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Whooping Crane Migration Update: March 24, 2006

Today's Report Includes:

Eyes Up! Birds from Both Flocks Are Heading North
We're still waiting for the cranes we'll map: the HY2005 ultralight-led chicks. Meanwhile, several of the Eastern flock's older birds are already home in Wisconsin! And in Texas, some of the Western flock have departed on the 2,500-mile migration to Canada. More news on both flocks follows, but first get out your journals and use the link below to note the weather where the cranes are coming from and headed to:

Then, get set to dig deeper with our next challenge question:

Timing is Everything: Challenge Question #3

Last time crane expert Tom Stehn asked you how cranes are rewarded for migrating at the right time. How do cranes “know” the “right” time? As you read today's update, and particularly Tom Stehn's report (below), keep alert for new information that will help you with this question; remember to send us your answers!

Challenge Question #3:
“What determines the best time for whooping cranes to migrate? Give statements to support your answer.”

To respond to this Challenge Question, please follow these instructions.


Where Are the Whoopers of the Eastern Flock?
Every spring we follow the migration of the very same Eastern ultralight-led cranes we tracked the previous fall. This spring we will make a map to show the unaided journey north of our 19 young cranes (who aren't underway yet). But the Eastern flock now includes 64 whooping cranes. Where did they spend the winter? And where are they now?

This map answers the first question:

And this chart answers the second:

Field Notes: Cranes on the Wintering Grounds--and On Migration!

Western Flock: Tom Stehn's Report

“On our March 22 census flight, I only found 163 whooping cranes at Aransas out of the estimated 215 in the flock,” writes Tom. But he had a poor day for flying and said, “Under those difficult viewing conditions, I never can find all the cranes. ” Yet, what three things were evidence that the migration has begun? Tom asks, “Why don't the whooping cranes all migrate together in large flocks?” You'll find out; list 3 advantages to the cranes migrating in small groups and leaving at different times. Also list 2 conditions that make life hard for the Texas cranes right now. Get out your journals, and dig into Tom's great report:

Next Week: Come on a Field Trip to Aransas with photos from Ben and Jane.

Eastern Flock: Mark Nipper Reports

The chicks seem to be sensing that migration time is near. Crane monitor Mark Nipper earlier said, “Weather has been classic sunny Florida. Gentle southerly winds and a lot of sun have made for good migrating weather. More of our adult birds are on the move, and the chicks continue to get more anxious. They make pretty regular flights of increasing time, distance, and altitude.” Mark adds this good news: “Chick #516 has made marked improvement over the last month. He definitely has the willingness to fly and stay with the group. It is usually hard to spot him in the air now because he is right in with the flock.”
The older "white" birds seem to migrate before the chicks. Stay tuned!

ANSWERS! Craniac Treasure Hunt: Get to Know the Flock
Which chick was not allowed to fly most of the very first ultralight migration (2001) because of his behavior? Last year (2005), which female produced the first egg ever laid by cranes in the new Eastern flock? Which 2005 chicks were called Jumblies, Poe, Waldo and Maya? Last time we gave you our Craniac Treasure Hunt questions. This time we give you the answers! Forget the TV show; these are the real SURVIVORS!

Challenge Question #4: Which Crane-Kids Wear the PTTs?

Explore more:
Signals from the Sky: About Those PTTs

Crane #208 with PTT on his right leg and radio transmitter on the left leg

Photo Sara Zimorski

The Craniac Treasure Hunt gave you a close look at the new Eastern flock, including the hatch year 2005 cranes making their first journey north. Now you know more about their personalities, and you're ready for the next challenge. So far, we've kept quiet about which THREE chicks are wearing satellite transmitters, called PTTs, besides their radio transmitters. A team of experts must choose which birds will wear the expensive PTTs. Think carefully about the 19 ultralight-led chicks and the 4 DAR (Direct Autumn Release) chicks. You have only 3 PTTs available. If you were the scientist, which birds would you most want extra measures for tracking their whereabouts? Then send us your answers to:

Challenge Question #4:
“Which 3 birds from all the HY2005 chicks would you pick to wear satellite transmitters (PTTs)? What are your reasons for each pick?”

To respond to this Challenge Question, please follow these instructions.

DAR chick #527 last summer

Photo ICF

Discussion of Challenge Question #2: Why Not in Florida?
Surprising everyone, two of last year's DAR (Direct Autumn Release) whooping cranes were the first 2005 chicks to start their journey north. But DAR chicks #527 and #528 started out from Tennessee. We asked: “Why weren't these chicks in Florida, like the other hatch year 2005 chicks?”

Each of this week's replies had a different and delightful answer, and each showed a lot of thought. There's something to learn from ALL of them. Well done, students! See answers and our comments here:

The Next Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on March 31, 2006.

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