First Day with the NEW TRIKE!

Volunteer crane handler, Tom Schultz sent along the following images captured yesterday while he was in the crane enclosure peeking out.

Unlike Saturday when the young Whooping cranes dutifully followed along, yesterday they seemed rather aloof. Three followed, albeit from a distance, and the other four went in the opposite direction. It took me awhile to realize what the issue was – Richard had flown into the training site with one of our new aircraft!

Whoopers 2014 7-14 runway1_1 Whoopers 2014 7-14 runway4_1
Richard’s patience (and a hefty supply of mealworms) won them over and in the end all of the youngsters seemed quite comfortable with the new and improved aircraft.

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In Case You Missed it!

Saturday’s session was like none other I’ve seen over the years with young Whooping cranes at this age. They are like push button birds!

The video clip below shows their first time following the aircraft to the north end of the runway. All seven toddled along behind the trike and some even flapped their heavy, still-developing wings.

Just before training began a former ultralight student, number 5-12 showed up and spent several minutes threatening a pair of Sandhill cranes in an attempt to get them to leave what he believes is HIS territory.

P.S. Have you voted for and shared Brooke’s Eagle Rare Life Award nomination yet today? Just a reminder you can vote every day!

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First Day with the New Wing!

Weather conditions allowed Richard to fly to the training site today to introduce the young Whooping crane chicks to the large wing attached to the aircraft.

Until now, they’ve only seen a small, dummy wing on our ground training trike at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

As Tom Schultz and Geoff Tarbox opened the gates to the enclosure, most came out readily but number 8-14 hung back in the wetpen until Richard coaxed her out onto the training strip to join her flockmates.

Lots of treats were handed out under the new (to the chicks) wing of the trike to convince them that the big bad shadow wasn’t as scary as it first appeared and in no time at all they were following behind as Richard slowly pulled it toward the north end of the strip. More treats for following before heading back.

It’s a process that must be taken slowly. Baby steps.

Tom Schultz sent along the following images for your enjoyment!

Whoopers 2014 7-11 runway1 Whoopers 2014 7-11 runway2 Whoopers 2014 7-11 runway5 Whoopers 2014 7-11 runway6 Whoopers 2014 7-11 runway8 Whoopers 2014 7-11 runway9 Whoopers 2014 7-11 runway10 Whoopers 2014 7-11 runway11

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CHIP IN – For Cranes of Course!

Here’s a FUN way to support whooping cranes! 

Purchase a 2014 Whooping crane Chip from our Marketplace for $20. Each Chip is individually numbered and contains an alpha/numeric code.

As soon as you receive your Chip in the mail, visit www.coinlogin.org to register your name and email, along with your Chip number and code.

Over the next few months, we’ll be holding random draws for some fun items so keep an eye on your inbox.

Once all the Chips are gone, we’ll hold FOUR additional draws:

  • Two for CITGO gas cards, valued at $100 each.
  • $500 CASH
  • A flight back seat with our CEO, Joe Duff as pilot, while he flies in the chase position with the Class of 2014 Whooping cranes!

There are only 1000 Chips available, so be sure to order yours soon so you don’t miss out!

CHIP_IN

Get YOUR Chip Now!

 

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Crane Chicks First Day

After spending their first night in the drypen section, the young cranes were led out onto the grass training strip adjacent their enclosure this morning by Richard van Heuvelen and Doug Pellerin. It was the first time they saw their new summer home and they spent a lot of time taking in the sights of the lovely White River Marsh.

Doug was able to capture the following images to share with you.

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Whooping crane number 8 looks a bit timid but super cute with her fuzzy head.

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Number 4, aka ‘Peanut’ as dubbed by Brooke Pennypacker due to his small size (The crane, not Brooke)

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Our oldest chick, number 2-14 showing her developing black primary feathers.

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The youngest of the bunch, number 10-14

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They Have Arrived!

At 2:45pm yesterday and after a flight aboard a private jet, which took off at 9:30am from Baltimore, Maryland, the seven young Whooping cranes that comprise the Class of 2014 were released from their individual crates in the enclosure at the White River Marsh training facility.

First out was number 10-14. When Richard van Heuvelen opened the crate door, she at first stayed inside, looking out at her new surroundings. While she was getting her bearings, Richard has the second and third crate opened.

One-by-one they all tentatively stepped out into the bright sunlight, looking great after their long trip to Wisconsin.

As always our sincerest gratitude goes out to Windway Capital and their wonderful pilot Mike Frakes and his friend Jose Figueroa and to Dr. Jennifer Hausmann, University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, Zoo Medicine Resident and Ashley Krisp, ICF Veterinary Student Research Intern.

Also on hand for the move was Doug Pellerin and Tom Schultz who always lend an experienced helping hand when we need them. Thank you boys…

Here are some photos captured yesterday.

Doug Pellerin and Richard van Heuvelen off-load each crate onto Wisconsin soil Photo: Tom Schultz

Doug Pellerin and Richard van Heuvelen off-load each crate onto Wisconsin soil. (Photo: Tom Schultz)

Our youngest, number 10-14 was the first out of her crate inside the enclosure at White River Marsh in Green Lake County, WI.

Our youngest, number 10-14 was the first out of her crate inside the enclosure at White River Marsh in Green Lake County, WI.

Very quickly the young Whooping cranes began exploring their new surroundings. Pictured are foreground: #10-14, right: #3-14 and back left: #9-14 (Photo: Tom Schultz)

Very quickly the young Whooping cranes began exploring their new surroundings. Pictured are foreground: #10-14, right: #3-14 and back left: #9-14 (Photo: Tom Schultz)

Doug entices #4-14 to check out the water basin. (Photo: Tom Schultz)

Doug entices #4-14 to check out the water basin. (Photo: Tom Schultz)

 

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Opportunity to Observe Whooping Crane Training

A rare opportunity is available to you at the White River Marsh SWA, just north of Princeton – the chance to observe Whooping Cranes being trained to follow an ultralight aircraft.  This is the only location in the world where this training takes place with this endangered bird, so the opportunity is truly special.

Early each morning, if the weather is suitable, the young birds are released from their pen onto an adjacent grass runway, and they are trained to follow the white-costumed pilot of an ultralight – at first on the ground, but later in flight.  He often uses “enticements” such as grapes or mealworms to keep the birds interested or moved into the proper position for takeoffs.  In order to allow visitors to witness these daily training sessions, a viewing blind was constructed in a secluded location not far from the runway.

The goal is to develop their flying skills over the summer months, so that sometime in October the cranes will be “migrated” south to their winter quarters in Florida, being led by one of more of these Operation Migration ultralight aircrafts.

Up until the time of departure, interested individuals may sign up for early morning blind tours for a good look at these majestic birds.  Whooping Cranes are somewhat larger than the common Sandhill Cranes that we often see or hear in our area, standing nearly five feet tall.  These birds are brightly plumaged, being mostly white, but they have black feathers in their outer wings – so they are quite striking in flight.

To register for a Whooping Crane blind tour, please contact Doug Pellerin at (920) 923-0016, or send email to pelican0711@gmail.com.  These tours will run daily, generally from about 6:15 to 8:00 AM, although the presence of ground fog will sometimes delay or prevent flight training. The weather must be suitable for flying the ultralight for training to take place, but sometimes the determination cannot be made until that particular morning.  There is no charge to participate in these blind visits, although financial contributions to Operation Migration are always welcomed.

Even under circumstances when the conditions are not good for training, the blind tour participants will still be able to meet one or more of the crane attendants and have the opportunity to ask questions – and perhaps reschedule for another morning to view the training.

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Today’s the Day!

One of our Craniacs counts the days until the chicks arrive in Wisconsin by how many “sleeps” she has left before they arrive. Makes me wonder if last night counted, because I was so excited I didn’t get much sleep! So many thoughts running around in my head! “What time will they get there?” “Should I Whoop before they arrive or after??” “Or both???” “WHAT TIME WILL THEY ARRIVE???”

By now, you all know the drill I guess. The birds will be crated at Patuxent, MD where they hatched, fly on a no-talking-aloud PRIVATE JET (WOWZA!) to Wisconsin, be chauffeured to White River Marsh, and THEN… what we’ve all been waiting for! The unveiling! Oops, I mean the UN-CRATING!

Yep, the 2014 Spectacular Seven will step out of their crates, blink their eyes, and say “Hey look girls! You too, Peanut! We’re not in Maryland anymore!”

If you want to witness first-hand this very special annual event, just tune into the OM CraneCam here: http://www.ustream.tv/migratingcranes

And if you want to celebrate by donating a WHOOP!, click here 

See you on the CraneCam chat!!!

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Introducing the Whooping Crane Class of 2014!

In just about 24 hours from now seven special whooping crane chicks will be carefully loaded into individual shipping containers and placed in an air-conditioned van at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland. Once all are inside, they’ll be very carefully driven to BWI airport in Baltimore, where they’ll be transferred to a private jet, owned and operated by Windway Capital Corp of Sheboygan, WI.

The experienced Windway pilots have made the trip carrying these very special passengers from Baltimore to Wisconsin many times over the past 14 years and we are forever indebted to them for their generosity and the care and consideration they give our cranes.

If you would like to track the flight in real time, visit FlightAware. In the Airline field, enter Windway Capital and in the flight # field enter N94MT.

Departure and arrival times will depend on the weather tomorrow.

We’re hopeful the flight will land at the nearby Wautoma, WI airport, and after a brief exam by Dr. Jen Hausmann from the University of Wisconsin, the young cranes will have a short 20-minute ride in another air-conditioned van with Richard van Heuvelen behind the wheel. Tom Schultz and Doug Pellerin will assist.

Now introducing the stars of the Class of 2014!

Whooping crane number 2-14 hatched on 12 May. She is a female and full sister to number 3-14. She wears a black legband.

Whooping crane number 2-14 hatched on 12 May. She is a female and full sister to number 3-14. She wears a black legband.

Chick number 3-14 hatched 13 May and is a female. Her big sister (by one day) is #2-14. She wears a red legband

Chick number 3-14 hatched 13 May and is a female. Her big sister (by one day) is #2-14. She wears a red legband and has the fullest head of fluff I’ve ever seen.

Number 4-14 was dubbed 'Peanut' by Brooke soon after hatching as he (yes, HE) was the smallest of the cohort. He hatched 15 May and sports a green legband. He is the only male in the group.

Number 4-14 was dubbed ‘Peanut’ by Brooke soon after hatching as he (yes, HE) was the smallest of the cohort. He hatched 15 May and sports a green legband. He is the only male in the group.

Crane chick 7-14 is another female. She hatched 18 May and wears a white legband.

Crane chick 7-14 is another female. She hatched 18 May and wears a white legband.

Number 8-14. Another little girl that hatched 19 May. She wears a light blue legband.

Number 8-14. Another little girl that hatched 19 May. She wears a light blue legband.

Chick number 9-14 also hatched 19 May and is also a female. She wears a brown legband and is the big sister to number 10-14.

Chick number 9-14 also hatched 19 May and is also a female. She wears a brown legband and is the big sister to number 10-14.

Our youngest female number 10-14. Full sister to number 9-14. She hatched 21 May and rumor has it, she will not win any awards for Miss Congeniality. Like 7-14, she wears a white legband.

Our youngest female number 10-14. Full sister to number 9-14. She hatched 21 May and rumor has it, she will not win any awards for Miss Congeniality. Like 7-14, she wears a white legband.

And here is a handy-dandy chart that you can print out!

chick_chart

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Special Request from a Longtime Craniac

Marlene Meyer of Wisconsin has been a Craniac for as long as I can recall. As such, she’s always ready with an accurate response to CraneCam chatters’ questions about this project and her quick wit makes her a welcome addition to the ustream chat room.

Marlene has opened her home to the migration team, preparing wonderful meals and has delivered home baked goodies to us at our migration stops over the years, when we’re missing the comforts of home.

Now, Marlene has a special request. This gutsy lady recently shared with us that she has been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

When most in her condition (with good reason) would be feeling sorry for themselves – Marlene continues to demonstrate a selfless attitude and has asked that supporters and friends each Give A WHOOP! Both in celebration of her life and in support of the Class of 2014 whooping cranes.

Marlene says “I would appreciate having them each give a WHOOP for me – as a way of raising my spirits and lifting prayers for me. Sort of like lighting a candle for me. I want all my CraneCam chat and Facebook friends to know how much their friendship has meant over the years and love you all so much. I hope to be able to continue watching the fall training online and meeting up with some of you now and then. I’m sure going to try but you know the drill… THY WILL BE DONE. God bless each of you and the Class of 2014. ”

With each WHOOP, please leave a message for Marlene in the Donor Note field. Your tributes will be listed on the Give A WHOOP! Recognition page, unless you choose that it be kept anonymous.

Let’s celebrate Marlene’s life and her wishes for the Class of 2014 cranes…  Marlene, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you go through this journey. We’re grateful for your support for so many years and how much you have contributed to educating others about Operation Migration and whooping cranes.

Give a WHOOP! For Marlene Meyer

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Please Become a MileMaker!

In just four days the Class of 2014 whooping crane chicks will arrive at their summer training site on White River Marsh in Green Lake County, Wisconsin!

Each year we launch the MileMaker fundraising campaign – This very important campaign raises the funds necessary to carry out the 1200-mile aircraft-guided Whooping crane migration from Wisconsin to Florida each fall.

The way it works is quite simple — We have determined that each mile of the 1200-mile southward migration has a cost of $200 associated with it. This covers insurance, fuel and maintenance costs for the ground vehicles and aircraft, food for the cranes and the crew, any repairs or maintenance required for the crane enclosures, etc.

By far, the MileMaker Campaign funds the largest portion of our annual budget and is critical to the success of our annual crane migration.

Currently, only 220 miles of the 1200 mile trek are sponsored, which is enough to get them to Illinois – so we have a long way to go. Please consider becoming a MileMaker sponsor and help us help the Class of 2014.

You have the choice of sponsoring a full mile ($200), a half mile ($100) or even a quarter mile ($50). In addition to helping these young Whooping cranes, your name will be entered into a draw for an incredible thank you gift, which will be held at the end of the campaign on December 31st or when all 1200 miles are sponsored. If your name is drawn you will receive a two-week stay at a private home in beautiful Costa Rica!

Sponsor a full mile and you get four entries into the Costa Rica trip – sponsor a half mile and you get two – and quarter mile sponsors receive one entry into the draw.

We’ll also list your support on the MileMaker recognition page so everyone will see that YOU CARE about a future with Whooping cranes.

As an added bonus, all MileMaker supporters will receive a secret link to a selection of monthly E-calendar images for your PC desktop. Download all of the images at once, or return each month for your new photo! Here are a couple of the monthly calendar images:

Aug14_th Sept14_th February 2015

It’s the start of a new Whooping crane season! will you help?

 

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CraneCam is LIVE!

For those that aren’t aware, we quietly set up the CraneCam (aka the Beast) at the White River Marsh training site late last week. After taking the weekend and the first part of this week to brush off the cobwebs and work out a few kinks, it seems to be working very well currently.

You can access the CraneCam via our Ustream channel or Wildearth.tv

One of the most spectacular highlights from this week was the on camera appearance of four sub-adult whooping cranes! Wednesday afternoon at 4pm central time, four stark white cranes flew from south to north along the grass training strip where they had first learned to fly last summer.

They are cranes 2-13, 4-13, 5-13 & 9-13. They are stunningly beautiful. Majestic. Stately. They’ve changed dramatically, even since we welcomed them to their winter release pen on November 23 last year. They glow now.

They stayed in the area for four hours before heading off to roost in the marsh. They strolled down the runway and investigated the new pond. They poked, prodded and tossed the newly mown grass, looking for tasty treats. They snoozed at the north end of the site for about an hour and then chased of a pair of sandhills.

Here are some screen grabs captured by Jo-Anne Bellemer as I was busy controlling the camera for the excited viewers.

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The four sub-adults strolled rather nonchalantly back toward their former pensite.

The four sub-adults strolled rather nonchalantly back toward their former pensite.

There is not a trace of their tawny plumage remaining

There is not a trace of their tawny plumage remaining

#9-13 checks out the new pond and nabs a few frogs

#9-13 checks out the new pond and nabs a few frogs

Again #9-13

Again #9-13

#5-13 tosses aside grass looking for food hiding beneath

#5-13 tosses aside grass looking for food hiding beneath

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The only female of the foursome, number 2-13

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Texas Water Rights

Guest Author: Tom Stehn, Retired whooping crane coordinator - formerly at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

The recent Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the State was not liable for the whooping crane deaths in the 2008-09 winter is a blow to whooping crane recovery, but also has wider impacts. The ruling potentially impacts the health of the Guadalupe River and the bays that rely on river inflows to be productive.

In my opinion, the court’s reasoning was at least partially flawed. The court concluded that the death of the 23 whooping cranes (8.5% of the flock) in the 2008-09 winter was a rare convergence of unforeseeable, unique events, a perfect storm scenario, that is unlikely to imminently happen again. Data that I collected in my 29 years at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge indicated that whooping crane die-offs have happened before. For example, 11 whooping cranes (7.5% of the flock) had died in the 1990-91 winter when marsh salinities had been extremely high. Back then, we didn’t know enough to make the connection between river inflows, blue crabs, and whooping crane health. That connection was fully demonstrated in the recent court case, and the court ruling did not throw out that linkage. More recently, I believe crane mortality was also unusually high in the 2011-12 winter, but that data was not collected after my retirement due to a change in the aerial method of counting the cranes where only a portion of the flock is surveyed and mortality is not documented. Future crane die-offs related to drought and insufficient inflows are foreseeable and will continue to occur.

The need to provide sufficient river inflows to keep our bays productive is just one of the issues facing the whooping crane population.  With the ongoing sea level rise forecast to reach more than 3 feet by the end of the century, all of the current whooping crane marshes will become too deep for the whooping cranes to use. Also, as the climate warms and we no longer get sustained hard freezes, black mangrove, normally killed by cold weather is moving north and will likely become the dominant plant over the entire Texas coast, replacing plants such as Carolina wolfberry that whoopers feed upon heavily every fall. A species that loses its habitat is in for hard times. The picture is also alarming in the crane’s migration corridor, where decreased rainfall amounts are expected to dry up stopover wetlands, and thousands of wind turbines and associated power lines are being built right next to whooping crane wetlands. And illegal shootings of Aransas whooping cranes is still occurring; note the two instances of radio-tagged birds found dead in the last few winters. Now is not the time for the Court to negate measures that would help the whooping crane.

For the whooping crane to survive, people need to remain vigilant and continue working to help the species. Yes, providing the needed inflows to keep our bays healthy and provide the crabs and wolfberries that the whooping cranes need to survive may very well mean people will have to become better water conservationists, but South Texans should be willing to support that choice. Just observe the stream of cars late Friday afternoons pouring into the Coastal Bend for a weekend of fishing and nature appreciation. If you want to see lots of birds and like to catch fish in San Antonio and Aransas Bays that both rely on river inflows, you should be disturbed by the court ruling.

As stated perfectly in the Caller-Times editorial of July 2nd, I totally agree that the state of Texas “needs to develop a management plan in the birds’ best interest and enforce it”.  So far, Texas water managers and legislators have failed to provide minimum conservation flows essential for our priceless Texas rivers and bays. To comply with the Endangered Species Act, the Guadalupe-Blanco River authority should voluntarily write a Habitat Conservation Plan for the whooping crane to provide the necessary inflows. If the GBRA had been willing to do this, litigation would not have been needed in the first place since that had been the main judgment The Aransas Project had asked for in the litigation. In summary, without a change of direction, how can we expect our bays and whooping cranes to remain healthy when new water rights continue to be granted from the Guadalupe River that many conservationists feel is already over-appropriated?

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