Monday, December 6, 2010

Skipping Logs: Migration Rundown

It’s only been a 2 weeks since migration started, but it feels as though it’s been ages. I barely remember what happened 4 days ago. This is my brief (as it can be) rundown of events:

 (You'll have to zoom in on this pic to see the flying birds)

Nov 20th – Havarti, Queso, and Feta flew right past the field where the chicks usually landed just south of the refuge and kept going south. Whaaaa!!!! I followed soon after. When I caught up to them on the road, I found that they didn’t have any adults with them. Who knows where they would end up? I actually managed to stay close to them the ENTIRE day until the very end. But they landed on the Mississippi, and I was able to find them the next morning in Iowa. The next day, strangely, 13-03 and 18-03 showed up, and the chicks followed them for the rest of Migration. 

Also Pepper Jack reappeared on the refuge. He floated around from adult group to adult group before finally joining the chicks on the Refuge the next day.

Nov 23rd – Crazy windy day. All the adults who were left on the refuge and in the surrounding area just POURED out. Everyone started flying south; even the rest of the chicks. This time, they were with adults. Eva followed a large group of chicks into Illinois. Pepper Jack and Roquefort weren’t with the group, but we hoped they were together wherever they were.

My chicks; Havarti, Queso, and Feta flew south with their adults to South Western Indiana. I had to drive overnight just to catch up to them.

Nov 24th – Crappy rainy day. Nothing much happened, but Eva’s chicks/adults group disappeared. Why would they migrate in this weather? Eva’s group includes Gouda, Ricotta, Fontina, Goat, and Baby Saganaki. Well they kept moving south anyway, we found them 2 days later.

Nov 25th – My chicks are staying put. In fact, Eva’s not sure they will migrate any further. They are at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, and that’s where 13-03/18-03 have wintered before.

Spotted Roquefort, but no Pepper Jack. At least Roq was with 4 adults! There’s no way he’s getting lost if he plays it smart and stays with them. I switch birds. We’re pretty sure Roq will be going somewhere with his adults.

No sign of Eva’s chicks.

Nov 26th – Eva’s Chicks show up in South Eastern Indiana. Everyone’s still alive and all together. Whew.

While I’m following Roquefort and his gang as they migrate south through Indiana, I hear PJ!!!  I’m going to guess he was near Cayuga, Indiana at the time, but a flight the next day didn’t show any sign of him. Well, since I couldn’t get closer to his signal, I just stayed on Roq and his gang. We made it to the very South East corner of Indiana. 

Nov 27th – Roq lost 2 of his adults. They just up and flew off without the rest of the group. They had been bickering all morning, so it was probably for the best. The 3 remaining (roq, 5-05 and 15-04) got a really late start. They left at 2 in the afternoon, made it through Kentucky and roosted somewhere on the KY/TN border.

Everyone else (though we really don’t know anything about Pepper Jack) pretty much stayed put.

Nov 28th – Roquefort made it to Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee! He’ll probably stay there through the winter. That’s where 5-05 and 15-04 stay. It’s also where I’ll be staying during the winter months between migrations.

Nov 29th – Dec 2nd – I hang out at Hiwassee, just scanning through all the frequencies. I’m trying to see who’s migrating through. I’m keeping an eye on Roquefort, though it’s frustrating because it’s hard to get a visual of him. I can’t tell if he’s with the adults or not, because their radio transmitters don’t work. Also I’m keeping a close eye on Mr. 5-01. He’s a big troublemaker in Florida. He likes to attack the Ultralight chicks and try to scam food from the pens, I hear. Once he leaves Hiwassee, I’m to call the Refuge in Florida right away to warn them he’s coming.

Pepper Jack shows up in Cayuga!!! He’s with the Jones’!! hooray!! He found a place where he belongs, and I’m really happy that he’s safe. Strangely, 11-02 (or George) has been known to winter near Cayuga, so if PJ stays with them, they may not migrate further south. That means that potentially, most of the chicks have found their wintering grounds. Only time will tell, but Eva’s chicks may move on from Muscatatuck. It only took a week to migrate.

Dec 3rd to Present – I drove up from TN to sit on PJ in Cayuga. On the way, I stopped in to see the chicks in Muscatatuck. I didn’t get to see them L, but at least they were all together. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

We found him!

Pepper Jack is BACK!!! Eva discovered him while flying over Illinois on the West Side.

It turns out he's hanging out with George and Trixi Jones (or 11-02 and 30-08).

I've returned to Northern Indiana to see if he goes anywhere. Eva suspects that he won't be going anywhere because the adults winter in this area. That's ok, it gives me an excuse to see my friends in the area and enjoy a little bit of snow before heading back South for the winter (ha ha, suckas!)

There are 3 cranes in this picture. Can you find them? I feel like looking for whoopers in the snow is like reading a 'Where's Waldo' book.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Phantom Pepper Jack

Where is PJ? Seriously.

He showed up on November 21st at the refuge. Where was he for 20 days? I don’t know. Around.
After arriving at the refuge he hung out with various groups of whooping cranes: first a young couple that fly back and forth from the refuge to cornfields nearby. After that, he was with an older couple that hangs out only on the Refuge. That couple had a nest this year, but no chicks hatched. Next we saw him with the other DAR chicks! I was happy that he had reunited with the others. I hoped he’d stay with them and finally migrate with the rest of the group.

No such luck. On the morning of migration (the day all the birds poured out of the refuge like water out of a leaky bucket) PJ and Roquefort were nowhere to be seen. We thought they left together, but they didn’t. Roquefort showed up in Indiana 2 days later (Thanksgiving morning) with 4 adult birds (I’ll write more about this quintet later) with no sign nor peep from PJ.

I was driving down back roads west of Indianapolis the day after thanksgiving, and who do I hear? Yup, PJ. I was shocked. We hadn’t heard from him in 3 days! He was to the north west of me, but there was no good way to get there. While I was trying to get closer, his signal faded away into radio silence.

We even sent out a plane. Anne, my boss at ICF, went out with a receiver and flew over the entirety of Indiana. Not a blip.

It’s funny how he only shows up now and again. It’s as though he’s showing off his independence by not following other cranes; by avoiding even the trackers. I think we need a PTT on this bird. He’s probably in Ohio, or even worse… West Virginia. (That is only worse because the migration route runs from Florida to Wisconsin, and West Virginia is NOT on the way.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Migration log number ONE

They Migrated!!! Not everyone; just a few. Havarti (my favorite), Queso (my Christmas bird), and Feta (the pretty one) took off from Wisconsin, and landed in Iowa.

Attempting to follow flying birds is so exhilarating.

Actually, we’re not supposed to be following the birds. We are supposed to stay ahead of the birds. This way, if we need to stop for gas or food or a quick trip to the facilities, the birds will still be flying towards us. If the stop takes a little bit longer, we could still hear the tail end of their signal in front of us. This is very good practical sense.

 In practice, though, I found it a little difficult to stay in front of the birds. I got up there a few times, but because the birds kept flying slightly west, I had to keep cutting west, too. Eventually I lost the birds in the hills. There were no north-south roads, so I was zigging through valley trails. Dirt and gravel roads don’t allow for speed, and being at the bottom of the valley isn’t conducive to listening for radio signals.

I kept driving south until dusk hoping to catch up to the birds, but I never caught a signal. At sunset I stopped to walk around a little, fuel up on gas, get some food, and make a plan for the night and next day to find those birds.

I knew they couldn’t be far. The last little blip I heard was around 4pm. Sunset is around 5:45, and I’m sure the cranes landed a little before that so they could eat.

Well, I drove around for a couple hours after dark, and I didn’t hear a thing. Nothing but static came over the radio. When I dejectedly began my search for a hotel, there were none available! It turns out that the beginning of deer/gun season books up every hotel and motel for leagues. After driving around for an hour from motel to hotel, I wised up and sat down with my computer so I could call around for vacancies. Note to self: always do this. I got the last vacancy at a cute little dive motel.  The room wasn’t stellar, but the sheets were clean and the owner lent me an alarm clock from the fifties (I had to figure out how to work it).

In the morning, I woke up at 6 am, made my plan: I was going to follow up the Mississippi in Iowa to see  if the chicks landed there. They did!! Oh my gosh, they did!!! I startled at the first beep as though the dead started walking again.

After getting a visual, I positioned myself on a hilltop to the south. That way if the chicks started flying again, I’d already be south of them and ready to roll.

Well, they haven’t left yet. I like to check on them once an hour just to be sure they are safe. It may not be Iowa’s deer/gun season yet, but it IS bird/gun season. There are a LOT of hunters out there. I can hear a gunshot almost every 5 minutes, and usually several rounds going off at one time.

During one of my hourly checks, I discovered my chicks weren’t alone out here in Podunk (for whooping cranes) Iowa. 13-03 and 18-03 were out there in the cornfield with my chicks! I can’t believe this. 13 & 18 started migrating only yesterday and what are they doing out here? It’s understandable that the chicks might fly southwest. They’ve never flown south before. Adults, though? They’ve been flying since 2003. Weird coincidence that they should happen to meet up in an unlikely place. Let’s just hope the chicks stay with the adults long enough to find their way back east.  I’m so proud of them, regardless of flying slightly off the proscribed track.

And here's a gratuitous kitty picture. He was hunting in front of my van, so I couldn't resist taking pictures. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Miscellaneous or Preparing for Departure

We've been monitoring the chicks every day. We wake up with them at the dawn

We watch to make sure they go to sleep safely

Sometimes one will trick us. Feta roosted far away from the group last week. She roosted 1/4 mile south of the East Rhynearson Marsh where the chicks normally roost. When we went out to check on her in the morning, she had flown back to the others sometime during the night! How does a bird see enough to fly at night? 

Both Aubrey and I thought we heard Pepper Jack's signal early in the morning this past week, but once we started following the signal, it drops away. I hope we'll hear something about him soon. Maybe the DNR will catch a visual of him on one of their tracking flights, but I don't know how often they go out flying.

Goat has been improving. He's been seen with 11-02 and 30-08 (The jones') more often. Just this week, Fontina was hanging out with those 3 as well. Once I saw Fontina and Goat fly over to where the other chicks were. I have strong hopes that Goat will reunite with the others or at least follow 11-02 and 30-08 down on migration.

Our tracking vans are going through some rigorous inspections before going on migration. It doesn't stop the wildlife from enjoying them while they are around, though.
After a couple of weeks trying to capture wild birds so we could replace non-functioning transmitters, my supervisors finally decided it was time to get me trained at holding birds. Taffy took me around crane city at ICF and we picked up several birds like this brolga. I have a feeling that holding captive birds is only somewhat like holding wild cranes. I anticipate the wild cranes are more aggressive: they'll peck, jump rake, dodge and weave. Maybe the wild cranes will just run away. Either way, I feel a little more prepared for whatever comes my way. I'm glad I was able to get some practice in before I leave.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chick Update!

All the chicks have happily settled into a routine. They fly everyday from Necedah Refuge to the cornfields south of the Refuge. They fly back every night to roost in the water. They've ingratiated themselves with 6-05 and 6-09 who showed them the ropes.

Goat has been released!! although he's separated himself from the other chicks :(  I hope they overcome their differences soon. Either that, or I hope he finds some adults to migrate with.

On the plus side: the chicks don't seem to mind hanging out with Sandhills anymore. They used to be very scared of sandhill cranes. Lately they've not only been seen near the cranes, but they've been seen defending their foraging space against the other cranes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pepper Jack's Jaunt to Independence

Oh Pepper Jack,

If only you would stay with the other chicks. There's something called safety in numbers, you know. When you go haring off into the hills it's hard for us to find you.

Your independent streak has always instilled in me pride and exasperation. I'm proud of you for taking these steps to beging flying south on your own, I only wish you had exercised caution and waited to fly south with other adult whoopers, or maybe with your cohort.

Wherever you are, I hope you are safe. Never fear, we will continue searching for you. We will be looking for you on our way down with Migration. We will be looking for you by plane. We will continue looking for you once we've reached the south. I hope you find plenty of food and good tail winds.

All my love,

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nacho's Loss

A few days after release, we discovered the body of Nacho, our favorite. Our first.

It has hit me pretty hard, because there's no way we could have predicted he'd be the first one to go. He was the strongest, he was the leader. He always knew where to forage and where to take shelter. He led the others when flying to new places. He seemed to work well with the adults who were in the area. Nacho was a good bird. By that, I mean he was a fine example of a bird (for all I know about the subject). He wasn't like a pet. Cranes would never be good pets.

We always compared him to the high school quarterback: liked and loved by all: the other chicks, the other adult cranes, us costumes...

Brittani named him Nacho before anyone else had a vote. The name just kinda stuck.

During his first couple of days he was the only chick we had at the chick rearing facility. I was worried that he wouldn't have anyone of the same age. Kelly assured me that even though he was all alone now, just wait, he'd be the most spoiled chick. Maybe she was right, we did spend more time with him.

He was always the first to reach the milestones in a chick's life: the first to be socialized, the first to get real feathers, the first to stay outside, the first to fly.

He was always the chick I relied on to keep the other chicks in line.

I will miss his leadership and confidence. I was hoping to follow his story on the migration south, but I fear his story ends before halloween. They tell us not to get attached, and in some degree I'm not. There's nothing I could've done to prevent that predator... but it doesn't relieve the sadness I feel at his loss. I miss him, and I'll continue to think of him as the chicks journey south on their migration.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chick Release Part 5: The Reunion

Nacho, PJ, and Havarti, who were released in the West side of the refuge managed to split up. PJ was the first to make it back to Site 3 in the predawn light. Nacho flew circles around the East Rhynerson Pool, which is featured here, and was struggling with the wind for only an hour before making it back to site 3 by 9am. Did I mention that there was an epic wind storm that day?

Havarti waited another half hour before taking off and testing the wind. She didn't even bother with the circles. She flew almost directly back to Site 3. That's my little girl :,D

Havarti flying on this crazy windy day straight back to Site 3

The Group in the North reunited. Roq and Ric survived their night in the woods/marsh. They only flew around the North (The marsh up there is called the Sprague-Mather Pool or SMP) that first day. They mostly stayed with 11-03/12-03 and a whole bunch of sandhills. During the next 3 days they surprised us by flying south just to the area where we released the chicks on the west side of the refuge, but didn't fly enough to find site 3. They flew back North that same day and roosted with 11-03/12-03 again.  Finally on Oct 28th, right when we trackers were switching shifts, they managed to fly back site 3. My shift had been about to start: I heard the signals of all 4 birds very faintly, and then I heard nothing. I called up my co-worker who was tracking the south half of the refuge (where site 3 is located), and sure enough. All 11 chicks were reunited at site 3, and they were all hanging out with their usual adult friends, 11-02/30-08 or 'the jones's'.

Chick Release Part 4: The Aftermath

When Nacho, Pepper Jack, Havarti, and Goat finally landed, they landed in water!! I was so proud of them. But I was a little worried that Goat didn't seem to be with the rest of the group. Remember, that I was trying to determine the chicks' locations in the dark by radio signal. I'm not exactly sure where they are, but I can roughly determine Nacho, PJ, and Havarti are in a somewhat larger body of water: a marsh. Their signals are coming back a little "watery" sounding. I'm pretty confident about them, but I'm not sure about Goat. He's nearby.

I tell Richard, who is still driving around trying to pin point their locations. He takes a road to try to get closer to Goat's signal and to see if he can see anything. Well he did find Goat. Goat was struggling and caught in some brambles. His lower bill was slightly broken, and if you've ever trimmed a beak, or clipped a nail to short on any animal, you know there's a lot of blood in those quicks.

Unfortunately it's at this point, while Richard is struggling with helping the bird, that I lose my cell phone. I'm desperately searching around the car for it, knowing that it's ringing A LOT, but not being able to find it. Eventually, my other phone (p.o.s.) got a call out to Marianne, who updated me on the situation.

Marianne will take my vehicle and stay with Richard to help with the medical emergency. She's very experienced with medical issues and handling birds.

I will drive north with Aubrey and the rest of the supplies and search for Roq and Ric who are still in the woods.

Goats story: After Marianne joined with Richard. They managed to wrap his beak back into position. It had been hanging at a 35 degree angle, hinged on the (right?) side. So it wasn't completely broken. There is a chance that it can heal. There is a point on the bird's bill (like a quick) that the beak tissue continually grows from. The birds do a lot of probing and pecking at things, so the bill keeps growing throughout their lives, being worn down, like beaver teeth, by constant use. There is hope. Birds have survived with broken bills before. After Marianne and Richard wrap up his bill, they take him back to site 3 and release him in the night pen so he is safe. Marianne set up a smaller "dry pen" for him so he is not tempted to drink any water or probe for food (we don't want him eating before we take him to see the vet, the next day). The next day, I helped Marianne catch goat and crate him so she can take him back to Baraboo for the vet to examine. We determined that after a week or two of healing, he will be released again. His beak looked really good to me! I was expecting the worst, but it was sitting straight. Though, there was a small millimeter gap between the upper and lower bills at just the very tip, that's better than amazing after such a break as he endured. I think Goat is going to be alright.

Roq and Ric's story: Aubrey and I show up at the same place we released the chicks in the North. Eva's been waiting. It's long after dark by now. It seems like Gouda and Havarti have safely roosted near the adult pair nearby (11-03/12-03, who had a nest and a tiny chick of their own early in the summer, but he didn't survive). Long story short: we walked into the woods and trudged around in the dark autumn swamp the first time without finding anything. We went back to the car, found we had walked into the wrong swamp/woods the first time. We tried it again, this time in the right area, but after another 1/2 hour of trudging, we still didn't find the birds. We determined we needed a hand-held reciever (like in this blog entry) to try to find the birds on foot. Marianne shows up with the working hand held reciever, because it's taken this long and she's done tending Goat. All 4 trudge back out into the woods and lo! There are the 2 birds. I can see them through the trees and sparse brush. Their eyes are glinting in the blinding flash of the headlamps. (Mind, we're all wearing our crane costumes so the chicks don't see humans). Marianne walks closer to them to determine exactly what habitat they are in. Luck is with us! or the chicks have retained their senses. They are standing in marsh. It's a long, skinny marsh that was tucked in the woods in a manner that disguises itself from the human intruder, but the birds must have seen it and followed it back to their current roosting spot. This is additionally great news, because the birds are in water. That means we don't have to catch them up and move them. Whew. What a night.

Chick Release Part 3: The Release

Group 2 (Nacho, Pepper Jack, Havarti, and Goat) did not give us as much trouble as group one being crated up. We had a little trouble with getting goat in the crate, but everyone was settled in the end. It was getting to be around dusk (after 6:00) when we released the chicks on the west side.

Unfortunately, the chicks didn't even walk out of the boxes, this time. We enticed them out with treats, and we encouraged them to walk to the marsh down below the road side. They weren't having any of it. They just kept standing on the road. We got back in the van and tried the previous technique with lights and horns, but the chicks never flew.

At this time, while we were still dealing with the chicks not leaving the road, Eva calls from the north to tell us that Roq and Ric have gone into the woods. The chicks should be roosting in the water, not in the woods. There are many more dangers in the woods, so in previous years we've caught up birds roosting in the woods and physically taken them back to site 3.

Richard and I are left with the West Side Crew while Marianne and Aubrey go to fetch supplies to help Eva in the north (Hip waders, extra costumes, flashlights, a box or 2, medical kit, etc).

Eventually our chicks do fly! I was startled because it is now after dark. I can barely make out their forms in the darkness over my vehicle as they circle around together looking for a place to land.

Yay!! They are released! I've been assigned to stay with these chicks until they land and watch them to make sure they don't rooste in the woods.

Chick Release Part 2: The Release

We started at 3 in the afternoon. It stays dark until 6:30. This gives us 3.5 hours to catch up 8 birds, drive them to their locations, and put them out.

We were delayed a little by the first group of birds (Gouda, Roq, Ric, and Saga). Note: we're still struggling a little to identify the birds with their new bands. We figured it out, though, and separated the right birds from the flock.

They (naturally) struggled against being crated. Saga and Ricotta had been caught up within the past month due to unexpected medical emergencies, so they were the most wary. Eventually, though, everyone was safely crated, and carefully stowed in the van to be relocated.

I'm a little sad that I'll never be so close to them again

To the North! it takes about 20 minutes to drive up there one way. We carefully set the 4 crates side-by-side along the road way. Everyone gets back in the van except 1 person. The 1 person (Richard, my boss) very swiftly lifts all 4 doors of the crates, runs quickly, jumps in the van, and the van drives away!!!

Then, ideally, the birds leisurely stretch their wings and step out of the crate, look at eachother and fly off to their destiny.

Realistically, though, the birds stepped out of the crate, looked at each other, and didn't really know what to do. They stood there in the road. Since these birds have NEVER seen a car before, or really a road, or anything like a human, it's now time to stress the birds out so they have a fear of these things. We don't want them approaching roads, cars, or humans later in life.

Other programs may have humans suddenly appear after release running at the chicks, screaming, opening and closing umbrellas, shooting guns, and generally making a loud ruckus to scare the chicks away. Well we do the same thing, except with the vehicle; honking, flashing lights, driving towards them.

Yay! they flew! Eva (my tracking field manager, and new supervisor once the tracking internship starts) was waiting to stay on these chicks in the north. We, in the van, collected the boxes and booked it back to Site 3 to collect the second group of chicks for release.

Chick Release Part 1: The Planning

This is the day we've been waiting and working for ALL summer. It's going to be an exciting day.

We planned 3 releases:

Gouda, Roquefort, Ricotta, and Saganaki (20, 21, 23, & 28) will be released WAY up in the North half of the refuge [See Map Below]. We planned this out because the North half is a little more dangerous, being mostly mud flats. The predators like bobcats and wolves can run over the flats and pick off a bird more easily than they can run through a marsh. These 4 birds are very strong flyers. We know Gouda and Roquefort tend to stick together. They can also keep Saga in line (he still likes to act up every once in a while trying to get higher on the totem pole). Ricotta was also chosen because she and Roquefort are seen together much of the time. We figure if the group splits up, there's 2 satellite transmitters in the group: also a very good thing.

Nacho, Pepper Jack, Havarti, and Goat (18, 19, 22, 26) will be released  in the West side of the refuge. Nacho and Havarti have been seen together a LOT. Pepper Jack and Nacho have always seemed to get along, hanging out together. Goat was a little questionable, because he always seemed to stay near the costume rather than near the chicks, but we didn't know for sure. Mostly, we wanted to send him away from site 3 because of the seeming preference for the costume. We wanted him to see the greater world and experience something outside of site 3 with the other chicks.

The remaining 3: Fontina, Queso, and Feta (24, 25, 27) include a good mix of birds. They will have a "soft release," which means that instead of being transported to a different area for release, they will just be locked out of the night pen. Effectively, they will be freed to continue the rest of their lives without  but without all the hullabaloo with handlers, crates, and a road trip. Queso and Feta seem to be together a lot, and Fontina is the strongest flyer. Hopefully they will stick together. Even more hopefully: they will leave Site 3 on their own when they discover food is no longer available from the pen and the costume is never coming back.

I've heard it takes about a week for the birds at site 3 to figure out that there's nothing left for them there, so they fly on. I've also heard that eventually all the chicks, no matter where they were released, will find their way back to Site 3. I think we're all hoping that the chicks all meet up again soon.

*Note* the red dot indicating 24, 25, & 27-10 also indicates Site 3: where we raised the cranes and where the other interns and I stayed while we were at the refuge.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chick Update

It's Thursday! but we're not releasing the chicks today. They didn't fly very much yesterday. It may have been because it was cold, rainy, and windy. We want to see the chicks fly more before we release them so we know they are able to fly with the new weight of the bands. We're now talking about releasing the birds next week. Maybe we'll get them out of here on Monday or Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Banding Day!

Whew! we had a long day. The chicks were allowed to enjoy their morning in relative peace. Once we herded (enticed with grapes and all sorts of treats) all the chicks to the chick yard we let them relax for a short time before catching them up. We try to make the whole process as quick as possible to reduce stress. We'll pick up the bird, hood the bird (this calms them down), and silently take it to the banding station, which is out of sight of the other birds.
Richard and Marianne banding PJ

The bands are very colorful and we try to make them as light as possible. We try to keep in consideration the weight of the bands so it doesn't interfere with flight. For example, we generally give all the females both radio transmitters and satellite transmitters. This way we can confidently find all the females in our population (it's especially important because they may wander from the path on migration or we want to be able to find a nest if she has one). On of our females, Havarti, is very small. She was too small to wear both the radio transmitter and the satellite transmitter, so we gave one of the larger males (Roquefort) her satellite transmitter.

After getting their new bands, all the birds were busy investigating their legs. They pecked at the transmitter cords, pecked at the new silver 'ankle cuff,' pecked at their neighbors bands. Havarti tried to scratch her neck, but just let her leg fall short of scratching (I think) due to the new weight of the band. Despite all that, she was able to fly out of the chick yard with the others. I'm glad they were able to adapt so quickly. My supervisor was so impressed that we may release the chicks sooner.

We may release as soon as Thursday! yeah, two days! We'll see...

I'm so proud of my chickies today. :-D

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wow! A Rare Sighting!!

This pair hasn't been seen since June!!

5-05 and 15-04 both have transmitters that don't work. This means we can't find them from a distance, and when we're around their territory, it takes some real luck to see their heads over the grass.

I had to take a picture just to show the world I saw them today, they are still alive!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Getting Ready for Release

It's almost time to release the chicks!!!

They flew away from home marsh, today. We weren't sure where they went, but thankfully they came back within an hour or two.

We're going to band them all on Tuesday. It's a big day for them. Once they have their new "jewelry," they'll be released within a week.

Bands are important to us because we can identify the birds from far away. We can easily see the bright colors of the bands through spotting scopes from 1/4 mile away (provided the birds aren't in tall grasses that hide their legs).

Right now we're trying to divvy up the birds into compatible groups. We want the birds to stay together after release so the groups have to get along amongst each other. We also want the chicks who are more curious to be released closer to 'home.' That way we can keep an eye on them more easily in case their curiosity gets them into trouble.

Both groups will be released on Necedah Wildlife Refuge. I've been led to believe the two groups will eventually reunite back at site 3 (familiar territory). I'm hoping they find each other sooner and they stick with their adults 11-02 and 30-08.

It's going to be a very busy and exciting week!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Tracking Beginnings

I'm slowly transitioning into this tracking position, and so far I'm loving it!

They've given me my own van to use (other people can use it, too, of course)

I've been driving it around on refuge and off refuge
Sometimes I drive it around on closed roads. Those "road closed" signs are so unconvincing...

I've been very lucky in finding almost all of my cranes where they are expected. This will probably change once migration starts, but I'm very fortunate to be able to identify their leg bands visually for now while I can still see them close to the road. This cute couple is 11-03 and 12-03. They had a nest earlier in the year, and they had a chick for a while. Unfortunately the chick didn't survive, but the couple has decided to stay in the same area. It's their established territory. They will probably try again next year.

This is the Wood County Family! It's the first time I've seen them, and they were very close to the road eating fallen grain from a harvested corn field. The chick's name is W3-01 (brown). Check out his mother's neck. She has a large bulge in her throat, which means she's been eating.

Feather Coloration Time Lapse!

Well considering that Pepper Jack is almost white, I thought we could explore his color change from July to now. Before July, he barely had feathers (it was more like down), so I didn't include those pictures. Maybe next time I'll do a time lapse of one chick's growth.

Also, since this wasn't pre-planned, the pictures won't be perfectly the same pose or lighting, but you can still see how his feathers have grown longer and the brown has slowly grown out to the tips of the feathers. Pepper Jack is such a beautiful bird.

July 11

July 24

July 28

Aug 16

Sept 11

 Oct 11