Whooping Crane Whooping Crane
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Whooping Crane Migration Update: April 23, 2004

Today's Report Includes:

Chicks in Group 1A (see map)
Photo Richard Urbanek
Fly Away Home: Challenge Question #11
Keeping track of young whooping cranes made for another wild week! The map is filling up, and it takes some careful viewing to keep it all straight. These are wild birds that can’t phone home, so we’re stuck with missing pieces and many questions. They’re also at the age where wandering is normal. But here’s what we DO know: We can celebrate the safe return of three of the youngsters back at Necedah!

Which chick was first to arrive? Which three went to Minnesota? Which two haven’t been seen since April 17? How many are still at their locations in Ohio? We’re thrilled that all of the other ultracranes from 2001 and 2002 (except #201) are back in Wisconsin, too. The photos and captions in today’s report, together with the migration data and map, help us keep track of the 36 subadults of the Eastern flock. The suspenseful migration continues. We’ll keep updating the news as we get it:

Challenge Question #11:
"Why were the first cranes back able to make the journey north so much faster than the journey south? Try to give 3 reasons."

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Journaling Question:
Using the migration chart and the photos and captions in this report, how many “pairs” can you detect? Do you think they’ll stay together? List the gender and ages of birds in each pair. The flock charts will help you:

Finding “Home:” How Do They Do It?
Are you wondering whether the chicks in Minnesota (see photo) and those still in Ohio (see photo) will come back to Wisconsin? We’ll just have to wait and see. It's their first unaided journey north, so how do they know where and when to stop?

Sara Zimorski explains:
"This is chick #17 from 2003, one of the small group of three that has recently been in Minnesota. The photo was taken in Florida this winter by Marianne Wellington, who was caring for the chicks.
"This shows chicks #318 and 319, who are part of the group of 5 that has decided they like living in Ohio--or rather Ohio is good enough since they don't know how to cross the lake and get home to Wisconsin!"
Photo Marianne Wellington

When the birds were in "flight school" at Necedah last summer, the Operation Migration team made sure the birds developed their recognition of the area at Necedah NWR where they learned to fly. Lead ultralight pilot Joe Duff explained then, "We fly these birds locally a lot. It gives them a wide picture of what they're looking for on their way back. When they reach the latitude they're familiar with, they think 'Now, it's around here somewhere. Let's just look for it.'" Hear Joe explain more:

Sara Sends Photos From the Tracking Team: Journaling Questions

"Welcome back, #310 and 313! “This was taken on the morning of April 19 near the site 4 training area at Necedah after they completed their migration and returned to the refuge the previous night.”

Photo Richard Urbanek, USFWS

Journal Question:
An ornithologist looking at a crane's feet would know that even if this bird spends a lot of time in water, it isn't a swimmer. Why? (To help you answer this question, see Adaptations That Help Cranes Survive. Click on "Feet and Legs.")

This is #14 from 2002 in Lafayette County, WI, where she landed to roost the previous day and remained through April 19th. Crane #214 was last of all to leave Chassahowitzka this year. She was first detected April 17 in flight at 11:47 over northern Illinois. The first visual sighting of the bird, flying alone, was near Amboy, Illinois, at 1:14. She landed to roost in Lafayette County, Wisconsin, at 4:45. 

Click to enlarge.
Photo Richard

Journal Question:
Estimate how many miles #214 flew on April 17 between the visual sighting and landing to roost. About how fast was she flying?

Cranes # 3 and #15 from 2002 are feeding in a cornfield in Monroe County. They moved there after completing their migration and returning to Necedah on April 19th.

Photo Richard Urbanek, USFWS

Journal Question:
What does this photo indicate about a Whooping crane’s diet? What food do cranes like better than anything else? (To help you answer this question, see Feeling Blue and Crabby: Whooping Crane Winter Diet.)

This shows chick #311, who was found in a small marsh in Juneau County, WI on April 21. Before that, he was last located at Necedah at the completion of his migration on April 17th.
Photo Richard Urbanek, USFWS

The Aransas/Wood Buffalo flock migrates 2,400 miles.

Three at Aransas: What Are They Waiting For?
Tom Stehn has never seen adult cranes at Aransas later than April 21; yet, Tom’s April 21 census flight at Aransas showed that eight of the nine whoopers from last week were STILL present. “I would like to think I know something about cranes, having studied them for 22 years. But I continue to get fooled.” Find out what Tom means! How does Tom define subadults? Next week, how many cranes will Tom find, and what important topic will Tom talk to you about? See the answers in this week’s letter:



Wally Reports: Go Cranes!
Meanwhile, those Aransas whoopers are Canada bound! Wally Jobman of the USFWS in Nebraska has the latest confirmed spring migration reports from bird watchers along the Aransas/Wood Buffalo migration route. Are any near you? See this week’s sightings on the map, or use the data to make your own map.

Brian Reports: Cranes Moving Into Canada
“The whooping cranes have been moving into Canada since the middle of April,” reports Brian Johns of the Canadian Wildlife Service. “Usually from about the 20th of April to about the end of the first week in May is the peak time for migration through southern Canada. The first confirmed sighting this spring was of a pair on April 16. So far we have had about 8 confirmed sightings totaling 17 birds. Others are likely here but we don't know about them yet. The largest confirmed group has been 4 birds, but we have had several unconfirmed reports of larger groups. A few birds are already near the northern edge of the croplands. From there it is only a 2-3 day flight to the breeding grounds. The first birds could begin arriving on the breeding grounds as early as April 24-25.” Will this year’s first whoopers will be at Wood Buffalo National Park when you read this report?

FIRST chick of HY2004 "ultracrane" flock. What's its name? (Hint: Think of hatch year and birth order.)
Photo Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP)

First 2004 “Ultra-Chick” Hatched!
Just as the excitement of the migration winds down, there's new excitement with the hatching of the 2004 chicks and getting ready for another ultralight training and migration. The first chick of Hatch Year 2004 broke out of its shell on April 20! A second chick was expected to hatch later the same day. The second chick may or may not be designated as a WCEP (ultralight) chick. If female, the chick will be held back at Patuxent WRC for egg production to build genetic diversity among the captive breeding stock. If it's a male, the chick becomes one of WCEP’s fourth ultralight flock of Whooping cranes, or "ultracranes." Patuxent will post weekly updates on their own Web site during this busy time of year when many eggs are hatching from both Whooping cranes and Sandhills. Check out Patuxent's latest report!

Whooper Sighting...or Not? Discussion of Challenge Question #10
On Tuesday April 13th around noon, a Minnesotan named Gina and her two daughters saw an astonishing sight. We described the sighting and asked, “Based on the migration maps for BOTH migratory flocks, do you think these birds could be whooping cranes? What does Gina say that makes it seem likely? What, if anything, would make it seem unlikely?”

The size and color of the birds, the marshy habitat, and the dancing strongly suggested whooping cranes. But the sightings were more than 200 miles from the core reintroduction site in central WI. Operation Migration’s Heather Ray noted, “The sixteen youngsters are easy; they were in either Ohio, TN, or KY on that date, but I suppose it's possible a couple of the older cranes could have taken a side trip (200 miles is an easy flight for them to make).

A few days later, another Minnesota observer got a good look at the pair of birds! He reported their leg band colors. After several emails between the observers and WCEP’s Heather Ray and Tom Stehn, it was clear. Tom said, “The location and band identification is great information to have. These are two female eastern whooping cranes from hatch year 2002 that last summer migrated to South Dakota before they were captured by our monitoring team and returned to Wisconsin.”

These wandering females found their way back to Necedah NWR in the past week!

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How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question:

IMPORTANT: Answer only ONE question in each e-mail message.

1. Address an e-mail message to: jn-challenge-crane@learner.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #11.
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions above.

The Next Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 30, 2004.

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