Crane Spotting

Photographer Al Scherwinski was out and about last Friday when he encountered two Whooping cranes in Adams County, WI. 

Never without his camera, Al sent along the following photos to share with you.

Male #11-15 has been bopping around, never settling down for long in one place. Until this past spring, he and Peanut (male #4-14) were best buds but then #4-14 found female #7-17 and wanted nothing to do with his former bud.

It’s nice to see that #11-15 found himself a new (female) friend and it will be interesting to see if they travel south in the next few weeks.

Foreground is young female Whooping crane #W3-17. Male #11-15 is in front of the Sandhill crane. Photo: Al Scherwinski

Male Whooping crane 11-15. Photo: Al Scherwinski


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Whooping Crane #38-17

Regular readers will recall female Whooping crane #38-17 didn’t migrate south last winter. She was released at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in September and, while she flew well, she only ventured about a mile away from the refuge, all winter.

She survived the cold with supplemental corn put out by refuge staff and she likely ate snow, in place of water, when the surrounding marsh was frozen for weeks at a time.

This summer, she met up with a 3 year old male Whooping crane, #63-15. He had been using an area of the refuge a bit northeast of 38-17’s typical foraging and roosting locations. 

Since the two found each other, they’ve been exploring the surrounding areas together and Doug Pellerin recently sent along a couple of photos to share.

Let’s hope she follows her new friend south this winter!

Male Whooping crane #63-15 is on the left. #38-17 on the right. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Photo: Doug Pellerin

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St. Marks is Open for Visitors!

Make plans to attend the Monarch Festival this Saturday!

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More Whoopers Head South

It seems the pair spotted in Knox County, Indiana over the past weekend weren’t the only ones that caught the early southward migration bug.

Monday afternoon, volunteer tracker Leroy Harrison spotted “George & Gracie” aka 9-03 (F) & 3-04 (M) at their normal winter location in Wayne County, IL.

This pair hatched two chicks in the spring but sadly, neither survived to fledge.

9-03 (left) and 3-04 arrived in southern Illinois over the weekend. Photo: Leroy Harrison

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Wintering Whoopers – Already?

Wisconsin had its first snow flakes over the past weekend and it seems a couple of Whooping cranes took that as their cue to head south!

Volunteer tracker John Pohl spotted these two new arrivals in Knox County, Indiana and sent along the following photo to share with you.

This pair formed over the summer so it’s nice to see they traveled south together. They are female 12-03 (right) & male 12-05. Photo: John Pohl

Thanks so much John!

If you spot a Whooping crane, be sure to complete a report.

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What will happen to whooping cranes now that Operation Migration is ending?


Dressed in one of her crane costumes, Mary O’Brien got to interact with whooping crane colts in the training pen at the White River Marsh Wildlife Area. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Retired Madison environmental scientist Mary O’Brien has spent hundreds of hours sitting at her dining room table — surrounded by yards and yards of white fabric — carefully stitching together bird costumes.

“You can imagine this giant Teletubby white costume … Most people’s reaction was ‘What on Earth is going on here?’”

Those handmade costumes helped ultralight pilots hide their human identities and disguise themselves as oversized whooping cranes, leading flocks of the endangered birds south as part of Operation Migration. The nonprofit was a founding member of the Eastern Migratory Partnership, formed in 1999 to help restore a migrating population of whooping cranes in the Eastern United States.

“I always felt very proud to know that it was my stitches flying high in the air with all these whooping cranes all the way to Florida. And of course, very, very honored to be part of that all,” she says.

Starting in 2001, Operation Migration began receiving whooping crane chicks hatched at captive breeding sites across North America. Some eggs were also pulled from abandoned whooping crane nests. A joint partnership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service called the Whooping Crane Recovery Team oversees the allocation of chicks every year. The team is currently headed by a member of U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

READ more

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News from the WCCA

Our friends over at the Whooping Crane Conservation Association posted a photo captured yesterday, which was taken by Brian Johns, Ret. Canadian Wildlife Service and which showed 151 whooping cranes seen together on the staging grounds in Saskatchewan.

In fact, the flock was spread out such that Brian was only able to get just over 100 birds in the photo. 

The Wood Buffalo Whoopers are getting ready to head to coastal Texas. Photo: Brian Johns

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Last Chance to Snag some Crane Gear

You’ve no doubt heard the news that Operation Migration is closing. That means that the merchandise we have is IT! 

And THAT means you can’t procrastinate placing your order any longer. We have a small number of commemorative T-shirts available, and a few one-of-a-kind moppets, which were lovingly made by Mary O’Brien from costumes the OM team wore when working with Whooping cranes.

Depending on where you’re located, perhaps you’re already feeling chilly – we have the perfect cure to beat the cold with some great socks and scarves left!

Here’s a link to our MARKETPLACE!

All orders will receive a free OM Pin and/or other goodies (while supplies last)! 

Hurricane Michael News

A recent post from St. Marks and St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuges” “The storm surge dropped piles of debris on Lighthouse Road making it impassable. Our buildings are okay.

The refuge will be closed through the weekend and possibly into next week. The lighthouse lost the steps but no water came in the keepers quarters.”

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Genetically Valuable Whooper Twins Hatch in Calgary

There are not one but two whooping crane siblings now calling the Calgary area home.

Their situation is unique, not just because there are only about 450 of the birds are left in the wild, but because of who’s raising them.

Zookeeper Valerie Edwards acts like a bit of a social worker at the so-called “cranedominiums,” at the Calgary Zoo’s award-winning Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre

Read more….

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Hurricane Michael

To all our friends in the Tallahassee and St. Marks, Florida area – be safe. We’re anxiously keeping an eye on this weather event as it approaches landfall in your area and thinking of you all.

The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge will be closed at least until Thursday. All access gates will be locked. Check their Facebook page for refuge updates. 

Michael is expected to landfall along the Florida Panhandle Gulf Coast Wednesday.

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Nearing Migration Time…

Click to enlarge

It’s almost that time of year when Whooping cranes will begin heading south for the winter. If you spot one, please be sure to complete a public sighting report.

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EMP Whooping Crane Update

October 1, 2018

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. In the last month the remaining wild-hatched chicks have fledged. A huge thank-you to the staff of Operation Migration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources, the International Crane Foundation, and all of the volunteers who help us keep track of the cranes throughout the year. We appreciate your contribution to the recovery of the Whooping Crane Eastern Migratory Population.

Population Estimate

The current estimated population size is 101 (45 F, 50 M, 6 U). This now includes fledged wild-hatched chicks and the family group released at Horicon NWR. As of 1 October, at least 80 Whooping Cranes are in Wisconsin, 3 in Michigan, possibly 3 in Illinois, and 1 in Minnesota. The remaining birds’ locations have not been confirmed in the last month or two. See map below.


As of 1 October, five wild-hatched chicks are still alive, all of which have fledged. A sixth chick fledged but died during September. Chicks in bold are currently alive. We had some miscommunication about mortalities so there is a correction since the last update.

W1_18 (U) is still in Juneau Co with its parents and has fledged.

W3_18 (F) is still with her parents in Adams Co and has fledged.

W5_18 (U) hatched to parents W3_10 and 8_04 in Juneau Co. We had found a transmitter from W5_18 with feathers attached, around the same time the parents disappeared. We could not confirm, but suspected W5_18 had died. Surprisingly, during September W3_10 and 8_04 showed up again with a fledged chick! So W5_18 is still alive, has fledged, and has been banded.

W6_18 (U) is still alive and with its parents 1-04 and 16-07 in Juneau Co, WI. W6-18 has been banded and has fledged.

W7_18 and W8_18 hatched to parents 9-03 and 3-04 in Juneau Co. We had a mix-up on a mortality report, and believed W10_18 was dead, but it was actually W7_18 whose carcass was collected in August.

W9_18 hatched to parents 14-08 and 24-08 in Juneau Co. We have seen 24_08 alone with the chick for most of July and August, suspecting 14_08 has died. During September we saw 24_08 with male 13_02 without the chick. On 15 September, the carcass of W9_18 was collected. W9_18 had fledged before its death.

W10_18 (U) hatched to parents 4-08 and 23-10 in Juneau Co. We believed W10_18 was dead due to a mix-up in a mortality report, but W10-18 is actually alive, was banded, and has fledged. 

2018 Releases

16_11 (M), 18_12 (F), 73_18 (F), and 74_18 (M) were all released at Horicon NWR on 25 August. On 24 September, the carcass of 18_12 (Hemlock) was collected and sent to the National Wildlife Health Center for necropsy. 16_11, 73_18, and 74_18 are together at Horicon NWR.

Whooping cranes 16-11 & 18-12 (Hemlock) with their two chicks (73-18 & 74-18) were released at Horicon NWR in late August. Sadly, Hemlock’s remains were found a month later.

Two Parent-Reared cranes; 76_18 (F) and 77_18 (M) will be released in Wisconsin in early October. 

2017 Wild-hatched chicks

W3_17 (F) is still in Adams Co, WI, and was last seen with 3_11 and 7_11.

W7_17 (F) is still alone in Wright Co, MN.

Parent-Reared 2017 Cohort

19_17 (M) and 25_17 (M) have returned to WI and are currently in Polk Co.

28_17 (M) is currently in Sauk Co, WI.

24_17 (M) is in Dane Co, WI.

72_17 (M) is still in Ingham Co, MI.

38_17 (F) is still in Dodge Co, WI with 63-15 (M).

39_17 (F) is still in Outagamie Co, WI.

Costume-Reared 2017 Cohort

7_17 (F) is still with 4_14 (M) in Green Lake Co.

3_17 (M) is still with two other adults 30_16 (M) and 11_15 (M) in Waushara Co.

4_17 (M) and 6_17 (F) are still in Brown Co, WI.

1_17 (M), 2_17 (F), and 8_17 (F) have split up and 1_17 and 2_17 are currently in Winnebago Co, IL. 8_17 was last seen in Sangamon Co, IL, but her whereabouts are still unknown.


The carcass of 18_12 (Hemlock) was collected on 24 Sept in Dodge Co, WI. It did not appear to be predated and was shipped to the National Wildlife Health Center for necropsy.

The carcass of 39_16 was collected on 25 Sept in Adams Co, WI. He had not been seen since 8 August and was likely dead for a while. Cause of death could not be determined.

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And the Winner is…..

Roxanne Silhan! 

Yours was the winning raffle ticket drawn to receive Joe Duff’s extraordinary birdhouse!

Congratulations Roxanne – Keep your eye on your mailbox.

Here is Joe’s incredible bird house, which will be on its way to Roxanne shortly.

Thanks to everyone who purchased raffle tickets for this amazing creation!

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Last Call for OM Merchandise!

You’ve no doubt heard the news that Operation Migration is closing. That means that the merchandise we have is IT! 

And THAT means you can’t procrastinate placing your order any longer, that is unless you are coming to this year’s CraneFest in Princeton, Wisconsin!

Here’s a link to our MARKETPLACE, and here’s a link to learn more about CRANEFEST

All orders will receive a free OM Lapel Pin and Refrigerator Magnet or other goodies (while supplies last)!