Meat Raffle to Benefit Whoopers!

Yes, I said ‘meat raffle.’

If you’ve never attended a meat raffle, they’re a LOT of fun!

This one will take place between 1 and 4pm at Beer Belly’s in Princeton, Wisconsin on June 24th and all proceeds will go to the Festival committee to carry out this year’s Whooping Crane Festival!

All ages are welcome!

Tickets will be $1 each and there will be multiple draws for beef, pork, smoked meats, surf n’ turf, you name it – you can win it if your ticket is drawn!

A great opportunity to help whooping cranes and have a lot of fun!

The Long Way Home

Last week we told you about Parent Reared Whooping crane number 31-16 who had decided to shortstop just south of the Wisconsin state line in Stephenson County, IL.

Lou Cambier had been checking on him occasionally, until 31-16 decided it was his turn to stop in and check on Lou.

Late Friday we received some hits from the remote tracking device on 31-16, which showed him only 9 miles east of our location! He decided to return to Wisconsin after all!

I forwarded the information to Doug Pellerin who went out to check on him Saturday morning. Doug reports he was in a lovely marsh and much too far off the road for a photograph. 

Here’s a Google Earth grab showing the route he traveled over two days before arriving in Winnebago County, Wisconsin.

31-16 had spent the past several weeks west of Freeport, IL. Now he is in Winnebago County, WI.


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Baby Steps…

With HUGE feet!

First, here’s the owner of the rather large foot we showed you yesterday…

#8-17, the owner of the big foot. Perhaps his nickname should be sasquatch?

Friday and Saturday were two of the days in life that “take your breath away” and I will always remember.

The twp smaller groups were combined into one and I sat with them each day for 6 or 7 hours. I stayed out of the way and let them establish a pecking order. #1-17 is THE MAN – Even if he turns out to be a she! 

If they got nervous and homesick for their runs in the propogation building I would lead them into the pond, and if they were scared, like when a helicopter went over we ran into the pond so they would learn that’s where you go if scary stuff is happening. It was wonderful and how lucky am I?!

As of Sunday, they have been on their own in the ponded-pen. One of us hovered outside and out of view in the morning then someone watched on the computer. #2-17 has been the crybaby but he is smart enough to take breaks and go drink before remembering he’s having a temper tantrum and gets back to it. The others are taking baths, naps and poking around happy as can be!

I took a ton of pictures from under my face mesh – Enjoy!

Whooping crane #1-17 and his, um, toupee!

In this photo you can see #1-17’s blood feathers as the primary and secondary feathers grow in.

Whooping crane 3-17 bobs for underwater treats.

Five of this year’s cohort chill while getting acquainted with each other.

Whooping crane 4-17 shows off his stubby, err, quickly growing wings.

Big Foot

Just as humans have different sized feet, some cranes have larger feet than others.

Take tiny Whooping crane number 8-17 – look at the size of his/her foot! I hope for his/her sake, it’s a he. I also hope he eventually grows into his feet!

Colleen will be writing a post tomorrow where you can meet the rest of this, our youngest whooping crane in the 2017 costume reared cohort.

Be sure to return to check him out… and see if he matches his big foot.

Whooping cranes do not have webbed feet but are still great swimmers. Photo: Colleen Chase

White River Marsh

I like where I live. It’s a small town in southern Ontario surrounded by farm fields and maple forests. Queen Street is likely the most common name for a main thoroughfare in Canada and Port Perry in no exception. Our Queen Street is two blocks of hundred year old, brick storefronts that ends at the pier jutting out into Lake Scugog. It is a pretty enough town to have twice been invaded by Hollywood film crews and portrayed as “your-town USA.”

Despite all the charm and contentment, there is something special about being here in White River Marsh. Our pensite is off Rustic Road number 22, which is a five-mile, single-lane, dirt-road that wanders through the marsh.

White River Rd. in the winter and the same section of this scenic road last week on the right. Photo: J. Duff

You can take the other route on pavement but I like the slow drive avoiding the basking snakes and turtles and listening for the crane pairs declaring ownership of their portion of this vast wetland. For most of the length of Rustic Road you can stop anywhere and turn a 360 degree circle. In that sweeping view you see only natural habitat. No buildings, towers and even farm fields, nothing human except the road and the vehicle that brought you.

For the past few days we have been expanding our wet pen to provide more enclosed habitat for this year’s costume reared cohort. That means we are working in the closed area of the marsh beyond the reach of most man-made noise. Instead, we listen to bird songs and bull frogs and stop work to watch the eagles kettle overhead.

Last weekend a team of generous volunteers showed up in the marsh with boots, gloves and insect repellent. They help us with the hard stuff like pulling out top net panels and sewing together a big one measuring 70 by 80 feet. They drove steel posts three feet into the ground and strung chain link fence though waist deep water. We are forever grateful to Bev Birks, Rich Smith, Tom Schultz, Doug Pellerin and Dawn Fronk.

Our pen new includes two roosting ponds and some upland between them. Adding the dry pen we now have over 10,000 square feet of natural habitat, top netted and protected by multiple stands of electric fence.

Check out our live camera to see it. We expect six or seven costume reared birds to arrive by private aircraft on June 20 or 21. It will be interesting to watch them adjust to life in the wild.

Tune in to watch.

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Meet W3-17

Brooke was able to capture a couple of photos of W3-17 with its dad, whooping crane number 24-09 last week in Adams County, Wisconsin.

This young crane was first spotted by Bev Paulan during a flight on May 5th. At that time, the chick was still on the nest mound so it was only a day or two old. 

Whooping crane colt W3-17 out foraging with dad number 24-09. Photo: Brooke Pennypacker

Whooping crane colt #W3-17 was roughly 30 days of age at the time this photo was taken. Photo: Brooke Pennypacker

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Aerial Survey – Chicks!

With today’s weather looking not so favorable for a flight, Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan decided to fly over Adams and Juneau counties yesterday.

During her flight she discovered a first whooping crane chick hatched to a Parent Reared crane! 

Female 20-14 and mate 37-07 are now parents to W15-17. Photo: Bev Paulan

This brings the total of young-of-year whooping crane chicks in the Eastern Migratory Population to thirteen.

W1-17 with 12-11* & 5-11: approximately 40 days old

W3-17 with 42-09* & 24-09: approximately 33 days

W5-17 with 7-11* & 3-11: approximately 30 days

W6-17 with 36-09* & 18-03: approximately 15 days

W7-17 & W8-17 with 14-08 & 24-08*: approximately 8 and 9 days

W9-17 & W10-17 with W3-10* & 8-04: approximately 8 and 6 days. Note: second generation wild chick.

W11-17 with W1-06* & 1-10: approximately 6 days. Note: Also second generation chick.

W12-17 with 13-03* & 9-05: approximately 4 days

W13-17 with 12-03 & 29-09: approximately 3 days

And W14-17 with 9-03* & 3-04 still on nest: approximately 3 day

*indicates female


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What are the Odds?

Those of you whom have followed our work over the years have no doubt heard us mention Lou and Linda Cambier.

These two incredible people were our Winnebago County, IL migration hosts for a number of years and opened their home and their hearts for countless days each year. They provided meals and camaraderie for the crew and a safe and secure location for dozens of Whooping cranes over the years.

Lou is a pilot and is the one that flew from his home in Illinois to Kentucky in the spring of 2015 so that Joe and I could get a higher vantage point from which to locate Whooping cranes 3-14 and 4-14 and ultimately return them both to White River Marsh, where they still both spend their spring through fall seasons.

This past spring Lou has been checking on yearling parent reared whooping crane number 31-16 who it seems has decided to short stop in Stephenson County, IL. As time permits, Lou flies or drives approximately 30 miles round trip to try to get eyes on this young crane.

Number 31-16 also has a GSM remote tracking device so we get hits on him as well and on Sunday, we received data telling us that he was in Lou and Linda’s field – right beside their landing strip!

It seems he stayed for roughly 5 hours foraging in a low, wet spot.

I emailed the following screengrab to Lou and asked if he had given the young crane a lift home the last time he had checked on him…

Meet the 2017 Costume Reared Whooping Cranes!

Time to meet the chicks – They are so cute I can’t hardly stand it! I love this age and stage best!

Right now all seven cranes are walking together every day and are then divided into two groups, 1, 2, 3 & 4/17 and 6, 7 & 8/17. They are lead into neighboring pens where they spend several hours. A costume huddles in an out of the way spot and watches for any sign of aggression or stress. There are some minor “face-off’s” but minor is to expected.

They are really doing great and in the coming days the two groups will be put together and the costume will disappear more and more. They will miss their “security blanket” and get all peep-y and pace. We will be right around the corner, at first peeking through the door to the feed shelter, then watching on the computer, in a wonderfully cold shed. It’s like weaning the baby and just like any mom we will agonize, I can hear the conversation now between Barb and Sharon and me: “Can I go in now?” “No, wait… He has to get used to it!” “OK, now!”

So, here are some personality quirks we have noticed about these cranes. Keep in mind I am going to call them all “him” as DNA gender results have not come in yet.

#1-17 hatched April 24. Parents are captive whooping cranes in the Patuxent flock. This, our oldest of the cohort, is quiet and calm, yet dominant. He does not start problems but does not back down when challenged. He’s my favorite!

#2-17 hatched April 28. Parents are Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) cranes W1-06 & 1-10. This young crane seems to be happy go lucky, joyful and sweet. Maybe a tad clingy. Peeps a lot out there, he’s kind of a cry baby but, he’s my favorite!

#3-17 hatched April 29. and is a full sibling to #2-17. This youngster wants to be dominate. He likes to grab a beak full of fluff from an unsuspecting napping chick. He is the one that starts “face off’s” and guess what? He’s my favorite!

Whooping crane colts 1-17, 2-17 and 3-17 spend time exploring the outdoor crane enclosure at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Photo: Colleen Chase

#4-17 hatched April 30. His parents are also EMP whooping cranes, numbers 32-09 & 7-07. This is a rather quiet bird and the smallest of this group. He loves the costume. He’s my favorite!

Whooping crane #4-17 resting. Photo: Colleen Chase

#6-17 hatched May 2. Is a full sibling to 4-17. He is Independent with a capital I! He goes exploring, no clingy Snowflake here. He is also the PITA (Pain In The Butt) of this group. He initiates the “face-off’s”. He’s my favorite!

#7-17 hatched May 3. EMP Parents 13-03 & 9-05. Is very alert and can melt to nervous. He is a clinger and loves the costume. He’s my favorite!

Finally, #8-17, also hatched May 3 making him the same age at #7-17. His parents are EMP whoopers 12-03 & 29-09. He is cute and happy and loves to play in the grass. He can be uncooperative about coming out of his run, but perhaps we are past that now. I hope so but even if not, he is, of course, my favorite!

Crane chicks #6-17. 7-17 and 8-17. Photo: Colleen Chase

Note: Whooping crane colt number 5-17 will stay behind at Patuxent so that he can be socialized for longer before becoming a member of the Louisiana flock later this year. 

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Aerial Survey

Bev flew a quick survey on Friday and was able to cover a lot of ground… From Juneau County, all the way over to Dodge County and Horicon NWR, by way of Green Lake County.

Since our last flight update when Bev reported finding chick number W6-17, we’re now up to W11-17 so an additional five whooping crane chicks are now on the landscape in and around Juneau County.

W1-06 & 1-10 have a chick, making this a second generation wild hatched whooping crane chick. Number 1-10 was still incubating a second egg during Bev’s flight but the photo below, show’s mom, W1-06 tending to number W11-17. 
W3-10 & 8-04 now have two chicks – W9-17 and W10-17 (still on the nest). Also second generation chicks.
W1-17 is still with parents 5-11 & 12-11. 
W3-17 is with 24-09 & 42-09. 
W5-17 is still with 3-11 & 7-11.
W6-17 is with 18-03 & 36-09 and the pair of 14-08 & 24-08 and busy tending to W7-17 and W8-17. 
Still incubating are:
9-03 & 3-04
29-09 & 12-03
10-09 & 17-07
20-14 & 37-07
25-09 & 2-04
9-05 & 13-03
In the middle section of her flight, or White River Marsh and Grand River Marsh areas, Bev located:
4-12 & 3-14
5-12 & 30-16 
10-15 & 4-13 
27-14 & 10-11
11-15 & 4-14 (Peanut – photo below)
Next over the Horicon NWR to check on:

63-15 & 61-15 

All present and accounted for.
The remaining nests should hatch out this week.

Mom #W1-06 and her new chick number W11-17. Photo: Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR

Two male whooping cranes, numbers 4-14 and 11-15. Phtot: Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR

We’re thrilled that Bev was able to get eyes on Peanut and just this morning he appeared at the pensite on White River Marsh. Scroll down to the next entry to watch him dance!

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Peanut Returns!

This just happened on the CraneCam. 

Two young male whooping cranes were on the north end of the runway at 5:14am central time. The crane on the left is 4-14 (Peanut) and the other is 11-15.

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Wood Buffalo National Park Nest Survey

A record number of whooping cranes nests have been found in Wood Buffalo National Park during the 2017 nesting survey carried out by Parks Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada. This year’s survey found 98 nests, an increase of 16 over the previous record of 82 set in 2014.

Protecting and promoting ecological integrity is a priority for Parks Canada. The data gathered each year allows them to track the health and growth of the population, and allows them to assess the current state of the crane’s habitat, which Parks Canada is directly responsible for. The Whooping Crane nesting area is one of the reasons why Wood Buffalo was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

2017 also offers an opportunity to celebrate this amazing recovery success story of the Whooping Crane and take strides to advance protected areas and biodiversity as part of the celebration of Canada’s 150th.

CLICK to learn more about Wood Buffalo National Park 

CLICK to learn more about Canada’s 150th – the sesquicentennial anniversary of Canadian Confederation.

Snapshot Wisconsin

Wisconsin residents with at least 10 contiguous acres of property are invited to participate in a very cool project coordinated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Snapshot Wisconsin is a partnership to monitor wildlife year-round, using a statewide network of trail cameras. The project will provide data needed for wildlife management decisions. It is also a unique opportunity for individuals, families, and students to get involved in monitoring the state’s valuable natural resources.

This is a volunteer based monitoring effort to capture images of all types of wildlife including deer, elk, bears, fox, bobcats, and even whooping cranes and to learn more about Wisconsin’s wildlife.

As of May 16th there are 687 trail cameras being maintained by 604 volunteers. Photos captured by these trail cameras will be uploaded to Zooniverse where a team of volunteers will help to classify or identify each and every critter captured by the the cameras.

Want to volunteer to host or maintain a camera? Click here to learn more.

Want to volunteer to identify animals in the photos? Click here to head over to Zooniverse

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It’s a Boy!

…. or not. We’re not passing out cigars or rushing off to buy the blue baby room paint just yet. Determining the sex of an adult whooping crane can get, well… complicated. And so, as I stand perched up in my favorite tree gazing out over the marsh observing cranes 28-05 and 2-15 and their first nest together, I think about such things. Especially considering that both birds are supposed to be females. What to do? “Will the real male please stand up”?

Now, many of you may remember our little 2-15. She was always the one dancing to a different drummer, first at Patuxent and later on migration. She spent most of last season down in Walworth County, WI in the company of a large group of sandhill cranes.  It was interesting to note that two other young whoopers were nearby; a Parent Reared crane and a Direct Autumn Release bird but each also preferred the company of Sandhills to other Whoopers. In fact, one of the birds was the famous “Kevin,” or number 20-15, the parent reared bird that had to be recaptured in the parking lot of a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in downtown Dubuque, Iowa shortly after his initial release. He was re-released in Wisconsin only to migrate to Louisiana, a trip he repeated this past winter. His interest in fast food seems to have been a one-time fascination. 

2-15 returned to St Marks this winter, the only bird from the Class of 2015 to do so. She later migrated north and turned up back in Walworth County with 28-05 before continuing north to 28-05’s territory in Marathon County. That’s where Bev first spotted her on the nest.

28-05 has spent most of her 12 years in Marathon County; usually with sandhill cranes. “The locals call her Millie,” the refuge manager told me. Since there have never been any other whoopers hanging out in the immediate area, we just assumed she went over to the “Dark Side” like 16 and 18-11 did over at Horicon Marsh.  Last year Bev observed her standing next to a nest with an egg in it. That prompted a discussion by the WCEP Monitoring and Management Team regarding the prospects of a capture and “reorientation,” similar to that of 16-11. However, capturing her was considered problematic at best and the idea was put on the back burner. What a difference a year makes. But could 28-05 really be a male after all?

While there are a number of ways to differentiate a whooper male from female: size, tone of voice, body language, size of bank account, etc., there is one fool proof, genuine sure fired test: get the birds to unison call.  What is a unison call?  Well, it’s basically the whooper equivalent of the 60’s Sonny and Cher Hit “I Got You, Babe.”  The male initiates the call and the females joins in milliseconds later.  If you record the calls, then slow them down digitally to quarter speed, you will hear the female demanding “I want. I want” and the male replying “Why me? Why me?”  Very simple. “Just play the unison call and they’ll start calling up a storm,” I was told. “Then you’ll know for sure.”

To this end, I downloaded the unison call from my “Liberace’s  Greatest Hits” album onto my trusty digital voice recorder… the one that yells at me to “Get off the Beach” every time I try to go for a swim. Then I hooked that up to a couple of small speakers with enough jacks and cords to make Radio Shack consider going back into business.  I cameoed up, hiked out and up into the tree I went.  As usual, one bird was on the nest while the other foraged nearby. “Patience, Grasshopper.”  I pulled out my trusty, jury rigged “Whooper Blaster” and let her rip with the loudest, most raucous unison call Mother Nature had ever heard. And just as predicted, the birds responded with the loudest, most raucous SILENCE imaginable.

I took solace in the fact that although I did not determine their sexes, I did determine that they were both deaf!  Back at the drawing board, I reconfigured my sound machine and returned a few days later.  However, this time, before I could deploy my heavy artillery, 2-15 flew in to join 28-05 sitting on the nest and they blessed poor old frustrated me with three of the loudest unison calls imaginable. I captured it on video which I later analyzed with aid of the world famous “Duck Program” based on the algorithm, “If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and smells like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” Now I can say with complete and 100% UNCERTAINTY that 28-05 is, in fact, a DUDE!

At the risk of being redundant, this is probably a good time to inform our readers that we have yet another same sex nest over in nearby Wood County. Number 15-11, a female that lost her mate 6-11 last year has paired up and nested with another female, 38-08. Initially, nearby male 19-10 was thought to be in the mix but he has been a no-show for a few weeks now. 

I’m not sure what to make of any of this but I am sure of one thing:  the next time I open a box of Wheaties, I’m going to wear ear protection. Those unison calls are REALLY LOUD!!!

Postscript: DNA testing of egg shell membranes after they are hatched determines captive Whooping crane gender. With chicks popping out in rapid fire, there are many ways that can get mixed up.

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