Beginning with an update: here is a partial report on the whereabouts of the EMP (the Eastern Migratory Population) whooping cranes, published at Operation Migration’s Field Journal. It includes an especially good accounting of the Class of 2014 ultralight-led chicks. This is really welcome news to everyone involved with the EMP since the six birds involved did not have the opportunity to learn the full migration route when it was their turn, a year ago.
Although the Class of 2014 missed many migration miles, they did have a successful, early arrival in Florida, in mid-December a year ago. Photographer Karen Willes, watching the arrival from the town of St. Marks, caught this beautiful moment. (Photo used with permission)
Due to severe weather – winds that kept them grounded for six weeks after migration began, followed up by the threat of blizzard conditions in the north – the birds were finally driven 500 miles to Tennessee. In the spring this year, five migrated north on their own (one migrated with older cranes). Once they reached southern Illinois, it became obvious they no longer knew which way to go, and a “rescue mission” was launched to bring them back – a long ride to Wisconsin in an air-conditioned van.
WCEP was full of assurances that these cranes would have no trouble migrating on their own this fall, but you can tell in the written reports that everyone is breathing a sigh of relief, now that southern locations have been confirmed for all. Here’s where they are, the Class of 2014: cranes 3 & 10-14 (and most likely 4-14 with them) are safely in Georgia; 8-14 was reported in Tennessee in late November, and 7 & 9-14 are very close to the winter pensite at St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge in northern Florida.
At the Journey North website I found an even newer update about 8-14; a PTT signal for this female crane has now been reported that places her in Highlands County, right in the middle of South Florida. “This is way south of St. Marks NWR,” the website reported, “but the good news is she definitely knows the way to Florida . . .”
A New Fall Migration, A New Ultralight Class of Young Whoopers
The Class of 2015 has reached their scheduled stop in Carroll County, TN; 574 miles are now completed of the 1100 mile migration from Wisconsin to northern Florida. Deemed excellent as a class for their eagerness to fly in training, they’ve been – at times – not quite so wonderfully cooperative, and not always so eager to follow the ultralight aircraft through headwinds that have a tendency to slow things down. In spite of such issues, the migration is proceeding well, and as the birds gain real experience on long distance flights perhaps they are regaining some of their early cooperative spirit.
This older file photo depicts an ultralight training flight at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo courtesy of WCEP)
Here is Heather Ray’s account of an important flight this week, and an earlier Lead Pilot Report from Joe Duff. Follow Operation Migration at their Field Journal; register and watch the flights live on their crane cam.
Operation Migration Earns Support of The Southern Company
For eight years now, Operation Migration has earned the respect and financial support of The Southern Company, which in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, makes a contribution that helps support OM’s EarlyBird e-bulletin newsletter, the live crane cam, and other features of OM’s website. The company was quoted recently in MarketWatch, noting, “Southern Company remains committed to the important work Operation Migration is doing every day,”
The Southern Company is a large, Atlanta-based energy company serving the southeastern United States. Operation Migration’s work is one of 85 projects that the company sponsors through its Power of Flight program. This program is the largest public-private funding effort for bird conservation in the southern U.S.
Whooping Cranes are Documented for Wisconsin’s Breeding Bird Atlas II
This is a story mainly about the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, a comprehensive field survey that documents the distribution and abundance of birds that are breeding here in the state. And it’s a neat story – the process of conducting a field survey of birds over the course of four years, the participation by over 700 volunteer observers, or ‘atlasers’ as they’re officially known, and the 1.7 million birds that have been documented thus far. But for my purposes here, at The Badger & the Whooping Crane, the best part of the story is the fact that the Whooping Crane species has now been confirmed as breeding in Wisconsin and added to the atlas.
Two eggs on the whooper nest in this photo from the archives of International Crane Foundation.
The fact that whooping cranes have now been recognized as breeding here in Wisconsin, is one more little sign that this iconic endangered species is ever-so-slowly re-establishing its rightful presence in North America, including right here in our state.
A total of eight new species have been confirmed for the new atlas. The others are: the Bufflehead, Eurasian Collard-Dove, White-eyed Vireo, Great Tit, Kirtland’s Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, and the European Goldfinch.
The survey to compile Wisconsin’s second Breeding Bird Atlas began this year, 2015, and will continue through 2019. The first Breeding Bird Atlas survey was conducted from 1995 to 2000. Here is a little more about the survey, and the birders and organizations who are leading it.
George Archibald Honored by the Chicago Zoological Society
Last, but never least, here is news of another conservation honor for George Archibald , co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. Anything with George Archibald’s name is sure to be both conservation news and crane news, too.
George Archibald, after a speaking engagement at The Ridges Sanctuary in Door County in July 2012.
He is, to quote a Baraboo News Republic writer about George, “known globally as the world’s leading scientific authority on cranes.” And in preserving crane species and their wetland habitats world-wide, he has also done so much for the cause of conservation for all species, including the human ones. In recognition of his many achievements he has been awarded his native Canada’s highest honor, The Order of Canada. A few of his other awards include: the Lilly Medal presented by the Indianapolis Zoo, the Gold Medal from the World Wildlife Fund, and the inaugural Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership from the National Audubon Society.
And just this past September George Archibald was presented with the George B. Rabb Conservation Medal by the Chicago Zoological Society. Stuart D. Strahl, President and CEO of the Society, said of George and two other prize recipients: “This yea’r winners deserve all the credit we can give them. They continue to make important inroads . . . They truly embody our mission of making connections among people and wildlife.”
If you’d like to learn more about George Archibald, the man, and his love for Wisconsin, his adopted home, here is a very good place to start: the beginning of a 3-part series in the Baraboo News Republic.