Operation Migration is a non-profit organization devoted to the reintroduction of endangered Whooping Cranes throughout North America.

 

Training Weather

It looks as if the weather will cooperate this morning and allow us to train with our young Whooping cranes. If you’re nearby, you can head to the viewing site to watch the birds flyover with their aircraft leader.

If you’re not nearby, why not watch the action LIVE on our CraneCam?

NEW Target Departure Date

As we’ve demonstrated on all the past migrations, setting a target departure date is a futile exercise. But, if nothing else, it gives us something to aim at when all of our other targets are moving. The last one passed with us grounded like a Whooping crane with a backpack transmitter. In fact, that’s why it was postponed. The weather has cooperated lately and we have had four training sessions since we committed a crane indignity and grabbed them. In that time they have become accustomed to the attachments and a little less offended with us. They have now passed the stage of distrust and are willing to follow. The problem now is the transmitters.

Backpack transmitters are used on many wild birds because their antennas point in the right direction to reach the satellite receivers, they can be fitted with solar chargers and they are larger for more batteries. The down side is that they are fastened on using Teflon straps around the wings and they seem to disrupt the airflow over the bird’s back. That pulls the feathers up destroying the lift and well as creating drag.

In this photo you can see how the laminar flow over the back of the lead crane is disrupted by the backpack transmitter. Photo: Doug Pellerin

In this photo you can see how the laminar flow over the back of the lead crane is disrupted by the backpack transmitter. (Click photo to enlarge) Photo: Doug Pellerin

Whether it’s the weight, the straps, or the disrupted laminar airflow, the birds are unable to fly they way they once did. Yesterday we made several training flights circling the pen site as the backpack fitted birds cut the corners and landed back on the runway. The other three locked on to the aircraft and followed it for 13 minutes.

This is an experiment in which we hoped to show that backpacks are a viable attachment method for transmitters, or that they caused problems and should not be used. Flying with the birds, we could have videotaped them at close range and watched for aggression towards the birds with the antennas sticking out of their backs. But so far our backpack cranes have not ventured more that a few hundred yards from the pen.

If the weather continues to cooperates, we will give it one more try. What we see will dictate what we do. Just for our own amusement, we have set next Monday, September 29 as our target departure date.

Delayed Migration Start

October 13th is the date we would expect to begin the migration if you average all of our actual departure dates over the last fourteen years. Prior to that, we set a target departure date so we have a deadline when the equipment and the crew are ready. In truth though, it is a good example of the conflict between the ambitions of people and the hard rules of nature and the weather. We can plan all we want but that has no influence over the weather or the birds.

Today was our target departure date for the 2014 migration but it stormed all night, the ceilings are low and wind is gusting to 15. In addition to that, we still have a lot of work to do. The birds received their transmitters this past week. All of them except number 4, whose leg is injured, where fitted with leg mounted VHF units and three of them had backpack satellite devices attached. That meant they had to be grabbed and held for 20 minutes and to a Whooping crane, there is no greater indignity. Their trust in us evaporated when we caught them by the bustle and escorted them out the gate to the waiting handlers who slipped a hood over the eyes and gathered them up.

With patience, they will get over their distrust but some of them are sore from struggling and each one has a different tolerance for new hardware they carry. Add to that a long string of windy mornings and we end up with birds unsure they can fly and reluctant to follow us.

None of this is new. We have faced delayed starts almost every year for one reason or another, yet we manage to get it done eventually. October 13th is a long way off so we will plod ahead. One morning the birds will feel better about us, the winds will calm and off we will go. Nature has its own speed and we would all fare better if we worked with it and not against it.

So Far So Good

I’ve just finished reading Mary O’Brien’s post and I am grinning from ear to ear.  I can’t tell you how wonderful this lady is! She puts so many hours into making the costumes for the crew with such love, it boggles the mind. That trip to the pen was so overdue! Mary we all love you and think of you every time a costume is put on. CraneFest was a blur this past weekend, it was the best ever, so many people came from so far to support the birds and crew they love. The cities of Berlin, Princeton and Green Lake have fallen in love with Whoopers and the craniacs have fallen in love with these wonderful towns. It was a weekend that will be remembered. (Well, I’m writing this part of my post in a whisper. I’ve made it through the first week up here and have not washed a pan with motor oil or put the tracking van in the ditch. Maybe I’ve broken the tradition of starting migration with a bang… I hope.) What a wonderful week it has been getting to know this year’s class. They are the greatest birds ever! (OK, I know I say that every year) Number 3-14 is the girl that loves to explore a bit of fingernail showing, she is so gentle it makes my heart melt, but I have to admit that number 4 is fast becoming my favorite. Dubbed Peanut by Brooke because he was the smallest chicklet, the only male in a harem of females. Poor guy, his legs were wonky when he was young and he hurt his right leg playing in the wind in a storm about 3 weeks ago.  It has not healed as quickly as hoped and was re injured a week ago as he played on the runway. Wednesday, he went to see Dr. Barry Hartup at the International Crane Foundation. After being boxed, splinted and boxed again I was prepared for a cold shoulder this afternoon at roost check, these birds can and do hold a grudge after being handled. I can’t tell you how tickled I was to have him come over as I crouched down to study that leg, and want to pick on my puppet. We beat up a few blades of grass together then took turns pounding a clod into the mud.  He won, he drowned it. With some luck we will see Peanut flying with his girls in a few weeks. What a great start to this migration. Here’s to a safe first journey for these girls and their Peanut, the pilots and the ground crew that do their best to make sure that Whooping Cranes will be around for future generations to fall in love with!
Whooping crane 4-14 aka Peanut with his new hinged leg brace.

Whooping crane 4-14 aka Peanut with his new hinged leg brace.

Festival Pictorial

The weather over the weekend has been less than ideal - except for Saturday - the day of our festival (thank you Mother Nature!) Below are just a few images, captured by Deb Johnson, taken before and during the 2014 Whooping Crane Festival in Princeton, Wisconsin.
A large crowd of Craniacs gathered at all three of the flyover locations to watch Saturday's training.

A large crowd of Craniacs gathered at all three of the flyover locations to watch Saturday’s training.

Luckily the weather cooperated and they weren't disappointed. Brooke in the lead with the cranes and Joe in the chase position in one of our new aircraft.

Luckily the weather cooperated and they weren’t disappointed. Brooke in the lead with the cranes and Joe in the chase position in one of our new aircraft.

Afterward everyone gathered at the Princeton High School to have a day of fun at the festival

Afterward everyone gathered at the Princeton High School to have a day of fun at the festival

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Training Update

The weather cooperated over the weekend and we were able to train with the young Whooping cranes on both Saturday and Sunday. Number 4-14 is still on restricted duty but yesterday when I was one of the costumes, along with Tom Schultz, I was able to watch his reaction as his flockmates and the aircraft were going through their paces. He SO wanted to fly. He peeped loud. Very loud - each time the trike would pass by, and he flapped and ran across the width of the wetpen. His limp is barely noticeable now, however, reinjury is possible so we’ll take it slow, incorporating him back into the line-up. Once training was finished with the others, we let him out onto the runway to mingle, and to be near the aircraft. He leaped and danced and even took off on a short circuit over the pensite. Joe started the trike engine a couple of times and he didn’t flinch at all. Here are some photos from yesterday’s training session from both Tom Schultz and yours truly.
Preparing for take-off

Preparing for take-off

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Whoopers 2014 9-7 #4 taking flight4 - landing

Whooping crane 4-14 was very excited to spend some time out on the runway.

Whoopers 2014 9-7 #4 taking flight2

4-14 flies a short circuit around the pensite.

Whoopers 2014 9-7 #4 taking flight3

It was great to see him get out and stretch his wings.

Let the Bidding Begin!

Bidding is NOW open on our 2014 online Facebook auction!

We’re very excited to have 34 WONDERFUL items in this auction, all donated by YOU, our faithful supporters! Here’s where the items are located: http://on.fb.me/XZmyVm. Here’s how the online auction works:
  • Bidding opens on Tuesday, September 2nd and closes at noon, Central time on Friday, September 26th. *Any bids received prior to Sept. 2nd will be removed.*
  • The minimum bid amount in no way reflects the fair market value of each item. Instead the minimum bid amount was established to cover postage/packaging costs within North America.
  • To place a bid, please leave a comment on the photo of the item you are bidding on, including the amount of your bid.
  • If you are outbid, you may increase your bid by posting another comment, should you choose to.
  • At the conclusion of the auction, you will be contacted for payment information, and upon receipt of payment your item will be sent to you.
ALL funds raised will go to Operation Migration and the Class of 2014 Whooping cranes. If you have any questions, please email Jbellemer(AT)operationmigration.org.

HAPPY BIDDING!

Just a couple of the items available on Tuesday, September 2nd in our online auction!

Just a couple of the items available on Tuesday, September 2nd in our online auction!

Ready! Set!! BID!!!

On Tuesday, 9/2, bidding will open on our 2014 online auction. In the meantime, you can peruse the items on our FaceBook page as they are added. We’re very excited to have 34 WONDERFUL items in this auction, all donated by YOU, our faithful supporters! Here’s where the items are located: http://on.fb.me/XZmyVm. You may see just a few items at first, but rest assured that ALL 34 items will be posted by the time bidding opens on 9/2. Here’s how the online auction works:
  • Bidding opens on Tuesday, September 2nd and closes at noon, Central time on Friday, September 26th. *Any bids received prior to Sept. 2nd will be removed.*
  • The minimum bid amount in no way reflects the fair market value of each item. Instead the minimum bid amount was established to cover postage/packaging costs within North America.
  • To place a bid, please leave a comment on the photo of the item you are bidding on, including the amount of your bid.
  • If you are outbid, you may increase your bid by posting another comment, should you choose to.
  • At the conclusion of the auction, you will be contacted for payment information, and upon receipt of payment your item will be sent to you.
ALL funds raised will go to Operation Migration and the Class of 2014 Whooping cranes. If you have any questions, please email Jbellemer(AT)operationmigration.org.

HAPPY BIDDING!

Just a couple of the items available on Tuesday, September 2nd in our online auction!

Just a couple of the items available on Tuesday, September 2nd in our online auction!

The Boys Are Back in Town…

And they brought reinforcements. Yesterday morning, as Geoff and Doug waited patiently for the fog to clear at White River Marsh, and the CraneCam viewers waited not-so-patiently for the same thing, we were treated to the surreal sound of Whooping cranes calling in the distance. Looking for white birds in the early morning fog is very much like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack so we all settled for just enjoying their haunting vocalizations. Not long after (yes, we were still on a fog delay), sub-adult Whooping cranes 4-12 & 5-12 came sauntering along the grass training strip from the north. Man, do they have swagger… They weren’t alone - behind them was the Sandhill crane pair that also frequents the training site. I wondered if they had devised a plan to gang up on the costumes and steal their grapes? "I’ll create a diversion and get the tall tume to come after me - you jumprake the short one and when he’s down GO FOR THE GRAPES"! (It’s amazing what goes through your mind while you wait for fog to clear) Alas, there was nothing that scandalous afoot, although they did take turns strutting past the costumes on several occasions - seemingly baiting them to get aggressive and chase them off. Once Brooke appeared in the aircraft off in the distance, the Nerf balls made their first appearance of the season and the two were chased off (the cranes - not the costumes). Some of you may be wondering ‘Why Nerf balls’? Try chasing a Whooping crane away while you’re wearing rubber boots. The Nerf balls won’t hurt them should the costumes actually have good throwing arms (they don’t) and it’s an effective way to get them to leave. Now you’re wondering ‘Why do you want them to leave’? Well, mainly because they can be unpredictable - they are wild cranes - and they could become aggressive toward our young cranes, and well that’s a risk we don’t want to take. Doug Pellerin (one of the costumes that can’t throw a Nerf ball) captured and sent along the following images for your viewing pleasure.
Whooping cranes and Sandhill cranes

4-12 & 5-12 show up for training - with reinforcements.

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2 yr. old Whooping crane 5-12 stares down the costume, while 4-12 preens in the background.

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CHIP IN Winner!

Here’s a FUN way to support whooping cranes! 

Purchase a 2014 Whooping crane Chip from our Marketplace for $20. Each Chip is individually numbered and contains an alpha/numeric code. As soon as you receive your Chip in the mail, visit www.coinlogin.org to register your name and email, along with your Chip number and code. Over the next few months, we’ll be holding random draws for some fun items so keep an eye on your inbox. Once all the Chips are gone, we’ll hold FOUR additional draws:
  • Two for CITGO gas cards, valued at $100 each.
  • $500 CASH
  • A flight back seat with our CEO, Joe Duff as pilot, while he flies in the chase position with the Class of 2014 Whooping cranes!
There are only 1000 Chips available, so be sure to order yours soon so you don’t miss out!
CHIP_IN

Get YOUR Chip Now!

When we launched this campaign last week, we mentioned we would hold random prize draws throughout the campaign, until all of the Chips are sold. Last evening we selected a number from the 305 Chips, which have been registered thus far and the winning chip is number 617 - Registered to: Karen Crawford. Karen will receive an OM prize pack in the mail shortly. The prize pack includes all of the items pictured below. Congratulations Karen! IMG_20140717_101047_Prize_pack