Yeah I’m a wanderer

Yeah I’m a wanderer
Yeah, a wanderer
I roam around, around, around, around

Written and compiled by Debra Nord, Vice President of McHenry County Audubon.

Whooper #2-15

Whooper #2-15. Photo by Debra Nord


On May 31st, which happened to be my Birthday, I found Whooping Crane  #2-15 poking around a farm field in the accompaniment of a Sand Hill Crane and a scrounging raccoon. She was visiting Lakewood in McHenry County Il.  The weather was overcast, with darkening clouds. Rain was imminent.

#2-15, which stands for #2 of year 2015, was hatched from an egg removed from the nest of #27-06 and #26-09 on May 5th. It appears we share the same birthday month!

(From Operation Migration) At first she was a real homebody and did not want to leave her safe, familiar run. She was a “crybaby” on her first tours outsides to see the water, the foot baths and pen, peeping in alarm most of the time. Some days she would not even follow Brooke to the field to try. She had a short attention span and was easily distracted by moving grass or leafs fluttering down from the trees. Keeping her focused on the trike was a challenge and training her took more time that the other birds. By May 31 she was like a different bird, running to the circle pen, eager for the training session. She began to calm down and do really well! By migration time in September, she was a leader!

July 2 was arrival day in Wisconsin for the six young cinnamon- colored Whooping cranes. None of the birds showed any signs of stress from their airplane trip-in-a-box from Maryland where they hatched. They happily explored their new surroundings for “Flight School.”


By the end of July, the colts are strong enough to fly close to the surface but not yet able to climb. “So our daily exercising consists of a high-speed taxi down the length of the runway while the birds fly beside us,” explains pilot Joe Duff. One day #2-15 was airborne for an extra 2 or 3 minutes after the others got their exercise flying from one end to the other!

Ready! By September, Operation Migration pilots reported that all six birds are doing incredibly well—a big contrast to last year’s cohort at this time. They said, “No doubt about it, this cohort is ready to migrate!” The target departure date has been set for September 20th.


Crane #2 has become one of the group leaders. “She is often first out of the gate and inevitably the first to find the sweet spot of the wing,” notes pilot Joe Duff. “Lately she is getting comfortable in the air and has started challenging the aircraft by speeding ahead and taking the lead. I have had leave the others behind several times to chase her and re-assert the dominance of the aircraft as leader of the flight. Once she gets tired she will tuck behind the wing again, while we wait for the others to catch up. Before long though, she is back out front. She has grown into a fine, strong bird, eager to fly and test the limits of her ability and our authority. She is still my favorite.”


The young cranes were banded with tracking transmitters and their lifetime color codes on Feb. 9. Crane #2 is one of the two cranes wearing a PTT for tracking.

Juvenile #2-15 began heading north March 22 with four older Whoopers (#5-12, 4-13, 4-14 and 7-14) from St. Marks NWR leading the way! Will she stay with them, and will it be long enough to pass the migration legs she made in a box? A March 22 PTT hit showed her over Henry County, Alabama—just over 100 miles from the St. Marks winter release enclosure in Florida. The group soon separated and #2-15 traveled with female #7-14 for a time, but then split off on her own—which she is fond of doing! She veered into eastern Indiana for several days. However, as of March 31, her GPS points put her in Iroquois Co, IL, back on the right course (hooray!). She next flew to Jasper County, Indiana, where she stayed put in lovely wetlands but adverse migration weather for about two weeks. She left Jasper County, IN on the morning of April 13 and flew to Boone County, Illinois. On April 16 she had reached Washington County, WISCONSIN. On April 17 a PTT hit for female #2-15 placed her northeast of the Wisconsin rectangle in Door County, Wisconsin. She was there until the third week in May, when she found her way back to a lovely wetland in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. By June she had wandered to McHenry County, Illinois, in fine health and hanging out with Sandhill cranes.

Read more about Operation Migration and #2-15.


Oh, well, I roam from town to town
I go through life without a care
And I’m as happy as a clown



Portions of this article reproduced with written permission by Operation Migration.

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