Operation Migration is a non-profit organization devoted to the reintroduction of endangered Whooping Cranes throughout North America.
Joan asks - “Does all these no-training days become a problem for the cranes flight schedule”?
If only we could hatch the cranes earlier so they would fledge in July. That way they would be ready to leave on the migration in August when the weather is still cooperating.
In July the calm mornings allow us to train almost every day, but toward the end of August the fall weather system sets in and training days become as rare as Whooping cranes. It is bad timing because that is just when we need good flying conditions to increase their endurance and keep them following.
This is the season when bad habits are dangerous. If we get another episode of behavior like number 10 displayed earlier in the summer, we don’t have the flying days to correct it. The problem just gets worse as time goes on and the start of migration turns into a fiasco and we have all seen that one act play.
There is nothing we can do about good weather withdrawal. We go through the 12 steps from denial to anger and finally acceptance. Then, when Indian Summer finally arrives, we start over and somewhere in central Illinois it all comes together. The birds finally get the message.
We get a few flyable days in a row and the reward is a long string of pearls off the wing tip of the lead aircraft and a light at the end of the migration tunnel.
All we can do now is cross our fingers and know that we will see you on the other side.
We have a great way for Craniacs to help raise funds AND friends for Whooping cranes!If you’ve been following our work you’re no doubt familiar with our Give A WHOOP! campaign. Meant to be a quick and fun way to celebrate milestone events; whether they be milestones in the development of our new class of Whooping cranes chicks, such as eggs hatching, or first flight, or milestone events in our supporters lives (birthdays, anniversaries) worthy of celebrating - this campaign is a way for you to WHOOP! in celebration of something and to post a message with your gift. Now YOU can create your own Give A WHOOP! page, which can very easily be shared via email or your social networking sites! Random prize draws will be made throughout the year for both fundraisers and donors and include USB bracelets with the OM logo, embroidered Whooping crane patches, and a copy of a beautiful coffee table book: The Whooping Crane - Images From The Wild by Klauss Nigge.
We would like to invite everyone to come out to the viewing blind at the White River Marsh training site. Plan your visit to the Operation Migration Whooping Crane Blind to witness flight training of the young Whooping Cranes, to hear the sounds and to see them fly with the aircraft.
It’s an awesome experience to see them grow from these young colts to beautiful young Whooping cranes. To arrange to participate in a blind tour, please contact Doug Pellerin at pelican0711(AT)gmail.com or call 920-923-0016.
Craniac Sherry Wynn visited the blind last week and sent us the following photos to share with you. Thanks Sherry!
(Click each image to enlarge)
For many of us, the whooping crane defines endangered species management. This magnificent bird’s plight embodied many of the conservation issues of the 20th Century. We are now writing its 21st Century story with a dedicated team of scientists, pilots, volunteers, and philanthropists. For a host of reasons, it is important that our grandchildren, years from now, can experience whooping cranes in Wisconsin as evidence that we patiently worked through many challenges and got it right with this iconic species.
The reintroduction of breeding whooping cranes to Wisconsin is a key step in the conservation strategy to safeguard this species. The threat that loomed from a recent oil spill near Aransas National Wildlife Refuge this past winter should remind us why having a viable second population is crucial to the whooping crane’s recovery.
So why is re-establishing the Eastern Migratory Population of whooping cranes taking so long? We are attempting to re-establish a species that has been lost from our landscape for over 120 years. Much has changed. Wetlands of the tall grass prairies in the Midwest, the historical stronghold of whooping cranes, have been substantially altered. It will take time for these birds to adapt their behaviors and breeding strategies to this landscape and its challenges, and our reintroduction team is learning right along with them.
Since the first whooping cranes were released in Wisconsin in 2001, the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) has accomplished much: good adult survival, good migration routes, good pairing, good egg fertility, good nest establishment and a solid understanding of what is causing nest failure - parasitism by an avian-specific species of black fly. No other crane reintroduction project has accomplished so much. Yet our population is not yet sustainable.
Our next gambit is to establish whooping cranes outside of areas that the bird-specific black flies frequent and in areas that might also protect chicks from high predation rates and other, as yet unknown risks. Fortunately, we began to establish whooping cranes in new, experimental areas, as early as 2011. These birds are just now reaching maturity and we already had one nest this year. More nesting success will likely come next year.
When you endeavor to re-establish, from scratch, an endangered species that is long-lived, our conservation efforts must match that lifespan. Our 13 year old whooping crane population and reintroduction effort, we know now, is still relatively young. And while we are fully aware of the challenges these birds face, all partners are working deliberately and doggedly to help whooping cranes thrive in Wisconsin.
Every year Operation Migration relies heavily on volunteers. Apart from the three pilots and outreach staff, many of the bird handlers and tracking people are volunteers. We all live in tight quarters and never know if our mornings will start with gusty winds and disappointment or an early call to take to the air with no idea when or where our day will end. There are long stretches with little to do, punctuated by busy days with too much work and too few breaks.
As you can imagine, it is difficult to find people willing to dedicate three or more months of their lives to help us make the slow trip to Florida each fall. Many are willing to assist but with the weather dictating our progress and the open ended schedule, it is difficult to plan around family and work obligations.
Again this year we are appealing to our volunteer base, only this season our request is a little different. Rather than asking you to give up an indefinite amount of your fall and early winter, we are asking you to give us two weeks. I hope to develop a schedule of volunteers who can take over the position for a fixed period of time. Knowing a specific end date should make it simpler for people to plan ahead and I hope this will help us generate more interest in joining our migration team.
Of course, if you are willing to donate two weeks in say, November, we will have no idea of where we might be by then or whether your time with us will be spent twiddling your thumbs in persistent winds or running at high speed as we cross a state or two. Details, such as where and when can be worked out as we go but we can promise you some good company, delicious meals (when we have time to eat), a real sense of accomplishment and our endless gratitude.
We need a ground crew member who is willing to drive one of our motorhomes or truck and trailer combos. That is not difficult but the trucks are diesel and the trailers are 30 feet or better. Some experience is required, especially since backing up is unavoidable. You may also be recruited to help with other duties like tracking, setting up pens or helping to check on birds. Apart from the truck and trailer experience, none of these duties requires special skills and we do have on the job training - such as it is.
I should point out though that it takes a special person to share a motorhome with no guarantee of a daily shower or a regularly scheduled meal time. We have an eclectic team with diverse personalities and getting along can be challenging, considering the random menu of stress and boredom.
We hope to start the migration on or around September 21st. When it will end is anyone’s guess but for now, let’s be optimistic and say December 18th. That’s about 13 weeks or six and a half volunteer periods. Of course we would be very happy if you had more than two weeks to donate.
I suspect that many people would love to run away with this circus but I should caution you. We need able-bodied people who can lift pen panels and drive a large pickup truck pulling a long trailer. We need someone willing to live in a motorhome with a few others and get along with their roommates.
If nothing else, the Operation Migration team is dedicated, but dedication comes at a cost. It is not rocket science but it is not always easy.
I have tried to be realistic but hope I have not frightened you off and you are still interested in helping, please contact Joe by email at: joe(AT)operationmigration.org