Whooping Crane Whooping Crane
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Whooping Crane Migration Update: April 22, 2005

Today's Report Includes:

Happy Earth Day! News to Celebrate
Today is Earth Day, and it’s fitting that we have a wonderful week of whooper news to share! Crane #418 began his migration at last. The first baby chick for next fall’s ultralight flock is 3 days old! Three lost ultra-cranes in Canada have been found. Several of the only remaining natural migratory flock are already well into Canada. And--the very FIRST eggs from whoopers in the tiny Eastern flock were laid at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge this week! Now read the rest of each story:

Eastern Flock: Heading Home to Wisconsin
For weeks, all eyes have been on chick #418, and this week he must have heard everyone cheering for him when he finally departed on migration! Crane #418 is the juvenile who successfully migrated from Wisconsin to Florida last fall without the aid of ultralight aircraft. He was released on Necedah NWR, Wisconsin, during late October 2004 and made his first autumn migration mainly by following older whooping cranes. Until now he was the only bird in the eastern migratory flock to remain in Florida this spring.

Then, on April 19, satellite telemetry readings indicated that #418 roosted at a migration stop in northern Georgia. He apparently began migration from his Florida wintering area on April 18. We join all the WCEP folks in saying “Well done, #418! Safe travels and we hope to see you in Wisconsin soon!”

Crane #418 is shown on our migration map as Group 3, color green. Just one of the HY2004 chicks is on Wisconsin’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge where the birds learned to fly. The other 11 birds in the Class of 2004 are in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, as shown on the latest migration map. Will they return to the Refuge? Stay tuned!

Can you find the crane nest?
Click for larger picture.
Photo Richard Urbanek

Two Eggs Laid at Necedah NWR! Are More on the Way?
This week two whooper pairs made history-making news. Crane pair 101 and 202 produced the first egg ever laid by reintroduced whooping cranes in the eastern migratory flock! Shortly after, a second whooping crane egg was laid in the nest of pair #211 and 217. Both eggs were lost to predators; you can read details on the “Meet the Flock” charts where every Eastern crane’s personal biography is kept up to date.

Thanks to high-power telescopes and zoom lenses, we know about the eggs and can share photos and news. Dr. Richard Urbanek only went in to check the nest because the birds appeared to abandon the site when they moved to farmland off the refuge. He knew the absent birds would not be disturbed by checking the nest and getting these pictures. The WCEP team wants to know what is happening, but they also want the birds to have as much of a chance for success as possible. That's why they always keep their distance when the birds are around. In spite of the setback of losing both eggs, officials are hoping these pairs will keep trying. (Egg loss is quite common with inexperienced birds.)

Try This! Learning From Mistakes
Many people assume that a creature with a "bird brain" behaves mostly by instinct and doesn't learn. But ornithologists who study cranes have long known that birds perfect their nesting behaviors with experience, which means they can learn from their mistakes. Make two columns on the chalkboard or a piece of paper. In the first column, list some ways a crane egg can be destroyed. In the second column, list things the crane might learn when this happens, and things they might try to avoid it happening again. After you make your list, compare your thoughts with those of Journey North’s expert Laura Erickson

#301, #309, and #318
Photo Walt Sturgeon

Off on the Wrong Wing? Challenge Question #11
On their second journey north, "ultra-cranes" #301, #309 and #318 were found last week in Ontario, Canada. They are lost! With two of the Great Lakes separating them from the Wisconsin introduction area, it is unlikely they will make it back on their own. What to do? Answer the Challenge Question below after you first consider the problem and the plan:

  • Cranes Lose Their Way

    Challenge Question #11:
    “Imagine you are a WCEP leader. Would you do anything about the lost cranes? If so, what? List things you considered in making your decision.”

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Whooper Sightings in Canada! Click to enlarge.

Western Flock: Field Notes from the Canadian Nesting Grounds
Since last week, only one confirmed sighting (six adult cranes in Kansas) has been received by Martha Tacha from her post at Grand Island, Nebraska, but several whoopers heading from Texas are well into Canada, as shown by red dots this map of Canada!

“Dear Journey North,” writes biologist Brian Johns from Canada. “Whooping crane migration is in full swing through Saskatchewan. The birds are now as far north as Meadow Lake. This is the cranes’ last stop in grain fields before they head across the boreal forests of northern Saskatchewan and Alberta to their nesting grounds along the Northwest Territories border. While in grain fields, the cranes are searching for waste grain left over from last fall's harvest.

“The birds leave at different times from the wintering grounds on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, so their spring migration is strung out over about a month-long period. The first birds that arrive here are the birds that have nested before. The later arrivals are usually younger pairs or birds not yet old enough to breed. At least 18 different birds have been seen so far. They include a couple of family groups along with several pairs of birds. More are still to come. They are currently moving through the northern great plains of the United States.”

How far can the cranes travel in a day? How many hours do they fly? How high do they fly? What do they look for when it’s time to stop for the night? Brian Johns shares wonderful details to tell us about a day in the life of a migrating wild whooper. Let’s go see what it’s like!

Try This! After you read Brian’s page, go back to the first two paragraphs and find all the metric measurements that describe how fast or far cranes fly. List them in your science journal and convert them to English measurements. Then share the most surprising thing you learned about crane travel with your family or friends.

Click to see the chick's swelling.
Injured Chick at Aransas: Is the Culprit a Snake or Raptor?
“ I am not doing a census flight at Aransas this week due to no time in my schedule,” writes biologist Tom Stehn from Aransas. “But I do know about one juvenile whooping crane that is still here. This 'chick' was reported on April 2 by a graduate student as acting very lethargic and with a very swollen head and upper neck. We started daily monitoring of the bird, done especially by the Whooping Crane Tour Boat Captain Tommy Moore, who runs his boat named Skimmer. The chick was not eating, and spent most of its time actually sitting down in the marsh, something cranes rarely do except when they are sitting on nests. One day we thought it had died.”

How did Tom (and the chick’s parents) try to help the sick bird? How did the chick get injured? The chick’s parents are no longer there. Why? What will happen to this brave young bird? Tom tells you the rest of the story here, and it’s a GOOD one:

Mark Nipper,
Mark is Operation Migration’s lead aviculturalist and Supervisor of Field Operations. He has been at Patuxent for a month, getting ready for the new Hatch Year 2005 (HY05) cohort of chicks that will follow the ultralights south next fall.

Baby Book: First Chick Hatched for WCEP Class of 2005!
Exciting news comes this week from Mark Nipper at the captive breeding facility at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. The first chick for next fall’s ultralight-led migration hatched on April 19! How will this chick be named?

Mark says, “It is still very early, but our first little chick looks good. It won't be long before we are overflowing with babies. It is great to think of beginning another year of raising little crane babies; teaching them to eat and drink, taking them for their first walks out into the world, and kicking off the training that will eventually get us to Florida.”

Do you think biologists get any clues as to when the chicks are about to hatch? Mark explains: “Our next few chicks haven't pipped yet but are responding to calls from within the egg. The staff is able to tell when the chick is getting close to pipping by purring (like the brood call) to it. The egg is floated in a warm water/betadine solution and then called to. If it is far enough along, it will wiggle and maybe even peep a little.” Stay tuned for more chick news next week!

Chick #501 hatched out April 19
#501 was moved into an ICU at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
Doctors take a blood sample and check the chick.

Photos OM

Countdown to Migration for #418: Discussion of CQ #10
Last week, everyone was STILL wondering: “What date do you predict Crane #418 [the only HY 2004 chick who hasn’t started migration] will depart Florida on his first journey north? Explain your prediction.”

“We think crane #418 will depart Florida on its first journey north between the middle of April and the early days of May, probably between April 17 and May 4. We predict this because we used the following information: The average number of days spent on the wintering grounds is 121. However, the hatch year 2004 flock left after 104 days, earlier than expected. We added 104 days to his arrival date, January 3rd, and arrived at April 17. If you add 17 more days, the average time (121 - 104 = 17) we get May 4.” Iselin Middle School/grade 7 students Tapan, Navdeep, Priscilla, Roopsi, Brittany, and Rodny were just one day off—and that’s just terrific! Congratulations on your good thinking and calculating!
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:

IMPORTANT: Answer only ONE question in each e-mail message.

1. Address an e-mail message to: jn-challenge-crane@learner.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #11.
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions above.

The Next Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 29, 2005.

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