Posted by Laurie Sullivan at 1/22/2012
To wrap up our Whooping Crane Unit, the Kindergarteners viewed a DVD of the May 2009 Barrett Whooping Crane Musical. The musical was composed by former Barrett music teacher Mary-Hannah Klontz and Project Discovery teacher Laurie Sullivan with support from Kindergarten teachers Mrs. Garmen, Ms. Ratcliffe, Ms. Rente, and Mrs. Torres. The musical was performed for parents by our current third graders when they were in Kindergarten. We will check back in on the real whooping cranes at the end of this school year when they migrate from the Florida Wildlife Refuge back to their home in Wisconsin. Background on the whooping crane project from a recent article in the Washington Post: Operation Migration is part of a U.S.-Canadian partnership of government and private organizations trying to reestablish migrating flocks of whooping cranes. The cranes nearly became extinct, dwindling to only 15 in 1941. One flyway has already been reestablished, but that flock of more than 100 is vulnerable to extinction should a disaster strike, Duff said. The birds in Alabama are part of the organization’s 10-year effort to reestablish an Eastern flyway that disappeared in the late 1800s when the last whooping cranes flying that route died off, he said. The birds are bred and hatched at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel. A small group of conservationists in baggy bird suits that conceal their human features are the first thing the birds see when they begin pecking their way out of their shells. The conservationists also give the birds their first nourishment, thus imprinting themselves as “parent.” The first thing the birds hear is a recording of a crane’s brood call combined with the purr of the small plane’s engine. The birds are later transferred to a wildlife refuge in Wisconsin, where they are conditioned to follow the baggy-suited humans and purring plane. By fall, they are ready to begin a 1,285-mile journey from Wisconsin to two wildlife refuges in Florida.The cranes fly behind the plane, surfing on the wake created by its wings. The pilots are dressed in the same baggy white suits and have a fake bird beak attached to one arm, adding to the illusion that the plane is a bird.