Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spring Migration has Begun!

(photo credit: Charles Murray) 21-10, 5-05, and 15-04 in flight at Armstrong Bend

I arrived back at Hiwassee refuge to find only two birds! There were seven two weeks ago.

Before I arrived at Hiwassee, I drove around Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee looking for adult pairs only to be turned away time after time.

Yes, the adults are anxious to get back to their breeding grounds in the north. They each have to stake their claim before the other cranes claim their prime real-estate.

This set me to pondering on 21-10 and the family groups for W1-10 and W3-10. I asked Eva, my supervisor, "What happens to those juveniles that are with the adults? At what point do the adults start distancing themselves from the yearlings?"

It seems as though the juveniles will closely follow the adults on migration all the way back to Wisconsin. Once they get there, the young start wandering further from the adult pair. Thus, it seems separation is a mutual agreement between the juvenile who wants to discover his own grounds/friends, and the adults who would appreciate a little privacy. I like this idea rather than a big showdown between a desperately needy chick and fed-up adults who resort to domestic violence to get their point across.

That said, 21-10/5-05/15-04 have recently been seen in Kentucky! I'm sure the northward moving birds are hitting the wall of snow that still encapsulates the northern states.

The large group with 11-02/30-08 and 3 DAR juveniles (19-10, 25-10, 27-10) has left Alabama, but we haven't received any reports of their whereabouts.

23-10 and 26-10 remain in Georgia (still alive! I stopped in to find them last week). They probably won't start migrating until mid-March. The juveniles don't have anything to rush back for: they don't have to claim territory or build nests. Whooping cranes females don't start laying eggs until they are 3 years old.

Pretty soon, the 2010 ultralight juveniles will start their migration. Eva and I will be tracking the Ultralight group rather than the DAR group, because it will be the Ultralight group's first unassisted migration, and we want to monitor them to:

1. make sure they stay on the proper path
2. see where they stop over and
3. report their progress to WCEP

Spring migration will begin soon!
21-10 and 5-05/15-04 in pre-flight stance

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