Whooping Crane Migration Update: April 30, 1998
Today's Update Includes:
The spring migration of Whooping Cranes in the U.S. appears to be just about over. Tom Stehn and Wally Jobman both report that Whooping Cranes are well on their way to the nesting grounds in Canada! Tom also brings us up-to-date on the latest news from the Ultralight crane migrations.
Plus, we know that the Whooping Cranes migrate 2,500 miles each spring to their nesting grounds in Canada, but did you know that for almost 30 years the location of the nesting grounds was a mystery? In today's report, we learn how this mystery was solved, thanks to Canadian Biologist Brian Johns.
Field Notes From Aransas
To: Journey North
From: Tom Stehn
April 29, 1998
Dear Journey North,
It is just about time for the earliest whooping cranes to be starting to build nests in Wood Buffalo National Park, in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Now that these Aransas/Wood Buffalo cranes are well on their way, I wanted to bring you up-to-date about the two Ultralight crane migrations I discussed in my earlier reports.
Clegg's Ultralight Cranes Successfully Fly North With The Spring
Two of the whooping cranes which flew behind Kent Clegg's Ultralight last fall between Idaho and New Mexico have survived the winter at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. And, in fact, they started the migration north on March 5. This was a major success, having shown that cranes led south in the fall have the internal urge to migrate north in the spring.
They did not follow the same route they had used travelling south, but headed along the major crane flyway towards Colorado. The two ultralight whoopers staged in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, and then apparently split up. One ended up near Craig, Colorado, and the other about 60 miles away near Baggs, Wyoming.
They were not in good habitat and one was staying right near a large powerline. Concerned about the safety of the birds, Kent Clegg captured the birds on April 25. They are currently in a pen back on Kent's ranch in southeastern Idaho, awaiting a decision on where they can be released.
Fly Away Back Home--Again!
In the saga of the ultralight sandhill cranes led south between Ontario and Virginia by Bill Lishman and Joe Duff of Operation Migration ("Fly Away Home" fame), after a brief 140-mile exploratory trip to the eastern shore of Maryland, the sandhills left Airlie, Virginia on March 28, this time headed in the right direction. They were sighted in Youngstown, New York the next day, and were in St. Catharines, Ontario on March 30. They ended up less than 50 miles from where they were fledged.
As the sandhills wandered in Ontario and kept getting into trouble, Bill and Joe rounded the flock up on April 11, and actually flew them behind the ultralight again, returning back to where they were raised. In this last leg of their return home, the sandhills took advantage of thermal currents, spiraling up as high as 5,000 feet, and then gliding downwards to keep with the plane. In their migration north, they had learned to fly like the wild cranes.
It's A Real Success Story!
These Ultralight migration results were spectacular, proving that even without the stimulus of wild cranes present to show them a migration, cranes will migrate north in the spring. Yes, the birds were too tame, ending up in a schoolyard, a soccer field with a game going on, a farmer's barnyard, etc. But now the experiment can be repeated with more effort put into keeping the birds wild and afraid of humans.
Already it is time to start planning and raising birds for the next round of experiments this fall.
Until next time,
Discussion Of Challenge Question # 8
In the last Update, we asked you to look at the satellite
weather images and tell us why winds on April 21 and 22 might have prevented the
Rattlesnake Island family of cranes at Aransas from departing?
Field Notes And Migration Data From The Great Plains
To: Journey North
From: Wally Jobman
April 28, 1998
The spring migration in the U.S. appears to be about over. There could still be sightings of a few stragglers.
The following confirmed sightings have been reported since my April 21 update:
News And Mysteries From The Whooping Crane Nesting Grounds