Why a Bird’s Shape Can be Deceiving

As I learned over the years, identifying a bird isn’t always easy. I’m pretty sure most people, like me, can recognize a blue jay, cardinal or a robin without too much trouble. Heather has been teaching me the little nuances to look for to help in identification – a particular stripe on a wing (wing bar), for instance.

Now I found out the shape of bird can be deceiving based on whether its feathers are sitting sleek, typical or fluffed.

Read more from Birdwatching Daily as David Sibley tries to help us out…


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New Bird of Paradise Species Discovered

I have always loved the bird of paradise. Its courtship ritual is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. (In videos of course, not in real life). The first time I saw a video of this dance, I laughed and laughed.

The brilliant blue, against the dark black feathers is so striking you can’t help but notice and then when they started dancing… it’s one o

To woo a female, this bird flips up his cape, puffs out his chest, and shimmies his little feet.

f the funniest things to see. 

Check it out!

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More Arrivals!

After a long day of looking for Sandhill Crane nests in the marsh yesterday, my phone said “Hey” telling me I had an email.

It was a GSM hit on female Whooping crane 7-17. She and male #3-17 have been in Juneau County – on and around Necedah Wildlife Refuge since returning to Wisconsin, so I did a double take when Google Earth showed me they were now in Marquette County – 18 miles from the White River Marsh pensite!

We immediately headed over and in a rare stroke of luck found them with ease.

I had not seen them since the day Brooke and I captured and boxed them here at White River Marsh in early December when they failed to migrate. We released them south of Baraboo with hundreds of Sandhill Cranes. They spent the winter at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge in Alabama.

We are tickled pink they are healthy, still together and are close to home!

on the left is Whooping Crane 7-17 and right, #3-17. Photo: B. Pennypacker

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First Aerial Survey of 2018

Bev Paulan was able to get a flight in Monday and reports finding only one nest. The nest belongs to 5-11 & 12-11 and is located in Juneau County.

By April 10th last year, there were 19 active nests so you can see how late everything is this year.

Bev is planning another flight tomorrow so it’ll be interesting to see if the nest count rises just 3 days later. The weather has been steadily warming up since the snow/ice storm, which hit the area a week and a half ago and the only evidence of the spring storm are the piles made by the snow plows.

Even the Royal Couple (4-12 & 3-14) have not yet begun nesting. We’ve seen them in the general area where last year’s nest was but they are not there all the time and Bev didn’t see them at all on Monday. Hopefully they’re building a nest over the last couple of days.

Sadly, Bev found the remains of Parent-Reared Whooping crane #30-17 in Lake County, Illinois. Regular readers will remember this young female crane was released in Winnebago County, WI last fall and was monitored by Jo-Anne Bellemer. 

When she migrated south – she REALLY went south… She flew over a thousand miles to Plaquemines Parish on the Mississippi Delta area of Louisiana. Her remains were sent to the USGS National Wildlife Health Lab.

Here are a couple of photos Bev sent along…

Costume-reared cranes 3 & 7-17 arrived in Juneau County a couple weeks ago. Photo: B. Paulan

Whooping crane #4-08 getting ready to launch (Love the shadow!). Photo: B. Paulan


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Don’t Miss Out!

Get your Cranes NEED Wetlands T-shirt. 

We have a limited number available so be sure to order yours soon!

All net proceeds support our Whooping Crane fieldwork. 

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Welcome Home!

Yesterday morning we were up before the sun and headed out to the marsh nearby to try to locate some Sandhill crane nests (More about that later this week).

As we crested the hill we saw a large wetland alive with Sandhill cranes. The noise was deafening as they chattered among themselves. 

As the sun began to light up the marsh we noticed two large white Whooping cranes among the Sandhill’s and a quick check of the receiver told us they were 4-17 & 6-17; siblings which were costumed raised at White River Marsh last year!

These two had spent the winter in Fulton County, Kentucky and had made it back to White River Marsh! 

Here are a couple of photos I snapped with Jeff’s camera.

Whooping cranes 4-17 and 6-17 in Green Lake County, WI. Photo: H. Ray


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Earth Day 2018

We’d love for every day to be Earth Day but if one day each year helps to highlight the issue then we’re all for that.

This year, Earth Day will focus on the issue of plastic pollution. Did you know humans create plastic waste at an astounding rate, as of 2015 the total was estimated to be around 6300 million metric tons.

Of that, a staggering 79% accumulates in landfills and the environment. The plastic makes its way to the ocean where it traps and is eaten by marine animals. In the ocean the plastic continually breaks into smaller and smaller pieces until it can enter the blood stream of fish and other organisms, bringing along the toxins it has absorbed.

What can you do?

  • Lend your voice by signing this petition
  • Reduce YOUR use! Here are 17 ways to reduce the amount of plastic you use:


  1. Stop using plastic straws, even in restaurants. If a straw is a must, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw
  2. Use a reusable produce bag. A single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. Purchase or make your own reusable produce bag and be sure to wash them often! 
  3. Give up gum. Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, aka plastic. 
  4. Buy boxes instead of bottles. Often, products like laundry detergent come in cardboard which is more easily recycled than plastic.
  5. Purchase food, like cereal, pasta, and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable bag or container. You save money and unnecessary packaging. 
  6. Reuse containers for storing leftovers or shopping in bulk.
  7. Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop
  8. Bring your own container for take-out or your restaurant doggy-bag since many restaurants use styrofoam. 
  9. Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in a refillable metal lighter. 
  10. Avoid buying frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic. Plus you’ll be eating fewer processed foods! 
  11. Don’t use plasticware at home and be sure to request restaurants do not pack them in your take-out box.
  12. Ask your local grocer to take your plastic containers (for berries, tomatoes, etc.) back. If you shop at a farmers market they can refill it for you.
  13. The EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the US each year. Use cloth diapers to reduce your baby’s carbon footprint and save money. 
  14. Make fresh squeezed juice or eat fruit instead of buying juice in plastic bottles. It’s healthier and better for the environment.
  15. Make your own cleaning products that will be less toxic and eliminate the need for multiple plastic bottles of cleaner.
  16. Pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags. Also, opt for fresh fruits and veggies and bulk items instead of products that come in single serving cups.
  17. Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor


In case you’re still of the mind that plastics are not an issue, please watch the following video.

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Frugivores! What are they?

A cross between a Pug and a French bulldog?

People who are stingy?

Find out here at Birdwatching Daily!

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NO Bread please

Pass it on!

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In Case You Missed it…

Get your Cranes NEED Wetlands T-shirt. 

We have a limited number available so be sure to order yours soon!

All net proceeds support our Whooping Crane fieldwork. 

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Henry is Courting!

It seems #5-12 (aka Henry) has a lady friend!

Last week we told you Bev and Brooke spotted 7 Whooping cranes in and around White River Marsh during a very brief trip. The list of 7 included 67-15, who at that time, appeared to be associating with #4-14 (aka Peanut).

It seems that has changed in the past few days and this lovely 3 year old female Whooping crane has captured the attention of 6 year old male Whooper #5-12!

While she is only 3 years old, we have seen whoopers that age breed so as you can well imagine, we’re pretty excited about this possible new pair at the marsh.

Here are a couple photos I captured of them yesterday in the snow.

#5-12/Henry on the right, and his new friend #67-15 are barely visible in the fresh snow, which fell over the weekend. Photo: H. Ray

Many birds in the area are foraging on the roads because the heavy snow has covered all the grassy areas. Photo: H. Ray

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Bird Migration “Tools”

In recent news Cornell Lab of Ornithology and University of Oxford have teamed up to create a near real-time map to follow large-scale migrations, including the ability to predict 3 days ahead.

To learn more: http://birdcast.info/live-migration- maps/

How to use the map: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/heres-how- to-use- the-new- migration-forecast-

CLICK to learn more

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Wrong Way Whooper

Parent-reared Whooping crane #72-17 was released in early October in Winnebago County, Wisconsin. For a few weeks, he was monitored by Jo-Anne Bellemer as he moved about the area with a small group of Sandhill cranes. 

This fella gets high marks for traveling the farthest last fall. Four days after leaving Wisconsin, he appeared in Okeechobee County, FL, some 1300 miles to the south.

He began heading north on April 2nd and everything was going great until 4 days later when he appeared to make a right turn over northern Kentucky, instead of staying on his trajectory.

Thereafter, #72-17 encountered the south shore of Lake Erie before doubling back and then veering north into Michigan. oops!

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If You Build It, They Will Come – Or Not!

Not far from Operation Migration headquarters, 11 miles to the south, used to be a 1,500 acre thoroughbred horse breeding farm called Windfields Farm.

It’s most famously known as the birthplace of Norther Dancer – winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

I have driven past this beautiful parcel of land countless time as I drove my kids into the ‘big city of Oshawa’; approximate population of 160,000. I always took a quick glance off the road to see the fields of horses and imagined what it would be like to grow up there. 

The passing of E.P. Taylor in 1989 and then his son, Charles, in 1997 led to a downsizing and the eventual closure of the farm. Large parcels of land were sold to University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College with much of the remaining land sold for residential development. Just to the north, the 407 toll highway was expanded further east. 

As I drive past this area now, I still look hoping to see the majestic horses in those fields but instead what I do see, besides the development, is nesting structures, referred to as kiosks.

Four large Barn swallow kiosks, back-dropped by new, large human homes. Photo: H. Ray

Due to a large drop, 66% from 1970 – 2012, in barn swallow populations the Ontario government mandated in 2013 that anyone who modifies or destroys a barn must provide a replacement within a kilometer and near foraging habitat.  Ontario Ministry of Transportation alone, installed 148 barn swallow kiosks at a cost of $3,500 ea. 

The problem is – the barn swallows aren’t really flocking to them.  Bird Studies Canada has found that only ½ of the 20 erected structures are being occupied.  Many farmers are saying though, that there are far fewer barn swallows nesting in their barns as well.  So what exactly is the problem?  It seems, it may very well be a combination of factors.

Read more from ON nature

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