Crane Migration Update: April 15, 2005
is First Chick Home!
For details of your favorite 2004 chick’s migratory journey, or journeys of any of the other 32 whoopers of the Eastern flock, click on the flock chart for their hatch year on this page:
Eastern Flock Field Notes: Four Busy Generations
A total of 28 Whooping Cranes are now in the vicinity of the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Wisconsin. As the Eastern flock returns, ultralight pilot Joe Duff has some heartwarming comments about the birds he’s led behind his tiny plane: “There are now four generations of Whooping cranes returning each spring to the core introduction area in and around the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Despite the fact that they have made this trip before, and their behaviour is somewhat predictable, it is still exciting when the latest additions make a beeline for central Wisconsin. This year, however, there is more to be excited about. Numbers 211 and 217 have been seen nest building on East Rynearson Pool, only a short distance from where they were trained to follow our aircraft. And 213 and 218 have begun building their nest near the site 2 training area. There are others that have pair-bonded, but this is the first indication that breeding may take place sooner than we expected. This encouraging news must be tempered with the realization that inexperienced birds often make poor parents, and that it may take a year or two before they successfully raise a chick. Nonetheless, the Tracking Team will keep a close watch from a safe distance, and the rest of us will be waiting to pass out cigars.” (Next week we’ll share more about the nesting and chick-rearing process.)
Pictured here are "lost" whooping cranes #301, #309 and #318. The three spent summer 2004 in Michigan when getting around Lake Michigan stymied them on their first journey north. From Michigan, they migrated south and spent the 2004-05 winter in Jones County, North Carolina. The trio was monitored over the winter by Operation Migration volunteer Walter Sturgeon. (Walt is president of the Whooping Crane Conservation Association.) Walt took these photos on what turned out to be the cranes' last day at their Jones County, NC winter area.
Imagine you are #418 and decide when you’ll leave the wintering grounds. What date do you plan to depart? Keep these facts in mind as you calculate your departure date:
Are you wondering if #418 will come back to Wisconsin, migrating all by himself? We'll just have to wait and see. It's his first journey north, so how will he know where and when to stop?
When the birds were in "flight school" at Necedah last summer, the Operation Migration team made sure the birds developed their recognition of the area at Necedah NWR where they learned to fly. Lead ultralight pilot Joe Duff explained then, "We fly these birds locally a lot. It gives them a wide picture of what they're looking for on their way back. When they reach the latitude they're familiar with, they think 'Now, it's around here somewhere. Let's just look for it.'" Hear Joe explain more:
Brian Johns sends exciting news from Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park, nesting grounds of the natural (Western) flock. How long did it take the first whoopers from the Texas wintering grounds to reach Canada? In what size groups did they travel? What’s the outlook for the nesting season? Brian has the answers right here:
“The Saskatchewan staging area and the nesting grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park both received greater than normal amounts of snow over the winter. This increased snowfall should lead to better water conditions than we have experienced in the last few years. I have my fingers crossed that all the pairs will arrive safely on the nesting grounds and have a successful breeding season. Stay tuned for next week's update."
Western Flock Field Notes: The Big Push is On!
North of Aransas,
at the USFWS office in Grand Island Nebraska, Martha Tacha reports at
least two confirmed sightings of migrating
Kansas. Pull out a map and see if you can pinpoint the whoopers’ locations as they
head for their nesting grounds in Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park.
Here’s the code: A is adults and J is juvenile. How many
cranes were in each of these two groups?
Fly by Night? Discussion of Challenge Question #8
Last time we told you about #412’s 13-hour detour on April 3. Crane #412 is building quite a history for himself! Surprisingly, older ultra-cranes #105 and 204 stayed with #412 even in the dark as they flew this marathon day over unfamiliar territory. We asked, “What does this tell us about how whooping Cranes learn their migration route?”
School/7th graders sent their thoughts:
Last time Tom Stehn told us that whooping cranes travel in small groups, often in groups of 5 or fewer. (What further proof did you notice in reports from Brian and Martha, above?) Single cranes sometimes even make the migration by themselves. Tom asked this challenge question: “What advantages can you list for the cranes to migrate at different times and not in large groups?”
Iselin Middle School 7th graders put some excellent thinking into their answers. Joe and Kurt listed these advantages to flying in small groups: more food to eat; not as easily seen; better for hunting; fewer cranes in danger if a storm would happen or a predator come after them. Sirena, Kristen, Brianna, and Monica said finding food and rest stops would be easier for a small group than a large group. There would be less chance of getting into fights. Very impressive answers!
Migration Dangers: Link to Lesson and Teacher Tip
Whoopers face only one natural enemy in the air while migrating. What is it? Add other perils on the ground and in the air, and migration is a dangerous time for whooping cranes. Read Tom’s page describing the risks of migration. How many are due to human actions?
Teacher Tip: Reading and Writing Connections
Tom’s short nonfiction article is an ideal selection to explore with our companion teacher-created reading lesson full of ideas to Read, Revisit, and Reflect. You’ll find the link at the top of the selection, by the book icon. One example of many you'll find:
Before you Read: Ask students about their journeys/vacations/travels. How did they prepare for the journey? What were possible dangers? (Connecting to Students’ Prior Knowledge)
Migration excitement will continue next week, but there’s a whole new nesting season ahead. What must baby whoopers learn from their parents? What must they learn on their own? We’ll explore that fun topic with a brand new Journey North for Kids series. Migration and the life cycle of whoopers are topics to fascinate and enchant.
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