Sara Reports: Numbers, Numbers May 2, 2008
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As you read Sara's report this week . . .

1. What record does #516 hold?

2. What is the plan for the young DAR birds that ended up in Michigan?

3. What is unusual about the "spring wandering" done by the juvenile whoopers?

Meet Sara

Dear Journey North,

Sometimes I feel like this project is all about numbers. During this time of year I’m not in the field as much, so it’s harder to keep track of everything that’s going on — even though my interns keep me very well informed. When I’m in the field during the fall and winter I become completely immersed in the daily movements and activities of all the birds. I could tell you where every bird is located. But now that I’m mainly working at ICF with our captive whooping cranes, and it’s harder to keep track of every individual in the WCEP population. This is also an incredibly busy time of year. Birds are completing migration. Older birds are pairing up and nesting. Even after the juveniles arrive in Wisconsin, they wander all over the place. We call it "spring wandering," a phenomenon previously undocumented in cranes.

The reintroduced population currently numbers 72 individual birds. I recently spent a few minutes counting up all the numbers to help myself figure out where all the birds were. I thought I’d share that with you as a good way to wrap up the season. (There will surely be changes and more news throughout the rest of the spring and summer!)
Wisconsin 58 known to be back plus #735 (incapable of flight), who remains in a pen on the refuge. Of the 58 free flying whooping cranes that are known to be here, 34 are on the Necedah NWR. Ten older birds are close by in areas surrounding the refuge, and 13 are the 2007 ultralight juveniles who are wandering around WI. 
Total: 59
Florida #516 is still here, as of April 30th. He now holds the record for staying in FL the latest before beginning spring migration.( Last year he and #509 tied for that record.). Our colleagues who work with the non-migratory flock of Whooping Cranes in FL are monitoring him for us when they do flights to check on their birds. It’s strange that he’s still in FL but he appears to be fine so we’ll keep watching and waiting. 
Total: 1
Michigan The six 2007 DAR birds are all here. One group of 5 is together in Tuscola County and the 6th bird (40-07) recently arrived in Mason or Manistee County. As we’ve done in the past, we’ll plan to try and retrieve the DAR birds and bring them back to Wisconsin. A 2005 crane has returned to Michigan for her third summer.
Total: 7
Unknown The locations of only 5 birds in the entire population are unknown. They include #727 and 733, who were known to get to IN and IL before being left behind as other birds were tracked into WI.
Total: 5

See why it’s hard to keep track of everything? Luckily Richard, Colleen, Anna, and Eva do a fantastic job tracking all of these birds and keeping us all informed.

Take care and have a great summer.

Sara Zimorski, Aviculturalist

You saw tracker Eva's great photos in the main report. Here's another: Male #216 gives the alarm call.

Photo Eva Szyszkoski

Nest News

Check the nest update!

We’ve had a total of 11 nests so far this spring. One of them (#209, 416) had already failed by the time Richard Urbanek did the first nest survey on April 14th. Crane #209 has an injured right leg so that pair is not likely to re-nest.

Of the remaining 10 nests, 9 of them are on the Necedah NWR and 1 is off the refuge.

Unfortunately, the nest of #505 & 415 failed on April 30 (small pieces of eggshell were found in the nest). While it’s disappointing, it’s not necessarily surprising; this pair just formed this winter and neither bird had previous nesting experience. We’ve all got our fingers crossed for some of the remaining nests to hatch — the first of which should hatch next week!