Towards the end of June the 2012 LA cohort received a surprise final addition in the form of a fertile and viable (alive) WC egg recovered from a wild nest in WI which had unfortunately been abandoned. This egg was collected 4 days after the final WC chick had hatched on 11 June at Patuxent (PWRC), or at least we had thought it was the final chick of the year.
This year the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) or the eastern migratory population (EMP) had a protocol in place to not collect abandoned WC eggs until 2 days had passed in order to ensure they were truly abandoned. Despite the parents not incubating the egg for 2 days or at least during several daytime checks that occurred during those 2 days the egg was not predated (miracle #1) and was recovered and brought to the International Crane Foundation (ICF) on 15 June. Once at ICF the egg was determined to still be viable (miracle #2) and estimated to be 22-23 days old. After a bit of scrambling to determine who wanted, needed, or was willing to take the egg and resulting chick it was transported to PWRC on 20 June to become part of the group being raised for release in LA. The chick hatched on 22 June making it a full 11 days younger than the next oldest chick in the LA cohort. Eleven days may not seem like that much but since WC chicks can grow up to one inch per day when they’re small an 11 day age difference results in a huge size difference and that can cause problems when it comes time to socialize the birds. Of course the personalities of the individual birds factor in as well so keep your fingers crossed for some nice and mellow birds in the younger group of LA chicks.
We know this little guy added to the workload of the crane crew at PWRC and we are grateful they were willing to take this on and boost the size of our cohort. Plus several of the PWRC staff have told me #28 is super cute so that probably helps as well. Of course Jane once told me she wonders if everyone always thinks the youngest chick is the cutest because it’s the last chick of the year and no one else is coming along to be cuter – that is until next year! She might be right but either way you can see from the pictures the PWRC staff have sent me, he is pretty darn cute!!
So the surprise addition of PWRC #28 brings the total number of potential birds that will be shipped to LA for release later this fall to 14, still less than the number we received last year but not as low of a number as we had been thinking or predicting earlier in the year. I keep saying potential because these chicks have a long way to go before being shipped down here later this fall/winter and there’s no guarantee despite everyone’s best efforts that all of them will make it but we’ll keep our fingers crossed that they will.
Thank you to Jane Chandler, Sharon Peregoy, and Brian & Barb Clauss for all the photos they’ve sent me of PWRC #28.
Update written by Sara Zimorski