Leg Bands—and New Freedom
arrived, our young cranes spent their first
few days in a top-netted
area. They were sure to have enough food, and their containment also gave
project biologists time to get ready to perform the final health check
and banding. ICF's Sara Zimorski takes the airboat to the site
to monitor the cranes for now. Later, fellow ICF aviculturist Marianne
Wellington takes over so Sara can return north to Wisconsin for a while.
It's not easy for Sara to navigate the black muck of the saturated salt
marsh without sinking in and getting her boots sucked off! But the now-muddy
cranes seem to love it. They have a blast probing for snails and playing
with the black sludge. Sara's final task on leaving the enclosure is activating
the electric fencer unit, which zaps any predator with a good jolt of
electricity. This is necessary to protect the priceless birds inside.
Checks and Banding
On Dec. 11th WCEP veterinarian Marilyn Spalding worked with a small team
of assistants to draw blood samples and perform physical examinations
on 10 of the 16 cranes. Dan Sprague or Jane Chandler then took the hooded
crane over to FWS biologist Richard Urbanek, who carefully affixed the
new permanent leg bands. Each
new band has a radio transmitter
with a fresh battery. These
telemetry units are necessary to monitor the whereabouts of each young
crane over the next couple of years—or until the batteries wear
out. Today the remaining 6 cranes went through the same procedure. After
banding and exams, the birds were returned to the small top-netted section
of their pen. Females 301, 309 and 312 got even more "new jewelry."
Each had a Platform Transmitter
Terminal ("PTT") attached to their other leg. After the
worrisome task of the health check completed, handlers will work to win
back the birds' trust over the next couple of days by offering treats.
On Dec. 14th the top-netted section of the pen will be removed. At last
the cranes will fly free, coming and going from their winter release pen
whenever they want to.
Importantance of This Migration
the HY 2003 cranes will be learning about blue
crabs and tides. All of us who care about them will watch and wait.
Will they all survive the winter? Will they avoid predators? Will they
choose proper crane habitat? Will they know when and where to return in
the spring? You may think this is a lot of work and worry and expense
on behalf of so few birds; We share thoughts of two leaders in Whooping
crane conservation. Tom Stehn says, "We need species to survive that
have been there since the Ice Age. To keep them alive in captivity--that's
just not enough." George Archibald, co-founder of the International
Crane Foundation, says that losing this species would be "like
destroying original works of art of a great master that can never be reproduced."
Do you wonder what Joe Duff, Operation
Migration Team Leader, thinks? How does this migration experiment
also benefit other endangered species? Listen:
winter monitoring team from the International Crane Foundation is headed
up by Dr. Richard Urbanek. Sara
Zimorski, Mark Nipper, Lara Fondow, and Marianne Wellington will help.
They will continue to check on the cranes daily over the winter months.
Airboat trips to the enclosure area and a video monitoring system will
help them keep watch over the cranes. Look for information on the ICF
website. If the birds' instincts are correct, they'll head north
to summer in the wetlands of central Wisconsin again.
As for the
pilots and other WCEP partners,
they don't want to be flying birds to Florida forever. With three
ultralight whooper migrations behind them, they hope to teach this same
migration route to a new generation of captive-bred birds each fall
two more years. They estimate that within that time, they will phase
out the ultralight planes and see if veteran cranes will lead any
birds on the Wisconsin-to-Florida migration route. They'll know they
are successful when the next generation starts to learn from this
to migrate. The goal of this reintroduction project is to build a flock
of 125 birds by 2020. With the 2001''s five, last year's 15, and
year's 16, they're on the way!
Whooping cranes represent long lives, peace and tranquility. That is
wish for this young flock of ancestors of the Whooping cranes YOUR
ancestors will see in the skies over eastern North America. We'll see
you back in the spring to track this young flock on their first northward
This! Journaling Question
- The goal
of this reintroduction project is to build a flock of 125 birds
How old will you be then? Write a letter to the children you may someday
have, describing your thoughts and feelings on this historic day—the
completion of the third human-led migration of an endangered species.
Save your letter in a special place. Read it way in the future, or
give it someday to your children to share your memories of history
making! (Use your Comparing Migrations chart for the details, or look
at our completed
Journey North is pleased to feature this educational
adventure made possible by the
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).
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