Broken ‘Wing’

Guest Author: Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR pilot and former OM Field Supervisor.

As many long term readers of this Field Journal may know, I make my annual migration to Florida every winter to help Brooke out with the birds. I look forward to this for many reasons, the first of which is to help Brooke, the second to be back at St. Mark’s and not the least but to be with the chicks.

The best part of this year’s visit is that I get to spend 5 weeks away from the Wisconsin winter. The worst part is because of a broken wing. Which bird, you are probably screaming. Which precious chick has broken its wing? Not a chick—Brooke! And it’s not really broken, but he did have rotator cuff surgery last week and needs a little extra help at the pen. Disney has been providing staff, as they do every winter, but the duties are best handled by two ‘tumes, so here I am.

While Scott Tidmus was here from Disney, he took me out for my first visit with the chicks since I assisted with the short migration hop in Columbia County, WI. I reacquainted myself with the young of the year, stood up to 4-13 and 4-12 and quickly resumed the all so familiar care-taking duties. There has been a lot of rain in this area, so all duties are squishy and slow due to the copious amount of mud.  I just keep my fingers crossed that I don’t face plant like I did last year.

The chicks are all healthy and active, flying their circuits in the morning and actively foraging all day.  They get along quite famously with the two adults that are currently in the pen and are tolerant of 5-12 when he sneaks back in for a try at the feeder. They have even been treating me with respect (at least as long as I have grapes) and have been roosting in the pen at night with no last minute excursions (I am probably cursing myself with this one).

The previous weekend, before I came down, the famous “cow pond” pair showed up at the pen. This is the pair that resides in the far eastern side of Tallahassee and are watched diligently by Karen Willes and a cadre of craniacs. The pair tried hard to usurp dominance of the pen, but were thwarted by the ‘tumes.  After witnessing 15-09 chase every chick from the pen, Scott and I decided on a plan of attack.

We have “been there, done that” in regards to chasing off unwanted adults, so the plan was put into effect quickly. The variable we didn’t take into account was the mud, so the birds probably got a good laugh as they were flying out of the pen. We were successful in chasing them off and we have not seen hide nor feather since last Friday.

So for now, peace reigns at the pen with relaxed behaviors with not only the chicks and white birds, but the costumed handlers as well.  It is raining again, so the mud is not going away any time soon but it is still way better than snow.

And now a photo round-up. All images captured by Bev Paulan in the past week.

"Well hello - you're new here. C'mon right in"

“Well hello – you’re new here. C’mon right in”

The seven juvenile Whooping cranes and two adults on a sunrise flight over the marsh.

The seven juvenile Whooping cranes and two adults on a sunrise flight over the marsh.

Chillin pond-side

Chillin pond-side

Soakin' up the sunshine

Soakin’ up the sunshine

Time to roost as the sun sets for the night.

Time to roost as the sun sets for the night. 

WHOOP it UP!

Port_Aransas_Festival

Registration for the Port Aransas, TX Whooping Crane Festival is now open! 

This year’s festival runs February 19 – 22nd and we hope you can join us at this event!

The Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce celebrates Whooping cranes on their winter habitat with an annual festival honoring these grand birds. In addition to the Whooping Crane, an awesome array of wintering migratory birds flock into the wetlands and onto the Texas shorelines of Mustang Island in and around Port Aransas, Texas. This festival is a must-attend for all birders!

Check out the Whooping crane viewing opportunities to see some of the amazing cranes in the Wood Buffalo – Aransas flock. You may just be fortunate to spot a family of Whoopers!

Port Aransas is on the northern tip of Mustang Island, about 30 minutes from downtown Corpus Christi, three hours from the Rio Grande Valley, three hours from San Antonio and four hours from Houston or Austin.

Early registration closes at midnight February 9th so book now to reserve the tours you want to participate in and speakers sessions you want to attend (Hopefully, one of them is OM CEO, Joe Duff). While you there, be sure to swing by the Bird’s Nest Trade Show at the Port Aransas Civic Center and say hi to Colleen, Joe and yours truly. Our friends from Eagle Optics will also be there so you can try out some great binoculars or spotting scopes.

It’s been more than 10 years since we’ve attended this fun event and I can’t wait to see how it’s grown.

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Your monthly gift will help ensure that we are able to continue our work to safeguard Whooping cranes and continue our education and outreach efforts.

embroidered crest_wbWhen you become a NEW monthly donor, OR increase your current monthly donation amount, you will receive a special embroidered Whooping crane crest as a small token of our appreciation! Each embroidered crest features a single Whooping crane with its head tossed back while unison calling and measures 4 inches high x 2 inches across.

When you become a recurring supporter it provides OM with a reliable, low-cost stream of revenue that sustains our ongoing programs and allows us to better forecast revenue for budgeting purposes.

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EMP Update – Where are the Whoopers?

Whooping Crane Update, 1-31 January 2015

The map below indicates the last known location of the Whooping Cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population. This map does not include birds that have not been reported for over one month, are known to have moved from a previous location or that are long term missing. Updated band and transmitter information can be found in the attached document.

General
Maximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period was 100 birds (53 males, 47 females). Estimated distribution at the end of the report period included 26-29 whooping cranes in Indiana, 7 in Kentucky, 10 in Tennessee, 34 in Alabama, 3 in Georgia, 13 in Florida, 2-5 at unknown locations and 2 long term missing. The total for Florida includes 7 newly released juveniles.

Mortalities
Female no. 8-13 was discovered with a severely injured upper right leg at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida, on the morning of 5 January. She was captured and transported to the Shepherd Spring Animal Hospital where she was euthanized.
The remains of male no. 7-13 and female no. 2-13 were found on private property adjacent to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida, on 15 January. Death of both birds had likely occurred on 5 January.

2012 Cohort

Nos. 4-12 remained at the pensite at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida.

No. 5-12 remained near the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida.

No. 7-12 remained in Knox/Greene Counties, Indiana, throughout the report period.

No. 14-12 was found in Jackson County, Indiana, on 1 December and had left this location by 5 December. No subsequent reports.

No. 16-12 was last detected in Jackson County, Indiana, on 6 January. He was confirmed at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, Meigs County, Tennessee, on 8 January and was last detected at this location the following two days. No subsequent reports.

2013 Cohort

Nos. 2, 4, 7, and 8-13 remained on and near the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida, until the deaths of nos. 2, 7 and 8-13 (see above). No. 4-13 has joined no. 4-12 and the juveniles at the pensite.

No. 9-13 remained on and near the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Alachua County, Florida, throughout the report period.

No. 22-13 remained at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, Meigs County, Tennessee, throughout the report period.

No. 24-13 remained in Knox/Greene Counties, Indiana, until moving south to the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Morgan County, Alabama, on 7/8 January with nos. 18-09, 38-09, 6-09, 23-10 and 3-11. [Nos. 3-11, 6-09 and 23-10 returned to Greene County, Indiana, by 21 January].

No. 57-13 remained in Jackson County, Indiana, through at least 6 January. He was detected at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, Meigs County, Tennessee, on 8 January where he remained.

No. 59-13 remained at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Morgan County, Alabama, throughout the report period and was often seen associating with male no. 1-11.

2014 Cohort

Wild-hatched

No. W3-14 remained with her father in Greene County, Indiana, until moving south to Lawrence  County, Alabama, on 3-8 January with nos. 12-02, 29-09, 19-10 and 4-11.

Ultralight

The seven juveniles at the release pen at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge were returned to the top-netted pen on the morning of 5 January. They received their permanent colored leg bands and transmitters that day and were re-released on 8 January.

Parent-reared

No. 19-14 remained with pair nos. 7-07 and 39-07 at their wintering location in Lowndes County, Georgia, throughout the report period.

No. 20-14 remained with pair nos. 9-05 and 13-03 in Greene County, Indiana, until moving south with the adults to Jackson County, Alabama, on 6-8 January.

No. 27-14 remained with pair nos. 2-04 and 25-09 in Hopkins County, Kentucky, throughout the report period. Pairs nos. 24-09 and 42-09 as well as nos. 1-10 and W1-06 are also at this location.

Long term missing

Female no. 2-11 was last reported at her wintering location in Marion County, Florida, on 9 April 2013. She has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked.

Female no. 27-10 was last detected on the Necedah NWR, Juneau County, Wisconsin, on 22 April 2014. Her transmitter is likely nonfunctional.

wcep_logo_250This update is a product of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.  To access our previous project updates and additional information on the project visit our web site at http://www.bringbackthecranes.org/.

We thank staff and volunteers from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Hillary Thompson, Andrew Cantrell, Sloane Wiggers, Dan Kaiser, Dan Troglin, Rick Houlk, Charles Murray, and John Pohl for tracking assistance.

EndJan2015

 

The Chase is on!

Whooping crane 4-12 has decided that he must defend ‘his’ crane chicks from all others, including his former pal 5-12 who he’s chasing away in this video clip (so much for the bro-code).

Many thanks to Disney’s Scott Tidmus for not only capturing this clip but also sharing it with us.

Bird Knowin’s

Our friends at Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Ohio have been sharing really cool bird facts with their Facebook and Twitter followers over the past couple of weeks.

The most recent #Birdknowin is all about that stout and comical looking American woodcock. It’s so informative and interesting that we wanted to share it with you. Besides BSBO said we could share it – really they did!

This week’s BirdKnowins reveals some secrets of the funky and fascinating American Woodcock!

Like nature’s example of Mr. Potato Head, American Woodcocks appear to be birds made of spare parts. A plump, round body, very short legs, a small head with bulging eyes, and a bill that seems to long for its face, they still somehow manage to look amazing!

Members of the sandpiper family, woodcocks are shorebirds that don’t live on or near the shore. Instead, they prefer moist, shrubby fields and young forests where they probe the earth for earthworms and insects. And that fabulously long bill has a flexible tip that helps it probe more effectively, essentially “feeling” for prey, and snapping shut when it senses some juicy morsel!

American Woodcocks are known for the spectacular courtship flight, or “Sky Dance” of the male. He begins on the ground with a series of loud, nasal, “PEENTS,” before spiraling up into the sky, then slowly drifting down in a waffling flight accompanied by a soft twittering sound. That twittering sound isn’t vocal! The sound is made by modified, narrow outer primaries—feathers that “sing!”

Please feel free to share BSBO Bird Knowins with your friends! (It makes us so happy when you do that!)

(See! They said we could share it!)

BSBO_woodcock

GETTING OUTDOORS – Family Style! At the WHO Festival

St Marks Refuge Hosts 9th Annual WHO Festival!

What do fly fishing, archery, birdwatching, wild turkeys, cast netting, and lighthouse history have in common? These are all exhibits offered at St. Marks NWR’s 9th annual Wildlife Heritage & Outdoors Festival (WHO Festival ) on Sat. Feb. 7, 2015 from 11 am – 4 pm. The mission of this festival is “to excite visitors to reconnect with nature and wildlife through a community celebration of nature’s diversity and local heritage,” and the many exhibitors will provide fun outdoor activities from the past and present.

Visitors will be able to experience firsthand how to cast a fly rod, throw a cast net, call turkey or waterfowl, meet members of Operation Migration’s whooping crane project, explore the old St. Marks Lighthouse, meet representatives from many outdoors support organizations and much more!

The refuge itself will host an Animal Olympics trail for youth of all ages and the refuge Photo Club will offer a wonderful outdoor photo opportunity for the whole family. So, mark your calendars for Sat. Feb.7, 2015 to attend the Wildlife Heritage and Outdoors Festival at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge from 11am – 4 pm and explore the 30+ exhibits. Regular entrance fees apply. Remember, due to the wild animal exhibits, please leave your pets at home! For more information, please call 850/925-6121.

Save YOUR Spot to WHOOP it Up!

Port_Aransas_Festival

Registration for the Port Aransas, TX Whooping Crane Festival is now open! 

This year’s festival runs February 19 – 22nd and we hope you can join us at this event!

The Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce celebrates Whooping cranes on their winter habitat with an annual festival honoring these grand birds. In addition to the Whooping Crane, an awesome array of wintering migratory birds flock into the wetlands and onto the Texas shorelines of Mustang Island in and around Port Aransas, Texas. This festival is a must-attend for all birders!

Check out the Whooping crane viewing opportunities to see some of the amazing cranes in the Wood Buffalo – Aransas flock. You may just be fortunate to spot a family of Whoopers!

Port Aransas is on the northern tip of Mustang Island, about 30 minutes from downtown Corpus Christi, three hours from the Rio Grande Valley, three hours from San Antonio and four hours from Houston or Austin.

Early registration closes at midnight February 9th so book now to reserve the tours you want to participate in and speakers sessions you want to attend (Hopefully, one of them is OM CEO, Joe Duff). While you there, be sure to swing by the Bird’s Nest Trade Show at the Port Aransas Civic Center and say hi to Colleen, Joe and yours truly. Our friends from Eagle Optics will also be there so you can try out some great binoculars or spotting scopes.

It’s been more than 10 years since we’ve attended this fun event and I can’t wait to see how it’s grown.

The Back-Office Story

This post is a little different than most – it’s not about Whooping Cranes, marshes, migration routes, aircraft, or even a plea for donations. It’s about what’s going on in the background, especially during what many consider OM’s “off-season”, i.e. that time when all the Craniacs are waiting for the next class of chicks to hatch and begin their training in Wisconsin.

First, to clarify, it’s not really off-season – Brooke is diligently monitoring the 2014 cohort at St. Mark’s. But when the CraneCam goes offline, I think most of us think “whew! now OM can rest up for next season!” Many of you are aware that I’ve been hired to replace Liz Condie, OM’s long-time CFO, now that she has retired. This has afforded me a view of the inner workings of the OM “back-office,” and I can tell you that there’s no one resting on their laurels!

I worked at the Port Perry office recently for a couple of weeks so that I could get acquainted up-close-and-personal with my new responsibilities and co-workers. The office is just the right size with small office areas for each of us, plus room for storage, a tiny kitchen area, copy machine and printer area, and of course a wash room, which is Canadianese for rest room. Chris sits in the front, my space is behind hers, Heather’s is behind mine, and Joe, the “big boss” is in the back behind Heather. Most of the time our areas are wide open to each other which has plusses and minuses. On the one hand, it’s easy to coordinate and collaborate; on the other hand, it’s easy to interrupt others when you have a question. All in all though, it’s pretty perfect for our size staff.

From my desk I can swing around to my left and see Joe busily thumbing a note on his phone and see Heather working on two computers at once. If I swing to the right I can see Chris hard at work answering the phone, updating QuickBooks, opening mail, doing payroll, and paying bills, seemingly all at the same time!

I have decided that Chris is the unheralded hero of the office. She is the glue holding the back-office operation together when everyone else has gone on migration. (Which is not to say that Joe and Heather (and now me) aren’t doing their share of administrative work from the road!) But Chris works in the office alone every day, holding down the fort until the crew returns. I’m not sure if she’s busier when she’s covering the office alone or when everyone returns and wants to ask her about this, that, and the other thing!

I had no plans to “un-retire”, but working with the rest of the OM staff is really a joy and most of the time it doesn’t feel like work at all. We are a team, all pulling together in the same direction for the same purpose – safeguarding the future of Whooping Cranes. Thanks, OM, for this opportunity!

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Symbol of Peace Gone Wrong

After last year’s dove debacle at St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis (or his handlers) decided that helium filled balloons would be less terrifying for the children who accompany him on the last Sunday in January as he sends out the traditional message of peace.

Last year, onlookers were horrified to see the two doves released by the youngsters, immediately get nabbed by a gull and a crow. Hey, that’s the way the food chain works in the natural world. So last Sunday, instead of doves, balloons were released in Vatican City.

Doesn’t Pope Francis, who took the name of Francis of Assisi, the saint renowned for his love for birds and other creatures of the wild realize that balloons released pose a far more dangerous threat to all wild creatures?

http://balloonsblow.org

http://balloonsblow.org

Once deflated they and the ribbons they are attached to litter our environment. The brightly colored globs of rubber get hung up in tree branches, or land in the ocean. If they’re not washed ashore, they’re very likely consumed by sea turtles or other mammals who mistake them for food.

 

Last year, while preparing the training site at White River Marsh – almost 5 miles away from the nearest town, I found a deflated blue balloon on the runway. Complete with white ribbon, it was no doubt part of some type of celebration.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the person(s) who released it gave any thought at all to what happens to it once it leaves their grasp and floats off into the atmosphere?

We need to get word out that balloon releases are harming and killing our wildlife. If you’d like to help prevent future balloon releases at Vatican City, please mail the press office for Pope Francis:

His Holiness, Pope Francis
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

If you hear of a planned balloon release in your area, speak up. Tell them how harmful these events are and point them in the direction of balloonsblow.org 

Amazon SMILE!

There are many ways to support Operation Migration and one of them is through the Amazon Smile program.

If you’re an Amazon shopper did you know you can designate Operation Migration as your favorite charity and that 0.5% of everything you spend will be donated to OM?

0.5% may not seem like a lot but it does indeed add up. In 2014, OM received four contributions from Amazon Smile, totaling $849.03 – all because our supporters registered OM to be the beneficiary of their Amazon Smile purchases. Registration is easy and you can use your existing account if you have one. CLICK this link to get started

Another great way to support our work while going about your daily business is through GoodSearch. Just by using GoodSearch’s Yahoo engine when searching for anything on the internet, OM will earn 1 penny for each search. There’s also GoodShop and just like the Amazon Smile program, a portion of every purchase you make through the Good Shop portal will come to Operation Migration.

Last year, we received $1079.09 from the GoodSearch program!

Special thanks to everyone that took advantage of these programs in 2014!

 

Photo Round-up

Brooke sent along the following images captured last week.

Enjoy! (don’t forget, you can click each image to enlarge)

DSCF3085_1

4-13 challenges the costume and shows that he knows how to jump rake.

4-13 challenges the costume and shows that he knows how to jump rake.

Either 4-12 or 4-13

Either 4-12 or 4-13. One of the most noticeable characteristics of an adult Whooping crane is the red patch of skin (not feathers) on their head.

 

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Louisiana Whooping Crane Shot

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents are looking for leads regarding an endangered whooping crane that was found shot in Vermilion Parish.

The crane was found just south of Zaunbrecher Road and north of Gueydan on Nov. 2 with an apparent bullet wound to her upper left leg. The bird was transported to the LSU Vet School where she was euthanized on Nov. 3. A necropsy result received on Jan. 8 confirmed that the crane was shot in the leg.

A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered by various groups for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the illegal killing of this whooping crane.

CLICK to read full report

Crane Bling

They say that clothes make the man.  If that were true, I’d be stocking shelves at Goodwill or playing Casper the Friendly Ghost at some theme park.  But for women?  Well, it’s jewelry. “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” That’s because diamonds are “Forever” and love ain’t.

The pressures on relationships today are greater than those that created those diamonds in the first place. You see the advertisements on TV. “If you’ve been divorced in an auto accident, call the law offices of Laighbach and Waggett NOW.” So if God hadn’t created jewelry stores, men would have had to. There’s just nothing on this planet that can instantly transform a dull, inconsiderate, philandering, always in the dog house, Quasimoto husband or boyfriend into a Prince Charming better than a piece of jewelry given at just that critical moment. And for the ladies, it sure beats bending down and having to kiss that frog, fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

“We’re just putting too much jewelry on those birds!” protested a male WCEP member at a recent banding meeting. He was obviously divorced. It’s hard to say if the chicks really consider their new leg bands jewelry, but it’s fun to imagine so.  Sure. Sparkling diamond rings, glittering gold bracelets and cleavage hugging pearl necklaces don’t have antennas sticking out of them, but if you’re a whooper chick with no Voter ID, you take what you can get.  Instead, brilliant bi and tri colored vhf and satellite transmitters adorn the sexy legs of five females while poor boy Peanut and another chick (who really is a chick) must settle for the vhf on one leg, transmitter-less color combination ID bands on the other look. Who ever said life was fair.

Here are a few photos. You be the judge.

Legbands of 3-14

Legbands of 3-14

9-14

9-14

10-14

10-14

4-14

4-14

10-14

8-14

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