A Day at the Beach

“Which way to the Beach”? Number 1-17 inquired as we entered the pen a couple of mornings ago. It was the very same question mankind has been asking ever since our ancient ancestors first crawled out of the sea half a gazillion years ago. It just so happened we had spent the last couple of days mowing and weed eating a really nice “beach” next to a big, beautiful pond north of the pen.  It wasn’t the Jersey Shore, but it would do.

Colleen flung open the pen door and off we went… to the beach. “Should I bring my pail and shovel”, #7-17 asked?  “Nope”, Colleen replied. “Just make sure you go to the bathroom before we leave… cuz we’re Not Stopping”!

Years of scientific research and study by some of the government’s most famous and revered biologists has proven that if you want to see a whooper chick’s eyes widen to twice their normal size, take them to the beach. Our little adventurers were suddenly all eyeballs as the sights and sounds of a new world began their assault. But their trust in the two white big birds leading them held firm as we traveled over the freshly cut grass path towards the most famous of nature’s amusement parks. 

“Are we there yet,” #2-17 asked?

“Just cool your jets, little lady,” Colleen replied. “It’s all about the journey. Not the destination. And besides, anticipation is 90% of the fun anyway.”

And soon we were there. The beach! It lay before us in panorama. An Eden without the snake. A Lost World minus the Lost. A wide swath of heaven, where the land kissed the sea… ah, the pond, and where the sand had magically turned to soft, freshly cut vegetation. The sun shone down with a benevolent light that animated every tree, flower and blade of grass while the pond returned exact images of our dazed little wanderers in reflection. There was no boardwalk or life guard or Beach Closed Due To Pollution sign. But then beaches are like snowflakes… every one’s different. And it’s all about perception anyway.

“I feel dizzy!” #4-17 commented.  “Maybe we shouldn’t drink the water.”

“It’s not the water,” #3-17 replied. “It’s the cotton candy.”

“Surf’s Up!” shouted #3-17 as the water rose around his hocks.

And so began a very special time. First times are always special, but especially for whooper chicks. And their days are full of them. Each one is met with the same intense, wide-eyed sense of wonder that must be at least partially digested before going on to the next. Within the context of this very new place, the dragonfly, the frog, the snail become new worlds to discover… and conquer.

And for Colleen and I, it is a place of privilege. Watching all of this magic unfold through the thin lens of our costume helmet was like sitting in a blind observing the first day of Creation. Almost overwhelming! But that’s a story for another day.

The minutes passed at warp speed as the beach provided its dose of “experiential shock and awe.” But sadly, life is on a timer… and ours’ began its all too familiar beep. And anyway, the chicks were tiring out from the sensory overload. Fortunately for everything that walks, flies or crawls, there can be too much of a good thing. Good things, after all, do get tiring… and sensing its approach is the most important of our seven senses. Just think of all the aspiring actors whose careers failed because they were never quite able to leave the stage.

“Time to head home,” Colleen announced. “Remember. School tomorrow.”

With juvenile reluctance, the chicks dutifully collected themselves up. “Don’t forget to pick up your trash,” #4-17 said. “We don’t want to give them an excuse not to bring us back here again.”

Six chicks followed Colleen down the path, as #1-17 and I lagged behind, bringing up the rear.

“So… what did you think?” I asked #1.

He paused for a moment in deep reflection, then looked up at me and replied, “Life’s a Beach and then… you Fly.”

Right On, little fellow. Right On.

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Caestecker Library Presentation

If you’re in the area, why not drop by the Caestecker Library in beautiful Green Lake, Wisconsin this Thursday evening to hear Operation Migration’s CEO, Joe Duff give an informative talk and photographic presentation about our continuing work with Whooping cranes?

Time: 6:30 – 8pm   |  Location: 518 Hill St. Green Lake, Wisconsin.

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Visit the Viewing Blind

Now’s your chance to visit the viewing blind at White River Marsh!

The blind is located close to the pensite where there are currently seven young-of-year whooping cranes being costumed reared in preparation for release in just a few weeks.

You can visit the blind on Thursday mornings by contacting Doug Pellerin at 920-923-0016 – Don’t forget your camera!

Here are some photos taken last Thursday by Mako Pellerin: 

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Time to Pill the Cranes

Over the course of the summer, the cranes need de-worming so the ICF medical team measures out the dosage and provides us with a schedule. It all sounds easy but nothing involving Whooping cranes is ever simple.  

They gobble down grapes when we offer them as treats so adding medication to a recognized food source seems logical, except each bird has its own dosage and it doesn’t work if number 2 gets number 3’s pill. As soon as a grape magically appears on the end of a puppet beak, they all run to get it first. Even if you manage to get it to the correct bird, it seems to be fair game until it is finally swallowed. In fact, a grape can change hands (or beaks) up to four times before one of them actually eats it.

Problem two is getting the medication into the grape. A 3/8’s drill bit, twisted by hand into the grape makes a clean cavity for an over-sized capsule.

Problem three is that each bird gets three large, full capsules plus one more that’s partially filled. Problem four is that gelatin capsules dissolve quickly in wet grapes, so if the birds won’t take them today, they won’t keep until tomorrow.

Problem five is that they are on to us. They know the grapes that are medicated from the grapes that are not and I have no idea how. In fact, that brings up a question I have been asking for years. It’s one of those niggling curiosities that makes you wonder, but never comes to mind when there is someone around who could provide an answer. How do cranes know that whatever they find in the mud is edible simply by holding it at the end of their long beaks? The morsels they dig up are either discarded or tossed back and swallowed. And it seems their decisions are always correct because you rarely see them spit it back out. So what sensory system works at the end of chopstick-like beaks?

At roost checks Friday evening, the birds were reluctant to take treats. That could have to do with timing. They may have just finished filling up at the feeders before we arrived. So we decided to wait until after they flew yesterday when they expect something tasty. Problem six: You may have noticed that the grass on the runway has been mowed recently and that left a lot of cuttings, so much so that we could almost use a hay baler. Damp grapes dropped in the grass are covered in straw when they are retrieved and are no longer appetizing. Instead of eating them, the chicks poke and prod until the pill pops out or the capsule ruptures and white power sprinkles out like contraband. 

We also tried some baitfish minnows but first they must learn that fish are edible. They run around with their prize flopping in their beak, attracting the envy of all the others who give chase. Who knows which crane will end up with the fish and that breaks all the rules of dispensing drugs.

All but two birds have now received a full dosage. After all of our discussions and brain storming, the next time we toss them a grape laced with medication, it may all fall into place. The backs of all the other birds may be turned so only the target chick sees the proffered grape. The grass cuttings may have blown away, the grape will stay clean and down it will go with no trouble at all. Or not.

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Site Maintenance

In preparation for the arrival of the young whooping cranes in late June, Wisconsin DNR star Jerry Reetz mowed several paths in and around the crane enclosure. 

One went to the north off the end of the former runway. Another went west and yet another was cut heading to the east or behind the viewing blind.

Anyone living in Wisconsin is aware this has been a rather wet spring/summer so the paths that Jerry mowed have grown over – with gusto! On Monday Brooke, Colleen and Joe attempted to lead the birds to a small pond located northwest of the crane enclosure. 

Once beyond the small treeline and out of site, they encountered shoulder-height grass – not something you want to lead cranes through so they reversed course and spent an hour or so poking around in the water just west of the pen.

On Tuesday, Joe rented a bush hog mower so that he could give the paths another haircut but very early Tuesday, Brooke snuck out with the weed whacker and began cutting the shoulder-height grasses to create a wide path to the pond at the end of the path.

As daylight dawned, the three costumes led the seven young crane colts along the new path to the pond. While Colleen and Brooke poked and prodded with them in the pond and surrounding area for more than 2 hours, Joe cut grass. Lots and lots of grass. 

Here are a couple of photos that Colleen captured during their outing.

Number 3-17 watches something overhead. Photo: Colleen Chase

Register Now – CraneFest 2017!

2017 Whooping Crane Festival in Princeton, Wisconsin

The festival takes place the second weekend in September with activities getting underway Thursday, Sept. 7th with a fun Paint your own Sign night at the VFW Lodge in Princeton! This is a new event that we’ve just added as a way to get reacquainted with festival friends. Our instructor will have all the prep work done so all we have to do is have an adult beverage and use the stencils, paints and boards provided to create your own keepsake.

The next day features a field trip to nearby Marsh Haven Nature Center near Horicon Marsh. Your trip will include a presentation about Birds, Butterflies and Your Backyard followed by lunch and a boardwalk stroll. Bus transportation to/from is provided.

Friday evening the festival kick-off dinner gets underway at 6pm at the American Legion Post 306 in Green Lake, Wisconsin. We’ll have a fantastic buffet dinner, followed by a presentation by Operation Migration’s CEO Joe Duff. 

Saturday, Sept. 9th brings the all day FREE festival for all ages at the Princeton School. Kids can take part in one of the interactive and informative sessions with David Stokes – the snake, turtle, frog man. Kids can also build their own birdhouse, have their face painted or take part in some of the other fun activities. 

We have a fabulous speakers line-up this year for the adults, so check it out and make plans to attend one or all of the sessions throughout the day.

NEW this year! We’re thrilled to offer a Nature Photography Workshop! 

Love taking photos of birds? Butterflies? Flowers? Mystified by the camera settings? This workshop is for you! Check out the details and register here. Space is limited.

Arrive early and take part in the pancake breakfast put on by the Princeton School students. The hotcakes start flipping on the griddle at 8am!

Stay for lunch and enjoy many local food offerings, including brats, cheesecake and many other favorites. Place bids on the silent auction items lining the school hallways! (Winning bids will be announced at 2:30pm).

The Vendors Marketplace will open at 8am and what a great opportunity to support local artisans and get your holiday shopping started! If you’re a vendor and would like to reserve a booth, we still have a few spaces left but you had better hurry. Please email: cranefestival@operationmigration.org

Saturday evening we’ll see a Crane Trivia re-match! The VFW Lodge in Princeton will be the place for this epic brain battle. Will team OMG win back the title from team Chix’s Chicks? Beforehand, we’ll relax and enjoy pizza, pasta and salad from Christiano’s.

Be sure to pre-register for this as space is limited.

CHECK out all the events taking place in and around beautiful Princeton, Wisconsin during the Whooping Crane Festival – September 7 – 10, 2017 – we hope to see you there!

The Newbie

Forest Gump’s analogy about his box of chocolates could easily be applied to Whooping cranes. You never know what you are going to get. There are a million variations in domestic cats and dogs but species that are more purebred like most wild animals, appear to be duplicates of each other. All Blue jays look pretty much the same and so do Whooping cranes. So it’s easy to think that homogeneity applies to personality as well as to their appearance. Not so.

One of the definitions of an animal is a consistent response to a specific stimulus so we don’t see radical behavior shifts in animals like we do in some of our friends. Number 2-17 isn’t going to show up one day in leather pants and a Ferrari that she can’t afford, just because she turned 45. That special kind of stupid is reserved for humans.

All Whooping cranes behave mostly the same. They all fly, poke around in the mud and sleep standing up in water, but the similarity stops there. Each bird is an individual and if you are lucky enough to wear a costume and willing to stop talking, you get to introduce yourself as one of their own kind.  It is a rare opportunity to meet a Whooping crane in person. I don’t mean a chance encounter on a wetland trail or the close-up view you get through a spotting scope. I mean to be part of their cohort, to forage in the mud and learn that number 7-17 likes her grapes split open and easier to swallow. Despite their monomorphic appearance, each one with the same shape and color, they can recognize each other, just as they can distinguish between our similar, but distinctive costumes. I was only here for a day or two when they first arrived a month ago, so when I showed back up on Wednesday, I was a new guy and not necessarily welcome.

Being the newbie usually isn’t so bad. The most dominant bird will generally confront you once or twice to see where you fit into their social structure but the 2017 cohort is a tough crowd. The only two that didn’t pick a fight with me yesterday were six and seven and even they were sizing me up. Interaction with dominant birds is a lot like jousting in the corridors of high school; it starts with a lot of squaring off and posturing. These birds are too young to have developed a red patch on the top of their heads that displays irritation, but still, they strut back and forth with their necks arched. They’re like twelve-year-old’s in grade school with their sleeves rolled up to show muscles still waiting for puberty.

The challenging birds will stamp their feet, drop their wings or pretend to preen their leg bands all in an effort to warn me to keep my distance. If I were dealing with wild birds, I would mimic that behavior to convey the message that I was ready to stand my ground. But these are chicks testing their limits and learning about hierarchy. So instead, I don’t provoke a fight but rebuff their attacks. Normally, you can stare them down with a puppet held over their heads but these birds will move in for the attack. They open their wings and jab with their beaks. You can gently push back with the puppet but a couple of times I had to restrain the most aggressive among them. One simple way is to make a loop with your thumb and index finger around their neck and hold it down. The loop is bigger around than their neck so no damage is done or even feathers ruffled. Holding their head down is like pinning a human opponent. It doesn’t cause injury but limits their options. Once they calm slightly and re-fold their wings, I let go. That is a tactic that only works with young birds and only if your fingers are long enough not to be squeezing their neck. 

It is interesting to speculate on why these birds are more aggressive to the costume than any other cohort I have encountered. Maybe it is because at Patuxent they were not taken out individually to exercise with the loud and frightening trike. Maybe that early morning one-on-one adventure into the great unknown was enough to cement the costume in the most dominant position. Or maybe it is because none of us wants to start a fight with a critically endangered Whooping crane. It is far easier to turn our back and walk away. To us that is a simple way to avoid a confrontation but to them, it’s a sign of weakness. We backed down and that’s as good as a win. And maybe all the other birds were watching and wondering if they too should test our authority. 

Over the last few days, I have stood my ground and pushed back often enough to let them know I am not an easy mark, so things have settled down. I can still see the odd confrontation brewing but it is easily deferred without losing face.

Costumed Joe with this year’s cohort. Photo: Colleen Chase

At one point yesterday morning, the birds were all together eating mealworms at our feet when number 2 strutted by in front of me. I could see her puff up as she passed, but then she reconsidered and kept walking. Aha I thought, we’re making progress on our friendship. But just then, number 4 poked her in the butt and quickly turned away. Number 2 snapped around and looked straight at me like I was the culprit. She was mad and I even caught myself holding up my costumed hand as if to say “WAIT, it wasn’t me” while I pointed my puppet at the quickly retreating number 4. I don’t think she bought it and she stood tall ready to take me on. I was laughing so hard at both number 4’s tactic and my reaction that I had to turn my back and walk away. In hindsight, I think I was set up and it was all part of a plan to get the newbie.  

Adult Cranes in Green Lake County?

We’ve been getting a number of questions about the number of adult Whooping cranes located at White River Marsh.

I have to keep reminding myself that just because I respond to a question on the chat, which accompanies the live stream, not everyone reads/see it, so here you go.

Currently there are eight whoopers located in and around White River Marsh in Green Lake County. They include: 3-14/4-12 (The Royal Couple), 5-12 & 30-16, 4-13 & 10-15, and 4-14 (Peanut) and 11-15. 

Some are wondering why we’ve not seen them at the site where the modified costume reared young cranes are. The easy answer is that they’re birds and they fly around and don’t have to keep a schedule.

The more complicated response is that it’s molt time. Whooping cranes molt every couple of years – this means they lose all flight feathers, along with the ability to fly and are essentially grounded until the new feathers grow back. The timing of this is usually when they have young (flightless) chicks to tend to and to protect.

Here’s a recent photo of whooping crane #14-12 in Michigan. As you can see he is currently waiting for his feathers to return.

Male Whooping crane #14-12. Doesn’t he look odd with no black feathers? Photo: Andrew Simon

We did see the two young males, 4-14 and 11-15 at the north end of the runway the day after the CraneCam began streaming but as far as we know, they are the only two that have dropped by.

If it’s any consolation, we did hear a pair unison calling very early this morning.

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Brooke shared the following photos he captured this week of the whooping crane cohort currently being raised at White River Marsh in Green Lake County, Wisconsin.

If you’d like to arrange to visit the viewing blind, which is open on Thursdays, give Doug Pellerin a call to check for availability and to reserve your spot. 920-923-0016.

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They Can FLY!

And fly they did yesterday morning!

All seven of the modified costume reared whooping cranes can now fly, at least the length of the grass strip which used to serve as a runway and at most a couple of circuits. 

Some of their landings are less than graceful but they take off with such exuberance, you can’t help but smile. 

If you want to watch for yourself, tune in at roughly 6:30 am CT and watch the action LIVE. Here’s a link to the CraneCam

Yesterday’s outing lasted just under 90 minutes and they explored, flew, foraged, poked, prodded and played with a rather large snake skin. (personally, I’m thrilled it was empty).

Here’s a photo of our eldest crane this year, number 1-17 checking out the snake skin, which was, at first, in the tall grass adjacent the wet area.

Photo: CraneCam grab

And here’s the actual snake skin

Photo: Colleen Chase, snake wrangler

It was really interesting watching the various reactions of each crane colt when they approached the skin. Number 1-17, a dominant male was very apprehensive. He poked and pecked but jumped back each time he made contact.

Next up was Mr. Pokey, Number 3-17. The watchdog of the flock – he grabbed it, without hesitation and shook it violently. He also quickly lost interest.

Whooping crane #3-17 checks out the snake skin

Finally, The other male, number 4-17. (Don’t tell anyone but this guy is my favorite). I love how he acts on impulse and then considers the consequences with an almost “oh crap, now what” attitude. He too, grabbed the snake skin and actually carried it briefly before tossing it aside and moving on the something else. 

(hmmm, it just occurred to me that the only three cranes to actually investigate the snake skin were males!)

You really should try to watch today if you can! They’re maturing and changing so quickly!

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Snakes in the Battery Box – Coming to a Theater Near You.

Sunday morning started out as nice as could be. I had the honor of taking Dr George Archibald out to the pen to meet the chicks. He kept the birds busy while I did chores. Number 3-17 did his watchdog impression but quickly settled down.

Dr. George Archibald, co-founder of International Crane Foundation.

When it was time to go I double checked the gate and connected the fencer wires. 

As always, when one leaves the pen, the last thing to do is to turn the hot wire on. I touch it with the back of my finger to make sure it’s working. Well it barely bit me, so I hugged Dr. Archibald goodbye and whispered the the fencer was grounding out somewhere and I needed to do a lap around the pen to fix it. He set off on his journey and I started weeding my way around the pen and checking the wire. It looked fine, not touching anything, not slipped off the insulators. Hmmmm. Brooke changed the battery a week ago, but that was the only other thing to check, so I took the lid off the battery box and there was the resident Garter Snake. 

Ugh, ok, I can handle this I told myself. I took a couple of pictures as he slithered down. I stared at the box for a minute, willing him to slither out and off. He did not. So, I took a deep breath and picked the battery up and set it in the shed. It was very bright out and the box was in the shade, and I had a fogged up helmet on, but I was pretty sure I saw 2 snakes! I took a picture and sent it to Bev Paulan, who was at Pat Fisher’s Osprey banding, to show her she was not the only one having fun on a Sunday morning and one to Heather, cause she hates snakes and it’s always fun to freak her out.

Now came the tough part I had to dump these 2 snakes out, which meant I had to get my hand semi near the snakes. I told myself, they are on the inside they can’t bite you through heavy plastic. It took a minute to convince myself this was true, there was no doubt that I had to do it, so I took a deep breath, reached my hand down… and my phone vibrated, one of the ladies was texting me back, YAY! I could read my text and postpone my task for a few more seconds! As I was getting it out of my costume pocket it vibrates again. Both Bev and Heather said the same thing. 3!!!

3!!! I can’t tell you why, but 3 instead of 2 was way worse. In a creepy kind of way. So I took another deep breath before I could ponder the creepy aspect any further and dumped at the same time doing a little dance backwards. 

I am glad no one was in the blind. Off they went behind the shed. I replaced the battery, the fence bit me nicely and off I went toward the van thinking I deserved both combat pay and to drink my breakfast.

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Aerial Survey

Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan was able to get a flight in yesterday over Juneau, Adams and Marathon Counties, and reports we’re down to just three wild hatched Whooping crane chicks currently surviving.

W13-17 was seen with 29-09 & 12-03  Juneau County  ~42 days old
W7-17 was with 14-08 & 24-08  Juneau County  ~48 days, and
W3-17 with 24 & 42-09  Adams County  ~72 days. This oldest crane chick should be capable of taking short flights with its parents now.
This nesting season, eighteen chicks hatched from four first nests and ten re-nests in Juneau, Adams, Marathon, St. Croix, and Green Lake counties, Wisconsin. 
Being a small, flightless crane chick isn’t easy. There are predators everywhere – on land and in the air. Often, eggs are predated before they hatch as was the case with the Green Lake County nest on May 8th when an interloper Whooping crane landed very near to the nest.

Nesting pair 3-14 & 4-12 chase off 4-14 (Peanut) from the nest area.

Both parents left the nest to chase off male crane #4-14 and a coyote moved in to get the two eggs that were within a day or two of hatching.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the three remaining wild crane chicks and hope they reach the age when they can fly to escape the terrestrial predators.
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Call For Auction Items!

The 2017 Whooping Crane Festival is just around the corner, and with it comes one of OM’s most exciting fundraising campaigns, our annual auctions. We are excited to announce that most auction items will be posted ONLINE! At the Festival’s Friday night dinner we will feature a few super-special items, then have those items too unwieldy to mail available for fast and furious bidding at Saturday’s Festival. Because we know that not everyone can attend the Festival in Princeton, Wisconsin, we will conduct the online auction on our Facebook page.

How can you help make our auctions successful? I’m glad you asked! You can help in three ways. First, if you have an item you’d like to donate, we’d be thrilled to accept it. Second, you can help us by thinking of businesses who might be interested in making a donation. Lastly (and most importantly), you can BID BID BID when the auctions open! 

To donate an item, click here. Fill out the online form and click “Submit.” Then, just ship or mail your item to the Princeton Chamber of Commerce (104 E. Main St., Princeton, WI 54968). 

Once we have received your item, the auction committee will assign it to the auction it best suits. No single item will appear in multiple auctions, and the auction committee reserves the right to make this determination. For example, most of the items that are light weight and easily mailed will be assigned to the online auction. Heavy and bulky items will be featured in one of the auctions held on Festival weekend so that they can travel home safely with the winning bidder.

If you come up with businesses that might be interested in making a donation, email the information to me at jbellemer(AT)operationmigration.org, including the name of the business, the address, and a brief description of what they do and/or what you think they might offer. I’ll then send a solicitation letter to the business explaining OM’s mission and the auctions.

Below are some FAQs that hopefully will answer your questions. If not, feel free to email me!

HOW DO I DONATE AN ITEM? Use our online form to tell us about your item and then ship it to the Princeton Chamber of Commerce at 104 E. Main St., Princeton, WI 54968.

CAN I DECIDE WHICH AUCTION I’D LIKE MY ITEM FEATURED IN? While we wish we could offer that option, it simply isn’t feasible due to the many items and the amount of work we have to do. The auction committee will decide which auction is best suited for your item in the best interest of OM.

CAN I SUGGEST AN OPENING BID FOR MY ITEM? The only opening bids that will be set are to cover postage costs for items that will be mailed to the winners. Otherwise, we can run afoul of IRS rules and regulations. (see next question/response)

WILL I RECEIVE A TAX DEDUCTION RECEIPT FROM OM? No, OM cannot issue tax receipts for goods donated without running into IRS rules about “fair market value”. The IRS states that to issue a tax-deductible receipt for a donated item “Fair Market Value” must be determined by obtaining three appraisals for each item. As you can imagine, this simply isn’t feasible.

WHAT IS THE CUTOFF DATE FOR SENDING IN MY ITEM? Our cutoff for receiving items is August 19th. This allows us enough time to inventory the items, determine which auction they go in, photograph them, and write descriptions. As you can imagine, we have a lot of work to do and cannot leave many items until the last minute. On a case-by-case basis we can make exceptions, such as if we make other arrangements for your item because it is being driven to Wisconsin. Other than that, August 19th!

WHEN ARE THE AUCTIONS? The Whooping Crane Festival will be held the weekend of September 9th, 2017. There will be a dinner on Friday night, 9/8, at which there will be a silent auction featuring a small number of items. On Saturday, at the all-day Festival, items unsuitable for mailing will be auctioned. The online (Facebook) auction where most items will be featured will open on Saturday, 9/16 and close at noon on Saturday, 10/7 (3 weeks).

WHAT IF I DON’T USE FACEBOOK – CAN I STILL PARTICIPATE IN THE ONLINE AUCTION? Facebook is our best online venue as there are large numbers of supporters communicating regularly there. To bid on Facebook, you can either set up an account there temporarily, just for the auction, and then close it afterwards, or have a friend who DOES use Facebook submit your bids.

WHAT IF MY ITEM DOESN’T SELL AT ONE OF THE AUCTIONS? Occasionally we are unable to contact someone who posted a winning bid. In that event, we will simply hold onto the item for next year’s auction.

Any other questions can be emailed to JBellemer(AT)operationmigration.org.

Viewing Blind Visits

We’re thrilled to let you know that once again, we’ll be inviting visitors to the viewing blind at White River Marsh!

The blind is located close to the pensite where there are currently seven young-of-year cranes being costumed reared in preparation for release this fall.

Visitors can visit the blind on Thursday morning but must be on site and ready to head out to the blind by 6am. Don’t forget your camera!

If you’d like to reserve your spot – contact Doug Pellerin at 920-923-0016 

Here are some photos that Rich Smith captured from the viewing blind recently!

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More on Patuxent Closure

Last week we told you the Whooping crane propagation program at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center will be closing this year. We also said we would keep you informed when we learned more.

Patuxent’s Director John B. French, Jr., Ph.D. has released the following fact sheet:

FACT SHEET  –  14 July 2017

Closure of the Whooping Crane Propagation Program at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center 

Background:  Fifty years ago USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center initiated the North American effort to breed endangered Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) in captivity, and together with many partners over the years, developed a comprehensive program for Whooping Crane conservation. Patuxent has been a leader in that effort ever since, and the program has become an example of endangered species conservation and recovery known world-wide.  Whooping cranes are still endangered, but the overall population has grown more than 10-fold in that period.

The Whooping Crane Propagation Program at Patuxent will close in FY18 and birds will be moved to other institutions.  Several factors contribute to that decision including that propagation for release does not fit easily in our current research mission, and USGS will focus limited resources on filling gaps of information for species at risk that are not well studied.  Closure of the propagation program will present some challenges for the many partners who are now involved with Whooping Crane reintroduction’s.

Actions:  The proper disposition of approximately 75 Whooping Cranes now in Patuxent’s care will require time and resources to accomplish.  Breeding Whooping Cranes at Patuxent will be sent to other captive breeding centers, hence will not be lost to the program, but there likely will be a disruption of reproduction in those birds for the 2018 season and beyond. The disposition of cranes now in Patuxent’s care will follow the recommendations of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the captive flock. The SSP is a formal set of procedures that allow all captive WCs to be managed as a single population, no matter where they are housed.  The considerable expertise among Patuxent staff, ranging from animal husbandry to reintroduction methodologies to results of scientific studies, will be available for consultation and training to make the transition as effective as possible.

Conservation impact:  Whooping Crane captive breeding for reintroduction in North America is one part of the strategy for conservation and restoration of the species.  That strategy is guided by a joint US/Canada International Recovery Team as described in the Whooping Crane Recovery Plan.  The impact of closing the Whooping Crane Propagation Program at Patuxent may be to slow the rate of production of chicks for reintroduction of Whooping Cranes, at least temporarily.  In the long term, we foresee no detrimental impact on whooping crane production in captivity and we expect that conservation actions that benefit the growth Whooping Crane numbers will continue.  


John B. French, Jr., Ph.D.                               


Patuxent Wildlife Research Center                                                            

(301) 497-5502


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