Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Whooping Crane Update

WOW, still stuck on the ground in Green County. While I am enjoying the nice weather here in Wisconsin the last few days, I believe they need a cold front to come through to get in the air.

I was playing with some digital scrapbooking today and realized I've never posted my whooping crane scrapbook pages here, so here we go. You can click on the pictures to make them larger.

This morning I did this one. The base is a picture I took at the International Crane Foundation. I can't wait until Spring when I can go back with my camera and take more pictures of the lovely grounds and the cranes. They are building a new habitat for African cranes which should be complete by June of 2009. The other two pictures were "borrowed" from the Operation Migration Photo Gallery. Visit there to see some other awesome pictures. I made the frame playing with the cookie cutter tool in Photoshop Elements.

#810 looks lonely there in the pen all by himself. I've gotten kind of fond of the little dickens. The following is a journal entry which tells his story.

As the chicks hatch out at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in the
spring they immediately begin training to become an ultralight crane. Because
they are aggressive at first, they train on their own but eventually they are
paired with another chick similar in age and begin training sessions
This is the first step in socializing these young birds, whom if
hatched in a nest, instead of an incubator, would immediately begin fighting for
the limited food supplies. It's that survival of the fittest mentality inherent
in most wild creatures, and something that must be taken into consideration by
the team when combining the cohorts at Patuxent.
As the chicks grow, others
are added into the group, until eventually a cohesive cohort is formed, and
while little squabbles will always break out, they are usually quickly resolved,
either by the birds alone, or, if necessary, with some handler intervention.
Unfortunately, this was not the case with number 810 - From the time he was
placed with another chick, he went on the offensive. All sorts of chick
combinations were attempted and he just would not play well with others and had
to be watched constantly.
When the first cohort was shipped to the Necedah
Refuge in June two words were written on the outside of 810's shipping crate;
"GOOD LUCK." As a result this young rebel bird spent the first couple of days in
lock down; separated from the others by a fence inside the pen, which would
still allow him to socialize with this others but keep them safe from his wrath.
After observing his interactions for two days, the decision was made to allow
him to mingle and the fence was removed. A couple of hours later, at roost check
handlers found three seriously injured cranes.
All three were transported to
the International Crane Foundation for assessment and treatment, where number
807, a genetically valuable crane, succumbed to her injuries. Number 809,
sibling to 807 and therefore also genetically valuable was returned to Patuxent,
and after a few days of treatment and observation, number 811, ironically 810's
sister was returned to the ultralight cohort. Due to the stress experienced
during the attack from her brother, feathers on 811's wings did not develop
properly, which rendered her unable to fly and keep up with her flockmates and
she is now living out her life as a display crane at the Milwaukee
Eventually, 810 did gain back the trust of the team and was integrated
into the oldest cohort. He was a good follower and a great flyer and seemed to
get along for the most part with the three other chicks in Cohort One or they
learned to stay out of his way.
Then came time to blend the oldest group with
the two younger groups, which had already been mixed. Immediately, 810's old
ways of dealing with stressful situations, which was to lash out at those
unfortunate birds that were within striking distance, resurfaced.
In Mike
Tyson style, He managed to grab hold of 813's beak through the chain link fence
that divided him from the others and he would not let go. Luckily Brian Clauss
had been monitoring him via the WC-TV channel from inside the feed shed and came
to 813's rescue.
The next morning, in an attempt to allow him to socialize
with the others during a training session, this little fighter again grabbed at
several of the youngest cranes and fearing a repeat of the attack that occurred
in late June, where we lost three birds, the decision was made to pull him from
the ultralight study and release him on the refuge in hopes that he will follow
some of the older Whooping cranes south.
Some of you that have been following
our efforts over the years may recall that this is what happened 4 years ago
with number 418. This first ever one-by-one release WCEP bird had feather issues
very early in the season and some of his primaries were pulled so that new
feathers could generate. While they did indeed grow in, they did so too late for
him to train with the aircraft so he was released in November; a couple of weeks
after we had departed the refuge with his former flockmates. Now bear in mind
that we had gotten a two-week head start on number 418, so imagine our surprise,
upon arriving at the Hiwassee State Wildlife Area in Tennessee, to learn that he
had arrived a few days ahead of us!
The tracking team had been closely
monitoring this bird since he departed the Necedah area and had noted him in the
company of various older cranes along the way. When we observed him at Hiwassee,
he was in the company of number 107 -- a first year female.
Number 418 did
eventually make it to Florida that year - and he did successfully return to his
summer home in central Wisconsin the next spring, proving to us that the
one-by-one release method can work. (Crane 418 died in July 2005 after
apparently striking a powerline)
We can only hope that number 810 can put
aside his social inadequacies long enough to meet older, experienced Whooping
cranes and follow them south.
Number 810 was released shortly before dusk on
October 22nd, and after realizing that he was on his own, he apparently flew to
the North training site where he had spent the majority of the summer with
Cohort One. Upon arriving, he was chased off by number 310 and W601* and he
ended up flying to the Canfield training site, where he spent the past three
The latest word we have on him is that he is still there but he is not
alone as there is a pair of older white birds also spending time at the now
vacant site. In what can only be described as another twist of irony – the older
pair of cranes at the Canfield site are 313 and 318; the parents that abandoned
number 810 just over five months ago when they walked off the nest just one day
before he and 811 were expected to hatch.
After spending a great deal of time
trying to socialize and rehabilitate this rogue bird, if we could, we would say
only two words; "GOOD LUCK!"

I have my fingers crossed for #810.

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