Online Auction – Are You Ready?

This year’s fabulous and anxiously-awaited online auction is coming soon, so if you don’t already follow Operation Migration’s Facebook page, it’s time to click FB_like

The first items will post on September 1st, and others will be added throughout the auction which closes on September 25th.

Don’t have a FaceBook account? If you’re uncomfortable using your own name, why not make one with a pseudonym so that you can participate? Or you can even have a friend place bids for you. Just send us an email to let us know what name you’re bidding under.

To whet your appetite, here’s a preview of some of the wonderful items that have been hand-crafted and donated by some of our talented supporters:

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Tom the Tume’s Photo Roundup!

On Tuesday, Doug Pellerin was in the viewing blind with his camera. Yesterday, it was Tom Schultz’s turn to visit the blind and he has share some of his photo with us to pass along to you – Enjoy!

Pilot Brooke Pennypacker arrives and while Jeff and Doug wait for him to give them a thumbs up to open the enclosure.

Pilot Brooke Pennypacker arrives and while Jeff and Doug wait for him to give them a thumbs up to open the enclosure.

And they're off!

And they’re off!

After a long, sweeping flight north and out over White River Marsh, Brooke turned southwest with the young Whooping cranes.

After a long, sweeping flight north and out over White River Marsh, Brooke turned southwest with the young Whooping cranes.

Whoopers 2015 8-12 photo11 - Brooke w 6 chicks_1

Two flights, totaling over 23 minutes.

Two flights, totaling over 23 minutes.

Brooke passes out grapes as a reward for a job (very) well done!

Brooke passes out grapes as a reward for a job (very) well done!

A Quest for Whooping Cranes

John Lawrence Hanson, Ed.D., of Marion teaches U.S. history with an emphasis on environmental issues at Linn-Mar High School. Dr. Hanson will be teaching in Norway for the 2015-2016 school year on a Fulbright Scholarship. One of his feature lessons will be the history of conservation in America with the Whooping Crane as the case study.

CLICK to read A Quest for Whooping cranes by Mr. Hanson.

Poop Happens

Miranda Bertram has a rare skill – she can identify whooping crane feces on sight.

She’s certainly had a lot of practice. A Ph.D. candidate at Texas A&M University, Bertram spent the last two winters tramping around Texas’s Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in search of whooping crane feces to research and document which parasites are present in the population, and if they could be affecting the recovery of this endangered species.

CLICK to read the full story

Crane Festival Countdown MileMaker Challenge!

From: Mary O’Brien, Madison, WI

P1010317MOWith the Whooping crane festival only a month away, I’m throwing caution to the wind and sticking my neck way out with a three part MileMaker challenge: At a minimum, I’ll match up to 10 miles contributed between now and crane fest (starts on September 12).

If donated miles are doubled to 20, I’ll add another 5 miles to my contribution. And if the miles are tripled to 30, I’ll donate a total of 20 miles.

My reason for this challenge is simple – all summer this line from John Denver’s “Today” has been going through my mind… “A million tomorrow shall all pass away, ‘ere I forget all the joy that is mine, today.”

There has been so much to be joyful about this summer such as being part of the first class Princeton crane fest committee that has a huge positive attitude and ability to get things done, watching the 2015 dream team soar with their yellow mamma, seeing the grins on Doug Pellerin’s and Tom Schultz’s faces as they escort visitors to the viewing blind and help with pen duties. It’s also a joy to have so many old and new friends contribute items and labors of love to the crane fest silent auction.

The joy of starting the day with the awesome CraneCam chat group and sharing stories with Facebook craniacs from near and far is contagious. Most of all, there’s tremendous joy in simply being part of this once-in-a-lifetime legacy.

As this reintroduction effort continues to unfold, there will be many cherished memories to share with generations to come.

So please take me up on this challenge, go for tripling the miles and making me pay up.

Heather will let me know at crane fest whether I’ll need to get a part time job to meet this challenge!

Thank you!

*In case you missed it, have a look at this morning’s amazing training flight!

Whooping Crane Socks Are In!

We hope you’ll get a kick out of these new Whooping crane socks available exclusively to Operation Migration!

Order yours today! 

Each pair features a Whooping crane in flight, coming in for a landing, adult with a young chick, crane catching a Blue crab and on a nest with an egg. Lightweight crew style made from 90-94% Cotton, 3% Nylon and 3% Spandex to maintain shape.

Available in two sizes.

IMG_20150522_113848WHCR_socksfront_1Perfect for yourself and for gifts!

Photo Roundup!

On a typical day of training, Doug Pellerin is one of the costumed handlers in the pen, assisting Jeff Fox.

This morning was no typical day of training, however, and instead of hiding in the enclosure once our group of young Whooping cranes was released, Doug was hiding in the viewing blind with his camera.

He sent along the following great images so that we could share them with you. Click to enlarge and enjoy!

(Thanks Doug!)

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Whooping Crane 8-14

This young female crane has spent the past month or so in Livingston County, Illinois and for several days was on the same property as our migration stopover even though she did not visit there last fall on her first southward migration.

Last week she began heading north again. Over the weekend PTT hits indicated she has returned to Wisconsin and Doug Pellerin was able to confirm her presence in Dodge County, WI – south of the Horicon marsh area.

Of all of last year’s chort, she definitely has logged the most airmiles since returning to Wisconsin!

One older crane, DAR38-08 had decided to stay at Wheeler NWR for most of the summer. A visual healthcheck confirmed she was able to fly and appeared uninjured. She was still at the refuge in north Alabama as of June 30, however during an aerial survey last week, Wisconsin DNR pilot, Bev Paulan spotted her in Juneau County, Wisconsin – reunited with her old pals 6-11 and 15-11.

Slaying (fog) Dragons

Just as suspected, yesterday’s weather was not all it was cracked up to be. The air was smooth but most of it was water.

With the dew point just a degree above the actual temperature, the mass of air that hung like a wet rag over White River was holding as much moisture as it possible could. But no rain was predicted however, because it was all localized fog.

On the nine mile flight down to the pen the air was so smooth that once pointing the aircraft in the right direction, I could have slept through the rest of the trip but watching the landscape below was far too interesting. Whiffs of fog rose from low ground like ephemeral dragons emerging from the trees in slow motion. I could cut them with my wing like St. George’s sword and watch them swirl in my wake on the same vortices that the birds ride.

Each pool or puddle slowly let loose its moisture in a lucent column that formed a transient forest. I stayed above all but the tallest in legal airspace and abiding the rules of flying but wished I could have dropped low and chased the spirits of all the creatures that once lived here and were now escaping to the heavens.

A solid bank of fog hung just to the south of the pen and the air was hazy. But over the marsh, it was only a thin layer and not enough to postpone the flight. I didn’t expect the birds to perform well because much of what they were breathing was moisture. This usually drains their energy and leaves them open mouth breathing, but this morning they took off eagerly. We stayed low over the marsh and cut a large sweeping turn back to the pen.

We rested for a moment and ate grapes then dodged the two adult cranes on the runway for another chase over the tall bull rush. Three times we took off, each flight extending farther from home and all three times the birds followed, even finding the wing in perfect formation and we all landed back on the runway – together.

There is a camaraderie between us and the birds when you dress in a costume and become one of them. They allow you into their society as long as you behave and speak the language, albeit with an accent. That feeling is much stronger in the air, an esprit de corps like the Lafayette Escadrille of WW1. Off into the gray sky on flimsy fabric and untested feathers to face new challenges and fight dragons made of mist.

There’s a Hole in my Boat

Surprise, surprise!!

The weather here in Wisconsin has not cooperated lately. Add to that a rough running aircraft engineon Friday and the result is that the birds are anxious to spread their wings. Saturday morning wasn’t great either. The ceilings were low, the humidity high and the winds were rolling over the trees causing turbulance just above the surface.

Our 2015 cohort has reached the point in their development when they can fly for 3 or 4 minutes at a time but they are sticking close to the pen. Not long ago they were gliding a few feet above the runway placing the odd football whenever they’re immature wings wouldn’t carry them. That transition from ground bound to airborne is slow and depends on exercise and experience, neither of which they get in the pen. So we braved the bumpy hair and decided to at least give them a little more practice, even if the trike didn’t actually leave the ground.

At this stage in your training we need to fly at our slowest. We pick the aircraft up and slow it until it is barely hanging in the air while the birds work to catch us. Flying an aircraft at its minimum possible speed is not dangerous but it is delicate and not something you attempt in bumpy air.

It’s a lot like driving a boat with a hole in its bow. As long as you go a certain speed, the hole is above the water and everything is fine. Slow down, and it begins to sink. If there are waves on the water – or turbulence in the air, it is wise to go a little faster to keep the bow up and your boat dry. With an aircraft however, sinking happens faster and getting wet is not the only consequence.

Tomorrow’s weather looks better (where have you heard that before?) So if it works out as we hope, the birds might actually leave the pen site on their first, albeit short foray from home.


Registration for the September 10 – 13 Whooping Crane Festival in Green Lake County, Wisconsin is filling up quickly. Reserve your spot soon!

Check out all the activities we have lined up this year! 

Join us for the Whooper Welcome bash at Reilly’s Bar & Pub on beautiful Green Lake on September 10th. (Limited spaces left)

On Friday, visit Horicon Marsh and participate in a guided bus tour following brunch (12 spots left). There are even pontoon boat tours of the marsh scheduled for Sunday!

Meet old friends and make new ones at the Festival kick-off dinner, which will be held in the Arboretum Room at Royal Ridges Banquet Facility in Ripon, Wisconsin on Friday, September 11th.

Here we’ll celebrate cranes and other birds with featured speaker Stan Tekiela, naturalist, wildlife photographer and author. Stan is the originator of the popular state-specific field guides such as Birds of Wisconsin, Illinois, etc. Field Guide, Wildflowers of Wisconsin, Illinois, etc., and Trees of Wisconsin, Illinois, etc. Over the past three decades Stan has authored more than 130 field guides, nature appreciation books and wildlife audio CDs for nearly every state in the nation, presenting many species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, trees, wildflowers and cacti.

Stan’s talk will present ‘Uncommon Facts about Common Birds’

Royal Ridges is located across from Comfort Suites – Blocks of rooms have been reserved at the discounted rate of $83/night. To take advantage of the discount, mention ‘Crane Festival’ when making your reservations. Phone: (920) 748-5500

Take in one of the early morning training sessions with the Class of 2015 cranes (weather permitting of course). Don’t forget your camera!

Saturday’s festival will take place at the Princeton High School, located at Hwy 73 and Old Green Lake Rd. Browse the many silent auction items, attend one or all of the speaker sessions, visit the vendor and artisan booths and bring the kids to see children’s entertainer David Stokes as he introduces his collection of critters that share the wild with cranes!

Saturday evening after the festival, we’ll meet at Princeton’s VFW Hall to swap stories and laughs at a pizza party catered by Christiano’s – be sure to brush up on your crane trivia for the chance to win prizes!

Sunday, paddle down the Fox River in a replica voyageur canoe while learning about the history of the river and seeing the wildlife it attracts. Or join OM volunteer Tom ‘Tume’ Schultz on a guided bird walk in beautiful White River Marsh, home to much more than Whooping cranes (as if that isn’t enough!).

See you at the Festival! WHOOP!


WHOOP! New T-shirt Design Available

Less than two weeks remain in this campaign and we wanted to make certain you didn’t miss it!

The new design features Whooping crane 4-12 calling loudly this past winter for his buddy 5-12 to come back – after he vehemently chased him away.

Available styles include a short-sleeved T, and long-sleeved T and a hoodie. Get yours before the campaign runs out on August 18th!