Eastern Flock's 2004-2005 Winter
Refuge is 65 miles north of St Petersburg, FL. It has marshlands,
swamps, shallow bays and tidal streams.
give a snapshot of the winter for the youngest in the new Eastern flock
of whooping cranes (and a few of the older "ultra-cranes").
In year 4, the total flock now numbers 46. The
youngest birds were hatched in spring 2004. They were raised in
imprinted on an ultralight airplane, and led on the eastern migration
route by costumed humans in ultralight planes in the fall of 2004.
13 are the fourth group of "ultra whoopers." They join the
original five "ultra-whoopers"—the five pioneers—from
hatch year 2001, the 13 survivors from hatch year 2002, and the 14 survivors
of HY2003. Will the newest
youngsters know when and where to return in the spring? Stay tuned!
whooper chicks arrived
Dec. 12, 2004 after a 64-day, 1191-mile journey
led by ultralight airplanes from Wisconsin, where the cranes
to fly and where they will return each spring for the
rest of their lives.
the winter, all of these magnificent juveniles freely come
go from their predator-proof enclosure at Chassahowitzka National
Wildlife Refuge. They learn about tides and catching blue crabs.
crane had a medical exam and got permanent leg bands shortly
Doctors first put a hood over the crane's head and worked in silence.
The birds must not see human faces or hear human voices.
the cranes wear radio tracking bands on one leg. In addition,
four cranes were now fitted with PTTs
(satellite tracking devices).
open-topped pen is made of 8-foot high fencing. The cranes can
and go as they like. The bottom of the pen is alligator-proofed with
heavy wire screening. Electric fence wire discourages other
predators. Much repair work was needed after the 2004 hurricanes.
See photos and details here.
A member of the monitoring team (this is Mark) makes the 40-minute
airboat ride to the cranes' island each day. Monitors check
and keep them safe by setting
traps for bobcats. They keep notes on the cranes' behaviors.
crane monitors (this is Sara
Zimorski) can hide in this blind
to watch the cranes. They come twice a day to the island. A solar-powered
system helps keep watch when the humans aren't there.
returns to the blind along the boardwalk. The board path keeps
her from sinking into the thick, black, goopy mud.
The cranes never see a human form without the baggy white costume.
spend as little time as possible with the cranes. These birds must
remain wild to have the best chances for survival.
like this one have been with the cranes at all times since they
hatched. The decoy is
familiar to them, so the young birds
are less nervous by their new surroundings.
the day, the 13 new arrivals--the 2004 chicks--are free
to fly, play, and explore.
night, monitors make sure they are in
the new top-netted
pen area. They must be safe from predators AND from the older cranes
who claim this as their territory. They'd get aggressive with the
youngsters and eat their food.
crane is in front? (See 2004
feeding station inside the pen provides a constant supply of
high- protein crane chow and fresh water. A small roof
covers the hanging feeders and keeps rain out.
The top net is high enough
to allow them to still enjoy their favorite actions: leaping
dusk falls, 3 older whooping cranes, or "white birds," roost on the "oyster bar" in the main part of the winter
release pen. Workers built this artificial roosting area from
oyster shells. Now it doesn't matter how high the tide gets.
the "oyster bar" to roost at night.)
13 chicks are in the top-netted area.
This! Journaling Question
keep them as wild as possible and not dependent on humans, the cranes
were raised by very strict rules. You can read more about the rules,
or protocol, by which these "ultra- whoopers" were raised.
The same rules will apply to all the chicks hatched and raised to join
the new Eastern Flock for the next two or more years. By then, the oldest
cranes may begin laying egg and hatching chicks. They will teach their
young the migration route and the ways of wild cranes.
- Do you
think the tiny flock can be called truly wild? Explain your answer.
Do you think that will change?
- Are you
surprised to see a few of the older cranes return to the pen site
of finding a new area nearby? What are some pros and cons of
older whoopers returning to the pen site?
North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).