Tracking and Retrieving:
Help from Two-way Radios
and Marsh Music
Adapted from Operation
Migration Field Journal
by Charlie Shafer (Oct. 24, 2007)
go into action when
any of these valuable birds drops out of a flight behind the ultralight.
Charlie tells how trackers and pilots work as a team. How are 2-way
called "marsh music" important helpers too? Here's
Ready. . .Set. . .Gone!
the ultralights approached the pen, I parked the tracking van along
the flight path while Megan, Nathan and
to open the gate and release the birds. I listened on the radio for
the pilots to say, “The
birds are off.” Then I listened closely to hear how
the birds were forming up and following the ultralights. Would trackers
be needed today?
Everyone Into Action
Soon Richard and Chris each
had a bird drop out. They gave the GPS coordinates
over the 2-way radio. Bev and Megan drove off in search of the two
dropouts, while Nathan stayed behind
down the travel pen. I was busy
following the group of birds on Brooke’s wing in case
any should drop out closer to our next stop.
Searching for Dropouts
As soon as the pilots were close to safely delivering the birds to
the next stop, I turned around and drove back north to help Bev and
a quick cell-phone call we decided Megan and Bev would look for
#735, who landed out close to the pen. I would find #727, who was just
Crane #727’s signal was coming in loud (meaning she was close)
near the GPS coordinates that Chris gave me. Unfortunately, by the
time I had
put on my costume and assembled a crate, #727 had flown off. I
headed north again to try to pick up her signal, but it was fading
this means that a bird is flying, but I could not see her
on the ground or in the air.
Help from the Pilots
As luck would have it, the pilots were headed back north again
and they began an air-to-ground and air-to-air search.
Joe located #727 in a small mowed pasture surrounded on all four
sides by forest. (No wonder I couldn’t see her.) Apparently
she had flown down into this clearing in the woods, but did not
have the energy to take off and fly back out.
I was able to drive back to this clearing and box up #727 in a crate,
while Joe kept watch from the sky above. Meanwhile, Bev and Megan
had located #735 and boxed her up also. I met up with them to load
van so we could drive the birds down to the next stop.
Then Megan joined me in the van.
happens when cranes that have never heard human sounds must be
in a van on the highway? Why do trackers want to prevent them from
hearing vehicle and traffic noises? Charlie explains:
and I drove south to join up with the team and birds at the new stop.
We listened to "marsh
the way. What do you think marsh music sounds like? Listen to
our marsh music!
marsh music is what we play to the chicks at the captive breeding center
Maryland when they are in their indoor pens.
We also use it on migration when we transport the birds by
The recorded "music" of the marsh helps to block
out the road and other traffic noises, and it keeps the birds
also has a calming or sleepy effect on the people in the van. Something
about repetitive cricket chirps, duck quacks,
just puts you to sleep. We survived the monotony of the marsh
music, got the birds unloaded, and walked them safely out to
the pen at
the new site. Mission accomplished!
This! Journal Questions
did two things to prepare for retrieving a crane dropout: put on a
costume and assemble a crate. Tell why each step is important.
do you think of the idea of playing marsh
- What music do
you like to hear when you are under stress or want to relax?
What is your best way to calm yourself?
North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).