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Whooping Crane Migration Update: April 29, 2005

Today's Report Includes:

Today's Migration Data

Eastern Flock: Four Chicks Complete Migration!
A total of five chicks are now home! Cranes 401, 407, 408, and 414 left Adams County, Wisconsin where they arrived 3 days ago and made the short flight to Yellow River Cranberry, just east of Necedah NWR, on April 27! They joined older cranes #312 and #316.

Migration is still in progress for chicks #402, 403, 415, 416, 417, 419, and 420 (Group 1B, color red on the map). Where are they now, and how long have they been there? The map and migration data will tell you. What do you think is keeping them from moving north to finish their migration?

Through the telephoto lens: #401, 407, 408, and 414 join #312 and #316.
Photo Dr. R. Urbanek.

PTT data showed crane #418 at his Scott County, Indiana stopover site on April 22-24. He is Group 3, color green on the map. ICF’s aviculturalist/tracker Sara Zimorski has spent a lot of time with all these chicks. Sara said, “I think the cooler weather and northerly winds we had around that time might have kept him there. We're sure he spent at least 3 nights there. After that we're not sure.” The WCEP team trackers hoped to get a PTT reading just as our report was being posted. Will the remaining 8 chicks be home by our next report? keep up here:

Three Still Lost in Ontario
One of the three HY2003 birds that summered in Lower Michigan in 2004 and got off-course on their journey north is no longer with the other two. Cranes 301, 309, and 318 were last observed together near Holland Centre, Grey County, Ontario, on the morning of April 14. No reports of #309 have been received since. PTT readings showed movement of the other two, who were reported April 28 from a small marsh on the Bruce Peninsula. Find it on a map. What will happen next? Be sure to see the discussion of CQ #11, below, and keep up with these three wanderers in their life stories found here: Meet the Flock; Hatch Year 2003

Egg Update: Challenge Question #12
"Unfortunately, no more nesting or eggs this week,” reports Sara Zimorski about the ultra-crane pairs who have built their very first nests. “I'm sort of thinking they're done for the year, but who knows?” Perhaps 2005 will not be the year, after all, when the world will see the first Eastern flock parents to lead their own little chicks on the journey south instilled in them by the tiny yellow ultralight planes. But there IS good egg news from the captive breeding center at Wisconsin’s ICF. Sara: “We just candled our second intact whooper egg and yippee, it's fertile! We now have two fertile eggs. Both will be sent to Patuxent WRC for hatching as part of the new 2005 ultralight flock. We got a third intact egg yesterday morning. It'll be a week or so before we can tell for sure if it’s fertile. The female whooper that laid yesterday’s egg was almost 3 weeks behind her normal laying schedule. She was starting to worry me, so I was really excited to find that egg yesterday. It's been a slow spring so far for us; the birds are behind and slow to lay eggs. Three other whooper eggs were broken by clumsiness after they’d been laid.” This makes us wonder how you will answer:

Challenge Question #12:
“If the birds are behind in laying eggs for the 2005 ultralight migration, what might be some consequences?”

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

NOTE: Consider these facts as you form your answer:

  • The team hopes for a record 24 chicks in the fall migration.
  • Chicks must each be trained individually at first, 20 minutes per day.
  • Chicks must be shipped from Patuxent to Necedah well before they fledge at about 100 days of age.
  • The age range between the youngest and the oldest chicks in the flock can be a problem in matching their flying skill and endurance before migration begins.Chicks must work out a pecking order on the ground and in the air before migration can begin.
  • Fall weather is unstable, and the earlier migration can start, the better the trip should be.

Watch the actual results of this question play out when you follow Journey South reports. (They begin in September when school starts again.)

Click map for more information and activities.

Western Flock: Field Notes from Canada
“Dear Journey North,” writes biologist Brian Johns from Canada. “Weather conditions have not been very conducive to migration, but weather in Wood Buffalo has been slightly warmer than further south in Saskatchewan. Most of the snow is gone from the nesting wetlands and only the larger lakes are still ice covered. (Click on map.) In Saskatchewan the temperatures have cooled considerably over the last week. We even had snow the evening of April 26 and also on April 28. Winds have been strong and out of the north or northwest, so the birds did not have many good migration days this past week. On April 28 the wind was again out of the north so the cranes did not move then either. Only two sightings were confirmed since last week. One of those was a family group in the southeastern corner of Saskatchewan near the Manitoba and North Dakota borders.
Whoopers Dancing Photo Brian Johns

“The family of people that reported the cranes were able to watch the family of cranes for about an hour before they took off and continued their journey north. While the cranes were on the ground, the adult cranes were going through their spring courtship ritual. All cranes have elaborate dances that both the male and female participate in. The dance is a series of leaps and bows with a lot of jumping and wing flapping. (More on this next time!)

“I hope the weather warms in the next few days and winds are out of the south so the cranes can continue their migration.”

Brian Johns, Wildlife Biologist
Canadian Wildlife Service
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Western Flock: Tom Stehn’s Report and Injured Chick Update
Of the 217 whoopers that arrived last fall at Aransas NWR, how many survived the winter? Have all of them left for their Canadian nesting grounds, or are some still at Aransas? How much farther must the cranes on the northern edge of the agricultural country in Saskatchewan fly north across forest lands before they reach their nesting grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park? Of course you remember the Aransas NWR chick that was either bitten by a snake or attacked by a raptor in Tom Stehn’s report last week. You will be happy to hear Tom’s prediction. Tom shares what he found during his April 27 flight over the refuge to count cranes, and you may be surprised! What are Tom’s final words?
Lobstick twins with a parent.
Later: One twin injured.

Western Flock: Photos from the Migration Trail
Sometimes people are lucky enough to see whooping cranes on migration! From her USFWS post at Grand Island, Nebraska Martha Tacha shares photos taken by an observer who saw 6 cranes on Nebraska’s Niobrara River near the Niobrara Valley Preserve on April 16. Don’t you wish you could have been there to see them too?
6 Whoopers in Nebraska April 16
Photos by Willard Gudgel
They're headed from Texas to Canada.

Try This!
The crane sighting location was near Johnstown, Nebraska. Pull out a detailed map of Nebraska and compare the sighting location with the map of the flyway. How do they compare? How many miles farther do you think it is to the nesting grounds?

Baby Chick's Feeding Lesson
Photo WCEP
Baby Book: Now Four Chicks Hatched for WCEP Class of 2005!
More exciting news comes this week from Mark Nipper at the captive breeding facility at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. Three more chicks for next fall’s ultralight-led migration have hatched since #1 appeared on April 19!The WCEP team, always in white costume, will teach the babies to eat and drink. They will take them for their first walks out into the world, and start the training that will get these HY05 chicks to Florida next fall.

How are the new chicks doing? Mark reports that “#2 is eating and drinking on its own, and #3 likes to run around the pen. Slow-hatching chicks, like #4, cause us some concern, so this chick is being watched closely. So far, #4 is doing just fine. Chick #1 is eating and drinking independently and will be going outside soon.”

Role Model #206 and Chick
Photo WCEP
Mark adds another important thing: “We brought our adult whooping crane ‘models’ over to our chick-raising building.” One of the role models is adult #206, who was unable to join the flock in 2002 for the ultralight-led journey south. “She has become a fantastic model. She calls to the chicks and even tries to feed them through the walls of the pens. Our other adult model is #206's pen-mate and good buddy. This bird, used as a model last year, is a little nervous at times, but is also a great model for the chicks.”
Whooping Crane Kids: Learning Life’s Lessons (Journey North for Kids)
Baby whoopers in the Western flock come into the world very differently from the babies in the Eastern flock. But they all must learn the same things. Coming into the world and learning who they are. Finding food. Finding a safe place to roost at night. Finding their place in the group “pecking order.” Learning how and where to migrate. Who has it easier—chicks hatched in captivity or chicks hatched in the wild? Compare pictures and think about questions as you see how whooping crane kids learn life’s basic lessons. Find the fun in our new “Journey North for Kids” pages:

Try This!
After you find out how whooper chicks learn life’s lessons, tell (or write, or act out, or draw) which you’d rather be: wild hatched or captive hatched. Explain the best and worst parts about each.

Off On the Wrong Wing? You and Experts Discuss Challenge Question #11
On their second journey north, "ultra-cranes" #301, #309 and #318 were off course and turned up in Ontario, Canada. With two of the Great Lakes separating them from the Wisconsin introduction area, it is unlikely they will make it back on their own. We asked you to consider the problem and the plan. Then we asked: “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.”

Several Iselin (NJ) Middle School 7th graders gave this question some thought. They would definitely try to help the cranes. Some would make sure the cranes were given check-ups and food supplies to fuel them on their way home. And all of you who responded agreed you would guide the lost whoopers back to Wisconsin with planes. The students are not alone in thinking this is a good solution. What do WCEP experts think?

Ultralight pilot Joe Duff responds: “Some have asked why not lead them back using the ultralights instead of shipping them in crates. These birds are now sub-adults and, like any teenager, they no longer listen to their parents. It is unlikely they would follow us at all--let alone 600 miles to Wisconsin. That is half the distance of our migration route, and we would have to identify about 12 stopovers and somehow get around Chicago.”

Heather Ray points out, “The other consideration is weather patterns. The weather typically moves across our continent in a west-to-east manner. The headwinds would be horrible.”
Time will tell what happens next.

You can follow the fate of the three lost cranes by clicking to their life stories (cranes #301, #309, and #318) on our “Meet the Flock” chart for the Hatch Year 2003 whoopers.

Year-End Evaluation: Please Share Your Thoughts!
Please take a few minutes to share your suggestions and comments in our Year-End Evaluation. The information readers provide is critical for planning new initiatives and for improving Journey North. We'd appreciate your help. THANK YOU!

Journey North
Year End Evaluation
Please share your thoughts

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 #12.
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions above.

The FINAL Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on May 13, 2005.

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