Crane Migration Update: April 23, 2004
Today's Report Includes:
Away Home: Challenge Question #11
Keeping track of young whooping cranes made for another wild week! The
map is filling up, and it takes some careful viewing to keep it all straight.
These are wild birds that can’t phone home, so we’re stuck
with missing pieces and many questions. They’re also at the age
where wandering is normal. But here’s what we DO know: We can celebrate
the safe return of three of the youngsters back at Necedah!
chick was first to arrive? Which three went to Minnesota? Which two
haven’t been seen since April 17? How many are still at their
locations in Ohio? We’re thrilled that all of the other ultracranes
from 2001 and 2002 (except #201) are back in Wisconsin, too. The photos
and captions in today’s report, together with the migration data
and map, help us keep track of the 36 subadults of the Eastern flock.
The suspenseful migration continues. We’ll keep updating the news
as we get it:
"Why were the first cranes back able to make the journey north
so much faster than the journey south? Try to give 3 reasons."
(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions
Using the migration
chart and the photos and captions in this report, how many “pairs”
can you detect? Do you think they’ll stay together? List the gender
and ages of birds in each pair. The flock charts will help you:
“Home:” How Do They Do It?
Are you wondering whether the chicks in Minnesota (see photo) and those
still in Ohio (see photo) will come back to Wisconsin? We’ll just
have to wait and see. It's their first unaided journey north, so how
do they know where and when to stop?
"This is chick #17 from 2003, one of the small group of three
that has recently been in Minnesota. The photo was taken in Florida
this winter by Marianne Wellington, who was caring for the chicks.
shows chicks #318 and 319, who are part of the group of 5 that
has decided they like living in Ohio--or rather Ohio is good enough
since they don't know how to cross the lake and get home to Wisconsin!"
Photo Marianne Wellington
When the birds were in "flight school" at Necedah last summer,
the Operation Migration team made sure the birds developed their recognition
of the area at Necedah NWR where they learned to fly. Lead ultralight
pilot Joe Duff explained then, "We fly these birds locally a lot.
It gives them a wide picture of what they're looking for on their way
back. When they reach the latitude they're familiar with, they think
'Now, it's around here somewhere. Let's just look for it.'" Hear
Joe explain more:
Sends Photos From the Tracking Team: Journaling Questions
back, #310 and 313! “This was taken on the morning of April
19 near the site 4 training area at Necedah after they completed
their migration and returned to the refuge the previous night.”
Photo Richard Urbanek, USFWS
An ornithologist looking at a crane's feet would know that even if this
bird spends a lot of time in water, it isn't a swimmer. Why? (To help
you answer this question, see Adaptations
That Help Cranes Survive. Click on "Feet and Legs.")
is #14 from 2002 in Lafayette County, WI, where she landed to roost
the previous day and remained through April 19th. Crane #214 was
last of all to leave Chassahowitzka this year. She was first detected
April 17 in flight at 11:47 over northern Illinois. The first visual
sighting of the bird, flying alone, was near Amboy, Illinois, at
1:14. She landed to roost in Lafayette County, Wisconsin, at 4:45.
Photo Richard Urbanek.
Estimate how many miles #214 flew on April 17 between the visual sighting
and landing to roost. About how fast was she flying?
# 3 and #15 from 2002 are feeding in a cornfield in Monroe County.
They moved there after completing their migration and returning
to Necedah on April 19th.
Richard Urbanek, USFWS
this photo indicate about a Whooping crane’s diet? What food do
cranes like better than anything else? (To help you answer this question,
see Feeling Blue and Crabby:
Whooping Crane Winter Diet.)
shows chick #311, who was found in a small marsh in Juneau County,
WI on April 21. Before that, he was last located at Necedah at the
completion of his migration on April 17th.
Photo Richard Urbanek, USFWS
at Aransas: What Are They Waiting For?
Tom Stehn has never seen adult cranes at Aransas later than April 21;
yet, Tom’s April 21 census flight at Aransas showed that eight
of the nine whoopers from last week were STILL present. “I would
like to think I know something about cranes, having studied them for
22 years. But I continue to get fooled.” Find out what Tom means!
How does Tom define subadults? Next week, how many cranes will Tom find,
and what important topic will Tom talk to you about? See the answers
in this week’s letter:
Reports: Go Cranes!
Meanwhile, those Aransas whoopers are Canada bound! Wally Jobman of
the USFWS in Nebraska has the latest confirmed spring migration reports
from bird watchers along the Aransas/Wood Buffalo migration route. Are
any near you? See this week’s sightings on the map, or use the
to make your own map.
Reports: Cranes Moving Into Canada
“The whooping cranes have been moving into Canada since the middle
of April,” reports Brian Johns of the Canadian Wildlife Service.
“Usually from about the 20th of April to about the end of the
first week in May is the peak time for migration through southern Canada.
The first confirmed sighting this spring was of a pair on April 16.
So far we have had about 8 confirmed sightings totaling 17 birds. Others
are likely here but we don't know about them yet. The largest confirmed
group has been 4 birds, but we have had several unconfirmed reports
of larger groups. A few birds are already near the northern edge of
the croplands. From there it is only a 2-3 day flight to the breeding
grounds. The first birds could begin arriving on the breeding grounds
as early as April 24-25.” Will this year’s first whoopers
will be at Wood Buffalo National Park when you read this report?
chick of HY2004 "ultracrane" flock. What's its name?
(Hint: Think of hatch year and birth order.)
Photo Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP)
2004 “Ultra-Chick” Hatched!
Just as the excitement of the migration winds down, there's new excitement
with the hatching of the 2004 chicks and getting ready for another ultralight
training and migration. The first chick of Hatch Year 2004 broke out
of its shell on April 20! A second chick was expected to hatch later
the same day. The second chick may or may not be designated as a WCEP
(ultralight) chick. If female, the chick will be held back at Patuxent
WRC for egg production to build genetic diversity among the captive
breeding stock. If it's a male, the chick becomes one of WCEP’s
fourth ultralight flock of Whooping cranes, or "ultracranes."
Patuxent will post weekly updates on their own Web site during this
busy time of year when many eggs are hatching from both Whooping cranes
and Sandhills. Check out Patuxent's
Sighting...or Not? Discussion of Challenge Question
On Tuesday April 13th around noon, a Minnesotan named Gina and her two
daughters saw an astonishing sight. We described the sighting and asked,
“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?”
The size and color of the birds, the marshy habitat, and the dancing
strongly suggested whooping cranes. But the sightings were more than
200 miles from the core reintroduction site in central WI. Operation
Migration’s Heather Ray noted, “The sixteen youngsters are
easy; they were in either Ohio, TN, or KY on that date, but I suppose
it's possible a couple of the older cranes could have taken a side trip
(200 miles is an easy flight for them to make).
A few days later, another Minnesota observer got a good look at the
pair of birds! He reported their leg band colors. After several emails
between the observers and WCEP’s Heather Ray and Tom Stehn, it
was clear. Tom said, “The location and band identification is
great information to have. These are two female eastern whooping cranes
from hatch year 2002 that last summer migrated to South Dakota before
they were captured by our monitoring team and returned to Wisconsin.”
These wandering females found their way back to Necedah NWR in the past
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Next Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 30, 2004.
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