PROGRESS REPORT

Technology advancements move so fast that even in the eleven years since we started leading Whooping cranes south, we have seen great changes. We now have handheld GPS systems with moving map displays and digital audio devices to broadcast brood calls loud enough to be heard over the sound of the aircraft engine. We can also stream live video from a remote pensite and send text messages to communicate without talking near the birds.

One of the real advances is the GPS – PTT units that are now fitted to three ultralight birds (#’s 4*, 7* & 9-11*) and three DAR birds. A PTT is a platform terminal transmitter which broadcasts to a satellite receiver. That in itself is an achievement considering it weighs only ounces, fits on a leg band yet is powerful enough to be heard by a satellite 540 miles away.

The GPS option records its location and stores that information in its memory. Once every three days the device uploads its present position and the GPS track history so we know where the bird is every third day plus where it was on the previous two. As I mentioned there are three birds fitted with these devices and they are set to report on consecutive days. That means that we get a location from one of them every day. So far all three units are still together so it reasonably safe to assume that all nine birds are travelling as a flock as they make their first northward migration flight.

Although the technology is fascinating, the real excitement for us, is knowing what course the birds are taking. When we had to end the last migration in Alabama, we loaded the birds into transport crates and took them 45 miles east to the Wheeler NWR. That was the first time we had crated all of the birds. In the past there has always been a few that made the trip on their own even if we had to crate some.

Ever since we have been worried that that trip in the back of our van may have broken their chain of knowledge and left them disoriented. We were confident that they would head north but if they flew directly north they would eventually arrive over Gary, Indiana where they might decide to go right as opposed to left. That mistake would take them into Michigan and the lake would create a barrier, stopping them from returning to Wisconsin.

As the GPS data indicate, our birds covered ~231 miles on their first full migration day and made it to Gallatin County, Illinois. The interesting part, however, it that they flew slightly northwest upon departing Wheeler and crossed the migration route we showed them. It would appear they roosted the first night only 10 miles from our stopover site in Union County, Kentucky.

Who knows what system they use to navigate but hopefully they are now in familiar territory. With luck they will make it back to the White River Marsh area in Wisconsin.

With the combined effort of all the people it took to get them south and the million years of instinct they need to get themselves back, maybe luck doesn’t have much to do with it.

(* = equals female)

HOW BIRDS NAVIGATE

The following is re-printed with permission from Matt Mendenhall, Birdwatching Magazine.

Scientists have thrown cold water on the theory that iron-rich nerve cells in birds’ bills help them navigate using Earth’s magnetic field.

Researchers from Austria, France, Australia, and England, writing in a new study published in Nature, report that iron-rich cells in the bills of pigeons are in fact specialized white blood cells called macrophages. Macrophages play a vital role in defending against infection and recycling iron from red blood cells, but they’re unlikely to be involved in magnetic sensing, the scientists say. That’s because they are not excitable cells and cannot produce electrical signals that could be registered by neurons and therefore influence a bird’s behavior.

The finding overturns a theory that has stood for more than a decade. Past studies, including a 2000 paper from the journal Biometals and this 2007 report from PLoS One, claimed that magnetite in beak tissue helps birds navigate.

We described birds’ reliance on the magnetic field in past articles in BirdWatching/Birder’s World. In “Amazing Birds” in our April issue, for example, Founding Editor Eldon Greij wrote that magnetite in birds’ bills helps them process information from the magnetic field. And Paul Kerlinger wrote in “On the Move” about birds’ abilities to sense the magnetic field and magnetite’s role in Bobolink migration.

“The mystery of how animals detect magnetic fields has just got more mysterious,” said study leader David Keays of the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna. “We had hoped to find magnetic nerve cells, but unexpectedly we found thousands of macrophages, each filled with tiny balls of iron.”

High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of pigeons’ beaks allowed the researchers to find the balls of iron instead of magnetic neurons. (Researchers who investigate birds’ navigational abilities often study pigeons because their magnetic sensing systems are common among other species.)

“Our work necessitates a renewed search for the true magnetite-dependent magnetoreceptor in birds,” the scientists write.

Perhaps the answer will come from fish. The researchers conclude their paper by saying the undiscovered cells that govern magnetic sensation “may reside in the olfactory epithelium, a sensory structure that has been implicated in magnetoreception in the rainbow trout.”

Matt Mendenhall, Associate Editor

NESTING SEASON

It is nesting season again in Wisconsin and we have our fingers crossed. The staff and managers at Necedah NWR and the WCEP Science Team are conducting the most intensive nest monitoring study so far.

Wisconsin DNR pilots and a volunteer organization known as Lighthawk are providing reconnaissance flights over the nesting sites almost every day. They fly high enough to not disturb the birds but low enough that they can report on their behavior.

Several Co2 and glue strip traps are being deployed to determine what type of Black flies are there and how many. They are using glue strips on top of Whooping crane decoys to see if the white color is an attractant. They also placed them on dummy eggs. Cameras are trained on nesting pairs and up to six interns are ready to help Necedah Biologist Rich King at any time.

Bti has been applied to the Yellow River and several other Black fly sources. The early spring meant early development of the insect and some of them had pupated before the Bti was applied. That generation likely dissipated when temperatures cooled briefly. Based on kill rate samples collected downstream it appears that it (Bti) was very successful. WCEP is grateful to Peter Adler and Elmer Gray for all their hard work. As Elmer says, “it is now up to the birds.”

IS TODAY THE DAY?

During a brief conversation with Brooke a little bit ago, he reported that the 9 youngsters have been exhibiting pre-migration behavior for the past couple of weeks, including eating all they can, and flying more often than usual.

The winds, which have been out of the north all week, are expected to swing around today to come from a southerly direction, which of course, would give the young birds a nice tailwind IF they decided today (or tomorrow) is THE day.

Stay tuned…

IT IS THE DAY!!!

Two more conversations with Brooke followed the first. During the second call he said that at 9:40am, the birds had taken flight and were currently higher than he has ever seen them. He felt today could indeed be THE day.

The second phone call came at 11am when he announced ‘They’re gone – I watched them thermal and climb higher and higher for the past hour and they’re now out of sight.’

Be safe…

PUBLIC REPORTS

Public reports of whooping crane sightings are an extremely valuable tool for monitoring crane locations, and we encourage people to continue to monitor and report such sightings. Nonetheless, while we certainly don’t want to discourage people from observing whooping cranes in the wild and reporting their sightings, we do want to remind people that for the benefit of the cranes, it is best if people keep their distance.

Approaching cranes too closely can result in birds becoming habituated to humans. Habituation, in turn, can put the cranes at risk from people who mean them harm. While such situations are uncommon, it is unfortunately a consideration we all must consider in light of recent shooting deaths in Indiana, Alabama, and Georgia.

WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need. If you’re on foot, do not approach the birds within 200 yards; if in a vehicle, remain inside the vehicle and at least 100 yards away. For reference, a football field is 120 yards long from goalpost to goalpost. Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you. Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph whooping cranes.

We also want to take this opportunity to remind people that do see whooping cranes and are interested in reporting them to use the Eastern U.S. whooping crane reporting site. We thank you for your help in tracking cranes and for your consideration in helping to promote the safety of these birds.

The following is a valuable sighting/photo submitted to us by Doug Pellerin. Doug was out with his camera last Friday and happened upon a group of Sandhill cranes in Adams County, WI. As he was clicking away a slightly taller, more whiter crane entered the frame. Who is this white crane? Why its #2-11 – the young female Whooping crane that broke away from the ultralight-led cohort last fall.

CRYSTAL-BALLING THE NUMBERS

There are five breeding centers for Whooping cranes around North America. The largest is the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, followed by the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin. There is also the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada, the San Antonio Zoo in Texas, and the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species in New Orleans, known to us as ACRES.

Each year around this time the Flock Managers of these facilities get very busy as the breeding season begins. They use natural pair bonding as well as artificial insemination to ensure proper genetic coupling.

There were only three breeding females in the flock back in the 1940’s when only 15 Whooping cranes were left in the world. That bottleneck limited the amount of genetic material available. In order to keep track of that tenuous lineage, each pairing and hatch is recorded in the Whooping Crane Stud Book.

Within the captive flock there are birds that breed well and produce many eggs each season. There is a great advantage to prolific parents, but it does not take long before their offspring begin to dominate the population. The more birds produced by one pair and released into the wild, the greater chance of sibling pairing.

This time of year the Flock Managers and the Co-Chair of the Whooping Crane Recovery Team conference on a call each Monday afternoon. That is when the crystal ball comes out and Flock Managers try to predict how many eggs their charges will produce.

This year, based on those predictions, the Recovery Team expects the five breeding centers to produce approximately 56 fertile eggs. There is also a possibility of collecting another ten eggs from nests at Necedah for a total of 66 eggs.

On average, about 75 percent of the eggs produced in captivity are fertile, and 75 percent of those actually result in chicks ready to be sent out for release. So, if all the guesswork is accurate, and nothing untoward happens, there should be 37 birds available this season.

37 may seem like a lot of chicks, but there are a number of uses for them. The non-migratory population in Louisiana is beginning its third season and the Recovery Team has assigned that reintroduction a minimum of eighteen chicks for 2012. A minimum of twelve have been allocated to the ultralight-led program, and a minimum of six allocated to the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) method.

For several years a Parent Reared study has been proposed by WCEP. By this method chicks would be raised at Patuxent, but rather than collecting the eggs for incubation, they would be raised by their parents. They would be moved to Wisconsin in the fall and released like DAR birds with older Whooping cranes. That project has been allocated four birds this year.

In addition to all of this, there are genetic hold backs. If any birds with more uncommon lineage are produced from parents that are not as prolific as others, they will be held back to ensure those blood lines are protected in the captive population.

If you have been doing the math along the way, you will realize those numbers add up to 40 chicks, not including potential holdbacks. That is three more than the expected total production, so you can see that the egg allocation calls are critical to everyone.

Cross your fingers for a good breeding season.

AND THE WINNER IS….

We were thrilled to be able to offer last year’s MileMaker sponsors the chance to have their name drawn for a very unique Thank You Gift. OM pilot and metal sculptor, Richard van Heuvelen, created and donated a one-of-a-kind sculpture of a Whooping crane chick. Richard’s artwork has sold for thousands of dollars so we knew there would be much excitement and anticipation about this special gift.

All 2011 MileMaker sponsors’ names were entered in the Thank You Gift draw – some several times as they sponsored multiple times. Every quarter mile sponsor was allotted one entry; each half mile sponsor received two entries, and each full mile sponsor four entries. Whew! That was one BIG pile of entry slips for the draw.

Now it is time to announce the MileMaker sponsor’s name that was drawn. This little chick is going to call Illinois home. Next week, this unique and adorable little Whooping crane chick will be winging its way to Laura Rowan in Berkeley, IL.

Congratulations Laura! And our thanks go to you for your support, and to the hundreds and hundreds of other 2011 MileMaker sponsors whose generosity made the 2011 campaign a rousing success.

DON’T FORGET…This year’s MileMaker campaign also offers sponsors the chance to receive a sensational Thank You Gift.

Wouldn’t you love a week’s holiday in fabulous Costa Rica?!?!? Read all about 2012 MileMaker HERE and then click the links to read the details and see photos of where YOU could be spending your next vacation.

AN ORDINARY HUMAN…

Each morning and afternoon and the times in between I walk down the Refuge’s Atkeson Trail to a vantage point where I can usually see the chicks and begin my all too familiar count to nine.

It is a wonderful way to start the day because the trail begins with a boardwalk that weaves through a bald cypress swamp constructed in 1938 by young men of the Civilian Conservation Corp under the direction of then assistance Refuge biologist Tom Atkeson.

Entering the trail is like walking into a cathedral; the trees standing like benevolent sentinels, dark and shadowy against the soft light, diffused as if through stained glass, reaching for heaven above and through liquid refection into infinity below while gently converting the visitor into parishioner while stilling the mind with a whisper of peaceful harmony and reverence. The traveler is instantly blessed with the gift of place.

But who is this man who created such a place? The answer, I was to learn, is the stuff of legend. “Ask Teresa” Bill, the Refuge biologist, told me referring to Teresa Adams, Head Ranger here at Wheeler. “She used to work for Tom back in the 80’s”. Next morning, Teresa kindly took the time to relate some of her “Tom Stories”, having worked for Tom on the Refuge right out of college. She also gave me an Audubon Magazine article about Tom dated September, 1987 from which the following information is derived.

Tom Atkeson came to the newly created Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge as a young junior biologist in l938. The Roosevelt Administration had just designated the middle third of the Wheeler Reservoir as a waterfowl refuge to compensate for the extraordinary loss of waterfowl nationwide at the time. It was the first refuge to be overlaid on a hydroelectric project and as such was an experiment in compatibility.

Tom’s first job was to walk every foot of the new refuge and map all 158 miles of it on both sides of the Tennessee River. He was also tasked with developing a plan for the restoration of this badly degraded land and develop it into good habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. With the help of the CCC’s, Tom began the restoration.

Then World War II broke out and into the Army Tom went. One day, while on a training exercise, the anti tank mine he was burying exploded, tearing away his hands, the lower half of his face, shattering his leg and blinding him. Two years in an Army hospital followed; years of terrible pain and ever deepening despair.

Tom recounted this terrible time and the event that changed his life in a 1987 interview for Audubon Magazine. “My father was visiting me one day in the hospital and he prefaced everything he said to me by calling me “Captian”. Finally I said, Hell’s bells! You never referred to me by my rank before! Why start now? To which his father answered, “I didn’t mean your rank, son. I was thinking of that poem we used to say: “Invictus.” You remember it.” Then they both began to cry as they recited it together as they had so many times before:

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods there be
For my unconquerable soul
It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishment the scroll:
I am the master of my fate,
I am the Captain of my soul.”

“Those eloquent lines of William Ernest Henley’s transformed me.” Tom said. “ It pulled me back from falling into a dark hole. From that moment I had my perspective back. I knew with complete conviction that if I tried my utmost and did not let any temporary failure dishearten or stop me, I could go on and do something. It might not be exactly what I had planned, but something.”

With the help of Ira N. Gabrielson, then director of the National Wildlife Refuge System for the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service who had met and remembered Tom from years before, Tom convinced the powers that be that he knew every inch of the Wheeler Refuge and that he could make a significant contribution to its development if given the opportunity.

He was hired with the condition that he employ a sighted person as his assistant at his own expense. And so the legend began. He went on to become Refuge Manager in 1962 and remained so until his retirement in the late 1980’s when he was in his mid seventies.

Under his direction the Refuge brought back the otter, the turkey, the white tail deer as well as creating habitat that became the wintering ground for tens of thousands of waterfowl. Today, over 300 species of birds may be seen on the Refuge; easily over 100 in a single day, and there is now an abundance of small mammal species as well as recreational and educational opportunities for the general public.

Tom received many commendations, awards and citations over the years but the one he liked the least was being named federal handicapped worker of the year despite going to the White House and meeting President Reagan. “I despise that word “handicapped” Tom said. “If I do a good job I don’t mind getting credit for it, but I don’t want to be a successful cripple!”

The Audubon article about Tom ended beautifully with the following -“Kipling said it to Atkeson’s satisfaction in his Barrack-Room Ballad about Tommy Atkins:

“I ain’t no thin red hero,
I ain’t no blackguard too,
But an ordinary human
Most remarkably like you.”

AN ORDINARY HUMAN…

Each morning and afternoon and the times in between I walk down the Refuge’s Atkeson Trail to a vantage point where I can usually see the chicks and begin my all too familiar count to nine.

It is a wonderful way to start the day because the trail begins with a boardwalk that weaves through a bald cypress swamp constructed in 1938 by young men of the Civilian Conservation Corp under the direction of then assistance Refuge biologist Tom Atkeson.

Entering the trail is like walking into a cathedral; the trees standing like benevolent sentinels, dark and shadowy against the soft light, diffused as if through stained glass, reaching for heaven above and through liquid refection into infinity below while gently converting the visitor into parishioner while stilling the mind with a whisper of peaceful harmony and reverence. The traveler is instantly blessed with the gift of place.

But who is this man who created such a place? The answer, I was to learn, is the stuff of legend. “Ask Teresa” Bill, the Refuge biologist, told me referring to Teresa Adams, Head Ranger here at Wheeler. “She used to work for Tom back in the 80’s”. Next morning, Teresa kindly took the time to relate some of her “Tom Stories”, having worked for Tom on the Refuge right out of college. She also gave me an Audubon Magazine article about Tom dated September, 1987 from which the following information is derived.

Tom Atkeson came to the newly created Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge as a young junior biologist in l938. The Roosevelt Administration had just designated the middle third of the Wheeler Reservoir as a waterfowl refuge to compensate for the extraordinary loss of waterfowl nationwide at the time. It was the first refuge to be overlaid on a hydroelectric project and as such was an experiment in compatibility.

Tom’s first job was to walk every foot of the new refuge and map all 158 miles of it on both sides of the Tennessee River. He was also tasked with developing a plan for the restoration of this badly degraded land and develop it into good habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. With the help of the CCC’s, Tom began the restoration.

Then World War II broke out and into the Army Tom went. One day, while on a training exercise, the anti tank mine he was burying exploded, tearing away his hands, the lower half of his face, shattering his leg and blinding him. Two years in an Army hospital followed; years of terrible pain and ever deepening despair.

Tom recounted this terrible time and the event that changed his life in a 1987 interview for Audubon Magazine. “My father was visiting me one day in the hospital and he prefaced everything he said to me by calling me “Captian”. Finally I said, Hell’s bells! You never referred to me by my rank before! Why start now? To which his father answered, “I didn’t mean your rank, son. I was thinking of that poem we used to say: “Invictus.” You remember it.” Then they both began to cry as they recited it together as they had so many times before:

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods there be
For my unconquerable soul
It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishment the scroll:
I am the master of my fate,
I am the Captain of my soul.”

“Those eloquent lines of William Ernest Henley’s transformed me.” Tom said. “ It pulled me back from falling into a dark hole. From that moment I had my perspective back. I knew with complete conviction that if I tried my utmost and did not let any temporary failure dishearten or stop me, I could go on and do something. It might not be exactly what I had planned, but something.”

With the help of Ira N. Gabrielson, then director of the National Wildlife Refuge System for the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service who had met and remembered Tom from years before, Tom convinced the powers that be that he knew every inch of the Wheeler Refuge and that he could make a significant contribution to its development if given the opportunity.

He was hired with the condition that he employ a sighted person as his assistant at his own expense. And so the legend began. He went on to become Refuge Manager in 1962 and remained so until his retirement in the late 1980’s when he was in his mid seventies.

Under his direction the Refuge brought back the otter, the turkey, the white tail deer as well as creating habitat that became the wintering ground for tens of thousands of waterfowl. Today, over 300 species of birds may be seen on the Refuge; easily over 100 in a single day, and there is now an abundance of small mammal species as well as recreational and educational opportunities for the general public.

Tom received many commendations, awards and citations over the years but the one he liked the least was being named federal handicapped worker of the year despite going to the White House and meeting President Reagan. “I despise that word “handicapped” Tom said. “If I do a good job I don’t mind getting credit for it, but I don’t want to be a successful cripple!”

The Audubon article about Tom ended beautifully with the following -“Kipling said it to Atkeson’s satisfaction in his Barrack-Room Ballad about Tommy Atkins:

“I ain’t no thin red hero,
I ain’t no blackguard too,
But an ordinary human
Most remarkably like you.”

EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION NESTING UPDATE

As a result of an aerial survey conducted April 2nd by WI DNR pilot Bev Paulan, we have more news about nesting activity in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP).

Bev noted that none of the pairs sighted last week, “were near the nest they had.” She spotted pair 38-08 & 3-07 walking along a tree line not far from their nest. Confirmed is a nest belonging to 28-08 & 5-10 with 28-08 seen standing on it.

Also with nests are 12-02 & 19-04 with 19-04 seen on the nest, and at another location, 33-07 & 5-09 were observed swapping places on their nest. (Photos compliments of Bev Paulan)

In her report Bev said, “Several birds were northwest of Volk Field, namely: 11-09 & 15-09, 38-09 & 34-09, 7-09, 4-08, 27-10 and 10-09. I physically saw seven birds but heard  eight [via radio receiver] and I am guessing that 17-03, 26-07, and 17-07 were nearby. 2-11 is still at her previous marsh location with her entourage of Sandhills.”

NESTING OFFICIALLY UNDERWAY!

On the aerial survey conducted March 26th by Wisconsin DNR pilot, Bev Paulan, the Eastern Migratory Population’s first nesting pair of the 2012 season was found and photographed. (Aerial photo taken by Bev.)

Incubation has started for this pair consisting of 3-07 and DAR38-08* on their nest located on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. More pairs have been observed building nests, but no other actual nesting activity has been confirmed.

FAA GRANTS EXEMPTION

Late Friday afternoon an email message chimed into my Inbox and changed everything. The FAA issued a rule-making decision granting an exemption allowing Operation Migration to fly.

A process like this can take as long as three months or better, and even then, granting an exemption only happens when the agency feels the petitioner has satisfied two primary criteria.

One of those requirements is that it must have benefit to the American people. We answered that question by first talking about the birds and how WCEP now has a population of Whooping cranes migrating in the eastern flyway where none existed for over one hundred years. Then we outlined the education opportunities that provides, like the millions of students reached by Journey North, and the unprecedented media coverage from around the world.

You, our supporters and the public, also answered that question by adding your names to petitions, writing to political representatives, and providing your support when we most needed it. We will be forever grateful.

The second criterion is safety and it was not as easy to satisfy. The only aviation license that allows a pilot to be paid for flying is a commercial rating. After a person has earned that certificate, they can add endorsements, like approval to fly multi engine aircraft or float planes. Unfortunately there is no endorsement for the weight-shift aircraft we currently fly.

Currently our pilots hold Light Sport Aircraft certificates and the FAA has required us to upgrade to Private licenses. That means we will have to log some hours of dual time flying with an instructor before undergoing both a written and a flight test. Recognizing that will take time, the FAA has allowed us until the beginning of this year’s migration to comply.

They have also required that our pilots have at least 250 hours of time in a trike. That is the minimum time needed to qualify for a commercial license, but an easy one for us to meet because we all have more than a thousand hours logged and some of us are almost up to 3000.

Of course the other safety factor is the aircraft itself. There are two classes of aircraft within the Light Sport category. The type we have are called Experimental, and are owner maintained, which means we can do all the work that is needed to keep them flying. The other class is called Special, and those aircraft are used for flight instruction – one of the only types of commercial flying allowed in Sport Light Aircraft. This class of aircraft must be maintained by an FAA licensed mechanic and there must be accurate records kept of the work that is done. The FAA has required that we switch over to Special Light Sport Aircraft (S-LSA).

Most of the S-LSAs available are designed to withstand the rigors of pilot flight training and are heavy. That means they fly faster than ours, and in fact, too fast to lead birds. We will have to work with a manufacturer to re-design an aircraft to be lighter and fly slower yet still fit into the Special category. Acknowledging that will not be a simple task, the FAA has given us until 2014 to comply. In the meantime we will have our current aircraft inspected every 100 hours to ensure they are airworthy.

As you can imagine this exemption brings great relief. Sunday is the beginning of April and the deadline our WCEP partners gave us to obtain a favorable ruling in order to be allocated birds for a 2012 ultralight-led migration.

We are very grateful to everyone for all the support we received, and to the FAA for understanding how important this project is to conservation of Whooping cranes – and to the thousands of people who follow it.

It is easy to be critical of a large government agency, but the FAA is in charge of ensuring safety in something inherently dangerous. That is a serious responsibility. To us, they were professional, cooperative, diligent, and yet understanding. We want to thank the FAA and all the people responsible for this decision and for their contribution, not only to safety but to conservation.

2012 PAIRS LINE UP

Again we have to thank Wisconsin DNR pilot, Bev Paulan – this time for the list of 31 pairs in the Eastern Migratory Population.

As you look at the numbers below, keep in mind that some pairs consist of one or more very young cranes so to expect much in the way of fertile eggs much less chicks would not be very realistic. At the same time, there are a good number of mature pairs, including some that are experienced nesters, so… As Bev said yesterday, “fingers crossed”. (* = female, NFT = non functional transmitter)

Here’s the line-up – listed by age of the female:

HATCH YEAR PAIR NUMBERS
2002 13-02 & 18-02*
2003 03-04 & 09-03*
  11-03NFT & 12-03
  09-05 & 13-03*NFT
2004 05-05NFT & 15-04*NFT
  12-02 & 19-04*
2005 01-04 & 08-05*
  08-04NFT & 19-05*
2006 10-03 & W1-06*
2007 16-02 & 16-07*NFT
  10-09 & 17-07*NFT
  12-05 & 22-07*
  04-08 & 26-07*NFT
  07-07 & 39-07*
  02-04 & 46-07*NFT
2008 14-08 & 24-08*
  03-07NFT & 38-08*
2009 16-04 & 04-09*
  33-07 & 05-09*
  17-03NFT & 07-09*
  11-02NFT & 08-09*
  01-01 & 14-09*
  11-09 & 15-09*
  27-06 & 26-09*
  41-09 & 32-09*
  38-09 & 34-09*
  06-09 & 35-09*
  18-03 & 36-09*
  24-09 & 42-09*
2010 28-08 & 5-10*
1-10 & 6-10*

 

You might want to keep this list so that once nesting is in full swing and eggs are ‘on the ground’ you can keep score.

EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION NEWS

This news just in from Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR pilot who completed a Whooping crane survey flight on Monday.

Bev told us, “During my crane survey flight yesterday, I found this lonely bird hanging out with a bunch of Sandhills. No working transmitter, no leg bands and some brown feathers. The general consensus is that I found the little runaway, 2-11. She was in a marsh in Adams County where last year we had a pair nest.”

Also found on the aerial survey was 38-08 who was sitting on a nest. She said that 9-05 & 13-03 were almost finished building their nest and that 27-07 & 12-05 looked to be just starting nest construction.

Altogether Bev located 31 pairs, of which at least three consist of a crane from the 2010 hatch year and a few more from the 2009 generation. Bev said, “I am not holding out a lot of hope for those young birds to nest successfully, but even so, practice makes perfect.”

She witnessed was a short vignette as she surveyed the Mead Wildlife Area. The mate of female 5-10 was chasing off Sandhills, an exercise that produced “quite an aerial dogfight” before the Sandhill disengaged and flew off into the woods.

Thanks for the news and the photo Bev!