The male Whooping crane, number 9-05 began showing up at the Canfield training site, located on Necedah NWR in the summer of 2009. At first, we weren’t sure if he had an affinity for the young crane chicks, or the grapes that are used to reward them for a job well done. Whatever attracted him, each morning when the aircraft would show up to train the younger birds, number 9-05 would emerge from the long grasses at the edge of the training area.
He never actually flew with the young birds, but he would follow them, as they followed the aircraft, up and down, back and forth. On numerous occasions, at the end of each training session, CraneCam viewers took bets as to whether he would actually follow them into the pen.
As the summer progressed and early hints of fall appeared, he began to also appear in early evening as well and would take his position at the back of the wetpen – seemingly standing guard over the young birds inside.
Eventually fall arrived – the young Whooping cranes departed the refuge with their aircraft guides, and number 9-05 was left alone briefly before meeting a young-of-year DAR female number 42-09. He guided her to Lake County, FL that fall and returned to the Necedah refuge with her the following March. By April 1st, however, they separated.
Not long after, he appeared to have bonded with a two year old female, number 18-08 and the pair were together for approximately three weeks before his new mate was found dead – the victim of predation.
But a new season brought new Whooping crane chicks to the refuge and in June, two cohorts arrived and our unlucky in love male, number 9-05 quickly took up his sentry position behind the wetpen each night, and on the runway each training day, much to the delight of regular CraneCam viewers. In this July 20, 2010 In the Field entry, Joe’s tells about one such encounter with number 9-05.
As the end of July came, so too did another stark white, adult Whooping crane. Perhaps it’s only fitting given his unlucky past with mates that this lovely ladybird turned out to be number 13-03, a number usually assigned the status of bad luck. She didn’t stay long with each visit, but the frequency of visits increased and from time-to-time, those fortunate enough to be viewing the CraneCam at just the right time, were rewarded with a dance. A routine consisting of leaps and bows and gyrations, all set to music that obviously they could hear and we could only imagine.
They began to spend days together, which turned into nights together – now two adults standing guard behind the Canfield enclosure as the young chicks roosted inside. But not every night… it seemed our lovely female was a two-timing gal and she would disappear for days on end, while she returned to spend time with her former (and perhaps still current?) mate, number 18-03.
Again, an Autumn season set in and threatened to turn to winter. Cranes 13-03 and 18-03 left the refuge and migrated together, to their typical winter territory in Tennessee. The lonely male, number 9-05 was discovered alone, on his winter territory in Lake County, FL.
The next spring all three returned to Necedah and it wasn’t long before 9-05 wooed his former girlfriend away from number 18-03 and in mid-April they were discovered incubating a nest! A single chick hatched out a month later and was designated as chick number W3-11. Unfortunately, the chick went missing a month later.
Fast forward an entire year to Monday, May 21st. Wisconsin DNR pilot (and former OM crane Mom) Bev Paulan sent news of a new chick for the pair. Whooping crane chick #W7-12 is the result of a re-nest and likely hatched sometime around May 17th (their first nest this spring failed for whatever reason). Let’s hope that the second chick is the charm for this pair who obviously love spending time near the youngsters.
A chick (#W7-12) for Whooping cranes 13-03 and 9-05 likely hatched on or around May 17th can be seen with one adult on the nest while the other adult forages for food.
Here are the two adults pictured in the summer of 2010 spending time with the young Whooping cranes.