Thanks to a very generous supporter, we have a pledge of $25,000 which is to be used as MATCHING dollars for all contributions made before the end of the year!

The way this works is quite simple – Donate $50 and it’s automatically doubled to $100. Donate $500 and it turns into $1,000… You get the idea.

BUT WAIT! There’s more! 

ALL contributions of $50 or more will receive a limited edition Duff Doodle Crane Scarf in your choice of Ivory with black cranes or Charcoal with white cranes. 

We have a limited number available and want to make sure nobody misses out so we must place a limit of 2 scarves/household with a qualifying donation of $100 (which will be doubled to $200!)


One of the few shipments of scarves! Have you reserved yours yet?

Share Button

Whooping Crane 26-17

When it is time to release the parent-reared cranes, we are each assigned one or two to watch, everyday. Two of the birds released early in the program were female, 26-17 and male 28-17.

We let them go near the known roosting site of adult Whooping cranes 27-14(F) and 10-11(M) in Grand River Marsh which is a large complex of public and private lands in Marquette County. Depending on the landowners, the public side can inaccessible and in this case, we had to rely mostly on their radio transmitters, without visual confirmation.

Number 28-17 is the only bird without a remote transmitter and naturally, he took off almost immediately to parts unknown. In fact this was the last we saw of him:Occasionally, we would get a signal but he has been moving around and is hard to track.

The female, on the other hand, has stayed mostly in one spot using great habitat, but in a very limited range. We always got a signal from the adult, 27-14 in the same general area but it’s seems they were never actually together. The adult male’s transmitter is non-functional. On the rare occasion that we did get a glimpse of either her or the adults, they were always alone.

A week or so ago we arrived just in time to see two adult whooping cranes land beside her. We thought the target pair were finally paying some attention to her but it turned out to be Peanut (4-14) and his friend 11-15.

Peanut (4-14) on the right and #11-15 on the left. Parent-Reared #26-17 is closest to Peanut.

Over the next few days the trio was spotted by Jo-Anne and Heather and then again by Wisconsin DNR Pilot Matthew Brandt. 

Without access to the marsh for behavioral observations, we can’t tell whether the chick wasn’t interested in the assigned target pair or it was the other way around. Each situation appears to be different, depending on the personalities or the mood of the birds involved.

Over several weeks 26-17 and the target pair never seemed to work it out, but after only a short time together Peanut and his friend struck up a relationship with our lonely female chick and yesterday, it appears they began leading her south. Her remote tracking device indicates they left Grand River Marsh and flew to LaSalle County Illinois. That would make her the first PR bird to migrate this year – we think. Her release-buddy: male #28-17 could be in Florida for all we know.

Share Button

Heading South

Parent-Reared Whooping crane #26-17 (F) is migrating south! 

We believe she is traveling with 4-14 (Peanut) and 11-15 but cannot confirm. Why do we think this?

Firstly, n the past two weeks she was seen on a number of occasions associating with these two males at her release location in Marquette County, WI. 

Secondly, the location her GSM remote tracking device placed her late yesterday is a known stopover for #11-15 during his north-south travels.

The young female Whooping crane traveled approximately 170 miles yesterday.

Milestones in the Sky

Before the FAA established the “Light Sport Aircraft” category, the trikes that we flew fell under the title of “ultralights”, or at least they did in Canada. Both the UL, and the LSA classifications were designed for recreation purposes. That means they are to be used strictly for fun flying and although some people think getting paid is fun, that’s not what the FAA intended. Getting paid to fly means you must be a commercial pilot and because that often means carrying passengers, that licence, justifiably comes with a lot more rules.

In order to allow OM to continue leading birds south and to get paid for that and all the other work that a reintroduction involves, the FAA issued an exemption to the LSA rules. They did that for a number of valid reasons. First of all, safeguarding a species was considered beneficial to the American public and because we had never had a reportable accident, it didn’t compromise safety. A commercial licence comes with endorsements. You can have a commercial licence with a float endorsement to fly from water, or you can be qualified to fly multi-engine aircraft or helicopters. However, there is no commercial licence to operate a weight-shift controlled aircraft like a trike. There were also a number of other factors that the FAA considered like we didn’t fly in controlled airspace. We avoided cities and big airports and we flew during the day only. Plus we agreed to upgrade our licences from LSA permits to Private Pilot Licences and to buy new aircraft that were maintained by FAA certified mechanics.

Throughout that entire process, the FAA was very supportive. They worked within the rules governing the Light Sport Aircraft category and made provisions when the rules didn’t apply.
All of that negotiation, cooperation and rule-making, made the trikes that OM flew with Whooping cranes unique. They are the only Light Sport Aircraft to be legally used for a commercial purpose, other than flight instruction.

It seems that all the milestones in the history of aviation are achieved at the highest altitude, the longest range or the fastest speed and that often relates to the most expensive. Our trikes, on the other hand, flew slow enough to match bird speed and our best altitudes were short of a mile high. But despite their pedestrian flight envelope and reasonable price tag, they wrote history and earned a place in the world’s most prestigious aviation museums.

Two weeks ago, we donated our most historic aircraft to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Museum in Oshkosh. For ten years, November 2-6-1-6 Tango helped to lead 147 Whooping cranes on their first migration from Wisconsin to Florida. It flew over twelve thousand miles and logged over 700 hours in the company of birds.

That number is far greater if you include all the training flights it took to encourage the birds to follow and to develop their endurance. It helped to educate a generation and gave back-seat, life-time experiences to Jane Goodall and Charlie Rose and it was featured on national news. It’s a fitting retirement for an aircraft that bent all the rules and helped save a species.

N2616T will be on display at the EAA museum in Oshkosh, WI, beginning in 2018.

Share Button

Mixed Blessing

Twice now the chicks have chosen to roost in the wetland to the south. Friday night I stayed out watching till they went to roost. Or so I thought… They were out late. Finally at 5:50 they flew to Henry’s Pond. I went through every frequency doing a head count via telemetry. Yay!

Tucked in, off to Walmart and dinner with Richard van Heuvelen who is in town after delivering the most beautiful metal sculpture of a giraffe to a client here in the States. Click the link to see The Wooden Anvil’s Facebook page, his work is amazing! Be sure and click like and share it with your friends!

So anyway, back to the birds, I get to Walmart and my phone dings telling me I have an email. It’s a GSM hit on #6-17. Nice timing! Confirmation they are tucked safe for the night! I downloaded and opened it and the little jerks had flown to the wetlands! Crap, why would they leave Henry’s Pond and Henry and PBJ? Crap crap.

Now the nice part of this is they are going to great habitat. That is better than nice, it’s huge.

Another nice thing is they have been spending more time in a field back away from the road. So there’s that.

Monitoring these birds kind of reminds me of being the parent of young adults. We really know what is best for them. But now, they are on their own, we are not in control. It’s hard, but it’s exciting too.

Since the class of 2012, my first migration, Dr Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go floats through my mind as our chicks prepare for their first migration. I bet you can’t read it without getting a bit teary!

Share Button

A Whooping Big Day

You’ve no doubt heard about a “big year” – there was even a movie called “The Big Year” starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson. It was based on the true story of three expert birders who set out to break the record of seeing the most bird species in one year. Today, Heather and I decided to do a Whooping Big Day – we wanted to set a record for seeing the most Whooping Cranes in Wisconsin in one day.

Big Days (and Big Years) are all about preparation. Before you even start, you map out a route that will most efficiently take you by the most potential sightings. You gas up your vehicle and run all your errands the day before. You pack up a bunch of food because you won’t have time to stop. Come the Big Day, you will be out before dawn (sometimes as soon as midnight passes) and you won’t have time for ANYTHING except tracking down Whooping Cranes. And you’ll stay out until midnight so you put in every possible minute working towards your goal. 

So, did Heather and I do all that? No! Of course not! We got up and worked for a while. Then we both headed out to find the birds we were assigned to monitor. Then, about 10 am, Heather texted me and said “you want to do a Big Day?”. Oh yeah I sure did! I was feeling pretty lucky because I had just gotten eyes on both of my colts. Heather was apparently having good luck in her county, too.

Sure enough, Heather had seen four Whooping Cranes so far. I texted her the sets of coordinates for my two birds so she could swing by and see them on her way back to camp. Now she was up to six.

We decided to meet at camp and ditch one vehicle. For the rest of the day I would drive and she would navigate and hold the antenna out the window, listening for beeps.

First though, we figured we better do those pesky errands. We needed to stop at our storage hangar to pick up more scarves. We needed to stop at the Dollar Store for mailing envelopes. And we had to fill up my gas tank, as I only had 1/4 left. I told you we didn’t prepare!

As we were passing White River Marsh on our way down County Road D, Heather yelled “STOP!”, so I slowed down. There, off in the distance, were nine, yes NINE Whooping Cranes flying towards Henry’s pond!

So now Heather was up to, hmmmmm, 15 Whooping Cranes so far today!

A swing around to the west and then north and we added the Royal Couple (4-12 & 3-14) and then 4-13 & 10-15!

Next, we headed to Marquette County to see how many of Joe’s birds we could track down. We slowly drove the back roads listening for 28-17’s beeps, and finally gave that up in favor of looking for others. We stopped at one of Joe’s most promising locations for sightings, and got beeps on 27-14, but no visuals.

Moving on, we went looking for the others known to be in this area. We got to the west side of a marsh and some ag fields and stuck the antenna out. Sure enough, beeps, but we wanted visuals! We rode up and down this rode, stopping on the crests of all the hills. There were about a zillion sandhills and we were certain if we scanned them carefully with our binoculars, we’d find the whoopers we knew were there somewhere.

Finally! Way behind the ag fields, in a bunch of scrubby grass with only two sandhills we spotted not one, not two, but THREE WHOOPERS! They were a long way off so our photos are not so hot, but we didn’t need to see the legbands because the beeps told us who were viewing. They were Peanut (4-14), his pal 11-15 and the female Parent-Reared chick #26-17! AND they were together!

We were as far south as we needed to go, so we backtracked. Again Heather yelled “STOP! I SEE THEM!” This was a fast road, so it took me a while to actually stop. I turned around and we crept along in the gutter while Heather peered through the trees to find the two white dots she somehow spotted while we were going about 50 mph. She found them – and we confirmed them with binoculars. This was female 27-14 and her mate 10-11.

At this point we had 24 whoopers on our list and we were hoping for a 25th. We turned onto the back roads, slowed down and Heather put the antenna out. We drove all around for about 45 minutes, hoping to find 28-17 but it wasn’t to be.

Heather’s Big Day ended then, at 4:00 in the afternoon, with 24 Whooping Cranes, because we had to get back and get ready to go out for dinner. Not bad, eh? Maybe next year we’ll break this record by actually preparing ahead of time!

Here are the photos of all 24 whooping cranes spotted yesterday. Some, aren’t the best in terms of photographic elements but keep in mind, in some cases, the birds were a half mile or more away.


Parent-Reared chick #24-17 in Dodge County, WI.

#71-16 in Dodge County, WI.

Male Whooping crane 63-15 in Dodge Co., WI.

Parent-Reared chick #38-17 (F) in Dodge Co., WI.

Parent-Reared chick #72-17 in Winnebago County, WI.

Parent-Reared chick #30-17 in Fond du Lac Co., WI.

Nine whoopers include: 1-17. 2-17. 3-17, 4-17, 6-17, 7-17 & 8-17 and 5-12 & 30-16. Note, while we initially saw them in flight we were unable to get photos so snapped this one as we headed home.

The Royal couple: female 3-14 and male 4-12 in Green Lake Co., WI.

Male 4-13 and female 10-15 also in Green Lake Co., WI.

Two adult male whoopers along with Parent-Reared female #26-17 in Marquette Co., WI.

See those teeny white birds? That’s 27-14 and 10-11 Also in Marquette Co., WI.

PRESTO! Twenty-four whooping cranes in one day in the eastern half of Wisconsin!

Winter Territory

It seems the cooler weather, while not exactly freezing things in Wisconsin, is convincing some of the cranes that it’s time to head south.

We’ve heard from the folks in Greene County, Indiana that at least four Whooping cranes are back at their winter territories already.

They include: 36-09 (F) & 18-03 (M) and 9-05 (M) and 13-03 (F).

Share Button

Same Story, New Day

We watch them and try to see who is top of the pecking order. We try to read their minds.

We see synchronized take off’s sometimes, other times the chicks take off 1st. Henry and PBJ, which is short for Prince Billy John van Seemore (the name is my version of the compilation of all the various names given by different people) aka 30-16 lead often. 50/50 so no guessing.

Even this image doesn’t tell the story as we can’t see both sets of legbands.

It’s colder earlier this year. Will they go earlier than last year’s chicks? Will they follow Henry and PBJ to St Marks?

Peanut (4-14) and 11-15 are hanging with Parent-Reared chick #26-17. Will they all end up there?

So what’s going to happen? Who the heck knows? Stay tuned.

Share Button


Thanks to a very generous supporter, we have a pledge of $25,000 which is to be used as MATCHING dollars for all contributions made before the end of the year!

The way this works is quite simple – Donate $50 and it’s automatically doubled to $100. Donate $500 and it turns into $1,000… You get the idea.

BUT WAIT! There’s more! 

ALL contributions of $50 or more will receive a limited edition Duff Doodle Crane Scarf in your choice of Ivory with black cranes or Charcoal with white cranes. 

We have a limited number available and want to make sure nobody misses out so we must place a limit of 2 scarves/household with a qualifying donation of $100 (which will be doubled to $200!)


And the Winners Are….

We just finished making the draws for each of the Avian Abodes and will get these out for delivery this afternoon. If your name is on the list below, watch your mailbox!

Thank you to everyone who participated! We had a lot of fun creating them, and in total, close to $2,000 was raised to support our work this year.

Brooke Pennypacker and Bev Paulan’s Creation: The Odd Couple will be on its way to: Hayden Ebelhar!









Chris Danilko’s Avian Abode: The Backyard Enthusiast is being sent to Megan Sumner!








Jo-Anne Bellemer’s – The Vagabond will be sent to Dorothy Nordness!






Heather Ray’s – The Birdwatcher Abode will wing its way to Jan Fink!






Greek Wedding’s by Colleen Chase – is being sent to Barb Cantlon!







And The Intemperate by Joe Duff – will be sent to Maggie Turk!

Congratulations everyone!


HUGE thanks to local Princeton, WI resident, Cal Holland for making and donating the “blank canvas birdhouses” for us to start from!





Found a Peanut, Found a Peanut….

Last Saturday, I decided to head out with Joe to try to locate his two Parent-Reared chicks: 26-17 a female and 28-17 a male.

I don’t believe he has actually seen either of them since the day after they were released in Marquette County, Wisconsin near two target adults: male #10-11 and female #27-14.

We can tell by the GSM hits for #26-17 that she is indeed using the same field that the target adults are using but we can’t actually tell if they are associating. 

The male chick, #28-17 has been bebopping all over the county and wouldn’t you know it? Of all the released cranes this year, he’s the only one without a remote tracking device…

Joe has not seen him, or heard his beeps in weeks and only recently Wisconsin DNR pilot Matt Brandt was able to detect beeps from the birds radio transmitter on a couple of aerial surveys. Last week Matt was able to actually get eyes on him in an area that Joe had already checked several times so we ventured out Saturday to see if we could find him ourselves. 

Picture this: two hours of stopping every mile to listen for beeps. In some locations we could detect his signal and get a bearing for the direction they were the strongest. We would head to another location to try to biangulate and then another to triangulate but the angulates were just not jiving. 

The only conclusion we came to was that this bird is a master at evading trackers.  

On to the next Parent-Reared crane, number 26-17. She hardly ever leaves this large flooded field so she should be easy to find. 

Sure enough, as we pulled up to a safe location to get the antenna/receiver out, there she was! No need to listen for beeps when you can see the legbands and it was definitely her!

I was snapping photos when I heard Joe excitedly say “Here come the two adults! They’re going to land near her”! 

I stopped taking photos of her just long enough to locate the two large white birds coming in on final approach and began snapping again, trying to get everyone in the same frame. 

I began reviewing the photos on the back of the camera and as I zoomed in on one of the adults, I said “white/red/white left – that’s Peanut”! Sure enough, he and he buddy 11-15 had found the young female 26-17 and were stopping in to pay her a visit. 

What about the two original target birds you ask? They’re still there also, so this makes five Whooping cranes at this large wetland complex.

Here are a couple of photos I was able to capture.

Peanut (4-14) on the right and #11-15 on the left. Parent-Reared #26-17 is closest to Peanut.

26-17 in flight among the Red-winged blackbirds.

On the MOVE!

It seems some of the EMP Whooping cranes took advantage of the favorable winds Saturday!

A group of four were seen flying north to south over Kane County, IL by several birders and late last week a pair was seen near Champaign, IL.

Keep your eyes to the skies and if you see a Whooping crane, please be sure to fill out a public sighting report:


Harvesting Season – Chapter 2

It’s really cold out this morning, 24 degrees. The birds came off roost a half an hour later than usual.

They then went from field to wetland and back again. I took advantage of the wetland time to go get gas and coffee at Kwik Trip. Back with plenty of time to spare, I snuggled in the blanket I keep in the van, using the coffee as much as a hand warmer as the necessary morning beverage it is.

Eventually they flew back to the field, but no sooner did they land and two combines lumbered into view. Evidently cars and trucks are one thing and giant green machines are another! Back to the wetlands!!

I’m betting soon we have more AG fields to explore!


LAST CHANCE TO snag one of this year’s OM Staff Avian Abode’s!

Tuesday, October 31st at noon is when we’ll be making the drawing for each of these creative, um, masterpieces! Get your raffle tickets today!

Tickets will ONLY be available until midnight tomorrow, October 30th.

The Odd Couple: Brooke Pennypacker and Bev Paulan

Creating a novel birdhouse was a task assigned to Brooke but we all know where the talent lies in that couple.

The creative use of wine corks provides a beautiful and practical exterior to their birdhouse and maybe a little insight to one of their other favorite hobbies.





The Backyard Enthusiast: Chris Danilko

Chris’ inspiration for her birdhouse design came from her three grandchildren: Abby 7, Mikayla 5 and Thomas 4. Chris spends weekends with the trio and is continuously coming up with ideas for all to participate in and to inspire them to appreciate nature and birds.

The finished product is completely edible and can be consumed by the occupants – providing you are a bird.




The Vagabond: Jo-Anne Bellemer

It seems that three months on the road was not enough to dampen Jo-Anne’s wanderlust. An aspiring RV owner, Jo-Anne’s birdhouse looks like a mini Winnebago for our feathered friends. Let’s hope they don’t get too attached. We might see them heading to Florida on foot with their mobile home in tow.




The Birdwatcher: Heather Ray

Heather’s birdhouse design incorporates her stained glass hobby into her other favorite pastime of birdwatching. She has provided our feathered friends with a nest opportunity that is safe from the elements, while still allowing you to peek in discretely. She is also teaching the birds a life-lesson about not throwing stones.




Greek Weddings and Colleen Chase

We are not sure if Colleen has any Greek ancestry but her birdhouse resulted from (un)-ceremoniously breaking a lot of plates. She scoured antique stores for old dinnerware and used the smashed pieces to create a mosaic birdhouse. What better way to provide shelter to pairs of expectant parents. OPA!




The Intemperate: Joe Duff

The birdhouses created by the OM team likely reflect their personalities more than they care to admit.

Joe started with a simple bird shelter and kept piling complications on top. Joe never learned the lesson most important to an artist and that is knowing when to stop.





Tickets are sold in sets of 5 for $5/set.

Visit this link and select your favorite(s) from the dropdown menu. The draws will be made on October 31st at noon and the winners will be notified on our blog and also by telephone. 

Once everyone has been notified, we will send the Avian Abode’s to each of the winning ticket holders by mail, or, if local, we’ll personally deliver them to the winner!

More tickets increase the chances of your name being drawn.

Harvesting Season

From what I understand, which is not much, corn is harvested when the moisture content has lowered. Early harvesting is usually for silage. Silage is used for feeding cows.

Which means that the chicks favorite field, which was harvested about a month ago, is about picked clean and they are going way too close to the road for my liking, to get the last of the spilled corn.

Heather drove by on Thursday while Brooke and I were grabbing lunch and found them too close. She hazed them back and we hurried back to our crossing guard position.

So, as much as I like grey skies and rain I am hoping for a few dry days so the farmers can harvest the remaining standing corn, which will give these birds more choices, and give my blood pressure a much needed break!