Searching for #733
Joe Duff, November 26, 2007

Always on the Lookout
Everywhere we drive, we run with antennas attached and receivers tuned. Every trip, even if only to get gas, is regularly interrupted by detours to check on suspicious beeps. The WECP Tracking Team has been informed and they have added 733's frequency to the list. They will include her in the scan as they follow the migration [of the older Whooping Cranes in the Eastern flock].

Today's Plan
We focused most our search in the area where the bird was last seen and we have back-tracked at least four stops of the route. Now we will look ahead in case she found some Sandhill cranes and followed them to Hiwassee [a good wildlife refuge and crane stopover in Tennessee].

The Big Question
If we #733 at Hiwassee, the question becomes, do we bring her back here and make her fly the route again, or do we leave her there until we arrive at that stopover with the other 2007 cranes? That would depend on how long it takes us to get to Hiawassee. Leaving #733 in the company of Sandhill cranes might make it difficult to retrieve her, and retrieving her is our ultimate goal.

Pros and Cons
We have too much invested in this bird to risk a direct release (leaving her in hopes she'll join other cranes to find her way south). If she is repatriated (brought back) we know we can get her to the Chassahowitzka pen in Florida. If she becomes a direct release, we can’t be sure where she will winter. Also, long-term association with Sandhill cranes at this stage in life may cause problems when she reaches breeding age.

Looking Ahead
If 733 can't be found and recovered, she will automatically become a direct release bird, which does not mean she will be a complete loss. But she dropped out a few times already and there are gaps in her knowledge of the route. Her chances of getting back to Necedah and being a viable member of the population are better with her flock mates in the Class of 2007, than alone in the wild or with Sandhill cranes.
We could pen her there if we had staff to monitor her, but leaving her with the wild Sandhills is likely not the answer.

The Big Question if #733 is found at Hiwassee State Wildlife Area:

Bring her back to the group? OR Leave her with the wild birds?

Pro Con







Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure presented in cooperation with the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).