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.

Nesting

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.

Mortality

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)! 

Want to Own This Amazing Birdhouse?

Get YOUR Raffle Tickets Now! We’ll be drawing the name of one lucky person on Monday.

For the past couple of years, a very generous, local resident has made birdhouses for our staff to create our own masterpieces from.

This has become a popular fundraiser for Operation Migration and we are forever grateful to Cal Holland for making this opportunity available to us. 

Bird houses, designed by Colleen Chase, Bev Paulan & Brooke Pennypacker, Chris Danilko, Jo-Anne Bellemer and Heather Ray were recently available in our online auction, which ended Sept. 22nd.

You’ll notice there is one artists name missing from the list above, and that would be Joe Duff. Joe went way above and beyond this year with his design and we want to make certain everyone has an opportunity to take it home. 

Here is Joe’s incredible bird house. Get your tickets today!

We’re running a raffle, which was held at both at the Princeton Whooping Crane Festival, which ran last week and online. To purchase tickets through our website click this link. Raffle tickets are sold in sets of 5 for $5 and they will be available until 6am ET October 1st so there are only a few days left to get yours.

All tickets will be combined and a winning name will be drawn October 1st and the winner will be notified by email/telephone before your masterpiece is shipped to them.

Get your RAFFLE TICKETS NOW!

 

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Surprise!

A couple days ago, I published a post advising readers to Keep Looking Up. Well, here’s further evidence that sometimes it pays off to look up occasionally.

Yesterday, a second pair of Whooping cranes appeared at Mile Rd. and Cty Rd. D very near to Henry and Patty. As luck would have it, Doug Pellerin was there with his camera. Just as I would, Doug assumed it was the Royal Couple (4-12 & 3-14). They didn’t stick around long but he was able to capture some photos and upon examining them yesterday when he arrived home, he discovered it was male 4-13 & his mate 10-15!

Just last week I was thinking about those two as they usually make an appearance in the White River Marsh area in the fall…

Enjoy Doug’s photos!

Male #4-13 (left) and his mate #10-15. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Photo: Doug Pellerin

Off they go, heading west toward Marquette County. Photo: Doug Pellerin

These two have spent the entire spring/summer in neighboring Marquette County.

If you spot a Whooping crane, don’t forget to submit your report using this form.

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Young Craniacs

OM volunteers extraordinaire Mary & Bob Vethe recently gave a fun, and educational program for the class of teacher Amy Brass at Pineview Elementary School in Reedsburg, Wisconsin.

Mary sent along some of the artwork created by the students following the presentation and we just had to share them with you. Art Teacher, Mary Seering and class teacher, Amy granted our request to publish them. 

We hope you love them as much as we do!

Artist: Bria R. “New crane chick”

Artist: Alayna “Dancing crane”

Artist: Addison S. “Trio Dancing”

And last but certainly not least…

Artist: Logan F. “Flying White Crane”

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Keep Looking UP!

You never know when a Whooping crane (or two) will fly overhead. 

Peanut (4-14) and #7-17 went on a wee tour over the weekend and it appears they spent Saturday night in White River Marsh.

GSM hits for costume-reared female Whooping crane #7-17. She and #4-14 have been together since early summer.

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Get Your RAFFLE Tickets!

For the past couple of years, a very generous, local resident has made birdhouses for our staff to create our own masterpieces from.

This has become a popular fundraiser for Operation Migration and we are forever grateful to Cal Holland for making this opportunity available to us. 

Bird houses, designed by Colleen Chase, Bev Paulan & Brooke Pennypacker, Chris Danilko, Jo-Anne Bellemer and Heather Ray were recently available in our online auction, which ended Sept. 22nd.

You’ll notice there is one artists name missing from the list above, and that would be Joe Duff. Joe went way above and beyond this year with his design and we want to make certain everyone has an opportunity to take it home. 

Here is Joe’s incredible bird house. Get your tickets today!

We’re running a raffle, which was held at both at the Princeton Whooping Crane Festival, which ran last week and online. To purchase tickets through our website click this link. Raffle tickets are sold in sets of 5 for $5 and they will be available until 6am ET October 1st so there are only a few days left to get yours.

All tickets will be combined and a winning name will be drawn October 1st and the winner will be notified by email/telephone before your masterpiece is shipped to them.

Get your RAFFLE TICKETS SOON!

 

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Henry & Patty

We haven’t seen 4-12 and 3-14 since late last week but Henry and Patty (5-12 & 67-15) are now regulars at the harvested cornfield and they take great delight in affirming ownership of their foraging field against any and all interlopers.

I observed them yesterday morning for less than 10 minutes and watched them chase off Canada geese, Sandhill cranes, and even pigeons.

Female Whooping crane #67-15 was the aggressor this morning. Here, she is keeping the Sandhills at bay while male 5-12 picks up waste corn. Photo: H. Ray

Patty had Canada geese in her sights. Photo: H. Ray

A small flock of pigeons sneak in from a nearby barn for a snack. Photo: H. Ray

Henry (5-12) on the left and his mate Patty (67-15) on the right. Photo: H. Ray

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Royal Rumble?

The “Royal Couple” consists of Whooping cranes 4-12 (M) and 3-14 (F) and they are the first pair to establish a territory and nest in White River Marsh. Their first nest occurred in 2017 and sadly, ended when a coyote predated it. Their second nest was built this past spring and it was so far out into the marsh we were not able to observe it with our camera so the only outcome we know is that they do not have a chick.

The last time they were observed in the White River Marsh area was in early April immediately after a late winter storm and prior to their retreat into the marsh to nest.

This past week these two were spotted by an ICF tracker in the same field as 5-12 (m) aka “Henry” and his mate 67-15 aka “Patty”. Corn had recently been removed from the field and this foursome, along with several Sandhill cranes were helping to clean up the spilled corn.

The two pairs didn’t seem to terribly mind the presence of each other and there was no visible sparring or threat posturing observed.

Luckily for us, they were all present again yesterday morning so we drove over to get some photos, along with Doug and Mako Pellerin who had just treated us to a feast consisting of Mako’s famous eggrolls.

Enjoy!

From left to right: #4-12, #67-15, #3-14 & 5-12. Photo: Doug Pellerin

It appears Henry and Patty have convinced 4-12 & 3-14 to move along. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Henry (5-12) shows off for Patty (67-15). This was more of a show for the other pair than his mate. Photo: Heather Ray

Nevertheless Patty joins in on the dancing. Photo: Heather Ray

Don’t forget to place your best bid on your favorite item in our online auction! Bidding closes tomorrow at noon eastern.

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Princeton, WI Flea Market

Make plans to attend the Princeton Flea Market this Saturday and bring your appetite to the food booth in the center of the park!

The Whooping Crane Festival committee will be serving up brats, burgers, cheeseburgers, pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs, cold beverages, coffee and donuts. This is a FUNdraising event for next year’s Crane Festival – that’s right! The Crane Festival lives on!

Hope to see you there!

Place YOUR Bids!

Our annual online auction is now LIVE and ready for viewing and bidding!

Just click this Facebook link to jump over to the auction album.

Bidding is easy – just add a comment with your bid amount on the item you want. Bidding got underway Sept. 11 and will continue until Sept. 22nd at noon ET. Winners will be notified via Facebook messenger or email/telephone.

Please note the Facebook timestamp will be used to determine bid-placed time. 

The timestamp accompanies each bid and is down to the minute. To determine seconds, bids are placed chronologically. If 3 bids are placed at the same hour/min, the first of the 3 is the earliest.

Each item has a minimum bid, which has been determined to be the USPS mailing/packaging costs to ship the item to the winning bidder. All net proceeds will cover Operation Migration expenses incurred in 2018. 

Which is your favorite item?

Payments can be made via credit card or check made payable to Operation Migration once you have been notified you are the winning bidder. Your item will be shipped once payment is received.

Non-facebook users can view all items via this link but to place a bid, you will have to create a Facebook account. 

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Whoopers in Winnebago Co., IL

Two yearling Whooping cranes surfaced in Winnebago Co., IL last week much to the delight of a property owner who had been wondering if his conservation-minded land improvements were having an impact on wildlife.

Cranes 1-17 & 2-17 have been in a somewhat inaccessible area nearby for several weeks but recently, they have come out to forage. 

Local photographer John Longhenry captured a few photos of the two and allowed us to share them with you.

Whooping Cranes observed feeding at a private residence in NW Winnebago County, IL. Photo: John Longhenry

Yearling Whooping cranes 1-17 & 2-17 in Winnebago County, IL. Photo: John Longhenry

 

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Final Volunteer of the Year Recognized

One of the things we look forward to each year is recognizing a special individual who gives the gift of time to Operation Migration. The presentation at our Festival Kick-off dinner last week was extra special because it will be our last-ever Volunteer of the Year award.

We are thrilled, to this year honor someone who first came to the organization in 2014. This person, very quickly, made friends with CraneCam viewers and the Craniacs on our social media channels and over the next couple of years, absorbed facts and knowledge like a sponge.

They began sharing that knowledge on both our CraneCam chat and through the Crane Chicklets Facebook page and I’m sure those familiar with the Chicklets page, will confirm that she picked up their language very quickly. (Have you guessed who it is?)

By 2017, she filled in on the “chattery” for many hours each day and controlled the pan, tilt and zoom on the camera, ensuring there was always something interesting for other viewers. This talent, combined with her rapier wit made for some incredibly interesting – and informative – chat sessions.

Volunteers are not paid – not because they are worthless but because they are priceless. We at OM know that you chose to volunteer selflessly and without expectation of being recognized or rewarded, but today, we want to do just that.

Please help me to congratulate Operation Migration’s FINAL Volunteer of the year – Cathy Fouche! 

Congratulations Cat! Very well deserved!

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Operation Migration Resigns From WCEP – Dissolves Organization

Operation Migration took flight 25 years ago when two artists-turned-aviators developed a method of teaching birds a new migratory route. The innovative approach helped stabilize the dwindling population of the magnificent Whooping crane.

Bill Lishman and Joe Duff developed the aircraft-guided migration method into an effective means of reintroducing endangered Whooping cranes into an area they had not inhabited in over a century.

Our first migration flight leading Whooping cranes occurred in 2001 – shortly after the 9-11 attack on the United States. It was a time when the nation needed an uplifting story; one of ordinary people working to save an endangered, North American species.

For 15 years, Operation Migration pilots and a dedicated ground crew led Whooping cranes on a journey toward survival. During those years, we contributed more than $10 million dollars and covered 17,457 miles with a total of 186 trusting Whooping cranes trailing off our wingtips.

Each of the cranes that survived the winter period in Florida returned north the following spring, and continued to migrate annually thereafter. Gradually, the number of cranes began to increase, giving hope for the species, which in the 1940s numbered only 15.

The aircraft-guided migration method was ended in the fall of 2015 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a document titled “FWS Vision for the Next 5-year Strategic Plan” that claimed the method was “too artificial.” They suggested that cranes raised by our costumed handlers resulted in inattentive parents that did not adequately protect their offspring.

We continued work for another 3 years based upon our belief that the goal of a self-sustaining Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping cranes was attainable. However, with new management directives authorized by the Whooping Crane Recovery Team and implemented by Region 3 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we no longer believe this goal to be achievable.

As a result, we cannot continue, in good faith, to accept contributions or justify assigning our staff and volunteers to carry out the work outlined in the strategic plan imposed on the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

This led us to an extremely difficult decision: The management and Board of Directors are withdrawing Operation Migration from membership and participation in WCEP and dissolving the organization. This decision is heartbreaking for us all but we have exhausted all possible avenues to avoid this outcome.

Supporters from around the world have generously contributed to Operation Migration’s aircraft-guided work, its successful costume-rearing program, and education and research efforts, all of which have contributed to the recovery of Whooping crane. When our work began there were fewer than 500 Whooping cranes in North America. Today, the species total stands at more than 700 – a significant part of the increase is attributable to your help.

While disappointed that we were unable to achieve our long-term goal to establish a self-sustaining Whooping crane population, we take great pride in Operation Migration’s accomplishments, which your support and time helped to make possible:

  • Hundreds of thousands of people are more aware of the plight of Whooping cranes and wetlands thanks to our blog posts for the past 19 years;
  • Our partnership with Journey North, a distance learning program, brought information about Whooping cranes to millions of school-aged children worldwide;
  • We hosted the first-ever LIVE streaming camera featuring wild Whooping cranes; 
  • We raised awareness for the Whooping crane and gained global attention for the efforts to save them through the aircraft-guided program for 15 years. Our work was featured in numerous news stories, documentaries and published in many books and magazines that inspired people to care about, and take action for these vulnerable cranes;
  • The reintroduced Whooping cranes are avoiding humans, selecting proper habitat, pairing with other Whooping cranes and are producing offspring;
  • Aircraft used in our work are now on display at three distinguished locations: Disney’s Animal Kingdom, The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), as reminders that people can take innovative action to help wildlife species in trouble;
  • Operation Migration contributed images to numerous educational textbooks over the past 20 years to help tell the story of Whooping cranes to students of all ages;
  • Our work garnered the attention and support of President Jimmy Carter and noted conservationist Jane Goodall.

We are grateful for the awards we have received over the years, which include:

  • 2002 National Wildlife Federation “Conservation Achievement Award;
  • 2003 Canada Post “Canadian Environmental Award”;
  • 2004 The Whooping Crane Conservation Association “Honor Award”;
  • 2006 American Birding Association, Partners in Flight “Outstanding Contribution to Bird Conservation”;
  • 2009 U.S. Dept. Of The Interior “Partners in Conservation Award”.

So many accomplishments, and all achieved with your help. We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all Operation Migration members, supporters, volunteers, and staff (past and present).

Your financial and emotional support kept us going more than you will ever know during many stressful and trying periods over the past 18 years of this reintroduction project. You have been like family to us.

There would not be Whooping cranes migrating over eastern North America without your support.