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

Back to Meet the Cranes 2014

Crane chick #4-14 as a baby
Image: Operation Migration

Crane # 4-14
Date Hatched May 15, 2014
Gender Male
Left Leg Right Leg
   

Temporary leg band: green

Personality and Training: Crane chick #4-14 was dubbed "Peanut" by Brooke soon after hatching because he was so small. "I swear he’s a mouse disguised as a crane chick!" exclaimed Brooke, who was one of his daily caretakers. This chick turned out to be the ONLY male in the Class of 2014!

Chick #4 got a late start due to health problems, but soon he was back in the lineup for ground school training. He had his first On/Off trike engine conditioning session May 25 and wasn't scared at all. Soon he was following the trike around the circle pen along with the other six chicks, all girls. He joined right in. See what happened as his training unfolded:

July 7
July 7
Image: Operation Migration
Arrival day in Wisconsin!
Wisconsin Arrival
Image: Tom Schultz

#4 checks out the water basin at White River Marsh
Exploring
Image: Doug Pellerin

#4 on july 10
July 10
Image: Doug Pellerin
Chicks and Costume on training strip
Flight School Starts
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
 
This year's only male crane, #4-14 developed a limp Aug. 26 while playing in the winds during a strong storm the day before. He was on the disabled list to allow it to heal. On some days the team let him out on the runway for exercise. Everybody just loves his good-natured ways and hopes his leg heals in time for migration.
Crane #4 gets entertained by the costume and some floating mealworms.
Disabled List
Image: Tom Schultz
 

Crane #4's leg has not healed as quickly as hoped and was re- injured a week ago as he played on the runway. He has been patient and brave and good-natured, even when the doctor put a leg brace on him September 19. He was grounded for about 3 weeks. During that time the team let him out for exercise on days when it's too windy for the aircraft to fly to help build muscles and endurance.

#4 with hjis new hinged leg brace to help his leg heal
Leg Brace
Image: Operation Migration
 
Crane # lands after being let out of confinement
Landing
Image: Tom Schultz
 
#4 lands in the marsh on Sep. 28
In the Marsh
Image: Tom Schultz
 
#4 preens his new radio transmitter
Brace Off, Band On
Image: Operation Migration
 

October 6: Weather won't permit the migration to begin to day, but the team hopes to give #4 a private training session so he gets the benefit of the air currents off the wing to help his flight as he gains endurance. How will he do on migration? Heather says: "The team may fly the six girls to the first migration stop, then come back and get him so he has his own aircraft. If he can't make the entire five miles, we'll have to crate him, but he was a great follower prior to his hock injury so we're hopeful he still is!"

Crane #4 HATES puppets but he's very docile to the costume. Lke a little puppy, he will will follow the costume anywhere.

Crane # lands after being let out of confinement
Landing
Image: Tom Schultz
 
#4 with his new leg band
New Band
Image: Heather Ray
 
Older cranes #4-12 and 5-12 show up to stall Peanut's training time alone with the airplane and pilot.
Training Foiled
Image: Colleen Chase
 
#4 attacks his first pumpkin
First Pumpkin
Image: Doug Pellerin
 
Fall 2014: Ultralight-Guided Migration South
October 10, 2014: Migration Day 1! The six girls took off for their first migration stop. The plan was for the aircraft to return for Peanut (#4) so he could have the wing to himself for extra help in flight. By the time the plane returned, the air had gotten bumpy. Crane #4 tried his best before he dropped out after flying 7 minutes. It was the longest he'd flown in over a month! He was boxed up to finish the short distance to Stopover #1 where his flockmates waited. Migration is underway! October 10 migration departure!
October 11, 2014: Day 2 At the first stopover site and for the first time since his injury, Peanut was released to fly with the other six cranes. He landed after a couple of circuits of flying. He wasn't the only one that didn't fly the distance to stopver #2 today. None of the others cooperated to do that either, and all were crated and driven the 14 miles to Marquette County. Eventually they'll get used to the drill---hang in there! Crane #4

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.

Richard later said the second bird from the wing was Peanut, #4-14, making a great start!

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. Leg issues may still be bothering #4, but he's trying!
November 3, 2014: Day 26 Crane #4 took off with the group just fine, but none of them stuck with the plane very long. All dropped out and had to be 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 photo shows cranes #4, 9 and 10, who were in the second group. All few the distance with Richard to join their flockmates in Dane County, WI. Flying to Dane County, WI.
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, 26, and 28, 2014: Days 47, 48 & 50 Cranes #4 and #10 were held back on these three flights, slipped into their crates before the aircraft arrived to take off with the others. They were driven while the others flew. Without #4 and #10 to lead them in dropping out, the other five flew with no problems at all. All seven birds were reunited again at the new stopovers.

Cranes 4 and 10 were held back because they've dropped out of the flights leading the other birds with them. It's not their fault: Crane 4’s issues started with his leg injury, and Crane 10 learned the wrong lesson after weeks of not flying due to all the bad-weather days in the north. They traveled much of this migration in a cardboard box (see right), riding over roads aboard a van.

The team still hopes to include these two birds, one at a time, in hopes it learns by example and falls into line with the others. They also hope that the five good followers have regained their lost loyalty to the plane and will be less inclined to follow one dropout bird if the lesson doesn’t take on the first try.

Cardboard box for shiiping crane #4
December 2, 2014: Day 54 Hooray! Cranes #4 and #10 got the chance to take off and fly today's segment of the migration route. They flew 46 miles to Lowndes County, Alabama. Finally, this was their first real flight of the migration. Crane #4 was in the lead, and both birds are back in the game! Crane #4 (lead) and #10 on their first real migration flight: Dec. 2, 2012.
December 3, 2014: Day 55 Sixty-four miles to Pike County, ALABAMA! It was a warm day with some headwinds, which would take their toll on the birds. The team debated releasing all seven together but felt that 4 and 10 would lose the battle for the lead to the five that have now found their own order in the air. That means #4 and #10 would be at the back of the line where they would have to work the hardest. So again today, these two took off with Brooke and had his plane all to themsleves as they flew the distance! Cranes #4 and #10 flying with Brooke on Dec. 3.
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!
All seven in the pen after flying 117 miles to  Decatur County, Georgia
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! Cranes #4 and #10 fly with Brooke on Dec. 9
December 11, 2014: Day 63 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 4 and 10 on their final flight with the aircraft!

 

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