A Single-Parent Whooping Crane

This is a story of loss and hope. First came the loss, earlier this summer of all but one of the wild-hatched chicks. A record number of 13 chicks were hatched in the wild places in and around Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. There were a few, heady weeks in May as the reports of the first wild hatchling was followed by a second; then another and another, until 13 wild-hatched chicks were confirmed (see the section on Reproduction).

Hopeful Days, Sobering Losses

Those springtime hopes were soon followed by this sobering report in mid-June at Operation Migration’s Field Journal that only 3 chicks could be confirmed alive. Tiny whooping crane chicks, apparently, are no match for the bigger wildlife that preys upon them in Wisconsin. Hope shrunk further with the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership’s official update in mid-July which made it clear that only one wild chick (#3 of 2014) was surviving.

Even so, for those that closely follow the progress of this re-introduced whooping crane population, hope settled firmly on W3-14 and it’s attentive parents. The International Crane Foundation’s Eva Szyszkoski was tracking the crane family in Wood County, and posting encouraging updates and photos of them on Facebook (July 22 and August 13).

The adult cranes in this family, male 12-02, and female 19-04, were veteran parents. They had first paired up in the fall of 2006 and their first confirmed nest, though unsuccessful, was discovered in the spring of 2008. In 2009, they successfully hatched a chick that lived to mid-July. They hatched three more after that, and all, including W3-14, fledged.

Most distressing then, when it was announced this week that 19-04, the female of the pair, is now missing, and probably deceased.

New Hope:  Crane Dad & Chick Duo

The report from the International Crane Foundation, Aug. 27, states: “19-04, (the mother of W3-14) has disappeared. She was last observed with her family on the evening of Aug. 16, 2014.” It is posted on the ICF Facebook page, and the Facebook pages of Operation Migration and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, as well. With all that experience gained by the pair, (#19-04 and #12-02) with hatching chicks successfully, and their very good track record of raising them to fledging, this is particularly bitter news.

But their chick, W#3-14, has been photographed again, in good health, and in the company of now Single-dad Whooping Crane 12-02. And the hope all shifts to this Dad & chick duo.

The Recovery of the Whooping Crane Species

The survival of this wonderful North American species of bird – these tall, elegant, super-fliers – has never been assured since their numbers in the only natural-occurring flock dwindled into the mere teens in the 1940s.

Whooping Crane  (Photo, courtesy of International Crane foundation)

Whooping Crane (Photo, courtesy of International Crane foundation)

This original Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock (which migrates between it’s breeding territory in northern Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast), has recovered from 16 birds in the winter of 1941-42, to around 300 today. Three hundred wild whooping cranes is something to celebrate, that’s for sure! But it’s not nearly enough to consider the future secure for the species, and the efforts to re-introduce a second flock – such as the Eastern Migratory Population based in Wisconsin – is a hedge against any potential disaster befalling the Aransas-Wood Buffalo cranes.

Even though the number of birds in that flock is now light years ahead of where it was in the 1940s and 50s, progress has moved at a snail’s pace. Still, hope has always been a partner with the whooping crane species.

[Important Note:  The biographical facts about the cranes in this story are available through the outstanding efforts of The Journey North website to chronicle the lives (and deaths) of each and every crane introduced, or born, into the Eastern Migratory Population of whooping cranes.]

Land Conservation and the Gathering Waters Conservancy

After reporting in the previous post (below) about the Barn Dance & Chautauqua at the Saxon Homestead Farm near Cleveland WI, I was curious and wanted to learn more about one of that event’s co-sponsors, The Gathering Waters Conservancy.

In case you need it, too, here’s a capsule description – the Conservancy is a kind of umbrella land conservation group that exists to support and connect all the individual land trusts throughout the state; in its’ own words, to support “the remarkable growth and success of Wisconsin’s private land conservation movement.”

Gathering Waters Conservancy was established in 1994 and since then “the number of non-profit organizations permanently protecting land has increased from 12 to over 50.”


Niagara Escarpment Forest at the Door County Land Trust’s Bayshore Blufflands (Photo by Joshua Mayer)

The Barn Dance is just one of the big events on GWC’s plate for September. On Thursday, the 25th, the Conservancy will host its 12th annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration, at Monona Terrace in Madison.

Land Conservation Leadership Honorees for 2014

This will be an impressive gathering of the conservation community from all parts of the state and the party this year is also an occasion for GWC to celebrate its own 20th anniversary. But the major focus of the evening is to spotlight those Wisconsin citizens being honored for their conservation leadership.

The honorees will include:

Roy and Charlotte Lukes, Egg Harbor, recipients of the Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award, for their decades of work as Door County naturalists and conservation icons;

Matt Dalton, Minocqua, recipient of Conservationist of the Year, for his work as The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Conservation for Northern Wisconsin;

Melissa Cook, Milwaukee, Conservationist of the Year, for her vision and perseverance over 15 years in the development of the Hank Aaron State Trail in the Menominee Valley;

Margaret Burlingham, Palmyra, recipient of the Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation, for her work to preserve and protect Wisconsin farmland;

and, The Conservation Fund, a national land trust whose Upper Midwest Initiative has had significant impact on Wisconsin, is being recognized as Land Trust of the Year.

It’s interesting to have a look at the past award winners, as well, to see the depth and breadth of conservation work that has been honored by the Gathering Waters Conservancy over the past dozen years.

If you’d like to learn more about the Conservancy and the land trust movement in general, the GWC website has a wealth of information, and the Find A Local Land Trust tool may introduce you to nearby resources you never knew were so close-at-hand.

Making Plans: September Fests, Hikes, Field Trips, Etc!

Hard to think about (for those who love summer best), but September is just around the corner. But if that’s the “bad news,” the many ways to get outdoors and celebrate Wisconsin in September – that’s the good news.

Here are some dates to keep in mind – brought to you by the Door County Land Trust, the Gathering Waters Conservancy, Operation Migration, the the Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and more – as you make September plans.

September 3 – Hike, Sunset Picnic, & Concert at the Lautenbach Woods Nature Preserve & the WoodWalk Gallery, in Door County; sponsored by the Door County Land Trust.

The Door County shoreline; on the bay of Green Bay. (A Badger & the Whooping Crane photo)

The Door County shoreline; on the bay of Green Bay. (A Badger & the Whooping Crane photo)

Headlined “This Land Is Your Land,” this event is both one of the Door County Land Trust’s public events, and part of a Woodwalk Gallery  folk festival. Sounds like fun, but check it out quickly –  there IS already a waiting list for this event!

Sept 6 & September 22 – Night Walks, at the UW-Arboretum, Madison.

From 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept.6, catch the last choruses of night-calling insects and migrating birds. Or observe the Equinox on Monday, the 22nd, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Watch the sun set and learn more about the autumnal equinox on this naturalist-led tour.

Septbemer 12, 13, 14 –  The Whooping Crane Festival; in Green Lake County; sponsors include Operation Migration and the Berlin Rotary Club.

Watch the training of whooping crane chicks (weather permitting!) as they learn to fly with ultralight aircraft. Listen to the experts, including, Professor Emeritus Stanley Temple on the extinction of the passenger pigeon, George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation, OM Pilot Joe Duff, DNR Pilot Beverly Paulan, Raptor Rehabilitabor Pat Fisher, and Birder Tom Schulz. Events take place at Princeton High School and several other locations near White River Marsh State Natural Area.  See ALL of the details by clicking on the Whooping Crane Festival link.

Sept. 12 – Saving Family Lands, a panel discussion sponsored by the Wisconsin Friends of John Muir, 6:30 – 8 p.m., at the UW-Extension Community Room, in Montello.

This program, part of the Muir Friends’ “Popcorn and Ideas” discussions, will bring together staff from the Gathering Waters Conservancy and a panel of local landowners from Marquette County to discuss experiences with preserving farmland and/or the natural landscape.

Sept.13 – Barn Dance & Chautauqua, at Saxon Homestead Farm, in Cleveland, WI, 4-10 p.m.

Techinically, this is called the “Partnering for Progress Barn Dance & Chautauqua” and proceeds from the event will benefit the 3 partners that make up the Partners for Progress: the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership, the Gathering Waters Conservancy, and the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers.

Aldo Leopold (Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation)

Aldo Leopold (Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation)

Here’s what to expect:  a showing of the film “Green Fire,” about Aldo Leopold, with commentary by Curt Meine, Senior Fellow at the Aldo Leopold Foundation;  a Harvest Buffet of locally grown food;  and the barn dance to the sounds of Buffalo Stomp. Tickets are priced at $30 an individual, $50 a pair, and $10 per student. You are advised to “Get yours today!” Only 250 will be sold – “then they’ll be gone!”

Sept. 13 Yahara Riverfest, hosted by the Rock River Coalition, at Conservancy Commons Park, in DeForest. 1-7 p.m.

This fest includes a 5K trail tromp (begins at 1 p.m.), a rubber duck race, and beer and wine tasting. Randy Korb, the “Frog Guy,” will present a unique, highly engaging amphibian program for children and adults.

September 13 – Hike Kangaroo Lake Nature Preserve, with the Door County Land Trust, 10 a.m. to noon.

This is part of the Land Trust’s “Take a Hike and Call Me in the Morning” series; a 1.5 mile hike at the Land Trust’s very first nature preserve.  It includes spectacular vistas, serene lakeshore, a spring-fed creek and wetlands, and boreal forest.

Sept. 20 – Explore the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Nature Preserve with the Door County Land Trust, 10 a.m.am to 4 p.m.
This “Explore the Door” activity brought to you by the Land Trust, runs concurrent with the city of Sturgeon Bay”s Harvest Fest. Enjoy Harvest Fest and take a diversion through the nature preserve, located at the southern end of Sturgeon Bay, on the southwest side of the ship canal. There will be hiking opportunities and activities for people of all ages. Nature Preserve hosts will be available to share the history and ecology of the preserve.

Map of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal (via Wikimedia)

Map of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal (via Wikimedia)

Sept. 20 – Field trip to the Newell and Ann Meyer Nature Preservewith the Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin, located in Waukesha and Walworth Counties, 9 a.m. to noon.

Join the conservancy staff and enjoy the restored native prairie in bloom.  The prairie and grasslands of this nature preserve provide a refuge for rare birds and other wildlife.

Sept. 20 – Birds & Bat Migration in Milwaukee, with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, at Riverside Park, 8 to 11 a.m.

This is one of the expert-led field trips sponsored by Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and to participate, you ‘ll need to purchase an NRF membership ($25 per individual, $40 for a family).  On this particular field trip you will learn all about what urban areas can do for bats and migratory birds.  You will observe a bird banding station, mist-nets, acoustic bat monitoring demos, and see songbirds “up close & personal.” This field trip is recommended for children, age 10 or older, and adults. There is a $12 charge per adult; $6 per child, (and the price of a membership if you ‘re not already an NRF member).

 Sept. 27 – John Muir University of the Wilderness sponsored by the Wisconsin Friends of John Muir, 7 p.m., at Vaughn Hall, in Montello.

This “narrative concert” features the contemporary, classical and Celtic music of the Chance Quartet and the words of Scottish-born, American wilderness-educated, naturalist John Muir.  Tickets to this one-night show are available at the door, or in advance from the MORE Health Foods restaurant in Montello.


Whooping Crane Festival 2014: Newer, Bigger, Better

The fourth annual Whooping Crane Festival to be held near the White River Marsh State Natural Area in Green Lake County is all set for September 12-14. It is sponsored by Operation Migration with help from such partners as the Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Berlin.

You might call this Festival 2.0 since it follows a decade of one successful whooping crane festival originally hosted by the Lions Club of Necedah. But when Operation Migration’s site for training whooping crane chicks was switched from the Necedah NWR to White River Marsh, the festival pretty much-needed to be re-invented. And re-invent it they did!

Whooping Cranes following an Operation Migration ultralight.  (2010 Photo by Carole Robertson, used at the Wikipedia page for St Mark's National Wildlife Refuge.)

Whooping Cranes following an Operation Migration ultralight. (2010 Photo by Carole Robertson, used at the Wikipedia page for St Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge.)


This new version started small, but has grown steadily, OM’s Heather Ray wrote at the Field Journal last week. Not only has it outgrown the Berlin Conservation Club for its Saturday programming – it all will be moved to the Princeton High School this year – but this festival seems to grow new events in new locations each year.

Here are some of the things you can do at Whooping Crane Festival 2014.
On Friday morning you can board a bus at Necedah NWR (this is an hour and a quarter to the west of the rest of the festival activities) and enjoy a guided tour of the remote areas of the refuge. There is the hope, that you will be lucky enough to catch a sighting of one of the approximately 80 whooping cranes that make their home in the refuge.

You can listen at length to the experts – some of the most learned and experienced people in the world on cranes, and experts on a few other birds as well.


Professor Stanley Temple (Photo is at the Wikipedia page for Stanley A. Temple.)

Stanley Temple, the Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation at University of Wisconsin’s Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology (Aldo Leopold was the first to hold that position), will discuss the extinction of the passenger pigeon. Temple has given numerous presentations this year, the centennial year of the extinction of that species. The presentation will follow a dinner Friday night at the Mascoutin Golf and Country Club.

Saturday presentations at the Princeton HIgh School will include the following speakers: OM Pilot, Joe Duff; International Crane Foundation co-founder, George Archibald; DNR pilot Beverly Paulan who flies aerial surveys for the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership; Birder Tom Schulz who leads a birding trip to Costa Rica every spring, and Raptor Rehabilitator Pat Fisher.

A pancake breakfast prepared by the Berlin Rotary Club will start the day at Princeton High School, and a marketplace, and silent auction will run concurrent with the speakers.

Each day of the festival – weather permitting – you will be invited to watch the training of the Class of 2014 – the seven young whooping crane chicks currently learning to fly with the ultralights.

Beverly Paulan, WI DNR pilot, flies aerial surveys for the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.  (Photo is from Operation Migration's Whooping Crane Festival 2012 page.)

Beverly Paulan, WI DNR pilot, flies aerial surveys for the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership. (Photo is from Operation Migration’s Whooping Crane Festival 2012 page.)

As if all that were not enough, here’s more: you can sign up for a Saturday night pizza party at Christiano’s in Green Lake, a Sunday morning bird hike at White River Marsh led by Tom Schulz, and a Sunday evening wrap party at Mecan River Outfitters.

What is the price of all this fun? Not one single penny for all of the Saturday morning and afternoon festival activities – including the presentations by the experts. However, you need to pre-register, and pay for the supplemental activities and meals on Friday, Saturday night, and Sunday. Friday’s dinner followed by Stanley Temple’s presentation on extinction is $50, with a percentage of each ticket earmarked for support for the Class of 2014 whooping cranes.

WLCV: Defending Wisconsin’s Natural Resources

Claiming a big victory for conservation, Ann Sayers, the Program Director of Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, said in a press release yesterday, that 7 of the 8 candidates endorsed by her organization, won their primaries in the statewide election on Tuesday.

The winners included four candidates for the state assembly (Mark Spreitzer, Rob Brooks, Beth Meyers, JoCasta Zamarripa) as well as Mary Burke (for Governor), John Lehman, (for Lieutenant Governor), and Janet Bewley who is seeking the state senate seat for District 25.

“The 2014 election season is off to a great start for our natural resources,” Ann said.

The Door County shoreline; on the bay of Green Bay. (A Badger & the Whooping Crane photo)

The Door County shoreline; on the bay of Green Bay. ( Badger & Whooping Crane photo)

In addition to working to elect more conservation leaders to the state legislature, WLCV has had a very busy summer – judging from the many email alerts that have been dropping into members’ In-Boxes. And their members have been busy too, responding to the “calls for action” on a number of emerging threats.

Conservation Threats: A Tar Sands Pipeline, Public Land Sell-off, & Greenwashing

The “calls for action” that have come with the emails include:

Asking members to bring pressure on the DNR to conduct a thorough environmental review of a pipeline expansion by Enbridge Energy for a new pipeline that would cross the entire state from its northwest corner to the southeast. The WLCV message said the pipeline would carry 1.2 million barrels of crude and tar sands oil – “the same kind of dangerous, toxic oil that would flow through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.”

Ennis Lake at John Muir Memorial Park (a county park in Marquette County).

Ennis Lake at John Muir Memorial Park (a county park) in Marquette County.

And this: In July, Ann Sayers sought to give every member a “heads up” about a new directive from the state legislature that approved selling off 10,000 acres of public lands. “This news is absolutely unprecedented,” Sayers wrote, adding that, “All signs point to more attacks on public lands next legislative session.”

To prepare a response to such attacks, members were asked to send in photos and stories of their favorite public lands, and you can visit (and contribute to) the “Lands, Camera, Action!” online gallery that resulted.

A third “call for action” brought attention to a an interesting – and potentially outrageous issue – a case of “greenwashing” that Kerry Schumann, the executive director of WLCV, said involved a two-year-old, out-of-state company known as Smart Sand, that has been cited for failure to comply with air pollution control standards. In spite of its air pollution failures, Smart Sand has applied to the DNR for its special Green Tier program which essentially certifies it as a leader of good environmental practices.

At Butler Lake in the Northern unit of Kettle Moraine State Park. (Badger & Whooping Crane Photo)

At Butler Lake in the Northern unit of Kettle Moraine State Park. (Badger & Whooping Crane Photo)

The DNR provides a wealth of interesting information – and here is a link – about its Green Tier program. WLCV has collected nearly 2,000 comments from members protesting that Smart Sand is an unworthy choice for this prestigious certification. (The period for public commenting on this concluded August 8th.)

Also on the Radar: Groundwater and Local Control Issues

In an email exchange in late July, I asked Ann Sayers if those three items – a new pipeline, selling public lands, and frac sand issues – comprised WLCV top priorities this summer. Pretty much, she agreed, but said to put groundwater and local control issues “on your radar.”

The issue of local control “as it relates to frac sand oversight and everything else – could come back next year,” said Sayers. She was talking about it coming “back” in the legislature. There was a strong effort to pass a law limiting local control during the 2013-14 session. It failed to pass, but it would have prohibited local government from putting any local restrictions at all on sand mining, had it succeeded.

Along Lake Michigan: a Door County beach, just north of Sturgeon Bay. (Badger & Whooping Crane photo)

Along Lake Michigan: a Door County beach, just north of Sturgeon Bay. (Badger & Whooping Crane photo)

On groundwater, Sayers said the issue of dropping water levels is reaching a crisis point in some areas of Wisconsin. “We can’t afford to do nothing much longer.”

Around the time she wrote those words, the FOX-11 TV station in Green Bay had this lengthy (for tv) feature story, Ground Water Debate in Central Wisconsin. The WLCV has a link to the story on their Facebook page; and this commentary:

“Not much of a debate  . . . . water shortages = bad.”


Quick Crane Chick Milestone: Fledged!

All seven chicks in Operation Migration’s ultralight training program, as well as the single-surviving chick-in-the-wild, have recently fledged!

This milestone – where a bird finds its wings and flies – really flies, not just gets a little bit off the ground, but can cover 100 yards in the air without touching the ground – is exactly akin to the first unaided walk across the room of a human toddler; and it’s celebrated the same way by those who work with the whooping crane chicks.

Operation Migration announced Friday at the Field Journal and its Facebook page: “All seven young whooping cranes exited their enclosures and all seven took off with the aircraft,” some of them completing a full circuit, following OM pilot Joe Duff around the training area and returning to land on the runway with the ultralight.

Ultralight training of juvenile whooping cranes in Wisconsin. (Photo courtesy, WCEP)

Ultralight training of juvenile whooping cranes in Wisconsin. (Photo courtesy, WCEP)

Also Friday the International Crane Foundation posted to Facebook that the one surviving wild chick (of 13 hatched this year) of the Eastern Migratory Population, was observed August 1st “flying a short distance along a wetland dike.” The chick is designated “W3-14” (wild chick #3 of 2014).

While this is such an important development for all of these chicks, for the wild-born bird this is adds a new important safety measure to increase its survival chances: the all-important ability to fly away to safety from potential predators.

ICF’s 2014 Chicks Will Become Louisiana Whoopers Instead of DAR Birds

In other chick news from the ICF, 5 of the chicks hatched there this spring have been sent to Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland where they will be socialized with chicks that hatched at Patuxent. The whole group will eventually be released into the new non-migratory flock that is being established in Louisiana.

As explained at ICF’s Facebook posting Monday, four of the chicks had been expected to be released here in Wisconsin as Direct Autumn Release chicks, but a decision was made that such a small number would not make for a successful DAR release. This will be the first year that ICF has not raised chicks for the DAR release program since that release method was first tried in 2005.

Summer News from the Wisconsin Friends of John Muir

The presence of John Muir in Wisconsin has been well-documented since his days here in the mid-1800s, but right now, in 2014, I don’t believe there’s anyone doing a better job of remembering the famed naturalist and the role Wisconsin played in his young life than Wisconsin Friends of John Muir. This newly approved nonprofit is based in Marquette County where an adolescent John Muir roamed and reveled in the freedom of what he later called “that glorious Wisconsin wilderness!”

August flowers along the Ice Age Trail in John Muir Memorial Park (photo courtesy of Kathleen McGwin, WFJM)

August flowers along the Ice Age Trail in John Muir Memorial Park (photo courtesy of Kathleen McGwin, WFJM)

All summer the Muir Friends have been posting beautiful pictures to their Facebook page from John Muir Park and drawing comparisons between what we can see now with what Muir saw. (The Badger & the Whooping Crane wrote about Muir and the Muir Friends early this year). At the park you can enjoy a hike through restored prairie, Ennis Lake, and the Ice Age Trail which runs through the park alongside Ennis Lake.

Right now the Facebook page of Wisconsin Friends of John Muir includes these three significant news updates:

1.) The second edition of Muir Is Still Here by authors Kathleen McGwin and Daryl Christensen, has just been published with 70 new pages of photographs and essays. Let this be your guide to how and where you can still explore today the same natural places that Muir explored.

2.) At the end of September, the Friends will bring a dramatic production, “John Muir, University of the Wilderness” to Montello (the Marquette County seat) for a one-night performance. Tickets are $15 at the door for the 7 p.m. performance which will be presented September 27th, at Vaughn Hall, 55 West Montello St.

2013 cover SECOND EDITION c

3.) The IRS has just recently awarded official approval of WI Friends of John Muir as a Federal 501 (c) (3) nonprofit. This will help the almost 3-year old Friends group preserve the park and the landscapes of Muir’s boyhood, and advance their mission to secure John Muir’s legacy in Wisconsin.

Congratulations to the 200 or so members and Facebook fans of the Wisconsin Friends of John Muir. The Badger & the Whooping Crane wishes you continuing success in all your endeavors.

And one more thing, author Kathleen McGwin has said that all sales of the new, 2nd edition of Muir is Still Here – that’s a photo of the book cover to the right – will benefit Wisconsin Friends of John Muir. See the author’s website, if you are interested in ordering a copy.