Meet the Class of 2014 Whooping Cranes
Hatch-year 2014 of the Eastern Flock

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Crane chick #14-02 as a baby
Image: Operation Migration

Crane # 2-14
Date Hatched May 12, 2014
Gender Female
Left Leg Right Leg
   

Temporary leg band: black
Backpack transmitter

Personality and Training: Crane chick #2-14 is a full sister to chick #3-14.

Little #2 first heard the trike engine turn on and off on May 21 when she was 7 days old. She handled it well. By May 26, chicks #2 and #3, the siblings from Necedah, were going around and around together in the circle pen as they following the aircraft "trike" with no fear. They got along great with each other, too, unlike some siblings!

Crane chick #2 is biggest in the Class of 2014.
How Old?
Image: Operation Migration
 
chick #2 on July 7 in Maryland
July 7
Image: Operation Migration
 
Arrival in Wisconsin
Arrival in Wisconsin!
Image: Tom Schultz
 
Chick #2 shows her primary feathers on July 10.
Primary Feathers!
Image: Doug Pellerin
 
Chicks and Costume on training strip
Flight School Begins
Image: Tom Schultz
 
The chicks all ran after the plane as it taxied to the end of the grassy training strip.
Chasing the Plane
Image: Crane Cam
 
Training on July 14
New Aircraft!
Image: Tom Schultz
 
First 2-minute flight!
Now Flying!
Image: Ruth Peterson
 

Despite the downtime due to recent poor weather, all the girls did great flying with the aircraft, logging over 15 minutes of air time by the week of August 25!

Crane #2 is always a good follower.
The "girls" flying with the aircraft Sept. 28
Flying Longer
Image: Tom Schultz
 

September 16: Crane #2 was one of three cranes to get the new backpack transmitters used this year for the first time. "There are negatives to attaching anything to a free-flying bird, but the risk of injury is low, and there is a lot to be learned," writes Joe Duff.

She tried desperately to follow the plane when she had the backpack, but it impeded flight. On September 26, the backpack transmitters were removed from all three birds wearing them: 2-14, 7-14 and 9-14. The decision was made after the team had clear evidence that the backpack transmitters inhibited the cranes' normal flight ability. The next day all sixcranes flew just great, and for a duration of 20 minutes and 9 seconds. Go cranes!

Crane with backpack transmitter
Backpack Transmitter
Image: Operation Migration
 

October 6: The cranes are almost ready for migration, but the weather is holding them up. The team trains them as often as weather permits. Pilot Joe says #2 is the group's best flyer!

Crane #2 is still a small bird, like #4. She still peeps like a baby even though she's the oldest of the group.

 

Pilot Richard leads the birds
Good Flyer
Image: Doug Pellerin
 
Fall 2014: Ultralight-Guided Migration South October 10 migration departure!
Image: Operation Migration

October 10, 2014: Migration Day 1! The six girls took off for their first migration stop. Crane #2 flew the distance to Stopover #1: four miles.

October 11, 2014: Day 2 Cranes #2, 7, 9 and 10 took off but dismayed the team when they returned to their old White River Marsh training pensite instead of following the plane to Stopover #2. This has never happened in the team's past 13 seasons of leading cranes on migration! All were put in crates and driven to stop #2 in Marquette County, Wisconsin: 14 miles.

October 16, 2014: Day 7 After being grounded by wrong winds or rain for 5 days, the birds were eager to move on. All seven formed up as pilot Richard took off, but the air grew trashy as they rose upward. They must have said NO WAY and turned back to their pen to await a day with better flight conditions! Attempted flight on Oct 16 with all 7 birds taking off
October 26, 2014: Day 17 Finally a fly day! All seven took off, but cranes #3 and #8 were the only ones to successfully fly the 28 miles to Columbia Co., Wisconsin in 42 minutes of flying. The other five that dropped out were crated and driven to Stopover #3. Maybe #2 is still a bit set back from the time she was wearing the backpack transmitter.
November 3, 2014: Day 23 It was a great take-off for all seven birds, but it didn't last. They dropped out one by one. It became a miserable day of chasing, capturing and crating birds back to the same old Stopover #3. Crane #2 should have been freaked out after escaping into the woods with costumed Geoff in hot pursuit. Only by sheer luck was she caught when pilot Joe landed in a lucky spot and was able to grab her as she emerged down a path. But later that night, she happily took grapes and appeared to have forgotten the whole bad day! "It was like nothing had happened," said a mightily relieved Geoff, who thought she'd never forgive him.
November 7, 2014: Day 29 Today the team flew the birds in two separate shifts on a short 5-mile leg to an interim stop in Dane County, Wisconsin. Success! The best fliers, cranes #2, 3, 7 and 8, were in the first group while the others were left behind to wait their turn. In this photo Brooke appears over the horizon with the first group—on their way to Dane County, WI. Pilot Brooke takes off with four cranes.

November 13, 2014: LEAP TO TENNESSEE! With no change in Wisconsin's grim weather outlook, the team performed a first: They boxed up and transported this year’s group of cranes 600 miles by vehicle to start over again where the weather should be better. Thiis the longest segment of the migration route that will not be flown by the cranes since the initiation of this reintroduction in 2001. The birds were crated after sunset so the move could take place overnight, taking advantage of low light conditions, the least amount of traffic, and the time of day when the cranes would normally be roosting and less active. Cranes seldom eat or drink during the night so they were well hydrated and nourished before going to roost in their crates. The plan seems to have worked well. Upon release the next day, the happy birds ran right to a costumed Colleen for grape treats. The effects of not flying such a large section of the migration route are unknown, but the team is hopeful. Alas, the weather in Tennessee kept them grounded and there wasn't a successful flight again until Nov. 25.

November 25, 2014: Day 47 Hooray! Crane #2 and all the others except #4 and #10, who were held back because they drop out soon after take-off, flew 65 miles with Joe's plane to Hardin County, TN.

November 26, 2014: Day 48 Sixty-seven miles to Winston Count, Alabama!

November 28, 2014: Day 50 Thanks to 15 mph tailwinds, they were able to skip right over another stop this morning to fly a total of 111 miles. In the 2 hours and 7 minutes they were airborne, they climbed to 5200 feet altitude. Thrilling!

December 2, 2014: Day 54 Forty-six miles to Lowndes County, Alabama—for all seven birds! The five following Joe had to work hard in headwinds and heat while #7 hogged the "sweet spot" and had an easy flight. Cranes #4 and #10 flew with Brooke's plane on their first real flight of the migration.

December 3, 2014: Day 55 Sixty-four miles to Pike County, ALABAMA! Again today, five flew with Joe and two with Brooke.

Five of the cranes follow Joe's plane Dec. 2.

December 9, 2014: Day 61 All seven cranes flew again this morning, covering 117 miles and crossing Georgia! Here they are in Decatur County, GA.with only two flights to go!

December 10, 2014: Day 62 Another good day! All seven cranes flew 33 miles to Leon County, FLORIDA in 47 minutes. They flew just shy of 2,000 feet altitude at a ground speed of 51 mph, thanks to a nice tailwind. Only 28 miles to go!

All seven in the pen after flying 117 miles to  Decatur County, Georgia
December 11, 2014: Day 63 This morning after a 28-mile flight lasting 50 minutes, the seven 7-month-old Whooping Cranes landed for the first time on their new winter home at St. Marks NWR in Florida! Soon, after they have their final health check and permanent legbands and transmitters, they can be truly wild cranes—flying free and wary of people and all things human.
Cranes 2,3,7,8 and 9 on final flight
Final Flight
Image: Karen Wiles