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Whooping Crane Migration Update: April 9, 2004

Today's Report Includes:

April 6, 2004
Migrating chicks #301, 303, 305, 309, 312, 316, 318, and 319 in Clermont Cty, Ohio.
Photo Richard Urbanek.

All Sixteen ’03 Chicks Migrating!
There’s good news and bad news about this week’s BIG events. First the good news. On April 7, the remaining 8 chicks at the Chassahowitzka pen site took off! Chicks #202, 204, 206, 207, 210, 211, 213, and 217 began their migration at 9:10 a.m., tracked by Lara Fondow in a small corporate plane donated to help the cranes and ICF intern Denise Maidens on the ground from a truck. That afternoon the birds hit rain and landed in Jefferson County, Florida at 3:35. They remained there to roost on the first night of their first unaided journey north. Meanwhile, their flockmates had an 8-day head start, and were already in west central Ohio.

Take a look at the flock’s progress on the map. Locate the yellow dotted line that shows their path last fall when they were led to Florida by ultralight planes. Why is group one (red dots) off to the east of that route? What factors might have influenced their flight path as they tried to head north? Do you think they will go back to Wisconsin? What were migration conditions like for the birds on each day? You might have a better idea about answers after reading the details of each day on a page we’ll keep updated until they reach the end of their migration.

The Bad News and a Journaling Question
Can you imagine why anyone who knew about this risky but thrilling reintroduction project would walk right up to these whooping cranes at a stopover--while talking loudly? Why would anyone even think of feeding the chicks, or trying to capture one? This harassment is exactly what happened to the young flock on April 3. Poor migration conditions kept them grounded a second day in Macon County. They stayed put until afternoon, when trouble arrived. They were discovered and harrassed by 5 humans who came right up to them. The chicks flushed, and one of them hit a power line. Fortunately it was able to keep flying. The group circled for 1.5 hours before heading north, flying even after darkness fell. Their location was unknown for the next two nights. The group of 8 was located in a farm field in southwestern Ohio after dark on April 5, thanks to the help of PTT readings and an airplane search by trackers.

Heather Ray of Operation Migration

What can prevent such a shocking incident from happening again? What would YOU do if you were on the WCEP team? What can you do as a student in your community? Consider the plea Heather wrote on the Operation Migration Web site as you decide how you can help keep these cranes safe: “Until 9:33 a.m. on March 30th, when half of last year's youngsters left the protective custody of their winter release pen and the watchful eye of the ICF monitoring crew, they could not be considered "wild." Now they are on their own. Now is the time to practice and hone their wildness skills, which will ensure their survival in the future. During the next few months they will break their bond with humans, fine-tune their survival skills and become as free and independent as nature intended. They are currently attempting to retrace a migration path and return to the wetlands of central Wisconsin. We ask anyone who happens to encounter these cranes to please give them the respect and distance they need and deserve. Your cooperation at this critical time in their young lives will give them a better chance at survival. Be patient, and in time there will be many Whooping cranes using this flyway and lots of opportunities to see them in the wild.”

Journaling Question:
What clues indicate which crane might have flown into the power line? We’ll never know for sure, but crane behavior changes might be a tip off. See our daily migration notes and pay special attention to the days right after April 3, when the power line incident occurred.

Tracking With the PTT Data: Challenge Question #9
On April 4 the eight chicks’ location was unknown. We don't have any usable PTT data for that day. Don’t you wonder...

Challenge Question #9:
"What distance did the cranes in group one cover between the time their location was known on April 3 (Macon County) until they were found again on April 5 in Clermont County? (Use today's migration data with the map above and our lesson in calculating distance using latitude/longitude.)

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

What clue tells you these two adults are acting territorial? Taken with Sara Zimorski's zoom lens.

Keeping Track
Fifteen of the twenty experienced cranes from hatch years '01 and '02 have completed their 2004 spring migration! Which are the most recent arrivals back at Necedah? Where is #214? Which two experienced cranes are still en route? Which three are still on the wintering grounds? Which two were the first experienced ultracranes to arrive in Florida (November) and will likely be the last to leave this spring? Remember that all three PTT-unit cranes are in the first group of chicks to migrate this spring. Did you notice that the group also includes both the oldest (#301) and the youngest (#319)--as well as #303, the crane everyone was rooting for last fall after she underwent knee surgery just prior to the journey south? We update the progress of each bird in the Eastern flock on our “Meet the Flock” pages. Check there for the latest scoop on your favorite whooping crane!

Sara’s Photo Studies and Your Journaling Questions
Are you as eager as we were to see what Sara sent us this week? Here we go:

“This shows the birds in Clermont County, Ohio. Richard Urbanek took the photo as he was monitoring the migrating chicks."

Journaling Question:
What do you notice about the stopover habitat chosen by the young cranes? Why do you think they are carefully tracked and monitored if they are supposed to be wild?
"Last week I showed you male #305 chasing/attacking adult female #214. This is #214 getting chased by #313 last winter. The photo was take by Marianne Wellington from the crane monitoring team.”

Journaling Question:
What does this photo show that MIGHT be a reason why #214 stayed behind when all the others left on migration this week? (Remember to read the Flock Charts for each hatch year to learn more about each crane's personality.)
“I took this photo of #214 when I went to FL in February. It'll be interesting to see what she does now that she's by herself. I'm sort of surprised she didn't leave with the chicks, but she never really was part of the group, still a bit of an outsider. I doubt she'll stick around long without food but we'll just have to wait and see.”

Journaling Question:
Which other ultracrane does #214 remind you of? (To help you consider this question, look at the notes for Flock Year 2001.)

The Aransas/Wood Buffalo flock migrates 2,400 miles.
Aransas to Wood Buffalo Migration News: Tom Stehn Reports and Predicts
Tom’s April 7 census flight over the refuge took about six hours. He phoned in his report just as he left for meeting in New Orleans about building a new captive breeding center for cranes. Tom wanted you to have this news: He counted 93 adults and 16 chicks, for a total of 109 birds. “It looks like about one-third of the families have migrated,” Tom said. They started with 193 whooping cranes (169 adults and 24 chicks), so Tom figures about 43.5 percent have started the migration. That’s not quite half, and Tom expects a major departure in the coming week. This time of year, the breeding pairs are really anxious about getting up to their nesting grounds. Tom predicts he’ll find fewer than 50 whoopers remaining at the Aransas NWR wintering grounds when he flies his survey flight next Wednesday, April 14. We’ll see if he’s correct!
Are you keeping track?

Try This! Map and Compare
Why do you think the cranes in group one (red dots) are east of the ultralight-led route they flew to Florida last fall? How do you think the chicks’ route compares to the route flown by an experienced whooper from the new Eastern flock? You can find out for yourself. Use the satellite data for #202, who is flying north for the second year, to map her path. (See directions in the lesson below.) Then compare her route with the map in this report (also found on the crane home page).

  • How to Map Satellite Telemetry Data

    2002 Crane #2 (#202)

How Far? Discussion of Challenge Question #8
“Based on their lat/long satellite readings, how many miles did the eight chicks fly on day 1 of their migration? On day two?”

We calculated 153 miles on day 1 (March 30) and 207 miles on day 2—-which is pretty nearly the same as the 7th grade math geniuses at Iselin Middle School! Congratulations to Christyn, Dana, Patricia, Ritesh, Anita, Robert, and Nina. These students also calculated distance flown east or west. (For those of you who want more practice with satellite data, you’ll like this week's CQ and the mapping challenge we gave just above.)

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question:

IMPORTANT: Answer only ONE question in each e-mail message.

1. Address an e-mail message to: jn-challenge-crane@learner.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #9.
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions above.

The Next Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 16, 2004.

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