Eastern Flock News
May 8, 2009
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ICF aviculturalist Sara Zimorski sends this week's news.

Dear Journey North,
Well it's been an interesting spring filled with lots of good things and unfortunately some bad ones as well, but definitely interesting. Here goes:

#309's Nest Lost, Eggs Saved
Unfortunately the one remaining nest failed since we last reported. On May 3rd, just a few days before it was due to hatch, two fertile and viable (meaning still alive) eggs were collected from the nest and brought to ICF when the nest was abandoned. The eggs looked good and were old enough that you could see them move when the brood call was played for them; this is how we knew they were still alive. By May 5 one of them was peeping. This means the chick had gotten into the aircell and was getting closer to hatching. So on May 6 Kim, one of our newer aviculturists, took both those eggs plus a fertile egg produced at ICF to Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. We hope these 3 eggs will hatch and become part of the ultralight-led project this fall. If they make it, those chicks will get to return to Necedah where two of them came from!

2009 Nesting Chart >>
Photo Sara Zimorski, ICF
Do you see the pair #309 and #403 moving through the woods? They shook their heads and rubbed their heads on their backs, showing signs of discomfort from the pesty black flies that drove them off their nest for good, just a few days before the eggs were due to hatch. But there's good news about their rescued eggs.

#309: A Special Connection
It's really disappointing to have the last nest (#309 and #403's) fail, even though I sort of expected it given what's happened to the other nests this year and for the past several years. I have a special place in my heart for #309, having caught and relocated her 3 separate times in an effort to get her to migrate correctly to Wisconsin (scroll down her bio page for those stories). I was excited she and her mate were able to continue sitting after the mass abandonment (now almost two weeks ago). Last year when they abandoned their nest we found evidence that their egg or eggs had been fertile so as it got closer and closer to when those eggs should hatch and they were still sitting I couldn't help but get excited thinking they were going to do the seemingly impossible and hatch their own eggs.

As disappointing as the nest failures are, I do think we've learned a lot this spring and I think we're much closer to understanding why the birds abandon their nests.

Good News! Mystery Bird is #316
Yesterday Eva was able to confirm the identity of the mystery bird #42-07 DAR has been hanging out with since about mid-April. the other bird's transmitter didn't work, and the birds were always far away, only briefly in the air, and always landed out of sight so they could never confirm who the second bird was. When Eva and I flew to check on nests on April 22, we tracked #42-07 and confirmed her in that big, remote wetland with another bird but of course from the air we still couldn't identify who it was. We suspected it was #316, a single male who lives in the middle of the Sprague wetland at Necedah, where the birds were seen flying, and whose transmitter has been non-functional for several years. There just wasn't really anyone else it could be, but then again these birds have surprised us before.

Recently #42-07 moved off the refuge to a private cranberry farm that some of the birds, including #316, use during the summer and fall. Eva contacted the landowners who had been seeing the two birds and when they called her back yesterday to tell her she could come on to the farm they told her the birds were standing in one of the cranberry beds. This gave Eva a perfect view to observe the birds from a distance and read the color bands on the mystery bird. Eva called to say it was indeed #316! We're all excited to have this mystery solved. Also, this is the first time #316 has been confirmed since he was on a migration stop in IN in early March. We're also excited for #316 to have a new mate. He lost his
mate (#312) two years ago after #311 lost his mate and proceeded to
woo/steal #312 away from him.
#316 and DAR #42-07
#402 and DAR #46-07
(observed building nest)
#216 and #716

#307 and #726
(observed building nest)

#707 and DAR #39-07 (built nest)

Many New Pairs
Perhaps what's most exciting is the number of new pairs that formed this
spring. They mostly consist of 2-year-old females and older males. We don't know if these new pairs will last, but it's a good sign. And it's a
good start for these 2-year-old females to be pairing already.

If these pairs stay together it could be a very good sign for next year. For example, last year W601 was just 2 years old but she paired with #310 and they built a nest. This year as a 3-year-old W601 produced an egg— a good step even though the pair quickly abandoned their nest and the egg was destroyed.

First-time Pairing for Three DAR Females!
The other exciting news is these pairs contain 3 DAR females — the first DAR birds to show signs of pairing! We're very excited about that.

A Mate for #216!
Additionally, some of us who have followed these birds for a long time are particularly excited to see #216 finally get a mate. He has been single ever since he broke his leg in spring of 2006. He had been paired but the pair broke up during spring migration in MN when he became injured and by the time he made it back to Necedah his mate had found a new mate. Even though he tried he couldn't get her or his territory back. His leg healed and he looks perfectly normal except that the leg that was broken dangles a little bit when he flies. He has tried to find a new mate and never been successful, so we're glad he found #716 and we hope the pair lasts.

Update on the Class of 2008
The 15 remaining 2008 birds (see losses) are in the midst of spring wandering so that's keeping Eva and Jess very busy. Most of them are just moving around in WI but as we mentioned last week #19-08 traveled all the way to ND. This week he was in Minnesota, and we hope maybe he's on his way back to Necedah.

Birds of 2009 Hatching
Just as the 2008 birds (hopefully) begin to settle down, things will get
busy for us at ICF with the 2009 birds hatching. Chicks are already
hatching at Patuxent for the ultralight part of the reintroduction project. It will be a few more weeks before we start hatching any chicks for the DAR part of the project. The captive birds at ICF start laying eggs later than the birds at Patuxent and the other breeding centers, so we haven't gotten that many eggs from our ICF birds yet. We did have one early fertile egg, which we sent to Patuxent. We have one other fertile egg at ICF right now and three others that are still too young to know if they're fertile or not. Time will fly by and before we know it we'll have chicks!

And. . .
I hope all of you have a wonderful summer and remember to check back in with Journey North in the fall to see what's happening with the Whooping cranes then. Until the fall, take care.

Sara Zimorski
Aviculturalist, ICF