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Whooping Crane Migration Update: April 7, 2006

Today's Report Includes:

Keep up with "your" HY2005 crane on its own map during the journey north!

What a Week for Whoopers!
The group of 14 migrating together has come back by themselves in a mere 8 days! Tracker Richard Urbanek sent this news after today's report was first posted, so we're back with this News Flash! The group of 14 chicks completed spring migration as they passed the
southwest corner of Necedah NWR just after noon on April 6. They continued westward and landed along a creek in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin, at ~1340. There they foraged in a plowed cornfield and remained in the area to roost. WAY TO GO, CRANE KIDS!

In other news, you'll see a family from the Western flock, now in South Dakota. You'll also hear about the wayward #309 and crane-kid #520, who got bullied into following her where they shouldn't be!

By tracking and monitoring the similarities and differences of the new Eastern flock and the natural Western flock, you are doing exactly what the biologists are doing. Until recently, everything we know about whooping cranes has been based on the Western flock that migrates between Texas and Canada. As you read the news in today’s report, consider this:

What is the value of tracking two flocks?

Western Flock: Tom Stehn's Report
This week, Tom was lucky enough to be in the air and see two pairs begin their spring migration:

“What a sight to see their huge 7.5-foot white wing span with black wing tips, working hard to climb but also resting a lot as they spiraled up. What a privilege it is to be able to watch a bird start migration. They have so far to go!”

Tom wonders: Can you name the 7 states these cranes will fly over on their way to Canada? Do you live in one of them? What is the most amazing thing about this 18-year-old banded crane and its family, seen in Nebraska’s Platte River valley April 1-4? Tom tells you about them, and makes his prediction for the coming week. Dig into his fascinating questions about thermals and miles traveled. Discover it all here, including this week’s numbers for your departure log:

The "Long Reef Family" in South Dakota April 4, 2006

Tom tells you how they got the name Long Reef family, and what makes the 18-year-old adult and its family so amazing.

See Tom's full report.

Eastern Flock: WCEP Team Reports

419, 420, 309 and 520 on April 1 in Indiana 14 HY2005 chicks March 31 in Tennessee 14 HY2005 chicks April 2 in Illinois
Photos Richard Urbanek, USFWS, WCEP

For the fifth spring, the rarest crane in North America are returning to Wisconsin where they'd been missing for the last century. Since the flock was started in 2001, it has grown to 64 cranes. Seven adult pairs were among the first 18 whooping cranes to get back. In most cases they’re returning to the territories they held last year. These birds are now busy with territorial displays and courtship dancing. Will summer 2006 see the flock's very first chicks hatched?

But wait until you hear about the 2005 chicks on their first journey north. As this report went to the Web, tracker Sara Zimorski sent astonishing news: “Today [April 6] the group of 14 passed over Necedah and kept on going. Haven't heard yet where they ended up.” Wow!

Then there’s chick #520, being led astray by the wayward adult #309. Operation Migration pilot Joe Duff spoke for the WCEP team when he said #309 “bullied #520 into following her back to Michigan. It seems they are both in the eastern part of the state close to Lake Huron, and separated from their home at Necedah NWR by Lake Michigan.”

Surely you can’t stand the suspense until next week’s report! Keep checking our maps (linked to each crane’s life story page) for updates when we get the latest news:

Which older "white birds" are home, which are migrating, and why is the team so concerned about Crane #318?

  • Where Are the Crane-Kids? A Map for Each One
    NOTE: Please the drop-down menu to select individual HY2005 chicks. (Don’t be confused by the map for the selection “All Cranes;” the data points where the group of 14 lands make it look like only one crane was there.)

Faster Flying Free? Challenge Question #7
You recall that it took 61 days for ultralight planes to lead these youngsters to Florida last fall. Now the group of 14 migrating together has come back by themselves in a mere 8 days. Pilot Joe Duff joked, “Trust a whooping crane to humiliate us mortal pilots on such a grand scale. It's like being beaten 100 to 0.”
  • Challenge Question #7:
    “Why can the Eastern cranes make the journey north so much faster than their very first journey south?”

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

    TIP: Find the answer by exploring the reports from Fall’s Journey South.
Photo WCEP

Finding Wisconsin: Discussion of 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?”

High fives and hoorays to Marcus, Maryland home-school 6th grader! He correctly calculated 106 days on the wintering grounds. (They arrived December 13, 2005 and left March 18, 2006.) Then Marcus added 106 days to the previous stays of 126 days, 121 days, 117 days and 107 days and divided by 5 to get the average stay over five years: 115.2 days.

Those Florida Winters: Challenge Question #8
Marcus asked us a GREAT question with his answer to last week’s Challenge Question (above). You be the scientist: How would YOU answer his question?
Challenge Question #8:
“ It appears that there is a trend that the number of days on the wintering grounds [for Eastern flock] is getting shorter. Are there any ideas on why this may be?”

CraneHY 309's travels

Navigation Notions: Discussion of CQ #6
Last week, we shared the travel tales of crane #309. As you know, she and her buddy, #520, left camp together to head north. Neither had yet made a successful migration back to Wisconsin, so we had to wonder this:

• "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?"

After this week's turn of events, you will be even more curious to see the answer! Sixth grader Marcus had a well-reasoned response. He thought about the personality, age, and abilities of each crane partner. Read his comments, and see why ultralight pilot Joe Duff thinks #309 is a bully!

The Next Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 14, 2006

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