Crane Migration Update: April 30, 2004
Today's Report Includes:
Stalled for 8 Eastern Chicks
One look at the map and you know that this year's migration is a bit messier
than the previous years, with only three of the 16 HY2003 chicks officially
done with their first spring migration. We’ve heard nothing new
on #307 and #302, last recorded migrating in Illinois on April 16. Five
Ohio cranes are still where they were last week, but the Ohio group of
three departed and were stopped by Lake Michigan. Cranes #304, 306, and
317 are likely still somewhere in Minnesota, or at least close by. Sara
reports, “A sighting of three whooping cranes flying along the Mississippi
River in Pepin County was reported to us on April 25, and we believe these
were the three MN birds--though we can't know for sure.” Follow
Saturday, April 24, the smaller group of three Ohio cranes [Group
1B on the migration map] departed the area where they’ve been
since April 9 and flew in the correct direction towards central
WI before encountering the eastern edge of Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan
is a formidable obstacle directly in the path of the cranes’
northward migration to Wisconsin. "On April 25 they hit the
lake at the exact same area as the Ohio group of 5 [Group 1A on
the map] did when they attemped to continue their migration on April
10. All of these birds are trying to do the right thing, trying
to get home to central Wisconsin. But the lake is a huge obstacle
that they don't know how to get around. Additionally, if the birds
were to find their way around the south edge of the lake, they'd
likely need a SE wind and they simply haven't had that in the recent
weeks," explained Sara.
#303, #312, and #316 in their new location in Berien Cty., Michigan.
They can't seem to figure out how to get around it and north to
Richard Urbanek, USFWS
is the first group of ultracranes in 3 years that seems to be stopped
by the obstacle of Lake Michigan. Why do you think this is happening to
the Scientist: What to Do?
It’s a worry: What do you think will happen with the 8 birds in
Ohio and Michigan? Sara Zimorski says, “I'm not sure; none of us
are. We briefly talked about this issue on our conference call Tuesday,
and will continue to discuss the situation and possible options in the
coming weeks.” Sara shares some of the interesting facts, issues,
and options talked about by the WCEP Bird Team. Sara explains the Team’s
ideas and what they plan to do:
#312 Harmed: A Lesson About Litter
#312, barely one year old, would have died from starvation and dehydration
if this had gone unnoticed. Richard sent these photos of the piece
of trash, carelessly tossed there by a human, and which very nearly
killed an endangered Whooping crane - one of only 430 or so left
in this world.
is the ragged top otf the aluminum can that was stuck on #312's
Click to enlarge so you can read the
words printed on top.
Wellington took this photo of #312 in Florida this winter. One reason
those birds were left alone in Ohio is because we knew we'd be able
to keep track of them through #312's PTT data. Her PTT has been
working very well, and that's how Richard knew she, and presumably
the other two birds, had left Ohio and gone to Michigan. We are
very lucky her PTT works so well. If we'd lost track of those birds,
#312 might have died with that can stuck on her beak because she
would have been unable to eat and drink," said Sara Zimorski.
Urbanek and Spotting Scope.
Urbanek arrived on April 26 to monitor the three cranes newly arrived
in Michigan, he saw an alarming sight. Viewing them from the spotting
scope mounted to his vehicle, he noticed the crane #312 had what appeared
to be the ragged top of an aluminum can lodged over her beak. After observing
her for a short time, he saw that she was unable to open her beak. There
was no way to tell how long the can top had been wedged over her beak,
but something had to be done to help her. Wearing his costume and using
corn to bait the young cranes, he was able to convince the young cranes
to approach the familiar costume. As soon as he could safely do so, he
grabbed 312 and very carefully removed the lid of the aluminum can. It
had substantially cut into her lower mandible, but her blood-clotted wounds
appeared clean. Richard immediately released her to join the other two
birds, #303 and #316.
Richard reported on April 28 that #312 was again eating and drinking normally.
“She’s just not carrying herself with her usual strut, and
she's been sticking her beak under her feathers a lot, as if in roosting
upper and lower mandibles comprise the bird’s bill. Bills
(or beaks) are made of keratin, a fingernail-like material. Under
that outer layer are more tissue and blood vessels, especially close
to the base, making it possible for the bill to grow. By the time
you get out to the tip of the bill, it’s mostly keratin.
Photo Operation Migration
Mystery Photo: Challenge Question #12
Operation Migration's Heather Ray has a challenge for you. She
sent these clues and the photo. She wants you to figure out. . .
Callenge Question #12:
“Who is this crane?”
(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions
Green over white RADIO transmitter on left leg, the only leg visible.
(The right leg is tucked up into roost position.)
Clue #2: No traces of tawny brown feathers
tells us it’s an adult.
Clue #3: Considering the date the image
was taken (4/24) and looking at the surrounding vegetation, tells
us that this adult crane has returned NORTH to an area where there
has yet to be any active growth among the cattails and normally
Bonus clue: SHE prefers solitude.
Click to enlarge!
Johns’ Field Report from the Canadian Nesting
The eight chicks from the Eastern flock are stalled by Lake Michigan,
but in the center of the continent the migrating families from the Aransas/Wood
Buffalo flock are hurrying to Canada’s far north for the new nesting
season. (See map; it's waaaaay up there!) Now for the latest news, photos,
and crane calls from Brian:
Dear Journey North:
I haven't been able to confirm whooping cranes on the nesting grounds
yet; however, my spotters have been seeing and hearing sandhill cranes
in the Wood Buffalo National Park area for the last week so there should
be whooping cranes there as well. The earliest pairs usually have established
their territories and have begun nest construction by this time. Whooping
cranes maintain a territory that they defend from all other cranes. This
territory is used for nesting and raising their young.
that a crane pair defends their territory is to tell other cranes
portion of marsh property is taken. The cranes do this by calling loudly.
The territorial defense call is the Unison Call. It gets its name
both the male and female call in unison with each other. During the call,
the cranes stand erect and throw their heads back to make their call
further into the marsh. The call is a series of chucking sounds that
can carry for up to 3 kilometers across the marsh. Click
to hear a unison call that we recorded from one of the pairs nesting
in Alberta whose territory we were intruding upon. Some of the early
will likely be incubating eggs already. Both the male and female share
Brian Johns, Canadian Wildlife Service, Wood Buffalo National Park
This! Research and Journaling
In such vast wilderness, how and when was the nesting place of the world's
last remaining migratory flock of whooping cranes discovered?
Stehn’s Field Report: Three Stragglers Still at Aransas
Tom thought the last 3 cranes would be gone when he flew his survey on
April 28. “But during our survey, writes Tom, “it was hard
to deny the sight of three 5-foot tall white birds standing together around
the same pond. Thus, three ‘stragglers’ are still here, while
190 whooping cranes (98% of the flock) have migrated.” Why isn’t
Tom worried about these 3 yet? Do you think the three included a chick
left behind by its parents? See what Tom thinks.
“When whooping cranes migrate, they fly during the daytime and stop
every night, often in unfamiliar territory. This is because they fly on
a slightly different migration pathway every year as they get blown off
course slightly to the east or west, depending on the winds,” explains
Tom. He lists six perils; some might surprise you! Name them all, and
also find out why migration gets even more perilous as the human population
grows. What important question does Tom have for YOU? Find it all here:
Book: HY2004 Ultra-chicks
More chicks have hatched for this year’s new ultralight flock! “We
just started circle pen training for the first time on the oldest three
chicks,” reports Dan Sprague from Patuxent Wildife Research Center
where the babies hatched. “We have four babies so far and they
are cute!” See for yourself!
Chick #1, age 6 days, in his chick run. (He's the tiny brown fluffball
in the center. Chicks are on green turf for good footing.) Find
the brood model, heat lamp, and the puppet head dangling over crumbles
(food). In the next run with wood shavings is the now-grown #206,
held back at Patuxent due to a wing injury as a chick. He now serves
as a role model for the new chicks so they know how their own species
looks and behaves.
401 (you met him last week, just after hatching) at 1 day of age.
Thanks to DNA from the cell membranes of his eggshell, he has been
identified as a male.
our 4th chick, number #405. (The 4th chick of HY2004 died soon after
it hatched, so there is no chick named #404.) What’s on his
feet? When the chicks begin walking, the handlers watch the chicks’
toes. If toes show any sign of turning when the chicks begin to walk,
the experts often splint and tape the toes. This helps them grow properly.
Away Home: Discussion of Challenge Question #11
We asked, "Why were the first cranes back able to make the journey
north so much faster than the journey south? Try to give 3 reasons."
Double high fives to Iselin Middle School 7th graders Anita, Ritesh,
Nina, Robert, Ricky, Nina, Hijab, Sameen, Alex, Frank, Cheyenne, Sabrina,
Mansi, Nick, Jessica, Caitlin, and George. “The first cranes
were able to fly north faster than south because they knew where they
were going. As the cranes flew south, they memorized the landmarks and
the routes they took. They stopped more going south because they were
new to the area. When migrating north, the weather is better, permitting
the cranes to migrate more quickly. There is also more food in the spring,
giving the cranes the energy to travel. Finally, an obvious reason, some
cranes left earlier, so they got back home sooner.” Good thinking!
You remembered that the weather last fall was pretty bad; it took 54 days
for the journey south!
We’d like to add more about something you hinted at: Last fall,
the young cranes didn’t know where to go, so they needed to follow
the ultralight plane. A really important thing about following the ultralight
is that the cranes had to FLAP. When wild whooping crames migrate, they
normally choose days with good thermals. Riding thermals makes it possible
for cranes to migrate long distances with very little flapping. They can
cover more distance per day. The cranes flololowing the ultralight were
not riding thermals. With all they flapping they had to do, they got tired
out fairly quickly. The ultralight could only land in specific places
where the cranes would be safe from human disturbance. All this adds up
to a migration that stretched out over several weeks. The spring migration
happens without these “slow-down factors.”
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The FINAL Whooping Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on May 14,
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