Class of 2013

  

 

Three release methods were used in 2013: Ultralight-guided (Group One); Direct Autumn Release (Group Two); and this is the first year the Parent Reared (PR) method is being employed. The PR cranes will be Group Three.

Group Four includes any successfully fledged wild hatched whooping cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population! 

 

Group One – Ultralight-guided Whooping cranes
1-13 2-13 3-13 4-13 5-13 7-13

Died Apr ’14

Died Jan ’15

Died Apr ’14

Died Nov ’14

Died Jan ’15

8-13 9-13

Died Jan ’15

Died Fall ’15

Group Two – Direct Autumn Release (DAR) Whooping Cranes
50-13 51-13 52-13 53-13 54-13 55-13

Died Jan ’14

Died Jan ’14

Died Nov ’13

Died Nov ’13

Died Jan ’14

Died Dec ’13

56-13 57-13 59-13

Died Dec ’13

Died May ’15

Group Three are Parent-Reared Whooping cranes.

As the name implies, they have been raised at the captive breeding centers (in enclosures) by their parents. This is the first year this release method has been used.

PR20-13 PR21-13 PR22-13 PR24-13
       
Group Four – Wild hatched chicks

Twenty crane pairs initiated nests in spring 2013. Eighteen of the 20 failed nests were abandoned during a four-day period (May 4-8) that coincided with a mass emergence of black flies. Dense clouds of black flies were observed at the nests. Biting flies would make it impossible for the cranes to stay on the nests. Three chicks hatched in the wild but only one survived to fledge: W3-13


Crane #1-13

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 14, 2013
Legbands: Left: red/green Right: red/white

Personality and Training: Crane chick #1-13 is the oldest, biggest, and most dominant bird in the Class of 2013. Right away, Joe called her their “Make My Day” bird for her attitude. She hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of parents #9-05 and #13-03, who learned their migration route from the ultralight plane just as she will do. Her sibling is Chick #4, who hatched from the same parents’ other rescued egg.

Crane #1 remained the Alpha lady of the group both in Maryland and after the Class of 2013 arrived in Wisconsin.

By mid July, she and and #2-13 were already able to skip a few steps as they followed the trike and very soon #1-13 was first to fly a good distance of the runway.  It won’t be long before #2-13 is following after her.  Give them a week or two, and they’ll all be catching ground effect off the wing.

By July 26 #1 had just learned to fly. She promptly flew off into the marsh behind the pen and stayed there! Meanwhile, the others had a good training session with the trike and went obediently back into the pen. Then the pilots coaxed #1 out of the marsh and led her to the trike for some treats and trike time. She followed the trike downwind to the north end of the runway but on the return trip she flew up above the wing and then veered right and flew back into the marsh behind the pen. Again she was easily led out and  back to the trike and given treats at the trike. After some trike time she obediently followed back into the pen.

On July 29, #1 spent most of her time in the field. She poked around for tasty insects while pilot Brooke continued training the other seven chicks. After Brooke made a couple more runs with all of them flapping and following behind him, #1-13 finally decided to join the party. She came flying out of the field and flew the length of the runway, showing off her new-found flight abilities. She might have been bragging to the others: “THIS is how it’s done!”

By July 31 most of the birds were following the trike up and down the runway. But #1-13 doesn’t always like running with the pack. She can easily go 40 feet in the air and fly the length of the runway. She likes to go exploring.  Sometimes, she’ll meet up with the trike on her own. Other days, she needs a little one-on-one help escaping the marshy wilderness.  The pilots hope that she will learn to lock onto the “sweet spot” on the wing and then enjoy flying with the group. With a 5-day age spread among this year’s cohort, all were flying by August 7. Pilots hope all will fall into a line, including #1!

Fall 2013: Ultralight-Guided Migration South

October 2, 2013: Migration Day 1! Clear skies, zero fog and light north winds brought perfect flight conditions. Crane #1 landed at Stopover #1 with pilot Richard and cranes #7, #8 and #9, but the other four had to be crated to finish the trip by road.

October 14, 2013: Migration Day 13! After 11 down days and an attempted flight Oct. 9, they finally got a great day to fly! All eight cranes came out of the pen, took off and covered the distance with lead pilot Brooke. Two flew off his left wing and six off his right: perfect, and a wonderful surprise!

October 17, 2013: Migration Day 16 Another successful flight with all eight young Whooping cranes sticking with lead pilot Richard van Heuvelen for the entire 28 miles. The flight to Columbia County, WI lasted 42 minutes.

October 22, 2013: Migration Day 21 Crane #1 was one of just two cranes to fly the 39 miles on today’s turbulent flight to Green County, Wisconsin! The six others dropped out in three locations, causing a flurry of worry and activity — but, at the end of the day, all eight birds as well as the crew were safely at Stopover #4.

October 25, 2013: Migration Day 24 Crossing into Illinois! All eight cranes trailed off pilot Richard’s wing the whole way!

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 About one mile from take-off, crane #1 dropped back from the group of eight that took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County, Illinois. As she dropped back, chase-plane pilot Richard van Heuvelen swooped in and escorted her the rest of the flight. She had the sweet spot off his wing all to herself!

November 7, 2013: Migration Day 37 Flying 1 hour and 15 minutes, all eight cranes followed Richard for the entire 55-mile flight to Livingston County, Illinois.

November 8, 2013: Migration Day 38 Another 59 miles gained! They’re in Piatt County, Illinois.

November 13, 2013: Migration Day 43 Onward to Cumberland County, Illinois. Pilot Richard reported: “We reached 3,500 feet above sea level with a ground speed of about 31 mph. By the time we touched down we’d been in the air just over two hours. A long time up there to cover 56 air miles.”

November 18, 2013: Migration Day 48 Pilot Brooke led them right over the Wayne County, Illinois stopover—and onward to Kentucky! Flying up to 50 mph, today’s flight added 108 miles!

November 19, 2013: Migration Day 49 Hoo-wee! They got another double-leg flight today with good tailwinds and made it to Tennessee! Miles gained today: 63 + 53 + 116. That brings the total to 569.

November 29, 2013: Migration Day 59 It was finally a fly day, but a challenging flight to Hardin County, TN. Today the birds were in two groups with two pilots but all 7 fliers and one crated dropout bird ended up safely at the new stopover with 67 more miles gained. Their reward was a lovely stream one foot deep and 60-degree temperatures for bathing and splashing after the flight. Total miles now: 636. Last stop in Tennessee!

December 12, 2013: Migration Day 72 Finally some progress! Winds foiled yesterday’s attempt to advance the migration, and they turned back; but today all eight took off with Richard and Joe! Cranes #4 and #3 were the only two who stuck with the aircraft the whole 67 miles to land in Winston County, Alabama! Crane #1 and the others dropped out and had to be found and crated to the new location. Too many days penned in Hardin County!

December 13, 2013: Migration Day 73 Today’s attempted flight (the second this week) brought over an hour of wrangling before they gave up and turned back to the Winston County, AL site at 703 total miles gone. The birds didn’t want to stay with the trikes in headwinds. “They understand that it is wiser to save your energy for days when the wind helps instead of hinders. And maybe that morning was a lesson the students taught the teachers,” wrote pilot Joe Duff.

December 18, 2013: Migration Day 78 The only champion fliers of the day were Cranes #1, #3, #4, and #9, who flew all 101 miles with Richard’s plane to Chilton County, AL. That’s 804 miles gone!

December 26, 2013: Migration Day 86 All eight cranes completed today’s double-leg flight, covering 110 miles to the final stop in Alabama. They’re now at 906 miles gone.

December 30, 2013: Migration Day 90 The THIRD double-leg flight in a row brought them 124 miles across Georgia in one day. All of the birds turned back when Richard started to climb, but they were rounded up for another try. As they climbed, ground speeds improved so much that at 3500 feet the pilots decided to skip for Decatur County. Florida is next!

December 31, 2013: Migration Day 91 A perfect flight with all eight birds brought them to Leon County, FLORIDA, with just 28 miles to the finish line. Happy New Year!

January 5, 2014: Migration Day 96 After a 96-day journey when they gained miles on just 18 of those days, the Class of 2013 landed Sunday, Jan. 5, at St. Marks NWR in Florida. All eight Whooping cranes will spend their first days in the temporarily top-netted section of the large winter release pen. Then they will be banded and released to live as wild, free cranes. A team member will watch over their first winter to be sure they are okay, and probably crane pals #4-12 and #5-12 will watch too. 

Two adult cranes stand guard upon the young cranes’ Florida arrival. Photo: H. Ray

January 16, 2014: Health checks and banding with permanent band colors went very smoothly. Handlers put a hood over the crane’s head so the workers wouldn’t be hampered by wearing their helmets to cover their faces.

January 21, 2014: Freedom! No more top net! With the top net gone, the chicks can come and go at will from the safety of their enclosure, learning to live wild and free. Surprisingly, they have allowed sub-adult cranes #4-12 and #5-12 to stay with them in the pen, as long as the older birds let the younger ones be boss. They even let the older two roost at night with them on the oyster bar (a raised area, built from a pile of oyster shells in the pen’s pond)! Last winter this pen was home to #4-12 and #5-12 as newly arrived migrants, and they must like being there…

Spring 2014: First Unaided Spring Migration North
March 31: All eight young cranes left the pen site at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge this morning with a tailwind to push them along. Data gathered from the four cranes wearing PTT tracking units tells us they made at least one stop in Barbour County, Alabama and spent a couple of days there. By April 3, signals of the four PTT’d birds showed they had covered about 470 miles, reaching Daviess County, Kentucky.Sad news came on April 14. When #1-13’s PTT data remained at the Kentucky location for three days past the time when the other birds had departed. Operation Migration’s Heather Ray discovered that a powerline cuts through the property and asked the landowners to search for #1-13. They found a pile of crane feathers beneath the powerline, and the scavenged carcass of #1-13 was a short distance away. It is a tragic loss of a majestic bird to the number one danger of migration: power lines. “We can take some solace in the fact that she did experience freedom,” noted Heather sadly. And Brooke, who knew her better than anyone, wrote that from her first days of life to the last, “She remained throughout the smartest and most able member of the group.” 

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Crane #2-13

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 15, 2013
Legbands: Left: red Right: white/green

Personality and Training: Crane chick #2-13 hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of parents #9-03 and #3-04, who learned the migration route from the ultralight plane just as this little chick will do. Her sibling is Chick #5-13, who hatched from the same pair’s other rescued egg!

Little chick #2 started out as the most insecure, submissive, and easily-spooked bird who never met a shadow it didn’t fear, said Joe Duff. But that changed! She got her confidence as Brooke and the other handlers worked with her. This group of chicks are all quite mellow, which made it easier.

By June 3, chicks #2-13 through #5-13 were all getting walked together in Maryland where they hatched. The team thinks these chicks seem like the best of buddies, which is a very good thing for cranes that spend so much time together.

On July 9, the chicks were transported to Wisconsin for “Flight School.” Crane #2 appeared to be the first brave bird to explore the wet pen when the chicks were introduced to it on July 12. The others quickly followed her lead. The water held a LOT of frogs for them to hunt and eat, which #2 discovered first.

 

By mid July, #2 and #1-13 were already able to skip a few steps as they follow the trike. After just a week or 

two, chicks #2 and #1 were catching ground effect (air currents) off the wing. The air currents under their wings helped them lift a few feet off the ground in early flight.

Chick #1 was first in the group to fly a good portion of the runway, but very soon after chick #2-13 was following after her—airborne! 

By August 7, all eight Whooping cranes in this year’s cohort were able to fly. While they hadn’t completed a circuit down and back over the training field yet, they were all flying and attempting to follow the aircraft.

See the two adult Whooping cranes in the background? They are #4-12 & 5-12.

Fall 2013: Ultralight-Guided Migration South October 2, 2013: Migration Day 1! Clear skies, zero fog and light north winds brought perfect flight conditions and four cranes (not including Crane #2) flew the distance to Stopover#1. Cranes #2, #3, #4 and #5 didn’t cooperate in several attempts to follow Brooke’s aircraft. Finally those four had to be crated to finish the first leg of their migration by road. Will they do better on the next flight?

October 14, 2013: Migration Day 13! After 11 down days and an attempted flight Oct. 9, they finally got a great day to fly! All eight cranes came out of the pen, took off and covered the distance with lead pilot Brooke. Two flew off his left wing and six off his right: perfect, and a wonderful surprise! Crane #2, who had stopped trying and kept turning back in mid September, is back in the game!!

October 17, 2013: Migration Day 16 Another successful flight with all eight young Whooping cranes sticking with lead pilot Richard van Heuvelen for the entire 28 miles. The flight to Columbia County, WI lasted 42 minutes.

October 22, 2013: Migration Day 21 Crane #2 was among the six others that dropped out and had to be captured, crated and driven to stopover #4 on today’s turbulent flight.They are now all safely at the Green County, Wisconsin stopover site.

The birds fell in and out of formation, flew well one minute and poorly the next. Up and down, round and round in the turbulence they went. Dropouts here, pickups there, lots of effort and challenges — but, at the end of the day, all eight birds as well as the crew were safely at the next stop.

October 25, 2013: Migration Day 24 Crossing into Illinois! All eight cranes trailed off pilot Richard’s wing the whole way! Winds kept them grounded here for the next nine days.

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 The group of eight took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County. Crane #2 and six others stayed with Brooke’s aircraft for the entire 2-hour flight.

November 7, 2013: Migration Day 37 Flying 1 hour and 15 minutes, all eight cranes followed Richard for the entire 55-mile flight to Livingston County, Illinois.

November 8, 2013: Migration Day 38 Another 59 miles gained! They’re in Piatt County, Illinois.

November 13, 2013: Migration Day 43 Onward to Cumberland County, Illinois. Pilot Richard reported: “We reached 3,500 feet above sea level with a ground speed of about 31 mph. By the time we touched down we’d been in the air just over two hours. A long time up there to cover 56 air miles.”

November 18, 2013: Migration Day 48 Pilot Brooke led them right over the Wayne County, Illinois stopover—and onward to Kentucky! Flying up to 50 mph, today’s flight added 108 miles!

November 19, 2013: Migration Day 49 Hoo-wee! They got another double-leg flight today with good tailwinds and made it to Tennessee! Miles gained today: 63 + 53 + 116

November 29, 2013: Migration Day 59 It was finally a fly day, but a challenging flight to Hardin County, TN. Today the birds were in two groups with two pilots but all 7 fliers and one crated dropout bird ended up safely at the new stopover with 67 more miles gained. Their reward was a lovely stream one foot deep and 60-degree temperatures for bathing and splashing after the flight. Total miles now: 636. Last stop in Tennessee! 

December 12, 2013: Migration Day 72 Finally some progress! Winds foiled yesterday’s attempt to advance the migration, and they turned back; but today all eight took off with Richard and Joe! Cranes #4 and #3 were the only two who stuck with the aircraft the whole 67 miles to land in Winston County, Alabama! Crane #2 and the others dropped out and had to be found and crated to the new location. Too many days penned in Hardin County!

December 13, 2013: Migration Day 73 Today’s attempted flight (the second this week) brought over an hour of wrangling before they gave up and turned back to the Winston County, AL site at 703 total miles gone. The birds didn’t want to stay with the trikes in headwinds. “They understand that it is wiser to save your energy for days when the wind helps instead of hinders. And maybe that morning was a lesson the students taught the teachers,” wrote pilot Joe Duff. 

December 18, 2013: Migration Day 78 After several attempts to get four reluctant birds to fly, the team had to crate and drive #2, #5, #7 and #8 the 101 miles flown by the other four cranes. The migration reached Chilton County, AL and 804 miles gone!

December 26, 2013: Migration Day 86 All eight cranes completed today’s double-leg flight, covering 110 miles to the final stop in Alabama. They’re now at 906 miles gone.

December 30, 2013: Migration Day 90 The THIRD double-leg flight in a row brought them 124 miles across Georgia in one day. All of the birds turned back when Richard started to climb, but they were rounded up for another try. One later dropped down and Brooke took that one. As they climbed, ground speeds improved so much that at 3500 feet the pilots decided to skip for Decatur County. The rest of Richard’s flight was spent fighting for lead with crane #2! “She would pull ahead looking about smugly enjoying the view from in front of the trike but to her dismay the trike would soon reassert itself in the lead. This went on, back and forth with other birds taking turns taking lead for the last 60 miles.” Florida is next!

December 31, 2013: Migration Day 91 A perfect flight with all eight birds brought them to Leon County, FLORIDA, with just 28 miles to the finish line. Happy New Year!

January 5, 2014: Migration Day 96 After a 96-day journey when they gained miles on just 18 of those days, the Class of 2013 landed Sunday, Jan. 5, at St. Marks NWR in Florida. All eight Whooping cranes will spend their first days in the temporarily top-netted section of the large winter release pen. Then they will be banded and released to live as wild, free cranes. A team member will watch over their first winter to be sure they are okay, and probably crane pals #4-12 and #5-12 will watch too. 

January 16, 2014: Health checks and banding with permanent band colors went very smoothly. Handlers put a hood over the crane’s head so the workers wouldn’t be hampered by wearing their helmets to cover their faces. 

January 21, 2014: Freedom! No more top net! With the top net gone, the chicks can come and go at will from the safety of their enclosure, learning to live wild and free. Surprisingly, they have allowed sub-adult cranes #4-12 and #5-12 to stay with them in the pen, as long as the older birds let the younger ones be boss. They even let the older two roost at night with them on the oyster bar (a raised area built from a pile of oyster shells in the pen’s pond)! Last winter this pen was home to #4-12 and #5-12 as newly arrived migrants, and they must like being there… 

February 26, 2014: Here’s #2-13 interacting with sub-adult #4-12—who, with his pal #5-12, is living with the chicks this winter. What differences do you observe between these cranes who are a year apart in age? 

Whooping crane #2-13 still has brown on her head.

Spring 2014: First Unaided Spring Migration North

March 31: All eight young cranes left the pen site at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge this morning with a tailwind to push them along. Data gathered from the four cranes wearing PTT tracking units tells us they made at least one stop in Barbour County, Alabama and spent a couple of days there. By April 3, signals of the four PTT’d birds showed they had covered about 470 miles, reaching Daviess County, Kentucky. Storms and headwinds kept them grounded there for a week. Sadly, this is where the remains of young female crane #1-13 were found. Since only six cranes were ever seen together at this stop, it is believed it was soon after arriving that something happened to number #1-13, and that the other missing crane, #3-13, likely split off from the group before this stop.  

The 6 birds (cranes #2-13, #4-13, #5-13, #7-13, #8-13 and #9-13) continued migration when the weather finally allowed them to leave. The group apparently spent two days in McHenry County, Illinois. On April 12 they made a short hop into Wisconsin’s Walworth County, where a spring snow storm and winds kept them grounded for another 5 days. April 18 PTT data placed #2-13 approximately 10 miles north of Berlin, WI — likely to roost— and on April 19, the six young cranes (#2, #4, #5, #7, #8 and #9) arrived right back on their training strip at White River Marsh, Wisconsin, migration complete!

The roost locations used by the cranes wearing PTT devices shows that, while they didn’t follow the exact migration route used by the aircraft that led them south last fall, they surely were close for the entire way. Hooray!

 The group of six stayed together in Green Lake County, WI for several days. Then #7-13 and #8-13 broke off on their own, spending time in Dodge County, WI., leaving #2, #4, #5 and #9 at White River Marsh in Green Lake County. This little group wandered in nearby counties during the summer, in typical behavior for yearling sub-adults and were in Fond du Lac County in July.

Fall 2014: Cranes #2-13, #4-13, #5-13, #7-13 and #8-13 began migration from Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin on 13 November. Satellite readings indicated roost locations in Iroquois County, Illinois, on 13 November; Wabash County, Illinois, on 14 November; northern Alabama on 17 November and Decatur County, Georgia, on 18 November where they remained until arriving at the St. Marks NWR in Wakulla County, Florida on November 21 for the winter.

It was a sad day in mid January when Brooke found the remains of #2 and #7, likely killed by a predator(s). Brooke had tracked the transmitters of #2-13 and #7-13 into a wetland a few miles north of St Marks into mixed habitat—not a great place for cranes due to the presence of bobcats. The remains of both cranes had been scavenged and likely dragged into the woods.

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Crane #3-13

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 15, 2013
Legbands: Left: red/green/white Right: red

Personality and Training: Crane chick #3-13 hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of parents #41-09 DAR and #32-09 DAR.

Right after hatching, chick #3-13’s legs were splayed. Experts and taped tiny splints to each leg to help strengthen them. They watched him closely and he did just fine! You can see that his legs straightened and grew strong.

Socializing the birds to get along together is important. By June 3, chicks #2-13 through #5-13 were all getting walked together without any trouble at all. The team thinks these chicks seem like the best of buds.  

On July 9, the chicks were transported to Wisconsin for “Flight School.”

For his first few weeks in Wisconsin, Chick #3 was the only one to be a little slow out of the gate for training with the aircraft. He did not seem to have the same enthusiasm as the other chicks. Often he just laid down on his hocks and watched everyone rush out the door of the pen.  If he was coaxed along, he turned back as soon as he got to the door. Was he scared of the door? Odder still, if he ever DID exit the pen for training, he laid down on the runway in the middle of training! None of the crew could remember having a bird ever lie down in the middle of training. Was he easily tired? Was he just being lazy? He had no trouble breathing, and he followed as well as any other chicks. The team never figured out the reason for #3’s lagging.

By the end of July, #3 had quit his lagging. His wings were almost ready to lift him off the ground for flight, so maybe his excitement was growing.

By July 31 chicks #3, #2 and #1 were capable of flight and enjoying time airborne. By August 7, all eight Whooping cranes in this year’s cohort were able to fly. While they hadn’t completed a circuit down and back over the training field yet, they were all flying and attempting to follow the aircraft.

August and September brought gains and progress. Migration is coming!

Juvenile 3-13 inside the enclosure, while outside, adult males #4-12 & 5-12 are curious. Photo: Tom Schultz

Fall 2013: Ultralight-Guided Migration South 

October 2, 2013: Migration Day 1! Clear skies, zero fog and light north winds brought perfect flight conditions and four cranes (not including Crane #3) flew the distance to Stopover#1. Cranes #2, #3, #4 and #5 didn’t cooperate in several attempts to follow Brooke’s aircraft. Finally those four had to be crated to finish the first leg of their migration by road. Will they do better on the next flight?

October 14, 2013: Migration Day 13! After 11 down days and an attempted flight Oct. 9, they finally got a great day to fly! All eight cranes came out of the pen, took off and covered the distance with lead pilot Brooke. Two flew off his left wing and six off his right: perfect, and a wonderful surprise! Crane #3, who made the first leg of the migration in a little wooden box, peeping and squeaking—showed he is back in the game! 

October 17, 2013: Migration Day 16 Another successful flight with all eight young Whooping cranes sticking with lead pilot Richard for the entire 28 miles. Crane #3 was the only one to have a bit of trouble. At about ten miles away from the new stop, he began flying in his usual spot under the wing and would not get back up on top. No matter what Richard tried, #3 would tuck his head down and dive below the wing again. That meant loss of altitude for all of them, putting them back into the turbulent air they’d climbed slowly to rise above. Finally, when Richard slowly began losing altitude in the last five miles before landing, #3-13 kept up better, and all the birds safely landed after the 42-minute flight to Columbia County, WI. Hooray!

October 22, 2013: Migration Day 21 Crane #3 was among the six others that dropped out and had to be captured, crated and driven to stopover #4 on today’s turbulent flight. They are now all safely at the Green County, Wisconsin stopover site.

October 25, 2013: Migration Day 24 Crossing into Illinois!!! Crane #3 was in the lead for some of today’s 34-mile flight. All eight cranes trailed off pilot Richard’s wing the whole way! Winds kept them grounded here for the next nine days. 

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 The group of eight took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County. Crane #3 and six others stayed with Brooke’s aircraft for the entire 2-hour flight. 

November 7, 2013: Migration Day 37 Flying 1 hour and 15 minutes, all eight cranes followed Richard for the entire 55-mile flight to Livingston County, Illinois.

November 8, 2013: Migration Day 38 Another 59 miles gained! They’re in Piatt County, Illinois. 

November 13, 2013: Migration Day 43 Onward to Cumberland County, Illinois. Pilot Richard reported: “We reached 3,500 feet above sea level with a ground speed of about 31 mph. By the time we touched down we’d been in the air just over two hours. A long time up there to cover 56 air miles.”

November 18, 2013: Migration Day 48 Pilot Brooke led them right over the Wayne County, Illinois stopover—and onward to Kentucky! Flying up to 50 mph, today’s flight added 108 miles! 

November 19, 2013: Migration Day 49 Hoo-wee! They got another double-leg flight today with good tailwinds and made it to Tennessee! Miles gained today: 63 + 53 + 116. That puts the total distance to date at 569 miles.

November 29, 2013: Migration Day 59 It was finally a fly day, but #3 made it a challenging flight to Hardin County, TN. Since he dropped out on the Oct. 28 flight, he has made it a habit to fly below the wing where he must work twice as hard to keep up. Dropping down to pick him up only works for a while and down he goes again. He did that today; then, 25 miles from the destination, he dropped all the way down to treetop level. Pilot Joe needed to follow the wayward #3 from above until he landed or today’s trackers, Brooke and David, would have little chance of finding him. The bird circled a pond, sailed over a forest and finally landed in an isolated field. Joe radioed the GPS coordinates to the tracking van. Meanwhile, Richard had managed to climb with his four birds to 4400 feet where he gained a fantastic ground speed of 50 mph while Joe and his birds banged along the lower altitude at 32 mph. Richard landed at the new stopover while Joe and his birds were still 18 miles out. A lovely stream one foot deep and 60-degree temperatures meant the seven landed birds could bathe and splash to their delight. Crane #3 had a long van ride before he safely joined the group at the pen. Total miles migrated: 636.

December 12, 2013: Migration Day 72 Finally some progress! Winds foiled yesterday’s attempt to advance the migration, and they turned back; but today all eight took off with Richard and Joe. Cranes #3 and #4 were the only two who stuck with the aircraft the whole 67 miles to land in Winston County, Alabama! The others dropped out and had to be found and crated.

December 13, 2013: Migration Day 73 Today’s attempted flight (the second this week) brought over an hour of wrangling before they gave up and turned back to the Winston County, AL site at 703 total miles gone. The birds didn’t want to stay with the trikes in headwinds. “They understand that it is wiser to save your energy for days when the wind helps instead of hinders. And maybe that morning was a lesson the students taught the teachers,” wrote pilot Joe Duff. 

December 18, 2013: Migration Day 78 Champion fliers of the day were Cranes #3, #1, #4, and #9, who flew all 101 miles with Richard’s plane to Chilton County, AL. That’s 804 miles gone!

December 26, 2013: Migration Day 86 All eight cranes completed today’s double-leg flight, covering 110 miles to the final stop in Alabama. They’re now at 906 miles gone.

December 30, 2013: Migration Day 90 The THIRD double-leg flight in a row brought them 124 miles across Georgia in one day. All of the birds turned back when Richard started to climb, but they were rounded up for another try. Then crane #3 broke away from Richard and began to descend so Brooke dropped down to pick him up and escorted him the rest of the flight. As they climbed, ground speeds improved so much that at 3500 feet the pilots decided to skip for Decatur County. Florida is next!

December 31, 2013: Migration Day 91 A perfect flight with all eight birds brought them to Leon County, FLORIDA, with just 28 miles to the finish line. Happy New Year!

 

January 5, 2014: Migration Day 96 After a 96-day journey when they gained miles on just 18 of those days, the Class of 2013 landed Sunday, Jan. 5, at St. Marks NWR in Florida. All eight Whooping cranes will spend their first days in the temporarily top-netted section of the large winter release pen. Then they will be banded and released to live as wild, free cranes. A team member will watch over their first winter to be sure they are okay, and probably crane pals #4-12 and #5-12 will watch too. (See photo at right, where the two adult cranes stand guard upon the young cranes’ Florida arrival, just as they did upon their Wisconsin arrival last June!) 

January 16, 2014: Health checks and banding with permanent band colors went very smoothly. Handlers put a hood over the crane’s head so the workers wouldn’t be hampered by wearing their helmets to cover their faces. 

January 21, 2014: Freedom! No more top net! With the top net gone, the chicks can come and go at will from the safety of their enclosure, learning to live wild and free. Surprisingly, they have allowed sub-adult cranes #4-12 and #5-12 to stay with them in the pen, as long as the older birds let the younger ones be boss. They even let the older two roost at night with them on the oyster bar (a raised area built from a pile of oyster shells in the pen’s pond)! Last winter this pen was home to #4-12 and #5-12 as newly arrived migrants, and they must like being there… 

Spring 2014: First Unaided Spring Migration North 

March 31: After a few short flights, followed by trips to the feeders, #3 began calling a raucous pre-migratory call,” said Brooke. Then all eight young cranes left the pen site at St. Marks to begin their first journey north. They had a tailwind to push them along. Data gathered from the four cranes wearing PTT tracking units tells us they made at least one stop in Barbour County, Alabama and spent a couple of days there. By April 3, signals of the four PTT’d birds showed they had covered about 470 miles, reaching Daviess County, Kentucky. Storms and headwinds kept them grounded there for a week. Sadly, this is where the remains of young female crane #1-13 were found. Since only six cranes were ever seen together at this stop, it is believed it was soon after arriving that something happened to number #1-13, and that the other missing crane, #3-13, likely split off from the group before this stop. The other birds resumed migration north. When tracker Eva got a visual sighting of them on April 12, they had crossed into Wisconsin—but crane #3 still was not with the others.

On May 13 came sad news: The remains of #3-13 were located by the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife in the same field where #1-13 struck a powerline and died. He likely died shortly after arriving at this location on April 2.

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Crane 4-13

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 16, 2013
Legbands: Left: Double Red Right: green/white/red

Personality and Training: Crane chick #4-13 hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of parents #9-05 and #13-03, who learned the migration route from the ultralight plane just as this little chick will do. His sibling is Chick #1, who hatched from the same parents’ other rescued egg.

Socializing the birds is an important first step. By June 3, chicks #2-13 through #5-13 were all getting walked together without any trouble at all.  The team thinks these chicks seem like the best of buds.

Chick #4 continued good progress in “Ground School” in Maryland, learning to walk along and follow. He wasn’t afraid of the trike (aircraft), as he had heard the sound of its engine even when he was in his eggshell before hatching.

On July 9 the Class of 2013 arrived in Wisconsin for “Flight School” and #4 was ready! They practiced with the aircraft every day that weather was good. Crane #4 hopped, flapped, and skipped along with the others as the little aircraft drove down and back along the runway. Then it picked up speed. The birds were able to catch wind from the plane’s wing under their own wings and rise off the ground in their first flight attempts.

 

Learning to walk together is an important first lesson for the chicks. Crane #4-13 is easy to get along with and already has buddies.

By July 31 most of the birds were following the trike up and down the runway and the oldest three were good flyers. By August 7, all eight Whooping cranes in this year’s cohort were able to fly. While they hadn’t completed a circuit down and back over the training field yet, they were all flying and attempting to follow the aircraft.

In this photo taken July 28, 2013, crane #4-13 is almost ready to take off and fly! He should be airborne behind the aircraft in early August. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Fall 2013: Ultralight-Guided Migration South 

October 2, 2013: Migration Day 1! Clear skies, zero fog and light north winds brought perfect flight conditions and four cranes (not including Crane #4) flew the distance to Stopover #1. Cranes #2, #3, #4 and #5 didn’t cooperate in several attempts to follow Brooke’s aircraft. Finally those four had to be crated to finish the first leg of their migration by road. Will they do better on the next flight?

They’re OFF! The Class of 2013 launched their first southward migration just before 8:00 this morning. Clear skies, zero fog and light north winds brought perfect flight conditions. Four cranes landed at Stopover #1 with pilot Richard and four had to be crated to finish the trip by road. 

October 14, 2013: Migration Day 13! After 11 down days and an attempted flight Oct. 9, they finally got a great day to fly! All eight cranes came out of the pen, took off and covered the distance with lead pilot Brooke. Two flew off his left wing and six off his right: perfect, and a wonderful surprise! Crane #4, who was once the group’s ace flier until he got the bad habit of losing interest and turning back during practice, was back in the game.

Hooray! All eight cranes landed safely at Stopover #2 in Marquette County, Wisconsin today! After 11 days grounded by by less-than-good flying conditions, the cranes showed they love to fly. The migration broke the record for the longest period of time at the first stop, so celebration reigns with today’s successful 14-mile flight.

October 17, 2013: Migration Day 16 Another successful flight with all eight young Whooping cranes sticking with lead pilot Richard van Heuvelen for the entire 28 miles. The flight to Columbia County, WI lasted 42 minutes.

 October 22, 2013: Migration Day 21 Crane #4 was one of just two cranes to fly the 39 miles on today’s flight to Green County, Wisconsin! “The six others dropped out in three locations, causing a flurry of worry and activity. He sticks to the plane like Velcro,” said crew member Heather Ray. The other six dropouts were found, crated and driven. At the end of the day, all eight birds and the crew were safely at Stopover #4.

October 25, 2013: Migration Day 24 Crossing into Illinois! All eight cranes trailed off pilot Richard’s wing the whole way! Winds kept them grounded here for the next nine days.

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 The group of eight took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County. Crane #4 and six others stayed with Brooke’s aircraft for the entire 2-hour flight.

November 7, 2013: Migration Day 37 Flying 1 hour and 15 minutes, all eight cranes followed Richard for the entire 55-mile flight to Livingston County, Illinois.

November 8, 2013: Migration Day 38 Another 59 miles gained! They’re in Piatt County, Illinois.

November 13, 2013: Migration Day 43 Onward to Cumberland County, Illinois. Pilot Richard reported: “We reached 3,500 feet above sea level with a ground speed of about 31 mph. By the time we touched down we’d been in the air just over two hours. A long time up there to cover 56 air miles.”

November 18, 2013: Migration Day 48 Pilot Brooke led them right over the Wayne County, Illinois stopover—and onward to Kentucky! Flying up to 50 mph, today’s flight added 108 miles!

November 19, 2013: Migration Day 49 Hoo-wee! They got another double-leg flight today with good tailwinds and made it to Tennessee! Miles gained today: 63 + 53 + 116

November 29, 2013: Migration Day 59 It was finally a fly day, but a challenging flight to Hardin County, TN. Today the birds were in two groups with two pilots but all 7 fliers and one crated dropout bird ended up safely at the new stopover with 67 more miles gained. Their reward was a lovely stream one foot deep and 60-degree temperatures for bathing and splashing after the flight. Total miles now: 636. Last stop in Tennessee! 

December 12, 2013: Migration Day 72 Finally some progress! Winds foiled yesterday’s attempt to advance the migration, and they turned back; but today all eight took off with Richard and Joe. Cranes #4 and #3 were the only two who stuck with the aircraft the whole 67 miles to land in Winston County, Alabama! The others dropped out and had to be found and crated.

December 13, 2013: Migration Day 73 Today’s attempted flight (the second this week) brought over an hour of wrangling before they gave up and turned back to the Winston County, AL site at 703 total miles gone. The birds didn’t want to stay with the trikes in headwinds. “They understand that it is wiser to save your energy for days when the wind helps instead of hinders. And maybe that morning was a lesson the students taught the teachers,” wrote pilot Joe Duff. 

December 18, 2013: Migration Day 78 Champion fliers of the day were Cranes #4, #3, #1, and #9, who flew all 101 miles with Richard’s plane to Chilton County, AL. That’s 804 miles gone!

December 26, 2013: Migration Day 86 All eight cranes completed today’s double-leg flight, covering 110 miles to the final stop in Alabama. They’re now at 906 miles gone.

December 30, 2013: Migration Day 90 The THIRD double-leg flight in a row brought them 124 miles across Georgia in one day. All of the birds turned back when Richard started to climb, but they were rounded up for another try. As they climbed, ground speeds improved so much that at 3500 feet the pilots decided to skip for Decatur County. Florida is next!

December 31, 2013: Migration Day 91 A perfect flight with all eight birds brought them to Leon County, FLORIDA, with just 28 miles to the finish line. Happy New Year!

January 5, 2014: Migration Day 96 After a 96-day journey when they gained miles on just 18 of those days, the Class of 2013 landed Sunday, Jan. 5, at St. Marks NWR in Florida. All eight Whooping cranes will spend their first days in the temporarily top-netted section of the large winter release pen. Then they will be banded and released to live as wild, free cranes. A team member will watch over their first winter to be sure they are okay, and probably crane pals #4-12 and #5-12 will watch too.

January 16, 2014: Health checks and banding with permanent band colors went very smoothly. Handlers put a hood over the crane’s head so the workers wouldn’t be hampered by wearing their helmets to cover their faces. 

January 21, 2014: Freedom! No more top net! With the top net gone, the chicks can come and go at will from the safety of their enclosure, learning to live wild and free. Surprisingly, they have allowed sub-adult cranes #4-12 and #5-12 to stay with them in the pen, as long as the older birds let the younger ones be boss. They even let the older two roost at night with them on the oyster bar (a raised area built from a pile of oyster shells in the pen’s pond)! Last winter this pen was home to #4-12 and #5-12 as newly arrived migrants, and they must like being there… 

February 26, 2014: Male #4-13 shows his moves to the costume during one of the pen checks this winter. He is now nine months old and nearly to his adult height of five feet.

Spring 2014: First Unaided Spring Migration North

March 31: All eight young cranes left the pen site at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge this morning with a tailwind to push them along. Data gathered from the four cranes wearing PTT tracking units tells us they made at least one stop in Barbour County, Alabama and spent a couple of days there. By April 3, signals of the four PTT’d birds showed they had covered about 470 miles, reaching Daviess County, Kentucky. Storms and headwinds kept them grounded there for a week. Sadly, this is where the remains of young female crane #1-13 were found. Since only six cranes were ever seen together at this stop, it is believed it was soon after arriving that something happened to #1-13, and that the other missing crane, #3-13, likely split off from the group before this stop. 

The 6 birds (cranes #2-13, #4-13, #5-13, #7-13, #8-13 and #9-13) continued migration when the weather finally allowed them to leave. The group apparently spent two days in McHenry County, Illinois. On April 12 they made a short hop into Wisconsin’s Walworth County, where a spring snow storm and winds kept them grounded for another 5 days. April 18 PTT data placed #2-13 approximately 10 miles north of Berlin, WI — likely to roost— and on April 19, the six young cranes (#2, #4, #5, #7, #8 and #9) arrived right back on their training strip at White River Marsh, Wisconsin, migration complete!

Local resident Lois Ballard, managed to photograph the cranes on the runway at the White River Marsh training site.

The roost locations used by the cranes wearing PTT devices shows that, while they didn’t follow the exact migration route used by the aircraft that led them south last fall, they surely were close for the entire way. Hooray!

The group of six stayed together in Green Lake County, WI for several days. Then #7-13 and #8-13 broke off on their own, spending time in Dodge County, WI., leaving #2, #4, #5 and #9 at White River Marsh in Green Lake County. This little group wandered in nearby counties during the summer, in typical behavior for yearling sub-adults and were in Fond du Lac County in July.

Fall 2014: Cranes #2-13, #4-13, #5-13, #7-13 and #8-13 began migration from Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin on 13 November. Satellite readings indicated roost locations in Iroquois County, Illinois, on 13 November; Wabash County, Illinois, on 14 November; northern Alabama on 17 November and Decatur County, Georgia, on 18 November where they remained until arriving at the St. Marks NWR in Wakulla County, Florida on November 21 for the winter. By mid January, cranes #2, #5, and #7 had all died, and #4-13 started to hang out with this year’s (Class of 2014) chicks and crane #4-12 at the pen site. He was still there as of March 4, 2015.

Spring 2015: Crane #4-13 was photographed preening his feathers in Florida in March before spring migration.

He departed from St. Marks NWR on March 11 with pal #4-12 and young female #7-14 from the Class of 2014! The three cranes were tracked the next day to a cornfield in Decatur County, Georgia—on their way! It’s uncertain if he remained with the other two all the way, but he was seen with #7-14 (who was back in Marquette County, Wisconsin on March 28) during a tracking flight on March 31 —so he made it back home, too! HOORAY!

He and young #7-14 had been visiting various wetlands in central Wisconsin since their late March return. He was still with juvenile #7-14, in mid May.

Fall 2015: Crane #4-13 migrated successfully to St. Marks NWR in Florida, and guided female subadult #7-14 on the southward migration so she now knows the entire route. Well done!

Spring 2016: Crane #4-13, still with #7-14, departed St. Marks NWR March 22 and arrived home in Marquette County, Wisconsin on March 28. They later moved to White River Marsh (the training marsh for their first migration south with aircraft leaders) in Green Lake County, WI. In June the pair moved back to their Marquette County territory.  

Fall 2016: In September, two of the 2016 Parent Reared (PR) whooper chicks were released near adults #4-13 and #7-14 in hopes this pair would adopt the youngsters before fall migration. Things looked promising, at least until September 30 when #4-13 drove off male #5-12 and stole his mate (#8-14). It was a surprise to everyone after the interest and care shown to the two PR colts by male #4-13 and his previous mate 7-14, but this behavior indicated that something had happened to female #7-14 even though no carcass had yet been found.

In November, male #4-13 was still with his new mate, female #8-14, in Green Lake County, Wisconsin.

On Nov. 6, young PR#30-16 joined#4-13 and #8-14 to say hello and take a flight with them, but later went back to roost with his alloparents, the other resident pair in White River Marsh.

The new pair was still in Green Lake County, WI on Nov. 18.

On November 25, new pair #4-13 and female #8-14 were confirmed on the wintering grounds at St. Marks NWR in Florida! Along with them, single males #5-12 and #4-14 (Peanut) are spending time in and around the winter release pen on the refuge in Wakulla County, FL.

Spring 2017: Began northward migration on March 6 from St. Marks NWR. His newest mate #8-14 was found dead March 26 at one of their first migration stops, and male #4-13 was back at White River Marsh in Wisconsin by April 1. This was the second mate he has lost.

Soon #4-13 was with another new female, after successfully wooing #10-15 from her mate #11-15.


Crane #5-13

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 16, 2013
Legbands: Left: green/red/white Right: red

Personality and Training: Crane chick #5-13 hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of parents #9-03 and #3-04, who learned the migration route from the ultralight plane just as this little chick will do. Like all the Class of 2013, he hatched at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. His sibling is Chick #2-13, who hatched from the same pair’s other rescued egg.

The most remarkable thing about #5 during his early life was his attachment to “daddy”/trainer/pilot Brooke (see caption story).

Crane chick #5 is one month old. Compare to his baby picture to see how he’s grown!

Socializing the birds is the first step at Patuxent WRC. By June 3, chicks #2-13 through #5-13 were all getting walked together without any trouble at all. These chicks seem like the best of buds!

Everyone soon knew their place in the pecking order: Everyone was beneath #1-13!

On July 9 the Class of 2013 was transported to Wisconsin for #Flight School.” Chick #5 was a willing student and obediently followed the aircraft. He wasn’t spooked at all when the wing was added to the familiar tiny yellow flying machine.

Crane chick #5 checks out the water pan on July 9. In the next few seconds he was standing in the pan, cooling off! This was the day the Class of 2013 arrived at their new summer home in Wisconsin.

Look at Chick #5’s strong wings! This photo was taken on July 14 and it looks like he’s quickly learning how to use those wings. Soon he will be flying low to the ground (catching air off the aircraft’s wing). In a few weeks he will be capable of lifting off to be airborne!

By July 31 chick #5 was close to being able to take off and fly, while chicks #3, #2 and #1 were already flying. The chicks are all close in age, so everyone will be flying in early August. Sure enough, by August 7, all eight Whooping cranes in this year’s cohort were able to fly. While they hadn’t completed a circuit down and back over the training field yet, they were all flying and attempting to follow the aircraft.

Fall 2013: Ultralight-Guided Migration South

October 2, 2013: Migration Day 1! Clear skies, zero fog and light north winds brought perfect flight conditions but Crane #5 was a mischief maker. After a couple minutes of flight, #5 and four of the other cranes turned back and landed at the pen. Pilot Brooke told Richard to carry on to the first stopover with the four flying birds as Brooke zoomed in for another try. No matter where Brooke led them to, #5 not only decided to turn back but he also convinced the other four to join him. Then Brook even put #5-13 in the pen and tried taking off with just the three. Finally, cranes #5, #4, #3 and #2 were crated and driven to Stopover #1 to join the flying four. Will #5 do better next time?

October 14, 2013: Migration Day 13! After 11 down days and an attempted flight Oct. 9, they finally got a great day to fly! All eight cranes came out of the pen, took off and covered the distance with lead pilot Brooke. Two flew off his left wing and six off his right: perfect, and a wonderful surprise! Crane #5, who always turned back as soon as he was out of his comfort zone, flew like an ace! Go #5!

October 17, 2013: Migration Day 16 Another successful flight with all eight young Whooping cranes sticking with lead pilot Richard van Heuvelen for the entire 28 miles. The flight to Columbia County, WI lasted 42 minutes.

October 22, 2013: Migration Day 21 Crane #5 was among the six others that dropped out and had to be captured, crated and driven to stopover #4 on today’s turbulent flight. They are now all safely at the Green County, Wisconsin stopover site.

October 25, 2013: Migration Day 24 Crossing into Illinois! All eight cranes trailed off pilot Richard’s wing the whole way! Winds kept them grounded here for the next nine days.

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 The group of eight took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County. Crane #5 and six others stayed with Brooke’s aircraft for the entire 2-hour flight.

November 7, 2013: Migration Day 37 Flying 1 hour and 15 minutes, all eight cranes followed Richard for the entire 55-mile flight to Livingston County, Illinois.

November 8, 2013: Migration Day 38 Another 59 miles gained! They’re in Piatt County, Illinois.

November 13, 2013: Migration Day 43 Onward to Cumberland County, Illinois. Pilot Richard reported: “We reached 3,500 feet above sea level with a ground speed of about 31 mph. By the time we touched down we’d been in the air just over two hours. A long time up there to cover 56 air miles.”

November 18, 2013: Migration Day 48 Pilot Brooke led them right over the Wayne County, Illinois stopover—and onward to Kentucky! Flying up to 50 mph, today’s flight added 108 miles!

November 19, 2013: Migration Day 49 Hoo-wee! They got another double-leg flight today with good tailwinds and made it to Tennessee! Miles gained today: 63 + 53 + 116

November 29, 2013: Migration Day 59 It was finally a fly day, but a challenging flight to Hardin County, TN. Today the birds were in two groups with two pilots but all 7 fliers and one crated dropout bird ended up safely at the new stopover with 67 more miles gained. Their reward was a lovely stream one foot deep and 60-degree temperatures for bathing and splashing after the flight. Total miles now: 636. Last stop in Tennessee! 

December 12, 2013: Migration Day 72 Finally some progress! Winds foiled yesterday’s attempt to advance the migration, and they turned back; but today all eight took off with Richard and Joe! Cranes #4 and #3 were the only two who stuck with the aircraft the whole 67 miles to land in Winston County, Alabama! Crane #5 and the others dropped out and had to be found and crated to the new location. Too many days penned in Hardin County!

December 13, 2013: Migration Day 73 Today’s attempted flight (the second this week) brought over an hour of wrangling before they gave up and turned back to the Winston County, AL site at 703 total miles gone. Crane #5 was the first dropout, but none of the birds wanted to stay with the trikes in headwinds. “They understand that it is wiser to save your energy for days when the wind helps instead of hinders. And maybe that morning was a lesson the students taught the teachers,” wrote pilot Joe Duff. 

December 18, 2013: Migration Day 78 Crane #5 again lagged in the pen and missed the takeoff. He joined up with one of Brooke’s many passes over the pen but he and #2-13, #7-13 and #8-13 had to eventually be crated and driven not one, but TWO stopovers to join today’s champion fliers 101 miles distant at Chilton County, AL. 804 miles gone!

December 26, 2013: Migration Day 86 Crane #5 dawdled in the pen while the other seven blasted out to follow the aircraft, but he soon caught up when frightened by Swamp Monster! All eight cranes completed today’s double-leg flight, covering 110 miles to the final stop in Alabama. They’re now at 906 miles gone.

December 30, 2013: Migration Day 90 All of the birds turned back when Richard started to climb, but they were rounded up for another try. The THIRD double-leg flight in a row brought them 124 miles across Georgia in one day. They’re in Decatur County and will cross into Florida next!

December 31, 2013: Migration Day 91 A perfect flight with all eight birds brought them to Leon County, FLORIDA, with just 28 miles to the finish line. Happy New Year!

January 5, 2014: Migration Day 96 After a 96-day journey when they gained miles on just 18 of those days, the Class of 2013 landed Sunday, Jan. 5, at St. Marks NWR in Florida. All eight Whooping cranes will spend their first days in the temporarily top-netted section of the large winter release pen. Then they will be banded and released to live as wild, free cranes. A team member will watch over their first winter to be sure they are okay, and probably crane pals #4-12 and #5-12 will watch too. 

January 16, 2014: Health checks and banding with permanent band colors went very smoothly. 

January 21, 2014: Freedom! No more top net! With the top net gone, the chicks can come and go at will from the safety of their enclosure, learning to live wild and free. Surprisingly, they have allowed sub-adult cranes #4-12 and #5-12 to stay with them in the pen, as long as the older birds let the younger ones be boss. They even let the older two roost at night with them on the oyster bar (a raised area built from a pile of oyster shells in the pen’s pond)! Last winter this pen was home to #4-12 and #5-12 as newly arrived migrants, and they must like being there… 

Spring 2014: First Unaided Spring Migration North

March 31: All eight young cranes left the pen site at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge this morning with a tailwind to push them along. Data gathered from the four cranes wearing PTT tracking units tells us they made at least one stop in Barbour County, Alabama and spent a couple of days there. By April 3, signals of the four PTT’d birds showed they had covered about 470 miles, reaching Daviess County, Kentucky. Storms and headwinds kept them grounded there for a week. Sadly, this is where the remains of young female crane #1-13 were found. Since only six cranes were ever seen together at this stop, it is believed it was soon after arriving that something happened to number #1-13, and that the other missing crane, #3-13, likely split off from the group before this stop.  

The 6 birds (cranes #2-13, #4-13, #5-13, #7-13, #8-13 and #9-13) continued migration when the weather finally allowed them to leave. The group apparently spent two days in McHenry County, Illinois. On April 12 they made a short hop into Wisconsin’s Walworth County, where a spring snow storm and winds kept them grounded for another 5 days. April 18 PTT data placed #2-13 approximately 10 miles north of Berlin, WI — likely to roost— and on April 19, the six young cranes (#2, #4, #5, #7, #8 and #9) arrived right back on their training strip at White River Marsh, Wisconsin, migration complete!

The roost locations used by the cranes wearing PTT devices shows that, while they didn’t follow the exact migration route used by the aircraft that led them south last fall, they surely were close for the entire way. Hooray! 

The group of six stayed together in Green Lake County, WI for several days. Then #7-13 and #8-13 broke off on their own, spending time in Dodge County, WI., leaving #2, #4, #5 and #9 at White River Marsh in Green Lake County. This little group wandered in nearby counties during the summer, in typical behavior for yearling sub-adults and were in Fond du Lac County in July.

Fall 2014: Cranes #5-13, #4-13, #2-13, #7-13 and #8-13 were sighted in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin on Oct. 22. They successfully completed their first unassisted migration south to Florida’s St. Marks NWR. Then, #5-13 disappeared on or near the refuge on Thanksgiving night. He was suspected dead. Efforts to locate him ended when OM pilot Brooke found his remains January 1st, 2015, on St. Marks NWR.

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Crane #7-13

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 17, 2013
Legbands: Left: red Right: white/green/red

Personality and Training: Crane chick #7-13 hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of parents #16-02 and #16-07, who learned the migration route from the ultralight plane just as this little chick will do. His sibling is Chick #8, who hatched from the same pair’s other rescued egg.

Soon the chicks were learning to follow their costumed “parent” and the crane puppet, and going for walks outside. They started to walk in a circle pen with the tiny yellow aircraft that will lead them on migration in just five months.

As the chicks got old enough to go outside to Patuxent’s pens with ponds, they acted scared at first.  But #7-13, followed by the others, learned to love these pens after discovering the ponds inside. The handlers loved watching #7-13 take a bath and “shoot around the pond like a torpedo.” The other birds learned to love these ponds more as they foraged around, played in the pond or slept next to “cageman”—a dummy wearing a costume to comfort the chicks when the handlers weren’t there. 

On July 9, the chicks were transported to Wisconsin for “Flight School.” Crane #7-13 didn’t step out of his traveling box right away, but soon made himself at home. Every summer for the rest of his life he will return to this area of Wisconsin, where he will first fly.

Crane chick #7 looks around before stepping out of his shipping box. Each chick was transported to Wisconsin in its own box. They were flown by charter airplane on July 9 from Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland.

Chick #7-13 did well with his training with the aircraft. He came out of the pen and followed along behind the little aircraft as it passed the pen, bumping down the grassy runway and urging the chicks to run behind. In a few weeks they will be able to get airborne and follow the plane.

During training July 25, chick #7-13 lagged behind at the pen. Then he slowly wandered up the runway. When about halfway up he ran — flapping his wings in an attempt to fly and joined the first six that were following the trike. Training went smoothly thereafter with the seven birds. (Now able to fly, wayward crane #1-13 had flown off to land in the marsh by herself.)

Crane #7-13 should be flying within a few days, predicted Richard at the end of July. Crane #7-13 is determined! Sure enough, by August 7, all eight Whooping cranes in this year’s cohort were able to fly. While they hadn’t completed a circuit down and back over the training field yet, they were all flying and attempting to follow the aircraft.

Crane #7-13 became a good, strong flyer during August. He’ll be ready for migration departure! Photo: Wendy Chapman

Fall 2013: Ultralight-Guided Migration South

October 2, 2013: Migration Day 1! Clear skies, zero fog and light north winds brought perfect flight conditions. Crane #7-13 landed at Stopover #1 with pilot Richard and cranes #1-13, #8-13 and #9-13, but the other four had to be crated to finish the trip by road.

October 14, 2013: Migration Day 13! After 11 down days and an attempted flight Oct. 9, they finally got a great day to fly! All eight cranes came out of the pen, took off and covered the distance with lead pilot Brooke. Crane #7-13, an ace flier who had started turning back during training sessions when #5-13 did, was fully in the game and showed he’s still got it!

October 17, 2013: Migration Day 16 Another successful flight with all eight young Whooping cranes sticking with lead pilot Richard van Heuvelen for the entire 28 miles. The flight to Columbia County, WI lasted 42 minutes.

October 22, 2013: Migration Day 21 Crane #7-13 was among the six others that dropped out and had to be captured, crated and driven to stopover #4 on today’s turbulent flight. They are now all safely at the Green County, Wisconsin stopover site.

October 25, 2013: Migration Day 24 Crossing into Illinois! All eight cranes trailed off pilot Richard’s wing the whole way! Winds kept them grounded here for the next nine days.

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 The group of eight took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County. Crane #7-13 and six others stayed with Brooke’s aircraft for the entire 2-hour flight.

November 7, 2013: Migration Day 37 Flying 1 hour and 15 minutes, all eight cranes followed Richard for the entire 55-mile flight to Livingston County, Illinois.

November 8, 2013: Migration Day 38 Another 59 miles gained! They’re in Piatt County, Illinois.

November 13, 2013: Migration Day 43 Onward to Cumberland County, Illinois. Pilot Richard reported: “We reached 3,500 feet above sea level with a ground speed of about 31 mph. By the time we touched down we’d been in the air just over two hours. A long time up there to cover 56 air miles.”

November 18, 2013: Migration Day 48 Pilot Brooke led them right over the Wayne County, Illinois stopover—and onward to Kentucky! Flying up to 50 mph, today’s flight added 108 miles!

November 19, 2013: Migration Day 49 Hoo-wee! They got another double-leg flight today with good tailwinds and made it to Tennessee! Miles gained today: 63 + 53 + 116

November 29, 2013: Migration Day 59 It was finally a fly day, but a challenging flight to Hardin County, TN. Today the birds were in two groups with two pilots but all 7 fliers and one crated dropout bird ended up safely at the new stopover with 67 more miles gained. Their reward was a lovely stream one foot deep and 60-degree temperatures for bathing and splashing after the flight. Total miles now: 636. Last stop in Tennessee!

December 12, 2013: Migration Day 72 Finally some progress! Winds foiled yesterday’s attempt to advance the migration, and they turned back; but today all eight took off with Richard and Joe! Cranes #4-13 and #3-13 were the only two who stuck with the aircraft the whole 67 miles to land in Winston County, Alabama! Crane #7-13 and the others dropped out and had to be found and crated to the new location. Too many days penned in Hardin County!

December 13, 2013: Migration Day 73 Today’s attempted flight (the second this week) brought over an hour of wrangling before they gave up and turned back to the Winston County, AL site at 703 total miles gone. The birds didn’t want to stay with the trikes in headwinds. “They understand that it is wiser to save your energy for days when the wind helps instead of hinders. And maybe that morning was a lesson the students taught the teachers,” wrote pilot Joe Duff.

December 18, 2013: Migration Day 78 After several attempts to get four reluctant birds to fly, the team had to crate and drive #2-13, #5-13, #7-13 and #8-13 the 101 miles flown by the other four cranes. The migration reached Chilton County, AL and 804 miles gone!

December 26, 2013: Migration Day 86 All eight cranes completed today’s double-leg flight, covering 110 miles to the final stop in Alabama. They’re now at 906 miles gone.

December 30, 2013: Migration Day 90 All of the birds turned back when Richard started to climb, but they were rounded up for another try. The THIRD double-leg flight in a row brought them 124 miles across Georgia in one day. They’re in Decatur County and will cross into Florida next!

December 31, 2013: Migration Day 91 A perfect flight with all eight birds brought them to Leon County, FLORIDA, with just 28 miles to the finish line. And after a while crane #7-13 slid directly in front of pilot Brooke, so close he could almost reach out and touch his tail as the bird’s wings flapped in the warm air and his head looked side to side for acknowledgement.  “Yes, #7-13.  You’re very special. Now get your butt back in line with the others,” said Brooke. Happy New Year, with one more flight to the finish line!

January 5, 2014: Migration Day 96 After a 96-day journey when they gained miles on just 18 of those days, the Class of 2013 landed Sunday, Jan. 5, at St. Marks NWR in Florida. All eight Whooping cranes will spend their first days in the temporarily top-netted section of the large winter release pen. Then they will be banded and released to live as wild, free cranes. A team member will watch over their first winter to be sure they are okay, and probably crane pals #4-12 and #5-12 will watch too. 

January 16, 2014: Health checks and banding with permanent band colors went very smoothly. Handlers put a hood over the crane’s head so the workers wouldn’t be hampered by wearing their helmets to cover their faces.

January 21, 2014: Freedom! No more top net! With the top net gone, the chicks can come and go at will from the safety of their enclosure, learning to live wild and free. Surprisingly, they have allowed sub-adult cranes #4-12 and #5-12 to stay with them in the pen, as long as the older birds let the younger ones be boss. They even let the older two roost at night with them on the oyster bar (a raised area built from a pile of oyster shells in the pen’s pond)! Last winter this pen was home to #4-12 and #5-12 as newly arrived migrants, and they must like being there…

Spring 2014: First Unaided Spring Migration North

March 31: All eight young cranes left the pen site at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge this morning with a tailwind to push them along. Data gathered from the four cranes wearing PTT tracking units tells us they made at least one stop in Barbour County, Alabama and spent a couple of days there. By April 3, signals of the four PTT’d birds showed they had covered about 470 miles, reaching Daviess County, Kentucky. Storms and headwinds kept them grounded there for a week. Sadly, this is where the remains of young female crane #1-13 were found. Since only six cranes were ever seen together at this stop, it is believed it was soon after arriving that something happened to number #1-13, and that the other missing crane, #3-13, likely split off from the group before this stop.

The 6 birds (cranes #2-13, #4-13, #5-13, #7-13, #8-13 and #9-13) continued migration when the weather finally allowed them to leave. The group apparently spent two days in McHenry County, Illinois. On April 12 they made a short hop into Wisconsin’s Walworth County, where a spring snow storm and winds kept them grounded for another 5 days. April 18 PTT data placed #2-13 approximately 10 miles north of Berlin, WI — likely to roost— and on April 19, the six young cranes (#2-13, #4-13, #5-13, #7-13, #8-13 and #9-13) arrived right back on their training strip at White River Marsh, Wisconsin, migration complete!

The roost locations used by the cranes wearing PTT devices shows that, while they didn’t follow the exact migration route used by the aircraft that led them south last fall, they surely were close for the entire way. Hooray!

The group of six stayed together in Green Lake County, WI for several days. Then #7-13 and #8-13 broke off on their own, spending time in Dodge County, WI and leaving #2-13, #4-13, #5-13 and #9-13 at White River Marsh in Green Lake County. Cranes #7-13 and #8-13 moved to Horicon NWR in Dodge County.

Fall 2014: Cranes #2-13, #4-13, #5-13, #7-13 and #8-13 began migration from Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin on 13 November. Satellite readings indicated roost locations in Iroquois County, Illinois, on 13 November; Wabash County, Illinois, on 14 November; northern Alabama on 17 November and Decatur County, Georgia, on 18 November where they remained until arriving at the St. Marks NWR in Wakulla County, Florida on November 21 for the winter. (Crane #5-13 died soon after.)

It was a sad day in mid January 2015 when Brooke found the remains of #7-13 and #2-13, likely killed by a predator(s). Brooke had tracked the transmitters of #7-13 and #2-13 into a wetland a few miles north of St Marks into mixed habitat—not a great place for cranes due to the presence of bobcats. The remains of both cranes had been scavenged and likely dragged into the woods. They were a mile apart when found.

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Crane #8-13

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 18, 2013
Legbands: Left: red Right: green/white

Personality and Training: Crane chick #8-13 hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of parents #16-02 and #16-07, who learned the migration route from the ultralight plane just as she will do. Her sibling is Chick #7-13, who hatched from the same pair’s other rescued egg.

Soon the chicks were learning to follow their costumed “parent” and the crane puppet. They began going for walks outside. Next, they started to walk in a circle pen with the tiny yellow aircraft that will lead them on migration in just five months.

Soon the chicks got old enough to go outside to Patuxent’s pens with ponds. Crane #8-13 soon learned to take a bath and love foraging for food in these ponds.

On July 9, the chicks were transported to Wisconsin for “Flight School.” Crane #8-13 seemed right at home. Every summer for the rest of her life, she will return to this area of Wisconsin, where she will learn to fly and the landscape from up high.

During summer training crane #8-13 made steady progress and showing good loyalty to the plane and the costume. She shows every sign of becoming a reliable flier when migration comes.


Fall 2013: Ultralight-Guided Migration South

October 2, 2013: Migration Day 1! Clear skies, zero fog and light north winds brought perfect flight conditions. Crane #8-13 flew the distance along with cranes #1-13, #7-13 and #9-13, and landed at Stopover #1 with pilot Richard. The other four didn’t want to follow today. After several failed tries, they had to be crated to finish the trip by road.

October 14, 2013: Migration Day 13! After 11 down days and an attempted flight Oct. 9, they finally got a great day to fly! All eight cranes came out of the pen, took off and covered the distance with lead pilot Brooke. Two flew off his left wing and six off his right: perfect, and a wonderful surprise! Crane #8-13 continued her great role modeling, sticking with the pilot and the program as always.

October 17, 2013: Migration Day 16 Another successful flight with all eight young Whooping cranes sticking with lead pilot Richard van Heuvelen for the entire 28 miles. The flight to Columbia County, WI lasted 42 minutes.

October 22, 2013: Migration Day 21 Crane #8-13 was among the six others that dropped out and had to be captured, crated and driven to stopover #4 on today’s turbulent flight. They are now all safely at the Green County, Wisconsin stopover site.

October 25, 2013: Migration Day 24 Crossing into Illinois! All eight cranes trailed off pilot Richard’s wing the whole way! Winds kept them grounded here for the next nine days.

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 The group of eight took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County. Crane #8-13 and six others stayed with Brooke’s aircraft for the entire 2-hour flight.

November 7, 2013: Migration Day 37 Flying 1 hour and 15 minutes, all eight cranes followed Richard for the entire 55-mile flight to Livingston County, Illinois.

November 8, 2013: Migration Day 38 Another 59 miles gained! They’re in Piatt County, Illinois.

November 13, 2013: Migration Day 43 Onward to Cumberland County, Illinois. Pilot Richard reported: “We reached 3,500 feet above sea level with a ground speed of about 31 mph. By the time we touched down we’d been in the air just over two hours. A long time up there to cover 56 air miles.”

November 18, 2013: Migration Day 48 Pilot Brooke led them right over the Wayne County, Illinois stopover—and onward to Kentucky! Flying up to 50 mph, today’s flight added 108 miles!

November 19, 2013: Migration Day 49 Hoo-wee! They got another double-leg flight today with good tailwinds and made it to Tennessee! Miles gained today: 63 + 53 + 116

November 29, 2013: Migration Day 59 It was finally a fly day, but a challenging flight to Hardin County, TN. Today the birds were in two groups with two pilots but all 7 fliers and one crated dropout bird ended up safely at the new stopover with 67 more miles gained. Their reward was a lovely stream one foot deep and 60-degree temperatures for bathing and splashing after the flight. Total miles now: 636. Last stop in Tennessee!

December 12, 2013: Migration Day 72 Finally some progress! Winds foiled yesterday’s attempt to advance the migration, and they turned back; but today all eight took off with Richard and Joe! Cranes #4-13 and #3-13 were the only two who stuck with the aircraft the whole 67 miles to land in Winston County, Alabama! Crane #8-13 and the others dropped out and had to be found and crated to the new location. Too many days penned in Hardin County!

December 13, 2013: Migration Day 73 Today’s attempted flight (the second this week) brought over an hour of wrangling before they gave up and turned back to the Winston County, AL site at 703 total miles gone. The birds didn’t want to stay with the trikes in headwinds. “They understand that it is wiser to save your energy for days when the wind helps instead of hinders. And maybe that morning was a lesson the students taught the teachers,” wrote pilot Joe Duff.

December 18, 2013: Migration Day 78 After several attempts to get four reluctant birds to fly, the team had to crate and drive #2-13, #5-13, #7-13 and #8-13 the 101 miles flown by the other four cranes. The migration reached Chilton County, AL and 804 miles gone!

December 26, 2013: Migration Day 86 All eight cranes completed today’s double-leg flight, covering 110 miles to the final stop in Alabama. They’re now at 906 miles gone.

December 30, 2013: Migration Day 90 All of the birds turned back when Richard started to climb, but they were rounded up for another try. The THIRD double-leg flight in a row brought them 124 miles across Georgia in one day. They’re in Decatur County and will cross into Florida next!

December 31, 2013: Migration Day 91 A perfect flight with all eight birds brought them to Leon County, FLORIDA, with just 28 miles to the finish line. Happy New Year!

January 5, 2014: Migration Day 96 After a 96-day journey when they gained miles on just 18 of those days, the Class of 2013 landed Sunday, Jan. 5, at St. Marks NWR in Florida. All eight Whooping cranes will spend their first days in the temporarily top-netted section of the large winter release pen. Then they will be banded and released to live as wild, free cranes. A team member will watch over their first winter to be sure they are okay, and probably crane pals #4-12 and #5-12 will watch too. 

January 16, 2014: Health checks and banding with permanent band colors went very smoothly. Handlers put a hood over the crane’s head so the workers wouldn’t be hampered by wearing their helmets to cover their faces.

January 21, 2014: Freedom! No more top net! With the top net gone, the chicks can come and go at will from the safety of their enclosure, learning to live wild and free. Surprisingly, they have allowed sub-adult cranes #4-12 and #5-12 to stay with them in the pen, as long as the older birds let the younger ones be boss. They even let the older two roost at night with them on the oyster bar (a raised area built from a pile of oyster shells in the pen’s pond)! Last winter this pen was home to #4-12 and #5-12 as newly arrived migrants, and #8-13 is keeping a eye on them!

Spring 2014: First Unaided Spring Migration North

March 31: All eight young cranes left the pen site at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge this morning with a tailwind to push them along. Data gathered from the four cranes wearing PTT tracking units tells us they made at least one stop in Barbour County, Alabama and spent a couple of days there. By April 3, signals of the four PTT’d birds showed they had covered about 470 miles, reaching Daviess County, Kentucky. Storms and headwinds kept them grounded there for a week. Sadly, this is where the remains of young female crane #1-13 were found. Since only six cranes were ever seen together at this stop, it is believed it was soon after arriving that something happened to #1-13, and that the other missing crane, #3-13, likely split off from the group before this stop.

The 6 birds (cranes #2-13, #4-13, #5-13, #7-13, #8-13 and #9-13) continued migration when the weather finally allowed them to leave. The group apparently spent two days in McHenry County, Illinois. On April 12 they made a short hop into Wisconsin’s Walworth County, where a spring snow storm and winds kept them grounded for another 5 days. April 18 PTT data placed #2-13 approximately 10 miles north of Berlin, WI — likely to roost— and on April 19, the six young cranes (#2-13, #4-13, #5-13, #7-13, #8-13 and #9-13) arrived right back on their training strip at White River Marsh, Wisconsin, migration complete!

The roost locations used by the cranes wearing PTT devices shows that, while they didn’t follow the exact migration route used by the aircraft that led them south last fall, they surely were close for the entire way. Hooray!

The group of six stayed together in Green Lake County, WI for several days. Then #7-13 and #8-13 broke off on their own, spending time in Dodge County, WI and leaving #2-13, #4-13, #5-13 and #9-13 at White River Marsh in Green Lake County. Cranes #7-13 and #8-13 moved to Horicon NWR in Dodge County.

Fall 2014: Cranes #2-13, #4-13, #5-13, #7-13 and #8-13 began migration from Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin on 13 November. Satellite readings indicated roost locations in Iroquois County, Illinois, on 13 November; Wabash County, Illinois, on 14 November; northern Alabama on 17 November and Decatur County, Georgia, on 18 November where they remained until arriving at the St. Marks NWR, in Wakulla County, Florida on November 21 for the winter. (Crane #5-13 died soon after.)

January 5, 2015: In sad news, #8-13 was found limping badly on January 5, 2015 at the pen where the Class of 2014 had arrived a few weeks earlier. The crew had just arrived for banding the young chicks when they saw that #8-13’s leg was broken. They rushed her to the local veterinarian. Nothing could be done to help such a severe break, and she had to be euthanized.

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Crane #9-13

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 19, 2013
Legbands: Left: red/white Right: green

Personality and Training: Crane chick #9-13 was hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of the Wisconsin pair #24-08 and #14-08. Like all the Class of 2013, he hatched at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. He became part of the cohort when chick #6 got sick and had to be replaced. The first few weeks the team worried that #9 had aggression issues. He kept pecking at his puppet so hard it had to be taken away. The team was relieved when #9-13 began walking with the other chicks. Chick #9 turned out okay after all.

It didn’t take long for all the chicks to learn their place in the pecking order: All of them were beneath #1-13! Chick #9 is the youngest bird in the bunch, so naturally he’s the “kid brother.” The other birds don’t give him as much respect as they would #1-13, but #9 still holds his own against the adult cranes.

July 1, 2013

The chicks are still at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. This is where they have “Ground School.” They get used to being by the tiny yellow aircraft that will lead them on migration. The long-necked crane puppet drops treats. This encourages the chicks to walk alongside the plane. The pilot or another costumed handler works the puppet. The chicks look cooperative and curious! They still have that “baby” look.

July 11, 2013

The chicks arrived July 9 in Wisconsin. They started training right away. This is “Flight School.” In a few weeks, they’ll be able to get airborne and fly with the aircraft! They are still quite rusty brown, but getting some white feathers and growing taller.

On July 9 the Class of 2013 was transported from Maryland to Wisconsin, their new summer home for the rest of their lives. Chick #9 did well from the first day. He didn’t show any fear when the big white wing was added to the aircraft. He ran, then hopped and skipped as he flapped his wings down the grass training strip after the tiny yellow airplane.

By July 31 most of the birds were following the trike up and down the runway. By August 7, all eight Whooping cranes in this year’s cohort were able to fly and were trying to follow the aircraft. The first time he took off, he flew around aimlessly, as if he were lost, before touching down in the tall grass, but he found his way back to trike once it landed

During their first group short flight on August 10, crane #9 decided to follow the aircraft around one more time, but he ran out of steam over the marsh. He landed and disappeared into the tall grass. Joe wrote: “His flock mates and I stood at the end of the runway and encouraged him. When he lost his enthusiasm, I started the aircraft and led the rest of the birds in the opposite direction. That was enough convince him to plow his way through and he emerged on the runway, happy to see us.”

With more practice in September, #9 will be ready for migration!

Fall 2013: Ultralight-Guided Migration South

October 2, 2013: Migration Day 1! Clear skies, zero fog and light north winds brought perfect flight conditions. Crane #9 flew the distance and landed at Stopover #1 with pilot Richard and cranes #1, #7 and #8. The other four were not so cooperative. They had to be crated to finish the trip by road. Go, crane #9!

October 14, 2013: Migration Day 13! After 11 down days and an attempted flight Oct. 9, they finally got a great day to fly! All eight cranes came out of the pen, took off and covered the distance with lead pilot Brooke. Two flew off his left wing and six off his right: perfect, and a wonderful surprise! Crane #9, who suddenly stopped trying back in mid September and wouldn’t even come out of the pen on departure day, was back in the game!

October 17, 2013: Migration Day 16 Another successful flight with all eight young Whooping cranes sticking with lead pilot Richard van Heuvelen for the entire 28 miles. The flight to Columbia County, WI lasted 42 minutes.

October 22, 2013: Migration Day 21 Crane #9 was among the six others that dropped out and had to be captured, crated and driven to stopover #4 on today’s turbulent flight. They are now all safely at the Green County, Wisconsin stopover site.

October 25, 2013: Migration Day 24 Crossing into Illinois! All eight cranes trailed off pilot Richard’s wing the whole way! Winds kept them grounded here for the next nine days.

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 The group of eight took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County. Crane #9 and six others stayed with Brooke’s aircraft for the entire 2-hour flight.

November 7, 2013: Migration Day 37 Flying 1 hour and 15 minutes, all eight cranes followed Richard for the entire 55-mile flight to Livingston County, Illinois.

November 8, 2013: Migration Day 38 Another 59 miles gained! They’re in Piatt County, Illinois.

November 13, 2013: Migration Day 43 Onward to Cumberland County, Illinois. Pilot Richard reported: “We reached 3,500 feet above sea level with a ground speed of about 31 mph. By the time we touched down we’d been in the air just over two hours. A long time up there to cover 56 air miles.”

November 18, 2013: Migration Day 48 Pilot Brooke led them right over the Wayne County, Illinois stopover—and onward to Kentucky! Flying up to 50 mph, today’s flight added 108 miles!

November 19, 2013: Migration Day 49 Hoo-wee! They got another double-leg flight today with good tailwinds and made it to Tennessee! Miles gained today: 63 + 53 + 116

November 29, 2013: Migration Day 59 It was finally a fly day, but a challenging flight to Hardin County, TN. Today the birds were in two groups with two pilots but all 7 fliers and one crated dropout bird ended up safely at the new stopover with 67 more miles gained. Their reward was a lovely stream one foot deep and 60-degree temperatures for bathing and splashing after the flight. Total miles now: 636. Last stop in Tennessee!

December 12, 2013: Migration Day 72 Finally some progress! Winds foiled yesterday’s attempt to advance the migration, and they turned back; but today all eight took off with Richard and Joe! Cranes #4 and #3 were the only two who stuck with the aircraft the whole 67 miles to land in Winston County, Alabama! Crane #9 and the others dropped out and had to be found and crated to the new location. Too many days penned in Hardin County!

December 13, 2013: Migration Day 73 Today’s attempted flight (the second this week) brought over an hour of wrangling before they gave up and turned back to the Winston County, AL site at 703 total miles gone. The birds didn’t want to stay with the trikes in headwinds. “They understand that it is wiser to save your energy for days when the wind helps instead of hinders. And maybe that morning was a lesson the students taught the teachers,” wrote pilot Joe Duff.

December 18, 2013: Migration Day 78 Champion fliers of the day were Cranes #9, #1, #3, and #4, who flew all 101 miles with Richard’s plane to Chilton County, AL. That’s 804 miles gone!

December 26, 2013: Migration Day 86 All eight cranes completed today’s double-leg flight, covering 110 miles to the final stop in Alabama. They’re now at 906 miles gone.

December 30, 2013: Migration Day 90 All of the birds turned back when Richard started to climb, but they were rounded up for another try. The THIRD double-leg flight in a row brought them 124 miles across Georgia in one day. They’re in Decatur County and will cross into Florida next!

December 31, 2013: Migration Day 91 A perfect flight with all eight birds brought them to Leon County, FLORIDA, with just 28 miles to the finish line. Happy New Year!

January 5, 2014: Migration Day 96 After a 96-day journey when they gained miles on just 18 of those days, the Class of 2013 landed Sunday, Jan. 5, at St. Marks NWR in Florida. All eight Whooping cranes will spend their first days in the temporarily top-netted section of the large winter release pen. Then they will be banded and released to live as wild, free cranes. A team member will watch over their first winter to be sure they are okay, and probably crane pals #4-12 and #5-12 will watch too. 

January 16, 2014: Health checks and banding with permanent band colors went very smoothly. Handlers put a hood over the crane’s head so the workers wouldn’t be hampered by wearing their helmets over their faces.

January 21, 2014: Freedom! No more top net! With the top net gone, the chicks can come and go at will from the safety of their enclosure, learning to live wild and free. Surprisingly, they have allowed sub-adult cranes #4-12 and #5-12 to stay with them in the pen, as long as the older birds let the younger ones be boss. They even let the older two roost at night with them on the oyster bar (a raised area built from a pile of oyster shells in the pen’s pond)! Last winter this pen was home to #4-12 and #5-12 as newly arrived migrants, and they must like being there…

February 26, 2014: Look how tall #9 has grown! He is the youngest but also the largest of the Class of 2013. This image gives you an good indication of his size as he challenges the costume/puppet.

Spring 2014: First Unaided Spring Migration North

March 31: All eight young cranes left the pen site at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge this morning with a tailwind to push them along. Data gathered from the four cranes wearing PTT tracking units tells us they made at least one stop in Barbour County, Alabama and spent a couple of days there. By April 3, signals of the four PTT’d birds showed they had covered about 470 miles, reaching Daviess County, Kentucky. Storms and headwinds kept them grounded there for a week. Sadly, this is where the remains of young female crane #1-13 were found. Since only six cranes were ever seen together at this stop, it is believed it was soon after arriving that something happened to number #1-13, and that the other missing crane, #3-13, likely split off from the group before this stop.

The 6 birds (cranes #2-13, #4-13, #5-13, #7-13, #8-13 and #9-13) continued migration when the weather finally allowed them to leave. The group apparently spent two days in McHenry County, Illinois. On April 12 they made a short hop into Wisconsin’s Walworth County, where a spring snow storm and winds kept them grounded for another 5 days. April 18 PTT data placed #2-13 approximately 10 miles north of Berlin, WI — likely to roost— and on April 19, the six young cranes (#2, #4, #5, #7, #8 and #9) arrived right back on their training strip at White River Marsh, Wisconsin, migration complete!

The roost locations used by the cranes wearing PTT devices shows that, while they didn’t follow the exact migration route used by the aircraft that led them south last fall, they surely were close for the entire way. Hooray!

The group of six stayed together in Green Lake County, WI for several days. Then #7-13 and #8-13 broke off on their own, spending time in Dodge County, WI. and leaving #2, #4, #5 and #9 at White River Marsh in Green Lake County. This little group wandered in nearby counties during the summer, in typical behavior for yearling sub-adults and were in Fond du Lac County in July.

Fall 2014: Crane #9-13, previously with the group including #2, #3, #5, #7 and #8-13, was a bit further west in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, with DAR #57-13 (Mork) as of Oct. 22. He began migration from Dodge County, Wisconsin, on November 13 or 14. Satellite readings placed in him Newton County, Indiana, on 14-20 November; Clinton County, Indiana, on November 25-29 and Lawrence County, Indiana, by roost on December 1. He was observed at this location with two sandhill cranes on December 2nd and continued south to Barren County, Kentucky, the next day. On Dec. 9 he continued south from Barren County, Kentucky. Satellite readings placed him at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Alachua County, Florida, on December 11. He stayed until Feb. 28, then moved to the Gainesville area. He spent a lot of time at the University of Florida Beef Unit feed lot with numerous Sandhill Cranes!

Spring 2015: Male #9-13 began migration from Alachua County, Florida, on March 16 or 17. It took him five weeks to lollygag his way home to Green Lake County, Wisconsin, on April 21st. He wandered until moving south to the Horicon NWR in Dodge County, by April 25th. He wandered more during the summer and ended up in Marquette County

Fall 2015: Male #9-13 was last seen in November, still in Marquette County. At the end of December, ICF’s Anne Lacy had no word on his whereabouts but said, “It may be that his transmitter is failing… I think he may be at St Marks, but we’ve no confirmation. He also briefly stopped through Wheeler NWR on migration north last spring, so he may be there.”

Spring 2016: The remains of male Whooping crane #9-13 were found April 4, 2016 in Marquette County, Wisconsin, where he spent last summer along with #4-13 and #7-14 but did not show up at St. Marks NWR with his pals. He also didn’t show up south of Gainesville, Florida, his wintering area two years ago. The team guesses that #9-13 had been killed sometime in fall 2015 and his remains had been covered by snow until April. Predation is suspected.

Crane #9-13

Image: Doug Pellerin

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Group Two – Direct Autumn Release (DAR) Cranes

Crane #50-13 – “Radar”

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 24, 2013
Legbands: Left: white/green/white Right: red

Personality and Training: How did he get the name Radar? ICF staff used the theme of TV sitcoms or sitcom characters when they named the new chicks. (A change in the numbering system is under discussion.) Radar is named after Corporal Radar O’Reilly of the old TV show M*A*S*H. Radar is the oldest bird in this year’s Direct Autumn Release (DAR) birds. He was the tallest bird, and the first of the group to fledge.

Radar and the other DAR chicks were costume reared and then transported to Horicon Wildlife Refuge in early September. The chicks will now spend more time out of a pen and less time with the costume. They will be officially released probably at the end of October to mingle with other wild Whooping cranes and Sandhill cranes. If all goes as planned, the youngsters will follow the older cranes to learn the flock’s southward migration route.

The DAR chicks got their legbands and colors on Sept 27. They were released at Horicon NWR on Oct 24, 2013.

Fall 2013: First Southward Migration: Radar, Fonzi, and Squiggy departed Horcon NWR in Wisconsin on Dec. 11. They were detected in flight in Ogle County, Illinois, later that day and had arrived in Mason County, Illinois, by the night of December 12. They were observed together at this location during an aerial survey on December 13. Based on satellite readings from #54, they remained in the area through at least roost on January 4. The tracking team monitored them closely but soon their tracking signals indicated all three had died. Only the remains (scattered feathers and transmitter) of Squiggy (#51-13) were found due to deep snow cover. The search for remains of Radar and Fonzi will resume as conditions permit.

 

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Crane #51-13 – “Squiggy” 

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 26, 2013
Legbands: Left: red Right: green/white/green

Personality and Training: How did she get the name Squiggy? ICF staff used the theme of TV sitcoms or sitcom characters when they named the new chicks. (A change in the numbering system is under discussion.) Squiggy is named after the scheming Andrew Squigman of the old TV show “Laverne and Shirley.” She is very good at catching damselflies!

Squiggy and the other DAR chicks were costume reared and then transported to Horicon Wildlife Refuge in early September. The chicks will now spend more time out of a pen and less time with the costume. They will be officially released probably at the end of October to mingle with other wild Whooping cranes and Sandhill cranes. If all goes as planned, the youngsters will follow the older cranes to learn the flock’s southward migration route.

The DAR chicks got their legbands and colors on Sept 27. They were released at Horicon NWR on Oct 24, 2013.

Fall 2013: First Southward Migration: Squiggy, Radar and Fonzi departed Horcon NWR in Wisconsin on Dec. 11. They were detected in flight in Ogle County, Illinois, later that day and had arrived in Mason County, Illinois, by the night of December 12. They were observed together at this location during an aerial survey on December 13. Based on satellite readings, they remained in the area through at least roost on January 4. The tracking team monitored them closely and soon their tracking signals indicated all three had died. Only the remains (scattered feathers and transmitter) of Squiggy (#51-13) were found due to deep snow cover.

 

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Crane #52-13 – “Hawkeye”

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 27, 2013
Legbands: Left: green/red Right: red/white

Personality and Training: How did she get the name Hawkeye? ICF staff used the theme of TV sitcoms or sitcom characters when they named the new chicks. (A change in the numbering system is under discussion.) Hawkeye is named after Captain Ben “Hawkeye” Pierce of the old TV show M*A*S*H. She is a skilled tadpole and dragonfly hunter.

Hawkeye and the other DAR chicks were costume reared and then transported to Horicon Wildlife Refuge in early September. The chicks will now spend more time out of a pen and less time with the costume. They will be officially released probably at the end of October to mingle with other wild Whooping cranes and Sandhill cranes. If all goes as planned, the youngsters will follow the older cranes to learn the flock’s southward migration route.

The DAR chicks got their legbands and colors on Sept 27. They were released at Horicon NWR on Oct 24, 2013.

Hawkeye’s radio transmitter and metal federal leg band were recovered on the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge on December 4, and her death likely occurred on November or 30 or December 1.

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Crane #53-13 – “Maude”

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 29, 2013
Legbands: Left: red/green/white Right: red

Personality and Training: How did he get the girls’ name of Maude? ICF staff used the theme of TV sitcoms or sitcom characters when they named the new chicks. (A change in the numbering system is under discussion.) Maude is named after the outspoken protagonist of the old TV show “Maude,” even though he is actually a male! Maude is excellent at catching grasshoppers.

Maude and the other DAR chicks were costume reared and then transported to Horicon Wildlife Refuge in early September. The chicks will now spend more time out of a pen and less time with the costume. They will be officially released probably at the end of October to mingle with other wild Whooping cranes and Sandhill cranes. If all goes as planned, the youngsters will follow the older cranes to learn the flock’s southward migration route.

This is Maude with Hunnicut. Do you see the crane handler wearing the costume and training puppet? Do you see the plastic adult Whooping crane model?

The DAR chicks got their legbands and colors on Sept 27. They were released at Horicon NWR on Oct 24, 2013, and we are sad to learn that a predator killed Maude on the night of November 12.

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Crane #54-13 – “Fonzi”

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 30, 2013
Legbands: Left: red/white Right: white/green

Personality and Training: How did she get the name Fonzi? ICF staff used the theme of TV sitcoms or sitcom characters when they named the new chicks. (A change in the numbering system is under discussion.) Fonzi is named after Arthur Fonzarelli, the popular character of the old TV show “Happy Days.” She sometimes likes to forage on her own, away from the other chicks.

Fonzi and the other DAR chicks were costume reared and then transported to Horicon Wildlife Refuge in early September. The chicks will now spend more time out of a pen and less time with the costume. They will be officially released probably at the end of October to mingle with other wild Whooping cranes and Sandhill cranes. If all goes as planned, the youngsters will follow the older cranes to learn the flock’s southward migration route.

The DAR chicks got their legbands and colors on Sept 27. They were released at Horicon NWR on Oct 24, 2013.

Fall 2013: First Southward Migration: Fonzi, Squiggy, and Radar departed Horcon NWR in Wisconsin on Dec. 11. They were detected in flight in Ogle County, Illinois, later that day and had arrived in Mason County, Illinois, by the night of December 12. They were observed together at this location during an aerial survey on December 13. Based on satellite readings from #54, they remained in the area through at least roost on January 4. The tracking team monitored them closely and soon their tracking signals indicated all three had died. Only the remains (scattered feathers and transmitter) of Squiggy (51-13) were found due to deep snow cover. The search for remains of Radar and Fonzi will resume as conditions permit.

 

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Crane #55-13 – “Epstein”

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: June 2, 2013
Legbands: Left: red Right: red/white/green

Personality and Training: How did he get the name Epstein? ICF staff used the theme of TV sitcoms or sitcom characters when they named the 2013 chicks. (A change in the numbering system is under discussion.) Epstein is named after Juan Epstein of the old TV show “Welcome Back, Kotter.” Epstein had a big appetite right out of the egg and never has had problems eating.

Epstein and the other DAR chicks were costume reared and then transported to Horicon Wildlfe Refuge in early September. The chicks will now spend more time out of a pen and less time with the costume. They will be officially released probably at the end of October to mingle with other wild Whooping cranes and Sandhill cranes. If all goes as planned, the youngsters will follow the older cranes to learn the flock’s southward migration route.

The DAR chicks got their legbands and colors on Sept 27. They were released at Horicon NWR on Oct 24, 2013. Epstein (#55-13) sustained a leg injury from an unknown source. He was captured for examination on November 6 but experts found no obvious cause of the injury so he was re-released at the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge the next day and seemed just fine after that. However, sad news came when his fully intact carcass was recovered on private property near the refuge on December 7. Death had occurred shortly before.

 

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Crane #56-13 – “Klinger”

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 2, 2013
Legbands: Left: red/white Right: red/green

Personality and Training: How did she get the name Klinger? ICF staff used the theme of TV sitcoms or sitcom characters when they named the new chicks. (A change in the numbering system is under discussion.) Klinger is named after Corporal Maxwell Klinger of the old TV show M*A*S*H. Klinger loves hunting minnows.

Klinger and the other DAR chicks were costume reared and then transported to Horicon Wildlife Refuge in early September. The chicks will now spend more time out of a pen and less time with the costume until they’re released to mingle with other wild Whooping cranes and Sandhill cranes. If all goes as planned, the youngsters will follow the older cranes and thereby learn the flock’s southward migration route.

The DAR chicks got their legbands and colors on Sept 27. They were released at Horicon NWR on Oct 24, 2013. But sad news came in early December: Klinger was found dead on Horicon NWR, where six of the DAR birds still remained through frigid weather before starting their first southward migration. Death likely occurred Nov. 28 or 29.

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Crane #57-13 – “Mork”

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: June 7, 2013
Legbands: Left: red Right: white/red/green
Personality and Training: How did he get the name Mork? ICF staff used the theme of TV sitcoms or sitcom characters when they named the new chicks. (A change in the numbering system is under discussion.) Mork is named after Mork the Martian from the old TV show “Mork & Mindy.” Mork likes to stay close to the costume and is nicknamed the “baby” of the group.

Mork and the other DAR chicks were costume reared and then transported to Horicon Wildlife Refuge in early September. The chicks will now spend more time out of a pen and less time with the costume. They will be officially released probably at the end of October to mingle with other wild Whooping cranes and Sandhill cranes. If all goes as planned, the youngsters will follow the older cranes to learn the flock’s southward migration route.

Fall 2013, First Southward Migration: #57-13 DAR began migration from the Horicon NWR, Dodge County, WI, around November 15-17. He was reported in Meigs County, Tennessee on the evening of November 20 and remains in the area with thousands of other wild cranes. Well done!

Spring 2014: Male #57-13 DAR remained near the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County, Tennessee, until beginning migration from this location on 17/18 February. He was reported in Jackson County, Indiana, on 19 February and remained in that area through at least 15 March. He was next reported in St. Joseph County, Indiana, on 20 March, Green Lake County, Wisconsin, on 18 April and Shawano/Outagamie Counties later that same day. He remained in Outagamie County through at least 13 May. He was found in Winnebago County, Wisconsin, on 17 June. He moved south into Fond du Lac County on 4-8 July.

Fall 2014: DAR #57-13 (Mork) began migration from Dodge County, Wisconsin around November 13 and was reported in Jackson County, Indiana, on November 19. He stayed there until January 6th or so, and was next detected at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, Meigs County, Tennessee, on 8 January 8th, where he remained.

Spring 2015: Male #57-13 DAR remained in Meigs/Rhea Counties, Tennessee, through at least 3 March 3rd. He migrated back to Wisconsin, where his remains were collected iin Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, on May 19th. His death had likely occurred sometime between May 9 and 11.

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Crane #59-13 – “Latka”

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 13, 2013
Legbands: Left: green Right: red/white

Personality and Training: How did she get the name Latka? ICF staff used the theme of TV sitcoms or sitcom characters when they named the new chicks. (A change in the numbering system is under discussion.) Latka is named after Latka Gravas of the old TV show “Taxi.” Latka is the smallest chick, but she has a lot of spunk! She came to the DAR program as an egg from the Calgary Zoo Whooping cranes.

Latka and the other DAR chicks were costume reared and then transported to Horicon Wildlfe Refuge in early September. The chicks will now spend more time out of a pen and less time with the costume. They will be officially released probably at the end of October to mingle with other wild Whooping cranes and Sandhill cranes. If all goes as planned, the youngsters will follow the older cranes to learn the flock’s southward migration route.

The DAR chicks got their legbands and colors on Sept 27. Over the summer, Latka had not grown as much as the other chicks so she received only 3 color bands. The DAR chicks were released at Horicon NWR on Oct 24, 2013.

Latka (#59-13 DAR) was initially detected heading south with DAR juveniles nos. #50-13, #51-13, and #54-13 on December 11, but separated from them and returned to the Horicon NWR. Since it was dangerously cold and it appeared she would fail to migrate, she was captured, held overnight at the International Crane Foundation (ICF), and transported by aircraft south to the Wheeler NWR in Alabama the next day. There she was released near other Sandhill and Whooping cranes. This intervention was necessary to give her the best chance to survive winter, although she did not learn her migration route. Latka (#59-13 DAR) apparently liked her new home at Wheeler NWR because she was still there as March began.

Spring 2014: Latka (DAR #59-13) is home again! The young crane, relocated by aircraft to Wheeler NWR in Alabama when she failed to migrate south, learned her migration route for the first time this spring, led north by four older Whoopers (#6-11/#15-11, #17-07 and #37-07). On March 12 she was identified by her band colors in Jasper County, Indiana. She was small and still had splotches of the buff-colored feathers of a young crane. She was next seen March 19 in Dane County, WI by ICF tracker Eva Szyszkoski, still with the four older cranes that led her north. 

Can you find Latka in the photo?

Latka was left alone when the four older birds left her in Dane County and continued to Necedah NWR. She was photographed in Dane County, Wisconsin on March 21 (below) and last confirmed there on March 28, in the company of Sandhill Cranes, Canada geese, turkeys, deer and ducks! She wandered in the summer and was in Dodge County, WI in mid July.

Photo: Ted Thousand

Fall 2014: Latka (DAR #59-13) was reported at the Wheeler NWR, Morgan County, Alabama, on November 21st, migration complete! During the winter she was often seen associating with male #1-11.

Spring 2015: Female #59-13 DAR remained at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Morgan County, Alabama, through at least March 10th, when she was observed with #38-08 DAR, #1-11 and PR #24-13. She was next reported with Sandhill cranes in Rock County, Wisconsin, on March 24th, where she stayed through at least March 31st. She was last reported in Rock County, Wisconsin, on the afternoon of April 3rd. She has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked.

Fall 2015: Latka (DAR #59-13) migrated to Wheeler NWR as usual.

Spring 2016: Crane #59-13 (DAR) and male #1-11 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 still alive as of June 1 but did not survive into July.

See the tiny chick to the right of the brooding crane?

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

Spring 2017: Crane #59-13 (DAR) and mate #1-11 returned to Wisconsin and were nesting by early April! Unfortunately, this first nest, as well as a second nest were both predated.

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

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Group Three – Parent-Reared Whooping Cranes

These Whooping crane chicks are captive-born for this newest part (begun in 2013) of the reintroduction program. These four chicks were hatched in June and raised by cranes in the captive breeding flock at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. They were transported in autumn to the Necedah NWR and each released near a selected older crane pair in hopes the pair would adopt the youngster. Experts believe the chicks have a greater likelihood to learn from the paired adults by staying with them through migration and their first winter.

Crane #20-13

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 2, 2013
Legbands: Left: red Right: red/white/green

Died Oct., 2013 before migration.

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Crane #21-13

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 3, 2013
Legbands: Left: red/green Right: white/green

Died Oct., 2013 before migration.

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Crane #22-13

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: June 5, 2013
Legbands: Left: green/white Right: red

Completed his first spring migration to WI/MN in 2014 and wandered from MN to WI, IL and IN through spring and summer. Migrated from Illinois to his previous wintering territory at the Hiwassee WR, Meigs County, Tennessee, for winter 2014-15. He began his journey north March 8/9 and was the eastern flock’s FIRST known whooper to return to Necedah NWR in spring 2015, arriving March 12-13. Male #22-13 was found dead, likely due to predation, on 9/16/15. He was undergoing molt at the time of his death.

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Crane #24-13

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: June 10, 2013
Legbands: Left: white/green Right: red

Completed 2013 fall migration south and spring migration 2014 back to Necedah NWR in WI. Migrated south in fall 2014 to Knox County, Indiana with other cranes from the flock and moved with several of them to Wheeler NWR in Alabama in January 2015. He returned to Necedah NWR in Wisconsin by April 2015 and back south to Greene County, IN by November 15. Return signal heard at Necedah area March 30, 2016 after spring migration. Seen all summer 2016 with W10-15 at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. They migrated south and were on their wintering grounds Nov. 1, 2016 in Richland County, Illinois and then Greene County, Indiana with other Whooping Cranes for the rest of the winter. Spring 2017: Returned to Juneau County, Wisconsin and was with female #23-10 DAR.

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Group Four – Wild-hatched cranes

Group Four 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.

Crane W3-13
Hatch Date:
June 30, 2013
Legbands:
Left: red  Right: white/green/white
First Months: Crane chick #W3-13 was the only survivor of the wild-born chicks in the Eastern flock for summer 2013. The chick’s parents: female #9-03 and male #3-04. The chick hatched from a late nest, the pair’s second nest of the season. They were first seen incubating on this nest on May 31. Chick W3-13 was first seen on July 3, and was again seen on July 23 with one of its parents during aerial surveys by the Wisconsin DNR pilot, Bev Paulan. All summer experts respected the space and privacy of this family in the wild.

On September 20, ICF tracker Eva reported: “W3-13 is about 80 days old today so should be flying at any time!” The chick continued to do well into October, and tracker Eva reported that she was captured and banded on October 30. ICF and Necedah NWR experts also drew blood in order to determine the gender.

“I’m calling this crane ‘she’ because it is very short and more along the lines of a female than a male,” said Eva after the banding. “We’ll have the official results probably in a couple of weeks.” Eva sent word Nov. 13 that W3-13 is indeed a girl!

Fall 2013: Ted Hartzler observed #W3-13 (in the foreground) and parents 9-03 and 3-04 the week of Nov. 10 in north-central Illinois.

The family completed migration to the adults’ previous wintering location in Wayne County, Illinois, by November 14, but W3-13 was last observed alive during an aerial survey flight on December 11. She was still missing in January and presumed dead.

 
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