Whooping Crane Whooping Crane
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Field Report Oct 25, 2001
By Joe Duff

Today marks the first week of our migration and we have only covered 100 miles. So far we have faced many foes from

Joe Duff 10/11/01

early morning frost that coats our wings to early morning fog that dampens our spirit. We have encountered interstate highways that the birds would not cross and headwinds that they would not battle. We have seen rain and lightening, hail and snow but last evening as the twilight dwindled; a wind began to blow from the northwest. It gathered speed as it rolled over the hills and channelled down the valley where we set our bird pen and by 10pmÖit had torn it apart. As the wind increased and began to rock our trailer Deke and Dan set out to check on the birds. After an hour Richard and I started to worry and headed out to check on them. When they arrived they found only three birds, buffeted by the wind as they hunkered outside a twisted and distorted pen. First, they checked for injuries then began to look for lost birds. They placed one bird in the shipping crate that we use to transport #4 and the other inside the pen-trailer. Dan took out his phone list to call in the troops and it was instantly blown away. After an hour they were heading back to get help when Richard V. and I met them on the road. We all raced back to camp and called in Richard Urbanek to help track them, Kelly Maguire to lend a hand and Julie Langenberg DVM in case we needed a Veterinarian. We gathered costumes, vocalizers, dry boots, radios, tracking receivers and night-vision scopes before heading out into the dark. We trekked through briers and brambles and forests of burdock until we were wet, cold and covered in burs. We walked through the thicket playing the brood call and then we would stop and listen for a quiet distress call over the howl of the wind. By 2:30 AM we had all but one bird back in a makeshift pen. We only used 5 panels to create this new shelter and we staked it down like Gulliver; still it shook with the force of the wind. Not one of the three trackers could get a signal on number 3 and Richard Urbanek informed us that its solar-assisted radio did not work at night. We walked the area one more time while Dan prepared to spend the night in the trailer next to the birds. By first light we were back and sent Dan to the base camp to get warmed up. Kelly and Julie drove the perimeter roads and two miles to the south they picked up a signal. They worked their way north from a side road while I headed south from the pen. We met at the top of the ridge and after an hourís search, Kelly stumbled upon the body of #3. It was found under a power line that it obviously hit in the dark. Power lines are the major cause of death for wild Whooping cranes and now they have taken one of ours. It gives us an indication of the obstacles that wild birds face without the advantage of motor homes with central heating.


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