There was a time when all the members of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership would meet every year to discuss the project and report the results of a season of hard work. Unfortunately, budget cutbacks and travel restrictions have limited that opportunity but webinar technology still allows us to share reports and talk over issues.
Yesterday WCEP met online to report on the successes and tribulations of 2013. We discussed expansion of the White River site in case more birds are available and the Science Team previewed research needs. We talked about the issues the DAR method struggled with and plans to mitigate the problem in 2014. Refuge Biologist Brad Strobel outlined plans to manage nests at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge this spring. He pointed out that the success rate for pairs that nest early and face hordes of black flies is only 0.5 percent, whereas pairs that re-nest after the blackflies have gone, have a 30 percent success rate. He sighted research that demonstrated the rate of renesting could be increased over time. He suggested that a large number of eggs from early nests are wasted each year.
John French from Patuxent proposed that they could build a cohort of up to 9 chicks this spring for the Parent Reared study without much impact on the production of their captive breeding pairs.
If all of this reminds you of counting your chickens before they hatch, you’re absolutely right. No one can predict the kind of breeding season we will have, so we must be prepared for anything. If we wait until the eggs are laid, it will be too late to increase the size of the pen facilities at White River if we need them. Permits are required before we dig another wet pen so the Wildlife Area manager has begun the application process. Our contractor will plow a roadway through the snow and give it a few days to freeze solid. Then they will bring in a very heavy excavator to dig the wet pen scrape and remove the dirt without destroying the runway. The frozen ground will be hard to smooth out so they will leave that last detail until the spring and do it with a much smaller machine. Once nesting begins and we have some idea of the number of chicks we will get, we can decide if we need to build the pen or wait another season.
More eggs put a heavy burden on the captive breeding facilities so Patuxent has asked us if we can provide more assistance during the early training. We are now recruiting another person to begin at Patuxent in mid April, spend the summer in Wisconsin and accompany the migration until it is complete in December or January. Operation Migration does not have a full education program for interns so we are not legally allowed to pay interns a stipend. Instead we pay minimum wage with Room and Board. Of course we would be very happy if someone wanted to volunteer their services too.
Anyone interested should think twice before sending a resume. It is a big commitment in time and energy. Initial training and imprinting requires early mornings and long days. From June on, we live in motorhomes and train the birds every day at sunrise. The migration is best described as days of frustration waiting for the weather to improve, punctuated by overwork and high stress when it finally cooperates. We are also looking for someone with experience driving a large pickup truck pulling a 30 foot trailer, some knowledge of caring for birds and the ability to get along with a team in tight quarters.
If I have not completely discouraged you, please send a resume to joe(AT)operationmigration.org