March 30 was the third Sunday in a row that I went
up to Necedah to check for newly arrived whooping cranes. This
time I was also meeting
Colleen, one of ICF’s tracking interns. Colleen left Florida
on March 26th to help track some of the first ultralight-led (UL)
birds that began their
migration March 25. Now we needed
her at Necedah to take care of #735 — and
to monitor the growing number of
suspected that more cranes had returned than we had yet found.
Snow banks on some roads blocked my previous tracking
trips, but now only one road was impassable (flooded from
all the melting snow).
We immediately heard and saw most of the birds we knew to be on
the southern part of the refuge. They
included #309, whose signal is like music to my ears after 4 years
of not having her on the refuge. We then made
our way much farther north on roads that were now clear.
up a number of new signals from birds that hadn’t yet been
confirmed back in Wisconsin: #317, 105, 401 and 508,
512, and 505.
sightings made me think that looking
for cranes is like a treasure hunt with levels
that get more exciting as you go:
first level is hearing
a signal that you’ve already heard, then seeing a bird
that you’ve already seen.
The next level is seeing a
bird whose signal you previously heard but whom you weren’t
able to see.
next level is hearing a new signal, then seeing that
Finally, I think the most exciting level is seeing a
bird with a non-functional transmitter (NFT) and confirming
back, alive and well. Seeing them is the only
way to know they are back.
Crane #303's transmitter doesn’t
work but we were able to see her with her mate, #317. They
were back on their territory! We were
whose transmitter no longer works, with several other birds.
We hope that #311 is still with #312 and that #415 is
but we weren’t able to see them. We’ll have
to be patient and keep checking, plus hope the flooding stops
so we can
A GREAT Day Finding Cranes
the end of Sunday, March 30, we had 27 birds on the refuge!
We also knew of two others back
total of 29. Since that day, 4 more have been
confirmed back in Wisconsin. As I write this on April 2, Colleen
saw #216 on the refuge. He’s
another one without a functional transmitter so it’s
a great sighting. There are
probably more than these 33 back in Wisconsin that we just
found yet. The treasure hunt will continue! Luckily
to help me.
News: #309's First Return in Five Springtimes!
right are 213 & 218
and on the left are 309 & 403. This
picture is very exciting for several reasons:
exciting news is that for the first time ever, #309
returned to WI on her own! (
Well, she might have been following #403, but she’s back!!) This
is the bird who spent her first summer in Michigan and at least part
of her next 3 summers in New York.
we caught her in NC and brought her to FL, where she eventually ended
up living with the 2005 ultralight-led chicks at the Chassahowitzka
pen. We hoped she’d follow the chicks back to WI, but instead
she left one day early with #520 and returned to New York. We caught
them to WI, where they spent the summer. They migrated correctly to
FL in the fall and eventually separated and seemed to pair with other
birds. Unfortunately #309 separated from her new mate in Indiana during
migration that spring and once again returned to NY. We finally caught
her (for the third time) last October and returned her to Necedah
once again. The very next day she paired with #403. The pair
established a territory and built two nests. (Building nests
fall is unheard of in cranes.) It seemed to be “love at first
sight” for this pair. We hoped it would last and that finally
#309 would stick with this bird and make it back to Wisconsin. You
imagine the excitement we felt when her signal was first detected on
the refuge! It’s a great feeling of accomplishment that
she made it, as well as a huge relief that we won’t
have to make a trip to NY this year to catch her. Now she can truly
part of this population.
exciting think about this photo is that #309 and #403 look to be
a really good pair defending their territory from neighboring
pair 213 & 218. It was fascinating watching these two pairs
display and call back and forth to each other. They did unison
crowns were expanded and bright red. They were strutting. They did
drop-wing threats, and I even saw 309 stomp and do several crouch
threats. We hope they established their territory borders and will
live peacefully next to each other. It was thrilling to see 309
back at Necedah, having gotten there on her own. I have high
her this spring!
Photo Sara Zimorski, ICF