Eastern Flock Report
March 12, 2010
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Whooping Cranes Are on the Move!
"We haven't gotten any confirmed reports of whoopers back in Wisconsin yet," says Eva, "but it should be only a matter of days before they start turning up there!" The ultralight-led chicks are still at their Florida release sites, but DAR 42-09
left her wintering area in Lake County, FL with male #509 to begin spring migration on March 6 or 7. She was the first DAR chick in the Class of 2009 to complete her first journey south — and first '09 chick to begin the journey north in spring!

Ready for Tracking the Cranes
Matt reminds us: "We use satellite transmitters, gas-powered net guns, Very High Frequency (VHF) radio transmitters, global positioning systems (GPS), navigational satellites, airboats, ATVs, airplane telemetry, digital mapping, and all kinds of optics from night vision scopes to digital cameras. Signals need to be read, maps need to be made, and data need to be interpreted. Also, transmitters certainly don’t put themselves on birds’ legs. The process of joining bird to transmitter is a method that begins with my favorite part, the capture!

Photo Eva Szyszkoski (Enlarge)

"Capturing a crane is not easy! We use a harmless device we call the “net gun.” It looks like an oversized flashlight. Using a small gas cartridge as propellant, it fires a web of threads over the bird with a startling pop. The “net gun” must be fired from close range, so crane costumes are worn. We offer cobs of corn to help regain the trust of older cranes, who by now have grown wary of the costumes. (This newly rebuilt trust is quickly betrayed when nets and biologists fly through the air to capture the bird.)

"This winter we captured four birds (#101, #733, #818 and #824) to replace nonworking or broken transmitters. With our winter captures completed, we can continue monitoring the whooping crane population and providing the information that is vital to future management decisions."

Monitoring nearly a hundred cranes across a dozen states is a titanic job for the team:

Sara Zimorski, tracking and winter-management team co-leader and ICF aviculturalist

•Dr. Richard Urbanek, US Fish and Wildlife’s Senior Project Biologist, tracking team co-leader

Eva Szyszkoski, ICF tracking team field manager

Matt Strausser, ICF tracker.

Photo Eva Szyszkoski. ICF

Is this an adult or a juvenile? (enlarge)