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Whooping Crane Migration Update: March 31, 2006

Today's Report Includes:

Northward Bound: HY2005 Crane-Kids Take Off!
Migration is underway for all 19 of last fall's ultralight-led chicks! Now that they've gone, calculate this:

Challenge Question #5:
"How many *days was the HY2005 flock on the Florida wintering grounds before departing on their first journey north? What is the average number of days on the wintering grounds for the 5-year history of the new Eastern flock?"

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

*Use the March 28 departure date for the group of 18, which was all but one of the crane-kids. For average days in previous years, see Comparing Migrations, 2001-2005.

More news on both flocks follows, but in your journals you'll want to note the weather where the cranes are coming from and headed to.

Keep up with "your" crane on its own map during the journey north. (We'll do our best to keep maps updated. Getting every bird's location is a real challenge for the few trackers on duty.)
Navigation Notions: Challenge Question #6
In the Eastern flock, it's been a week of suspense and surprise. Chick #520 and adult #309 flew out of camp together a full day before the other 18 crane-kids. But neither #520 nor #309— buddies now migrating together—have made a successful trip north. Chick #520 was a good follower on the fall migration, but there's one break in her knowledge of the migration route. She missed 64 miles on Day 59 when she and several other birds were crated and moved from Terrell County to Cook County in Georgia. And #309 has never been back to Wisconsin because she gets lost. Now we are left to wait and wonder: Will these two make it home? Where has
#309 been—and why? Find out, and also hear the audio clip with Operation Migration's Joe Duff's thoughts on crane navigation:

Then come back and send us your thoughts for. . .

Challenge Question #6:
"Do you think #309 and #520 have enough knowledge of the route to get them home? What factors will aid #309 in making a successful migration back to Wisconsin?"

To respond to this question, please follow these instructions.

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

Western Flock: Tom Stehn's Report

"On my March 29 aerial survey, there were only 19 cranes I could not find," says Tom. How many does Tom think are migrating? In a recent blue crab search, Tom found so few that he said: "It would be equivalent to you having to walk 4 hours to the store and then being allowed to buy only 7 small oatmeal cookies that you would have to share with your parents." That's bad news for he cranes, and so is one other conditon. What is it? Tom also said, "The Lobstick cranes are some of the first birds to migrate and traditionally reach Wood Buffalo Park before most other cranes." Where does their name come from? It's all inTom's report:

Come on a photo Field Trip to Aransas!

The Lobstick Family (minus one parent) at Aransas NWR
Photo Diane Loyd

Eastern Flock: Mark Nipper Reports

They're on their way! Chick #520 left with #309 on March 27. The rest of the flock took off on March 28. Tracking the cranes, Mark said, "They were moving fast for a good portion of the day, making it difficult to keep up at times. They did make it fairly easy for us, however, by staying in one big group for most of the day. Eighteen whoopers soaring their way up to Georgia must have been an amazing sight for anyone lucky enough to have spotted them!" In Georgia, they split into three groups at roost time.

At this writing, we have chicks in Georgia and Tennessee! It took them 61 days to complete their fall migration with the ultralights. How long will it take them to get back to Wisconsin? Will they all make it safely? The race is on!

Some of the chicks before they left Florida. Each chick has its own map to show the journey north!

Photo WCEP

Which Crane-Kids Wear the PTTs? Discussion of 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?”

It turns out that TWO transmitters (we goofed) were available for the ultralight chicks. Those two PTTs went to females #502 and #520. In addition, three transmitters went to the female DAR (Direct Autumn Release) chicks: #527, #528, #533. We were impressed with the picks and reasons sent by Katie and Marcus. They give us all a lot to think about. Don't miss their answers, and an expert's thoughts, here:

Timing is Everything: Discussion of Challenge Question #3
Tom Stehn earlier said that whoopers get rewarded for migrating at the right time. We asked you to be alert for new information in Tom Stehn’s March 24 report to help with this question:What determines the best time for whooping cranes to migrate? Give statements to support your answer.”

“The best time for Whoopers to migrate is determined by experience, and then, natural selection helps ensure that the birds who made the best choices survive.” Marcus carefully read Tom’s March 24 report! Seventh graders from Iselin Middle School listed critical factors such as instinct and weather. All together, these answers are impressive! See more here:

Do you see the whooping crane among these sandhill cranes?
Photo Jeff Bahls

Live From the Platte River! Crane Cam
See the amazing crane migration in real time on the Internet. Sandhills by the thousands are taking off from the Platte, and two whooping cranes are said to be in the mix. (Sandhill cranes are the non-endangered cousins of whooping cranes.) What can you see?

Ask the Expert: Send Your Questions!
Once again this year, ornithologist Laura Erickson eagerly awaits your questions. It's a great opportunity to get answers from an expert!

The Next Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 7, 2006.

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