Crane Migration Update: April 16, 2004
Today's Report Includes:
a Crane, There a Crane, Everywhere a Whooping Crane
What a week for whoopers! The 16 chicks in the tiny new Eastern
flock are scattered along their migration path, with only one Eastern
whooper (#214) still remaining in Florida. The two tidy groups of eight
chicks split and scattered since our last report, and most of the older
ultracranes are now in Wisconsin. At Aransas National Wildlife Refuge,
only 9 whoopers in the main flock remain after a huge departure week.
(More later in this report.) On April 15, Tom Stehn said, “With
the current sunshine and strong SE winds, any crane that doesn't depart
from Aransas today needs a ‘check migration clock’ light”—-like
the “check oil” lights in our cars!
With a record
high of 194 birds in the natural flock at Aransas last fall, you might
think the migrating whoopers would be easy to spot. But we have just 10
confirmed sightings between March 8 and April 12. This week, we have a
map of those sightings. Have the Aransas whoopers reached their Canadian
nesting grounds yet? “We have no confirmed whooper reports as of
April 15. They should be arriving any day now,” said Brian Johns,
Wildlife Biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service at the whooping
cranes’ northern nesting grounds.
When you look at the maps of the two migratory flocks—-the natural
flock and the reintroduced flock—-could you expect to see any cranes
overhead where YOU live?
progress of each bird in the Eastern flock with our charts:
of 5 HY2003 migrating chicks at their location
in St. Joseph County, MI.
of 5 at their second location in MI: Berrien
of 5 at their their Mercer County, Ohio location.
Photos Richard Urbank
Sighting...or Not? Challenge Question #10
do you immediately know about this bird by looking at both legs?
Which whooper is it? (Use the banding
codes to identify the bird.)
Photo Operation Migration
April 13th around noon, a Minnesotan named Gina and her two daughters
saw an astonishing sight:
“What we saw, I think, was definitely a pair of Whooping Cranes.
Their markings are so distinct, and they were so huge. They were all
white with only black on the ends of their wings. I've considered the
other possible birds and I think these must've been whooping cranes.
They were soaring and they looked like they were dancing, which is a
courtship thing. So could they be nesting?...or maybe passing through?
Land is very marshy all around here and the Montrose Marsh, which is
gigantic, is a mile or so away. (Montrose is the name of the closest
“Based on the migration maps for BOTH migratory flocks, do you
think these birds could be whooping cranes? What does Gina say that
makes it seem likely? What, if anything, would make it seem unlikely?”
(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions
Experts are trying to determine the answer to this challenge question
too! Next week we’ll consider your answers and share what the experts
said. Journey North reported the sighting to Tom Stehn and Operation Migration.
With Whooping cranes so rare and endangered they try to keep track of
every one. Citizens can help by reporting any sightings.
Another sighting was sent to us by Judith Petty: “My daughter is
a professor at St. Louis University. On her return to St. Louis on Easter
Day - - from Rockford, IL, on Interstate 55 Just outside of E. St. Louis-
-in a marshy area she saw 3 adult Whooping Cranes!! Very exciting! But
should they have been there? We know they are headed north to Wisconsin
and places; but didn't know why they were a bit out of line with the normal
migration.” Journey North reported it to Heather and Tom. Heather
replied: “I believe the 3 seen in St. Louis are #304, 306 and 317,
last seen in flight north of Dalton, GA on April 9th. This is the only
other group of three that are a) still traveling together and b) NOT in
OHIO.... They've covered some good ground if it is them!” What do
Photo Studies and Your Journaling Questions
Once again, ICF’s Sara Zimorski shares some photos she thinks you’ll
like. After training and migrating with them, Sara really knows these
cranes. Thanks for sharing, Sara!
Wellington took this photo of #312 this winter in the release pen.
As you can see, she has both a regular radio transmitter and a PTT.
When she and #303 and #316 broke away from the other 5 birds in Ohio
last week, Richard tracked them for a short while, then left them
so he could track the other five birds. He felt comfortable leaving
them because 312's PTT has been working very well and Richard knew
he'd be able to locate the birds later based on the data we receive
from her satellite transmitter."
Trackers need to think fast sometimes. Imagine you're a tracker.
When a group you're tracking splits up, how would you decide which cranes
to follow? Where did this group of three cranes probably spend April 9,
10, 11, 12 and 13? (See Spring
took this photo of the former trio
of #105, #204, and #218 earlier this winter. Based on reported
sightings, it seems #218 has separated from the other two birds. Earlier
in the winter, #218 was aggressively chasing #204 in an attempt to
drive her away; however, #204 was persistent and stuck around. Eventually
up and stopped chasing her. It will now be interesting to see if #105
and 204 remain together as a pair or if they, too, will split up."
does #218’s behavior illustrate what we know for sure about whooping
Aransas/Wood Buffalo flock migrates 2,400 miles.
Going, Almost Gone! Nine Cranes Left at Aransas
“By mid-April, the whooping crane migration has gone from “on
schedule” To “ahead of schedule,” writes Tom Stehn from
Aransas. “I was amazed on my aerial census flight April 14th when
we could only find 14 whooping cranes remaining at Aransas, whereas one
week ago on April 7th we had counted 109. The weather had been absolutely
impossible for migration April 11-13 when a cold front brought strong
north winds gusting to 30 mph. Cranes are just not going to struggle north
against such strong headwinds. They would much rather stay at Aransas
a few more days and fatten up on delicious, nutritious, high-in-fat-and-protein
blue crabs, their favorite food. A crane can eat up to 80 blue crabs a
day, which is quite a feast for a bird that only weighs 15 pounds. So
the 95 cranes that started the migration since my previous flight on April
7th did so April 8-10th, or they did so late morning on April 14th.”
When Tom went back on the afternoon of the 14th to check on 5 of the 14
cranes that he counted that morning, they were gone. He thinks they left
on migration, which leaves currently just 9 whooping cranes at Aransas!
What made Tom believe the five cranes left later on the morning of April
14? Which 9 are left? Tom tells us about a single adult that raised a
chick this winter while “dating” another adult. The pair didn’t
stay together. Will the chick migrate with the parent--or leave later,
alone? Can it find its way alone? Do cranes mate for life? Tom explains.
How can you tell the males from the females? Tom explains that, too. What
does Tom predict about the 9 remaining cranes, and what is he curious
about? Read for the answers here:
Away Home—and Beyond: Video Clip
With just three more crane reports remaining this season, we thought you’d
enjoy sitting back for a beautiful 6-minute review of the whooping crane
recovery plan. If you saw the film “Fly Away Home,” you know
a bit about the beginnings of Operation
Migration, who pioneered in conservation of migratory species through
ultralight-led migrations. Here’s a peek at some clips from “Fly
Away Home” and other highlights of the experiment that led to the
first human-led migration of an endangered species: the 2001 migration
with the first birds of the new Eastern flock. You’ll see the Canada
geese ultralight flight from “Fly Away Home,” followed by
glimpses of the hatching, training, and first migration of the HY2001
chicks. Before you view, see fun facts shared by Operation Migration’s
Heather Ray, who put the video together:
- The music
is "10,000 Miles" sung by Mary Chapin-Carpenter.
- Joe and
Bill were the first ever to fly ultralight aircraft across the width
of Lake O. Joe doesn't swim. They wore float suits, just in case. But
you'll also notice a "chase boat" below them in one shot.
- The city
over which the geese are flying is supposed to be downtown Toronto;
however, this shot was digitally created for the movie. The guys never
actually led the geese through the largest city in Canada.
- The shot
of the two little girls in bathing suits near the beginning is Anna
Paquin (Amyin the film) and Carmen (Bill Lishman's daughter). they were
the same age when the filming occurred and spent quite a bit of "down-time"
- The early
aircraft shots are of Bill in the “Easy Riser.” He crashed
many times before he figured it out.
Pay Attention to Weather
As always, weather played a big role in this week's migrating
for both migratory flocks of whooping cranes. Poor migration weather kept
the eastern flock grounded or scattered, while the Aransas whoopers were
“outta there” in huge numbers. Wally Jobman says, “The
remainder of this week looks good for migration across the central U.S.
Low pressure to the west and high pressure to the east will produce warm
south winds for the Aransas cranes.”
Take a look
at weather maps for the past 3 days as you think about cranes and migration:
The sun produces thermal air currents during high pressure systems, which
bring clear or partly cloudy skies. Thermals and strong SE winds are perfect
for migrating cranes; thermals hold them up aloft, and a good tailwind
pushes them in the right direction so they can travel farther with a minimum
of flapping their wings. Cranes probably start to migrate when barometric
pressure begins to fall, because that's when winds start to come out of
the south--as a high pressure system is leaving and a low is approaching.
Low pressure systems are associated with rain, which makes it very difficult
for cranes to fly long distances.
Studies have proven that birds are extremely sensitive to small changes
in air pressure. Do you wonder how cranes know whether the barometric
pressure is high or low? How is it helpful for birds to be able to detect
changes in air pressure? Do some investigating with this lesson, which
applies to ALL birds:
the Water? Links to Lessons
While the cranes pay attention to the air pressure, people along the migration
trail are concerned about other things related to weather:
habitat in eastern Saskatchewan is adequate with many wetlands; however
in western Saskatchewan it is very dry,” reported Brian Johns
from the nesting grounds of the main flock.
in the Platte River in Nebraska continue to decrease and predictions
are that the river will be dry by June 1 unless there is a dramatic
change in the drought situation,” said Wally Jobman from his location
on the critically important staging grounds on the Platte River in Nebraska.
- The human
population of Texas is expected to double in the next 48-50 years. Besides
oil and chemical spills and disease, this is another threat to the whooping
cranes that winter in Aransas. Why? Why do whooping crane winter deaths
increase and breeding success decrease during years when not enough
fresh water flows from the rivers into the estuary at Aransas? Find
/ Discussion Question:
Do you feel that the freshwater needs of wildlife should be protected
by law in places where water shortage is a problem?
Day Is Coming
What can YOU do to help make it a healthier planet for all living
things? This online quiz helps you think about what you use and how you
live. You will be astonished!
You can also
share what you know about whooping crane survival needs, and how human
actions can endanger the birds and their habitat. A new article in the
April 2004 National Geographic magazine is a
fantastic story to share and enjoy with friends or family:
“Cranes. Symbols of luck and majesty, cranes have been called
‘wildness incarnate.’ But with wildness disappearing and their
luck running out, the great birds are getting some help from scientists
and self-described ‘craniacs.’” By Jennifer Ackersman.
Also map supplement: Bird Migration.
With the PTT Data: Answer to 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 April 5 (Clermont
County), when it was known again for certain?”
Answer: 272 miles. Justin L. was close!
to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
Answer only ONE question in each e-mail message.
an e-mail message to: email@example.com
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions
The Next Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 23, 2004.
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