ANOTHER RECORD FALLS

DATE: Oct. 19, 2012 – Entry 1 MIGRATION DAY 22 / DOWN DAY 7
FLOWN TODAY: 0 miles ACCUMULATED: 175 miles
LOCATION: LaSalle Co, IL REPORTER: Liz Condie

It’s been a week since we arrived in LaSalle County, making this the longest time we’ve ever been held in place at this Stopover. The previous record – which we’d rather not have broken – was set in 2004 when we waited here six days for favorable winds/weather.

MILEMAKER CHALLENGE!

Babs, from WA, has put out a challenge out to all Craniacs to come up with 5 MileMaker miles. You can help meet her challenge by sponsoring a 1/4 or a 1/2 or a full mile (or all 5 miles of course – smile). She will cheerfully match all sponsorships up to 5 miles.

In Babs’ words, “Let’s go!!! Let’s get our six chicks to Florida!!

Click here to take up Babs’ challenge.

SOUTHERLIES PIN CRANES AND PLANES TO THE GROUND

DATE: Oct. 18, 2012 – Entry 1 MIGRATION DAY 21 / DOWN DAY 6
FLOWN TODAY: 0 miles ACCUMULATED: 175 miles
LOCATION: LaSalle Co, IL REPORTER: Liz Condie

(Testing new header above for use during the migration as suggested by supporter and blogger Eileen Hale.)

Lashed by rain and set rocking ‘n rolling by wind, camp will have some drying out to do this morning. Rain, followed by a steady diet of wind out of the south, continues to prevent any progress on the 2012 migration. Having been held in place at our second stopover location in Illinois for the sixth consecutive day, the team is more than anxious for the winds to drop down and swing around to come out of a favorable direction so we can be on our way.

With the earlier start to the 2012 fall migration (September 28th departure) we can’t help but wonder how long this year’s journey will take. The shortest migration concluded after 48 days in 2001, and the longest (excluding the curtailed migration in Alabama in 2011) took 97 days in 2007.

2005 was the first year the migration was ‘broken’ into two segments when, on our arrival in Marion County, FL on December 13th, we were asked to stand down until the adult cranes moved through the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge area. The Class of 2005 were held in a pen at the Halpata Tastanaki Preserve as of that date until we received the all clear and the pilots returned to Florida to lead them the last leg giving that season’s migration a January 12th finish.

The stand down waiting for White Birds at Halpata Tasktanaki was repeated in 2006 and again in 2010 when we arrived December 19th and December 15th respectively. OM pilots returned in the new year to finish the ’06 and ’10 migrations on January 12th and January 15th respectively.

The 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011 migrations were broken with a hiatus for all but a ‘crane caretaking team’ to give migration crew an opportunity to travel home to spend the holidays with their families.

Hopefully, the September start for this year’s migration – the earliest ever, and the decreased distance to cover – 1101 air miles (to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge) versus 1285 air miles (to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge) will help to make it one of the shorter ones, and with luck take us back to the days of  pre-xmas finishes.

But first, we have to escape the clutches of southerlies here in Illinois!

EQUATION: 5DUP + 15DD = MDAY 20

Did you figure out the equation? 5 DAYS ‘UP’ + 15 DAYS ‘DOWN’ = MIGRATION DAY 20.

Southerlies continue to stall migration progress with wind 15 to 20mph on surface and double those numbers aloft. Stepping outside you can almost taste the moisture in the air so it appears the weatherman will soon make good on his promise to deliver rain.

INTO THE WIND by Julia Anthony
This week has us grounded in Illinois by wind, a lot of wind! Sunday we even had a tornado warning. Geoff knocked on the trailer door and told me to come into the hanger. There we watched some ugly black clouds fly by and the wind sock dance and twist in the wind and rain. About two o’clock the weather slacked off so Colleen and I headed to the pen to see the birds.

We checked the cranes over and handed out grapes. They showed no problems or stress. We had to replace the wet food in their feeders and then we refilled the water buckets.

Just as we were finishing Colleen tapped me on the arm and pointed to the west. Another large black cloud was rolling in. Right on cue the winds picked up. The birds started to jump into the wind. They spread their wings and leapt. It looks like a fun game! But the cloud looked ominous and I whispered to Colleen that I thought we should stay there in the pen until it passed.

We were both worried about leaving the chicks, but we shouldn’t have been. As the wind got stronger all six chicks turned their heads into the wind and moved to the front of the pen. They stood there all together while the wind swirled past them. Colleen and I were much worse off. We huddled by the trailer as it creaked, groaned and rocked. Dummy Mommy (the plastic model crane) danced on the end of her tether.

When the clouds and wind passed Colleen and I finished our chores, checked the hotwire fences, and tightened the ropes on the visual barriers. We walked away and I was very reassured that, young though the birds might be, they knew what to do in a storm. Just huddle together and turn your face into the wind!

STILL GROUNDED…

For the 4th day, the 2012 Migration will be held to the ground in LaSalle County, IL. Strong winds out of the south are the culprit.

WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
An article in a newsletter from the Suzuki Foundation attempted to answer the question of why we should care about saving all species.

Hundreds if not thousands of plants and animals besides the Whooping crane rely on wetlands for their survival. If habitat loss threatens the survival of the Whooping crane, it surely threatens the survival of other species as well.

Beyond the fact that allowing any species to go extinct because of our activities is a pretty sorry indicator of our ability to manage our affairs, the health of wildlife populations can give us a pretty good indication about the health of many of our wetland ecosystems. And when one species goes extinct, the effects cascade throughout the ecosystem.

It’s just not good enough to wait until a creature has all but disappeared and then scramble to try to bring it back. When we harm one animal, or the ecosystem on which it relies, we affect everything that is connected to it, including ourselves. What kind of animal are we that put our economic and political agendas ahead of the very survival of another species?

The Spotted owl’s fate for instance should tell us something about ourselves. One study found that one quarter of the plants and animals that share the spotted owl’s old-growth habitat in B.C.’s Lower Mainland are at risk of disappearing, including tailed frogs, coastal marbled murrelets, northern goshawks, and fishers.

So, what we should be doing? We must ensure wetlands and other wildlife ecosystems are not lost, but kept pristine and protected or we risk the loss of more species of plants, animals and birds.”

REMEMBER WHEN…?

If you’ve been a long-time Craniac, or been following us since at least 2009, you’ll remember the initial launch of our Give a WHOOP! campaign.

That year, we invited everyone to Give a WHOOP! in celebration of our achieving the remarkable milestone of flying 10,000 air miles leading Whooping cranes on migration. It was our goal to collect 10,000 WHOOPS! – one for each of those magical air miles flown with an ancient species learning their migration flyway behind modern machine.

To illustrate the huge and widespread interest in safeguarding Whooping cranes, the plan was to list the name of every person who WHOOPED on an Honor Roll, which, when completed, would be sent to the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP); the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team; the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; and to the Department of the Interior – the agencies on which this project, and Whooping cranes, depend.

Despite falling short of our symbolic goal of 10,000 WHOOPS!, the almost 7,000 WHOOPS! collected clearly demonstrated to the world how much many folks cared about the future of this magnificent species.

It was here at the stopover site we are at right now, (LaSalle County, Illinois) that we hosted the  official celebration of having reached the 10,000 mile mark. Craniacs near and far came to join us for a bit of a party which we broadcast live via the CraneCam.

The Give a WHOOP! campaign took a break in 2010, but by popular demand was resurrected in 2011 and continues into 2012.

While the dollars Give a WHOOP! brings in are important, not everything is about money. By “WHOOPING!” you are sending a message of solid support for the conservation of wildlife, and especially for the work being done to safeguard the Whooping crane from extinction.

Please think about giving a WHOOP! right now.

DRATS! TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

After hunkering down yesterday due to a tornado warning and after days of winds from the south we finally have favorable northwest winds. But…at 10-15mph on the surface and pushing 40mph aloft, like devouring that second chocolate bar, it is a case of too much of a good thing.

Today will be Down Day #3 in LaSalle County.

JUST A NOTE….Another article about the September CraneFest held in Berlin, WI recently came to our attention. This one was by Pam Rotella. Click here to read.

DOWN DAY #2 AT SECOND ILLINOIS STOP

If it wasn’t the non-stop rain, the very strong SW wind would still hold us earthbound today. Tomorrow’s forecast looks more favorable however as the winds are predicted to swing around to come out of the NW or the WNW. The departure flyover viewing location for this stopover has always offered one of the best views of the cranes and planes as they head south. Click HERE or use the link to the right for the location and a map.

KITTY CAM
A recent media release by the American Bird Conservancy was titled, ‘KittyCam Reveals High Levels of Wildlife Being Killed by Outdoor Cats’. “The results were certainly surprising, if not startling,” said lead author of the study Kerrie Anne Loyd of the University of Georgia.

It was revealed that nearly one-third of house cats allowed to roam outdoors succeeded in capturing and killing animals including lizards, voles, chipmunks, birds, frogs, and small snakes. The cats in the study averaged 2.1 kills per week. Not included in the study were animals killed by non-owned feral cats. A University of Nebraska study released last year found that feral cats were responsible for the extinction of 33 species of birds worldwide, Read the full article here.

THINGS ARE CHANGING

An expert is defined as someone who knows a great deal about a particular field of study and although we have amassed considerable knowledge about the migration of Whooping cranes, it would be a stretch to apply that term to us. We have taught twelve generations of these birds to migrate, but we are barely scratching the surface of what could be learned.

We have also delved into social media to promote the conservation of Whooping cranes but that too is a subject we know comparatively little about. We have a website that is updated daily and a live streaming camera that can give viewers an inside look at the process, and while it is growing, our audience is still small by comparison.

The one thing we know is that social media is changing the way people use the internet. There are thousands of books and articles on how to use social media but no one can determine what will catch the interest of the world of internet users who can flood an online video clip with millions of hits in a single week. For some nonprofits, going viral can make all the difference but it is like picking the right lottery numbers.

We do know that the devices people use to access social media has changed. Known as Mobile 2.0 people are using smart phones and that sector of the market is growing faster than any other sector of technology. On Christmas day alone 6.8 million smart phones were activated (Wall Street Journal 2012) Our website has not kept pace and visitors must wait for a large amount of data to download in order to connect.

In order to capitalize, we are converting our Field Journal to a blog platform that will automatically organize and archive past entries and allow current news to be shared among social networks more easily. We’ve also added a photo gallery so you can see all of the images for each season in one easy to view location.

Our hope is that we can increase our audience and utilize that faster accessibility to help spread the message of conservation to more people. So in the next few days you will see a change in our Field Journal. Change is always difficult for some, including me, but we hope you will tolerate this modification and find it faster to download, easier to navigate and simpler to share with people you think might enjoy it. The more it is shared, the more interest we can generate and the better we can teach people about the plight of Whooping cranes and other wildlife.

DOWN DAY

Location: LaSalle County, IL

Strong winds from an unfavorable direction combined with a high probability of rain will prevent any migration progress today.

WOOD BUFFALO-ARANSAS WHOOPERS
Thanks again to the Whooping Crane Conservation Association (WCCA) for the latest news about citizen’s concerns for the Wood Buffalo/Aransas Population. “Citizens Want Accurate and Timely Whooping Crane Information.”

Community Expresses Clear Desire for Accurate and Timely Whooping Crane Data, by Ron Outen, Regional Director, The Aransas Project

A public meeting held by the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge staff in Fulton to provide information about changes in tracking and reporting the numbers of endangered whooping cranes wintering at the Refuge was well-attended by the community as well as by local elected officials.

The Oct. 4 meeting followed on the heels of USFWS’s Oct. 3 release of a report that they titled,, “Aransas-Wood Buffalo Whooping Crane Abundance Survey (2011-2012).” Read the full article on the WCCA website.

MIGRATION DAY 15 – LEAD PILOT REPORT

It was a dark and quiet morning and not a creature was stirring…not even Brooke. As I prowled around camp looking for company it was noticeably calm, much calmer than expected. Finally a go day!

Before long camp came to life. Crew members scurried back and forth in preparation for today’s flight. Then it seemed to take forever for the sun came up. But like every day, it did, and we were soon airborne. Conditions seemed ideal. 36 miles per hour ground speed and 1 hour 20 minutes to the next stop.

As the trike took off 5 birds came to the wing and the last bird turned away. I circled around to pick him up and with some reluctance he came aboard, taking the lead position on my right wing. Shortly thereafter two more chicks joined him. With three birds per wing I began a slow climb on course. Passing over the departure flyover viewing area we were east of course and it was necessary to go west of course to stay out the Rockford airspace.

By now all of the birds had settled on the left wing and seemed to be enjoying the flight now at 2300 feet ASL. Then the air began to get slightly rough and our ground speed slowed down to around 22 miles per hour. And after 50 minutes of flight time, the ETA had gone up to 1 hour 50 minutes.

Flat cropland in a brown colorless patchwork slowly passed below and eventually gave way to wind farms that seemed to go on forever to the southwest. The birds started to get nervous as we began to fly over the wind farms. They tried to stay above the wing, occasionally switching from wing to wing, then slipping down and back and having to be coaxed back up on the wing. As a result we began to lose altitude and the air became rougher.

Sunlight glistened off the hangar roof at our next stop still 12 miles away and 35 more minutes flight time. As we descended the air became increasingly rough and it was difficult to keep the wing steady. In order to avoid hitting a bird it was necessary to keep ahead of them and that was proving difficult. Hugging the bar desperately while the trike bounced around in the air I continued on.

The birds, now above the trike, were wary of getting too close to this inferior flying contraption. That suited me fine as we battled the turbulence still trying to get past the hangar itself so we could land by the pen. After what seemed to take longer than the four days we spent at our last stopover site, we finally landed.

EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATE – Entry 2

WCEP Tracker, Eva Szyszkoski’s (ICF) latest report (to October 10th) noted that the population number had remained unchanged at 104 cranes. That number included 52 males and 51 females and one crane of indeterminate gender.

Including the two surviving 2012 wild-hatched chicks, she estimated the distribution of the Whooping cranes as at the end of the report period, or, their last recorded location as: 97 in Wisconsin; 2 in Michigan; 1 not recently reported; and 4 long term missing.

Wild-hatched chick 1-12 was captured and banded on October 10th. These two photos taken by Eva show #1-12 before and after being banded.

Direct Autumn Release (DAR)

Five DAR juveniles were banded with permanent colored leg bands and transmitters at the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Dodge County on October 4th. They will be released later this month.

MIGRATION DAY 15

After a bit of a bumpy and a slow flight, the cranes and planes landed safely in LaSalle County. The ground crew are on their way to join us here and by late afternoon the chores should be done and we’ll all be together again.
News about the Eastern Migratory Population will follow in another entry later today and Richard’s Lead Pilot report will be posted between 4 and 5pm.

NOT EXACTLY A PREDICTION

The last check of the weather sites shows a prediction for NNE winds on the surface at ~8 to 10 mph tomorrow morning, and ~10 to 15 also NNE aloft. Richard called this not exactly ideal given the flight path to the next stopover site, but perhaps doable if it is not too rough.

If the pilots think it’s worth a try, they are likely to put up a test trike after sunrise and make a decision based on what they find aloft. This posting is your heads up that there MIGHT be a departure flyover tomorrow.

MIGRATION DAY 14 = DOWN DAY 4 IN WINNEBAGO COUNTY

When the winds aloft are in the 40 to 60mph range, the direction they are blowing from becomes moot. The 2012 migration will be stalled for a fourth day at our first stopover location in Illinois.

Community Support
Attendees at the September 22nd CraneFest held at the Berlin Conservation Club in Wisconsin will be aware of the terrific support of the Berlin Rotary Club. Many of that event’s activities could not have happened without the assistance and efforts of the members of the Berlin Rotary Club.

I’ve always felt a personal connection to Rotary through my Dad. He tried to live and instill in his kids the essence of Rotary members’ motto; “Service before self.” Dad proudly wore his diamond-studded Rotary lapel pin presented to him for 20 years of perfect meeting attendance, and was equally proud of my little sister and I as we roamed our neighborhood canvassing for dimes to support Rotary and the March of Dimes fundraising campaign to fight polio.

It is a fact that no matter where you go in the world you’ll find Rotarians that are caring, concerned, and good community citizens. Yesterday OM’s Migration Crew joined the Rotary Club of Pecatonica for their regular monthly meeting and came away with a MileMaker Sponsorship.

Although most of the crew were already familiar with Rotary International’s longtime goal of eradicating polio worldwide, many were unfamiliar with the organization’s involvement with ‘Shelter Boxes’. Fascinating! Click here to learn about Shelter Boxes.

We want to express a sincere thank you to the Rotary Club of Pecatonica, and send up three cheers for Rotarians everywhere!