’ attitude from food to following the trike.”

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #5-11: “To me, this chick always seemed to need more guidance than some of the others. Back in Patuxent, he took a little longer to eat and drink than some of the other birds did. I’m not sure how he did training with the trike in the circle-pen back then, but today, that trend seems to hold true. After #1-11, he’s probably one of our least reliable fliers. Make no mistake, he’s had good flying days here and there. But if there’s a bird turning back after take-off, it’s probably him. I’m not sure if not all his neurons are firing, or if he can be bothered to go that extra mile or what.

October 6, 2011. Photo: Doug Pellerin

“But what he lacks in ambition, he makes up for in friendliness. He’s usually one of the first few birds I’ve seen come to greet me when I come in for checks and the like. I think Brooke picked up on it before I did though; he told me that #5-11 loves saying ‘hi’ to him while he’s in the trike. However, he does also have a selfish side. Whenever we try to give other birds treats, he usually tries to steal them from the other birds while they’re still playing with the food.”

First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane: Crane #5-11 did not make it to the first stopover on Day 1 or Day 2. Instead, he (and the other 4 males in the class of 2011) had to be crated and driven when they didn’t stay with the ultralight plane on Day 3. Find day-by-day news about the flock’s migration and read more about #5-11 below.

Oct. 10, Day 2: Crane #5 was one of seven that took off all together, but turned back. The good news is that he flew quite a distance out over the marsh before tiring and turning back. He’s going to make it yet! (He failed to fly again the next day, so was crated and driven to Stopover #1.) Caleb said the young cranes, including #5, seemed anxious in their unfamiliar pensite at Stopover #1: “Some of the more friendly birds (I’ve taken a new liking to #5-11) even pace up against the fence in our direction as we walk toward the pen.” They were stalled by weather at this stop until Day 14.

Oct. 22, Day 14: Crane #5 was one of five birds that had to be crated and driven to the next stopover because they wouldn’t fly and follow the ultralight.

Oct. 28, Day 20: Around 12 miles from the starting point, Crane #5 made an abrupt turn, leaving Brooke’s wing and heading north. Brooke turned his remaining two birds and chased him back. But #5 was low, and so far ahead, that Brooke gave up the chase and called for help. Luckily, the team had a volunteer pilot flying top cover today. The pilot and his helper worked hard to keep the young whooping crane in sight as he kept changing directions in flight. The pilot radioed #5’s locations to trackers Geoff and Caleb as the lost bird wandered. Something kept spooking Crane #5. He was in the air and flapping his wings for over two hours! Finally he landed in a field next to two Sandhill cranes. Geoff and Caleb now had a chance to retrieve him. Crane #5 hadn’t yet made friends with the two sandhill cranes. The pilot and helper watched from above as the interns, their vehicle parked out of sight and the crate tucked into the trees, walked around the treeline and came into view. At last #5 and the two interns could see each other. Finally the bird made its move, rushing to Geoff and Caleb. The pilot and helper Linda circled the happy scene until they could see that the bird was in its crate. Soon it was safely in the van to Green County!

Oct. 29, Day 21: Crane #5—and all nine other birds in the Class of 2011—flew the distance today! It’s the first day of the migration for the whole group to go the whole way. (The class is down to nine because missing crane #2-11 turned up with a big flock of wild sandhills.)

Nov. 20, Day 43: After 15 down days, the birds and trikes finally got to fly again! Crane #5 blasted out of the pen and flew the 59 miles to Piatt County, IL.

Crane #5 shows his puffy cheeks and black mask in January 2012.

February 4, 2012: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 became the first to finish their migration in a road vehicle. They were crated at the travel pen in Winston County, Alabama and driven to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to finish the winter and learn to be independent. Banding took place February 8. Brooke will watch over them as they slowly become wild and free. Check this bio page for further news in the life of of crane #5-11!

Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 ALL began their first journey north together from Wheeler NWR in Alabama on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. Three of the birds (#4, #7, and #9) are wearing PTT units so they can be tracked by satellite. GPS data showed they roosted the first night only 10 miles from their journey south stopover site in Union County, Kentucky. On their first full day of migration they covered about 231 miles and made it to Gallatin County, Illinois. PTT data indicate an April 15th daytime location in Wayne Co., IL for Whooping crane #9-11. Were they all together? Data from the same evening have cranes #4 and #7 at a roost location in Bureau County, IL. “It is possible that the nine cranes are still traveling as a group, however, we have no way of confirming this,” said Operation Migration’s Heather Ray. They did not travel April 16.

By April 19 tracker Eva confirmed: The 9 ultra-light birds eventually split into at least two groups. Whooping cranes #3, #4, #5 and #6-11 traveled together. The group of four arrived in southern Columbia County, WI., approximately 40 miles south of the White River Marsh SWA on April 20, eight days after departing the Wheeler NWR where they wintered. WELL DONE! By May 14 they had not moved much and were still together. Hardly any sign remains of their rust-colored chick feathers. On May 31 a citizen scientist sent a photo of the four of them, still together, in Green Lake County, WI. This location is less than 3 miles from where they took their first flights with Operation Migration’s aircraft last summer.

Fall 2012: Migrated south to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2013: Completed migration back to Wisconsin on March 29 together with #3, #4 and #6 from his 2011 cohort.

Fall 2013: Migrated south after 8 November and was reported in Barren County, KY, on 7 Dec. He had arrived at the Wheeler NWR in Alabama by 12 December. He wintered at Wheeler with several other birds including #12-11, and likely paired up with her during the winter.

Spring 2014: Completed migration to Juneau County, Wisconsin in late March, and nested with with female #12-11. The nest was still active as of April 30 but failed in May.

Fall 2014: Departed Juneau County, WI on migration with #12-11 the week of Nov. 10-16. They wintered at Wheeler NWR, Alabama.

Spring 2015: Completed migration to Juneau County, Wisconsin and nested with female #12-11. The nest was still active as of May 4, but no news of nesting success this spring.

Fall 2015:

Spring 2016: Crane pair #5-11 and #12-11 were observed by pilot Bev Paulan on March 30 near their nesting marsh in Juneau County, Wisconsin. On May 5 Bev confirmed the hatching of their chick, #W4-16! She photographed their fresh hatch with Mom and Dad:

Photo: Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR

Bev again saw the chick and parents on her May 15 survey flight, but by June 1 the chick was no longer alive.

Fall 2016: Crane pair #5-11 and #12-11 were chosen as prospective alloparents when the parent-reared Class of 2016 chicks were released in September. Sure enough, they appeared to be forming a bond with PR #33-16, who was still with the pair as of Oct. 18. It was a big surprise when, just two days later, PR #33-16 appeared to have started southward migration—alone! Pair #5-11 and #12-11 completed their migration in December to Wheeler NWR in Morgan Co, AL.

Spring 2017: Crane pair #5-11 and #12-11 returned to their Wisconsin territory in Juneau County and were nesting by early April. They hatched two chicks, one day apart, in early May! The chicks were the first of the season for the eastern flock.

Beverly Paulan, Wisconsin DNR Pilot

#W1-17 with parents seen from the air on Bev Paulan’s May 12 flight:

Beverly Paulan, Wisconsin DNR Pilot

#W1-17 was still doing well at age 25-27 days when seen on Bev’s May 25 flight but by June 7th had disappeared.

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Crane #6-11

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 8, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: green/white/red

Personality and Characteristics: Chick #6 hatched on Geoff’s day off. He had already grown, been moved into his own pen, and started getting exercised outside when Geoff met him. “By the time the week was up, he was taking care of himself like a big kid,” said Geoff. “I guess you could say he’s pretty sharp and self-reliant if he was able to fend for himself so fast. In fact, almost none of the other chicks that hatched after him learned to eat on their own that soon. However, he still gets scared if something unexpected rears its head.

He was pretty scared when he heard the trike the first few times, so Brooke and I had to work extra hard to keep him calm. When we took him out there the second time he seemed much calmer. I think he knows how to acclimate to scary stuff like a trike engine. He just has to be braced for it first.” The first day Brooke and I took the chicks to the big pen that was flooded in the middle, I could only get #5 to get his feet wet. But it didn’t take him long to change. By the third trip to that pond, seemed to spend the most time of the bunch as he casually swam to the middle and all around.

July 19: chasing the trike! Photo: Richard van Heuvelen

Notes from “Flight School” at White River Marsh in Wisconsin: He arrived in Wisconsin on June 28 with his Class of 2011 flockmates — ready for flight school! He made progress in following, flapping, running, and later, lifting off the ground for short, low distances.

September 8, 2011. Photo: Geoff Tarbox

The chicks are really picking up following and flying behind the ultralight as it taxies down the grass strip. On July 26th, the team had a brief scare with #6-11, who looked as if he had hurt his leg in the fencing that separates the mowed grass training strip from the tall marsh grass. He refused to put any weight on the leg. He stood perfectly still, holding up his right leg for several minutes. The team was worried! But within a few minutes #6 was walking and then playing in the wet pen as if nothing had happened. Caleb said it was probably the crane equivalent of hitting a funny bone, but it scared the humans!

August 16: flying higher! Photo: Doug Pellerin

By August 1, none of the colts were able to take off with the trike quite yet. But #6 (along with #2 and #4) try to follow the trike as it gains altitude. They usually end up looping around and going in for a landing, but real progress came during the Aug. 11 training. On that day both #5-11 and #6-11 were confirmed to fly with the plane. Both birds completed a large J-shaped flight path. After crane #2, #6 and #4 are the best fliers. Then, on August 19, #6 outflew them all. On that day he flew higher and farther, with Richard flying the trike, than all of the other cranes in the Class of 2011!

He’s always among the top five fliers but in early September he didn’t keep up with the trike as well as usual. Geoff said it was because he was having too much fun grubbing in the dirt the runway.” I’ve seen him run around with clods of dirt in his beak every now and then,” reports Geoff. The pilots hope he gets back to his better habits soon!

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #6-11: “This fella’s probably one of the biggest birds in the pen. You’d think a bird as big as him would have no trouble establishing himself in the pecking order. But, you’d be wrong. When I see him squaring off, he’s usually the one backing down, even to the younger birds like #9-11 or #10-11. This might his make him a gentle giant, but I wouldn’t say it makes him one of the more submissive birds. He just doesn’t get into as many confrontations as you think he would.

As for effort, he applies himself off and on. I can remember a week or two in the summer where it was always him, #2-11, #7-11, #10-11 and #12-11 who would take off. Then a week later, he’s back to milling on the ground with everyone else. Thankfully, he’s back to flying with the trike in these past few training sessions. Seeing the costume isn’t the high point of his day like it is for #5-11, but #6 doesn’t shy away from it like #4 — or act hostile towards like #9. For the most part, I’d say he’s a middle-of-the-road kind of guy. That makes sense, as he’s in the middle of the chicks’ ages.”

October 5, 2011. Photo: Tom Schultz

First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane: Crane #6-11 did not make it to the first stopover on Day 1 or Day 2. Instead, he (and the other 4 males in the class of 2011) had to be crated and driven after they didn’t stay with the ultralight plane on Day 3. Find day-by-day news about the flock’s migration and read more about #6-11 below. 

Photo: Operation Migration

Day 19, October 27, 2011: So far, crane #6 has dropped out of every flight and been crated/driven to the next stopover. Today he dropped out again. He also took two other birds flying with him. He was crated and driven to Stopover #3. The other two birds took off again with the ultralight and reached Columbia County by air. Is Crane #6-11 a bad influence? It’s beginning to look that way!

Day 28, Oct. 28, 2011: Richard was losing altitude trying to keep #6 with him when it came time to fly over a highway. Rather than lose one bird in unknown territory, Richard landed with his five birds and sent the GPS location to trackers in the van. Within minutes they arrived and put #6 in a crate again for the drive to the Green County, WI stopover.

Day 29, Oct. 29, 2011: HOORAY! Crane #6-11 flew his first entire leg of the migration today! Even better, every one of the 9 birds flew the distance on this wonderful day.

Nov. 20, Day 43: After 15 down days, the birds and trikes finally got to fly again! Crane #6 blasted out of the pen and flew the 59 miles to Piatt County, IL.

Dec. 11, Day 64: Headwinds made today’s flight to Franklin County, Alabama a long, tiring one. After 2.5 hours of flying, crane #6 didn’t like the spot. He stuck with Joe’s plane when Brooke and his birds dropped down to land. Joe did another low pass, pretending he was going to land so #6 would drop down and land too, but still #6 refused. He followed Joe’s trike as it climbed again. He ignored the brood call that Brooke was playing from the landing spot below. For 15 minutes he flew with Joe’s airborne trike as Joe led him back and forth past his flockmates in hopes he’d land. Then Richard and his five birds arrived. That’s when #6 flew to Richard’s wing, even as those five birds dropped down to land! Crane #6 circled for another 15 minutes (30 minutes total!) before he finally gave up and landed.

February 4, 2012: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 became the first to finish their migration in a road vehicle. They were crated at the travel pen in Winston County, Alabama and driven to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to finish the winter and learn to be independent. Banding took place February 8. Brooke will watch over them as they slowly become wild and free. Check this bio page for further news in the life of of crane #6-11!

Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 ALL began their first journey north together from Wheeler NWR in Alabama on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. Three of the birds (#4, #7, and #9) are wearing PTT units so they can be tracked by satellite. GPS data showed they roosted the first night only 10 miles from their journey south stopover site in Union County, Kentucky. On their first full day of migration they covered about 231 miles and made it to Gallatin County, Illinois. PTT data indicate an April 15th daytime location in Wayne Co., IL for Whooping crane #9-11. Were they all together? Data from the same evening have cranes #4 and #7 at a roost location in Bureau County, IL. “It is possible that the nine cranes are still traveling as a group, however, we have no way of confirming this,” said Operation Migration’s Heather Ray. They did not travel April 16. By April 19 tracker Eva confirmed: The 9 ultra-light birds have split into at least two groups. When the birds were closer to their ‘home” at Wisconsin’s White River Marsh, signals from cranes #6-11 and #3-11 were picked up near #4-11, whose PTT signals April 20 put her in southern Columbia County, Wisconsin— a short distance south of White River and very near to the third migration stopover used on the Journey South. Hooray!

Whooping cranes #3, #4, #5 and #6-11 traveled together. The group of four arrived in southern Columbia County, WI., approximately 40 miles south of the White River Marsh SWA on April 20, eight days after departing the Wheeler NWR where they wintered. WELL DONE! By May 14 they had not moved much and were still together. Hardly any sign remains of their rust-colored chick feathers. On May 31 a citizen scientist sent a photo of the four of them, still together, in Green Lake County, WI. This location is less than 3 miles from where they took their first flights with Operation Migration’s aircraft last summer.

Fall 2012: Migrated south to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2013: Completed migration back to Wisconsin on March 29 together with #3, #4 and #5 from his 2011 cohort. Here he is with female #15-11 (DAR) in mid-April, near White River Marsh where he trained with the ultralights for his first migration south.

Photo: Renny Stephen

Fall 2013: Migrated south to Wheeler NWR in Alabama. 
 
Spring 2014: Completed migration to Dane County, Wisconsin by March 19, with #15-11 DAR, #17-07, #7-12 and the young DAR #59-13 (Latke). They all left Wheeler NWR in Alabama on March 5 and made their way north. The four older birds left the juvenile #59-13 in Dane County on March 21 when they continued to Necedah NWR.

Photo: Eva Szyszkoski, International Crane Foundation

Fall 2014: Cranes #6-11/#15-11 DAR and #38-08 DAR moved from their summering territory in Wood County, WI, to a staging location in Marquette County, WI by September 28. They left on migration on Oct. 30th or 31st, and wintered at Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2015: Cranes #6-11 and #15-11 DAR returned to Juneau County, Wisconsin without their pal #38-08 DAR, who remained behind in Wheeler County, Alabama until she finally was seen with them back in Wisconsin in August.

Fall 2015: Cranes #6-11, #15-11 DAR and #38-08 DAR were first seen on their wintering grounds at Wheeler NWR on November 20, 2015. They stayed at Wheeler until December 5, 2015, when they moved to McNairy County Tennessee for the rest of the winter. They were first reported back in Wisconsin on March 8.

Spring 2016: Crane pair #6-11 and #15-11 DAR were seen on a nest on March 30 by Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan and again a renest on May 6, but hatched no surviving chicks this summer.

Fall 2016: Crane #6-11 was not seen when his mate #15-11 DAR arrived at Wheeler NWR on Nov. 13, but they are still watching for him.

Spring 2017: 6-11 is missing.

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Crane #7-11

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 9, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: green/red/white

Personality and Characteristics: Geoff calls #7-11 “my greatest success story so far this year.” Why? “Every family has a kid who won’t eat. I should know; in my family it was my sister. Well, #7-11 is that kid in the 2011 family. Every time we went to feed her, after half an hour in the pen with her, she still wouldn’t even look at the bowl. She kept acting as though we were trying to get her to eat out of the toilet! But one day I tried feeding her from outside by tapping my puppet, just to see what she would do. After all, she couldn’t do any worse.

Imagine my surprise when I saw her bury her head in that bowl and scarf down the food like she was in a pie-eating contest. From that point on, we had to make sure she didn’t gorge herself or choke as she did a perfect impersonation of a steam shovel. I guess she just wanted to be treated like an adult!

After July 11 training session

Notes from “Flight School” at White River Marsh in Wisconsin: She arrived in Wisconsin on June 28 with her Class of 2011 flockmates. Her job was learning to follow the trike down the grass training strip, but being a kid, she was easily distracted by things like a marsh begging to be explored. Geoff said the chicks will look for something better to do than follow a noisy trike. Most of the runway is fenced, but not all, and the chicks will find places where they can wander off. One July day, #7 wandered off and spent most of the training stuck behind the wrong side of the fence. “Thankfully, getting her back was just a simple matter of lowering the fence and luring her over it when it was time to bring her home,” said Geoff. “By then, she was definitely more interested in paying attention to the friendly white blobby things (us in our costumes) and followed Brooke into the pen with no hesitation.”

August 27 training session

She learned to follow the trike as it taxied on the ground, and was flapping and rising off the ground a bit in July. But by August, 1 none of them were really flying. By mid August, she was still in the group of 6-7 birds who still were not getting airborne behind the ultralight plane. This group usually slammed on their brakes and stayed on the runway as soon as the trike took off to the air. They’d rather “chill” at the end of the runway than take off and follow! The team hoped she’ll get excited about flying soon, and she did! She had a great day on August 21, when she lifted off to join 3 other youngsters flying past with Richard ‘s trike in the lead. She stayed with the group to a good landing! By the end of August, all the birds finally left the runway with the ultralight, but half of them turned back. NOT Crane #7! She was one of the group that stayed with the airplane. Go, #7-11, ace flier!

September 8, 2011. Photo: Geoff Tarbox

On August 30, female #7 showed Bully #1 that he wasn’t so scary after all. He bothered #7 while she was resting and she chased him off three times. He was fast to get out of her way for the rest of the day!

Female #7 was always one of five birds (#2, #6, #7, #11, and #12) the pilots could count on to follow the trike. Even when some of them slacked off, #7 was a good follower.

On Sep. 20, nine cranes took off and flew about 10 minutes with the ultralight — but eager cranes #7 and #5 flew another ten minutes longer. Crane #7 is one of the two best fliers in this group!

Number 7-11 checks out her new VHF transmitter. Photo: Brooke Pennypacker

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #7-11: “I would say she is like what’d you get if #1-11 and #2-11 had a kid. Like her theoretical daddy, she’s definitely an assertive individual to the other birds when I’m in the pen. I’ve seen her push around birds like #12-11, #5-11 and #6-11. Watching the CraneCam, Heather tells me she has several times seen #7-11 challenge the dominant #1-11! Like #2-11, she’s one of the best fliers in our flock. She wasn’t one of the first birds to latch onto the trike. But now that she’s latched on, she hasn’t let go. There have been days when she took over #2’s coveted spot as lead flier (some would say she still is the lead flier).

“What makes her even more endearing is that she’s usually fairly happy to see the costume drop by to say hi. Whereas #5-11 and #10-11 come in from the right, I can see #7-11 approach me from my left. I know we say we don’t typically name the birds. But in light of her superb flying abilities, bold personality, and the fact she’s got an orange band, I can’t help but call her Bev. And on that note, I think I found my favorite bird.”

October 5, 2011. Photo: Doug Pellerin

First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane: Crane #7-11 left White River Marsh SWA on her first migration on October 9, 2011. She was one of five in the Class of 2011 to take off with Brook’s ultralight, and one of only three to go the 5-mile distance to the first stopover on Day 1, despite bumpy air. Find day-by-day news about the flock’s migration and read more about #7-11 below.

Oct. 22, Day 14: After being stalled several days by un-flyable weather at Stopover One, Crane #7-11 was one of only four birds that flew to Stopover Two with the ultralight. The others were crated and driven

Oct. 28, Day 20: A mile after takeoff, #7-11 peeled away from Brooke’s ultralight and headed home. Joe and his ultralight moved in to pick her up, and she landed with Joe at the final stopover in the state of Wisconsin.

Oct. 29, Day 21: Crane #7-11 and all nine other birds in the Class of 2011—flew the distance today! It’s the first day of the migration for the whole group to go the whole way. (The class is down to nine because missing crane #2-11 turned up with a big flock of wild sandhills.)

Nov. 16, Day 39: Today is the 12th day stuck in Livingson County, IL. Crane #7 is getting really cranky with the long delay. She has nearly dragged Caleb into the mud when he entered the pen in recent days. The cranes are crabbier each day of the muddy monotony.

Nov. 20, Day 43: After 15 down days, the birds and trikes finally got to fly again! Crane #7-11 blasted out of the pen and ended up flying the sweet spot all by herself with Joe to Piatt County, IL.

February 4, 2012: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 became the first to finish their migration in a road vehicle. They were crated at the travel pen in Winston County, Alabama and driven to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to finish the winter and learn to be independent. Banding took place February 8. Brooke will watch over them as they slowly become wild and free. Check this bio page for further news in the life of of crane #7-11!

Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 ALL began their first journey north together from Wheeler NWR in Alabama on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. Three of the birds (#4, #7, and #9) are wearing PTT units so they can be tracked by satellite. GPS data showed they roosted the first night only 10 miles from their journey south stopover site in Union County, Kentucky. On their first full day of migration they covered about 231 miles and made it to Gallatin County, Illinois. PTT data indicate an April 15th daytime location in Wayne Co., IL for Whooping crane #9-11. Were they all together? Data from the same evening have cranes #4 and #7 at a roost location in Bureau County, IL. “It is possible that the nine cranes are still traveling as a group, however, we have no way of confirming this,” said Operation Migration’s Heather Ray. They did not travel April 16. Then they split into at least two groups. Readings for #7-11 indicate an April 17 roost location in Houston County, Minnesota! Then she corrected her course to move her further east. On April 20, #7-11 was in eastern Marquette County, Wisconsin, which puts her very close to the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area where she started. PTT data show she spent the April 21 weekend a bit further north in Columbia County, approximately 27 miles south of White River Marsh. Trackers discovered on April 25 that she is traveling with Class of 2011 flock mates #10 and #12. In early June, this group was reported in neighboring Marquette County, WI, approximately 11 miles from their former pensite, and right on the migration route between the first and second stopovers made on their aircraft-led journey south.

Fall 2012: Crane #7-11 migrated and spent the winter in Colbert County, Alabama.

Spring 2013: Completed migration to Wisconsin on March 29 with #10 and #12 from her 2011 cohort.

Fall 2013:

Spring 2014: On April 24, female #7-11 was sitting on what appeared to be a nest barely above water in the center of the woodlot in Marquette County, Wisconsin! Male #10-11 was foraging in a nearby field. “The pair is only three years old, so if the nest survives and they fledge chicks, it will be a great sign, noted Joe Duff. The pair’s nest was still active then checked on April 30 by tracker Eva Szyszkoski but on May 19 we learned that the 3-year-old pair had been spotted together away from the nest.

Not an ideal location for this first nest.

 

Unfortunately, seeing both adults away from the nest indicates a nest failure. ICF’s tracker Eva and Operation Migration’s Caleb checked the nest and Eva noted it had been constructed almost entirely with sticks as opposed to the grasses usually used by Whoopers. It’s great that the pair are producing viable eggs, but just as unfortunate that this viable egg didn’t make it. Still, there’s hope for more from this young pair!

Eva was able to determine that the one egg they found had been viable.

Fall 2014: Pair #7-11 and #10-11 moved to Dane County, WI, on 2 September from their breeding territory in Marquette County. They began migration Nov. 16 or 17 and spent the winter in Lawrence County, Alabama.

Spring 2015: PTT data indicated #7-11 back in Marquette County, WI as of March 26, but apparently she and her mate #10-11 are no longer together. She re-paired with a new male, #3-11, and nested in Adams County, Wisconsin. She was still nesting as of May 22 and on May 28 the pair was seen with new chick —and 1 egg still in the nest! On June 4 at least one chick was seen with the pair, but it did not survive.

Fall 2015: Crane #7-11 migrated with her new mate, number 3-11, to Indiana for the winter.

Spring 2016: Crane pair #7-11 and #3-11 returned to Adams County, Wisconsin, where they nested and hatched chick #W5-16, first observed on May 12. As of July, the chick was no longer alive.  

Fall 2016: Crane pair #7-11 and #3-11 migrated in November to Green County, Indiana.

Spring 2017: Female #7-11 was captured (not easy!) before spring migration and had her transmitter replaced, making her trackable again. She and her mate #3-11 returned to their territory in Adams County, Wisconsin and were nesting by early April. They hatched chick #W5-17, shown in this photo taken on May 12 and was still doing well at age 17 days when seen on Bev’s May 25 flight.

Chick #W5-17 with Mom #7-11. Photo: Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR Pilot

The young whooping crane chick number W5-17 was still alive on June 7th but this was the last time Bev saw it with its parents.

Ten days later, Heather was able to capture the following photo of the pair 3-11 & 7-11 in Adams County.

7-11 & 3-11 on their Adams County, WI summer territory. Female #7-11 in the foreground Photo: Heather Ray, Operation Migration

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Crane #9-11

Gender: Female 
Hatch Date: May 11, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: red/white

Personality and Characteristics: On the day she was born, Chick #9-11 seemed fairly mature to Geoff, and not awkward at all. She was responsive and had no trouble eating out the bowl. When she was moved to her own pen and to Geoff’s care, Geoff said she seemed to make less progress than the younger #8-11 or #10-11. Even though she ate on her own in the ICU, a couple hours later she had no idea what a food bowl was. “But that’s okay,” said Geoff. “Even when eating on her own, she kept tossing out all the dark-colored crumbles. Picky! And to think I gave #7-11 a hard time for being a pickier eater than my sister!”

The costumed helpers often had to go in her pen to feed her, even when #9 was a week old. The same was true with #8-11, but he became self-reliant sooner than #9 did. “On the bright side,” said Geoff, “#9-11 has adapted to her new life in her pen and now no longer needs us to keep her fed. She is a bird that doesn’t like too much change. However, as long as she has something familiar to hang onto, she seems to be okay.” She was timid around the trike engine, and a little hesitant going outside the first time. But once she got back in her pen, she was happy again.”

Notes from “Flight School” at White River Marsh in Wisconsin: She arrived in Wisconsin with her other Class of 2011 cohort on June 28, ready for flight school. She was a good follower on the ground. During July she got airborne a little, and learned to flap for short distances. But by August 1, none of the birds were really flying. By mid August, she was still one of of 6-7 birds who still were not getting airborne behind the ultralight plane. This group usually slammed on their brakes and stayed on the runway as soon as the trike lifted into the air. They’d rather “chill” at the end of the runway than take off and follow!

Crane #9 isn’t too interested in the wild blue yonder, or in leaving the runway even after she takes off. Geoff said, “We saw her flying once or twice in mid-July,” wrote Geoff, but she became a stick-in-the-mud in August.

Treats on August 1

She may fly one day but not the next. What would get her excited about following the ultralight? The team kept trying. On August 22, none of the birds would leave the runway on the third pilot attempt, so swamp monster was deployed to scare them into the air. Then all of them left the runway with the trike but could not catch up completely. Crane #9-11 returned to the runway. However, by September she was flying and following a little better.

September 8, 2011. Photo: Geoff Tarbox

Crane #9-11 also shows particular interest in sticks and roots. “Twice we watched her dismantle the water depth gauge in the wetpen. And she often will toss sticks into the air when she finds one by probing under water. She’s very protective of her sticks and roots!” reports Heather, who takes turns “driving” the crane cam.

A week before migration, Caleb noted that “#9-11 would be described best as testy. Of all the birds, she is the only colt to have stomped at me on multiple occasions. Approaching this girl from behind or flank is a guaranteed method to set her off; actually, even advancing from the front has aggravated her before. She definitely has a larger ‘personal space’ than any of the other birds and if you breach the perimeter she lets you know rasping, flapping and stomping at you until you back off.”

October 5, 2011. Photo: Tom Schultz

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #9: “A grouchy little bird. I don’t think she likes the other birds too much, and I know she doesn’t like the costume very much. Every time we go near her, she starts threat posturing and buffeting us away from her with her wings. I’ve never seen a chick as young as her stand up straight, point her head down and stamp her feet at me. She was doing this to me and Caleb as early as July. I’ve seen birds like #6 wing buffet us, but the only other bird who actually threat postures us is #1 (of course). She doesn’t growl at us yet, but I think she will once her voice starts to change. Normally, she only does this if you try to get close to her. But Brooke claims she’s gone up to the trike and challenged him on a couple of occasions.

“I think she’d rather be left alone to do her own thing. When the other birds come into the pen, usually most of the birds drop what they’re doing to see what the costume is doing in their ‘home.’ Crane #9 is almost never one of them; she usually stays in the wet pen doing her own thing. I don’t see her get into confrontations much. But since she’s so removed, I guess the other birds don’t see any point in bothering her.”

First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane: Crane #9-11 did not make it to the first stopover on Day 1 or Day 2. Instead, she (plus all five of the males in the class of 2011) had to be crated and driven to stopover #1 after they again failed to fly on Day 3. Find day-by-day news about the flock’s migration and read more about #9-11 below.

They were stalled by weather at this stop until Day 14.

Oct. 22, Day 14: After being stalled several days by un-flyable weather at Stopover #1, Crane #9 was one of five birds that had to be crated and driven to the next stopover because they wouldn’t fly and follow the ultralight.

Day 20, Oct. 28, 2011: Crane #9 flew the distance despite challenging events today. She had an unexpected landing when Richard landed with his five birds rather than risk losing #6 as it spooked and staring dropping out. After a rest (when #6 was crated and driven away), Richard and cranes #1, #4, #9 and #10 took off and finished the flight! They flew the remaining 20 miles in a headwind, which took almost an hour.

Day 21, Oct. 29, 2011: A GREAT day! Crane #9—and all nine other birds in the Class of 2011—flew the distance today! It’s the first day of the migration for the whole group to go the whole way. (The class is down to nine because missing crane #2-11 turned up with a big flock of wild sandhills.)

Nov. 20, Day 43: After 15 down days, the birds and trikes finally got to fly again! Crane #9 blasted out of the pen and flew the 59 miles to Piatt County, IL.

February 4, 2012: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 became the first to finish their migration in a road vehicle. They were crated at the travel pen in Winston County, Alabama and driven to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to finish the winter and learn to be independent. Banding took place February 8. Brooke will watch over them as they slowly become wild and free. Check this bio page for further news in the life of of crane #9-11!

Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 ALL began their first journey north together from Wheeler NWR in Alabama on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. Three of the birds (#4, #7, and #9) are wearing PTT units so they can be tracked by satellite. GPS data showed they roosted the first night only 10 miles from their journey south stopover site in Union County, Kentucky. On their first full day of migration they covered about 231 miles and made it to Gallatin County, Illinois. PTT data indicate an April 15th daytime location in Wayne Co., IL for Whooping crane #9-11. Were they all together?

Data from the same evening have cranes #4 and #7 at a roost location in Bureau County, IL. “It is possible that the nine cranes are still traveling as a group, however, we have no way of confirming this,” said Operation Migration’s Heather Ray. They did not travel April 16. By April 19 tracker Eva confirmed: The 9 ultralight birds have split into at least two groups. A report from a citizen scientist observer on April 20 placed #9-11 in Grant County, Wisconsin, along the Wisconsin River. PTT reports for #9-11 have been few and far between but a report came in via the website for public reporting, with the following image, taken by Linda Halpin. The image confirms that this is indeed #9-11. The photograph was taken April 20th in Grant County, WI. She wandered (typical behavior in juveniles) and was even seen northeast of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Photo: Linda Halpin

Sad news came when the carcass of female #9-11 was discovered in Polk County, Wisconsin, on July 6, 2012. It was near a road and some power lines.

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Crane #10-11

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 12, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: red/white/red

Personality and Characteristics: So far, he seems fairly level-headed and agreeable, said Geoff. “He hasn’t been up to any mischief, and he wasn’t in la-la land when I tried to get him to eat out the bowl. Once he seemed to forget how to feed himself, but he’s long since remembered. He seems to like the outdoors as I had no trouble getting him in and out of his pen. He didn’t even bolt too much when we showed him the trike. So far, I think he’s mellow, and not a demanding little chick.”

Crane #10-11 was just lying down one day, minding his own business, when #1-11 poked him in the back with his beak and he didn’t fight back, so he’s staying mellow.

Notes from “Flight School” at White River Marsh in Wisconsin: Chick #10-11 arrived in Wisconsin with the Class of 2011 on June 28. He’s a good bird. July was quite rainy, so training had to be cancelled on several days. But #10 learned to hop, skip, jump, run and finally glide after the trike as it zoomed down the grassy strip. By Aug. 1 all the birds were eager to get out to the trike when it taxied on the grass past the pen. Even though the birds haven’t quite got the hang of flying yet, watching 10 birds glide out of the pen towards the trike is still a sight to behold,” said Geoff.

“All the birds seem eager to follow the aircraft. Whether they’re flying, or just catching ground effect, I can count on roughly eight or nine of them flapping after the trike.” Soon they’ll be able to climb higher and keep up with the trike (ultralight plane), thought the team. But by mid August, #10 was still one of of 6-7 birds who still were not getting airborne behind the ultralight plane. This group usually slammed on their brakes and stayed on the runway as soon as the trike took off to the air. They’d rather “chill” at the end of the runway than take off and follow! He’s one of the youngest, but by mid August he was intent on following the ultralight, even if from below and on the ground. On August 21 he thrilled the pilot Richard by lifting off and joining him and the two best fliers for a great flight.

August 27 training flight

By the end of August, all the birds finally took off with the ultralight. Some of them usually turn back, but #10 is proudly proving himself to be a good flier and follower. He became one of five birds the pilots could count on to always be good fliers during training.

Then what happened? Crane #10-11 slacked off the first days in September. It seemed he would rather hang out with his costumed “daddies” than work out and follow an ultralight. That means the group of five top fliers went down to four — and the pilots hope #10 gets back with the program soon!

September 8, 2011. Photo: Geoff Tarbox

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #10-11: “I almost wonder if #10-11 and #5-11 were twin brothers separated from birth! Because #10 is every bit as friendly to the costume as #5 is. I can generally count on him welcoming me to the pen with open arms when I do checks. they both steal grapes. However, I will say that #10 puts more effort into flying than #5 does.

“There was a time when #10 was a solid flier. But when #6 fell to the wayside, #10 did too. However, I have an idea that might explain it. The days #10 wasn’t flying, he could be found hanging out in front of the pen door. Caleb and I didn’t know what to make of it until Brooke told us that he must’ve figured out we (costumes) were back there and he felt more like hanging out with his costume buddies than flying. Because of that, I’d say #10’s even more attached to the costume than #5 is. Because whenever #5 lands, he just wanders up and down the runway, whereas #10 parks himself right at the gate. But he IS the baby brother, so it only make sense he’s clingy to his ‘parents’.”

First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane: 

Crane #10-11 did not make it to the first stopover on Day 1 or Day 2. Instead, he (and all 4 other males in the class of 2011) had to be crated and driven to Stopover #1 after they again failed to fly with the ultralight plane on Day 3. Find day-by-day news about the flock’s migration and read more about #10-11 below.

Crane #10-11, like cranes #4 and #12, gets his deworming medicine inside a grape, since she won’t touch a smelt with a 10-foot pole. (Cranes usually love to eat smelt, a tasty small fish, in which the team puts de-worming medicine so the cranes will swallow their meds.)

October 22, Day 14: Crane #10 was one of only four birds to fly the distance to Stopover #2. He flew the 14 miles alone with Joe’s ultralight.

Oct. 28, Day 20: Crane #10 flew the distance despite challenging events today. He had an unexpected stop when Richard landed with his five birds rather than risk losing #6 as it spooked and staring dropping out. After a rest (and crating of #6 by trackers), Richard and cranes #1, #4, #9 and #10 took off and finished the flight. They flew the remaining 20 miles in a headwind, which took almost an hour. Way to go!

Oct. 29, Day 21: A GREAT day! Crane #10—and all nine other birds in the Class of 2011—flew the distance today! It’s the first day of the migration for the whole group to go the whole way. (The class is down to nine because missing crane #2-11 turned up with a big flock of wild sandhills.)

Nov. 20, Day 43: After 15 down days, the birds and trikes finally got to fly again! Crane #10 blasted out of the pen and flew the 59 miles to Piatt County, IL.

January 15, 2011, Day 77: After more than a month of stand-down at Frankin County, Alabama, today the migration started up again. But #10 wasn’t interested: He was the only one who didn’t take off with the others. He finally got airborne on the pilot’s second pass by the pen but he soon broke away and dropped out along with a few others. He appeared in flight with the ultralight again later when Joe was flying back to the pen with #10 after rescuing her the second time today. He didn’t fly with them long, and had to be tracked, crated and driven back to the pen.

February 4, 2012: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 became the first to finish their migration in a road vehicle. They were crated at the travel pen in Winston County, Alabama and driven to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to finish the winter and learn to be independent. Banding took place on February 8. Brooke will watch over them as they slowly become wild and free. Check this bio page for further news in the life of of crane #10-11!

Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 ALL began their first journey north together from Wheeler NWR in Alabama on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. Three of the birds (#4, #7, and #9) are wearing PTT units so they can be tracked by satellite. GPS data showed they roosted the first night only 10 miles from their journey south stopover site in Union County, Kentucky. On their first full day of migration they covered about 231 miles and made it to Gallatin County, Illinois. PTT data indicate an April 15th daytime location in Wayne Co., IL for Whooping crane #9-11. Were they all together? Data from the same evening have cranes #4 and #7 at a roost location in Bureau County, IL. “It is possible that the nine cranes are still traveling as a group, however, we have no way of confirming this,” said Operation Migration’s Heather Ray. They did not travel April 16. On April 25 it was learned that #10 is traveling with #7 and #12! That means he went from Houston County, Minnesota, corrected course to move further east to eastern Marquette County, Wisconsin, and then Columbia County by April 21, approximately 27 miles south of White River Marsh. Hooray! In early June, this group of three was reported in neighboring Marquette County, WI— approximately 11 miles from their former pensite, and right on the migration route between the first and second stopovers made on their aircraft-led journey south.

Fall 2012: Crane #10-11 migrated and spent the winter in Colbert County, Alabama.

Spring 2013: Completed migration to Wisconsin on March 29 with #7-11 and #12-11 from his 2011 cohort.

Fall 2013:

Spring 2014: Male #10-11 was observed on territory with female #12-11 in mid-April— but on April 24 he was foraging only 500 feet south of where female #7-11 was seen sitting on what appeared to be a nest. Tracker Eva Szyszkoski photographed the nest, which was still active as of April 30, so it appears that male #10-11 and female #7-11 are now a pair! The pair is only three years old, so if the nest survives and they fledge chicks, it will be a great sign, noted Joe Duff. However, on May 19 we learned that the pair had been spotted together away from the nest, and seeing both adults away from the nest indicates a nest failure. ICF’s tracker Eva and Operation Migration’s Caleb checked the nest and Eva noted it had been constructed almost entirely with sticks as opposed to the grasses usually used by Whoopers. She was also able to tell that the one egg they found had been viable. It’s great that the pair are producing viable eggs, but just as unfortunate that this viable egg didn’t make it. Still, there’s hope for more from this young pair!

Not an ideal location for a nest.

Eva was able to determine that the one egg they found had been viable.

Fall 2014: Pair #7-11 and #10-11 moved to Dane County, WI, on 2 September from their breeding territory in Marquette County. They began migration Nov. 16 or 17 and spent winter in Lawrence County, Alabama.

Spring 2015: Male #10-11 was confirmed back on his former breeding territory in Marquette Co, Wisconsin, on May 5th. He and his former mate #7-11 apparently split in early April for unknown reasons.

Fall 2015: Male #10-11 migrated south to his wintering grounds in Lawrence County, Illinois, where he was spotted in February 2016 with his new mate, female #7-09. His mate was found dead in March, but male #10-11 was alive, nearby.

Spring 2016: Male #10-11 was confirmed on his Marquette County, WI summer territory in April, but then returned to Lawrence County, IL.. Earlier this year he lost his mate to predation at the same location.

Fall 2016: Male #10-11 again migrated south to Lawrence County, Illinois, where he was reported by Nov. 13 and continued his Indiana wintering grounds in early December.

Spring 2017: Male #10-11 was confirmed March 5th at White River Marsh in Green Lake County, Wisconsin! He was spotted with Sandhill cranes. The Operation Migration team believes this is the first time this nearly 6-year-old crane has returned to the marsh. His typical territory is southwest in Marquette County. He soon moved back there, were he was sometimes spotted on his summer territory with female PR27-14.

 

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Crane #12-11

Gender: Female 
Hatch Date: May 14, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: white/green/red

Personality and Characteristics: The youngest in the group, #12-11 was hatched in a sort of fragile state. She had trouble breaking out of the egg, so needed help to hatch (an unusual event). Even after hatching, #12 still seemed weak and fragile, explains Geoff. The chick is small, even for her age, and a bit funny looking. “Her down fuzz didn’t grow in right in parts along her body, especially her head. It almost looks like she has scars all along her head (which might be, possibly from the eggshell pushing against her). For the longest time, she had to be tube-fed and had to take meds. Behaviorally speaking, she had trouble recognizing her surroundings, and had trouble responding to the puppet when she was being fed. In short, she looked to me like she might go to sleep and never wake up.”

But then she began getting stronger every day, making progress, and then eating on her own.” She’s still a puny, funky little chick, but the handlers admired her determination as the days passed and the chicks slowly came together as a group.

Despite being the flock’s littlest sister, she does not let herself be intimidated by #8, the big bully and thug. Geoff said, “I’ve seen her pace the fence behind #8-11 and act like she wants to climb it and get to his side, too. But this sort of hooplah is no good,” worries Geoff, and #8 was a real danger—not only to #12 but to all the other chicks too.

She was transported in a private plane to White River Marsh, Wisconsin on June 28 with the rest of the Class of 2011.

Notes from “Flight School” at White River Marsh in Wisconsin: “Back at Patuxent, little #12-11 was a spunky gal who wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself,” recalls Geoff. “But ever since she came to White River Marsh, she’s seemed a little more timid and reserved. She’s never one of the birds at the front of the crowd anymore, and always gingerly pecks at the puppet and costume. But then again, if you were in an unfamiliar pen, with so many birds, all of whom are way bigger than you; wouldn’t you lose some of your spunk?” But Caleb and Geoff didn’t give up on her. On the day of our first morning training session in Wisconsin, #12 was the only chick who didn’t exit the pen. Caleb and Geoff guided and led her out the door, where she was able to hook up with the rest of the flock. As days went on, she continued to need a little guidance getting out the gate.

By August 1 after a few days of no training due to rain, Geoff said, “Even #12 is just as eager as the rest of the birds to start training when the trike taxied on the grass past the pen. There are still days when she needs to be escorted out, but those days are becoming fewer.” 

“All the birds seem eager to follow the aircraft. Whether they’re flying, or just catching ground effect, I can count on roughly eight or nine of them flapping after the trike,” said Geoff in early August. Soon they should be able to climb higher and keep up with the trike. But by mid August, #12 was still one of of 6 or 7 birds who still were not getting airborne behind the plane. This group usually slammed on their brakes and stayed on the runway as soon as the trike lifted into the air. They’d rather “chill” at the end of the runway than take off and follow!

It was a joyous day on August 21 when she, the youngest birds, lifted off to join three strong cranes flying past with Richard’s trike. By the end of August she was taking off with the ultralight. On the August 27 flight, #12 stayed airborne with #2, #4, and #6—who are the best fliers in the group! She’s a great little bird and really making progress.

#12-11 flies in the “sweet spot” with pilot Richard on Sep. 17. Photo: Heather Ray

Female #12 soon became one of five birds the pilots could always count on to follow the trike. The pilots felt sure that they could’ve flown these five for miles and they’d all keep up. In early September, #12 was still a top follower, while two of the other top birds began to lag or dawdle. She consistently took off, or caught up, to go the distance. Go, TWELVE!

September 8, 2011. Photo: Geoff Tarbox

Finding the “Sweet Spot’: On September 17 crane #12 had a long solo flight near the wing of Richard’s ultralight plane while pilot Joe flew several attempts with the other birds. Being so close to the wing, she discovered that she could get a free ride on the air current off the planes wing. This is called the sweet spot, and the pilots hope all the birds will get the chance to fly close to the wing and get the benefit of gliding instead of always flapping. Richard said she was able to fly for about a half hour before landing. “In fact, if it wasn’t for deteriorating air conditions forcing us to land, there’s no doubt she could have kept going.”

A week before migration Caleb admitted that #12 was his favorite. He calls her “my little baby girl #12-11”. Says Caleb, “She’s the runt of our cohort in size and age (but she’s also the cutest). When she was barely a foot tall she was throwing caution to the wind and challenged any bird she could. There were even a few times when we watched apprehensively as she challenged #8-11 through the fence. (This was when there was still hope for #8-11 to stay in the cohort.) At the same time she was a little aggressive ball of down. She had a thing, as I’ve mentioned before, about sitting as close to us costumes as possible. It melted my heart.

“My little baby girl #12-11 has changed her attitude a lot since coming to White River Marsh. She has turned into one of the — if not THE most — submissive birds of the group. In fact, she is constantly in the crane ‘Cower’ posture except when she’s soaring above the trees. She still likes to come up to us costumes and nibble gently when she’s not badgered away by her fellow colts, and I usually have to go out of my way to make sure she gets a grape. All in all she’s definitely become a quiet little girl.”

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #12: “The flock’s kid sister. When we first got her, I didn’t think her chances were too good. She was puny, even for a chick her age, her neck looked funny, and I believe she needed constant tube feeding, which is never a good sign. But she got better a few days later and was making as much progress as the rest of the chicks were. She was still a bitty little thing compared to rest of the flock, even to this day. But what impressed me was that she was a little box of firecrackers. When we first socialized her, she wasn’t very intimidated by the birds we were pairing her with. I remember her staring down a couple of her siblings while at Patuxent. Even more impressive, she was the only bird who wasn’t afraid of the big bad #8. She shot him as many dirty looks through the fence as he did to her. Ultimately, #8-11 was still the more dominant bird. But #12 still hung in there longer than some of the others did. However, that all seems to have gone away now. Perhaps it comes from being surrounded by nine other birds bigger than her. It could come from #1-11 being a jerk, but #12-11 is now the submissive bird. The spunky little Napoleon from Patuxent is now pretty shy and timid, even around the costume. She’s usually the one whose grape gets stolen.

“Even though she’s unassertive on the ground, she’s pretty assertive in the air, and she is one of our more reliable fliers. And unlike #6 or #10, she hasn’t quit on us at any point. She’s not going to challenge #2’s and 7’s supremacy any time soon. But as long as she has some place where she can climb a few notches in the hierarchy is aces with me.”

First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane: Crane #12-11 left White River Marsh SWA on her first migration on October 9, 2011. She was one of five in the Class of 2011 to take off with Brook’s ultralight, and one of only three to go the 5-mile distance to the first stopover on Day 1 despite bumpy air. Find day-by-day news about the flock’s migration and read more about #12-11 below.

Crane #12, like #4 and #10, gets her deworming medicine inside a grape, since she won’t touch a smelt with a 10-foot pole. (Cranes usually love to eat smelt, a tasty small fish, in which the team puts deworming medicine so the cranes will get their meds.)

Oct. 22, Day 14: After being stalled several days by un-flyable weather at Stopover #1, Crane #12 was one of only four birds that flew to Stopover #2 with the ultralight. The others were crated and driven.

Oct. 28, Day 20: True to her reputation as one of the best, crane #12 (along with #3) stuck with Brooke’s ultralight the whole flight today, even after #7 turned around and left them.

Oct. 29, Day 21: Crane #12—and all nine other birds in the Class of 2011—flew the distance today! It’s the first day of the migration for the whole group to go the whole way. (The class is down to nine because missing crane #2-11 turned up with a big flock of wild sandhills.)

Crane #12 in January 2012. Image: Caleb Fairfax, OM

Day 43: Nov. 20, 2011: Crane #12-11 took off with her flock mates after 15 down-days, but she didn’t fly more than a few miles before dropping out. Trackers located and boxed her up for the drive to the Piatt County Stopover.February 4, 2012: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 became the first to finish their migration in a road vehicle. They were crated at the travel pen in Winston County, Alabama and driven to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to finish the winter and learn to be independent. Banding took place February 8. Brooke will watch over them as they slowly become wild and free. Check this bio page for further news in the life of of crane #12-11!

Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 ALL began their first journey north together from Wheeler NWR in Alabama on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. Three of the birds (#4, #7, and #9) are wearing PTT units so they can be tracked by satellite. GPS data showed they roosted the first night only 10 miles from their journey south stopover site in Union County, Kentucky. On their first full day of migration they covered about 231 miles and made it to Gallatin County, Illinois. PTT data indicate an April 15th daytime location in Wayne Co., IL for Whooping crane #9-11. Were they all together? Data from the same evening have cranes #4 and #7 at a roost location in Bureau County, IL. “It is possible that the nine cranes are still traveling as a group, however, we have no way of confirming this,” said Operation Migration’s Heather Ray. They did not travel April 16. By April 19 tracker Eva confirmed: The 9 ultra-light birds have split into at least two groups. On April 25 it was learned that #12 is traveling with #7 and #10! That means she went from Houston County, Minnesota, corrected her course to move further east to eastern Marquette County, Wisconsin, and then to Columbia County, approximately 27 miles south of White River Marsh on April 21. Hooray! In early June, this group of three was reported in neighboring Marquette County, WI— approximately 11 miles from their former pensite, and right on the migration route between the first and second stopovers made on their aircraft-led journey south.

Fall 2012: Crane #12-11 migrated and spent winter in Colbert County, Alabama.

Spring 2013: Completed migration to Wisconsin on March 29 with #7-11 and #10-11. In mid-April she was seen in possible nest-building behavior, on a territory with male #10-11.

Fall 2013: Crane #12-11 migrated from Adams County, W after November 12 (likely Nov. 22) to Wheeler NWR in Alabama. She had arrived there by 12 December. She wintered at Wheeler with several other birds including #5-11. Trackers do not know exactly where and when she paired with #5-11, although it seems likely that they did pair at Wheeler NWR during the winter.

Spring 2014: Completed migration to Juneau County, Wisconsin, and was already with #5-11 when found in Juneau County, Wisconsin on March 28. She nested with with male #5-11. The nest was still active as of April 30 but failed in May.

Fall 2014: Departed Juneau County, WI on migration with #5-11 the week of Nov. 10-16. They wintered at Wheeler NWR, Alabama.

Spring 2015: Completed migration to Juneau County, Wisconsin and nested with mate #5-11. The nest was still active as of May 4, but no news of nesting success this spring.

Fall 2015: Completed migration to Wheeler NWR in Alabama, with a stop at Goose Pond in Indiana on the way south.

Spring 2016: Crane pair #5-11 and #12-11 returned to Wisconsin and were observed by pilot Bev Paulan on March 30 near their nesting marsh in Juneau County, Wisconsin. On May 5 Bev confirmed the hatching of their chick, #W4-16! She photographed their fresh hatch with Mom and Dad:

Wild whooping crane chick W4-16 with mom and dad.

Bev again saw the chick and mom on her survey flight when the chick was 10 days old:

By June 1, chick #W4-16 was no longer alive.

Fall 2016: Crane pair #12-11 and #5-11 were chosen as prospective alloparents when the parent-reared Class of 2016 chicks were released in September. Sure enough, they appeared to be forming a bond with PR 33-16, who was still with the pair as of Oct. 18. It was a big surprise when, just two days later, PR#33-16 appeared to have started southward migration—alone! Pair #12-11 and #5-11 had completed migration in December to Wheeler NWR in Morgan Co, AL.

Spring 2017: Crane pair #12-11 and #5-11 returned to their Wisconsin territory in Juneau County and were nesting by early April. They hatched two chicks, one day apart, in early May! The chicks were the first of the season for the eastern flock.

Photo: Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR

Chick #W1-17 with parents #12-11 and #5-11, seen from the air on May 12. Photo: Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR

#W1-17 was still doing well at age 25-27 days when seen on Bev’s May 25 flight. Sadly the chick was last seen alive on June 7th and not thereafter. 

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Group Two – Direct Autumn Release (DAR) Whooping Cranes

The International Crane Foundation (ICF) raised 8 young cranes for the 2011 Direct Autumn Release (DAR) program. The young chicks spent six weeks at the Necedah NWR in Juneau County, Wis., where they got used to wetland habitat and wild cranes nearby. They were transported to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge on September 20. On October 14 these cranes were banded. On October 21 they were set free in the company of older cranes on Horicon NWR. They will learn the migration route south by following these older cranes. 

Crane #13-11 – “Pandoro”

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: June 5, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/white/green Right: green/red

Personality and Characteristics: Pandoro started as an independent and aggressive little bird. Things looked up as he learned to socialize with older chicks. “Pan loves to wander but has learned to trust the costume and is a beautiful chick to work with,” reports intern Jackie. 

On September 20, he was transported with his entire cohort of Direct Autumn Release chicks to Horicon Refuge. He will spend the next few weeks in an enclosure and under supervision at this release site. On October 14 he was banded with his permanent leg band colors. On October 21 he was set free to hang out with sandhill cranes on the refuge. The team hopes he’ll follow them south on migration, and learn where to go. Tracking Crew Chief Eva said that when the DAR birds were released, seven of them (including #13) hung out in one group by themselves; on Oct. 24 they flew a really big loop over the northern end of the refuge. On October 27th this group moved to a small area of marshland in Dane County. They spend the day foraging in some cut corn fields before returning to the marsh habitat to roost in the evening with a few dozen Sandhill cranes.

Migration History

Fall 2011, First Migration: He departed southern Wisconsin and was last detected in flight with #16-11 in northern Illinois on November 29. His wintering location was still unknown as he has not been seen since the November sighting.

Spring 2013: Still missing (see above). On May 1 he was considered dead, and removed from the population total of the eastern flock.

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Crane #14-11 – “Scotcharoo”

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 6, 2011
Legbands: Left: white Right: green/red

Personality and Characteristics: Scotcharoo was a quick learner and great follower from the instant she first went outside. For the first couple weeks the handlers called her a momma’s girl because she was always quick to be at their feet. Scotch started taking baths early, reports Jackie. “Bath time is very entertaining because a chick shakes and wiggles different parts of its body all at the same time while dipping in and out of the water.” 

On September 20, she was transported with her entire cohort of Direct Autumn Release chicks to Horicon Refuge where she spent the next few weeks in an enclosure and under supervision at this release site. On October 14 she was banded with her permanent leg band colors. On October 21 she was set free to hang out with sandhill cranes on the refuge. The team hopes she’ll follow them south on migration, and learn where to go.

Tracking Crew Chief Eva said that when the DAR birds were released, seven of them (including #14) hung out in one group by themselves; on Oct. 24 they flew a really big loop over the northern end of the refuge. On October 27th this group moved to a small area of marshland in Dane County. They spend the day foraging in some cut corn fields before returning to the marsh habitat to roost in the evening with a few dozen Sandhill cranes.

Migration History

Fall 2011, First Migration: She was near Weiss Lake in Alabama, according to tracker Eva Szyszkoski’s message on December 14. Good job, #14-11 (DAR)!! She was with #14-11 (DAR) and they wintered on Weiss Lake but mainly on the Georgia side of the county.

Spring 2012: Crane #14-11 (DAR) was last detected in flight in Jackson County, Indiana on February 13. She was in Laporte/St. Joseph Counties in Indiana, where she remained until at least March 20. She returned to Wisconsin on March 20 or 21! She was in Jefferson County, only about 40 miles south of Horicon NWR and by April 12 was in Outagamie County, Wisconsin.

Fall 2012: Crane #14-11 (DAR) migrated and was reported in Tennessee in January 2013.

Spring 2013: Crane #14-11 (DAR) completed migration to Wisconsin March 28. She was shot in Wisconsin in July 2013. The shooters have been charged but the death announcement was not made public until June 23, 2014.

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Crane #15-11 – “Lamington”

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 11, 2011
Legbands: Left: red/white Right: green/red

Personality and Characteristics: “Lam is a role model and a good sibling to the younger chicks,” says intern Jackie. We have taken her out with a couple others to get them used to being around each other. Lam is bigger than the other chicks, but she did not shown aggression toward them, though she has surely received some! Lamington learned to eat on her own fairly fast and for that we are very thankful as it’s a hard task to feed several mouths many times a day.” Lamington is an excellent tadpole catcher. 

On September 20, she was transported with her entire cohort of Direct Autumn Release chicks to Horicon Refuge. On October 14 she was banded with her permanent leg band colors. On October 21 she was set free to hang out with sandhill cranes on the refuge. The team hopes she’ll follow them south on migration, and learn where to go. Tracking Crew Chief Eva said that when the DAR birds were released, seven of them (including #15) hung out in one group by themselves; on Oct. 24 they flew a really big loop over the northern end of the refuge. On October 27th this group moved to a small area of marshland in Dane County. They spend the day foraging in some cut corn fields before returning to the marsh habitat to roost in the evening with a few dozen Sandhill cranes.

Migration History

Fall 2011, First Migration: DAR cranes #15-11 and #18-11 arrived at Wheeler NWR in Alabama in early December and spent the winter there among many sandhill cranes. Crane #19-09 was with them, and two Whooping crane pairs wintered on a separate area of the refuge.

Spring 2012: DAR cranes #15-11 and #18-11 departed Alabama’s Wheeler NWR on their first northward migration February 26 with their pal #19-09—and about 60 Sandhill cranes! They were back on Necedah NWR in Wisconsin on March 14th! The two DAR cranes spent the night on one pool while #19-09 appears to have separated from them and roosted at a different pool. Well done! The two DAR juveniles moved to Marquette County, Wisconsin on March 16, in typical wandering behavior of juveniles. April 12 they were in Fond du Lac County, WI.

Fall 2012: Migrated south and was reported at Wheeler NWR in Alabama in January.

Spring 2013: Female #15-11 (DAR) completed migration to Wisconsin on March 29 with #18-11 (DAR). Here she is with male #6-11 in mid April, near White River Marsh (where the male trained with the ultralights for his first migration south):

Fall 2013: Migrated south to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2014: Completed migration to Dane County, Wisconsin by March 19, with #6-11 DAR, #17-07, #7-12 and the young DAR #59-13 (Latke). They all left Wheeler NWR in Alabama on March 5 and made their way north. The four older birds left the juvenile #59-13 in Dane County on March 21 when they continued to Necedah NWR.

Fall 2014: Cranes #6-11/#15-11 DAR and #38-08 DAR moved from their summering territory in Wood County, WI, to a staging location in Marquette County, WI by September 28. They left on migration on Oct. 30th or 31st, and wintered at Wheeler NWR in Alabama..

Spring 2015: Cranes #15-11 DAR and #8-11 returned to Juneau County, Wisconsin without their pal #38-08 DAR, who remained behind in Wheeler County, Alabama until she finally was seen with them back in Wisconsin in August.

Fall 2015: Cranes #15-11 DAR, #6-11, and #38-08 DAR were first seen on their wintering grounds at Wheeler NWR on November 20, 2015. They stayed at Wheeler until December 5, 2015, when they moved to McNairy County Tennessee for the rest of the winter. They were first reported back in Wisconsin on March 8.

Spring 2016: Crane pair #15-11 DAR and #6-11 were first reported back in Wisconsin on March 8, and were seen on a nest on March 30 by Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan. They were seen on a second nest on May 6, but hatched no surviving chicks this summer.

Fall 2016: By Nov. 13, female #15-11 DAR had migrated to Morgan Co, Alabama, where she remained.

Spring 2017: female #15-11 DAR returned to Juneau County, Wisconsin. In a surprising turn of events, she and another female (#38-08 DAR) were seen sitting on a nest when Wisconsin DNR pilot Beverly Paulan spotted them on May 12! This is anomalous behavior and the only explanations the team has been able to come up with are: One of the genders is inaccurate, OR  they’re incubating infertile/un-viable eggs, OR a nearby bachelor male paid a visit. Bev will continue to monitor the nests as time permits to see how they progress. Stay tuned!

 

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Crane #16-11 – “Grasshopper”

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: June 15, 2011
Legbands: Left: red/white/green Right: green/red

Personality and Characteristics: Grasshopper presented some challenges his first couple of days. Handlers said it was hard to teach this chick to eat. Even when he did start eating well, Grasshopper was extremely active both indoors and outdoors so it was hard to keep him growing! Grasshopper was only a challenge until he was able to explore the outside world. “The chick follows quickly and is very responsive to the costume,” says intern Jackie. “Grasshopper an adorable and fun little bird.” One of Grasshopper’s favorite treats in the yard is spiderwort. 

On September 20, he was transported with his entire cohort of Direct Autumn Release chicks to Horicon Refuge to spend the next few weeks in an enclosure and under supervision. On October 14 he was banded with his permanent leg band colors. On October 21 he was set free to hang out with sandhill cranes on the refuge. The team hopes he’ll follow them south on migration, and learn where to go. Tracking Crew Chief Eva said that when the DAR birds were released, seven of them (including #16) hung out in one group by themselves; on Oct. 24 they flew a really big loop over the northern end of the refuge. On October 27th this group moved to a small area of marshland in Dane County. They spend the day foraging in some cut corn fields before returning to the marsh habitat to roost in the evening with a few dozen Sandhill cranes.

Migration History

Fall 2011, First Migration: He departed southern Wisconsin and was detected in flight with #13-11 in northern Illinois on November 29. Their wintering location was still unknown as of Feb, 2012.

Spring 2012: This crane was reported in Jackson County, Indiana, on March 8 and migrated back to Marquette County, Wisconsin sometime before April 19.

Fall 2012: Crane #16-11 (DAR) migrated and was reported in Indiana in January 2013. But he didn’t stop there! In February, visitor Doug McCoy at the Hiawassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee spotted a lone white Whooping crane among a throng of gray Sandhill cranes. His photo confirmed it was #16-11 DAR!

Photo: Doug McCoy

Spring 2013: Crane #16-11 had completed migration by March 30. Here he is in August, photographed by Doug Pellerin while flying over Wisconsin’s Horicon Refuge with Sandhill cranes:

16-11 in flight over Horicon NWR, in Dodge County, WI. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Fall 2013: Remained at Horicon NWR in Wisconsin.

Spring 2014: Male #16-11 apparently nested with a female sandhill crane at Horicon NWR in Central Wisconsin

Fall 2014: Male #16-11 migrated from Horicon NWR in Wisconsin on November 18 and was last reported in Jasper County, Indiana, at the end of Dec 2014.

Spring 2015: Male #16-11 completed spring migration back to his Wisconsin nesting grounds the weekend of March 14-15. But—astonishingly—he mated with a female Sandhill Crane and they produced the very first hybrid chick in the Eastern Migratory Flock (EMP). The chick was nickname “Whoopsie.” Male #16-11 DAR is a vigilant father and has helped his Sandhill mate protect the young hybrid chick from predation. Here’s the family of three on May 28, 2015:

16-11 and his Sandhill mate along with their hybrid Whoophill chick at Horicon NWR.

In June 2015, the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) and staff with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured #16-11’s hybrid crane chick in eastern Wisconsin and by September placed the colt in captivity in ICF’s Crane City, but not on exhibit. They hope to pair it with an existing bird in their collection for companionship. As a hybrid, the chick is likely sterile and researchers don’t want a future pairing with another Whooping Crane. Such a pairing would do nothing to build the eastern flock’s population.

NOTE: When older, “Whoopsie” will be paired with a female Sandhill Crane at the International Crane Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, WI. ICF uses Sandhills to help incubate Whooping Crane eggs. The pair will become “surrogate incubators” for ICF’s Whooping Crane reintroduction program.

To increase the chance that male Whooping crane #16-11 DAR will help build his species’ population in the future but with a suitable (wild) Whooping crane mate, WCEP has decided to try breaking up the pair.

Fall 2015: Crane #16-11 DAR was last reported in Wisconsin on December 14th. He spent the winter in Jackson County, Indiana, in an area with a large number of Sandhill Cranes.

Spring 2016: He migrated back to WI very early, and was seen back on territory at Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin on Feb 23, 2016. However, #16-11 DAR was captured on April 8 at Horicon and relocated to a holding pen at Necedah NWR until after breeding season is over. He got a replacement transmitter (VHF) and was released on April 12 on Necedah. Male #16-11 proved he is a successful father, and that’s why it’s critical for him to pair with another Whooping crane. We hope he’ll find a female Whooping crane (NOT a female Sandhill: see Spring 2015, above) at Necedah. After he was released at Necedah, he went back to Horicon and was seen with one Sandhill Crane for the rest of the summer. The DNR pilot that flew on July 1st didn’t see him with any Sandhills, but we saw him consistently with a Sandhill crane before and after that.

Fall 2016: In early October, a team from ICF captured #16-11 just before he would have migrated south for the winter. They transported #16-11 to White Oak Conservation, a breeding center for endangered species in Yulee, Florida. They didn’t want to permanently remove him from the wild because he showed he could be a good parent—a valuable trait. They believed it important to try some experimental means to see if he could be rehabilitated to form a bond with a female Whooping Crane. At the Florida breeding center, he was paired with a female Whooping Crane. If he took a liking to his new partner, the new pair might mate and eventually return to the wild as a permanent pair. (Even though he’s in captivity, he is still counted in the population total of the Eastern Migratory Flock (EMP) because the plan is for him to be released again.)

Spring 2017: Still in Captivity at White Oaks (see above) with female “Hemlock.” The two Whooping Cranes appear to have formed a mating bond, and WCEP team members are still considering relocating this pair back to Wisconsin.

Winter 2017/18:  Staff at White Oak report the new pair is now copulating and acting just like a bonded pair would act. Plans will be made to return 16-11 with his new mate (#18-12 aka Hemlock) to Horicon NWR this coming spring!

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Crane #17-11 – “Zanzibar”

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 17, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: white/green/white

Personality and Characteristics: Zanzibar was even more of a challenge at first than Grasshopper, said intern Jackie. “Zanz was confused and intimidated by the costume, running back to the safely of the fenced run when handlers had her outside. She seemed uninterested or scared outside, yet she always paced to get out whenever she was in!” This shy bird needed a patient and encouraging momma, and all the handlers worked very hard each day to help her develop into the great bird she is today. Stay tuned for more news about Zanzibar.

On September 20, she was transported with her entire cohort of Direct Autumn Release chicks to Horicon Refuge to spend the next few weeks in an enclosure and under supervision. On October 14 she was banded with her permanent leg band colors. On October 21 she was set free to hang out with sandhill cranes on the refuge. The team hopes she’ll follow them south on migration, and learn where to go. Tracking Crew Chief Eva said that when the DAR birds were released, all but #17 hung out in one group by themselves; but #17 went right back to the pen site and was hanging out there by herself. She left Horicon two days later than her flockmates, but her location was unknown.

Migration History

Fall 2011, First Migration: Crane #11-17 (DAR) was at Hiwassee State Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee in December, along with #20-11 (DAR). They wintered with thousands of Sandhill cranes and several Whooping cranes. They were still there as of March 20, 2012.

DAR #17-11 at Hiwassee SWA her first winter. Photo: Bret Douglas

Spring 2012: Migrating! It is believed she was with DAR #20-11, and they remained in Dubois Co, IN through at least the morning of April 12. Uncertain when they arrived there, but DAR #17-11 (and presumably DAR #20-11) left Dubois County, Indiana, on April 18. Their last satellite readings were at 4pm in Champaign County, Illinois, on that day, probably as they were in flight.

Fall 2012: Migrated south and was reported at Wheeler NWR in Alabama in January 2013.

Spring 2013: Migration completed April 3, together with #20-11.

Fall 2013: Migrated to Wheeler NWR in Alabama with other Whooping Cranes.

Spring 2014: Crane pair #17-11 DAR & #19-11 DAR, with #3-11, #4-11, pair #26-09 & #27-06 and DAR #38-09 began migration from the Wheeler NWR in Alabama on 15-18 February. This large group was reported in Gibson County, Indiana, on 21 February. They then moved to Lawrence County, Illinois, by the next day and were seen with an eighth (and unknown) bird that might be #26-10. Remained in Illinois/Indiana until at least early March 2014. Found on the Necedah NWR in Wisconsin on 28 March but then moved to their territory in Adams County shortly after that. Were observed with a nest platform this spring but did not have any eggs.

Fall 2014: Departed Adams County, WI with #19-11 DAR during November 14-17. They wintered in Alabama at Wheeler NWR and vicinity.

Spring 2015: Crane pair #17-11 DAR and #19-11 DAR returned to Adams County, Wisconsin and nested. Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan suspected they were with a chick on her June 8 survey flight. A later flight confirmed the chick did not survive.

Fall 2015: Crane pair #17-11 DAR and #19-11 DAR were still in in Juneau County, Wisconsin, as of Nov. 24. They were then seen throughout the winter in Morgan County, Alabama at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Spring 2016: Pair #17-11 DAR and #19-11 DAR were first seen back on the breeding grounds on March 29th, 2016 and spent the spring on their territory —partially on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and partially on private lands. The pair were seen sitting on a nest, but eggs or chicks were never confirmed.

Fall 2016: Crane pair #17-11 DAR and #19-11 DAR migrated south to Alabama in December.

Spring 2017: Pair #17-11 DAR and #19-11 DAR were back on territory at Necedah NWR and nesting by early April. Their eggs were collected under the forced renesting study and this pair failed to build a second nest.

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Crane #18-11 – “Nougat”

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: June 18, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: red/green/white

Personality and Characteristics: Nougat was fun and entertaining for staff and interns. This bird learned to eat and follow well almost immediately. For the first couple days, Nougat would find a clover plant, get between multiple flowers and peck like crazy, as if it were a little drum set randomly hitting all the flowers. Nougat is enthusiastic and energetic outside. “As soon as we take this bird out, we know we’ll see a little crane dance and bath,” said intern Jackie. 

On September 20, he was transported with his entire cohort of Direct Autumn Release chicks to Horicon Refuge to spend the next few weeks in an enclosure and under supervision. On October 14 he was banded with his permanent leg band colors. On October 21 he was set free to hang out with sandhill cranes on the refuge. The team hopes he’ll follow them south on migration, and learn where to go. Tracking Crew Chief Eva said that when the DAR birds were released, seven of them (including #18) hung out in one group by themselves; on Oct. 24 they flew a really big loop over the northern end of the refuge. On October 27th this group moved to a small area of marshland in Dane County. They spend the day foraging in some cut corn fields before returning to the marsh habitat to roost in the evening with a few dozen Sandhill cranes.

Migration History

Fall 2011, First Migration: DAR cranes #18-11 and #15-11 were at Wheeler NWR in Alabama in early December and spent the winter there among many sandhill cranes. Crane #19-09 was with them, and two Whooping crane pairs wintered on a separate area of the refuge.

Spring 2012: DAR cranes #18-11 and #15-11 departed Alabama’s Wheeler NWR on their first northward migration February 26 with their pal #19-09 and about 60 Sandhill cranes! They were back on Necedah NWR in Wisconsin on March 14th! The two DAR cranes spent the night on one pool while #19-09 appears to have separated from them and roosted at a different pool. Well done! The two DAR juveniles moved to Marquette County, Wisconsin on March 16, in typical wandering behavior of juveniles. April 12 they were in Fond du Lac County, WI.

Fall 2012: Migrated south and was reported at Wheeler NWR in Alabama in January 2013.

Spring 2013: Crane #18-11 (DAR) completed migration to Wisconsin on March 29 with #15-11 (DAR) . He is not paired with any Whooping Cranes and seems to like hanging out with Sandhill Cranes. 

If he could speak, what do you suppose he might be saying in this photo by Gary Masemore at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge at the end of April?

Fall 2013: Remained at Horicon NWR in Wisconsin.

Spring 2014: Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

Fall 2014: Male #18-11 DAR departed Horicon NWR in Wisconsin on November 18 and wintered with sandhill cranes in Obion County, Tennessee.

Spring 2015: Male #18-11 DAR was reported with an injury to his left leg on April 1 near the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin. He continued to be monitored and slowly improved. On June 30, the team reported that, while he does still limp, his behavior seemed otherwise normal.

Fall 2015: #18-11 DAR was seen in Dodge County, WI on December 27 before he migrated to Wheeler NWR in Morgan County, AL, where he was first seen on Jan 7, 2016. He stayed until mid-February, and then began heading north.

Spring 2016: Male crane #18-11 DAR (with #16-11 DAR) was first seen in Wisconsin on March 9 at Horicon Marsh. He was still in Dodge County, WI, with two Sandhill cranes at the end of August.

Fall 2016: He was still in Dodge County, WI Dec. 4 but then migrated to Wheeler NWR in Morgan County, Alabama.

Spring 2017: The first Whooping Crane recorded back in Wisconsin this spring appears to have been male #18-11, who returned in early March to Dodge County. He is now missing the top 1″ Red band on his right leg.

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Crane #19-11 – “Gelato”

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: June 29, 2011
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: white/red/white

Personality and Characteristics: We suspect that Gelato will be a strong and successful bird. Gelato went outside at only 1 day of age! This was the youngest age at which the handlers had taken a bird outside. At one day of age, Gelato astonished them by walking right into the pond and starting to SWIM! He also followed the costume around the yard after his swim. Gelato is an escape artist, too. He got out of his brooder box even when the costumed handlers were unable to see any exit place! Jackie says Gelato has been excited to explore the outdoors every time the costume is around. “He has been one of the most active and intelligent of this year’s Direct Autumn Release (DAR) chicks.” 

On September 20, he was transported with his entire cohort of Direct Autumn Release chicks to Horicon Refuge to spend the next few weeks in an enclosure and under supervision. On October 14 he was banded with his permanent leg band colors. On October 21 he was set free to hang out with sandhill cranes on the refuge. The team hopes he’ll follow them south on migration, and learn where to go. Tracking Crew Chief Eva said that when the DAR birds were released, seven of them (including #19) hung out in one group by themselves; on Oct. 24 they flew a really big loop over the northern end of the refuge. On October 27th this group moved to a small area of marshland in Dane County. They spend the day foraging in some cut corn fields before returning to the marsh habitat to roost in the evening with a few dozen Sandhill cranes.

Migration History

Fall 2011, First Migration: Happy news came in February, when ICF tracker Eva reported #19-11, who had been missing since leaving on migration on November 16, finally reappeared! “He was reported today (2/9) in Fayette County, Illinois, but was also seen at this location on February 5.”

Spring 2012: Crane #19-11 (DAR) was still at his Fayette County, Illinois, winter location during Eva’s tracking flight on March 26th, but he returned to Adams/Portage County, Wisconsin and summered with female #9-10.

Fall 2012: Crane #19-11 (DAR) migrated with female #9-10 to Illinois.

Spring 2013: On April 11, cranes #19-11 DAR and #9-10 were confirmed back in Adams County, Wisconsin! (They would not have been flying the last few days due to unfavorable weather conditions, so they likely have been around since at least April 8, noted tracker Eva Szyszkoski.)

Fall 2013: Migrated to Wheeler NWR in Alabama with other whoopers.

Spring 2014: Crane pair #19-11 DAR & #17-11 DAR, with #3-11, #4-11, pair #26-09 & #27-06 and DAR #38-09 began migration from the Wheeler NWR in Alabama on 15-18 February. This large group was reported in Gibson County, Indiana, on 21 February. They then moved to Lawrence County, Illinois, by the next day and were seen with an eighth (and unknown) bird that might be #26-10. Remained in Illinois/Indiana until at least early March 2014. Found on the Necedah NWR in Wisconsin on 28 March but then moved to their territory in Adams County shortly after that. Were observed with a nest platform this spring but did not have any eggs.

Fall 2014: Departed Adams County, WI with #17-11 DAR November 14-17. They wintered in Alabama at Wheeler NWR and vicinity.

Spring 2015: Crane pair #19-11 DAR and #17-11 DAR returned to Adams County, Wisconsin and nested. Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan suspected they were with a chick on her June 8 survey flight. A later flight confirmed the chick did not survive.

Fall 2015: Crane pair #19-11 DAR and #17-11 DAR were still in in Juneau County, Wisconsin, as of Nov. 24. They were then seen throughout the winter in Morgan County, Alabama at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Spring 2016: Pair #19-11 DAR and #17-11 DAR were first seen back on the breeding grounds on March 29th, 2016 and spent the spring on their territory —partially on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and partially on private lands. The pair were seen sitting on a nest, but eggs or chicks were never confirmed.

Fall 2016: Crane pair #17-11 DAR and #19-11 DAR migrated south to Alabama in December.

Spring 2017: Pair #17-11 DAR and #19-11 DAR were back on territory at Necedah NWR and nesting by early April. Their eggs were collected under the forced renesting study and this pair failed to renest.

Fall 2017: Sadly the remains of male #19-11 were collected in Juneau County, WI in November. Predation is the likely cause. His mate #17-11 returned to Wheeler NWR alone.

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Crane #20-11 – “Chiffon”

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 30, 2011
Legbands: Left: white/green Right: green/red

Personality and Characteristics: Chiffon also went outside at the age of one day and walked right out with the costume to the pond. Intern Jackie said she didn’t swim on day one but did a great job of wobbly walking through the vegetation and running faster than her little legs could handle at the time. Chiffon and Gelato have been socialized together. They follow together okay but stop every few minutes to act out a little sibling rivalry. Learn more about Chiffon in the months ahead.

On September 20, she was transported with her entire cohort of Direct Autumn Release chicks to Horicon Refuge. She will spend the next few weeks in an enclosure and under supervision at this release site. On October 14 she was banded with her permanent leg band colors. On October 21 she was set free to hang out with sandhill cranes on the refuge. The team hopes she’ll follow them south on migration, and learn where to go. Tracking Crew Chief Eva said that when the DAR birds were released, seven of them (including #20) hung out in one group by themselves; on Oct. 24 they flew a really big loop over the northern end of the refuge. On October 27th this group moved to a small area of marshland in Dane County. They spend the day foraging in some cut corn fields before returning to the marsh habitat to roost in the evening with a few dozen Sandhill cranes.

Migration History

Fall 2011, First Migration: Crane #20-11 (DAR) was spotted by Bret Douglas, wading with sandhill cranes at Tennessee’s Hiwassee State Wildlife Refuge on Dec. 11! Many of the Eastern flock of Whooping cranes use this wonderful refuge as a migratory stopover, and some cranes stay all winter. Crane #20-11 stayed all winter, hanging around with #17-11 (DAR). They were still there March 20.

Spring 2012: Migrating DAR #20-11 remained in Dubois Co, IN (likely with #17-11) through at least the morning of April 12. Uncertain when she arrived there, but DAR #17-11 (and presumably DAR #20-11) left Dubois County, Indiana, on April 18. Their last satellite readings were at 4pm in Champaign County, Illinois, on that day, probably as they were in flight.

Fall 2012: DAR #20-11 wintered at the Wheeler NWR in Alabama with #17-11 and a lot of other Class of 2011 birds (including ultralight-led cranes #1, #3, #4, #5, and #6 as well as DAR #15-11 and DAR #18-11. Also wintering there were older crane pairs #27-06/#26-09 and #13-02/#18-02 and #19-11.

Spring 2013: Migration completed April 3, together with #17-11.

Fall 2013: Crane #20-11 DAR migrated to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2014: Female #20-11 DAR began migration from Wheeler NWR in Alabama on 23 February. She had reached Greene County, Indiana, by the afternoon of 28 February. Remained in Greene County through at least roost on 18 March. Continued north to Jasper County, IN, by/on 21 March. She completed migration to Green Lake County, Wisconsin, on 30 March, and remains in Green Lake County.

Fall 2014: Crane #20-11 DAR moved from her summering territory in Green Lake County, WI, to the Horicon NWR on 7 October. She continued south on 9 October, flying to Walworth County, WI. She ended her migration at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee for the winter.

Spring 2015: Female #20-11 DAR migrated successfully back to Wisconsin’s Green Lake County, but her remains of were collected in Green Lake County, Wisconsin, on June 26. She was last observed alive on June 16 in the same marsh area. The cause of death is currently unknown.

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