Whooping Cranes, Ultralight Migration, Fly Away Home, Operation Migration, Migration, Bill Lishman, Joe Duff, Endangered species, Whooping cranes, Sandhill cranes, Canada geese, goose, Migration, Fathergoose, Reintroduction, Ultralight Flying, ultralight aircraft, Jeff Daniels, Birds



2002 Winter / Spring

2001 Fall | Spring | Summer
2000
1999
1998

Date:May 19, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray
Activity:Exploring Wisconsin

Notes: Beth Goodman, Wisconsin Whooping Crane Coordinator with the Department of Natural Resources had several opportunities last week to venture out of the office and track our group of cranes. Beth reports that in addition to the great habitat at Necedah where the birds all "touched home base," our cranes have used at least five state wildlife wetland areas in an equal number of counties. The group of 4 cranes currently seems to be finding suitable habitat in areas where they previously migrated on their initial return to their fledging grounds at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. They are spending the days foraging in waste cornfields and their evening roost hours along a wetland/stream area. 

Beth would also like to point out that she could not have obtained a visual on these birds last week, nor could we have learned details of habitat they are using, were it not for the landowners who offered her access to private
property. These folks and many others in the area already knew they had
very special whooping cranes in their community and not only were they
excited about it, but they were also very receptive to Beth's cautionary
comments about protecting the cranes' privacy and helping to protect and
maintain the wildness of the first whooping cranes in Wisconsin following an absence of more than 100-years. The cranes are a daily topic of conversation in their community.

Speaking of privacy, crane #7 has again gone into hiding. With only a radio transmitter to tell us her whereabouts it is difficult to locate her in the vast wetland areas of Wisconsin. She was last seen close to her former pen site at the Necedah refuge on May 5th. It would appear that these whoopers are exhibiting behaviour much like that of the Y2K Sandhill cranes when they returned last spring. The sandhills returned to the refuge area for only a short period of time before venturing out and exploring other suitable locations. Then last fall, most of them arrived at the refuge for another brief period before departing Wisconsin and heading south for the winter. We're not concerned about this elusive, independent female whooper. Her past behaviour tells us that she simply prefers to spend time alone - of course it would be interesting to see how the others react to her after she split from the flock in north Georgia during the return flight in April. 

As these cranes explore WI, we are learning that private lands and general public attitude are as important to the success of this reintroduction, as having numerous high quality state and federal wetlands! Many thanks to everyone in the great state of Wisconsin for your support of our cranes. Sometime next month we'll be bringing you some more...

Date:May 13, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray
Activity:A new training season begins

Notes: Meanwhile, at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Dan Sprague and the rest of the crane crew have been very busy hatching out this year's whooper chicks. Patuxent, in addition to the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin, the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada and the San Antonio Zoo in Texas are approved Whooping crane captive breeding centers. Staff members work very hard each spring to hatch and raise as many of these rarest of cranes as possible to provide birds for not only the WCEP project, but also for the on-going reintroduction of a non-migratory population of Whooping cranes. This project got underway in 1993 and since then approximately 200 whoopers have been released into the Kissimmee prairie region of central Florida. Recent estimates indicate just under 100 individuals remain, however, since radio transmitter batteries do not last forever, this estimate may be a bit low. Some of the cranes have reached breeding age and two or three pairs are currently raising their own colts this year.

Currently, there are 10 WCEP chicks that are undergoing early training under Dan's guidance. The first of this year's class arrived on April 12th and the latest hatch occurred on May 11th. If all goes according to plan (does it ever?) we should have as many as eighteen students for this year's project. Some of the eggs may turn out to be infertile; some of the fragile young chicks may not make it, despite the expert care they are receiving. Any number of things may happen as we learned last year. To see just what a WCEP chick goes through during the early stages of this reintroduction visit the Class of '02 page, which will be updated periodically, with photographs taken by Patuxent crane crew member, Carlyn Caldwell.

Date:May 4, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray - OM Headquarters
Activity:Crane #7
Current Location:Necedah National Wildlife Refuge
Notes: Richard reports that crane #7 was back on the grass airstrip in front of the pen at Site 1 this morning. Unfortunately, she noticed Richard before he saw her and she flushed and landed on the island just west of the pen.

Return Photo Journal. These images show #7 in the company of two Sandhill cranes. I can't help but wonder if these are the same two cranes she had been observed departing with after spotting the Coyotes last Tuesday in the south-central area of Wisconsin? Or maybe they are two of our Y2K ultra-flock and they're sharing recollections of flying in the company of a very large, white-winged and yellow bellied "bird" that could only fly when the weather was ideal but yet, still managed to lead them all a long way south to a warmer location for the winter. This reminds me of a wonderful story that one of our supporters sent to me not long ago. I don't think she'd mind that I'm sharing it with you.

MY GREAT STORY: WHOOPING CRANES, YEAR 2200
Listen, little colt,
as the marsh breathes in darkness
and all becomes quiet: I will tell you what I know
of the Great Returning. Many nesting's ago
two giant cranes, the biggest ever seen,
came from beyond the blue curve
and led us back, our tiny band following the wide triangles
of their wings, the strange purring of their bellies,
low over the ground to a place of salty water
many small islands
hours of long sunshine
and enough blue crabs
for all to eat. You will see it for yourself
when summer ends. Forty-eight suns we flew with them
over the blue and the green and the brown,
the rise and the flat land, the straight gray rivers
alive with growling beasts. We were afraid, then,
and tried to turn back; but gently the Grandmother and Grandfather,
for that is who they were, pulled us along. We did not all
survive the journey: a screaming storm took one of us
early on, when our night shelter and our nerves collapsed
and we ranged in panic on the hillside, calling to our leaders for comfort,
hearing only the wind's black answer. Why were they still
in that dark hour, why did they not fly
to our side? One of our brothers tried to go
for them, but was thrown back lifeless
to the ground. In the warm land, too,
we found danger: two of our number perished quickly there,
caught by four-leggeds with pointed ears
and vicious teeth. Their bones now feed
the Florida soil. But five birds lived,
and remembered,
and one day were stirred into flight
toward the north,
toward the place of their beginning,
the place of our ancestors. Day by day
they traveled back, year by year their numbers grew,
and today we are common and strong
in the wetlands of Wisconsin,
dancing in pairs on the marshes,
raising our long-legged young. We do not know
what became of the Great White-Winged Ones
nor the silent, shapeless creatures
who were their company, but owe our lives and yours
to their teachings, and so I tell the story,
that you may tell your chicks in turn,
and all give thanks. May they come back for others
in the hour of need, for we are all
related. Now sleep, little colt,
sleep safely, safely sleep.
-- Kathy Dodd Miner (Thank you Kathy)

I'd also like to remind everyone that this is a multi-year reintroduction: with the ultralight component being used for another four to five years until a core group of cranes is established. Currently, a new class of students is hatching at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland.  Eight chicks are already on the ground and undergoing early aircraft conditioning with Biotech, Dan Sprague. We are hoping to lead as many as eighteen young whoopers south this fall, along the same route their older cousins flew last year, however, with the increased number of cranes - comes an increase in the budget requirements for OM. 

Operation Migration is a non-profit organization in Canada and the United States, which relies on financial contributions from private citizens, foundations and corporations to fund our portion of the overall WCEP reintroduction project. 

Now that we have proven our ultralight migration technique works, we hope you will consider supporting us.

Based on last year's migration south, the cost per day needed to lead Whooping cranes from Wisconsin to Florida is $989.28. This covers fuel for the aircraft and the ground support vehicles; meals, for both the humans and the cranes; the costumes and puppets that are part of the training protocol; accommodation - again, for both the cranes and the team; and various other travel and project related expenses. Perhaps you know of an individual or a company that would be able to sponsor a day (or even two days) of the journey south this year as we lead this next flock of young whoopers along their new migration route: to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida and more importantly, to the survival of the species.

Keep watching for a new page, which will introduce the young students of our Class of 2002!

Date:May 3, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray - OM Headquarters
Activity:Crane #7 - Finished NOW!
Current Location:Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

Notes: The silhouetted crane in the above photo is none other than our independent-minded, "I'll-migrate-WHEN-and-WHERE-I-want-to" crane #7. This image was taken at 8pm CST this evening at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin by ICF Biologist and crane tracker Richard Urbanek.

Earlier today, Necedah Biologist Rich King traveled southwest to check on this bird at the area she was last sighted in late yesterday. She was still at this location, foraging in a flooded plain.

This evening, Richard arrived at the refuge to perform his nightly roost check at the Site 1 training area. As he crested the hill overlooking the site he was not expecting to see crane #7 on the grass airstrip - near the entry door to her former enclosure. Surprised by the unexpected visitor she flushed, along with two Canada geese and flew to the area of the refuge where her four flockmates had arrived exactly two weeks ago.

I've heard of being fashionably late but two weeks?

Richard's final comment in his email report is fitting: "The migration is now complete."

Now, where's that bottle of champagne?

Date:May 2, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray - OM Headquarters
Activity:Crane #7 - Not finished yet!
Current Location:West of Madison
Notes: It seems that this lone female crane has not finished completing her flight log. On Tuesday, Apr. 30th the local birder who had been helping to monitor her watched at 6:45 am as she foraged in the waterhole of the cornfield with her three companion Sandhilll's.  Also in the viewfinder, he noticed two Coyotes at the same waterhole - intently watching the cranes. Moments later, all four birds were airborne with #7 leading them to a location about a 1/4 mile to the east. I'm sure that the in-flight discussion between the birds consisted mostly of #7 recounting stories of Bobcats to her Sandhill companions...

Richard Urbanek from the International Crane Foundation had been out monitoring for signals of the "fab four" whoopers in an aircraft donated by a project supporter and at 3pm he detected the signal of crane 7 indicating that she was in flight somewhere to the south of the aircraft. They proceeded south and soon passed over the flying crane 7, who was making large circles, riding the thermal air currents and making slow progress in a north-west direction.

The pilot and Richard followed from a distance so as not to disturb the bird but could only continue for a short time as they had to get the aircraft back. Richard went out yesterday and this time from his tracking vehicle, located the signal again, in a location approximately 10 miles from where he had last seen her on Tuesday. She is located in a suitable area and with the weather today consisting of mostly showers it is unlikely she'll move from her current location west of Madison.

Meanwhile the fab-four continue to explore the large wetland areas south of the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and Richard was able to get some photos of them mucking about.

Date:April 27, 2002
Reporter:Headquarters
Activity:Staying Wild
Current Location:Southern Wisconsin
Notes: This is the most critical time for our five-naïve, young Whooping cranes. Throughout their short lives, veterinarians have monitored their health and a team of handlers has protected them from predators. We have managed their experiences and provided their food; we have minimized human contact and taught them to forage in the wetlands. From the beginning they have been under our care and protection but now they are on their own. Until they left our protective custody in Florida and the watchful eyes of the monitoring team they could not be considered wild. They have received all the education that we as surrogate parents could provide but now is the time to practice their wildness for real. 

During the next few months they will break their bond with humans, fine-tune their survival skills and become as free and independent as nature intended. In eleven days they retraced a migration path that took us 50 and so far they have selected proper habitat, avoided people and appear to be thriving on natural food that they themselves are finding. Once they have survived a season on their own they will be less vulnerable but now they could easily be tamed by someone intent on hand-feeding.

This is particularly true of Number 7, the subservient female that broke from the main flock in Tennessee and made her way north alone. She has drawn substantial media attention and is currently socializing with a pair of Sandhill cranes approximately 80-miles from the refuge. Everyone is waiting for her to make the last leg and join her flockmates but she may not continue on. It is not uncommon for Whooping cranes to migrate alone and Wisconsin was selected as an introduction site because of its extensive wetlands. 

We expect these birds to make their own habitat choices and number 7 may be happy where she is. The lowest bird in the pecking order, she was often harassed by the others, which might explain her departure. She may prefer the company of Sandhill cranes and if nothing else - they would teach her proper crane behaviour. Our birds have returned on their own and are surviving in the wild. Actually making it back to their fledging area at the refuge is not the measure of success. 

We ask anyone lucky enough to encounter these birds to give them a better chance by keeping your distance and respecting them for the wild cranes they are. Be patient and in time there will be many Whooping cranes using this flyway and lots of opportunities to see them in the wild - but these precious few could use your understanding at least for now.

Thank you

Date:April 22, 2002
Reporter:Headquarters
Activity:The elusive #7 crane 
Current Location:South-central Wisconsin
Notes: We just received word from Richard Urbanek that he was able to get a visual on our feathered little lady and she was foraging, quite happily in the presence of a pair of Sandhill cranes in a wetland area located in south-central Wisconsin. #7 is alive and well and simply not ready to return home just yet - She is definitely migrating to the beat of her own drum.
Sorry for the lack of news over the weekend but our internet service provider decided it was time to "upgrade" their system again. If memory serves me, the last upgrade occurred during the final days of last years migration and the site was down for two critical days. I'll have to talk with them and see if they can't alter their maintenance schedule considering the timing of migration will likely not change too much during the next century. 

Date:April 20, 2002
Reporter:Headquarters
Activity:The elusive #7 crane 
Current Location:Southern Wisconsin
Notes: The lone traveler #7 continued to elude both ground and air trackers today in southern Wisconsin. Late this morning pilots in the donated aircraft from Windway Capitol Corp., along with ICF's Matt Hayes detected a faint radio signal and attempted to pinpoint the location of the bird but persistent strong north winds prevented them from finding her. Anne Lacy, tracking from the ground was also unable to locate the crane. The radio transmitter, located on the birds leg can produce a signal range of approximately 5-miles if there is good line of sight but if the bird happens to be standing in water at the time the aircraft passes over the signal strength will be decreased significantly. 

Anne and Matt did report that the location they received the signal from was approximately 25 miles northwest of where she was last spotted so she has made some progress since yesterday morning. I've heard of being fashionably late but this is getting to be a bit much... 

The tracking team will take a well deserved day off tomorrow and will be back at it on Monday morning - IF #7 has not yet turned up at the refuge they will begin listening for radio beeps once again, both from the ground and the air. I'm sure they're probably hearing them in their sleep by now.

Meanwhile, the four cranes that arrived at the Necedah refuge last evening ventured out on a day-trip this morning to explore and forage in a wetland area southwest of the refuge. At approximately 3pm they returned and are currently roosting at "home."

Return Flight Photo Journal

Date:April 19, 2002
Reporter:The Team
Activity:TOUCH DOWN, WE HAVE TOUCH DOWN!
Current Location:NECEDAH NWR - Central Wisconsin!

THEY DID IT!!!!!!

Notes: Earlier this evening at 6:36pm, four Whooping cranes descended upon a marshy area less than a half-mile from the location where they first experienced flight with our ultralight aircraft. For those of you that have followed along from the beginning of the training season early last summer the spot where the cranes landed is known as "Site two." Late this afternoon the cranes were airborne, despite the persistent north wind. It was as if they were determined to reach the refuge... They headed north, into the wind and at one point it looked like they might over shoot their destination, then just as it appeared the might be heading toward Canada, they veered left and west, heading straight for Necedah.

The fifth crane, #7, had plans of her own and has yet to turn up today, eluding her tracker, Anne Lacy as well as the donated airplane and pilot that have been attempting to locate her.  Chris and I both believe this female thought she knew a better route and since the main flock of four birds was likely being led by a male, probably the dominant #1, who would never ask for directions, decided to set out on her own. She'll probably turn up tomorrow at the refuge to reunite with her flockmates so they can make fun of her for being late.

The entire Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership will be celebrating tonight! Then, when crane #7 arrives we can celebrate all over again.... As soon as I heard the news I called Deke to share it with him. His reply was a very enthusiastic "Great"! 

Very special thanks to everyone that has signed our guest book. Your entries have been inspiring, heartwarming and supportive. We really could not do this work without your support and encouragement. 

More details as I get them....
Signed, 
Whooping it up in Ontario!

Date:April 19, 2002
Reporter:OM Headquarters
Activity:Return Flight Update
Current Location:East-Central WISCONSIN

Notes:
Noon -
The group of four cranes spent the night roosting in a marshy area located in east-central Wisconsin and are currently waiting for the north wind to either subside or shift directions. They have approximately 70-80 miles to fly before reaching the Necedah NWR.

The lone female crane spent last night roosting not far from the IL/WI State line and we have not as yet had an update on her today but we suspect she is also grounded by the north winds.

Date:April 18, 2002
Reporter:OM Headquarters
Activity:Return Flight Update
Current Location:WISCONSIN

Notes:  
6:00PM - All five cranes are now in Wisconsin. Biologist Richard Urbanek, with the International Crane Foundation has been tracking his four birds throughout the day since departing last night's roost site west of Chicago. A line of thunderstorms recently passed through southern Wisconsin, convincing the birds not to continue the estimated 70 miles to their fledging grounds at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

Anne Lacy, also an ICF biologist has been following her lone crane #7, after the subservient female split from the main flock shortly before crossing into Tennessee from Georgia earlier this week. This bird has made fantastic progress over the past couple of days and is currently less than 50 miles south of Richard's group and has approximately 120 miles until arriving "home" and reuniting with her flockmates. Anne and #7 are both roosting for the night as  is Richard and his birds; #'s 1, 2, 5 & 6.

Will the weather cooperate tomorrow and allow our flock of five wild, migratory whooping cranes to arrive at Necedah? Stay tuned...

11:00AM - Last word from the tracking team was that Richard Urbanek is following his group of four cranes as they travel over northern Illinois and Anne Lacy is monitoring crane #7's flight further south and east.

Date:April 17, 2002
Reporter:OM Headquarters
Activity:Return Flight Update
Previous Location:Johnson Co., IN
Current Location:Airborne

Notes: Group of four whoopers include #'s 1, 2, 5, & 6. ICF's Richard Urbanek filed the following report late last evening after a full day of tracking: "The birds left a grassy pond bank/tilled field 2 miles west of their previous night's roost in Johnson County, Indiana, at 9:12am. They flew north in 8-12 mph SW winds increasing to 20-30 SSW to the shore of Lake Michigan and then spent 2 hours circling over Indiana Dunes/Gary, Indiana, before flying west over metro-Chicago. They crossed the Illinois state line at 4:15pm. 

And from tracker Anne Lacy "#7 landed down to roost near Brookston in White
County, Indiana, at about 5:15pm."

No word as yet what the birds have decided to do today... They're close!

Click here to see a map comparing the two flight paths.

Date:April 16, 2002
Reporter:OM Headquarters
Activity:Return Flight Update
Previous Location:Johnson Co., IN
Current Location:Airborne
Distance Migrated:Approx. 866 miles

Notes: At last word all five cranes and two trackers are present and accounted for. The group of four cranes were in the air heading northwest from Indiana to Illinois with Richard in pursuit and Anne Lacy was not far behind doing a great job tracking crane #7. More tomorrow.

Date:April 15, 2002
Reporter:OM Headquarters
Activity:Return Flight Update
Current Location:Johnson Co., IN
Distance Migrated:Approx. 866 miles

Notes: The statistics above are for the group of 4 cranes that International Crane Foundation's Richard Urbanek is monitoring. At the time of this update I had not received new information from Anne Lacey who is monitoring crane #7, which split off from the flock late yesterday.

Richard had his work cut out for him today following these birds. After departing their last location at 9:30 CDT the cranes flew northwest and are currently roosting in Johnson Co. Indiana. Distance migrated today approximately 238 miles. Accumulated migration distance is approximately 866 miles - Wow!

Date:April 15, 2002
Reporter:OM Headquarters
Activity:Return Flight Update
Previous Location:Henry County, GA
Current Location:McMinn & Fentress Co., TN
Distance Migrated:Approx. 472 & 528 miles

Notes: 
11:30am -
#7 is airborne also, heading north with Anne in hot pursuit. Richard and his four are in Kentucky.
9:40am -
We received word late last night that crane #7 had dropped out of the group of five and had landed in McMinn Co. TN. Anne Lacy from the International Crane Foundation is currently monitoring this bird and is in touch with Richard Urbanek, who traveled ahead, following the other four cranes. This group of four landed at approximately 5:45pm in Fentress Co. TN. 

The tracking team is traveling in separate vehicles in case a separation such as this occurred, so all five cranes still have a person monitoring their whereabouts.

Crane #7 flew 6.8 hours and a distance of 144 miles. The group of four flew 8 hours and a distance of 200 miles.

Richard reports this morning that his flock was airborne again at 9:30 CDT. Migration conditions appear to be ideal today: (radar map/wind map). Click here to see a map comparing the two flight paths.

Date:April 14, 2002
Reporter:OM Headquarters
Activity:Return Flight Update
Previous Location:Henry County, GA
Distance Migrated:Approx. 328 miles

Notes:
10:00am -
The five cranes are not wasting any time in their quest to migrate north! They departed this morning after spending the night in Henry Co. GA, south of Atlanta and are currently airborne with the tracking team of Anne Lacey and Richard Urbanek following them north. Interesting to note that they have covered 328 miles in just two flight days and have spent another three days waiting for better weather - during the flight south it took pilots and ground crew nine flight days to cover the same distance, with an additional nine days spent standing down for one reason or another. Click here to see a map comparing the two flight paths.

Date:April 13, 2002
Reporter:OM Headquarters
Activity:Return Flight Update

Notes:
9:53am -
This morning's cellular telephone report brought information telling us that the five cranes flew yesterday for almost 5 hours in less than ideal weather conditions. Despite this they still managed to cover a distance of approximately 110 miles in the right direction: north and are currently in Henry County, GA.  Current weather in the area consists of 100% cloud cover, which will not provide any thermal activity to assist them today. 

Date:April 12, 2002
Reporter:OM Headquarters
Activity:Return Flight Update

Notes:
10:48am - We received word that tracker Anne Lacy would not have the opportunity to read another book today - instead she was off and tracking cranes again! It seems either the birds didn't mind the light showers or the weather system had passed through the area. Stay tuned...
9:51am - While we've not heard as yet from the tracking team, a quick look at the weather maps indicate continued rain showers in the vicinity of the birds. Looks like they probably will not be moving today but if I hear otherwise I will update.

Date:April 11, 2002
Reporter:OM Headquarters
Activity:Return Flight Update

Notes: The ICF tracking crew reports that a weather system stalled over lower Georgia yesterday prevented the five whooping cranes from making any progress. After departing the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday morning at 9:45am the birds flew north for almost 7 hours and arrived in Wilcox Co. Georgia - 217 miles from their pen site on the remote island.

Date:April 10, 2002
Reporter:OM Headquarters
Activity:And They're OFF!

Notes: We have been pondering the why's and how's of bird migration almost as long as we have been envious of their ability to fly. This need to move from north to south and back with the changing seasons may have evolved from an increased number of birds in the southern regions. As the population grew and the usable habitat became congested they may have expanded northward looking for a new range and found suitable nesting areas. Then forced to retreat by winter's cold they began a pattern of movement that now, over a million generations has became instinctive. Whatever the origins this seasonal passage has inspired mankind to poetry and questions for as long as we have been witnesses to it. Somewhere in the world birds are migrating every day of the year but special attention was paid to the five rare Whooping cranes that departed their wintering ground near Crystal River, Florida yesterday. They left without fanfare - no bags to pack or goodbyes needed; they simply took-off mid morning and began a 1200-mile journey north. In their act of absolute freedom they were completely unaware of the commotion caused by their departure.

These five of seven Whooping cranes led south last year by our ultralight aircraft have spent 126 days foraging in the wetlands of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida and avoiding bobcats. Anne Lacy of the International Crane Foundation was checking their position by radio telemetry Tuesday morning when she noticed they were moving. She contacted Dr. Richard Urbanek who manned one of two tracking vehicles and began the chase toward the Georgia border. At our last contact Anne was trying to get ahead of them, which is a better tracking strategy, but they were moving fast, assisted by a substantial tailwind. Each bird carries a conventional radio-tracking device and two are fitted with satellite transmitters. Even if the monitoring team loses them, NASA will pinpoint their whereabouts for us. The monitoring team will try to track the birds until they set down for the day to determine if they selected proper habitat in which to stop. The Bird Team within the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership met on a conference call for the latest update and the Outreach Team began preparing press releases. Wildlife officials in the seven states between Florida and Wisconsin will be contacted and a press conference is scheduled for this morning - Now we wait and see.

Although we took special precautions to ensure these birds were reared in isolation from human contact they are still far from wild. That return to nature will take place over the next few months but could be destroyed by one curious onlooker. Despite good intentions the best thing an observer could do for these birds and this project is to observe from a distance and report their location to wildlife officials. The worst thing you could do is attempt to feed them.

Stay tuned for updates and thank you for your continued interest and support!
Joe Duff - Operation Migration

Date:March 24-30, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray
Activity:Wintering Update

Notes: Thanks to the current monitoring team of Richard Urbanek and Matt Hayes of ICF for the following report for the week of Mar. 24-30. 

General weather and habitat conditions: Conditions were characterized by hot and humid weather for the third consecutive week, a full moon, and, except on the first morning of the week, water levels that were consistently too high for roosting or foraging.

Nightly initiation of roosting: Water levels measured at the dummy at dusk were too high for roosting on each night: 28, 31, 32, 38, 36, 37, and 42 inches on 24-30 Mar, respectively.

On 24 Mar the five birds were already in the pen near dusk where they
remained to roost on land.

On 25, 26, and 30 Mar the birds were on the loafing area southeast of the
pen or on a sparsely vegetated area (hereafter referred as west bare area)
just southwest of the loafing area at dusk. They were led or herded into
the pen by a costumed caretaker and remained on land to roost.

At dusk on 27, 28, and 29 Mar, the birds were on the loafing area or west
bare area. They walked to the northeast gate where they were let in by a
costumed caretaker. On 27 Mar they flew back to the west bare area and were
herded back into the pen. They roosted on land in the pen on each of these
nights.

Leaving roost and early morning movements: Videotaping was functional on the mornings of 24 and 28-30 March. In addition, cranes were tracked and visually observed on 26, 28, and 30 Mar to determine the areas they were using during their daily early morning absence from the pen.

24 Mar: Birds were roosting near the dummy in the pool at 0600. On the
previous evening they had initiated roosting on land. They had thus moved
into water to roost when the tide receded during the night, similar to the
pattern documented during the previous week. They flew out of the pen at
0621 and had not yet returned by 0830 when video automatically switched
off. 26 Mar: When visual observation began at 0607, the birds were near the
feeding station after roosting on land. Water level was 30 inches, too high
for use of the pool. They flew out at 0614 and a few minutes later landed
in Pumpkin Creek Impoundment, 0.6 miles to the south. They were
inadvertently flushed by the tracker's approaching airboat at 0633 and were
later found in a previously documented use area between Bobcat Lake and
Five Lakes, ~0.3 miles east of the pen. By 0747 they had walked to the
shore of Bobcat Lake, and at 0800 they flew back into the pen. 28 Mar: Birds were roosting on land at 0545. Water level was 34 inches. At 0628 the birds flew out of the pen. They were tracked and inadvertently flushed by the airboat at 0715. They had apparently been on a barren (i.e., flat, dry area sparsely vegetated by plants less than a few inches high) east of the upper stretch of Rose Creek, 1 mile east-northeast of the pen. They flew back toward the pen area and landed. At 0801 as the tracker arrived back at the blind, three birds were observed flying into the pen while two others were walking along the outside of the fence. 29 Mar: Birds were roosting on land at 0545. Water level was high. Birds flew out of the pen at 0619 and back in at 0801. 30 Mar: Birds were roosting on land at 0545. Water level was 42 inches. They flew out at 0612 to the loafing area southeast of the pen. At 0630 they flew to Pumpkin Creek Impoundment. The birds were visually observed in the barren in the northern part of the impoundment (see photos below) after a cautious airboat approach. At 0728, however, the birds spotted the incompletely concealed observer on the dike and flushed. They flew back to the pen and landed therein at 0732.

Salinities: Salinity was 22-23 ppt during the week.

Predators and predation: New bobcat scat was found on the boardwalk on 27 March. Three traps, two along the boardwalk and one southeast of the pen, continued to be operated during the period, but nothing was captured.

Y2K Sandhill cranes: Rich King (Necedah NWR, Wisconsin) reported that OM #11 returned to East Rynearson Pool on 28 Mar after appearing there previously on 18-20 Mar.

Click for winter update images.

Date:Mar. 31, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray
Activity:Correction

Notes: This morning a news story erroneously reported that one of our flock of five had broken its upper beak. A young whooper did experience a mishap, which resulted in a damaged maxilla, however, it was not one of the ultralight-led cranes. It was a crane which was being released into the resident flock of Whooping cranes in central Florida. This female crane was undergoing a soft-release into the non-migratory flock two weeks ago when it damaged it's beak in the release pen. The bird has since been moved to the Lowry Park Zoo near Tampa and is recuperating.

Date:Mar. 25, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray
Activity:Spring?

Notes: According to the calendar hanging on the office wall it is now Spring but a glance out the window to the right of the calendar says otherwise. Yep, last Wednesday brought the official arrival of my favorite season. This same day brought below freezing temps and 6" of snow - my least favorite things; both of which lasted until this past Sunday.  I wasn't the only one fooled by the calendar though; Robins had returned to the area and were stabbing at the still frozen ground with their beaks in hopes of finding a fat worm. Approximately 30 Cedar waxwings congregated high in the still-bare-but-budding Poplar tree, on the lookout for any thawed remnant berries that didn't get eaten on their trip south last Fall. The sun is rising earlier and setting later each day and our flock of five is still on the remote island at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, fooled not one bit by the official arrival of the new season.

While bird migration has been taking place for millions of years it still largely remains a mystery to us humans. Just what cues a bird to begin heading north or south is part of the mystery. Is it the amount of daylight? As the days grow short - time to head south; days get longer - get back to the breeding grounds? Then how do you explain the species that migrate south to spend their winters near the equator where the length of day stays the same throughout the entire year? Robins tend to migrate north in the spring reaching areas only after there have been a few days averaging 35F, which means the frost is out of the ground and there is a greater possibility of worms migrating to the surface.

Lets not forget that once they decide WHEN to go they have to remember HOW to get there... wherever there is, which brings up another component of the mystery: Navigation! All this knowledge and know-how packed into a tiny brain? Some things deserve to remain a mystery...

In the meantime, the ICF tracking crew waits in Florida for this mystery to unfold; ready to head north as soon as the young cranes say it's time.

Date:Mar. 24, 2002
Reporter:Heather
Activity:VIC is found

Notes: It seems that our Very Important Crane aka VIC has been visiting several elementary schools in St. Augustine, Floral City and St. Petersburg, Florida spreading the word about the new eastern Migratory flock. On April 20th VIC will migrate to the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park to help kick-off Earth Day celebrations with this year's theme focusing on Birding Trails and Whooping Cranes. Park admission will be waived for this one-day event and there will be entertainment and exhibitors in Garden of the Springs. To learn more about this great facility and the Earth Day celebrations click here

Date:Mar. 18, 2002
Reporter:Heather
Activity:VIC?

Notes: Has anyone seen VIC? We haven't heard from him in a while and are starting to worry.... VIC please phone home!

Date:Mar. 17, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray
Activity:Great News!

Notes: Deke came through Friday's surgery just fine - thanks to all the people he has in his corner supporting him and cheering him on and of course to the fine team of doctor's and support staff treating him. Recovery over the next couple of days may be slow but now that appropriate blood flow to his brain has been restored we are hopeful that his rehabilitation process will speed up and he will soon be on the fast track to recovery. Many thanks to all for your very kind messages in the guestbook, which Rebecca prints out and reads to Deke.

Dan Sprague of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland reported on Friday that we have our first WCEP egg of the season! The egg was laid sometime during the evening on Thursday and has been pulled and placed in a Sandhill crane nest for early incubation. It's still a bit early to determine if the egg is fertile but it is from a very productive pair so there is little reason to believe it isn't. Click here to find out just what the eggs go through once they are produced at the captive breeding center.

OM donors and supporters should have received the Spring '02 issue of our newsletter IN...Formation by now but, if you were a donor or member last year and have not received your copy please give us a call at 800-675-2618 or drop us an email with your mailing address and we'll get one out to you right away. Operation Migration is a non-profit organization in both the United States and Canada and we rely on donations from private individuals and foundations to continue our work. If you'd like to become a supporter and begin receiving the newsletter, please call our toll free line above. Thank you!

Be sure to check out the new Bird's Eye View video clips, as well as more of Jessie Jacobs cartoons in the Lighter Side of Migration.

Date:March 13, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray
Activity:Update

Notes: The five ultralight Whoopers are still on the remote island on the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and are continuing with their established pattern of activity. They are roosting in the water inside their release pen whenever water levels allow and it seems they have learned the proper way to eat the Blue crabs. While they are enjoying the warm Florida sunshine there are many, many people (ourselves included) that are wondering when they will decide it is time to begin the return flight north. We have received numerous emails all asking basically the same question: "When do you expect the birds to start migrating north"? I wish I had a crystal ball... the truth of the matter is we just do not know - It's up to them. 

I had a wonderful visit with Deke and Rebecca last week. Deke had us laughing constantly with his antics. It was great to see his sense of humour is still very much intact as this will help him as he continues his rehabilitation. He asked about the birds and also when the new chicks for this years study would be hatching at Patuxent. He expressed his gratitude to everyone that has sent cards and letters to him.  Deke will be undergoing a delicate surgery to unblock his carotid artery this Friday. Please think positive thoughts and pray for a successful outcome for our friend this Friday morning. Thank you.

Date:Mar. 1, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray
Activity:All Around Updates

Notes: Our friend Deke continues to travel the long road to recovery, assisted by his immediate family and close friends. Daily reports from Washington indicate the doctors and therapists are encouraged by the progress he has made since arriving at the rehabilitation center two weeks ago. I'll be flying down early next week to spend a couple days visiting with him and Rebecca and will pass on the large number of supportive messages that have arrived in the last week. During the past month, we've spoken with many people that have experienced first-hand the recovery process of stroke survivors and it appears the common thread to a successful recovery is a network of family and friends that are able to offer assistance with physical and speech therapy sessions. Deke has his network and we only wish we lived closer so that we could be part of it on a daily basis.

Last week we attended the annual Whoop It Up Festival in Port Aransas, Texas, which is the winter home to the only remaining wild migratory flock of 174 Whooping Cranes. Each fall, this flock migrates from the Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Canada to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the gulf coast of Texas with their young of the year. The young cranes learn this traditional migration route by following their parents - just as the chicks we raised last year followed their mechanical parents, learning a new route and in doing so became the pioneers which will pass on their knowledge to future generations. The 3-day festival was hosted by the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce and they did a wonderful job of coordinating the many events, speakers and field trips. We were treated to a boat tour onboard the Wharf Cat with Captain Ray Little, which carried us out, through the Intracoastal waterway and into the territories occupied by the Whooping cranes. On one hand, it was an encounter I wish anyone that has an interest in cranes can experience, yet on the other hand, I hope that few will actually go so that these precious few remaining birds will have some semblance of privacy. To see these huge, long barges trundle along; transporting chemicals through the narrow coastal passage, and at times less than 200 ft. from the foraging Whoopers is alarming and reinforces the need for a second, discrete migratory flock.

Fortunately the people of this area realize the treasure they are responsible for and continue to work toward solutions to minimize potential threats to the cranes and to educate others about the critical balance of nature needed to ensure the survival of this last wild flock. 

The score in Florida remains (thankfully) at Cranes 5 - Bobcats 0 and the monitoring team, consisting of Richard Urbanek and Ann Lacey, who has replaced Sara Zimorski report that during the last week the cranes continued their established pattern of exiting the pen in the early morning for a quick flight, followed by a period of foraging just outside the pen. Previously they would fly to an area southeast of the release pen to forage. This is an area which had undergone a prescribed burn last fall to remove some of the tall, abrasive needle rush and to provide them with an additional foraging area, however, the needle rush has since regenerated to a height of approximately 28" and the birds are reluctant to walk through it.

Daily water levels ranged from a low of 17" to a high of 45". On the two nights when the levels were at the lowest, the cranes roosted in the water inside the safety of the release pen. On the remaining nights when the tidal level was too high they roosted inside the pen but on land. The cranes were observed probing in the pool within the pen whenever tide was low enough to do so, and capture and consumption of several crabs was noted. While three live-traps were run continuously during the week and all that was captured were three turkey vultures. No signs of bobcat have been observed near the pen since the second cat was trapped and relocated on January 18th.

It was February 25th last year when the ultralight-led Sandhill cranes departed Florida and began their unaided return flight to central Wisconsin and the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Whooping cranes mature a bit slower than Sandhill cranes and the whoopers currently at the Chassahowitzka refuge are a full month younger than the Y2K Sandhills were at this time. It remains anyone's guess as to when they will initiate their northern journey but the Argos NASA Satellite has been providing data every other day since Feb. 20th in anticipation of their departure. The monitoring team has two vehicles both equipped with radio receivers and as soon as the young birds head north Richard and Ann will be on the road, tracking them as they return north - without the aid of their mechanical surrogate parents. 

Stay tuned for updates...

Date:Feb. 15, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray
Activity:Whooping crane update

Notes: We spent last week in Crystal River, FL attending four full days of Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership meetings and have spent all of this week attempting to get caught up on the tasks that always seem to accumulate when we are away from headquarters. Often people are under the impression that once our migration flight is completed and we have safely delivered our feathered charges to their wintering destination that we get to spend the next few months relaxing, before diving into another training season in the spring with a new flock of birds. While we certainly wish this were the case, it simply is not. There just never seems to be enough hours in a day to accomplish everything.

We're happy to report that our friend Deke has been moved to an excellent rehab center and is continuing the long journey to recovery. He and his family are grateful for all of the wonderfully encouraging words of support that he has received from you. Many have sent cards and letters to us to pass on to Deke and in fact one of his children commented to me that they couldn't believe the number of people that have come to know and support their father through this reintroduction project. Deke has touched many lives and we remain hopeful he will return to our flock one day soon.

As remarked by one of the partners last week, the current score in Florida is still: Cranes 5, Bobcats 0; with no visible signs of Bobcats present on the island. Three live-traps have been set up since the middle of January and the monitoring team have not seen any scat or paw prints in the area. The only prize caught in the trap over the past four weeks has been a rather embarrassed Raccoon which was released as soon as it was discovered.

The ICF monitoring team continue to make the long airboat ride to the island each day, ensuring the safety of the birds and to record observations about their behaviour. With the assistance of a solar powered video monitoring system, team members are able to remain in the blind and still keep a watchful eye over the flock. Efforts to encourage the cranes to roost in areas of water inside the release enclosure continue, with results largely dependant upon the level of the ever fluctuating tide. On one night during our visit last week the tide was approximately 2-3" the lowest its been all winter. The very next evening it was recorded at almost 30". 

Y2K Sandhill Crane News:
On February 2nd Richard Urbanek flew on an aerial survey of known Sandhill crane wintering areas in north/north central Florida where crane #5 was located in a wetland area just east of Inverness in Citrus County. Additionally, Richard was able to confirm that the #8 Sandhill crane is indeed still alive (see Jan. 27 report below) as on Feb. 4 this crane was detected at Jasper-Pulaski in Indiana. This bird has been out of contact since last winter when it was at St. Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve in Florida and while it had departed with its flock mates heading north on Feb. 25th, had failed to return to the Necedah area. Crane #4 was also reported at Jasper-Pulaski on Jan. 31st. 

It has been a strange year for migration, with cranes staying much longer than usual at the northern staging areas before heading south toward the end of January. It would appear that the wild population of Sandhills did not stay for very long at their normal southern terminus as the refuge Manager reported that more than half of the ~10,000 cranes departed northbound from Hiwassee on January 27th.

Date:February 6, 2002
Reporter:Joe Duff
Activity:Deke Clark

Notes: How important Deke has become to the entire team in the short time we have known him speaks to the quality of his personality. He is an integral part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership and a participant on the Bird Team. He is a strong influence on the Operation Migration Board of Directors but contributes most of his time to the Field Team as a pilot, bird handler and calming voice of humour and reason when the pressures of migration weigh heavily on us all. Most of the team last visited with Deke during the Whooping Crane Recovery Team meeting held in January when we began the week-long session with a short ski trip in Quebec. 

This week the team is meeting again in Florida where most conversations begin with "how's Deke doing"? At last report he was responding to the doctors with hand gestures and it was evident that his humour is still intact when he was asked to raise one finger. On Monday his respirator tube was removed along with the monitor and when the doctor casually asked him how he was doing, he unexpectedly answered "better." 

Mostly, Deke is missed as a friend and confidant to everyone he works with. Last week we ordered new aircraft to replace the aging trikes we now use and  once they arrive we will modify them to fly with birds. One of them will carry Deke's name as "pilot in command" and it will be waiting for him, whenever he is ready to resume his position as leader of birds. All of us pray for his safe return and look forward to the day he will again join us in the fight to save Whooping cranes. Thank you to everyone that has sent cards and letters. Rebecca is reading these to Deke as she receives them and he smiles when he hears your words of encouragement and support.

Date:January 27, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray
Activity:Florida Update

Notes: We learned last Tuesday that the remains of #10 had been located not far from the shallow creek where the bird was last seen on Jan. 10th. It was evident that we had lost a second bird to a Bobcat. A live trap had been placed between the pen site and the monitoring blind and on Jan. 18th a male cat was successfully trapped and relocated and while it is impossible to determine if this is the one responsible for the death of #10, it is still another Bobcat removed from the area.

Sara Zimorski from the International Crane Foundation has joined Richard Urbanek in Florida to assist with monitoring duties. Sara helped the field team last summer at Necedah NWR and also traveled with the migration team as part of the tracking crew during the trip south. Sara has watched these birds mature and is familiar with the personalities of each of them. Over the past week she has attempted to convince the birds that they should stay in the pen each night instead of roosting outside of the enclosure. Each evening, Sara was positioned inside the release pen where she would broadcast the brood call to the birds. This method worked on 6 of the 7 nights and on one evening when the tide was low (about 20") the birds roosted in one of the pools inside the enclosure. Water levels over the week ranged from 20" - 32" with thick, black muck probably accounting for 14-17".  Birds were observed stomping and shaking their feet to remove muck after spending time in the pool inside the pen.

Before Sara's technique of persuading the flock to remain in the pen for the night, they had generally continued with the consistent pattern in which they would forage outside the pen in early morning, return to the pen and spend most of the day there, then leave the pen just before dark. 

The monitoring team reports that on January 17th, #2 produced the adult call while the others still have their chick voices. Dark facial pattern is well developed on all birds with the exception of #6.

During Marianne Wellington's drive home to Wisconsin from Florida she stopped at the Hiwassee refuge, a known Sandhill crane staging area in Tennessee to check for transmitter signals from the Y2K Sandhill's. The Sandhills had stayed longer than expected at the Jasper Pulaski staging area along with approximately 10,000 wild cranes but signals had not been detected at JP since January 10th. Marianne reports that signals were detected at Hiwassee on January 22nd from cranes  4, 8, 11, 12, and possibly 9, who is wearing an unreliable transmitter. Visuals were attempted but none made because of obstruction by the 10,000 cranes concentrated in the area. The report of #8 is most unexpected and will be further investigated because that bird has been missing since last winter when it departed from Florida along with the flock of 10 birds on February 25th but failed to appear at the Wisconsin training site. 

Date:January 25, 2002

All of the us at Operation Migration and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership were shocked to learn on Monday afternoon that Deke Clark had suffered a stroke sometime during the day while at home in Maryland. Rebecca was visiting family in Mexico at the time and Deke was alone. We first discovered the problem when we called Deke and noticed he was having difficulty speaking. We tried to call an ambulance from Canada but were unable to get a quick response. We did manage to reach Dan Sprague who also lives in Maryland and he made the 911 call. Deke was first taken to a local hospital and then transferred to Washington, DC where he remains in CCU.  I saw him on Tuesday morning and although he could not talk, he knew us all and communicated through facial expressions. As usual, he made us laugh and the twinkle in his eye was still there. Although Deke has a hard road ahead of him we are all confident he will make a full recovery. In the years that we have known him he has been never one to sit back and watch. Even before retiring from a stellar career with United Airlines he began calling us, wanting to help. Since that time we have depended on him as an integral part of the field team, a member of our Board of Directors and a true friend. So Deke - get well soon and whenever you are ready… your aircraft awaits.  

Anyone wishing to send letters/cards to Deke, please send them to our Canadian address and we will personally deliver them. Thank you.

Operation Migration
c/o Deke Clark
P.O. Box 280
Blackstock, ON
L0B 1B0

Date:January 20, 2002
Reporter:Heather Ray
Activity:Progress Report

Notes: There has been no sign of our #10 crane since she failed to return with the others on the morning of January 10th and a ground search by two costumed caretakers for a probable bobcat kill was unsuccessful.  Richard reports that the other five birds continue their consistent pattern in which they forage outside the pen in very early morning, return to the pen and spend most of the day there, then leave the pen just before dark to forage in or near a roost site outside the pen. Water roosting behaviour is dependant on water levels: if the tide is low they have been seen roosting in water, while if the tide is high they prefer to stay on land. 

While the monitoring crew has been busy in Florida; the team at headquarters in Ontario has been on the go wrapping up last year's study and preparing for this year's. Plans are being made; reports created; budgets drafted and finalized; grant requests authored and submitted; and meetings attended. Joe, Deke and I recently attended the annual Whooping Crane Recovery Team meeting, held this year in our nation's capitol, Ottawa. The four-day schedule consisted of presentations and reports dealing with everything from captive breeding management and the status of the Wood Buffalo/Aransas flock; to the fresh water inflow situation in Texas and how, if something is not done to correct the problem, there will not be enough Blue crabs to sustain the cranes during their winter stay in Texas. The Blue crab is a critical dietary component for the Whooping crane and recent studies have indicated a correlation between the amount of available crabs during the winter and the number of chicks hatched on the Canadian breeding grounds the following spring. When the winter crab population is low - egg production and the number of resulting chicks also declines - Another example of why we need to conserve water. 

Before the talks wrapped up the ten member recovery team met to discuss the various reports and make recommendations. Decisions were made which will affect this rarest of crane species and move the team closer to the goal of protecting and safeguarding the Whooping crane. 

Based on the projected number of hatches at the captive breeding centers, the team has allocated 18 chicks to the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership for this year's reintroduction project. The birds should begin hatching in April and another field training season will get underway but until then we will continue to attend the numerous meetings and conference calls and endeavor to raise the funds necessary to carry out year two of the reintroduction of Whooping cranes into eastern North America.

Our immediate need for funding is to cover the cost of three new ultralight aircraft. The trikes we have been using were purchased for the film Fly Away Home made in 1995 and since then they have logged hundreds of hours in flight with four bird species: Canada geese, Trumpeter swans, Sandhill cranes and most recently Whooping cranes. The rigorous ground work necessary to condition the young birds to accept and follow the aircraft in flight is unkind to the tiny planes.  These replacement ultralights will guide a new flock of whoopers through each of the four years remaining in this historic endeavor.

President Jimmy Carter visited the flight team at one of our Georgia stopovers last November and the topic of replacing the aircraft was discussed. He and wife Roslyn personally pledged a check in the amount of $1000.00 to start the fund for the new equipment. True to their word, approximately three weeks ago, their check arrived at our office. This is a great start toward our goal, however, each unit, modified to fly with birds, carries a ticket price of just under $20,000.00 so we have a long way to go and once ordered, delivery from the manufacturer in France is another 6 weeks past the order date. Once here, the necessary modifications must be made, including the addition of the propeller guards which protect the cranes from getting too close to the prop. Time is running out - but as always, we remain optimistic that everything will fall into place before the field training season begins.

Date:January 15, 2002
Reporter:Joe Duff
Activity:Missing Crane

Notes: Radio tracking devices like the ones that our birds wear have a tough life; attached upside down to the leg band they must be completely waterproof and temperature insensitive. They must contain enough battery life to last several migrations; weigh less than 30 grams; and be strong enough to withstand the constant pecking of birds wishing to be unencumbered. It is not surprising when one malfunctions and that is what happened to the radio unit on crane #10.
On Sunday, January 6th the monitoring team noticed the absence of a signal from this bird's transmitter and asked the WCEP Bird Team for approval to change the unit. This means capturing the bird, cutting the old band off and refitting a new one. The entire time the bird must be hooded to prevent her seeing humans and held in what handlers call the standard football carry; keeping the wings protected from injury and the legs accessible - not to mention the beak safely out of jabbing range. With approval obtained, the plan was to switch the band in the morning on Thursday, January 10th but when the team, including Marilyn Spalding DVM, Richard Urbanek and Marianne Wellington arrived, #10 was not with the rest of the flock.
The night before, all the birds had moved out of the pen to roost in an area that was not the best. In order to be safe, wading birds like cranes sleep in water at night. This makes it difficult for predators to sneak up on them without being noticed. The area our birds selected was a narrow stream with the shoreline so close that a bobcat could easily pounce on them. Although we have no evidence of what happened, we do know that in the morning the rest of the birds returned to the pen but #10 was not with them. There are many documented cases of birds that have disappeared - only to turn up, sometimes years later but without a tracking device we can only wait and hope.

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