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

Back to Meet the Cranes 2014

Crane chick #14-03 as a baby
Image: Operation Migration

Crane # 3-14
Date Hatched May 13, 2014
Gender Female
Left Leg Right Leg
   

Temporary leg band: red

Personality and Training: Crane chick #3-14 is the little sister of #2-14 from eggs laid by a wild pair at Necedah NWR. She was the fluffiest-headed chick in the Class of 2014. She was introduced to the trike on May 19 at the age of 6 days. By May 26, #3 and her sister got along great. They happily went together around in the circle pen, following the trike.

Chick #3-14 gave the team a scare on June 25. They had a day out in the big White Series pond pen, where they learn to be social with one another. A Patuxent crane crew member led birds 2-14 through 9-14 back, while Geoff stayed back with 10-14 so she wouldn't get pecky with the other birds on the walk back. But when they all got back to the the pen, chick 3-14 was nowhere to be found! Always one of the last birds to make it back to her pen, she often got sidetracked by her search for worms and grubs and fell behind the group. This time, after a long, frantic search by everyone, she was found inside #2-14′s pen! She was never lost: She just wandered into the wrong pen by mistake.

#3-14 needed toe splints.
Toe Splints
Image: Operation Migration
 
Chicks 3 and 4 having a stand-off
Stand-off!
Image: Operation Migration
 
Chick #3 on July 7 at Patuxent WRC
July 7, 2014
Image: Operation Migration
 
Chick #3's arrival in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Arrival
Image: Tom Schultz
 
Chick #4 on grass training strip in Wisconsin July 12
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!
The "girls" flying with the aircraft Sept. 28
Flying Longer
Image: Tom Schultz
 

Ground crew team member Geoff says #3 has a certain sense of whimsy to her. "Some days she feels like flying, some days, not so much. It more or less depends on her mood. But when she tries, she's one of our better fliers. Also, every flock has a grape/smelt snatcher. And #3 fills that role with much gusto. She's still a good bird at heart."

 

Class of 2014 landing after training
Landing
Image: Tom Schultz
 
Fall 2014: Ultralight-Guided Migration South October 10 migration departure!

October 10, 2014: Migration Day 1! The six girls took off for their first migration stop. Crane #3 flew the distance to Stopover #1: four miles.

October 11, 2014: Day 2 Cranes #3-14 and #8-14 started off great, but the rest of the birds turned back. Instead of continuing the 14 miles to stop #2 with the two flying birds, the pilot turned back to Stopover #1 again and landed. The two were crated, along with #4-14, and driven to the second Stopover Site in Marquette County. Meanwhile, the other four turned back to their training site and had to be crated and driven. It was a long and disappointing day for the team!

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! Whooping cranes #3-14 and #8-14 were the only ones to successfully fly the 28 miles to Columbia Co., Wisconsin in 42 minutes of flying. The other five had to be crated and driven to Stopover #3.

November 3, 2014: Day 26 Crane #3-14 followed Brooke's plane longer than any of the others before she landed in the Lodi Marsh south of town. All of the birds were captured and crated back to their enclosure in Columbia County, Wisconsin.

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 the first few days.
November 25, 2014: Day 47 Hooray! Crane #3 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 flightFinal Flight
Image: Karen Wiles