EMP Update

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. During January, most Whooping Cranes stayed at their wintering areas and few moved short distances. A huge thank-you to the staff of Operation Migration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources, the International Crane Foundation, and all of the volunteers who help us keep track of the cranes throughout the year. We appreciate your contribution to the recovery of the whooping crane eastern migratory population.

Population Estimate

The current maximum population size is 103 (47 F, 54 M, 2 U). As of 1 February, at least 30 Whooping Cranes have been confirmed in Indiana, 3 in Illinois, 7 in Kentucky, 2 in Arkansas, 10 in Tennessee, 27 in Alabama, 6 in Florida, 5 in Georgia, and 1 in Louisiana. The remaining birds’ locations have not been reported during January. See map below.

2015 Wild Chicks

W10_15 and 24_13 was in Greene County, Indiana with a large group of Whooping Cranes.

W18_15 and male 16-04 were reported in Knox Co, IN during January.

Parent-Reared 2015 Cohort

14_15 (F) is at Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

20_15 (M) spent all of January in Saint Martin Parish, LA.

DAR 2015 Cohort

61_15 (F), 63_15 (M), and 67_15 (F) continue to be in Randolph Co, IL.

65_15 (F) and 27_14 (F) are at Wheeler NWR, in Morgan Co, Alabama.

66_15 (F) was last reported in the end of December in Rhea Co, TN. It’s possible she is still in the area and is a spot that is difficult to get a radio signal.

68_15 (F) spent January in Rhea or Meigs Co, TN.

UL 2015 Cohort

2_15 (F) spent most of January in Thomas Co, GA, but arrived at St. Mark’s NWR in Wakulla Co, FL by the end of the month.

6_15 (F) spent January with 38-09 at Wheeler NWR in Morgan Co, AL.

8_15 (F) spent January in Sumter Co, AL.

10_15 (F), and 11_15 (M) also continue to be at Wheeler NWR, AL. 

Parent-Reared 2016 Cohort

29_16 (M) and 39_16 (M) spent all of January in Dyer Co, TN.

30_16 (M) is with 4_12 and 3_14 in Seminole Co, GA.

31_16 (M) and 38_16 (M) left Kentucky on 7 January and went to Poinsett Co, Arkansas, where they spent the rest of the month.

33_16 (F) spent all of January in Citrus Co, FL.

71_16 (F) is still in Jackson Co, IN.

70_16 (M) is still at Wheeler NWR, AL. He doesn’t consistently spend time with the same adult Whooping Cranes but has been seen associating with 18_11 and 14_15.

69_16 (F) continues to associate with 1_11 and 59_13 at Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Mortality

4_11 (F) was found dead on 3 January at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area in Greene Co, IN. It was confirmed she had been shot, but authorities have not identified the person responsible. There is a reward out for information about the crime.  

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Reward Reaches $15600

Indiana Conservation Officers have partnered with Indiana Turn in a Poacher, Friends of Goose Pond, the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration and the Center for Biological Diversity to offer a substantial reward of $15,600 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for killing female Whooping Crane number 4-11 in Greene County, Indiana in early January.

On January 3, 2017 an International Crane Foundation volunteer found the crane near Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area. Her remains have been sent to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon for further testing.

In an effort to apprehend those responsible for the killing of the Whooping Crane, several conservation organizations have come together to offer a sizable reward.

“Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area is a winter home for up to 25% of the entire eastern Whooping Crane population,” said Dane Strahle, Friends of Goose Pond President. We strongly support the efforts to find the person(s) responsible for this killing.”

Friends of Goose Pond’s board members are offering a $2,500 reward. The International Crane Foundation has committed to offer a $1,000 toward the reward. Indiana Turn in a Poacher is adding an additional $500.

“Poaching is referred to as theft of our precious natural resources,” said Joe Cales, Turn in a Poacher President. “As citizens of Indiana, we do not tolerate the unlawful taking of our fish, wildlife or natural resources, and we stand firmly against those who do.”

An additional $2,500 is being offered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for information leading to conviction.

Whooping crane 4-11 initially learned a migration route by following the ultralight aircraft of Operation Migration.

“Reintroducing an endangered species takes money, hard work, luck and expertise. I was privileged to fly alongside #4-11 and to help teach her to migrate. She survived on her own and made five trips south in the fall and back north in the spring. She found a mate and even produced a chick. Then to have someone waste all that time, effort and such a beautiful bird for nothing more that the pleasure of the kill is a selfish, wasteful tragedy”, said Operation Migration CEO, Joe Duff.

Female Whooping crane number 4-11. Photographed in early 2016 by Bob Herndon.

This breeding female Whooping Crane killed in Greene County was part of an effort by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership to establish an eastern migratory flock which travels between Wisconsin and the southeast U.S. This migration path crosses through Indiana, with a number of Whooping Cranes often stopping at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area.

Indiana Conservation Officers are collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate this crime.

“Conservation Law Enforcement is our mission”, said Danny L. East, Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Director. “With the assistance of our conservation partners and our citizens, we remain confident that we will bring closure to this case.”

If you have information about this case please contact the Indiana Conservation Officer Dispatch at 812-837-9536.

We ask that you please share this link via your social media networks using the sharing links below:

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Get YOUR Moppet!

Get your very own ENCORE! Whooping Crane Moppet!

What’s with the ENCORE! you ask? Well, with last year’s FWS decision to halt costume rearing of Whooping Cranes for the Eastern Migration Population (EMP), we had quite a few costumes left with no purpose. Not wanting to be wasteful and, with those ever-important three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in mind, we approached the very talented Mary O’Brien with the idea of using the costumes to make Whooping Crane keepsakes! 

So, the costumes are making a return (ENCORE!) appearance. I’m sure you’ll agree that the finished product is absolutely adorable (thanks to Mary’s creative talent)!

Here is your chance to own a piece of history! Each of these ENCORE! Whooping Crane Moppets is made from a costume worn by either: Joe Duff, Brooke Pennypacker, Richard van Heuvelen, Colleen Chase, Jo-Anne Bellemer, Doug Pellerin, or Heather Ray during our past work with Whooping Cranes. (Don’t worry, Mary washed them really well before creating each ENCORE! Moppet.)

There are only a limited number available! 

Each Moppet bears the legbands with the exact color combinations of some of your favorite Whooping Cranes in the EMP – including some that are no longer with us 🙁

In addition to your ENCORE! Moppet, you’ll receive a one-page biography about your Whooping Crane/Moppet along with an embroidered Whooping Crane crest, suitable for stitching onto your favorite jacket or sweater, or even onto the Moppet if you like.

Each ENCORE! Moppet sells for $200, which will help to replace some of the income the MileMaker campaign used to generate.

Take a look at these adorable faces – then choose your favorite ENCORE! Moppet! 

Pictured are just 8 of the 17 ENCORE! moppets available.

Pictured are just 8 of the 16 ENCORE! moppets available.

CLICK to order your ENCORE! Moppet before they’re gone!

 

Reward Reaches $15000

Indiana Conservation Officers have partnered with Indiana Turn in a Poacher, Friends of Goose Pond, the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration and the Center for Biological Diversity to offer a substantial reward of $15,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for killing female Whooping Crane number 4-11 in Greene County, Indiana in early January.

On January 3, 2017 an International Crane Foundation volunteer found the crane near Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area. Her remains have been sent to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon for further testing.

In an effort to apprehend those responsible for the killing of the Whooping Crane, several conservation organizations have come together to offer a sizable reward.

“Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area is a winter home for up to 25% of the entire eastern Whooping Crane population,” said Dane Strahle, Friends of Goose Pond President. We strongly support the efforts to find the person(s) responsible for this killing.”

Friends of Goose Pond’s board members are offering a $2,500 reward. The International Crane Foundation has committed to offer a $1,000 toward the reward. Indiana Turn in a Poacher is adding an additional $500.

“Poaching is referred to as theft of our precious natural resources,” said Joe Cales, Turn in a Poacher President. “As citizens of Indiana, we do not tolerate the unlawful taking of our fish, wildlife or natural resources, and we stand firmly against those who do.”

An additional $2,500 is being offered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for information leading to conviction.

Whooping crane 4-11 initially learned a migration route by following the ultralight aircraft of Operation Migration.

“Reintroducing an endangered species takes money, hard work, luck and expertise. I was privileged to fly alongside #4-11 and to help teach her to migrate. She survived on her own and made five trips south in the fall and back north in the spring. She found a mate and even produced a chick. Then to have someone waste all that time, effort and such a beautiful bird for nothing more that the pleasure of the kill is a selfish, wasteful tragedy”, said Operation Migration CEO, Joe Duff.

Female Whooping crane number 4-11. Photographed in early 2016 by Bob Herndon.

This breeding female Whooping Crane killed in Greene County was part of an effort by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership to establish an eastern migratory flock which travels between Wisconsin and the southeast U.S. This migration path crosses through Indiana, with a number of Whooping Cranes often stopping at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area.

Indiana Conservation Officers are collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate this crime.

“Conservation Law Enforcement is our mission”, said Danny L. East, Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Director. “With the assistance of our conservation partners and our citizens, we remain confident that we will bring closure to this case.”

If you have information about this case please contact the Indiana Conservation Officer Dispatch at 812-837-9536.

We ask that you please share this link via your social media networks using the sharing links below:

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Weathering the Storms

As you read in Heather’s post, this last weekend North Florida and South Georgia had a few rounds of scary weather. Last I heard 18 people died, and they are still (as of Tuesday morning) desperately searching for a 2-year-old that is missing in Albany, GA. OM’s Chairman, Dale Richter is a First responder there. Dale, along with many others, perform search and rescue and sadly, they have been way too busy this month. Albany was hit by tornadoes at the beginning of the year and now again. They are saying 70% of the city has been damaged. Please pray for everyone affected by these storms.

Needless to say I could not get on the road early enough Monday to go searching for the four cranes in South Georgia. I waited at home, semi-patiently for Brooke to go out to the pen and make sure 4-13, 8-14 and 5-12 and Peanut had weathered the storms and were okay. If you know Brooke, you know he has his own time table… Semi-patiently progressed to antsy, which progressed to foot tapping which progressed to pacing.  

Finally, he made it and off we went to Thomas County. As we approached the location that Heather gave us we immediately heard her beeps. Yay! First hurdle down. Now to get a visual. 

With permission, we drove into the ag field as far as we safely could then walked. Brooke had the receiver and the beeps told us she was in the field behind where her VHF device pinged. We climbed over a fence and slowly, quietly crept up a little hill.

I think she saw us before we saw her. Brooke pointed and there she was taking off! She did a lazy S curve and we watched her go down in the next field over.

Number 2-15 was a problem child at Patuxent, she would not come out of her pen for Brooke, so he would get all the other chicks out as I coaxed, begged and bribed her out. A week before the class of 2015 was to be shipped to Wisconsin I was still running in front of the trike during training to get her to follow. We’d never have believed at that point that she would be the first to fledge and be so loyal to the aircraft that she stuck to it as if glued. I love that bird; it was great to see my old friend. 

So, five White Birds safe! Time to head an hour west and see if all was well with 4-12, his mate 3-14 and Joe’s PR chick 30-16.

We held our breath as we went down the field road, l love muddy roads and sliding, Brooke not so much, but, we did not get stuck in the mud, which made us both happy. These three were easy to find, they were happily foraging way out in a field. It was a good day.

I was really grateful our birds fared better than so many people did. Tornadoes and 70 mph wind gusts were not the only concern; golf ball sized hail had been reported.

Late Tuesday afternoon I got a phone call from Brooke, he said “you will never believe who I am watching from the blind.” But, I got it on the first guess! 2-15 was at the pen in St Marks!

How strange that we saw her in Georgia Monday and the very next day she comes back to the pen!

I wanted to see her there and, as you know, there was no guarantee she would stay long, so yesterday was the day. I was up and out early. We got to the blind, it was still dark. Watching the sun rise over that marsh, with three adult Whooping cranes alarm calling was one of those moments in life that took my breath away.

Whooping crane 2-15. Photo: C. Chase

 

Way off in the distance 5-12 and Peanut foraged happily, ignoring 8-14, who is a meanie and 4-13 defend the pen. I am never afraid of Whoopers – I am way more scared of my African Grey parrot, but let me tell you a Whooping Crane in attack mode is an impressive sight! Things were calm when we left, a truce had been called.

I can’t wait to see if she sticks around. What will the next episode of As the Whooper Forages hold? We all need to nag Brooke and remind him we’ll be needing pictures and the rest of the story ASAP!

Left: female Whooping crane 8-14 and male 4-13 on the right. Photo: C. Chase

St. Marks Pen Site Visitor!

It seems we have another guest at the winter pen area on St. Marks NWR in Wakulla Co., FL. 

I mentioned earlier this morning that Brooke and Colleen had spotted female whooping crane number 2-15 in south Georgia on Monday following the severe storms, which passed through the area Sunday afternoon.

Well 2-15 is now at the St. Marks pen area!

Here’s a photo that Colleen just captured of her. Note: the photo was taken with a phone through binoculars.

Female Whooping crane #2-15. Isn’t she beautiful?

Apparently 4-13 and 8-14 are attempting to chase her away from the area. It would be nice if she would align with the two boys 5-12 and 4-14 and hold her ground.

Dougherty County, Georgia

Officials have graded the large tornado that ripped through Albany, Georgia area Sunday afternoon as an F3. Photos showing the devastation are still surfacing and sadly a number of lives were lost and with some still missing, this number will no doubt rise.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by Sunday’s tornados.

We have had a number of folks asking about the whooping cranes in the South Georgia area and St. Marks NWR area in Florida’s panhandle and can now say that all are fine. Brooke and Colleen checked on cranes 5-12, 4-14, 4-13 and 8-14 at the refuge then drove north to get visuals on 2-15 and then 3-14 and 4-12 with their Parent Reared chick 30-16.

Friends

This whooping crane project, like any wildlife reintroduction, is nothing if not an exercise in connectivity; people connecting with the birds and more importantly, people connecting with each other. Like they say “It takes a village” and it is the glue of connectivity that holds the village together. If we get really lucky, some of those connections turn into friendships. And so when my good friend Scott Tidmus from Disney called up last week to say he and his wife Lynn were coming up from Orlando to visit, I immediately ran out and bought a lottery ticket.

As anyone knows, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has been a great supporter of our work from the beginning. One year they even purchased three new, much needed wings for our ultralights, which quickly replaced “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” as my favorite Disney attraction. But that’s another story for another time. Anyway, Scott has been a manager at Disney’s Animal Kingdom since it opened and has been our connection with “The Mouse.” To write a comprehensive description of Scott’s contribution to the project over the years as well as that of Disney would soon exhaust my little computer’s reservoir of ink, so suffice it to say I was glad to see him.

Scott’s wife, Lynn, has also been a great supporter of the project and has spent more than twenty years in the trenches of the public school classrooms…. conservation’s first line of defense, fighting the battle for awareness and appreciation of the natural world in her science laboratory for grades K through 5.

And like the good farmer, she works daily the fields of caring and hope, planting in her students the seeds of respect, responsibility, and stewardship… the harvest of which will, with luck, protect and sustain us all well into the future. For three years, Lynn’s students participated in our “Change for Cranes” program. She and Scott collected up used film canisters and passed them out to the students into which they placed their collected coins. Then each morning, the students emptied their canisters into a bucket at the front of the classroom. Lynn believed that there was no better way to connect the students to the natural world than by encouraging them to invest in it. She taught them that by doing so, they were investing in their future… and ours’. In those three years, the students raised several thousands of dollars for the Whooping Crane Project. Needless to say, we will never read about any of her students shooting a whooping crane.

And no discussion of the Tidmus family’s contribution to our whooping crane project would be complete without including the story of their oldest son, Sean, and his participation one rainy Sunday afternoon way back in 2010.  You see, the 2009 birds had returned and were beating the hell out of the 2010 chicks, kicking them out of the pen. This was particularly threatening when it happened every evening after dark. The only solution was to haze these marauding yearlings away. They were free to go anywhere else in the entire world they wanted… as long as it wasn’t the pen. For the next couple of days we attempted to haze these threatening intruders away but unfortunately my efforts more resembled a 2000 pound cow trying to lay eggs than an Olympic runner sprinting to the finish line. I had just returned from the pen where I had spent the afternoon singing my rendition of Disney’s ear worm, “It’s A Small World After All” with no noticeable effect when the “cavalry” arrived; Scott and his son Sean.

Now Sean just happened to be a member of the Florida State University football team right up the road in Tallahassee.  He played defensive linebacker and since “defense” was the order of the day, he was definitely the man for the job.  It didn’t hurt that he just happened to be in possession of a pair of legs which, when operated in concert with one another could outrun even the most stubborn and belligerent whooper alumni from the Class of 2009.

More quickly than a “Superman Suit-up” Sean crawled into a costume and was out on the sand flats hazing the white intruders away with all the quickness and speed of a running back racing for a touchdown. Scott and I watched from the pen with “Wow” smiles framed in the lenses of our hoods while whooper thought balloons filled the air, containing words like, “Who put the bat guano in Big Birds cornflakes, anyway”? It wasn’t long before the Class of 2009 became “Up, Up and Away’d” as Scott and I fought to catch our breath because of all the laughter we had struggled so hard to suppress. Meanwhile, the 2010 chicks gave a great collective sigh of relief and returned into the safety of the pen while Sean retuned to the blind, removed his costume and headed off down the path to the parking lot to call about a gig on Dirty Jobs.

The much anticipated weekend came and went in a blur like all great, much anticipated St. Marks weekends do; with hugs of greeting, trips out to the blind to see the birds, meals of local seafood, and the required long, all important life and death discussions concerning the state of the National Football League playoffs. These were followed by a visit with local veterinarian and great friend Dr. Norm Griggs while he struggled to repair the flag pole in front of his office, lunch with dear friends Tom and Teresa Darragh and their updates on the St Marks Photo Club activities, long pleasurable stories of past shared bird adventures and battles fought… some won, some lost, and ending with the hugs and waves of farewell, accompanied as always by promises of future reconnection. Then it was back to what passes for normal life… but with a serious “recharge.”

It is said you can judge the wealth of a person by the friends he or she has. Perhaps a species can be judged the same way. And if it can, then our whooping cranes are wealthy indeed… and so am I.

Parent Reared Crane Update

The last update we provided was just before Christmas and not a lot has changed location wise. 

In fact, the only change is that 31 & 38-16 left Crittenden County, Kentucky a couple weeks ago and ventured a bit further southwest into Arkansas. They’ve been spending time foraging on waste grain in soybean fields according to a couple of the public sightings we have received.

As a refresher, here is an updated chart listing their locations:

 

REWARD INCREASED TO $10,000

Media Contact: Heather Ray 920-573-0905

Indiana Conservation Officers have partnered with Indiana Turn in a Poacher, Friends of Goose Pond, the International Crane Foundation and Operation Migration to offer a substantial reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for killing female Whooping Crane number 4-11 in Greene County, Indiana in early January.

On January 3, 2017 an International Crane Foundation volunteer found the crane near Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area. Her remains have been sent to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon for further testing.

In an effort to apprehend those responsible for the killing of the Whooping Crane, several conservation organizations have come together to offer a sizable reward.

“Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area is a winter home for up to 25% of the entire eastern Whooping Crane population,” said Dane Strahle, Friends of Goose Pond President. We strongly support the efforts to find the person(s) responsible for this killing.”

Friends of Goose Pond’s board members are offering a $2,500 reward. The International Crane Foundation has committed to offer a $1,000 toward the reward. Indiana Turn in a Poacher is adding an additional $500.

“Poaching is referred to as theft of our precious natural resources,” said Joe Cales, Turn in a Poacher President. “As citizens of Indiana, we do not tolerate the unlawful taking of our fish, wildlife or natural resources, and we stand firmly against those who do.”

An additional $2,500 is being offered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for information leading to conviction.

And yesterday, Operation Migration’s Joe Duff announced they will contribute $3,500 to bring the overall total to $10,000.

“Reintroducing an endangered species takes money, hard work, luck and expertise. I was privileged to fly alongside #4-11 and to help teach her to migrate. She survived on her own and made five trips south in the fall and back north in the spring. She found a mate and even produced a chick. Then to have someone waste all that time, effort and such a beautiful bird for nothing more that the pleasure of the kill is a selfish, wasteful tragedy”, said Duff.

Female Whooping crane number 4-11. Photographed in early 2016 by Bob Herndon.

This breeding female Whooping Crane killed in Greene County was part of an effort by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership to establish an eastern migratory flock which travels between Wisconsin and the southeast U.S. This migration path crosses through Indiana, with a number of Whooping Cranes often stopping at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area.

Indiana Conservation Officers are collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate this crime.

“Conservation Law Enforcement is our mission”, said Danny L. East, Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Director. “With the assistance of our conservation partners and our citizens, we remain confident that we will bring closure to this case.”

If you have information about this case please contact the Indiana Conservation Officer Dispatch at 812-837-9536.

We ask that you please share this link via your social media networks using the sharing links below:

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Whooping Crane #12-02

Male Whooping crane 12-02 was the mate of 4-11, the female crane found shot two weeks ago in Indiana. This 14 year old male was found dead on their summer territory in June of last year.

This left number 4-11 to raise their chick on her own, which she did until mid-July when it was predated.

While 12-02 will be missed as a valuable member of the eastern population, he will go on to educate visitors at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo L to R ..Ranger Daphne Moland, Supv. Ranger Teresa Adams, WC #12-02, and Shane Smith. And that is our wonderful Volunteer Carol Thompson hard at work at the front desk!

We welcome our newest edition to the Wheeler Visitor Center Staff…Whooping Crane #12-02. Shane Smith of Artistic Compositions Taxidermy, Bridgeport, AL performed somewhat of a miracle and the results are… well…..miraculous! Come visit and see for yourself.

To learn more about #12-02 visit Journey North.

Endangered Species Act Targeted?

From the Associated Press: In control of Congress and soon the White House, Republicans are readying plans to roll back the influence of the Endangered Species Act, one of the government’s most powerful conservation tools, after decades of complaints that it hinders drilling, logging and other activities.

“Any species that gets in the way of a congressional initiative or some kind of development will be clearly at risk,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife and a former Fish and Wildlife Service director under President Bill Clinton. “The political lineup is as unfavorable to the Endangered Species Act as I can remember.”

CLICK to read full article

What’s Killing the World’s Shorebirds?

“Shorebird populations have shrunk, on average, by an estimated 70% across North America since 1973, and the species that breed in the Arctic are among the hardest hit.

Although the trend is clear, the underlying causes are not. That’s because shorebirds travel thousands of kilometres a year, and encounter so many threats along the way that it is hard to decipher which are the most damaging. Evidence suggests that rapidly changing climate conditions in the Arctic are taking a toll, but that is just one of many offenders. Other culprits include coastal development, hunting in the Caribbean and agricultural shifts in North America. The challenge is to identify the most serious problems and then develop plans to help shorebirds to bounce back.”

CLICK to read full story

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