Crane Migration Update: April 29, 2005
Eastern Flock: Four
Chicks Complete Migration!
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
"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:
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.
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
through their spring courtship ritual. All cranes have elaborate
dances that both the male and female participate in. The dance is a
of leaps and bows with a lot of jumping and wing flapping. (More on this
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?
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?
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.”
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:
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.”
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.
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