Changing of the Guard

Joe and I arrived in Johnson County, Illinois mid-morning yesterday after driving from Orlando. To say it was a long drive is an understatement.

First item on the agenda was to meet up with Doug and Mako Pellerin who showed us the lay of the land. First off to see where Brooke and Colleen had left the pen setup. Next over to check for a signal on 3-14. We got very strong signals and walked for miles through hip high grass, brambles and creeks. We crossed barbed wire fences and train tracks and never did get a visual on her.

Lou Cambier is flying flying his Cessna 185 down to meet us tomorrow and we’ll go up with him to scout for signals on both 3-14 and 4-14. We’ll have the best possible vantage point up high, which will allow us to pinpoint their locations. Doug and Mako had very strong signals on Peanut Sunday morning so we have a good idea of where he is.

The Pellerin’s head home tomorrow morning and we cannot thank them enough for giving up 5 days to come down and monitor the two wayward whoopers. We have the very best volunteers – hands down!

We’ll keep you posted as time allows but please be patient. The birds are our first priority. Thank you for understanding.

The Journey Home

Like the great philosopher and baseball player Yogi Berra used to say, “It was deja vous all over again.”

I was once again chasing a pair of tail lights through the dark of night as the tracking van with its cargo of three whooping crane chicks followed Colleen in the all night run from southern Illinois to White River Marsh for release. It had been a very long month since the chicks left St Marks with us in hot pursuit. The tracking van odometer groaned with the addition of over 10,000 miles.  So did my back.

It seemed like just yesterday, or should I say last night,  that I was following Walt through the same dark tunnel south last fall as we transported our seven crane chicks from Wisconsin to Tennessee to resume the migration… a trip some have referred to as “Box Away Home.” Walt had made many of these trips over the years. In fact come to think of it, I made a similar trip with him fifteen years ago transporting trumpeter swan cygnets from Alaska to Virginia for another ultralight migration project. Only that time we sat in an airplane. “Coffee, tea or an inflight magazine?” I liked that better. Much easier to stay awake. All night bonsai runs are a different story. But on last fall’s trip to Tennessee we carried with us the secret prayer that the chicks would return to Wisconsin unassisted come spring. That was not to be. So Colleen and I gathered up the three chicks still together in Williamson County, Illinois and headed off north into the night, sad that we were not permitted to gather up all five chicks earlier when it would have been easy.

I soon discovered that the trick to staying awake on all night drives is…. staying awake. And to do that, you don’t count sheep. We soon passed a car on the side of the road with a flat tire. Glad I was that we had just put new tires all around on the tracking van this winter and on the Ford truck last winter. That got me to counting all the tires on all of our fleet. Let’s see. Three pickup trucks, each with a spare. That’s 15. Two vans… 8 plus 2 is 10. Trailers: Two pen trailers and spares…. 6. Aircraft trailer, 4 plus spare…. 5. CraneCam trailer, 2. New RV trailer, 4 plus spare, 5. Motorhomes: Flair, 6 plus spare, 7. Jamboree, again 6 plus spare, 7. Trikes, two used on migration last year plus training trike at Patuxent, 9. Three new trikes, 9. Two hand carts which we used a lot, 4. Then there’s Richard’s motorcycle and five bicycles we took on migration, that’s 12 but I won’t count them. So that comes to what? 79 tires! Gosh! That’s a lot of rubber meeting the road!

Then I passed a Brinks Armored Car. That got me to thinking about Paul. Paul was a classmate of mine in commercial diving school back in the 70’s. He and two of his “associates” had successfully robbed a Brinks Armored Car. They were happily enjoying the fruits of their labor when the police arrived a year later having been tipped off by an informant. I vaguely remember how much each guy got which got me thinking about the value of my cargo. Let’s see. Our annual budget is around $675,000. Divide that by the six surviving birds from the Class of 2014 and you get $112,500 per bird. Now multiply that by 3 and I am transporting $337,500 worth of birds. Now, just for the sake of curiosity, do this for the last three years together. Two surviving birds from the Class of 2013 and three surviving birds from the Class of 2012 and add those to the 6 from the Class of 2014 to get a total of 11 birds. Now 3 times $675,000 equals $2,025,000 divided by 11 equals $184,090 per bird. Wow! That brings the financial investment in the three birds sleeping in the back over half a million bucks!  That’s more than the cash usually transported in a Brinks Armored Car at any one time. If numbers like these don’t wake you up, nothing will. Well, I thought, I used to think the only thing I was qualified for after my involvement of twenty years in bird projects was as a Greeter at Walmart. Now, I can drive an armored car! In life, it pays to have options.

The morning sun greeted Colleen and me as we pulled into the parking lot at the White River Marsh release site. Three whoopers just flew by us and our old friend #4-12 was standing atop a dirt pile at the end of the runway crowing like king of the roost. The chicks exited their boxes fresh as daisies and began dancing around together in joyful exuberance. They looked as though they had just traveled through some magic portal and found themselves in the past and the future, both at the same time. And so they did. We just stood unmoving, thrilled at the sight.

A Chick Named Bear

BevGuest Author – Bev Paulan

Recently we learned of the death of 14-09.  She was found in Indiana, on what had been her wintering grounds, but what appeared to be her new breeding grounds.  She was there with her new mate 12-09 and seen alive as lately as mid-April.  This is very unusual for this flock of Whooping cranes, but not that unusual when put into an historical context.  Whoopers had been known to breed across the eastern United States from the prairie potholes of the Dakotas to the salt marshes of the Carolinas.  So who knows, maybe Indiana had some Whoopers nesting there hundreds or thousands of years ago.

This female has had prior mates.  Most recently she was paired with 1-01, the oldest male in the population and first bird ever released.  Last year he was trapped and placed at the Zoo New England due to his unfortunate habit of visiting the flight line at Volk Field, a National Guard airbase near Necedah.  Many different techniques were tried to discourage this bad behavior, but due to the possibility of a bird/aircraft conflict, it was determined he must go.  It was sad, but I certainly understand that a loss of human life is a legitimate reason to remove the bird.

14-09 also had been paired with 5-01.  This bird is also in a zoo due to his lusting after a captive female in Homosassa State Wildlife Park in Florida.  Since he kept visiting the zoo, they decided to keep him and he seems quite content with his new mate and home, even producing eggs.

The real reason for this post, though, is I wanted to share a story about 14-09 from when she was a wee little 5 day old fuzz ball of a chick.  It is one of the multitudes of memories I have from my time rearing the chicks for the project. During my tenure as chick mama I had the habit of naming all of my chicks.  Since I fell madly in love with each and every one, a number did not satisfy my maternal tendencies.  14-09 was a very dark butterscotch brown when she hatched.  She also had a rather low center of gravity and an almost pear-like shape.  This combination of features and the fact that she was particularly soft made me nickname her Bear.  To me, she looked like a little stuffed bear—soft and plush.

Our training protocol had us begin trike training with the chicks at around 5 days of age.  By this age they were already eating on their own and had been allowed access to their outside run and given mealworms as treats.  The next step then is to take them to the trike for the initial engine start/stop training.  This is when the chick is led inside the circle pen, allowed to nosh on some mealworms, then the trike engine (which is on the outside of the pen) is started.  Almost every chick runs away from the sound, so the engine is stopped, the treats given again to entice the chick back near the trike and the engine restarted.  Some chicks get used to the sound quickly, while others take much longer.

So back to my memory of Bear.  On her very first day of trike training, I was standing at the pool swimming one of the older chicks.  Brooke was training all of the chicks that morning and it was time to take Bear out to the trike for the first time.  I stood on the opposite side of the pool from where he brought her out of the run so I didn’t distract her.  I needn’t have done that.  She was so focused on her surrogate crane daddy that there was nothing else in her world but him.  As she stepped off the run and onto the grass, she hesitated and looked up at Brooke in his costume and the look on her face was pure trust.  With her short little legs, she couldn’t move very fast and being her first time out of the confines of her run, she moved very haltingly.

As I peered over the pool I witnessed this precious little fuzzball take her first hesitant steps into the world, trusting that her daddy would not lead her into danger.  She looked at nothing but the helmeted head of Brooke and toddled after him all the way to the circle pen.  She never once let a bug or flower avert her gaze.  Step after slow step she followed, gaining confidence with each placement of her foot.  What has stuck in my mind all these years is this sight:  a very small butterscotch colored downy chick trusting and bonding with a costumed human who towered over her.  At a mere 6 inches tall, Bear was tiny compared to Brooke, but in that 6 inches was all the goodness, innocence and trust that could ever be in one being.  More than any other chick I trained or worked with exuded such trust in us. Nor has any other creature looked at me with that same trust since.  That is my memory of the little chick named Bear.

Whooping Crane Update, 1 April – 4 May 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, have likely moved from a previous location or that are long term missing.

Maximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period was 95 birds (53 males, 42 females). Estimated distribution at the end of the report period included 90 whooping cranes in Wisconsin, 1 in Illinois, 1 in Michigan, 1 in Indiana, 1 in Kentucky and 1 at an unknown location or not recently reported. Two long term missing birds are now considered dead and have been removed from the population totals above.

Male no. 18-11 was reported with a left leg injury on 1 April near the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin. His condition has been slowly improving throughout the month.

The heavily scavenged and scattered remains of wild-hatched female no. W3-14 were found on the Necedah NWR during a survey flight on 22 April. She had last been observed alive on 14 April.
The remains of female no. 14-09 were found on her wintering territory in Gibson County, Indiana, on 29 April. She had last been observed alive on 16 April and had apparently died on or by 18 April.

Status unknown
Male no. 10-11 is of unknown status. His former mate, no. 7-11, has repaired with a new male and is currently nesting in Adams County, Wisconsin. A single crane (bands matching no. 10-11) was reported alone in Dane County on 2 April. A single crane (bands unconfirmed) was also reported here on 3 April. That same day, no. 7-11 was reported alone on their territory in Marquette County. A single crane (bands unconfirmed) was seen on their former nesting territory in Marquette County on 22 April. No subsequent reports. No. 10-11 is still included in the population totals above.

To date there have been a record total of 31 nests, the earliest initiated on 3 April. This total includes renests by four pairs. Three nests failed, 8 nests had eggs removed as part of a renesting experiment (, 19 nests are currently active and 1 is suspected to have hatched.

Pair nos. 14-09 and 12-09 may have attempted to nest in Gibson County, Indiana, prior to the death of female no. 14-09. Several structures that appear to be possible crane nesting platforms were located in the area however no eggs or egg fragments have been found and therefore nesting activity at this location is currently NOT confirmed but only suspected based on the structures found and the length of time this pair remained in the area. Male no. 12-09 has since returned to Wisconsin.

2012 Cohort

Nos. 4-12 likely completed migration to the White River Marsh SWA, Green Lake County, Wisconsin, by 1 April but was not immediately confirmed.

No. 5-12 began migration with HY2014 nos. 3, 4, 8, 9 and 10 on 3 April. He left the group on 8 April in Saline County, Illinois, and  completed migration to Wisconsin on or by 14 April. He remains on and near the White River Marsh SWA, Green Lake County.

No. 7-12 was found with male no. 6-09 near the Necedah NWR, Juneau County, Wisconsin, during an survey flight on 18 April.
No. 14-12 was last reported at his previous summering location in LaPorte County, Indiana, on 28, 29 and 30 March. A report of a single Whooping Crane in Barry County, Michigan, on the morning of 14 April was likely of this bird.

No. 16-12 was found on in Monroe County, Wisconsin, on 3 April where he remains.

2013 Cohort

No. 4-13 remained mainly in Marquette County, Wisconsin, with female no. 7-14 throughout the report period but also briefly visited Green Lake County. Satellite readings for no. 7-14 placed her in Waupaca County, Wisconsin, at roost on 1 May and no. 4-13 is suspected to still be associating with her.

No. 9-13 remained at the Wheeler NWR, Morgan County, Alabama, through at least roost on 3 April. He continued north to Livingston County, Kentucky on or by 5 April where he remained through at least roost on 13 April. Satellite readings placed him in Williamson County, Illinois, on 15 April; Fulton County, Illinois, on 17 April (low precision readings); Vernon County, Wisconsin, on 18 and 19 April; and Green Lake County, Wisconsin, on 21 April. He moved between Green Lake and Waushara Counties, Wisconsin, until moving south to the Horicon NWR, Dodge County, by 28 April where he remains.

No. 22-13 remained on or near the Necedah NWR, Juneau County, Wisconsin, until moving to Wright County, Minnesota, with female no. 20-14 on 18 April where they remained through at least roost on 1 May. Satellite readings indicated a roost location in Clark County, Wisconsin the next night.

No. 24-13 continued north from Vigo County, Indiana, on 1 April. Satellite readings indicated a roost location in Green Lake County, Wisconsin, on 2 May and he completed migration to the Necedah NWR, Juneau County, the following day. He remained on and near the refuge until departing to Adams County, likely with female no. 19-14, on 27 April where he remains.

No. 57-13 remained in Meigs/Rhea Counties, Tennessee, through at least 3 March. A datalogger set up at the Horicon NWR, Dodge County, Wisconsin, detected his frequency on 24 March. No subsequent reports.

No. 59-13 was last reported in Rock County, Wisconsin, on the afternoon of 3 April. She has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked.

2014 Cohort

Wild-hatched – No. W3-14 completed migration to the Necedah NWR, Juneau County, Wisconsin, by 8 April. She was found dead during a survey flight on 22 April (see above).

Ultralight – No. 7-14 remained mainly in Marquette County, Wisconsin, with male no. 4-13 throughout the report period but also briefly visited Green Lake County. Satellite readings placed her in Waupaca County, Wisconsin, at roost on 1 May.

Five juveniles began migration with older male no. 5-12 from the release pen at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida on 3 April. They roosted in Elmore County, Alabama, that night and continued north to Fayette County, Alabama, on 4 April; Calloway County, Kentucky, on 5 April and Saline County, Illinois, on 7 April. No. 5-12 continued north on 8 April. The juveniles remained in Saline County until moving directly east to Gallatin County, Illinois, on 18 April. They left this location on 23 April, wandering around in undirected flight for the next few days, roosting in Williamson County on 23 April, Franklin County on 24 April, and Union County, Kentucky, on 25 April where they apparently split into three groups (see below).

Nos. 8, 9 and 10-14 departed Union County, Kentucky on 26 April, heading west and back to Williamson County, Illinois where they remained until being captured and penned on 1 May. They were boxed and transported north by vehicle and were released at the White River Marsh SWA, Green Lake County, Wisconsin, on the morning of 4 May.

No. 3-14 departed Union County, Kentucky, on 27 April, roosting in Johnson County, Illinois on 27 and 28 April, Pulaski County, Illinois, on 29 April – 1 May, and Union County, Illinois, on 2 May.

No. 4-14 was detected in Union County, Kentucky, on 30 April.

Parent-reared – No. 19-14 remained on or near the Necedah NWR, Juneau County, Wisconsin, until moving to Adams County on 26/27 April likely with male no. 24-13.

No. 20-14 remained on or near the Necedah NWR, Juneau County, Wisconsin, until moving to Wright County, Minnesota, with male no. 22-13 on 18 April where they remained through at least roost on 1 May. Satellite readings for male no. 22-13 indicate a roost location in Clark County, Wisconsin, on 2 May. No. 20-14 is suspected to still be associating with him.

No. 27-14 remained on or near the Necedah NWR until moving south to Dane County, Wisconsin, on 10/11 April. She continued south on 13 April, roosting in Owen County, Indiana, that night. She moved further south, roosting in Orange County, Indiana, on the night of 15 April and was observed at this location alone the following day. Satellite readings indicated roost locations to the north in Marion County, Indiana, on 17 April and St. Joseph County, Indiana, on 19 April. She was observed in Berrien County, Michigan, on 20 April, however, returned to St. Joseph County, Indiana, where she remains.

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. She is now considered dead and has been removed from the population totals above.

Female no. 27-10 was last detected on the Necedah NWR, Juneau County, Wisconsin, on 22 April 2014. Her transmitter is likely nonfunctional. She is now considered dead and has been removed from the population totals above.

This 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

We thank Andrew Cantrell, Dan Kaiser, John Pohl, and Amy Kearns (Indiana DNR) for tracking assistance. We also thank Windway Aviation Corp. and pilots Bev Paulan and Mike Callahan (Wisconsin DNR), Jerry Burns and Bill Murphy for aerial tracking assistance.

 Distribution Map 30 April

Help Celebrate IMBD at Disney!

Since 2005, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has invited Operation Migration to join in their celebration of International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD). Occurring in May each year, IMBD is intended to focus attention on migrating birds of all species, and the challenges they face twice annual during their migrations.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is again this year the setting for Operation Migration’s display. As you enter the building under its fabulous facade look up. Suspended from the ceiling you will see one of our ultralight aircraft being pursued by life-sized replica Whooping cranes.

[See photos and the official 2012 announcement by Jackie Ogden, Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks, about OM’s ultralight aircraft going on permanent exhibit.]

On Saturday, May 9th guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be greeted by OM staff Joe Duff and Heather Ray. In addition to chatting with us at our booth, visitors can watch videos depicting various aspects of Operation Migration’s work on the Whooping crane reintroduction project.

Operation Migration is delighted and proud to have such a great partner as Disney, and is hugely appreciative of the opportunity to showcase our efforts and the processes involved in making this reintroduction work.

Disney’s Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) has consistently supported our efforts, providing over $300,000 to Operation Migration since the Whooping crane reintroduction program started in 2001. Committed to supporting comprehensive conservation programs worldwide, DWCF has helped Operation Migration purchase important equipment including an ultralight aircraft, bird-safe wings for all our aircraft, and a tracking vehicle.

We hope you’ll come out to visit us to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day at Disney!

Safari Mickey is excited to take his friend Wanda Whooper HOME to celebrate International Migratory Bird day 2015!

Safari Mickey is excited to take his friend Wanda Whooper HOME to celebrate International Migratory Bird day 2015!

Next Steps

Now that three of the five wandering juvenile cranes are back home in Wisconsin, we can return our attention to the remaining two wanderers: 3 & 4-14.

Colleen will be back on site by now and she will stay until Friday when Doug Pellerin arrives to relieve her. Colleen will spend some time bringing Doug up to speed and familiarizing him to the lay of the land before she heads home to Florida. Joe and Heather will rendezvous with Colleen to pick up the tracking van and two crates.

Doug will stay to monitor the cranes until Sunday. IF an opportunity arises where a capture is deemed safe for all involved while Colleen and Doug are on site, one will be attempted, otherwise when Joe and Heather arrive on Sunday, plans for capture will be carried out as soon as possible.

They’re Home

Colleen reports 8, 9 & 10-14 are HOME. They very carefully off-loaded the three crates from the tracking van and carried them out to the grassy area in front of their former pen at White River Marsh.

She said it all happened very quickly and efficiently and as soon as the crates were opened they flew across the grass and landed approximately 50 feet from 4-12 who was there to supervise.

In less than a minute they were airborne again. No doubt to stretch their wings after the ride home.

Juvenile Whooping cranes 8, 9 & 10-14 stand briefly on the grass training strip before taking flight.

Juvenile Whooping cranes 8, 9 & 10-14 stand briefly on the grass training strip before taking flight.

A Whooper Welcome

Brooke and Colleen are at the White River Marsh training site getting ready to release our three female Whooping cranes: 8-14, 9-14 & 10-14.

While driving along the road nearby, look what Colleen spotted flying overhead! It’s very likely 4-12 & 5-12. At least we know the girls will have company.

Those are indeed two Whooping cranes flying over White River Marsh SWA.

Those are indeed two Whooping cranes flying over White River Marsh SWA.

Class of 2014 Update

Its been a very busy few days for Brooke and Colleen and the five juvenile Whooping cranes.

Last weekend the group of five divided, thanks to severe storms in the area. The result was a trio consisting of females 8, 9 & 10 heading west to Williamson County and cranes 3-14 going one way and 4-14 going another.

Colleen and Brooke spent a lot of time driving between the three locations trying to keep tabs on the young cranes.

PTT data for number 3 placed her in the same location on a small island for two days. The crew couldn’t get a visual on her but did get a strong signal from her radio transmitter so Brooke was concerned about her and her lack of movement.

He decided to swim (in costume) across the pond to reach the island so that he could better ascertain the situation. Colleen stayed on the shore (also in costume) playing the brood call so that if number 3 got airborne, she would hopefully land near her. When he reached the island he noticed it was almost entirely full of tall cattails and in the middle was number 3. She was stuck and didn’t have enough room to open her wings among the dense vegetation.

Brooke trampled down an area in front of her so that she could take the needed 3-4 steps and she was immediately airborne. But, she didn’t head toward Colleen – instead she kept climbing and headed southwest. This was the first time the crew has had to intervene and we’re glad, as I’m sure you are that it ended well. Almost well – Brooke’s puppet ended up drowning and is currently still at the bottom of that pond. (you’ve all seen the baggy white costumes. Imagine swimming in one?)

A satellite hit that evening told us that 3-14 had flown 60 miles to Pulaski County, IL after she was rescued.

Whooping crane 4-14 (aka Peanut) does not have a remote tracking device and must be tracked using the receiver and antenna that detects the beep from his radio transmitter. He was very close to the area where number 3-14 had been.

Both 3 (at her new location) and 4 were in great habitat but totally inaccessible so the decision was made to attempt to flush number 3 again as she was slightly easier to access. The hope was that she could then be captured in an even easier to access location.

After hiking, swimming and wading for about a mile, Brooke was successful and number 3 was last seen heading north. Remember, number 3-14 has a remote tracking device so she’ll be easy to find.

From there Brooke and Colleen headed north to check on the trio and hopefully lead them into our travel enclosure, which had been set up the day before.


8, 9 & 10-14 have spent a great deal of time foraging in the many ponds in the area. As usually number 8 was dancing. I can’t help but wonder what their first thought was upon seeing the costumes for the first time in almost a month.

The cranes followed them into the familiar pen with little hesitation and did not seem at all stressed once inside.

9-14 front and center with Brooke in costume and 8 & 10-14 on the right. (keep in mind it's nearly impossible to see what you're taking a picture of when in costume)

9-14 front and center with Brooke in costume and 8 & 10-14 on the right. (keep in mind it’s nearly impossible to see what you’re taking a picture of when in costume)

Last night they were loaded into the tracking van so they could make the road trip to Wisconsin at night – A time when they’re normally roosting and quiet anyway.

By the time this update is posted they’ll very likely be released at White River Marsh. The area where they took their first flights last summer so they’re very familiar with their surroundings.

Stay tuned… Colleen will try to get a couple of photos of their release for us to post

Auction Items Needed

The 2015 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 pleased to announce that, like last year, the auctions will be held in multiple formats – online, silent, and LIVE! Yes, at the Crane Festival dinner we will conduct a live auction featuring a small number of super-special items. And because we know that not everyone can attend the festival in Wisconsin, we will also conduct an online auction using Facebook.

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! Read on for more details!

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 who has graciously offered to receive and store all our items until the Whooping Crane Festival in September.

Once we have received your item, the committee will determine which auction it best suits, and it will be assigned accordingly. No single item will appear in multiple auctions, and the committee reserves the right to make this determination. For example, many of the items that are light weight and easily mailed will be assigned to the online auction. If it is heavy or bulky, it will be featured in one of the auctions held on festival weekend (live or silent) so that it can travel home safely with the winning bidder.

The committee also reserves the right to limit the number of items in certain categories. We believe that if we receive too many of certain types of items (e.g. framed photography), then none of them will receive as much attention as they deserve. If this happens, the committee will either donate it to a worthy organization in the Princeton area, or will return it to you – you decide!

If you come up with businesses that might be interested in making a donation, email the information to me at jbellemer(AT), 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.

WHAT IF MY ITEM IS TOO BIG AND BULKY TO MAIL OR SHIP TO PRINCETON? CAN I MAKE OTHER ARRANGEMENTS? Yes! Given the geographic spread of Craniacs attending the Whooping Crane Festival, there’s a good chance that we can arrange to have your item picked up and driven to Wisconsin. Just contact me at jbellemer(AT) and we’ll figure something out.

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 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 possible.

WHAT IS THE CUTOFF DATE FOR SENDING IN MY ITEM? Our cutoff for receiving items is August 7th. 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 7th!

WHEN ARE THE AUCTIONS? The Whooping Crane festival will be held the weekend of September 12th, 2015. There will be a dinner on Friday night, 9/11, at which there will be both a silent and live auction, each featuring a small number of items. On Saturday, at the festival, there will be a large silent auction. The online (FaceBook) auction will open on 9/1 and close on 9/25.

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? We have never had an “orphaned item” at prior auctions, but in that unlikely event, we will donate the item to a worthy charitable organization in the Princeton, WI area.

Any other questions can be emailed to JBellemer(AT)

Fragile Shipment

15 Whooping Crane eggs were recently collected from nests located on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and transferred to the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

But why you ask? It’s all part of the forced renesting study, currently in its second year on the Refuge and designed to increase hatch rate and flock numbers.

Researchers have determined second nests have had a higher full term incubation rate (54% versus 18%), hatching rate (39% versus 11%) and fledge rate (21% versus 0.1%).

Salvaging eggs from early nests may increase the probability of renesting above 25% and, in turn, increase reproductive success.

Of the 15 eggs transferred, 14 were determined fertile and have been shipped to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland for continued incubation. Once they hatch, the new fluffy crane chicks will become participants in either the Eastern Migratory Population’s aircraft release method, or be transferred to Louisiana for release later this year in the non-migratory population.

To learn more about the forced renesting study visit this link.

Whooping it up at the 2015 Wakulla Wildlife Festival

For a second year, Operation Migration was invited by Wakulla Springs State Park to join in the 2015 Wakulla Wildlife Festival southwest of Tallahassee, Florida – – an annual celebration of the area’s wildlife and habitat, featuring birding and photography tours, a children’s art show, wildlife exhibits, bird-banding, and many other hands-on special events all day.

You never knew when the music would begin to play, and the traditional Parade of Animals would dance its way through the exhibits!


The theme of this year’s festival was “Wings Over Wakulla” to honor Apalachee Audubon Society’s 50th Anniversary of conservation efforts in the Big Bend of Florida.

Telling the tale of reintroduced Whooping Cranes, who’ve soared over Wakulla County on their 7-foot wingspan since a frosty morning in January 2009, seemed a perfect fit – – especially because the National Audubon Society has staunchly supported research and habitat protection for the endangered Whooping Crane for over a century. Apalachee Audubon has brought that tradition into the 21st century, becoming an OM Milemaker and sharing whooper news on Facebook and its electronic newsletter.

Stoked up with a tasty “Savannah’s” breakfast before sunrise, our band of OM volunteers dodged the early morning mist to set up and meet our friendly neighboring exhibitors from the Florida Native Plant Society, Florida Trail Association and Apalachee Audubon.  By 9 a.m. the sun peeked out and dried the spanish moss overhead, as costumed Jim Young began to lure visitors with the puppet head.


Volunteer Karen Willes shared important lessons honed through experience with visitors to Leon County’s wintering “cowpond whoopers” – – keeping a safe distance from the cranes, speaking quietly, and educating people about how reintroduction efforts provide a backup to the Western population and help ensure survival of the species.

Marsha Lynn “Maxgreenwing” Walsh, newly minted craniac Ellie Arman, and I explained how the various methods of reintroduction are accomplished, how to recognize a whooping crane and distinguish it from other species, how and why to report a whooping crane sighting, and where to find more information.  Visitors found International Crane Foundation’s excellent poster “Large Water Birds: An Identification Guide” very helpful.

Some of the most rewarding moments occur when kids overcome their shyness, don the child-sized costume, and begin to “feed” the model crane chick plastic insects, frogs, and crabs.  Somehow that simple gesture lights their imagination and a sense of caring, and questions bubble forth.

OM-3_ChildFeedsModelChick_WakullaWildlifeFestival-2015-04-18_cmb-DSC06500It was heartening to see how the exhibit drew in visitors and made them think.  Many stopped by two or three times with more questions during the day, collected printed information and Whooping Crane Activity Books, then posed proudly for family pictures next to the life-size whooper.

Thanks to Jeff Hugo of Wakulla Springs State Park for inviting Operation Migration to this year’s Festival, the Park’s Friends group for a yummy lunch, St. Marks NWR for lending us the canopy and interpretive materials,  Nick Baldwin for sharing his photos, Claire Timm for lending her educational collages, and to our volunteers who, after a full day speaking with visitors, stayed to help pack up OM’s displays as the afternoon storm clouds drenched us all with a powerful dose of Florida’s “liquid sunshine.”

We had a blast!  And next year we hope to see you at the Wakulla Wildlife Festival!



Class of ’14 Whooping Cranes – The Plan

Last fall when the decision was made to transport the Class of ’14 Whooping cranes from Columbia County, Wisconsin to Carroll County, Tennessee, the Rearing & Release and Monitoring & Management teams of WCEP developed a set of guidelines which would be followed this spring.

The plan set out several options which would be considered, but the one that applies now because the juveniles did initiate a normal northward migration includes the following details to ensure they return to Wisconsin:

“Natural migration” – Birds begin migration in spring as usual and then either:

a)  The birds fly back to Wisconsin (best-case scenario), or
b) Birds fly as far north as Tennessee but do not maintain a ‘normal’ migration route (i.e. birds moving in a variety of directions but not towards WI or they don’t return to WI by May 15).

If the birds migrate to the latitude of the Tennessee site (36° 4’ N / 88° 22’ W), and either continue on the same trajectory to the northwest (ending up along the Mississippi River or beyond), or appear to be moving around in a variety of directions over the next seven favorable migration days, OM will continue to track the birds and consult with the M&M Team regarding plans to retrieve the birds within the next three to four days and relocate them to a release site in WI. Since intervention was required, the birds would be released in the vicinity of 2011-2013 birds located in the Wisconsin Rectangle.

Since arriving in southern Illinois, weather was a factor initially with rain and strong winds from every direction. Since last Tuesday they’ve flown four times: 1. From Saline, east to Gallatin County. 2. From Gallatin, northeast to White County and then southwest to Williamson County 3. From Williamson, north to Franklin County and 4. From Franklin, east to Union County, Kentucky.

We have consulted with the WCEP Monitoring & Management team and plans are being formulated to capture and relocate the juvenile cranes to Wisconsin.

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