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!

NO FLYING ON MIGRATION DAY 13

Wind dead out of the west on the surface and WNW winds packing too much muscle for the cranes and planes to handle spell a third day Down Day.

WOOD BUFFALO-ARANSAS POPULATION
In a recent article on the website of the Whooping Crane Conservation Association (WCCA), author Chester McConnell wrote, “Whooping crane nesting success on Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada during 2012 was considered good but slightly down from previous years. This is good news after the poor winter season on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.”

Chester noted that, “Sixty-six Whooping crane nests were discovered in May by the Canaidan Wildlife Service. Three months later in August, an additional 3 family groups were identified indicating that there were at least 69 nesting attempts during the 2012 nesting season. In early August, just prior to fledging, 34 young were observed on the breeding grounds. Two sets of twins were observed. Ten of the young Whoopers were fitted with leg bands and satellite transmitters.”

Read the full article here.

GROUNDED FOR MIGRATION DAY #12

Surface winds gusting to 30mph and 30-40mph SW winds aloft mean there will be no advancement for the ultralight-led Class of 2012 for a second day. The prediction for Wednesday is a shift to winds coming out of the northwest, but they will remain very strong. We will have to wait to see what tomorrow morning brings.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting an online chat tomorrow morning, October 10th at 11:30am CST. Davin Lopez, DNR Whooping Crane Coordinator and Joan Garland Outreach Coordinator for the International Crane Foundation will answer questions about Whooping cranes and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

Use this link to leave yourself a reminder to tune in, or to join the chat at the scheduled time.

Photo Credit: ICF

COME JOIN US!!

If you’re within driving distance of Pecatonica, IL, come join us this evening for a presentation by Joe Duff. Joe, OM’s CEO and senior pilot, will entertain attendees with his engaging PowerPoint show featuring some amazing video footage enhanced by many personal stories and experiences.
Come learn about OM’s role in the Whooping crane reintroduction project and enjoy the company of OM crew and fellow Craniacs.

The presentation will begin at 6:30pm in the back room of the Stonewall Cafe, 423 Main Street, Pecatonica. Thanks to to our hosts, De Ann and George Anderson, and to Craniac Sue Merchant for getting the word out.

Anyone wishing to meet for dinner be at the Stonewall Cafe by 5pm so there will be time to finish before the presentation. We’re all looking forward to seeing EVERYONE!

SNAPSHOTS FROM THE FIELD

I thought I would share a few random moments from the last two weeks. Everything has happened so quickly, and down time and internet connections are hard to find, so I haven’t had a chance to write another journal entry.

After the first big rain we had at the White River Marsh pensite, #5 was leaving me alone and preoccupied with something in the air under the shelter roof. He was posed, just like a classic crane on an oriental vase, with his head back and his wings spread, and did I mention that he wasn’t attacking me! I finished my chores and then peering through my visor I finally realized that he has snapping at a stream of water that was running off the roof.

Joe Duff gave me some advice about dealing with #5. He said that I needed to be the bigger, tougher bird, and to crowd #5 if he was ‘bad’. The next morning we had training. This time I opened the gates and then was in the pen while the birds were flying. Once again #5 returned early. He landed on the runway full of himself as he strutted and posed for pictures for the people in the blind.

Suddenly he seemed to realize that he was alone and he started to peep. He began with an occasional peep, but it turned into a frantic worried peeping. As I watched, he changed from the bad boy bully into the lost little boy; like discovering that the school bully picked on people because he couldn’t read, I had discovered that #5 wasn’t the best flyer in the group and though he didn’t like being second fiddle to anyone, he really didn’t like being left behind. After the rest of the class came back and entered the pen, #5 started in on me again but this time instead of backing down I stood up taller and shuffled my feet closer to him. He backed down right away and that was the last time he has given me any grief.
The morning of our departure on migration Geoff and I went out to the pen and released the birds. All the birds took off well and we hid in the pen. Our job was to be ready in case any of the birds returned or were lost. Sure enough #5 turned back from the group. Brook called to us on the radio to get the swamp monster ready.

The swamp monster is a crane handler who strips off their costume and puts a blue tarp over their head. They stand on the runway flapping their arms – which makes the tarp crinkle – and blowing an air horn. The idea is to scare the bird so they will seek out the aircraft (big yellow momma) and stick with it for the flight. Geoff could not get into his swamp monster outfit before #5 had landed on the runway so Brook had to land and then take off again with #5.

They headed south, but #5 turned back again. This time Geoff was ready and the swamp monster appeared. The big blue crinkly thing did the trick. #5 didn’t land and instead turned back to Brook. Off they went again, but not for long. This time we I got to join Geoff on the runway in full swamp monster outfit. We stood on the runway and watched #5 fly toward us with Brook in pursuit.

Brook said he could see us and #5 must gotten a good look too and decided he’d had enough because he turned back to the trike and faithfully followed Brook to the next stopover location. After they were out of sight I looked at Geoff and started to laugh. We looked like two of the blue Pacman guys, or a blue meanie from Yellow Submarine. It was pretty funny. Whatever we looked like, it did the trick!

The departure from Columbia County was the chicks’ first air pick up. An air pick up is when the pilots don’t land by the pen but rather just fly by at a low altitude. Geoff and I were opening the pen again. We got the okay from Richard, on the radio as he came up the hill and by the pen. We opened the gates and although the birds all came out they were clearly unsure. All that is but #10. #10 took one look at the trike and made a beeline for it. She didn’t care if it was on the ground or in the air. She just wanted to fly. Four of the other birds took their cue from her and followed right behind leaving only #5 on the runway. Richard made one loop to let the birds catch up and #5 quickly decided not to be left behind and took off to join the group.

LEAD PILOT REPORT

Weather conditions for the morning were as predicted…a “Go”, so the crew went about their duties accordingly. Geoff, Julie and Colleen left for the pen a little earlier than usual to clean up the mess made the morning before by the “Visual Barrier Terrorists”…a sinister organization of two; one zombie slayer and one white haired desperado who never met a visual barrier he didn’t like.

Their mission. to place additional visual barriers around the pen to compensate for the action of the high winds which blew the trees naked of leaves and robbed the crane pen of its cover. And though the next day’s forecast whispered, “Hey , why bother – you guys will be out of here tomorrow,”we could hear within that voice the familiar tone of the fates setting us up for another smack with the whammy stick. So we set up the panels knowing if we did, the fates would release us and if we didn’t, they would hold us here for several more days during which we would listen to the winds howl and kick ourselves for being played for suckers yet again.

Soon the trike was revving at the pen as Geoff and Julie pulled open the gates. But the chicks just stood there with a puzzled expression, perhaps longing for the privacy of the visual barriers. Then, as if suddenly remembering the game, they launched from the pen…all but Curly….ah, I mean #4 who was standing on the other side of the plastic crane decoy waiting for IT to launch.

Curly mastered the fine art of confusion at an early age, and in fact hatched with a question mark hanging over his head. But time and tide wait for no trike, and trying to stop a launch once it has begun is like trying to recall a bullet, so off we went, the five chicks and I.

Our confused little fellow also followed, but was late and soon was a ways back. Then the sound of another trike behind him sent him into a further state of confusion, but Richard soon picked him up as the rest of us headed up and on course.

This is my favorite leg of the migration because it is one of transition….southern Wisconsin and a landscape of swirls and eddies, where the straight line is sacrilege, and the land rests upon the earth like an unmade bed covered by a quilt of mesmerizing color, morphing eventually into the beginning of Illinois, the land of “flat”, where the right angle rules and its attendant lines checkerboard all that lies this side of the horizon.

Sadly for me, the thick grey overcast muted the sun’s ability to ignite the fall colors and give life to the usual game of hide and seek played by light and shadow down in the folds and creases of the below. But there is joy in the act of going, and soon the chicks absorbed my focus. They have worked out their parts in this drama and perform them dutifully. They are in the airm, as they are on the ground, characters.

A benevolent tailwind and cold temperatures made the flight an easy one and soon we were again on solid ground, birds in the pen and trikes safely hangared and the warm friendship of our hosts made short work what was left of our lingering chill. If the rest of the migration goes this easily, the biggest challenge for me will be to point the web cam in the right direction. But then, direction has always been my problem. Visual barrier…anyone??????

Photo compliments of Anne Saeman who captured Richard flying overhead with his solo companion #4 who was late out of the gate at the Green County, WI pen.