Happy News for the New Year: From the Cow Pond!

Happy New Year! Here is an update to one of The Badger & the Whooping Crane’s most visited posts – and the longest one ever – about the Cow Pond Whoopers – a special pair with an unusual winter territory near Tallahassee, FL – and Karen Willes, Citizen Scientist; it was published in March, 2015.

Not long after my post about them, the cow pond pair returned to Wisconsin, nested and hatched a chick. Their fans in Tallahassee and the many who follow them through Karen’s posts on Facebook, had cause to be jubilant, but it didn’t last long. Like many vulnerable creatures in the wild, the chick survived only a short time; even worse, for the whooper fans, this popular pair split up, and Mrs. Cow Pond Whooper (known specifically as 15-09) is following another mate.

The Cow Pond Pair at dusk, March 6, 2015; the night before their departure on migration north. (Photo by Karen Willis)

The Cow Pond Pair, 11-09 with 15-09, a year ago, when they were still a pair; the male, 11-09, is now back at the cow pond near Tallahassee, but single this year.  [Photo collage by Karen Willes]

The fate of the male of the pair (11-09) and of future visits of whooping cranes to the cow pond on the edge of Tallahassee was uncertain. But Karen Willes, busy with birding, and the Apalachee Audubon Society, and other citizen science activities that occupy her days, held out hope for more whooping crane visits during the 2015-2016 migration season, and male 11-09 did not disappoint. Late in the afternoon of Christmas day 11-09 swooped in to reclaim “his” cow pond, and delight the Tallahassee craniacs who had been on the lookout for just such a moment.

Karen missed the precise moment by just 30 minutes. She had just passed the pond on an outing, “but nothing was there,” she told me in an email. “About a half hour later I got a call from a resident who lives directly across from the pond. As soon as I saw her caller ID, I knew . . . . We immediately went to the pond and put out signs. So the documentation began on Christmas Day!”

At "The Cowpond," whooping cranes 15-09, on the left, and 11-09. Photo by Karen Willes, used with permission.

Another photo of the former cow pond pair where it’s easy to distinguish the male, 11-09, by his identifying color bands which read, green-white-red (top-to-bottom).          [Photo by Karen Willes]

Karen’s interest in the whooping crane pair wintering so close to her home began with photographing them and has steadily grown in different ways. Two years ago she made sure there were signs around the area, and information cards about whooping cranes that people could take with them. In this way she educated people about the plight of this endangered species, and explained the need for curious onlookers to keep a respectful distance from these birds. From there Karen’s interest developed into keeping records of the comings and goings of the cow pond duo, and their various behaviors, using her proximity to them to observe and document the habits of these wild creatures.

Then Karen submits her work to the professionals she has come to know at the International Crane Foundation and Operation Migration. this helps them keep track of, and better understand, the behavior of the wild whooping cranes they are working to save.

But back to 11-09: what’s next for this lonely-guy, single whooping crane? Karen sees some hope for him finding a mate in Florida. “There are five whoopers from previous years already at the pen at St. Marks,” she said. “He knows the way to the pen (about 25 miles to the south) . . . Perhaps if he decides to strike out on his own, he may find a lovely mate down there. That is our hope!”

St. Mark’s, of course, is the national wildlife refuge that is the destination for the young ultralight-led cranes, and “the pen” is an enclosed wetlands area where the young birds are lightly monitored until they leave on their own first migration north in the spring. Some of them, like 11-09, always return to this part of Florida.

The Cow Pond (Photo by Karen Willes)

And this is the cow pond, with one of the signs provided by Karen Willes in the foreground.  [Photo by Karen Willes]

Meanwhile, 11-09 has been spending nearly every day since his Christmas arrival foraging around the cow pond, and delighting the visitors that have been gathering as the word of his arrival – and Karen’s Facebook posts about him – have spread. Though without a mate, he seems to have plenty of companions – even attracting a cohort of nine sandhills to his territory earlier this week. There are also ducks, geese, and yes, even the cows, that he’s interacting with! You too can follow this bit of wildlife drama from afar by checking Karen Willes’ daily posts to Facebook. If there’s any news of 11-09 finding a new whooper mate to join him at the cow pond, I’ll be sharing that right here, too!

Ask the Experts: News for Craniacs

The Wisconsin DNR held an Ask-The-Experts online chat this week about the whooping cranes of Wisconsin, (officially known as the Eastern Migratory Population, or the EMP).  This was easily the liveliest Asked the Experts chat I’ve witnessed, and indeed I found out later the DNR said there were 211 participants during the live chat, and 106 people (a number that will increase) who accessed within 24 hours after it was live.

These are “amazing numbers,” according to the DNR’s own assessment.  There were 137 questions submitted and answered by the following experts that were on duty for this chat: Davin Lopez, conservation biologist with the Wisconsin DNR; Karis Ritenour, whooping crane field technician at the International Crane Foundation; Anne Lacy, crane research coordinator for ICF; and Heather Ray, the director of development for Operation Migration.

A USFWS photo of a whooping crane pair with two tiny chicks at Necedah NWR in 2010.

A USFWS photo of a whooping crane pair with two tiny chicks at Necedah NWR in 2010.

This DNR-hosted chat is a great service, which recurs every fall, and I think in the spring, as well. You can learn a lot about the EMP and the people who manage it, the partners of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (or WCEP), just by tuning in. No whooping crane question is ever too simple, nor too complex.

Except for this chat: there was one question that surfaced repeatedly at the beginning of the hour, and was always deferred. Here’s the explanation:

Mum’s the Word on Operation Migration’s Petition to USFWS

It’s no surprise that many people who tuned in to ‘ask the experts’ were eager for new information about the future of Operation Migration and the Ultralight Light program. The recent public posting by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service of a new vision statement which recommends an end to the ultralight program, has received quite a bit of attention – not just on Facebook, but also in the mainstream media. Half a dozen questions about it were quickly submitted.

“I would imagine that DNR does not share the same sentiment that the FWS has . .” began one, to which Davin Lopez replied that WCEP partners will be discussing this in January, at the start of the group’s 5-year review. “Much to discuss,” he added, as he would to several more queries about Operation Migration’s achievements.

From the archives: Operation Migration's efforts to train whooping cranes to migrate with ultralights begins with the little cranes following the ultralight as it taxis along the ground. (USFWS photo)

From the archives: Operation Migration’s efforts to train whooping cranes to migrate with ultralights begins with the little cranes following the ultralight as it taxis along the ground. (USFWS photo)

Heather Ray, who is OM’s Director of Development and also a co-chair of WCEP’s Communication and Outreach Team, wore only one ‘hat’ for the hour – her WCEP one. She met each question about OM’s expertise and about the online petition campaign, (which OM launched as a way for its supporters to reach USFWS) with determination to focus only on WCEP. Six or seven questions that tried to probe the issue were all met with “we’ll be discussing this in January.”

So, the Audience Turned to Other Topics

And the questions flowed. Just a few examples follow:

Q:  Is there still an effort to establish a non migratory flock in the south? A: Yes, in Louisiana; it’s only a few years old, but there are 37 birds, and there were 4 nesting pair this year.

Q:  How do young cranes without parents find their way south? A: Direct Autumn Release birds and Parent-Reared birds are released near adult whoopers and sandhills with the goal of having them follow the adult birds on migration. Now and then, individual birds will strike out on their own, and in those cases they have migrated successfully and returned to Wisconsin.

What is the Rate of Success for the EMP?

There were a lot of questions about the EMP, and how it – this reintroduction of a migrating flock of whoopers – is really working. Just what is the rate of success?

Q: “Are we seeing some progress, and if so, where is the greatest success, if that can be measured yet?” Karis Ritenour answered: “This year’s hatching numbers were extremely encouraging. More birds are nesting, more eggs are hatching, and even having three fledged chicks this year was a step forward. It is difficult to know what is “expected” because there is so much we don’t know about the natural flock as well.”

What is the Size of the EMP?

More specific questions include:

Q: What is the current size of the EMP? A: There are 92 birds now. When the eight birds for this year’s Direct Autumn Release are fully on their own, they will be added to the total. (They will be fully released very soon, but until then they are monitored, kept safe at night, and receive supplemental feeding.) When the six young whoopers that are currently following the ultralights to Florida are fully on their own – that won’t be until they leave on their own for migration north next spring – then they too will be added to the total count of EMP whoopers. “These cranes use a large range of wintering locations across the southeast,” added Heather, who answered this question.

Why Don’t More EMP Whooping Cranes Migrate to Florida?

This is something that I had been wondering about – so few of them seem to return to Florida on migration – and others were asking about it. The Florida gulf coast was chosen for the EMP in winter because it replicates the gulf coast environment of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge where the wild flock has spent winters for all its known history.

A whooping crane pair at Patoka NWR in Indiana; during fall migration in 2010. (Photo by Steve Gifford; from the Flickr photo stream of Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership; used with permission.)

A whooping crane pair at Patoka NWR in Indiana; during fall migration in 2010. (Photo by Steve Gifford; from the Flickr photo stream of Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership; used with permission.)

But for the past 4 or 5 years, quite a few of the EMP cranes have spent the winter months in places as varied as southern Indiana, South Carolina and Alabama. Does the whooping crane partnership – WCEP – think that’s ok, we’re wondering? And the answer is, Yes! They’re doing just fine in the winter locations they choose. “By taking them to the Florida coast we show them the entirety of the flyway,” Anne Lacy explained, “and they can choose where they prefer on subsequent migrations.”

Whatever Happened to the Class of 2014?

Another question that has some craniacs scratching their heads, and worrying over, involves the ultralight-trained whoopers of 2014. Because of an extreme weather problem these birds had to be crated in Wisconsin and driven to Tennessee a year ago. Will they need to be “captured and crated again,”someone asked?

Not at all, we were assured. They’ve been on their own, wandering around Wisconsin through the summer months – “wandering” is the commonplace term for expected young adult crane behavior. The WCEP partners have complete confidence that these birds will decide for themselves where and when to migrate – and will certainly return to Wisconsin next spring.

The Next Post

This report is so long, and since there are several more topics that generated several questions, The Badger and the Whooping Crane will continue coverage of Ask the Experts in the next post.  It will cover questions about the toll predation is taking on the EMP, and about the prospects for future nesting in the “Wisconsin Rectangle.”  And there will be updates on two whooping cranes – first Whoopsie, then Kevin – that made news in 2015.

Migration News: The Class of 2014

Update:  May 22, 2015:       All five of the young cranes of the Class of 2014 have been successfully returned to Wisconsin after weeks of wandering in southern Illinois and western Kentucky. In two action-packed “rescue” missions spread over two weeks, the pilots and crew members of Operation Migration tracked and captured them and returned them to the White River Marsh flight training area, where as young crane chicks they learned to follow the ultralights last summer. There are many good posts, like this one, providing all the details of the “rescues” at OM’s Field Journal.

Drama and mystery: these are the most compelling elements, tightly woven throughout the survival story of the whooping crane species. Most likely they are important elements of every wildlife story as perceived through the imperfect lens of the human eye.

For me, they are the key ingredients that captured my attention for whooping cranes. And crane drama and mystery are never on display more distinctly than during the spring migration of the EMP cranes as they fly back north into Wisconsin.

The Whooping Crane: a source of drama and mystery.[ photo courtesy of International Crane Foundation.]

The Whooping Crane: a source of drama and mystery.[ photo courtesy of International Crane Foundation.]

To begin with, the most-worried-over migration always belongs to that of the youngest chicks – especially the ones that learned the migration route to Florida by following the ultralight aircraft of Operation Migration. As you may know, this year’s OM Class of 2014 included seven chicks, and last fall, they were essentially trapped for weeks-on-end in Wisconsin by weather conditions that made it impossible for cranes and planes to fly together. As winter approached, drastic measures were needed to move them further south with speed, which means they did not fly much of the migration route before Tennessee.

Where is the Class of 2014 Right Now?

Here is a quick synopsis of their fate, thus far into their young lives: five of the seven left Florida, beginning the journey north, a week ago! And fortunately they are in the company of one veteran migrator, Crane #5 of 2012 – an adult crane that liked to frequent the pensite of the ultralight chicks. (Afer all, he, too, had been an ultralight chick just two seasons ago.)

This is just what the crane pros in the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) were hoping for – an experienced, adult crane guide to migrate with the Class of 2014, and guide them home! Here is a link to OM’s Field Journal describing the successful beginning of their migration.

But wait! It turns out that it’s not that simple. After 4 flights and 5 days of the journey, the Class of 2014 cranes and their adult crane traveling companion arrived in southern Illinois. Since then the Class of 2014 has stayed on the ground, mostly avoiding storms.

Not long after arriving there, however, adult crane guide, 5-12, took off on his own. The drama of the northward migration of these young cranes has always been intense for all the obvious reasons. But now with the disappearance of 5-12, the mystery of migration intensifies. Where has he gone? Why has he left the youngsters? Is he safe somewhere?

More Whooping Crane Drama to Come, One Mystery Solved 

I wrote above that 5 of the seven cranes left Florida together. But what of the other two? One of the cranes, sadly, has already become a victim of the harsh demands of life in the wild; crane 2-14 was predated in FLorida on the night of March 15th, near her semi-protected winter pensite, at St. Marks NWR.

In late March crane 7-14, proved to be the most adventuresome of the bunch – or maybe she just knows who her friends are. She left on migration in the company of two older cranes that, like 5-12, had also been staying close to the chicks’ winter pensite at St. Marks. Before March ended, crane 7-14, along with 4-12 and 4-13 were positively confirmed back in Wisconsin.

At the end of today, nearly a week after arriving in Illinois, the five other Class of 2014 cranes remain there, “on migration.” What’s next for them? I don’t think anyone really knows . . . so stay tuned!

One part of the mystery of their of migration, though, has been solved: late this afternoon, Operation Migration posted that crane 5-12 has been confirmed back in Wisconsin. But why he took off without the five ultralight chicks, why he continued on a solo journey home to Wisconsin – that will most likely remain his secret – a mystery forever.

Migration News: Spring 2015

As March ends, there is confirmation that well over a third of Wisconsin’s whooping cranes are back in the state. This is a summary of what is known, with links to more information – in case, like me, you always hope for more when it comes to these beautiful big birds.

To begin with, the Cow Pond Whoopers are safely back in Wisconsin! Early in the month – March 7th to be exact – they were the first birds of the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) of whooping cranes to be reported on migration. I’ve recently written at length about this pair of celebrated whoopers, and their volunteer “guardian.” I was thrilled, along with everyone else in the Cow Pond Whooper “fan club” to learn that the transmitter signal for the female, 15-09, of the pair was picked up near Necedah NWR on Mar. 28th (Her partner, 11-09, is assumed to be with her, but he has a non-functioning transmitter, so can’t be confirmed until a visual identification is made.)

Their leg bands identify the Cow Pond Whoopers; female, 15-9, is on left. (Photo by Karen Willes)

Their leg bands identify the Cow Pond Whoopers; female, 15-9, is on left. (Photo by Karen Willes)

By now numerous other whoopers have completed migration. An aerial survey of what is called “the core reintroduction area” – in the middle of Wisconsin, where most of the cranes, trained as chicks with the ultralights – was conducted last week (March 24th) by Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan. Bev was able to locate 27 individual cranes, and reported three others that have been confirmed by their transmitter signals. You can see right here exactly which cranes have been documented.

Watching & Waiting for Class of 2014

The “celebrity cranes” of each migration northward are always the youngest – that’s the Class of 2014, this year – the whooping cranes that are making their first journey back north to the territory where they fledged last summer. Always highly anticipated and closely monitored, the return trip to Wisconsin of the ultralight-trained chicks this year is even more intensely awaited because of unusual circumstances that marked their first migration to the South.

It’s a pleasure to be able to say that two cranes of 2014 are already back in Wisconsin. But who are they? And who and where are the others?
First, a quick summary of the chicks that hatched last spring into the EMP:
In addition to seven ultralight-trained juveniles (identified as #s 2,3,4,7,8,9,and 10-14) there is one wild-hatched chick (#w3-14), and three parent-raised chicks.

Parent-raised means what you would expect it to mean – but with a twist. After hatching last spring in the captive population of whooping cranes at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, these chicks were raised by their captive parents until they fledged. Then they were brought to Wisconsin to be released in the wild near adult pairs of whoopers, with the hopes that they would be fostered and would learn to migrate.

Two Migration Stories, With More to Come 

There were four chicks assigned to this new program last spring, and three of them have survived and successfully migrated south with foster-parent pairs. One of them, 19-14 has been observed back in Wisconsin in the aerial survey, as were the foster parent-pair, 39-07 and 7-07. They had led her south to their winter territory in Georgia.

The other 2014 juvenile that was confirmed back in Wisconsin just this week is 7-14, a female who is part of the cohort of the seven ultralight-led Class of 2014. She made the journey in the company of two older cranes, 4-12 and 4-13, who had frequented the pen site at St. Marks NWR where the ultralight chicks are monitored until they leave on migration north.

Five chicks remain at St. Marks NWR. (There would be six but most unfortunately, one of the Class of 2014, fell victim to a predator on March 15.) Those juvenile whooping cranes  who remain are waiting for the urge, or the inspiration,or just the right moment, to take off for the north. Also there is one more adult crane, 5-12, and the pilots and crew of Operation Migration, and their other partners in the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnerships, all have high hopes that 5-12 will be the guide that steers these five Class of 2014 chicks safely home for a summer in Wisconsin.

Whooping Crane Migration: Connecting the Dots for the EMP

The Eastern Migratory Population of whooping cranes – the 100 or so whoopers that call Wisconsin home – is currently spread out along the migration route from southern Indiana to northern Florida. I would guess that right now, mid-February, is when the truest picture emerges of where the Wisconsin whooping cranes reside through the winter.

Curiously enough, for most of them it’s not Florida. Even though the majority of birds in the EMP (Eastern Migratory Population ) learned the migration route from Wisconsin to Florida by following the ultralight pilots of Operation Migration, a large chunk of this whooper population – nearly 30 birds ! – has stayed in Southern Indiana. An even larger group – 34 whooping cranes – is in Alabama.

A whooping crane pair at Patoka NWR in Indiana; during fall migration in 2010. (Photo by Steve Gifford; from the Flickr photo stream of Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership; used with permission.)

A whooping crane pair at Patoka NWR in Indiana; during fall migration in 2010. (Photo by Steve Gifford; from the Flickr photo stream of Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership; used with permission.)

All of our EMP (Eastern migratory Population) birds have been on the move since November at various locations up and down the route. For many of the birds, where they stop and spend time, their locations throughout November and December, aren’t necessarily where they’re going to stay put. And maybe in late February, certainly by the second week in March, they’ll be on the move again, coming north. Thus, February is a good month to take a look at their true winter destinations. (That’s my opinion – not a scientific observation.)

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership – which includes the government agencies and private groups charged with this reintroduction of the endangered whooping crane – has issued four “Project Updates” since migration began in earnest in November Each one is accompanied by a map with lots of dots signifying in a general way, the location of the entire population of our whooping cranes. You can look at the four different maps and see how their movements have changed throughout the migration, to date.

The viewing blind at St. Marks NWR, for observation and monitoring of the juvenile whooping cranes. (Photo by USFWS; from the Flickr photo stream of Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership; used with permission.)

The viewing blind at St. Marks NWR, for observation and monitoring of the juvenile whooping cranes. (Photo by USFWS; from the Flickr photo stream of Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership; used with permission.)

The time period reported in the most recent Project Update covers the month of January from start to finish. In addition to the aforementioned groups in Indiana and Alabama, the distribution of whoopers includes: 7 in Kentucky, 10 in Tennessee, 3 in Georgia, and 13 in Florida. WCEP’s Project Update also includes the fact that 2-5 birds are at unknown locations, and 2 are considered “long-term missing.”

The Florida total includes the seven ultralight-led juveniles (the “Class of 2014”). Now technically free, wild birds, these juveniles will be closely monitored at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, until they begin their migration northward this coming spring. This will occur at a date to-be-determined – by the youngsters themselves.

Ask the Experts: Answers About Ultralight Migration

October ended with an “Ask the Experts” live, online chat devoted to Wisconsin’s whooping cranes. These online chats, offered by Wisconsin’s DNR, occur more or less weekly on a variety of outdoor and wildlife topics. Everyone is welcome to stop by and discuss, via their submitted text questions, Wisconsin’s wild ginseng harvest, or bow hunting, or snow boarding, or bald eagles, to name just four examples of the numerous topics covered. You can check out all of them and what’s-scheduled-when for yourself at this DNR Ask the Experts web page.

The experts at the Whooping Crane chat included Heather Ray of Operation Migration, Eva Szyszkoski and Sara Gavney Moore of the International Crane Foundation, and Davin Lopez, DNR whooping crane coordinator. They fielded a wide selection of whooping crane questions submitted by 24 active participants – everything from the basic (How many whoopers are alive right now? About 600.) to a discussion of changing nest phrenology (I’ll explain; that comes later). It was a delightfully informative hour!

A number of the questions submitted were migration-related and fielded by OM’s Heather Ray. I’m reporting on those today, and later this week I’ll post again about other whooping crane issues covered in the online group chat.

So for now let’s look at migration issues. These are pressing this year since the ultralight migration is having such a time of it, just getting out of Wisconsin! Persistent lousy weather has kept the planes, and the cranes, grounded night after night, and on 3 of the 4 days that flights did take place, the cranes haven’t come together as a cohesive flying unit. (You can read details from one example of that here, in OM’s Field Journal.)

Crates for Whooping Cranes as a Last Resort

Heather didn’t address the weather problems (and no one had asked), but she did express confidence in the cranes’ ability to overcome the slow start to this migration and become good fliers And she dispelled a few rumors that have apparently been “flying” around.

Curt, a participant, inquired about a rumor that many Operation Migration cranes are being “transported by car. How many miles have they flown and been driven?” he wanted to know. “We’re currently only at mile 47 of the southward migration so those that have been crated haven’t missed much,” said Heather.

Another, Tommy, left this comment: “A lot of chat today about the OM birds not being able to make a 2-hour flight.” Expecting that now would be a bit of a stretch, responded Heather. “This early in the migration, the longest flight this group has ever had has been 42 minutes.”

(The 42 minute flight covered 28 miles. You can check the 2013 Timeline at the Operation Migration website and see for yourself that, in general each flight gets longer in miles – so, longer times, too. Eventually the cranes will be making 50 and 70 and even 100 mile flights.)

This older file photo depicts  an ultralight training flights.  Four whooping crane colts follow the aircraft at Necedah National Wildife Refuge sometime before 2011. (Photo courtesy of WCEP)

This older file photo depicts an ultralight training flight. Four whooping crane colts follow the aircraft at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge sometime before 2011. (Photo courtesy of WCEP)

Heather had also expanded on the subject of crating earlier in her response to a question from Nana: ” . . . how does this affect imprinting of their proposed route?”

“It really has little effect,” said Heather, “as typically they make the return trip as a group. That said, we prefer each crane to see as much of the route as possible on the trip south.” In another answer she had said that the birds don’t enjoy the crating process, and that should serve as a motivator. “They’ll get with the program eventually. We’ll crate only as a last resort,” she said.

More About the Class of 2014 Ultralight-trained Whooping Cranes

The chat also provided more information about the individual birds that makeup of the Class of 2014 ultralight chicks. A question was asked about dominance among the birds, particularly in flight, and Heather was quick to identify two strong birds; both #3 & #8-14 are birds that “appear very dedicated to the aircraft.”

And, there was a question about the health of Peanut, or crane #4-14, “the one that had the leg injury?”

“Actually he seems fine. No limp at all,” said Heather, noting that “he’s “loving the attention from the ladies.”

There are several unique things about 4-14, including his nickname. OM-trained whoopers are always known specifically by their numbers reflecting the order in which they hatched, and the year. But this year, #4, the only male in a flock of 7, and at one time the smallest of the group, quickly acquired the nickname, Peanut, and tradition and protocol to the contrary, it seems to me that the name has stuck.

In late August, Peanut, sustained a soft tissue injury near his hock joint – it is a theory that perhaps he injured himself jumping around wildly during a strong storm. He had to be removed from flight training for several weeks, and then was trained separately to decrease chances of re-injury. On the first migration day he flew for 7 minutes, alone with one of the aircraft, after the other chicks had been led to the first stop of the journey. With few migration days since then, #4, aka Peanut, has had few chances to really fly. At this point Heather said, “he needs to build up some endurance.”

Come Follow These Cranes

Near the end of the online chat Heather offered this parting “factoid” of interest: Among the 7 chicks are 2 sets that are full siblings: numbers 2 & 3-14, along with #9&10-14 are sister cranes.

Follow this developing story. One of these days, the foul weather of September and October will clear. And with a day or two of real migration miles logged, Peanut and the 6 Girls will at last experience flying high and free in the wake of their surrogate parent ultralights. If you’d like to learn more about the mechanics of long-distance bird flight, and birds flying with ultralights, Joe Duff recently published a piece at OM’s Field Journal, that goes into the precise details of what he calls “the art and science” of flying with birds. You’ll learn a lot!