Brian Reports: Cranes Near Home
April 27, 2007
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As you read Brian's report this week . . .

1. Where have Whoopers been reported in Canada?

2. Where is the flock's nesting grounds located?

3. Which cranes will Brian especially look for? Why?

Dear Journey North,

Over the last couple of weeks many days with strong southerly winds have brought warm temperatures to the southern prairies of Canada. The warmth has melted the last bits of snow from winter. The southerly winds brought warm temperatures, and also the first Whooping Cranes into Canada. The first confirmed sighting was on April 11 near the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area. Since then, Whooping Cranes have been seen all across the agricultural portion of their migration route from near Odessa in southeastern Saskatchewan all the way to Debden in Central Saskatchewan. All that is left for some of the pairs is to cross the boreal forested areas of northern Saskatchewan and Alberta before settling back onto their summer home in the northeastern corner of Wood Buffalo National Park. The park is just west of the town of Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.

The Female Who Lost Her Mate
As you know, one of our banded males (red-Yellow) was found dead in North Dakota on April 18. He has been paired with the same female since 1986. They have brought 7 young to the Texas wintering grounds over the years. Soon I will be looking over his former territory, adjacent to the Sass River, to see if I can find his mate. She is also banded (White-Red) but now only retains the aluminum band. By the time I find her she is likely to have found a new mate. But she is not likely to nest this year. Because she's an older female, it is likely that her new mate will be much younger than her, and she may bring him to the territory that she and her old mate established so many years ago. It is unfortunate that we have lost him. But the female's change in mates will give us an opportunity to learn more information on re-pairing and subsequent nesting.

A Favorite Bird
The surviving female is an older bird, and you may be surprised to know that her dad is still alive! He is one of our oldest known cranes and he is one of my favorite birds. This old bird is known as the Lobstick male. He was banded as a youngster in 1978. Over the years he has lost all his bands. But he still continues to use the same nesting territory along Lobstick Creek that he has used since 1982. His mate has no bands, so we do not know how old she is or how long she has been his mate. White-Red, who is their daughter, was also their first chick. White-Red's dad (the Lobstick male) will be 29 years old this June. The Lobstick pair is one of the first pairs that I see during my spring surveys on the breeding grounds. They also stop at the same location about an hour’s drive from my house each fall. I am really looking forward to seeing these birds and all the cranes again over the next few weeks.

The Lobstick pair and twin chicks in 2003. Which are the chicks?
Photo Brian Johns.

Brian Johns
Wildlife Biologist
Canadian Wildlife Service
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada