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Date: January 12, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Moving Day #2

Location:

Main Office

Chassahowitzka Bound! They are OFF!

Everything cooperated this morning; weather, wind, and birds. Whew!

Bev reported that take-off was shortly after 7:30AM with Joe in the lead and all 12 birds following. Pen release and lift off went smoothly, and assuming all continues in this vein, the entire Class of 2006 will be in the pen at Chassahowitzka in short order.

Check the Field Journal later today for all the details.

Date: January 11, 2007 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Quite a day.

Location:

Main Office

Birds here, birds there, birds everywhere.

After the initial crane rodeo, Brooke and Richard persuaded 3 birds
each to stay on the wing. Both delivered their birds to the Chass pensite where Sara Zimorski was waiting to call them down. One bird wasn’t anxious to land, but eventually decided to join his mates.

Meanwhile, back at the pensite, Bev was doing a ground version on the rodeo with 604, 606, and 623, who had all decided they weren't flying anywhere today.

The third arena of activity was in the sky about four or five miles short of the flyover viewing location in Homosassa Springs where, Joe and Chris were fighting a losing battle with the remaining 9 chicks. They tried everything, including landing with them. When they took off, getting them up in the air again, one independent little fellow, 622, decided he preferred to go off on his own.

And so the rodeo continued. 6 birds stayed with Joe while 2 more broke off and headed away with Brooke in pursuit. He, along with Richard had zoomed back to help. Joe, with Chris's help, managed to get 6 birds together and all back on the ground. Brooke picked up the two fly-a-ways and landed with them in a field about a half mile from Joe.

The action switched to the ground again as Bev, along with Tally Love from the Tracking and Monitoring team, picked up 622’s signal and head out with a crate to pick him up and truck him back to the Halpata pen.

Still in the air, Richard flew back to the Halpata pen to help to get 604, 606, and 623 into crates so they, along with 622 could be driven to where Joe was babysitting his six chicks. Then, while Bev and Tally and Tracker Stacy Kerley headed out to Brooke's location with two more crates, Richard started dismantling the Halpata pen so it could be hauled to where Joe was waiting.

So, the day that started with a 7AMish take-off finally ended sometime before 5PM when the travel pen was erected and the 9 chicks were safely inside for the night.

Everyone is more than a little tired and will no doubt make it an early night because they get to do it all over again tomorrow - hopefully with more cooperative birds, and less heart-stopping moments.

If you missed seeing Brooke and Richard flying over this morning, you’ll have another opportunity to see a flyover tomorrow – same time, same location.

I hope all goes well, and the migration we launched on
October 5th, 2006 ends tomorrow. I only have one fingernail left.

Thanks to Mark Chenoweth for this photo of Brooke flying over Homosassa Springs on the way to Chassahowitzka NWR.

Date: January 11, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

The latest update as of 10AM

Location:

Main Office

Six chicks are safely in the pen at Chass. 3 are in the pen at Halpata, and Bev is trying to round up a fourth. Joe is down in a field near Post Oak with 6 birds. Brooke has two in a field about half a mile away.

Joe and Brooke will wait about 30 minutes and then try again to get their birds to follow them to Chass. More news as it is received.

Will the drama of the '06 Migration ever end?!?!

Date: January 11, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Moving Day - Halpata to Chassahowitzka

Location:

Main Office

Today is Moving Day, but the Class of 2006 took some convincing that was the case. They weren't at all anxious to leave their interim pensite at the Halpata-Tastanki Preserve to go and check in at their winter digs at the Chassahowitzka NWR.

Not surprisingly after the long layoff, the birds gave the pilots a real workout this morning. Once out of the pen and into the air they went flying off every which way. The result of course was a wild and wooly crane round-up.

At last word, Brooke is leading 3 and nearing the Chass pen; Richard is not far behind also with 3 chicks. Joe and Chris rounded up 9 birds and landed with them about a mile north of the Halpata pensite. They are trying again right now to get them into the air and on the wing(s) for the flight to Chass.

Bev reported that 3 chicks (604, 606, and 623) remained at Halpata and she is trying to round them up and get them back into the pen.

We'll post again as soon as we have news about the 9 chicks with Joe and Chris, and what plans, if any, are being made for the three 'homebody' birds.

EarlyBird e-Bulletin
After a few weeks hiatus, we sent the EarlyBird e-bulletin out to Members this morning. If there has to be another attempt to fly more birds on another day we will send out a further EarlyBird email.

Our sincere thanks to Duke Energy for making it possible for us to provide you with the EarlyBird e-bulletin throughout the migration. Through your many calls and emails to us we know you too are appreciative. Please don't be shy about telling them, either directly or through OM's GuestBook.

Date: January 10, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Thursday is Moving Day - we hope

Location:

Main Office

It was like old home week last night as Joe, Brooke, Richard and Chris congregated in Florida and met up with Bev. Today, while Bev is tending to the chicks, the guys will be unpacking the aircraft trailer, and re-assembling and checking out their ultralights. Tomorrow they will try to lead the Class of 2006 on the final leg of their migration, from the interim pensite on the Halpata-Tastanki Preserve to the Chassahowitzka NWR.

As usual, they will launch - weather permitting - just after first light for the approximate 26 mile flight. As of 4:30 this morning the weather looks fine for a flight tomorrow. However, the aviation sites are all forecasting that today's NNE 20mph winds at altitude will have swung around and to be 15 mph out of the ESE for tomorrow morning. Not promising. Should weather or wind be unfavorable, the team will continue to try on successive days.

To those interested in the possibility of seeing them flyover, we suggest you congregate in the Wal-Mart/Winn-Dixie Plaza in Homassasa Springs. The pilots will do their best to have that site on their flight path. This plan hasn't been discussed with the birds of course, but we are hoping they will cooperate. You will want to be in place around 6:30am and certainly no later than 7:00am.

An update from Bev
Well, I survived migration, the trip back to Chicago, and then back down again - this last leg
driving non-stop with two cats. The morning after I arrived, Sara and I took the birds out for some much needed exercise.

The chicks were excited to be let out, and seemed to linger over the new sights and sounds of the Halpata pen site. They leapt at sticks, pecked at ant mounds, and flew a few circuits around the area. After an hour or so we put them back in the pen with little effort but much grape tossing.

Three days later we let them out again, this time walking them to a different area. It was quite the experience walking approximately a half mile surrounded by strutting, four and a half foot tall birds!

It sure seemed like 'my babies' matured while I was away. More are beginning to show their masks, and one has even acquired her adult (almost) voice. Being a birder and having birded Florida on a regular basis, I knew the unfamiliar sound I was hearing was not an ordinary Florida species. Luckily the sound was repeated when I was looking right at 604! She is also one of the more mature-looking birds with a well developed black mask, has the most white on her body, and red is even starting to show through the brown on her crown.

Preparations are well under way for the final flight - the move from Halpata to Chassahowitzka. Sara and I went out to inspect the pen at Chass and were very pleased at the condition and work that had been done by the refuge staff. Our thanks to them for their hard work. This emphasizes once again the 'power of partnership'.

One of the toughest things about the migration ending was saying good bye to everyone. Luckily, most of the team is coming back this week. It will be good to see everyone again, and I look forward to welcoming Joe back to his 'mobile' home. I'm sure my cats are too!

A few of the chicks were captured by Bev's camera on her most recent visit to the Halpata pensite.

View the photos here in the 2006 Migration Photo Journal.

Date: January 9, 2007 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Orders have been brisk

Location:

Main Office

Since advertising the availability of the 'Craniac Patch' orders have been pouring into OM's offices. We are delighted to be able to report that the new miracle product is providing great relief to thousands of Craniacs. (See entry #2 for January 2nd.)
 
Young Derrick Chenoweth of Kissimmee, FL told us the Craniac Patch he ordered from OM brought him instant relief.

When he was interviewed yesterday, Derrick told our reporter that during the recent migration season he was checking OM's Field Journal several times a day.

"In addition to receiving the EarlyBird e-bulletin, I was accustomed to there being multiple entries to read each day," said Derrick. "I was hooked."

Peeping his obvious relief, Derrick said, "Thank heavens for the Craniac Patch, there is no way I could have gone cold crane."

Date: January 9, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

White Bird report to Jan 6/07

Location:

Main Office

There was very little movement of the birds since the last report. (See January 2nd Field Journal entry #1) Location changes since that report are shown below. (Females are indicated by *. DAR = direct autumn release. NFT =non functional transmitter.)

Alabama (2)
213 and 218* moved from Franklin County, TN to Morgan County AL.

Louisiana (1)
508* moved from Pasco County, FL to roost in Tangipahoa Parish, LA on Jan  3 and 4.

Florida (47)
- 105 and 204* were found roosting at the Chass pensite Jan 8.
- 102* left the Chass pensite to join 216 in Pasco County.
- 307, 510*, 511, 512, and 519*, last detected Nov 9 in IL, were found in Alachua County.
- 516 moved from Madison County to Marion County.
- 505 and  506 moved from Hernando County to Citrus County.

Trackers include Richard Urbanek, (USF&WS) Tally Love, Stacey Kerley, and Sara Zimorski (ICF). They and we thank to Windway Aviation, Wildlife Trust, pilots Lew Lawrence and Martin Sobel, Theresa Dailey (FWS), Brad Feaster (Indiana DNR), and Wally Akins (Tennessee WRA) for their assistance.

Date: January 9, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Donate without opening your wallet

Location:

Main Office

Did you know that Operation Migration could earn a penny every time you searched the Internet? Well we can!

GoodSearch.com is a search engine that donates half its revenue to the charities its users designate. You use it just as you would any search engine, and it’s powered by Yahoo!, so you get great results.

When you use GoodSearch to search the internet and designate Operation Migration as the recipient charitable organization, you earn $$ for us. And the more you use GoodSearch the more money OM will earn!

Just go to www.goodsearch.com (or click the logo to the right) and be sure to enter Operation Migration as the charity you want to support. Just 1,000 people searching twice a day will raise about $7300 in a year without anyone spending a dime!

And, be sure to check out GoodSearch today as OM is being featured as the Charity of the Day!

Please spread the word to your friends, family, and also your co-workers. What an easy and no cost way to support a cause you care about.

Date: January 7, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

INformation Magazine

Location:

Main Office

Being in the process of putting together the Spring issue of OM's INformation Magazine, we thought it timely to pass along the following reminder regarding its distribution.
When first launched, INformation magazine's architect had visions of subscriptions and advertising off-setting production and mailing costs, and so it was offered it free to members. Because no formal membership structure existed however, that meant sending it to everyone who donated to OM.

Unfortunately the anticipated revenue sources never materialized, and, in order to keep the commitment made to you, we absorbed the cost of printing and mailing over 5,000 copies four times a year. We did this for the first three issues, racking up a substantial deficit on this budget line in the process.

We were in a quandary. We didn't want to discontinue INformation, but recognized that we couldn’t continue to publish at a loss.

The resolution arrived at was, a) to transform INformation into a semi-annual but more substantial publication, and, b) to institute a true Membership Fee, a portion of which could be allocated to cover the cost of the complimentary magazine - one of the several perks awarded Members.

The long and the short of this tale is, that although you may be a MileMaker sponsor, or have made a donation supporting OM, unless you are a Member, we cannot include you on INformation magazine's distribution list. To do so would mean we would have to divert some of the funds you’ve contributed to support our work with the Whooping cranes to cover the magazine's costs. We think you will agree that we've got our priorities straight.

As with most everything else related to OM's work, INformation magazine is only possible with the help of others. Guest authors contribute their time and expertise to provide interesting and informative content. The huge chore of graphic design - which unfailingly makes our publication a visual knockout - is donated by Nan Rudd of Rudd Design in Wisconsin. Port Perry Printing and Harrison Mailing give us both rock bottom pricing and great service.

We hope and trust you will all be understanding of the position we found ourselves in, and the manner of its resolution. And, we hope that if you aren’t already a Member, that you will consider becoming one. As an incentive, (while supplies last) we will send you a complimentary copy of the Fall issue of INformation with your Membership receipt.

We offer one, two, or three year memberships, and signing up is as easy as a phone call to our office. If you prefer, click the following link to join online using PayPal. Make me a Member.

Note: The upcoming issue of INformation will feature a wrap up of the '06 migration, including the thoughts of OM crew members; the outcome of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership and Whooping Crane Recovery Team's winter meetings; commentary, photos, and forecasts from North America's Whooping crane breeding facilities; and among other articles, announcements about new programs such as: The Craniac Kids Club, Send a Chick to Flight School, and the launch of OM’s new GrassRoots Kit for individuals who want to become 'active' supporters.

Date: January 6, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Anticipating 'Moving Day'

Location:

Main Office

The next episode in our migration saga will be the move of the chicks from the Halpata-Tastanki Preserve pensite to the Chassahowitzka Refuge. We expect - weather permitting - that will happen after Wednesday of the coming week. Check back here for the exact date. We are working on figuring out one or two locations for possible flyover viewings.

For those not familiar with the reasons for holding the Class of 2006 at the interim stop at Halpata, we provide the following explanation.

In order to allow our young birds the freedom to come and go, the pens at the Chassahowitzka Refuge are not top-netted. This leaves them vulnerable
however, to potential aggression from previous years birds, who are territorial, and who may try to steal their food, or worse, chase the juveniles off.

With more than 60 birds in the reintroduced flock now migrating on their own, and most if not all headed for Chassahowitzka, we established the Halpata site to hold the new cohorts until the white birds had an opportunity to check in at Chass and then and disperse. Since the habitat around the release pen at Chassahowitzka is not ideal for Whooping cranes, if the older birds don't find a free meal, or any young chicks to harass, they wander off to their usual wintering grounds or to a site with better habitat.

By stopping 'early', and using Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve as a temporary holding site for a few weeks, we give the older birds some added time to clear the pensite at the refuge.


Class of 2006 Update
Bev reported that she and Sara Zimorski (ICF) let the cohort out to play for several hours yesterday, and she told us that all the young birds are doing well.

Rainfall that came with some severe weather that recently hit parts of Florida, transformed the previously totally dry Halpata pensite area. The rain left the small pond area that was dug out inside the pen with an accumulation of water that excited the juveniles.

The warm weather is gradually drying up their pond. But in the meantime, the chicks are making the most of it, jumping and flapping and peeping their delight.

Date: January 5, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Reviewing the past – Re-focusing on the future

Location:

Main Office

The International Whooping Crane Recovery Team (WCRT), the joint Canada/U.S. organization established in 1976, will be meeting in Lafayette, Louisiana at the end of January to review the results of recovery efforts over the past year and to set goals for the coming season.

There are six captive breeding centers* around North America protecting a total of 145 birds, and which produce all the chicks available for the release programs. They have perfected the process of raising captive-hatched birds until it is a subtle mix of science and art. At the upcoming meetings, each captive flock-manager will report on their results and make predictions about the number of chicks that could be produced in the coming breeding season. Using these forecasts, the WCRT will allocate specific numbers to each release program.

*2006 Captive Population Summary

Total

Breeding Pairs

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Maryland

60

15

International Crane Foundation, Wisconsin

37

11

Devonian Wildlife Conservation Center, Calgary, Alberta

22

6

Species Survival Center, Louisiana

8

1

Calgary Zoo, Alberta (using AI)

2

0

New Orleans Zoo, Louisiana

2

0

San Antonio Zoo, Texas

8

1

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Homosassa, Florida

2

0

Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, Florida

2

0

Jacksonville Zoo, Florida

2

0

Totals

145

34

As the 15 surviving birds from the late 1940's included just 4 breeding pairs, the genetic material available is severely limited. As a result, a priority of the WRCT is to ensure as much genetic diversity as possible is maintained at each captive breeding site.

In years past, many captive pairs have had limited breeding success while others have been more productive resulting in their pedigree being over represented. This has made some birds genetically significant, and caused others to be designated as 'surplus' - if such a term can be applied to these rare creatures.

In order to increase the diversity of the captive flock, the Recovery Team recommended that it be expanded to 153 individuals over the next decade. This means that each year, a few of the ‘more valuable’ birds will be held back from the  number that hatch in captivity.

Due to high mortality and low fertility in recent years, no chicks were allocated to the Florida non-migratory release program this past season, however, that population did set new records in 2006.

In 2006, twenty-two eggs were allotted to Operation Migration's ultralight-led program, and seven to the supplemental release pilot program, now renamed 'direct autumn release' or DAR. Due to infertile eggs, mortality, health issues, or genetic holdbacks, the two programs ended up with 18 and 5 chicks respectively. At autumn release time, a further DAR chick was removed from that program for health reasons.

Despite increased egg production in the captive population, space limitations at propagation facilities and stretched human and financial resources continue to restrict the number of eggs/chicks that can be assigned to both the ultralight-led and DAR programs.

On an environmental note, all of the Whooping cranes that exist today are descendants of birds hatched in Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta and the Northwest Territories of Canada. This isolated area is the nesting-grounds for the only naturally occurring population of Whooping cranes, and the habitat is considered crucial to their survival.

Arctic fringe areas are particularly susceptible to the effects of global warming. The recorded mean annual temperature there has increased by 5.4F degrees over the past five decades. What effect this could have on the water levels of the area is not known, but it will undoubtedly impact vegetation, predation, food availability, and , the Whooping cranes’ nesting habitat at a time critical to their life cycle. So, despite this year’s record numbers, the Whooping crane is not out of the woods yet.

Date: January 4, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Asking for your help

Location:

Main Office

How can you help our conservation and preservation measures?

We are prompted by the many calls and emails we receive reporting Whooping crane sightings, to remind everyone how crucial it is that the birds not be approached.

Please bear in mind that while we and others make every effort possible to keep and teach them to be wild, we are restricted by our human capabilities. We cannot possibly teach them the what and where of 'safety zones', or exactly when to fly away from potential danger. These are vital lessons a parent would normally teach its chick.

After raising and training the chicks in isolation from humans and man's paraphernalia, and making every effort to insure they never hear a human voice, we can only hope we have instilled in them a fear of the unknown. If they are to have ANY success at remaining wild, humans must remain unknown and represent danger to them.

Please do not approach any Whooping cranes or try to 'get a bit closer' for a better photograph. Please do not call to them, or attempt to feed them. Not long ago a bird was lost to a powerline strike when it was flushed by someone who 'meant no harm and only wanted a photograph.'

A huge amount of time, and financial and physical resources have been invested in this project in an attempt to safeguard this species. Please enjoy your sightings from a safe and respectful distance, and afford these birds the privacy they need to remain wild and survive.

Date: January 2, 2007 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Get the 'Patch'

Location:

Main Office

It has been brought to our attention that OM's Field Journal (FJ) promotes a powerful physical and psychological dependency in many people.

If you've ever tried to quit smoking, you know it's one of the harder habits to break. Past experience, not to mention the emails we received, have taught us that daily exposure to OM's Field Journal is no less addictive, especially after a lengthy and drama filled migration season.

Over the years Craniacs have told us they have tried everything from going 'cold crane,' to supplementing their diet with mealworms or, hibernating with Brooke in a Wal-Mart store until the new season begins.

We are, of course, deeply concerned about the welfare of all our Craniacs, and while we would hate to see you kick the Field Journal habit entirely, our R & D department has been working on something to help alleviate your FJ cravings.

Despite having tasted
failure (pun intended) last season with their less than popular chocolate covered mud minnows, Operation Migration's mad scientists are now confident they have successfully perfected a treatment to help you cope with FJ withdrawal symptoms.

Aptly named, the 'Craniac Patch' is a small bandaid-like device that you wrap around your primary mouse clicking finger. When applied correctly, the Craniac Patch releases controlled amounts of a patented secret ingredient that reduces cravings for Field Journal entries to a tolerable level.

Be assured no creatures were harmed in the development and testing of the Craniac Patch. As it contains all natural ingredients it can be worn safely for long periods, and it has no known side effects - - other than an increased appetite for blue crabs. However, should you develop an irresistible urge to stand on one leg in the bathtub overnight, please consult your personal physician or immediately return to the Field Journal.


CRANIAC PATCH

FREE SAMPLE


(For longer lasting treatment order one of OM's logo injected Certified Craniac T-shirts)
 

Date: January 2, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

White Bird Report to Dec 30/06

Location:

Main Office

Just in this morning, the Tracking Team's latest report.

Thanks to the Tracking Team Richard Urbanek (USF&WS), Tally Love, Stacy Kerley, and Sara Zimorski (ICF) we are able to bring you the latest locations of the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP). Thanks also to Windway Aviation, Wildlife Trust, pilot Jorge Neumann, Theresa Dailey (FWS), and Wally Akins (Tennessee WRA) for tracking assistance and to staff of Indianapolis Zoo for care of 208.

Females are indicated by *. DAR = direct autumn release. NFT = Nonfunctional transmitter. The EMP contains 64 birds; 35 males, 29 females.

Mortality
Whooping crane 208 expired suddenly Dec. 27 in the Indianapolis Zoo veterinary hospital from respiratory blockage after tube feeding. He had been under intensive care since Dec. 23 for stress-induced myopathy resulting from an apparent powerline strike. His mate, 313*, continues to remain on a migration stopover in Greene County, IN.

There was little movement over the past week. Locations at the end of the week were:
Indiana (4)
- 209* and 416, 420*, remained with large numbers of Sandhills in Jackson County.
- 313* remained in Green County after the loss of her mate 208.

Tennessee (5)
-DAR527* and DAR533* remained with thousands of Sandhills on Hiwassee WR, Meigs County.
-DAR528* remained with Sandhills in Obion County.
-213 and 218* remained on their winter territory in Franklin County.

Alabama (1)
- 508* remained in Baldwin County,  and/or an alternate site in Santa Rosa County in the Florida panhandle. Her former mate, 407, was found Dec. 28 in Pasco County, FL.

South Carolina (3)
301* and 311, and 310 remained on their winter territory in Colleton County, SC.

Undetermined (9)
- 212 and 419* have not been detected since they began migration undetected from Wood County, WI Nov. 30.
- 307, 510*, 511, 512, and 519* have not been detected since they roosted Nov. 9 in IL.
- 318 remained on a large Sandhill staging area in Calhoun County, MI and nearby Eaton County until the first week of December. No subsequent reports have been received.
- 107* was last confirmed among large numbers of Sandhills in Jackson County, IN. prior to Dec. 7. Recent reports of an unidentified crane on Hiwassee WR, Meigs County, TN may have been 107*.

Florida (42) – Last Known Locations
Citrus County – 101 and 202*, 521*
Hernando County – 105 and 204*, 505, 506, 211 and 217*, and Wild601*
Volusia County – 306 and 201*
Pasco County – 205, 216, 309*, 401, 407NFT, 408, 501*, 514, 520*, DAR626, DAR628
Sumter County – 317 and 303*
Lafayette County – 402, 403, 412, DAR627, DAR632*
Alachua County – 316 and 312*
Lake County – 509
Madison County – 514*, 516
Levy County – 502*, 503, 507*, 523, 524
Dixie County – DAR532
Chass Pensite – 102*

First Family in Hernando County DARs626 & 28, 309, 407, 520               Photos by Sara Zimorski

Date: January 1, 2007 - Entry 1 Reporter:

The OM Team

Subject:

Celebration Time

Location:

Main Office

Date: December 28, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Long Odds

Location:

Main Office

There is nothing more inspiring than a story of triumphing over long odds.

We look around us and behold the beautiful and bountiful country we live in, it's many creatures large and small, and have a tendency to think of all that we see as being timeless; that it will be around forever. Not true, as the history of the Whooping crane teaches us. Because we work with them every day, we never forget how remarkable it is that there are any Whooping cranes at all.

In a sense, we humans have become strangers to the land we live in, and this is amplified the more 'citified' we are. Being distanced from it, we become cut off from our land’s history for the simple reason we often don’t stop long enough to contemplate it; to learn lessons from it.

History is of no value if it is locked away in old books gathering dust on shelves and not learned from. History has to be felt, sensed, understood and appreciated, for it to become part of our lives. The reintroduction project to safeguard the Whooping crane from extinction offers everyone such a chance; an opportunity to reconnect with the land.

It also provides us a direct contact with our past; one that seizes the imagination, triggers hope for the future, and engages us with the earth and its living things. It reminds us of everything that existed; everything that lived here long before we did. And it prompts us to acknowledge the wrongs in our history, and our responsibility to right them for future generations.

The successfulness of this reintroduction project is a stellar example of what can be done when hands and hearts come together. For though it is all about a wild creature, the comeback tale of the endangered Whooping crane has a very human side. It puts us in touch with ourselves, and with thousands of like-minded others. It raises awareness and teaches us lessons. It reminds us of man's past follies, and encourages us to make reasoned, thoughtful, and unselfish choices for now, and for the future.

Years ago, Bill Lishman and Joe Duff triumphed over long odds to convince everyone that the unconventional techniques they had pioneered could help save a species. The necessary international and inter-state co-operations and agreements were put in place against long odds. Operation Migration has struggled mightily to finance each ultralight-led migration since 2001, and survived, against long odds.

In the 1940's when there were but 15 Whooping cranes left in existence, who would have dreamt that preservation and restoration measures could raise that number to today's 500+? The odds offered would have been so long no one would have touched that bet.

So as
much as it is about saving the Whooping crane, this project is also all about prodding us to heed the lessons of history. In a real and highly visual way, it teaches us that both wildlife and their habitats can be saved if we have the will and mindset to do it.

This project is also about the initiative, courage, sacrifice, and the 'never say die' attitude of many, many hands, and the giving hearts of you, Operation Migration's staunch supporters. These too are things that it takes to triumph over long odds.

Date: December 27, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Mortality

Location:

Main Office

208 died this morning at the Indianapolis Zoo. (See Entry 2 for December 25th.) His remains are being sent to the National Wildlife Health Center for necropsy. Chair of WCEP’s Health Team, Dr. Barry Hartup, said he was hopeful of knowing more about 208's injuries/demise once the results of the necropsy were received.

Date: December 27, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Tracking Team Report to Dec 23rd

Location:

Main Office

Thanks to Trackers Richard Urbanek (USF&WS), Tally Love, Stacy Kerley, and Sara Zimorski (ICF) for the information enabling us to compile and provide report. The Tracking team thanks Windway Aviation, Wildlife Trust, pilot Martin Sobel, Theresa Dailey (FWS), and Wally Akins (Tennessee WRA) for tracking assistance, and Brad Feaster (Indiana DNR) and Jan Ramer and staff of Indianapolis Zoo for assistance with 208.

In the highlights below, females are indicated by *. DAR = direct autumn release. There are 65 birds (36 males and 29 females) in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP).

There was little movement during the week. Distribution at the end of the week was:

5 in Indiana - 209* and 416, 420*, 208 and 313* (see note below)
5 in Tennessee - DAR527*, DAR528*, DAR533*, 213 and 218*
1 in Alabama/panhandle Florida - 508* (Her mate, 407 has not been detected since Nov. 29 in Marathon County,WI)
3 in South Carolina - 301* and 311, 310
10 Undetermined - 307, 510*, 511, 512, 519*, 212, 419*, 318, 107*, DAR 532
41 in Florida

Note: 208 and his mate 313* remained in Greene County, Indiana, during the week. On December 16 the pair was observed in a marshy area, and through the following week a single crane was reported approximately 3 miles SW of that location. On December 23rd the single bird was identified as no. 313*, and 208 was found immobile under a powerline. He was transported to the Indianapolis Zoo veterinary hospital for examination and treatment. No fractures were found, and his immobility appeared due to myopathy. 313* remains just W of the apparent collision site.

Date: December 26, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Richard vanHeuvelen

Subject:

Rescuing 615

Location:

Main Office

Although a little after the fact, we think you will nonetheless enjoy Richard's account of finding and rescuing 615. With all the jobs that had to be done, followed by driving the Flair motorhome and some of the crew to Maryland before catching a flight from Baltimore to Toronto, and then making the two hour drive home, (only arriving late on the 23rd) Richard had his hands full. After Christmas Day with his family he was back to thinking about OM, and you, our Field Journal readers. Here is his story.....

Well here we are at Halpata; we made it! It feels great to not care what the weather brings. It's time to pack up and get out of town. There were health checks to do, aircraft to disassemble and pack, RV’s to reorganize and get ready for the drive home.

While some crew members were doing health checks, others worked on the multitude of other things that needed to be done. But 615 was still out there somewhere, and his whereabouts weighed heavily on all of us. Often being accused of being stubborn, hard-headed, and all sorts of other not so flattering attributes, I decided to head out on a 'wild crane chase,' while every one else stayed back to do tackle the work that needed to be done.

Charlie and Marie had tried the day before with Don and Paula's aircraft fitted with tracking antennas flying overhead. But they came up empty. Don and Paula, who had left the migration in Indiana, had come down to see us arrive, and after the festivities they volunteered to help out for the afternoon as they needed to be home the next day.

My plan was simple enough; take the tracking van, go back to where 615 was last seen and try to pick up its telemetry signal. If it wasn't there, then I would head back up the migration route hoping it would stay in familiar territory - sort of like trying to find a needle in a hay stack.

I was almost to where 615 was last seen when Don called and asked what I was doing. He had heard about my quest from the crew over breakfast. He told me that the weather was better than expected and he and Paula had a couple of hours to spare that morning and were willing to help out. Never one to pass an opportunity, I eagerly accepted their offer. So far I had heard nothing through the buzz of the receiver. Not even a single beep.

As it would take them about an hour to fly up to where I was, I continued searching, driving around back roads in the area 615 was last seen, and where a questionable signal was heard the day before. Still nothing.

As I headed farther out searching and listening for the beep that wouldn't come, Paula's familiar voice came over the icom radio, "We're almost there, and we've been listening as we flew up but haven't heard anything." Hope of finding 615 began to fade. "Well, we're here, so lets continue searching enroute to the previous stop," I replied. Paula agreed, that they had enough time to do that much, so I headed north trying to stay with in radio contact of the aircraft.

"Still haven't heard anything," I barely made out over the crackling radio. As we continued on I began to feel guilty for shirking my duties back with the crew. Perhaps 615 had come to harm in the back of the white pickup seen leaving the area yesterday, I thought.

More crackle came over the radio. I was too far behind to make out what was said but I replied anyway, thinking they might be able to hear me. "Can’t hear you. Will continue north till I can." I sound desperate.

About ten minutes later I when tried again I heard, "We think we have a faint signal towards our last stop." Wow! I was 30 miles away, my palms were sweating on the steering wheel, and it was all I could do to not punch the pedal to the floor and race up there.

A few minutes later Paula's voice is much clearer, "We definitely have a signal!" The cursed highway seemed never ending and the traffic incredibly slow. "I think were on top of him," said Paula, "The signal is really strong now."

"I’m still 20 miles out," I replied. Around a bend, then another, then behind a logging truck - could this get any slower?!? Down a dirt road and I was getting closer. Don and Paula were circling the area where the bird was waiting for me to get there.

Then I picked up the signal as well! I was getting really close. Don and Paula spotted me barreling down the dirt road and radioed, "Keep coming and take the first paved road to the right, I think we've spotted the bird." Did any one ever tell you what a wonderful voice Paula has? We call her the Sky Goddess.

I careened onto the paved road. "Keep coming, I'll tell you when to turn," boomed Don's voice over the radio. Don and Paula guided me through dirt roads and two track trails to a small lake and then I heard, "He should be in front of you and to the left, standing on something in the water."

Pulse racing, I donned my costume, grabbed the loud hailer, hauled a crate out of the van and headed down to the water. As I ran toward the water an egret flushed and flew away; then another. Worried that I might flush 615 before he saw me I put the crate down next to a tree, turned on the loud hailer and walked to the waters edge to let him know it was me.

And there he was - standing off to the left on a small mound in the water. He looked at me and began to chirp excitedly, but he wouldn't fly to me. While the birds are familiar with the sound of the loud hailer they are not familiar with the sight of it. Guessing this might be the problem I left the hailer on, but set it down out of sight behind a stump and then walked a few steps farther out on the spongy ground.
Then 615 immediately flew to me crying its chirp.

Then as I began leading him towards the box, I remembered that in my excitement at finding him, I hadn't opened the door, so I walked ahead and opened it. This seemed to make him nervous and he stayed out of arms reach. I squatted down and began to play in the dirt with my puppet head, tossing bits of wood toward him and this seemed to calm him down.

After a few minutes the standoff came to an end when, with my long arms, I was able to grab him and steer him towards the crate. He wasn't enthusiastic about getting in, but with a little encouragement and some jostling we managed.

After sliding the door down I ran to the van to let Don and Paula know over the radio, 'mission accomplished,' but they already knew. They had watched from above while circling in their aircraft. I thanked them and began putting things back in the van.

Before putting the boxed bird in the van I checked to see if it was okay, and to make sure I really had captured it. The feeling of success was euphoric - sort of like scoring the winning touchdown in the final minute of the Super Bowl.

Our quest accomplished and feeling all proud, I turned back for the two and a half hour drive to Halpata where 615 would be reunited with his classmates of 2006. Finally, I was able to put some of my not so positive attributes to good use.

Date: December 26, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Saving the best for last

Location:

Main Office

During the 2006 migration we tied and broke several records. As most related to down days, they were records we would rather not have met or set. But the final record of this season is a case of saving the best for last. For only the second time in the six years of the project, all of the birds in the ultralight-led cohort arrived safely in Florida.

With the exception of 2003, in each of the last project years one less chick than departed Necedah with us arrived safe and sound in Florida. Here are the numbers:

Migration
Year

Birds
Departed

Birds
Arrived

2001

8

7

2002

17

16

2003

16

16

2004

14

13

2005

20

19

2006

18

18

Another record set this season was the successful migration to Florida by the 4 direct autumn release (DAR) birds. In 2005 WCEP launched the experimental DAR program which involves releasing chicks among older Whooping cranes with migration experience. Last year two of four DAR birds migrated with Sandhills as far as Tennessee; the other two wintered in Florida.

This year, all four DAR birds departed Necedah on migration in the company of Whooping cranes that learned their migration route following OM's ultralights, and all four made Florida their southern terminus.

WCEP's Bird Team and the Project Direction Team will continue to monitor and evaluate the DAR program. It is hoped that this supplemental method will allow us to build the growing flock at a faster rate, and the odds of more DAR birds successfully migrating increases exponentially with the number of birds with migration experience that we can provide for them to associate with.

Looking Ahead
Despite there being a myriad of tasks and reports to be completed to wind down the 2006 project year, we cannot help but think ahead to the new season. At our winter meeting in January, all the WCEP teams will be filing their yearly summations. These summations are compiled into WCEP's annual report document for submission, along with WCEP's recommendations for 2007, to the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team (IWCRT) which also meets in January.

Operation Migration is hoping the outcome of the IWCRT's deliberations will be a greater allocation of eggs for the ultralight-led Class of 2007, and that the early but encouraging results of the direct autumn release technique will prompt an increased allotment of eggs to that program as well.

There are however, two critical factors which determine the number of eggs which can be accommodated in both the ultralight-led and DAR programs. Space at USGS Patuxent's propagation facilities is limited, as are both their and OM's financial and human resources available to devote to hatching, rearing, and early conditioning. Similar limitations face ICF and USF&WS in their operation of the DAR program.

Date: December 25, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

White Bird injured

Location:

Main Office

Dr. Richard Urbanek (USF&WS) reported to us this morning that on December 23rd, 208 had been found immobile under a powerline in a wildlife area in Greene County, IN.

He was retrieved and taken to the Indianapolis Zoo veterinary hospital where the facilities are excellent and suitable for maintaining the costume/isolation protocol. The bird was in shock and had an injured right leg. A complete diagnosis is not yet available.

"208 and his mate, 313*, had been in Greene County since December 4th," said Urbanek. He noted that up until the 16th, the pair had been observed in marshy areas within 3 miles of the apparent powerline collision site, but through the following week only one crane, since identified as 313, was observed at that locale. Richard said, "Although 313 was not visible, her radio signal was detected in a wetland just 3 miles west of where 208 was found."

Many thanks to Manager Brad Feaster and Indiana DNR staff for their assistance, and to Dr. Jan Ramer and staff at the Indianapolis Zoo.

In closing his report, Dr. Urbanek said, "208 and 313 paired on the Necedah NWR this past spring and were expected to nest on their territory there in the spring of next year."

We will post further updates on 208 and 313* as soon as they are received.

Top Left
Powerlines under which 208 was found.

Top Right
Downed and injured 208 as found by the Tracking Team.

Bottom Left
208 hooded for non-costumed handling is checked over by veterinary staff at the Indianapolis Zoo's medical facility.

Photos submitted by Dr. Richard Urbanek

Date: December 25, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Season's Greetings!

Location:

Main Office

OM's 'Secret Santa', aka Charlie Robinson, sent along this photo to help us wish everyone a

Date: December 24, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Holiday Entertainment

Location:

Main Office

A note for Canadian/Ontario television viewers - One of OM's newest members, Bev Nicholson of Brooklin, Ontario, wrote to tell us that the 2003 BBC film, 'Flying Home,' will be aired on TV Ontario, on Wednesday, December 27th at 7PM.

Date: December 24, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Arrival Health Checks

Location:

Main Office

As many of you may already know, Disney has volunteered to provide veterinary services to the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping cranes while they are in Florida, as well as to the birds in the non-migratory flock. Scott P. Terrell, is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine for our newest project partner, Walt Disney World Animal Programs. He was one of the vets (the other was Don, whose last name I unfortunately don't have) who conducted the arrival health checks on the Class of 2006. Scott and Don have sent along a brief report for us to share with you.

Scott and Don’s Report
"
Thanks to the cool, cloudy weather, and to the hard work of the bird handlers/holders we were able to complete all 18 health exams on Wednesday, December 20th.

17 birds were checked in the morning and the one 'lost' bird was examined shortly after his delivery to the pensite in the afternoon. All of the cranes were in good body condition (the majority being 4/5 body score, one was 3/5, one was 5/5). We did not find any injuries in any of the birds. The birds seemed to handle the exams well.

From the human perspective the exams went off without a hitch, and we collected all the blood, feces, swabs, and data, a veterinarian could ever want. The next few days were busy ones for us as we worked to get all the samples processed and out to the labs before the holidays.

Charlie Shafer and Sara Zimorski deserve special thanks. Their hands were beaten and battered by the young birds as we vets took our time doing the exams. We will be able to provide WCEP's Health Team with more detailed information once the lab results come back to us after the holidays.

Thank you for allowing us the honor of working on this project!"

Liz's Note: Imagine them thanking us! We are thrilled and grateful for Disney's involvement and contribution to the project.

Postscript
Sara Zimorski, ICF Aviculturist and an experienced member of the Tracking and Monitoring Team, sent along this postscript regarding the Class of 2006’s health checks.

"While we missed working with Marilyn Spalding,** the Disney crew did a terrific job and we really appreciate their accommodating our schedule and squeezing in the health exams right before the holidays," said Sara. "Many thanks to Don, Scott, Lydia, Vickie, and Leanne, as well as OM crew members Charlie, Marie, Bev, and Richard, and Tally of ICF for making this event go so smoothly."

Sara reported that all the birds looked fine after their exams, and that they continue to do well with most of them responding normally to the costume again.

**Dr. Marilyn Spalding is with the College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainsville, Florida. Due to work pressures and the growth of the reintroduced flock, Marilyn passed on the primary responsibilities of her health care role for the Eastern Migratory Population to the folks at Disney.

Date: December 23, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Tracking Team update to Dec. 16

Location:

Main Office

Thanks to Trackers Richard Urbanek (USF&WS), Tally Love, Stacy Kerley, and Sara Zimorski (ICF) for the information enabling us to compile and provide report. The Tracking team thanks Muscatatuck NWR (FWS) staff and Wally Akins (Tennessee WRA) for tracking assistance.

In the highlights below, females are indicated by *. DAR = direct autumn release. There are  65 birds (36 males and 29 females) in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP).

On  Dec. 11 distribution was: Indiana (3), Tennessee (5), Alabama (3), South Carolina (3), Florida (37), and undetermined (14).

By Dec. 16  distribution was: Indiana (4), Tennessee (6), Alabama (1), South Carolina (3), Georgia (2), Florida (39), and undetermined (10). On Dec. 18 an additional pair from an undetermined location was also reported in Indiana, and the two birds in Georgia completed migration to Florida.

Autumn Migration (last locations)
-  107*, 209* and 416, 420 - Jackson County, IN
-  208 and 313* - Greene County, IN
-  212 and 419* - undetected since departing Wood County, WI on Nov. 30.
-  307, 501*, 511, 521, and 519* left Necedah Nov. 9 to roost in N. IL. No further reports have been received.
-  309* and 520* - Arrived Chassahowitzka Dec. 18 and roosted there. This was the first successful unassisted migration between Wisconsin and Florida for both birds. 309* has made three spring migrations to Michigan, New York/Vermont, and New York, and two previous autumn migrations to North Carolina. 309 was retrieved from North Carolina last autumn and re-released in northern Florida. She flew to the Chassahowitzka pensite on her own and wintered there with the 2005 cohort. In the spring of this year 520* migrated north to New York with 309* and they were retrieved and re-released to summer in Wisconsin.
-  318 – undetected since early Dec. in Calhoun and Eaton Counties, MI
-  508* - Baldwin County, Alabama on Dec. 9. Her mate, 407 has not been reported since Nov. 29 in Marathon County, WI. His transmitter is non-functional.
-  DAR527* and DAR533* remained with thousands of staging or wintering Sandhills on Hiwassee WR, Meigs County, TN during the week.
-  DAR528* remained with Sandhills in Obion County, TN during the week.
-  Two unidentified whooping cranes, one Indiana, and one on Hiwassee in TN were also reported during the week. One of these may have been no. 107*.

In Florida (Citrus, Hernando, Volusia, Pasco, Lafayette, Madison, Levy, Lake, Marion, and Dixie Counties)
101, 102*, 105
 201*, 202*, 204*, 205, 216
 303*, 306, 312*, 316, 317
401, 402, 403, 408, 412, 415*
501*,  502*, 503*, 505, 506,  507*,  509, 514, 516, 521*, 523, 524
DAR birds 532, 626, 627, 628, and 632*

On other wintering areas
213 and 218* - Franklin County, TN
310, 301* and 311 remained on their winter territory in Colleton County, SC during the week.

The First Family
Parents 211, 217*, and Wild Chick601 moved alternately between the Chassahowitzka pensite and the pair’s usual, but currently drought-stricken wintering area in Pasco County, before settling on an intermediate location in Hernando County. Their location in Hernando County is on a lake in a large housing development where they were in full view of houses circling the lake (just 55 yards from backyards). The First Family stayed at this site for the remainder of the week.

Date: December 22, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

'06 Migration over - almost

Location:

Main Office

Finally, after 76 days the 2006 migration is over.....almost

It took us 10 weeks and 3 days to reach Florida from Wisconsin. We covered 1234 miles and logged 32 hours and 44 minutes in the air, and that's a long time to keep your butt muscles clenched. All of this effort was made to get the birds to the Halpata Tastanaki Preserve just south of Dunnellon. But we still have to move them to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge near Crystal River. There is a reason for short-stopping the migration, and its not because we dropped them off at the first stop in Florida so we could rush home for Christmas.

For 5 years we have been delivering birds to the pen site at Chassahowitzka where each generation of juvenile chicks has spent their first winter in the salt marsh there feeding on blue crab. When they return the following autumn, they set this area as their Florida destination. The Chassahowitzka refuge does not have a lot of good crane habitat however. In fact, the black needle rush is so thick it covers most of it, leaving only a few places where the cranes can feed and roost. The area around the pen has to be burned or knocked flat each season to provide the cranes with an open foraging area.

High tides, driven by winters storms, can sometime force the birds off their roost sites in the middle of the night. To correct this situation at the pen site, a helicopter was used to drop 90 tons of crushed oyster shell creating a beach. As the water rises, the birds simply move up the incline to the preferred water depth.

Despite the fact that most are still sub-adults and will be until they reach breeding age, we refer to our earlier generations of Whooping cranes as 'white birds' until they have acquired their adult plumage. Each year, more and more white birds head south and target the Chassahowitzka pen site as their first stop.

If the white birds arrive before the newest generation of ultralight-led birds, they find an empty pen in the middle of marginal habitat. They generally stay a night or so and move on to better territories that they have established in freshwater marshes in and around central Florida. However, if they arrive after we have brought the new chicks to the pen, they find all kinds of things to hold their interest. There is all the free food we put out for the young birds, the regular visits by the costume handlers, and lots of chicks to harass. With all this going on, they often stayed the entire winter and this can lead to all sorts of problems. In the past, we have lost young birds who were forced out of the pen and were taken by bobcats when they roosted in inappropriate locations.

The solution, albeit not the greatest, is to short-stop our birds at Halpata until most, if not all of the white birds have checked in at the Chass pen and moved on, and then move the chicks to their final winter home. The problem, of course, is the moving. After being at Halpata without working with the aircraft for a month or more they are reluctant to follow it, even if the trip is only 26 miles. Last year the team was lucky enough to select a week in January when the weather was perfect. But even then it took 4 days of work and several flights to get them all there.

The alternative is to put them in crates and move them by truck to the docks on Crystal River; then load them onto a boat for the last 5 miles out to the pen site. You can appreciate that after having gone to so much effort to lead them 1234 miles by air, it makes little sense to truck them the last 26 miles, not to mention the risk involved in boxing and loading birds into and out of a boat. So we will make our way back to Florida early in the new year to see if we can encourage our 18 birds to follow us to Chassahowitzka. But there has to be a better long term solution.

Date: December 21, 2006 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

The OM Team

Location:

Enroute home

This will be the last journal entry for today as I and other members of the team make our way home. We are all looking forward to having an opportunity to share some long overdue hugs and quality time with our family and friends.

Thanks to the vets from Disney, the health checks are done and all the birds (including 615) passed with flying colors. Our aircraft have been broken down and packed in the aircraft trailer for the winter. The responsibility for the birds has been passed to the Winter Monitoring Team. Bev Paulan has taken up residence in Florida, and you can look forward to regular reports (and photos) from her as she helps to make sure our 18 young cranes stay safe and well over the winter months.

The next episode in this ongoing saga will be the move of the chicks from the Halpata pensite to the Chassahowitzka Refuge - likely early to mid January. For those of you not familiar with the reasons for holding the Class of 2006 at the Halpata interim stop, watch this space. Joe will post an explanation here in the next day or two.

We would like to take this opportunity to remind you that the end of the year is approaching, and if you think you might have some extra money and could benefit from a tax deductible receipt, we still have a major budget shortfall and could certainly put these funds to good use.

Date: December 21, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

The OM Team

Location:

Main Office

Each of the six migrations we have completed has taken longer than the one before. Maybe it is a sign of global warming, or increased caution on our part, but more likely its simply bad luck. We start each season thinking this will be the one we get done in 30 days. Our older birds regularly make the trip in a third of that time, and once we covered the second half in just over a week, so it is possible do it in a month or less - but it never seems to happen.

The uncertainty of the migration has caused us problems from the start and it is the hardest part to explain to people unfamiliar with our work. After a long dissertation about the unpredictability of weather and a description of the ideal conditions we need, we often hear the comment, "Yes but when will you get to Florida?"

We have an extensive list of stopover hosts along the way who generously accommodate our uncertain arrival - and departure. They change their travel plans or lay in provisions that sometimes spoil before we get there. Some property owners have delayed the hunting season on their land or postponed the harvesting of crops, all to indulge our unreliable schedule.

Budgeting and fundraising for a migration with no finite duration is not easy. Trying to arrange flyover events so we can capture the hearts and minds of the people who support this project, is almost impossible when you can't tell them exactly which morning they should crawl out of bed at 4AM.

An avian migration is as variable as it is ephemeral. It is prompted by some undetermined instinct, proceeds at the whim of the weather and ends when they get there. It exists in complete contrast to the human need to pack and prepare and to plan ahead.

With all of the provisions made to accommodate our inconsistent timetable it is hardest on the crew. Promises to families and friends are made and broken by the direction of the wind. Each morning begins well before sunrise and ends in weariness at the next stop or in frustration exactly where they are. They live in tight quarters, sleep on fold down dinning tables or lumpy couches and are perpetual guests. Yet there is camaraderie and commitment in this team of ordinary people who have promised themselves and the birds that they would stick with it until it is done.

Richard vanHeuvelen has been with this project from the beginning. Originally he was ground crew chief but there aren’t titles enough to describe the extent of his contribution. He knows the route like the back of his hand from 2 years of driving it and 4 of leading birds. Once a leg of the migration is complete, Richard leads a team to the next stop to set up the pen for our arrival the next day. He is the first contact person for many of our hosts and has become an ambassador for Whooping cranes. On down days he searches for potential stopovers that we might need in a pinch and his wanderings have paid off many times.

Richard is a metal sculptor by trade and is so talented that I’m sure he would be a household name if he hadn’t devoted so much of himself to this project. His fabrication abilities have produced the guards that protect our birds from the propellers, the pens that house them at night and all the rest of the custom equipment it takes to lead birds on migration. More than his talents, it’s his quick wit and easy smile that make him an invaluable part of the team.

Brooke Pennypacker has taken one short break since he began this season in June. He has worked every day for seven months and become the foundation of the team. Ours is a very eclectic group and it becomes more diverse with every story Brooke tells that divulges another chapter in a life filled with adventure. He has worked on oil rigs living 500 feet below the surface while breathing helium. He has panned for gold, fought forest fires, drifted down the Mississippi on a raft and flown with Trumpeter swans.

Over the years Brooke has accumulated a number of talents and is especially adept at getting things done. Somewhere in his past he achieved a degree in English something and for years we have been pestering him to write updates for our website. This season we instituted a new rule. The pilot whose turn it is to lead the birds must submit an update about the flight before the end of the day. It is not easy to take the time and to sit and write when every one around you is busy with ‘real’ work but Brooke is never the one to shirk responsibility and the results are evidence of yet another talent.

This is Chris Gullikson's second season with the team but already he has become an accomplished leader of birds. He has a quiet demeanor that conceals a wealth of talent and an encyclopedia of knowledge. Often you expound on a subject on which you have a little acquaintance only to find he has much more. Chris told us of his interest in weather when we first met but we have come to learn that he leads Storm Chasing tours and is more than just a hobbyist. His understanding of the interaction of weather systems and the forecasting of the results is beyond my comprehension, and well past the level of novice. Chris is an electrical engineer and maker of custom saddles but it is his dedication to Whooping cranes and this project that makes him so important to us.

Beverly Paulan has taken on an immense challenge this year. She gave up her home to work in the field, she gave up her flying job to lead our ground crew, and she left an occupation in which she had accumulated a great deal of expertise to tackle a one that will take her a long time to learn. Beverly is our new Supervisor of Field Operations and replaces Mark Nipper. Mark had the advantage of starting as an intern. As the project grew so did his knowledge until he was ready to take over the responsibility. Without the benefit of working with the team for a full season Beverly had to jump in with both feet but she has risen to the test. She has the work ethic to get her hands dirty, the patience to write grant applications, the flair to present school programs, and the enthusiasm to promote the project to any and all who will listen. Despite her ailurophilic inclination she is a great addition to the team.

Marie Brady is an intern that had experience at Patuxent before we hired her to help raise the chicks this year. She spent the spring in Maryland (her home State) and joined us in Necedah for the summer. During the migration she tended to the birds, took her turn as swamp monster, set up pens, lugged water and drove one of our motor homes pulling a travel pen trailer. Marie is quietly capable and willing to tackle any task but she also has an straightforward manner and a quick smile that makes her a well respected member of the team.

Laurie Lin worked at the Calgary Zoo breeding center for Whooping cranes before joining OM in Maryland. She has boundless enthusiasm and a sense of humor that puts it all in perspective and leaves you rolling. Laurie is outgoing and energetic and has supporters and host laughing in minutes. To the team’s benefit during the long delays, she is also an exceptional cook.

Charlie Shafer is an aviculturist from the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland and has been part of the migration team for three seasons. This year he drove the tracking vehicle on loan to us from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Charlie, like Chris, is another of those quiet experts. He’s like an encyclopedia wrapped in brown paper. The depth of the knowledge contained inside is not revealed until you open the cover. To Charlie, vehicle maintenance is not entrusted to a service center, and a computer is something to be disassembled to understand the workings. Charlie is a warm, reliable and even-tempered member of the team who all of us respect. We hope he remains with us for years to come.

Don and Paula Lounsbury stayed with the team this year for over 40 days and only left when other duties demanded their attention. They have participated in every southbound journey that Operation Migration has ever conducted. They are the quiet heroes of this project who circle overhead, unobtrusive until they are needed, and then invaluable. Because their aircraft can’t land at many of the fields we use, Don and Paula almost fly a parallel migration. They park their motor home with their Cessna at outlying airports and have recruited an entirely new set of supporters.

Walter Sturgeon has worked with cranes for over 30 years. He is also a great adventurer. He spent part of his summer at an archaeological dig in Montana and helped unearth 5 dinosaurs in an expedition that is considered extraordinarily rewarding. Walter is the Assistant Director of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and certainly the most credentialed member of our team. He has been the president of the International Wild Waterfowl Association for twenty years, a Trustee and past President of the Whooping Crane Conservation Association for 15 years, and he serves as Chairman of the Board of the Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park and Eco-Center. All of this was in the spare time he took from his real job as a nuclear engineer. More than all of that Walter is a genuinely great guy who is willing to help with anything and everything. All by himself he raises the moral of the entire team.

Gerald Murphy volunteered several years ago to help us on the migration. We live in such tight quarters and spend so much time together that is it wise to get to know someone before asking them to join us but that option was not available the year Gerald began. We needn’t have worried however, because Gerald is likely the most congenial among us. Always ready to help he is a great plus to the team. He is also a great cook and the first to start preparing meals. Ten minutes after we reluctantly make the decision to stand down for a day you can smell bacon cooking and you know Gerald is on the job.

Chris Danilko and Liz Condie are the unsung heroes of the Operation Migration Team. From behind the scenes they work 18 hour days without a break to keep the money flowing and the team moving. Liz, who is also burdened with the task of feeding a ravenous website to keep our supporters informed, had to teach herself HTML. Often single-handedly, Chris mans the office keeping it all on course. Without their extraordinary efforts these Whooping cranes would not be migratory.

All the members of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership are instrumental in this reintroduction, but OM's migration team is on the front line - and each one deserves hero status for a hero's job well done. 

Date: December 21, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Wood Buffalo/Aransas Population Update

Location:

Marion County, Florida

Whooping cranes set new record - This winter, the marshes along the Texas coast are more alive with snowy white Whooping cranes than they've been in a century.

Tom Stehn, USF&WS Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge told us he has revised his estimate of the size of the Aransas/Wood Buffalo Whooping Crane population to 237. He said that 132 adults, 60 sub-adults, and 45 chicks had completed the 2,400-mile seasonal trek from Canada and were currently present on the refuge.

 

Stehn said, "The total of 237 (up from 220 last winter) comes from the 224 Whooping cranes actually counted on our Nov. 22nd flight and then adding the 13 cranes known to have still been on migration on that date."

 

This year marks the first time since the early 1900s that the total North American population, including captive birds, broke 500. Tom said he puts the total population at 515 and is sure he is accurate within a few birds. "It's more than we ever had," Stehn said. "They had a really good production year in Canada."

 

Stehn said a record 62 mating pairs produced 49 chicks able to leave their nests in Canada's Wood Buffalo National Park. Of those, 45 chicks completed the migration to Texas, the largest number of chicks to make it down to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge since the counts began in 1938.

Tom's next aerial survey is expected to be in mid-January.

Date: December 21, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

News Coverage

Location:

Marion County, Florida

Once again the Florida media has done a terrific job of covering our arrival, and once again the coverage by two newspapers stands out. Our thanks to Barb Behrendt of the St. Petersburg Times and to Sue Carr with the Ocala Star Banner. Not only do they consistently get the story out, (and get it right!) they are generous and supportive in advance of our arrival, helping us to publicize information on the Arrival Flyover Event.

The Star Banner's Doug Engle put together a great pictorial which you can see by visiting www.ocala.com. (Click on the story, then scroll down and you will see a photo of a woman using Derrick the Crane to shield her eyes from the sun. Below that is a link to the pictorial.)

Date: December 20, 2006 - Entry 5 Reporter:

Chris Gullikson

Subject:

Recapping - The Last Leg

Location:

Marion County, Florida

Arrival day (Dec 19/06) and it was my turn to lead. With a gentle northeast tailwind, we had better weather conditions than the previous two flights. A light layer of fog covered the airstrip and Bev reported the pen was socked in with fog, but the rest of the field was wide open.

We gave it a half hour after sunrise before taking off to allow the ground fog a bit of time to burn off. Arriving at the field, we found that the pen site was now clear. I landed at the pen, gave the thumbs up to Bev and Laurie to release the birds, and we were quickly aloft, most of the birds were on my wing with a few stragglers who were quickly catching up.

This morning I woke with grand illusions of flying all the birds to their winter home across a crowd of thousands of awe-struck Craniacs. My dream of being a rock star has yet eluded me; this was my next best chance at stardom. The birds however would be the spoiler of my little dream for they soon turned back to the pen, hence beginning an air rodeo.

For the next 15 minutes I worked the 17 birds, trying to get them on course and away from the pen. I would get them all on the wing, turn them on course only to have them peel off in small groups back to the pen.

Brooke eventually got away with two birds, and when I found myself with five who seemed eager to follow, I turned on course while Richard moved in to pick up the remaining ten who now seemed much more behaved. With the birds now split up into smaller groups we were all able to make a steady climb into the calm air, finding a 5 mph tailwind at 1000 feet.

The flight over the Dunnellon airport was fantastic. With Brooke off to my right, we passed directly over the field where a large crowd had gathered to watch the end of our long journey. I got as low as I dared, just getting to the top of the thermals that were reaching higher and higher and were now up to 600 feet. After passing over the crowd, we turned to the southwest to fly the few remaining miles to the pen site where the birds will be spending part of their winter.

Marie had departed early in the morning and was now waiting at the pen site with ICF’s Sara Zimorski. The plan was to pass low over the pen while Marie and Sara in costume played the brood call over a portable loudspeaker. This worked quite well for 16 of the birds, but one bird was determined to keep following us and we had to repeatedly lead it back to the pen site. Richard eventually landed on the narrow, bumpy road at the pen and the bird finally decided to land next to Marie and Sara.

We made our way back to the airport and were delighted to see that the large crowd of people were still on hand to greet us. With rock star status, we were escorted to the stage where Brooke did a wonderful job of introducing each of the crew members to the crowd, including Don and Paula Lounsbury who made the long drive to see us finally arrive.

Marie missed out on the festivities being back at the pen with the birds, and of course our leader and hero Joe was not with us. It was an awesome experience standing up there on stage in front of what we learned was more than 1,000 people. My dreams of stardom should have been realized, yet I felt humbled, and just I wanted to cheer these people and all the other people out there who have made this all possible for us.

I want to thank all our supporters, volunteers, and partners who make this reintroduction possible. And of course I want to thank OM for giving me this incredible opportunity. For the bird’s sake, and for OM’s strained budget, I am so glad this migration is over, however I love doing this work and can’t wait to get back to business of preparing another group of young Whoopers for next years migration.

As I write this, all of the crew are busy doing various chores, including health checks and preparation of our trailers and aircraft for departure. Richard set out this morning in search of the missing bird with help aloft from Don and Paula. I am so glad to report that number 615 has been found alive and well. By the time you read this he will be safely in the pen with his 'classmates'.

Stay tuned for more wrap up details and photos.

View the photos here in the 2006 Migration Photo Journal.

Date: December 20, 2006 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Chris Gullikson

Subject:

Recapping Monday Dec 18 flight

Location:

Marion County, Florida

We have been very busy this week with repairs, finding birds, and preparing for the arrival event. I will start with a quick recap of Monday’s flight from Hamilton county FL.

When I last looked on Sunday morning, the weather for Monday’s flight looked promising. But things have a way of changing, and it was soon apparent that the expected gentle tailwind from the northeast was actually a gentle headwind from the southeast. This six mile an hour headwind combined with temps in the upper 50’s to lower 60’s aloft, meant that our birds would have to work very hard to make the 60+ miles to Gilchrist county FL.

After a 1 hour fog delay, we got a window in which we were able to launch with the birds in clear, calm skies. Brooke flew lead that morning and had a non-eventful launch with all 18 birds who stuck to his trike like glue.

With Richard in the first chase position, I climbed up into the clear blue sky to get a feel for conditions higher up. We had a persistent headwind up to 1500 feet before going through an inversion layer. Once above this layer of warm air, the winds began to lighten and by 1800 feet I was down to a no-wind situation that would shorten our flight by a good half hour.

The problem was getting the birds to this altitude, and Brooke had his work cut out for him just trying to get the birds to 1000 feet. A half an hour into the flight Brooke had managed to get the 18 birds up to 800 feet. They were working hard, and a few were starting to drop off the back of the line. For every foot gained, he had to lose 2 feet to get birds back on his wing. Eventually he had to let one bird go that Richard quickly picked up, followed by two more that I moved in to pick up.

The two birds that I picked up were totally exhausted; they were open mouth panting with sweat streaming back from their open mouths. Their legs were dropped down in an aerodynamic breaking position with their toes splayed out to help cool them. These birds had put up a valiant fight and I was hoping they still had some fight left in them.

With the birds coasting on my wing, we slowly descended through 800 down to 400 feet. With only two birds sharing the wing, they can get close enough to get the maximum benefit from the vortex of air that the wing creates. Once the birds had recovered and had stopped panting, I was able to begin a climb and eventually get above the inversion layer into the cooler air. With a faster ground speed, I was able to catch back up to Brooke who was beginning to lose more exhausted birds.

Richard was able to pick up one bird that had dropped off but had to give up a lot of altitude before getting the bird on his wing. With 5 miles left to go, Brooke lost 4 more birds. Each one dropping out immediately landed and were about a mile apart. Flying high overhead, I could only watch helplessly, reading out GPS coordinates to Charlie as each bird dropped out and landed.

Brooke landed with his remaining 10 birds while Richard and I did an air drop with our four. After our birds had landed, Richard and I headed back north to try and locate the remaining four birds and to see if we could be of any assistance to Charlie.

The last bird to drop out was hunkered down in a dried up wetland near some cypress trees and looked in no immediate danger so we headed over to look for the bird that had crashed into some trees near a residential area.

Meanwhile, Charlie had already boxed the first bird to drop out and was headed south to help us with radio tracking. We were not able to get a visual on the last two birds so Richard and I headed back to our host’s airstrip. It was past noon and the air was getting quite trashy as the thermals were building.

While Richard, Charlie and Marie continued the search for the remaining three birds, Walt, Bev, Laurie, and I set out to set up the travel pen and give Brooke a relief from the heat. When we completed and the birds were safely back inside the pen, Brooke and I continued an air search of the area to help locate the remaining two birds. (The ground crew had already located the bird that crashed into the trees and had transported the bird back to the pen.)

Retracing our flight path back to the north in a wavy search pattern, Brooke and I continued our search into the late afternoon with our loud speakers blaring out the brood call. While Brooke was refueling back at the air strip, I spotted a lone Whooping crane flying over the trees below me. In an excited voice I yelled out to Laurie who was monitoring the radio that I had found one of the birds. I was hoping I could get the bird on my wing and fly it back to the pen, but it was obviously exhausted and immediately landed in a field.

After relaying coordinates to Laurie, I landed with the tired bird and waited for Walt and Bev to arrive with the crate. From aloft, Brooke was able to talk them into the field, then landed to help us crate 620 who was quite excited to see us and looking forward to a cool drink of water.

After getting back to the field at sunset I learned that the last bird still had not been foun,d and with night quickly approaching the chances of finding the bird were diminishing. We all went to bed exhausted and with mixed emotions, we were excited for the good chance of making it to our destination in the morning, but we were also thinking of number 615 who would be spending a dangerous night alone.

View the photos here in the 2006 Migration Photo Journal.

Date: December 20, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

All's well that ends well

Location:

Marion County, Florida

Top cover pilots Don and Paula Lounsbury have been flying circles around us for years. They use their Cessna 182 to provide top cover for every migration we have ever undertaken. In fact the top cover position, that is now so vital to us, was developed by Don and Paula. They figured out the spacing needed to keep track of us yet not disturb the birds, and laid the ground work for the network of air traffic controllers who now know our story and clear us through each season.

Don and Paula winter in Florida and so were able to join us yesterday for the Arrival Event. Then, all of a sudden they disappeared. When I asked where they had gotten to, I found out that they had left to drive the two hours back home to get their airplane so they could help search for our missing chick, 615. Unfortunately Tuesday’s air and ground search was unsuccessful.

After dinner last evening they asked me if I could give them a lift from Ocala to the Dunnellon Airport this morning so they could pick up their aircraft and fly home. We agreed to meet at 8AM - and we did, but once we were in the car and on the way to the airport they said they had decided that before they flew home, they wanted to have one more try at finding 615.

While OM supporter Barbara and I unloaded a jumble of boxes from our cars that had to be re-packed in the aircraft trailer, behind us on the tarmac Don and Paula did their pre-flight check. Then we watched as they got airborne and headed northwest to do some searching before an unfavorable front scheduled to move after lunchtime chased them from the sky.

Thinking the bird may have back-tracked, they thought that they would fly a 30 mile wide swathe between the last two stopover sites in hopes of picking up a signal. They were just 5 miles south of our second last stopover site (Hamilton County) when they picked up a strong signal. Looking around, they saw several small lakes and started checking them out. Sure enough, there was 615 tucked away in an isolated area at the end of one of the lakes. He had indeed tracked back north. They zeroed in on the bird and circled.

They contacted Richard (who was tracking on the ground about an hour behind them) and reported that the bird had picked a remote area and seemed to be waiting patiently for someone to show up. Richard followed the directions they relayed, and without any problem found the spot within an hour. He put on his costume and when he was out of sight of the van he turned on his vocalizer. 615 flew over and landed next to him like it was about time someone showed up.

This chick was crated once in Wisconsin and probably thinks that pick up service has deteriorated since then. 615 is now on his way to join his flock mates near Dunnellon - thanks to Richard and Don and Paula. See, we told you they were invaluable.

We were thinking of entitling this year's interminable trek south, 'The migration that the wheels fell off.' However it is remembered in the future, with today’s happy turn of events it will surely be a story that in the telling, will be capped off with – 'all’s well that ends well'.

Date: December 20, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

Missing Chick

Location:

Main Office

Shortly before arriving at our second to last stopover on December 18th the winds began to pick up. The temperature was in the high 50’s so the birds were all hot and getting tired. One dropped out and landed 5 miles from the destination but Charlie Shafer was able to find it quickly and get in into a crate.

While this was happening, other birds began to fall behind. The air grew rough and the pilots struggled to finish the flight. Chris Gullikson watched one bird that was so exhausted it could not avoid hitting a tree on its landing. Another landed near a pond only three miles short, and a third, (615) just seemed to disappear.

Once on the ground the bird that hit the tree became a priority, and Richard headed back to find it. He used a handheld tracking receiver but at close range the signal was so strong that it came from everywhere and he was not able to determine a direction. As he conferred with Chris on the cell phone, he noticed the bird was standing right beside him. Obviously the conversations ended quickly. Luckily the bird was not injured from its crash landing through the tree.

Chris and Brooke took off again to see if they could find the other missing birds and the one by the pond was spotted. Chris coaxed it into the air but the tired bird flew only to the next field where Chris was able to land with it until Charlie arrived. This left number 615 who may have found a thermal and wandered off.

Whooping cranes are normally soaring birds that fly on thermals, or rising columns of warm air. They migrate like a hawk or an eagle and can fly all day with hardly a wing beat. We, of course, can’t fly that long, so our birds learn to fly on the wake created by the wing of our ultralights. That is why they fly in a V, or a line off the wingtips. They are getting some assistance from the aircraft.

We fly on calm mornings so the birds can easily form on the wing and get the most benefit. Sometimes at the end of a flight, the winds pick up or the thermals start to move (generated by the sun heating the earth). In their struggle to keep up with the aircraft sometimes a bird will fall off the wake and, as you can imagine, it is hard for it to catch it again. It is like trying to catch a wave after a surfer has fallen over the top and is left behind. In most cases the chase aircraft will move in and pick the stray bird up, but sometime all of the aircraft are busy and we call in the ground tracking crew to find the bird giving them the GPS coordinates of the last place it was seen.

If it is overcast and the sun is not able to heat the earth dramatically enough to create thermals, the bird will simply get exhausted and land, most often very close to where we last saw it. However, sometimes the thermals are starting to work by the end of a flight, and the errant bird will feel the lift in the air. They instinctively know how to use these thermals and they begin to soar.

By this time the aircraft is out of sight, they are lost and likely stressed, and reluctant to land in strange territory. So they continue to soar until the thermals begin to subside as the sun goes down. By then they could be miles away. In fact last year we tracked one bird over three states before it landed within a few miles of our starting point. Each bird has a tracking device but it only emits a faint signal that is picked up by a directional reliever. It does not broadcast its position.

Late into the night part of the crew searched for number 615 while the others retrieved the second travel pen trailer that Charlie had to abandoned on the side of the road when the tire studs broke and it came to rest on its frame.

The next morning the team proceeded to the last stop and all 17 birds made the entire flight. After the Arrival Event a ground team headed north to track 615. Don and Paula Lounsbury volunteered their aircraft for an aerial search and picked up a weak signal over a large wetland. Their signal kept moving and eventually disappeared. They surmised that they had likely been tracking a hunting dog’s retrieval collar.

This morning part of the team assisted the Disney veterinarians to conduct the health checks of our flock, and the others started a search for 615. Richard is on the ground checking the obvious places and Don and Paula are again airborne to cover a larger search area. We'll keep you posted.

Date: December 20, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Wrapping up

Location:

Marion County, FL

Distance Traveled: Accumulated Distance:
1234.4 miles

After 76 days, of which just 22 were fly days, the main portion of the 2006 migration was finally concluded. Led by OM's ultralight aircraft, the Class of 2006 departed Wisconsin October 5th and at long last reached their interim destination in Florida on December 19th.

 

Last evening, the OM Team along with a few good friends got together for our usual, 'it’s over' dinner. Relief was etched on everyone's face, and while the contentment at having gotten the job done was apparent, weariness subdued the evening's usual joviality. Although the migration proper is over, the crew's work is not quite finished, and talk of the what, when, and how, of remaining chores dominated the conversation before we all called it an early night.

 

As I type this it is not quite 7:30AM, and Marie and Charlie are already at the pensite to assist the vets from Disney with the post-migration Health Checks. Once this is completed the responsibility for the birds will pass to the Winter Monitoring Team. After a short break for the holidays, Bev Paulan will take up residence in Florida to assist with this task.

 

Also today, the pilots will be turning their attention to their aircraft, breaking down and packing them in the aircraft trailer. I will be wrapping up everything from filling outstanding media requests for photos etc and organizing unsold Arrival Event merchandise, to helping the crew with their arrangements to get back home.

 

No doubt the memories of this record breaking migration will linger long after the effects of being on the road for 76 days fade away. But as interminable as this migration seemed to be, we know that it will seem like a blink of an eye, before chicks are hatching and it is time to start all over again.

Date: December 19, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

About today

Location:

Marion County, FL

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 76 - 67.6 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1234.4 miles

Still dark, at first a trickle, then a steady stream, then a flood of people flowed through the gates and onto the tarmac at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport this morning.

Gradually, the swathe of grey cotton wool that hid the world became ratty and tattered as shafts of sunlight snuck through to break up the shadows. The grey and gold interplay of fog and sun eventually gave way to a gloriously crystal clear azure sky dominated by a sun pouring warm golden honey on the now large crowd of folks – from Craniacs to newbies - gathered in front of the small stage tucked in a corner.

And the waiting began.

A variety of speakers addressed the waiting crowd and responded to their many questions. Via aviation radio and cell phones, OM's pilots and ground crew did a masterful job of passing on reports of their progress as they flew from Gilchrist County toward the Halpata-Tastanki Preserve pensite a few miles from Dunnellon, Florida.

And then there was more waiting.

Suddenly, the tarmac became a conglomeration of extended arms and pointing fingers. A dot had appeared in the distant sky; then another dot; then there were specks surrounding the enlarging dots. The planes and cranes grew and grew, until they filled countless camera lenses and video viewfinders. It was Chris with 5 birds and Brooke with 2, and they gave attendees a real eyeful as they flew directly overhead.

After a few eye blinks and several deep breaths, the third ultralight appeared. It was Richard leading a rippling line of sandy-white birds; their ink-dipped wing tips splayed, their long legs arrow straight. A 'Kodak moment' if ever there was one.

As I switched my focus from the sky to the crowd I saw the reason for the sudden hush. Picture a sea of up turned faces, eyes wide, mouths open, slowly turning their heads almost as one to follow the sight/flight overhead. And yes - of course there were more than a few tears shed. (Darlene, where were you with the box of tissues when we needed you?)

We wound up the event by bringing the entire OM Team onto the stage for introductions, and had Brooke Pennypacker do the honors. Brooke speaks as well as he writes, and in his inimitable style, he both informed and entertained an audience with whom he had an instant rapport.

Though we all have much left to do to wrap up this migration season, after 76 looong days, today marks 'another closing of another show.' Some things will be accomplished almost immediately, other jobs will take longer; some chores will extend into the new year. In the meantime, we will keep posting news here in the Field Journal – so don't go away - stay tuned.

View the photos here in the 2006 Migration Photo Journal.

Date: December 19, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

We crossed the finish line!

Location:

Marion County, FL

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 76 - 67.6 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1234.4 miles

For 17 of the 18 chicks in the Class of 2006 the migration is all but over. The search is on for the one bird that went missing yesterday and we will report any news here as we receive it.

The large crowd gathered on the tarmac at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport this morning were treated to the sight of all three of OM’s ultralights flying overhead – each one of them leading birds.

More information on today's flight will follow later today - as soon as we can all re-group and reorganize in the aftermath of the Arrival Event Flyover.

How do you spell relief?      A. R. R. I. V. A. L.

Date: December 18, 2006 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Flyover on weather permitting

Location:

Gilchrist County, FL

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 75 - 62.8 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1166.8 miles

Weather forecasts continue to indicate tomorrow can be a fly day although fog is likely to again be an issue. Please see today's entry #2 for flyover info.

The travel pen trailer has been repaired and the pensite at Halpata-Tastanki is ready for the cohort's arrival.

Both pilots and ground crew spent the entire day trying to locate two of the four chicks that dropped out of today's flight. Late in the day they finally found and picked up one bird. At nightfall the location of the last bird was still unknown. Trackers will resume the search in the morning.

The Team is exhausted from the events of the day but is looking forward to greeting everyone tomorrow morning after the flyover at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport. Hope to see you all there.

Date: December 18, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

As much drama as 'the soaps'

Location:

Gilchrist County, FL

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 75 - 62.8 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1166.8 miles

14 or 15 cranes are on the ground at our stopover location in Gilchrist County. The other three/four? Somewhere approaching 5 miles from destination, four chicks dropped out. One has since been located and we believe picked up. The GPS locations of the other three are known, and the ground crew is tracking them now.

Brooke stayed with the birds that flew, and Marie has arrived there with travel pen #2. Charlie was driving the tracking van when the travel pen he was towing threw a wheel. He has dropped the travel pen trailer to take off to find the delinquent birds. Everyone is out of breath running around to pull things back together so that's all the news we have at this juncture.

It appears that this migration is going to be a stomach-wrenching nail-biter right up to the end.

Date: December 18, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Headed for last stopover

Location:

Hamilton County, FL

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 75 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1104.0 miles

We can almost see the finish line!!!

Cranes and planes are in the air and headed for Gilchrist County, and hopefully what will be the last stopover before the Arrival Flyover Event at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport.

The public is invited to view a flyover of trikes and chicks at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport during their final flight on this year's long journey. Weather permitting this will take place tomorrow morning, Tuesday, December 19th. We do not expect the flyover to occur until around 9:00am or after, but we suggest viewers be on site by 8:00am at the latest just in case.

For a map/directions to the Arrival Event at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport paste the following address into your favorite mapping website. 15070 SW 111th Street, Dunnellon, Florida 34432.

Speakers will be on hand to provide details about the project. Please stay on after the flyover to greet and meet Operation Migration’s pilots and ground crew who will join the event once they've delivered the cranes to the release pen at Halpata-Tastanki Preserve. (about a 10 minute delay)

REMEMBER – Unfavorable weather/wind conditions tomorrow will mean the Arrival Event will be postponed.

Date: December 18, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Fog

Location:

Hamilton County, FL

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 75 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1104.0 miles

As much as everything we do is, 'all about the birds' the migration's progress is all about the weather. In Hamilton County this morning it is 51F degrees and there is widespread fog. So, are we flying today?

The answer is - we don't know, and likely won't know for some time. Richard flew 'test trike' this morning and at about 50 feet he completely disappeared into the fog. He is back safely on the ground and the team is standing down waiting to see if the fog will clear quickly enough to allow a flight today. If the forecast is right it could hang around as long as until 1pm.

We will post more news here as soon as we have it.

Date: December 17, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

When will we arrive?

Location:

Hamilton County, FL

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 74 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1104.0 miles

"When will you arrive?" If we had $10 for every time we’ve all been asked that question throughout this migration, MileMaker’s $50,000 shortage would be resolved, and then some.

Time and time again we explain the nature of migrating with birds; that our ability to fly is totally dependent on wind and weather; that very often until we are actually in the air, we ourselves are never 100% certain any day will be a fly day. Then, when we get all done explaining all that's involved, invariably the inquirer will say, "Yes, yes, but when do you think you’ll arrive?" At the beginning of the migration we found it funny, after 74 days, it's getting a little harder to see the humor.

Well, today we are going to take a stab at guessing when we will arrive in Dunnellon, Florida. Chris Gullikson, our resident amateur meteorologist thinks, that barring more fog, Monday and Tuesday are both potential fly days.

IF Chris is right about the winds, and IF there is no fog, and IF the Team judges that the birds can safely fly a 60 mile leg in the humid air - a flight on Monday would put us in Gilchrist County, one stop short of our destination. Assuming we could fly again the following day, it would mean the Arrival Event would be on Tuesday, December 19th. BUT...

The but is that we have a short-hop stopover between Hamilton and Gilchrist Counties that we could use if necessary, which, again depending on weather conditions, could delay our arrival by a day – or with bad weather or wind or fog two days, or three, or – well, you get the picture.

We will do our best via entries here to keep you posted on our most current best guess, and we hope to see everyone at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport for the Arrival Flyover - whatever day it turns out to be.

(Note: As last year, the Arrival Event is at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport NOT Crystal River.)

Date: December 17, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Brooke Pennypacker

Subject:

Preparations

Location:

Hamilton County, FL

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 74 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1104.0 miles

Sometimes the best thing about getting up early - I mean dark, dark early, is that it's too dark to see just how thick the fog actually is, thereby delaying the disappointment and frustration you inevitably feel  when the morning light - that is, what little light actually manages to penetrate the morning fog - reveals a world greatly reduced in size; a world of the opaque, where those objects which haven't disappeared have completely become mere shadows while others hover in dim silhouette.

Hopeful anticipation still reigns at this early hour, so it is then, with flashlight in mouth I prepare my trike for flight, first undoing the tiedown lines, rolling them up and shoving them up into the wing. Next, the fuel tank is topped off and the back seat backpack begins to fill with its usual contents of tiedown kit (canvas bag containing tent stakes, chain, extra lines and hammer), then my lightweight athletic shoes which I swap for my bulky snowmobile boots I fly n after landing and penning the birds. Growing up, we referred to these shoes as 'sneakers'. But now that the cost of a single pair exceeds the GNP of some small third world countries, they are 'Athletic Shoes - I got them from my 14 year old son. He grew out of them.

On top of these goes my articulating puppet head; an almost constant companion on migration and a veritable magic wand when it comes to imposing my will on the cranes, not to mention its valuable role as my friend and confidant; one who is a good listener and who agrees with 100% of what I have to say. Then I zip that compartment shut. Into the next compartment goes my hand  held vocalizer which consists of a discontinued Radio Shack speaker wired to a MP3 player on which is recorded the parents' brood call. The brood call is really just crane speak for 'follow us you little bugger or we'll kick you in the xxxxxxx'.  A few years ago I mistakenly loaded my MP3 player with the song 'Satisfaction' by the Rolling Stones, but when I hit the play button the cranes began to dance with such enthusiasm that three had to be treated later for whiplash.

A Ziploc bag of grapes follows. These are placed in my costume kangaroo pouch after landing where they are plucked out with the beak of my articulating puppet head and dropped in front of the birds to lure them into the pen.  Sometimes the grapes get a little old and warm and actually begin to ferment causing the birds to wobble a bit on their way into the pen. Ernest ad Julio Gallo would be proud.

Then I drop in a pair of reading glasses I carry in case I have to read the fine print on my altimeter. And then, there are the AAs and AAAs batteries which power the GPS, the MP3 player, the camera and seemingly most other things in my life. The trike manufacturer did not rivet on the placard saying 'Batteries Not Included' for nothing. And finally, in goes my camera, which will reemerge just prior to take off when I strap it around my neck so I can spend the flight worrying about it strangling me if I catch it on something just as I’m turning my head to check the birds. I also worry that no matter how many mega pixels it produces, they won’t be enough.

Now, all I have left to do is pull off my trike covers, attach the antenna, perform the preflight inspection, set my GPSand altimeter and as they say in the pilot's lounge, 'kick the tires and light the fires.'

Now it must be pointed out here, that all of the above mentioned activities could be performed more easily should I have waited another hour or so. And that would at least eliminate the lingering taste of my flashlight and the temporary but visually unappealing tattoo of 'EverReady' on my lips. However the anticipation of flight overcomes any logical delay, so this ritual has long ago solidified into habit.

But this morning, flight was not to be. The fog thickened, the winds aloft strengthened, from the wrong direction and after a couple of hours I began to reverse the process only more slowly and with motions void of enthusiasm. So near, but so far from our final destination.  Weather report for tomorrow and the next day are favorable, however, and hopefully that will be all we need to get the birds to Halpata.

Meanwhile, maybe I'll just dig into my bag and suck on a few of those grapes.

Date: December 17, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

So near yet so far

Location:

Hamilton County, FL

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 74 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1104.0 miles

When dawn broke on the Team's first morning in Florida it looked promising for flying; 47F degrees, and with NNE surface winds at just 1mph, almost dead calm. Up top it is a different story. Winds screaming out of the east and patchy fog.

The pilots waited for the fog to dissipate so they could send up a test trike – but it never happened. The fog remains too heavy and the team will stand down today.

Date: December 16, 2006 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Richard vanHeuvelen

Subject:

Finally Florida!

Location:

Hamilton County, FL

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 73 - 69.1 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1104.0 miles

 Yes, believe it or not we are in Florida. After being stuck near Albany, GA for five days we are here. Has it sunk in yet? Not really. We have been stuck all across the mid-west and the south so many times this year, it seems like we are in the twilight zone.

It really started a few days ago in Terrell County, after a futile attempt at flying (we didn't even leave the airport) we decided that a interim stop half way to the next might help us get out of town. So Laurie and I set out to find a spot. After talking to Dale Richter who knows many of the local people, we decided to check out some hay fields in Worth County. With phone calls and more phone calls, and field after field, we found one that wasn't ideal, but would do.

A phone call from Joe, and off we went to check out a near by airstrip that Billy Brooks of US Fish and Wildlife Service had found through a contact. Upon arriving I found I had checked out this site five years earlier, and although it would do in a pinch it wasn’t ideal. But I marked it in my GPS unit as I always do, because you never know when you might need a place to land.

At this point the day was getting on, so we decided to check out our usual site in Cook County, another 40 minutes away. After checking out the site and talking to the landowner, we headed back to camp. As we were driving, I asked Laurie if she would mind if I tried one more time to find a spot. Laurie, always up for action, agreed, and we still had some daylight left, so I really didn't need to ask. So off to the back roads we went, watching the GPS which had the flight path on it. When we were under the flight path we began looking for a place. This proves challenging from the ground as you can’t see very far off the road and its hard to tell if there are buildings and other undesirable things for the birds to see and watch.

Watching the GPS we decided we were in the perfect location for a stop. We turned left on the next road and shortly we saw a field with hay bales in it. We turned up a two track lane to checked it out. Laurie agreed this was the place, so off we went to find the landowner for permission to use it. After driving around and talking to five different people, we found the owners who were more than happy to let us use it the next day.

ell, we didn't get to use it the next day because we didn't go any where. The next day however, we left Terrell County with a tailwind and intentions of going to at least Cook County, if not across the state line into Florida. It’s hard to believe that we are still that optimistic - hats off to the crew! When the day was done we had landed for the night in that hayfield that Laurie and I had happened upon.

Today we took off from the hayfield with clear skies and wisps of fog here and there. We landed near the pen between the hay bales, which look larger on the ground than they do from the air, and the cranes leapt to the air and we were off.

Things were looking good as we climbed past the trees into the dawn air, but the cranes remembered playing in the pond near the pen yesterday and it quickly turned into an aerial circus of trikes, birds, and trees. But the swamp monster wasn’t just at the pen this morning, it was in the pond as well, waiting for the birds (we're not so dumb).

And so, we circled, and we dove round and round. Soon I had eight birds, Chris two, and Brooke the other eight, all going in different directions. Gradually we turned on course and it was looking good, but the birds were already breathing hard and needed more coaxing to stay on the wing. As we slowly climbed to altitude the air warmed up and we were greeted by a six mile an hour headwind. The chicks needed a break if we were going to get any where. After climbing a bit, we would start a very slow decent, so slow we didn’t lose much altitude.

And so the morning slipped by, up, then down, up again, then down. Climbing up they would open their mouths to cool down and breathe harder. Go down and they would recover, some even eager to pass the trike. With the up and down routine it was not possible to get above 600 feet above ground.

605 seemed to have more energy than the rest, which makes it harder for the other birds, so we let him lead for a while. He would look back with a tilt to his head every once and a while checking to see where we were going. If we turned left, he would turn left, right turn and right he would go. So while he was in front he really wasn’t leading. This tired him after 20 minutes or so and back he would come and fly off the wing, later it would happen again.

After a more than two hour flight we finally landed in Hamilton County, Florida. (are we there yet?) This was where we had hoped to get to yesterday, but if we hadn't found the hayfield we still wouldn’t be here.

Date: December 16, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Bev Paulan

Subject:

Another day, another adventure

Location:

Hamilton County, FL

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 73 - 69.1 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1104.0 miles

When I decided to run away and join the 'flying circus' that is OM, I had a romantic notion of not only doing a worthy job, but finding adventure. Having been a professional pilot for many years, I have had my share of adventures; picking up severe ice in freezing rain; having my instruments fail at night; even having a duck come through my windscreen while training a student, again at night.

I thought this new job would offer up a whole new set of adventures - just the thought of living on a national refuge most of the year, not to mention that it would be 3 different refuges. So travel got added to the mix too.

I love to travel, period. For fun, or work, hopefully both at the same time, it doesn’t matter. By car, foot canoe, airplane, that doesn’t matter either. I just like to see new places, meet new people and have new experiences. All of that enriches a person, and migration has certainly fit that bill to a 'T'. I get to travel, albeit in a pick up truck, towing a 30 foot trailer, I have met so many new people - all of them wonderful, generous and kind beyond belief - it is hard to keep track.

Well, today definitely made me a richer person. It started out a typical 'fly day', up early, out to the pen to get the birds on their way, break done the pen, pack up camp, and then hit the road. Somewhere along I75 is where my latest adventure began.

You see there is construction going on along a stretch of the highway. In fact as soon as we got on I75 we were down to two lanes, no shoulder, and very rough pavement. So rough, I actually had to put down my coffee cup, hang up my cell phone, and use both hands on the wheel. Kidding!! (I would never do either of those things while towing a trailer!)

This stretch of highway, and right now it is a stretch to call it a highway, seemed interminable, and I was getting tired from the extra firm grip on the wheel. Eventually the road smoothed out though, and we were sailing right along, listening to 'Car Talk' on NPR and quite enjoying the beautiful morning.

All of a sudden I heard and felt a bang. I grabbed the walkie-talkie to tell Walt that I had a flat was pulling over. Luckily, due to the construction, there was a nice wide breakdown lane that was protected from the active traffic lanes by orange barrels, so I slowly braked and maneuvered around the barrels to a stop.

Walt stopped in front of me and was quick to grab the jack and handle, (he's had lots of 'jack practice' lately, but that's his story to tell) but before he could come back to the trailer, I had a chance to survey the damage and stopped him before he got much further.

You see, not only did I not have a flat, I had no wheel. I didn't have two wheels to be exact. (tandem axel trailer). Seems the rough road created such a vibration that the lugs sheered right off, and first one, and then the other wheel came off. The bang I had felt was the brake drums hitting the pavement.

To make an already long story shorter, Walt continued on to fetch some help, while I stayed with the rig enjoying the sunny warm day and catching up on some long neglected reading. It wasn't too long before Walt returned with Richard and Brooke, and after a trip to an auto parts store and a roadside repair, we were back rolling down the road again.

As with every good adventure story, this one too had it's heroes - from the angel named Mark (who turned out to be a supporter) who stopped to make sure I was okay and offered me his gun for protection, to Walt, Richard and Brooke, my very own knights in shining armor. I came seeking adventure, and even in small ways, this migration offers some up. I’m glad I came.

Date: December 16, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Finally in the Sunshine State

Location:

Hamilton County, FL

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 73 - 69.1 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1104.0 miles

After a rodeo start and a flight of more than two hours, the birds are safely on the ground and in the travel pen at our first Florida stopover location, Hamilton County.

As they departed this morning, Richard and Brooke each had 8 chicks following while Chris had the other two. We will get the full story later today - but it is likely to be much later. The ground crew had to travel through a lot of construction and very rough roads on the journey south.

It was so rough, that unbeknownst to Bev, who was driving the diesel hauling our 36 foot aircraft trailer, two tires were going flat. By the time she found a place where she could pull off the highway and park the truck and trailer where they would not jeopardize others on the road, both tires were toast.

The team is on site now trying to jack up the trailer and replace the two ruined tires with new ones. They should have it all fixed and be ready to roll again in the next half hour or so. As a result it is unlikely we will have a lead pilot's report until very, very late today. It will take the crew a while to get back down to our stopover site and get everything straightened away for the day.

Day after day I respond to countless calls asking, "Are you there yet." It has been nice today to be able to append to my usual response of, "No, not yet," - "but from where we are now, we can almost see the finish line."

Date: December 16, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

FLORIDA BOUND!

Location:

Worth County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 73 - ? Miles Accumulated Distance:
1034.9 miles

Cranes and planes are in the air and headed for Hamilton County, Florida.

The pilots had to do a crane rodeo/round-up before they could get underway this morning, but all 18 are in the air and following well. More news as we have it.

Stopover Trivia - Hamiton County, FL (by VN (Vi) White)
Lying on the Georgia/Florida border. Hamilton County is called the "Jewel of the Suwanee".  It was named for Alexander Hamilton the first US Secretary of the Treasury. Nearly 13,800 people live in this primarily rural county. Jasper, its county seat, is only one of three incorporated municipalities in the whole county.

Hamilton County is the place to go for outdoor activity. It offers camping, hiking, cycling, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, swimming, fishing, and hunting. It is something of a peninsula as it is surrounded by the Suwanee on the east and south, and the Withlacoochee on the west. Another river, the Alapaha, known as the ‘River of Sand’, has the unusual characteristic of disappearing and reappearing periodically into underground limestone caves as it as it meanders through the county.

Date: December 15, 2006 - Entry 7 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

A Christmas Story

Location:

Worth County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 72 - 33 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1034.9 miles

So far we have flown on 19 days, but it has taken 72 to get to where we are, and we are still 300 miles away from the finish line. To say that this year’s migration has been frustrating and difficult is an understatement. The good cheer and encouragement that the team has received from our stopover hosts and supporters has been a mainstay in helping us to keep up morale.

Whooping cranes have existed for millions of years, yet their continued survival seems to interest a relative few. When we desperately appeal for funding to carry on, it's our small group of loyal and generous supporters who dig deeper to help. It becomes increasingly hard not to resent the hundreds of millions spent on things less noble than the saving of a species.

With an 80% survival rate, this is one of the most successful wildlife restoration programs ever attempted; the media this project generates has reached millions of people - yet we struggle every year to make our budget. Even now we are still over $50K short. It's a constant pressure that makes bad days seem worse, and even on the good days, nags us all like a toothache.

In 1999 when the Whooping Crane Recovery Team and the newly formed Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership gathered in Wisconsin to decide which of three short-listed sites would be the most appropriate base for the new project, Joe had to leave and hurry home to be there for the birth of his daughter.

In the years since, he has divided his time between the two most important things in his life; his family and this project. He is on the road frequently giving lectures and presentations, and for a good five months every year he is gone from home, spending most of the summer and all of his autumns with Whooping cranes.

Joe is the only member of the original OM team; a team that starts its work in Maryland and finishes eight or ten months later in Florida. Counting the year with Sandhills, he has trekked along this route for seven seasons, but taking in the very beginnings of this study, he has participated in 13 migrations and covered over 10,000 miles. He is truly ‘the old man of migration’ – said kindly and respectfully.

From the time the fuzzy little brown bundles peck their way out of their eggs until we deliver them safely to their winter pensite in Florida, they 'Rule'. Their needs, their timetable of development become our working schedule, and dictate much of our lives. They take over virtually everything and make demands on us all, both professionally and personally. Demands readily and willingly met because what we do is more a calling than a job.

It has to be a calling, because neither Ol' Man Weather nor our Whooping cranes know what weekends are, or vacations, much less Christmas. But the members of the OM Team do. As we approach the finish line, we are all tired, feeling the strain, and we will all be relieved and happy when we arrive with the birds and can head home for the holidays.

With this in mind, and in the spirit of the season, the team has decided to give Joe a special and unusual holiday gift. We are sending him home - tomorrow. We want to be sure he is home for Christmas, (especially as the 25th is his birthday) and for his daughter's Christmas Party on Sunday. By late afternoon tomorrow he will be in the welcoming arms of his wife Diana, and his young daughter, Alex.

Joe is our leader, a vital member of the migration crew. To his credit, what he has assembled is an extraordinarily capable and dedicated team - and we plan on making him proud as we get the Class of 2006 to their Florida winter home without him.

Time and again, under a variety of circumstances, Joe has been there for each and every one of us; has been accommodating and supportive in one way or another. How lucky are we to have an opportunity to repay that debt?

Date: December 15, 2006 - Entry 6 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

All down hill

Location:

Worth County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 72 - 33 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1034.9 miles

Did someone say it was down hill from here on?

Every year there is normally one story about the migration that sticks out above all the minor adventures that befall a team bent on leading birds half way across the country with ultralights. It usually involved the biggest  obstacle we encounter and centers around the crossing of the Cumberland Ridge. But this year here have been multiple occurrences that will not require embellishment when we recount the migration of '06. We will tell the story to our grand children and they will roll their eyes when we tell them it was up hill both ways but it won’t be an exaggeration.

Once clear of the Appalachian Mountains and back into the flat country of Georgia we have historically picked up speed. Being farther south puts us on the back side of the weather systems more often, in fact we have completed the second half of the migration in as little as 8 days. After the challenges and delays of the first half we were counting on a speedy completion but that so far has not been the case. Each morning teases us with calm air on the surface then slams the door with a strong headwind aloft. Even when the winds are in our favour the fog keeps us grounded.

This morning the fog burned off faster than the soup we had yesterday and by 8:00AM it was clear enough to launch the birds. It was my turn to lead and all the birds came out of the pen eager to fly. I headed straight north and then turned east allowing the stragglers to cut the corner and catch up.

The temperature this morning was 56F degrees and the humidity was so thick it was visible. Warm air is less dense than cold, so each breath contains less oxygen and because of the fog - more water. It wasn't long before the birds began to pant and some splayed their feet to help cool themselves. After only a mile they began to break and I circled once to collect them. They divided into several groups each with a different intent. Some headed back, some followed and some weren’t sure what to do.

Richard collected one stray and climbed high so he could offer advice to the rodeo below. Brooke intercepted ten and five more formed on my wing while Chris led the last three. We began a slow climb to get out of the low level trash and headed on course.

For the last four days our aircraft have been parked at the Dawson Airport thanks to the generosity of manager Willie Garner. He pushed his aircraft out and convinced several other to do the same so we could keep ours inside and safe from the wind. Dale Richter is a local supporter who has been very helpful whenever we are here. He has arranged meals, called the media, set up school presentations and helped us find top cover pilots. Willie's brother Joe flew his Cessna 172 overhead this morning with Dale and his son Taylor acting as spotters.

Once we left the pen site our course took us right over the Albany Airport and Joe cleared us through the busy traffic zone. We are always grateful to controllers and pilots who let us monopolize a corner of their airspace saving us the long flight around.

One bird broke from the formation on Brooke's wing and Chris attempted to pick it up. But by the time he descended the tired bird had already landed so the coordinates were passed to Charlie Shafer in the tracking van.

We climbed to 1000 feet and picked up a smooth tailwind that pushed us along at 50 miles per hour. Things were starting to look promising but the fog ahead began to thicken. Even top cover could not see the other side from their vantage point and Richard, who was a mile or so ahead, began to loose sight of the ground. We discussed our options but they seemed to be limited. We  had thick ground fog below us and a solid ceiling at 1500 feet above. It looked as if the two layers started to meet somewhere in front of us and we decided to find a place to set down and wait it out.

Richard and I turned back and watched our ground speed drop to 19 miles per hour while Brooke, Chris and the top cover tried to find a secluded field. Chris landed first while Brooke flew circuits until Richard and I had him in sight. As it turned out the field they picked was less than a mile from where the tired bird had landed. We saw him join the other birds as they landed next to Chris so we called off Charlie's search.

Once on the ground we discovered we had landed in a harvested peanut field. The mould that grows on waste peanuts can cause a serious illness in cranes and we were reluctant to stay there long. I walked over to the road where a car has stopped to watch the activity. The occupant knew all about our work and wanted to help. They volunteered to find the property owners and get us permission to be there even though it was after the fact. I must apologize to these strangers because we left before they got back.

Our top cover pilots, Joe, Dale and Taylor reported that the fog was beginning to clear so we launch once more. All the birds were clustered around Brooke’s aircraft so he led them up. I moved in and collected five. By this time the thermals had begun to work and the air was very rough.  One bird (likely the same one) dropped behind Brooke's trike and Richard attempted to pick it up. Before he could get into position it landed and Charlie was called in.

Chris climbed above us and reported that the air was smooth and 800 feet. Brooke and I flew a hundred yards apart and fought for control. In the rolling air it seemed like there was more sink than lift and with we would gain a 100 feet and lose it again. In the 15 minute it took us to reach 800 feet the thermals had moved higher and the air was just as rough. Chris now reported a smooth ride at a thousand feet. We decide to land at our interim stop and took a beating as we descended into a very rough hey field. We  had to secure the aircraft in the increasing wind and felt better about our decision to call it quits.

We walked the bird to a pond while the pen was set up in an isolated site and then flew the aircraft to another field to tie them down. By this time the ground crew had arrived but had problems getting into the site. We have a crew-cab pick-up with a long box that pulls a 36 foot trailer. All together it's more than 50 feet long and has the turning radius of a train . As it pulled into the drive, two wheels dropped over the edge and it came to rest on its frame. I laughed at this final twist as I flew over and watched the crowd of neighbours all trying to help. There were timbers to brace it and jack to lift it and a tractor just in case. It took us an hour to build a platform under the wheels but it backed out without damage. Just one more story on the uphill adventure that the grandkid won't believe.

View the photos here in the 2006 Migration Photo Journal.

Date: December 15, 2006 - Entry 5 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Click your mouse & shop right here

Location:

Worth County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 72 - ? Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

How about some last minute gift ideas for that hard-to-buy-for someone?

Eight new items are featured on our merchandise page from t-shirts to bookmarks (great stocking stuffers). You’ll also find holiday gift giving pricing on OM's 2007 calendar.

Order via the website using PayPal, or call the office at 800-675-2618 - but do it today - time's running out.

Date: December 15, 2006 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Wood Buffalo/Aransas Update

Location:

Worth County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 72 - ? Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

USF&WS Aransas Whooping Crane Coordinator, Tom Stehn sent along the results of his December 13th aerial census. He reported finding 182 adults and 45 chicks for a total of 227 birds.

Although Tom, observer Darrin Welchert, and pilot Dr. Tom Taylor said they had ideal flight conditions - sun, light winds and great visibility, one portion of their range was not covered due to a lack of time.

"Results from the flight helped firm up the estimated flock size of 234," said Tom. "Present were 130 adults + 59 subadults + 45 chicks, a total of 234 Whooping cranes." He said that the presence of 2 additional family groups at was confirmed on this flight. "Prior flights had hinted at the presence of one or both of these additional families," Tom said, "but the picture was confused due to crane movements, and possibly counting the same cranes twice."

According to Tom, there have been no reported sightings of cranes in migration since December 1st.

In his remarks Tom noted, "On this flight, 227 cranes were located at Aransas. In addition, based on the previous known distribution, 6 cranes were believed to have been overlooked. Also, 1 crane is about 15 miles northwest of Aransas and is wintering with Sandhills. Thus, 227 + 6 + 1 provides the estimated flock size of 234. The total of 234 cranes is the largest Whooping crane flock since counts began in 1938 when only 18 cranes were present at Aransas."

With salinities quite high at Aransas (measured at 24ppt on November 28th), the movement of cranes to drink at fresh water sources made tracking the birds more difficult. Most of the cranes were generally in high marsh habitat foraging on wolfberries, or were in open water salt marsh ponds looking for blue crabs.

Twenty-one cranes were documented as changing location during the census flight. "There was so much movement of family groups on the north half of the refuge," said Tom, "that once all the cranes were plotted in that area, we flew directly between all 7 family groups in that area to ensure no duplication."

Date: December 15, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Short hop but forward motion

Location:

Worth County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 72 - ? Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

The Team is on the ground in Worth County, GA.

Joe, today's lead pilot, advised that they had a good tailwind, but encountered a thick fog bank enroute. Top cover advised that it was huge and so the team put down in a peanut field to wait it out. A while later they took off but only managed to make it to the closest stopover site.

Mixed emotions rule; happy to have flown and advanced, disappointed at not being able to take advantage of the favorable wind. More later today when Joe files his report.

Date: December 15, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Flying - at last

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 72 - ? Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

Cranes and planes are in the air!

Bev advised that all the birds got off this morning with Joe as lead pilot. At last sighting however, all of the pilots appeared to have some birds following them.

Richard's radio message reported that they appeared to be breathing heavily due to the heavy humid air. If this continues to be the case the chicks will tire quickly making the closest stopover site the most likely target.

Date: December 15, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Looking like it will be a 'go'

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 72 - ? Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

It appears the Team will be able to advance today. In Terrell County, GA this morning it is 52F degrees and there are favorable winds both on the surface and aloft.

The skies at the airport are clear but a few miles away at the pensite there is light fog so the team is standing by, waiting for it to disperse.

During recent down days, the team, with the help of Billy Brooks out of the Jacksonville, FL U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office, (thanks Billy) secured a new stopover location just 30 miles away from the Terrell County, GA location. Having this closer stopover location would allow them to fly in conditions that having to complete a 60 or 90 mile leg would not.

Bev just called in with the news that the fog is dissipating quickly at the pensite so the pilots expect to launch from the airport at approximately 7:45am.

We won't know which stopover site will be today's destination until the pilots make the call depending on what they experience in the air. It could be the new one in Worth County (30+ miles), the next 'regular' one which is in Cook County (60+ miles), or, if they will have good enough conditions to make it to Hamilton County, FL (90+miles). Stay tuned.

Date: December 14, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

We're holding 'em - not folding

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 71 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

After 52 down days, five of them right here in Terrell County Georgia, its hard not to think of this project as some sort of evil contest. Maybe it’s all a game, and we are experiencing an extended period of bad luck. The object of this contest is to get the birds south. The players are the members of the OM team, supported by all the other agencies that make this reintroduction possible and our noble opponent -- is the weather.

Our opening hand was the bang up job we did of training the chicks at Patuxent. During that period we had the advantage because they were not yet flying and wind was not an issue. The only thing the weather could do was turn up the heat so the training had to be confined to early mornings. We fought back however, by adding another aircraft and doubling up on the training, so twice as many birds could work with the aircraft while the air was still cool.

Then we moved the birds to Wisconsin and racked up the training days in an unusually dry June. Meanwhile the weather planned its strategy. Just when we began to think we had it made, that things were going our way, the rain started. Through August and September we battled daily with buffeting winds and heavy rains, but we trained with the birds every time Weather’s back was turned. Then we would pay the price for our insolence the next day when thunder and lightning kept us grounded.

During the migration the weather seemed to have a mitt full of trump cards; hitting us first with frost, and then with snow. We would win a hand one day, then loose for a week straight. He guarded the ridge with headwinds for 10 days, but we snuck over when he wasn’t looking. He took the next hand as we tried to leave Hiwassee - and his winnings were the birds that wouldn’t follow us to the next stop.

We have battled hard and taken our losses. Now, here we sit in Georgia. As each day passes we ante up and the pot grows, but we are gambling with resources we don’t have. Like a chess player, Weather thinks four moves ahead, establishing the conditions that promise tailwinds - then after he has set us up and the aircraft and birds are ready, he steals them away at the last minute.

It is day 71 and the game has gone on too long. For four days we have been reading forecasts and planning to make our move. We divided our resources with half our team with the birds and the other half at the airport. But the weather pulled a fast one and dropped a layer of fog over the entire state and extending down into Florida, stopping us as surely as if he had played a ace.

He won the hand, but it cost him big time. The system is moving out and tomorrow looks dryer. We are hurt but not down and out yet. We have 300 hundred miles to go and still hold a few good cards. We came here to win and we will see it to the end.

Date: December 14, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Not Quite

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 71 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

Sorry for the long wait to hear what's happened today. It was an unusual morning. The Team waited and waited for the fog to clear, and they were still hopeful right up until mid morning. Around 11, they put another trike up but the ceiling was only 500 feet.

Joe is working on an entry which we should have to post before very long. He thinks there is a better than even chance they will be able to fly tomorrow.

Thick foggy morning in Terrell County, Ga

View the photo here in the 2006 Migration Photo Journal.

Date: December 14, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Maybe - just maybe

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 71 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

52F degrees and light surface winds at 6am this morning but Terrell County is blanketed in heavy fog. If it dissipates in time, the team may be able to take advantage of a potentially favorable wind flow. As soon as the fog has cleared, the team will put one or more trikes up to test conditions.

Date: December 13, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

We get questions

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 70 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

Several readers have noticed that the miles flown on the legs of the migration vary from year to year and have written to us, curious as to why.

We have 40 or so potential stopovers along our 1200 miles route. They are owned by generous landowners who have agreed to host our team and charges for as long as it take and sometime it’s a week of better. Normally we use 22 or 3  (18 so far this year). Our arrival is guaranteed to be at some ungodly hour in the morning and once there, we turn their yard into an ephemeral trailer park. We run power cords to every available outlet and cordon an isolated area for the pen, restricting even their access. We tap into their internet connections, take over their hangar space and our departure is as unpredictable as our arrival.

Yet every year they welcome us back. Many make preparations as we get close. They mow the runway, notify their neighbors and lay in provisions, only to see us pass overhead at a thousand feet and disappear over the southern horizon. We are eternally grateful to each and every one of them, from those who endure our postponed departure to those who understand our need to keep going.

If you connect the dots from one our stopovers to the next it resembles the tracks of the three legged dog and rarely do we get to fly direct from point A to B. More often we will target an interim stop in case our birds begin to fade and we need a place to land. Then we make the decision to carry on, creating a circuitous route that lengthens the trip but increases the safety. We also must stay clear of air traffic controls zones and avoid MOA's or Military Operation Areas if they are active. All of these deviations add to the miles and change with the conditions.|

The real distance: Most GPS units will record your track history, and ours is often a squiggly line like a drunkard's path from his favorite bar. At take-off we invariably have to circle to collect the bird or chase them back to the pen before getting on course. Reluctant to give up any altitude we may have gained, we stay high until we are over our destination. Then begins a long, slow descent that may take us around our landing site many times before we are on the ground. If we calculated the real total distance we have travel it would add at least another third to the migration. If we could simply fly a straight line we would undoubtedly be there by now.

My kingdom for birds with auto-pilot.

Date: December 13, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Another record threatened

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 70 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

You must be as tired of reading that we are grounded yet again as I am of typing and posting that news. That is however, the case again today.

Terrell County had 54F degrees early this morning and surface winds from 0 to 4mph directly out of the east. A chance of light showers is in the forecast for the area.

The guys put a test trike up only to find they would be facing a 5 to 6 mph headwind - not insurmountable on its own, but the air was warm and heavy. This meant it would be extremely hard work for the birds, and likely take a good two plus hours for them to make it to the next stopover location despite it being only 60 odd miles away.

As the chicks haven't flown in such warm conditions since August, the team elected to not subject them to the combined forces of heat and headwind and stood down for the day.

Today will be the Team's fourth day on the ground in Terrell County, equaling the longest ever stay in this location. That happened in 2003, and again in 2005 - sort of. I say sort of because last year' departure rodeo ended with 12 birds being rounded up and returned to the pen while the other 7 flew on to Cook County behind Richard.

Should we be stuck in Terrell one more day, yet another record we’d rather not break will fall.

Date: December 13, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Craniac Kid Power

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 70 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

We have been receiving emails from teachers and students from all over the country who are following the journey of the 'Class of 2006' south. For us, this has definitely been one of the biggest joys of this year's migration.

We are thrilled that this undertaking has captivated the imagination of so many young people - and that their teachers have been going the extra mile to encourage them, and to incorporate various aspects of the project and the migration into their curriculums.

One such teacher is Ellie Morse from Poe Elementary, in Houston, Texas who we wrote about in a Field Journal entry on December 9th. She sent us some photos from her classroom some time ago, and I'm embarrassed that I haven’t been able to get them posted until now. Ellie's class at Poe was the third member of the Craniac Kids Club, joining Lori Trout's students at John F. Kennedy Montessori School, Louisville, KY, and Margaret Black's class at Harriett Todd P.S. in Orillia, Ontario Canada.

Photos from Ellie Morse's class at Poe Elementary in Houston, Texas

Today we want to tell you about a school in Florida. Science students of all grade levels at the Windermere Elementary School in Windermere, Florida have joined the thousands of other school children across North America following OM's southward migration.

Guided by their science teacher Lynn Tidmus, the students at Windermere have been keeping abreast of progress using OM's website, but they have also been doing some fundraising under the banner of 'Change for Cranes.' At last word, they had raised over $1,000 in coins!!! which they collected in old film canisters.

Windermere students have been having a great time. We hear that they have even started making Whooping crane calls when they see their teacher in the hallway. (Well, maybe not real Whooper calls, but they whoop it up nonetheless.)

Photos from Mrs. Tidmus's class at Windermere Elementary School in Windermere, Florida.

Our thanks go to Mrs. Tidmus for her initiative in introducing this unique wildlife conservation effort to her students, and for embracing the many educational aspects this project offers.

We are hopeful of having Mrs. Trout's, Mrs. Black's, Mrs. Morse's and Mrs. Tidmus's help to turn their programs into a proto-type that we could provide to other interested schools/classes across the country for next year's migration.

Date: December 12, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Going nowhere fast

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 69 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

We've added 'winds' to our list of four-letter words - though were they favorable today, we'd undoubtedly be singing another tune. 49F degrees in Terrell County this morning with light winds out of the ENE. At altitude however, the winds were SSE at 15 (with gusts to 25 promised for later) holding the cranes and planes down as surely as if they had been nailed to the ground.

The bored crew entertained the bored chicks yesterday and gave them pumpkin treats. Wonder if they hear the calls of migrating 'relatives' passing by overhead and wish they too could get going.

DAR Birds in Florida
The Tracking Team reported that DAR626 and DAR628 roosted December 8th on the winter territory of 105 and 204 in Hernando County. DAR627 and DAR623 also arrived December 8 and roosted in Madison County. These two birds left Necedah on migration with 312 and 316. The white bird adult pair was not with them however when the DAR birds were detected in Madison County.

DAR632's transmitter is not functional, but he was visually confirmed as being with a large flock of Sandhills. Both birds continued to Lafayette County where they remained with a large Sandhill flock through  December 10.

Date: December 11, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Brooke Pennypacker

Subject:

Perspective helps

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 68 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

3 miles per hour. Not very fast, is it? Come to think of it, I've been known to crawl out of a bar faster than that. But that's how fast Chris was going as his trike hung motionless over the runway, silhouetted against this morning's gray, overcast sky.

‘I've seen Christmas tree ornaments move faster than that,' I thought. 'Did he remember to start his engine?' I asked, as Joe, Richard and Walt gazed skyward, uniform expressions of discouragement on their faces. Had the headwind been any stronger, Chris would  have been flying backwards, which I'm certain would be in violation of some obscure FAA violation.

The sight was so utterly frustrating, that I briefly entertained the idea of donning my costume, turning my vocalizer on full blast, screaming to the ground crew 5 miles away at the pen 'Okay, let them out,' and begin crawling down the runway as fast as I could, hoping against hope, the birds would follow me to Florida. But, knowing my hands and knees would surely refuse my command, I resigned myself to join the others at the Huddle House for coffee and commiseration. Florida seemed a long way away as we yet again suffered the prospects of another wait.

Perhaps sensing our dilemma and our need for a diversion, a man sitting with his wife at the booth behind me, reached over and handed me the local paper. 'Thanks,' I told him, as I opened it up on the table. There on the front page was a picture of a man laying helpless on a bed, a hopeful look on his face. Next to the picture in large letters, it read: "Kidney List a Waiting Game." The man had been awaiting a donated kidney and pancreas for transplantation for over two years, and time, for him, was running out.

The article went on to say, he was but one of 92,000 people across America also waiting for an organ transplant in time to save their lives. Needless to say, our own little wait suddenly didn’t seem so bad. In fact, I felt more than a little ashamed at myself for having attended my own little internal pity party while others were, at that very moment, in much deeper foxholes, fighting much greater battles.

Like the proverbial man who felt sorry for himself because he didn't have any shoes until he met the man who didn't have any feet, I swallowed with a certain gratitude, that dose of reality, and walked out into the parking lot, excited by the prospect of another chance to resume our migration tomorrow.

Date: December 11, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

RED LETTER DAY

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 68 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

THE FIRST FAMILY HAS ARRIVED IN FLORIDA!!

Historic Event - Another project milestone was reached shortly after 4pm on Saturday, December 9th when the First Family (211, 217*, and W601 landed at the pensite on the Chassahowitzka NWR in Florida. The Tracking team reported this morning that the Family roosted there overnight before flying the following morning to the adult pair’s usual winter territory in Pasco County.

Wild601 was the first ever wild-hatched bird in the Eastern Migratory Population. It is now the first, second generation Whooping crane to successfully make the migration south.

CEL-A-BRA-TION DAY, C’MON!!!!

The First Family enjoying some foraging after their flight from the Chass pensite to their wintering territory in Pasco County, Florida.

Photo sent by Richard Urbanek

View the photo here in the 2006 Migration Photo Journal.

Date: December 11, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Still grounded

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 68 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

A high pressure system south of Florida is sending warm air up through the state and into Georgia. At 6:00am this morning the temperature in Terrell County was around the 50F degree mark.

If the wind conditions on the ground – 5mph out of the NNE – had been the same at altitude, it would have been a great fly day. Up top however, we had +10mph ESE winds which means we are stuck on the ground yet again.

The winds should start to swing around to the SSW on Tuesday as the high pressure system moves on. The forecast for Wednesday has winds at 15 out of the NNW making this the next most likely fly day. Hopefully we can advance Wednesday and Thursday before a predicted low pressure system moving in from the WNW brings rain.

Date: December 10, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Can't catch a break

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 67 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

The temperature in south Georgia hovered around 30 degrees this morning with winds on the ground out of the NNE at 2mph. Up top it was a different story however. 10+mph headwinds blowing out of the SSE scrubbed any thoughts of a flight today.

Mother Nature has been less than kind to the Class of 2006 and the Migration Crew so far this year, and with the finish line almost in sight, she still shows no signs of becoming a team player. Tomorrow does not look promising according to aviation wind forecast charts.

A review of past migration timelines shows the number of days it has taken to get from Terrell County to the finish line.
2001 – 15 days
2002 – 4 days
2003 – 7 days
2004 – 9 days
2005 – 7 days
2006 - ?
The average over 5 years is +8 days. Today is December 10th - doing the math is depressing.

Date: December 9, 2006 - Entry 6 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Flight Photos

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 66 - 99 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

In flight photos by Chris taken today enroute to Terrell County.

View the photos here in the 2006 Migration Photo Journal.

Date: December 9, 2006 - Entry 5 Reporter:

Chris Gullikson

Subject:

Smooth and uneventful

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 66 - 99 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

This morning's flight went much smoother then yesterday morning. Calm winds at the surface and just a light headwind aloft gave us glass-smooth air and the birds eagerly joined us for our flight of nearly 100 miles.

Since yesterday's flight was called short and we brought the birds back to the pen, it was once again my turn to lead. The launch went quite well with just one bird hanging back inside the pen. While Joe went in to pick up the lone bird that was late coming out of the pen, Richard fell into a chase position with the 17 birds that were with me. One bird at the tail end of the line broke off and went for Joe, while another peeled off and was picked up by Brooke.

With 15 birds on my wing, I was able to make a slow climb to 1000 feet. Since Richard was without birds, he climbed to 2000 feet to see if the ground speed increased with altitude. Hearing that there was an even stronger headwind aloft, I descended until I found the best groundspeed - 36mph at 700 feet.

This morning was the coldest of the year to date, and we all put on an extra layer of clothes and a few extra hand warmers for the anticipated long flight. In the very cold air, several of the birds flew with their legs tucked up into their body feathers much like an egret or heron flies.

The flight was fairly uneventful. 612 entertained me for awhile as he flew the lead position and tugged on one of the wings batten strings. I was challenged for the lead on several occasions, and once found myself with all the birds out in front of me flying in a V formation. It was a beautiful sight and I missed getting this on camera.

After a 2 hour and 45 minute flight we arrived at our destination. While Brooke and I walked the birds off to a hiding spot, Charlie brought in the travel pen and began setting it up with help from Joe and Richard. The hiding spot we chose had a rotten tree trunk lying on the ground, and Brooke and I were entertained watching the birds use their powerful beaks to break apart the bark in search of insects.

After getting the birds into the pen we took off from the rough pasture and made our way over to the local airport, getting lightly tossed about in the thermic air. The airport manager graciously found us hangar space which will allow us to make an early departure in the morning to test out the winds aloft.

We are a bit worried about a light headwind in the morning, but with luck we will be able to cover the 60 some miles to our next stop.

Date: December 9, 2006 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

The heart of the project

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 66 - 99 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

Having leap-frogged ahead of the team, I am now in Ocala, FL working on preparations for the Arrival/Flyover Event which, hopefully, will take place before the end of next week. Having access to a 24/7 internet connection here gives me the ability to catch up on days of unanswered emails, and makes it much easier to do the Field Journal postings.

One of the many messages waiting for me in my Inbox was from Ellie Morse, the teacher from Poe Elementary School in Houston, TX whose class joined Lori Trout's in Louisville, KY and Margaret Black's in Orillia, ON Canada to incorporate various aspects of our annual migration with the Class of 2006 into their students' curriculum.

Apparently teachers in the Houston school district will see a small increase to their last paycheck of the year due to an insurance premium 'holiday'. Teachers were asked to advise district representatives what they planned to do with their benefit monies, and below is what Ellie submitted in response.

"My third grade science classes have been following a migration of Whooping cranes as they make their way to their winter homes in Florida. They are being guided by a group of scientists using an ultralight aircraft, thanks to Operation Migration. This experience has provided so much cross-curriculum potential and involvement in watching almost extinct American birds being reintroduced into their habitat. I am going to contribute my bonus money to Operation Migration for the wonderful student activities they have provided, and for their commitment to the environment." Ellie Morse, teacher, Poe Elementary

If working on this project wasn't already rewarding enough, meeting and hearing from the wonderful, caring, and big-hearted people who support it would certainly make it so. Time and again people write to thank us for what we do. It is somewhat embarrassing; for while we are its hands, it is folks like Ellie, and Lori, and Margaret, and so many, many more of you who are this project’s heart.

Date: December 9, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Holiday Help

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 66 - 99 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

Check out our merchandise page at http://www.operationmigration.org/https://secure.operationmigration.org/np/clients/om/giftstore.jsp for some great gift ideas for those Craniacs on your holiday shopping list.

OM's 2007 calendar filled with spectacular photos is a gift that will be enjoyed year round. Or what about a lovely piece of Whooping crane jewelry. OM's branded line of T's and sweatshirts are a popular and practical choice.

For a gift that keeps on giving, why not give gifts of membership in Operation Migration. At just $50, a membership includes a complimentary subscription to our semi-annual magazine, INformation. We’ll even send you a gift card for each Membership you give so that you can personally announce your generous gift to the lucky recipient.

You can order on line, or call the office at 1-800-675-2618 - - but order NOW to be sure items reach you in time for the 25th!

Date: December 9, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Super Flight!

Location:

Terrell County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 66 - 99 Miles Accumulated Distance:
1001.9 miles

After a 99 mile - 2 hour and 45 minute flight, cranes and planes are on the ground in Terrell County, GA. Joe reported a smooth flight, most of it at between 1,000 and 1,600 feet, with a very light headwind. One of OM's good friends and great supporter, retired Delta pilot Doug Rounds, and his pilot son Nathan flew top cover for the team today. Thanks also to Nathan for allowing us to use his hangar while were were in Pike County so that we could keep OM's trikes out of the elements.

Chris had 15 birds following, Joe 2 and Brooke had 1, while Richard flew in chase position. Joe said that at 20 degrees, it was a cold flight, but that all the birds flew and followed well.

In 2005 we landed in Terrell County, GA on December 6th, three days earlier than this year. However, heavy rains held us on the ground and it was four days (Dec. 11) before we could move on. With another favorable flying day forecast for tomorrow, it is possible that we could match or pass where we were last year on the same date.

December 9, 2005 was Migration Day 57. This year December 9 equals Migration Day 66 - a difference of 9 days. Last year we left Necedah October 14th. This year departure was on October 5th - a difference of 9 days. Instead of the earlier departure translating into an earlier arrival as we had hoped, it appears to have only made the migration 9 days longer - a classic case of 'hurry up and wait'.

If you followed last year's migration you will recall the wild and wooly rodeo that ensued when departing Terrell County. It ended with us having birds in two locations; Terrell and Cook Counties. To read the account of last year's round-up,click the following link and scroll down to the two December 11th entries. http://operationmigration.org/Field_Journal_Fall2005_2.html

Stopover Trivia - Terrell County, GA (by VN (Vi) White)
The Kinchafoonee River forms most of the eastern boundary of Terrell County in southwestern Georgia. With just 11,000 residents inhabiting its 335.5 square miles – its population density of only 33 people per square mile makes it a great place for Whooping cranes to stop overnight.

Shortly after Atlanta's capture in the Civil War, Gov. Joseph E. Brown arranged for a refugee camp at Dawson to shelter some 300 women and children who had fled the city. The 'Exile Camp' was later used to house a detachment of 50 Union soldiers assigned to keep order in the area. Their kind behavior toward local citizens was long noted by the community.

More Terrell County Stopover Trivia (by Georgia residents Dale and Taylor Richter)
      
Did you know?...
Otis Ray Redding Jr., best known for his passionate delivery and posthumous hit single, 'Sittin on the Dock of the Bay' was born in Dawson, in Terrell County, GA.

Terrell, Georgia's 113th county, was carved from portions of Randolph and Lee counties in 1856 and named for Dr. William Terrell of Sparta, who had served both the state legislature and Congress.

Incorporated in 1857, Dawson, Terrell's county seat and a famous Spanish peanut market, were named for William C. Dawson, a Georgia-born lawyer and soldier who in 1849 served one term in the US Senate.

The Battle of Echouanotchaway Swamp, part of the Creek Indian uprising after the burning of Richmond, was fought here in 1846.

Once a virtual ghost town, historic and picturesque Parrott experienced a re-birth when the town was used for several western movies including, ‘The Long Riders.’

The National Register of Historic Places lists two Terrell County structures; the Terrell County Courthouse and the Garden Club House. Another interesting building is the Chickasawhatchee Primitive Baptist Church. Built in 1858, it is the oldest church in Terrell County still standing on its original site.

Date: December 9, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

And They Are OFF!

Location:

Pike County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 66 - ? Miles Accumulated Distance:
902.9 miles

21F degrees and 4mph of ground wind greeted the team this morning in Pike County. At altitude the winds were out of the NNW at 8mph making it a promising fly day.

It was Chris's turn to lead and he took off with 17 birds, leaving a lone bird to be picked up by one of the other pilots. Brooke radioed down that they had a bit of a headwind up top, but if in-flight conditions remain favorable, they will try to skip our Marion County, GA stopover (approx. 55 miles) and make it to Terrell County, GA (approx. 100 miles.) Stay tuned.

Date: December 8, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Wood Buffalo/Aransas Update

Location:

Pike County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 65 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
902.9 miles

In his Dec. 6th aerial census, Tom Stehn, USF&WS Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge found 224 Whooping cranes; 181 adults and 43 chicks.

Tom said, "All whooping crane areas were covered, but skies were overcast making it likely that at least 5% of all cranes were overlooked as even large white birds do not stand out well when light levels are low."

Tom noted the presence of 4 more cranes on this flight. The parents with 2 chicks seen at Kirwin NWR in Kansas apparently made it safely to Aransas. This is a record 7th set of twins to make it to Aransas this winter out of the 8 sets sighted by Canadian biologists in mid-August. "I have no evidence," said Tom, "that the family group sighted at Salt Plains NWR in Oklahoma on November 25th has made it to Aransas however."

Stehn noted that he had revised his estimated number of chicks and total numbers in the population. "Evidence from the last 2 census flights indicates I had twice counted a family group on the November 22nd flight," he said, "thus there are currently 43 chicks at Aransas.

He estimated, based on the 221 counted on November 22nd plus 13 additional arrivals that the total flock size is 234 - the largest Whooping crane flock since counts began in 1938 when only 18 cranes were present at Aransas. Tom noted that with salinities quite high at Aransas (measured at 24 ppt on November 28th), the movement of cranes to drink at fresh water sources made it more difficult to keep track of the birds.

The cranes were mostly in high marsh habitat foraging on wolfberries, or were in open water salt marsh ponds looking for blue crabs. A blue crab count conducted November 28 indicated they were still available in good numbers for the cranes.

Date: December 8, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

No flying today

Location:

Pike County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 65 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
902.9 miles

A cold front has moved in and is forecast to hang around until sometime on Saturday. 21 degrees this morning with NNW surface winds at 8mph.

A high pressure system sitting over the eastern seaboard is influencing the area. The resulting 25 to 30mph winds out of the NNE at altitude will keep the team on the ground in Pike County for another day. Tomorrow's forecast looks very promising however.

In an email received yesterday, Don and Paula Lounsbury, who are at home in Ontario wrote, "Too bad the weather hasn't been good for migrating. But take heart, it could be a lot worse - you could be here. As we write, there are blizzard conditions outside our window!!!

Paula said she spotted a T-shirt that would be perfect for the OM crew. On the front, written in Latin, it said, "Veni, Vidi, Volo in domum redire!" Translation: I came, I saw, I want to go home! She's right - LOL - it is perfect.

View the photos here in the 2006 Migration Photo Journal.

Photo snapped by 6 year old Taylor Presley after the departure from Cumberland County, TN.

As usual, USF&WS’s Billy Brooks has been busy helping to make sure the pensite at the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve in Marion County, FL is ready for the Class of 2006.

Some of Billy's helpers included a crew from Disney led by Scott Tidmus, Zoological Manager at Animal Kingdom, and a team from the Jacksonville Zoo.

Thanks, and hats off to all who pitch in 'to do the dirty work', and thanks to Billy Brooks for the photos.

Date: December 7, 2006 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Brooke Pennypacker

Subject:

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Location:

Pike County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 64 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
902.9 miles

Years ago when Disney World first opened, their admission price provided you with a book containing a variety of colored tickets, each color good for a different category of ride. At the end of the day, I was left with what I remember as being a few purple tickets, good for only a few of those less desirable rides.

But, having devoted much of my life to 'less desirable rides,' I would head over to the one that had no line up – Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and would repeatedly allow myself to be catapulted through a labyrinth of dark tunnels and ghastly scenes, into a series of ever increasingly violent gyrations that would have turned even Mr. Toad as green as a frog.

Just as a beautiful sunset proves to some the presence of a god, or an unexplained memory proves to some a past life, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride convinced me that somewhere down in the bowels of the Disney imagineering kingdom, there dwelled a design engineer, who, when not pulling the wings off butterflies, or lighting fire crackers secured by thread to dragonflies, aspired to create a ride guaranteed to rubberize the legs of an astronaut and reduce a cast iron stomach to mush.

We launched the birds this morning filled with the usual anticipation and expectation that a successful leg of almost one hundred miles lay ahead. However, having stood in my usual morning reverence before a computer screen two hours earlier, gazing at the weather forecast with my best, 'dog watching television' stare, I could feel that purple Disney ticket start to burn a hole in my pocket.

A hodge-podge of weather-speak foretold an increasingly bumpy ride south, followed by a rapid increase in turbulence about the time we were scheduled to land, hide the birds, and set up the pen. Such forecasts are enough to make me want to take that trusty old crystal weather ball, drop it in the can, and give it a wild and gurgly flush. But we really want to get to Florida so we have to at least give it a try.

The birds, not as yet enjoying the benefits of having their own computer in the pen, had to wait until they were airborne to sense this forecast - and they quickly began to act accordingly. They all followed Chris into the morning sky, but soon decided to break off toward Joe, then Richard, then back to Chris, until the all too familiar confused rodeo was well underway.

At 1200 feet I watched the flight disintegrate, and it soon became clear to all that the turbulence was in fact increasing, and a return to our starting point was the order of the day. The birds looked relieved as they parachuted down. As they walked single file into the pen I could swear I heard them singing the chorus from Kenny Rogers' 'Gambler' song: "You got to know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em."

I taxied back to the hangar to remove myself from the trike, then remove my already sweat-soaked gear. Before I got to my pants however, I dug down deep in my pocket to see if a purple Disney ticket was perhaps included in its contents. It wasn't. But that didn't stop me from uttering the words, "Thank you, Mr. Toad, perhaps some other time."

Date: December 7, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Chris Gullikson

Subject:

Home again, Home again, jiggedy jig

Location:

Pike County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 64 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
902.9 miles

We were grounded yesterday as a departing high pressure ridge brought a southerly return flow across Georgia. This made for a great, late fall day, with temps in the mid 60's, but the south winds meant that our flight of nearly 100 miles would have taken many more hours than our birds and fuel load could stand.

This morning, a weak cold front was forecasted to move through our area shortly after sunrise, bringing us northerly winds and a helpful push to our next destination. However, despite the front being relatively weak, conditions aloft were a bit marginal for us to fly with birds as we encountered light turbulence from the surface past 500 feet. All four pilots were airborne testing the air at sunrise, and we all agreed to go for it, hoping to get the birds to altitude and above the bumpy air.

Being my turn to lead, I landed at the pen, signaled to the ground crew to release the birds, and took off with all 18 in close contact with my trike. Things were looking pretty good for the first few minutes; the birds were forming up on my wing and climbing, despite us being lightly tossed about in the choppy air.

As we continued on, a group of birds farther back in line separated a bit from me and executed a 90 degree turn back to the pen. Within moments, the rest of the group broke and also turned for home. Joe was already going for the first group as I moved in on the second group and tried to round them back up. I was only able to get 2 birds to turn back on course, while Joe was able to quickly gather up 16, who would follow well on his wing - as long as they were going back towards the pen.

Brooke and Richard who were both higher than us called out that conditions were getting worse. The air was rough all the way up to 1000 feet and we had ridges to cross just a few miles to our south. It was quickly agreed on by all, that this was going to be a miss. The three mile flight back to the pen was slowed by a good headwind out of the north, but all the birds followed us well, knowing that they were heading back to their home.

The coldest air of the season is on its way down from the north. We should have temps in the low to mid teens Saturday morning which looks like our first opportunity to fly. Tomorrow morning looks a bit too windy for us to fly, but we will all be ready just in case the forecast is wrong.

Date: December 7, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Third Video Clip

Location:

Pike County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 64 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
902.9 miles

While you are waiting (likely as anxiously as I am as I have relocated to Florida to work on Arrival Event arrangements) for the account of what happened this morning, click the following link for another visual treat.

The link will take you to a video clip (the third to be posted) recently shot by Joe, and we hope to have a fourth processed and posted very shortly. Migration '06 Video Clip #3

Date: December 7, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Up and then back down

Location:

Pike County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 64 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
902.9 miles

It was 46 degrees with northwest winds at 8 to 13mph on the ground this morning in Pike County, GA. Aloft the winds were blowing 21 to 23. Despite the conditions, the pilots decided to try and give it a go.

Chris was lead pilot today and took off with all 18 birds; 17 on one wing and one lone bird on the other. Not far out, the pilots reported bumpy air so the next stopover location was already in question when it became too much and they decided to turn around.

Everyone is now back on the ground in Pike County. They will wait for tomorrow to try again and hope for more favorable conditions. More news will be posted to the Field Journal as soon as it is received.

Date: December 6, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Grounded

Location:

Pike County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 63 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
902.9 miles

Sad news - calm on the ground but that's not the case aloft. Cool, overcast day, but the winds are strong and out of the south.

Looks very good for a flight tomorrow to southern Georgia.

Date: December 5, 2006 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

A Migration Tale

Location:

Pike County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 62 - 106.5 Miles Accumulated Distance:
902.9 miles

While I was sitting in our stopover hosts' kitchen this afternoon responding to media calls in between answering emails, Walter came over and sat down at the table beside me.

"How is MileMaker going?" he asked.

"I haven't checked it the last couple of days," I said. "How about I do that now."

I went on line and clicked the MM page to see the total miles sponsored to date - and what did I find? There were 902 miles sponsored.

"What a coincidence," I exclaimed! "When we stopped today we reached the 902.9 mile mark on the migration."

As Walter and I chuckled at the unlikelihood of this happenstance, our hosts walked into the kitchen. I crossed the room to break the bad news to them.

"I am so sorry," I said. "But we've just checked the status of MileMaker and we've run out of money. Your place is mile 902.9 and that's exactly how many miles have been sponsored. "So," I deadpanned, "we’ll all have to stay on here - perhaps indefinitely."

Bonnie and Doug did a bit of a double take and just stared at me for a moment. Then Doug, perhaps remembering the gang being stuck here for five days least year, broke up the whole crew when he piped up and said, "Oh no, you don't. C'mon Bonnie, I know how to get this bunch out of here. Let's go on line and sponsor a mile."

Date: December 5, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Weekly Tracking & Monitoring Team Update

Location:

Pike County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 62 - 106.5 Miles Accumulated Distance:
902.9 miles

Thanks to the Tracking Team members who supply us with this report: Richard Urbanek (USF&WS), Tally Love, Serena Grover, S. Kerley, and Sara Zimorski (ICF). Females are indicated by *. Locations are in Wisconsin unless indicated otherwise. DAR = direct autumn release. The Eastern Migratory Population contains 65 birds (36 males and 29 females).

At the beginning of last week distribution was: Wisconsin (12), Illinois (2), Indiana (16), Tennessee (1), Florida (18, eight of which were at unknown locations), and undetermined (16). The arctic air mass that moved into Wisconsin on Nov. 29 resulted in the remaining 12 Whooping cranes at Necedah initiating their migration on the 29th and 30th. As a result, distribution at the end of the week was: Illinois (6), Indiana (18), Michigan (1), Tennessee (1), Florida (18, five of which were at unknown locations), and undetermined (21).

Autumn Migration – last known locations
THE FIRST FAMILY: 211, 217*, and W601* remained at their first migration stop in Vermillion and Parke Counties, IN  since their arrival on Nov. 19.
102*, 306 and 201* - Greene and Daviess Counties, IN
107* - Jackson County, IN
208 and 313* and 213 and 218* - Sullivan County, IN
209* and 416 - Newton County, IN (were no longer present when the area was checked Dec. 3.)
212 and 419* - not detected since leaving on migration Nov. 30.
216 – last detected in SW Indiana Nov. 19.
301* and 311 – near Lafayette, IN Nov.20.
303* and 317 – White County, IN Nov 22
307, 501*, 511, and 519* - N. Illinois Nov. 9
309* and 520* - Wabash County, IL
310, 402, 403, and 412 – Allen County, KY Dec. 3
312* and 316 and DAR627 DAR632* - Jasper County, IN
318 – Believed to be Michigan
407 and 508* - Marathon County Nov 30
408 and 501* - Green County, IN Nov 27
420* - Jasper-Pulaski SFWA, IN
514 – In Florida
DAR528* - Jasper County, IN
DAR 533* - Meigs County, TN
DAR626 and DAR628 -  Jackson County, IN
DAR 627 and DAR632* - Kankakee County IL

In Florida
101 and 202*, 105 and 204*, 205, 401, 415*, 502*, 503, 505, 506, 507, 509, 516, 521*, 523, 524, and DAR532 .

WCEP and the Tracking Team thank  Windway Capital Corporation and pilots Mike Frakes and Gene Calkins, Marty Folk (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), Jim Bergens (Indiana DNR), staff of Muscatatuck NWR (FWS), and Wally Akins (Tennessee WRA) for tracking assistance.

Date: December 5, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Brook Pennypacker

Subject:

Special Day

Location:

Pike County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 62 - 106.5 Miles Accumulated Distance:
902.9 miles

A few minutes ago I was standing sentry duty at a small mud puddle in the woods with 18 birds and Chris, having landed about a half hour before that. It's called 'hiding the birds,' while we await Charlie and the pen trailer. Small price to pay for having skipped over a stop due to the perfect flying conditions and a benevolent long awaited tailwind. Had we been blessed with such days earlier in the migration we would have passed over Florida long ago, and now be somewhere over South America.

Joe came down to our 'special puddle' to inform me that Liz is at the house and ready to shoot me if I don't immediately begin this update. So here I am sitting in the beautiful and welcoming home of our hosts', Doug and Bonnie as I endeavor to chronicle the last few hours without inventing too much drama or telling too many lies.

Like I said, it was a perfect morning, made all the more special by the wonderful hospitality of our hosts Bob and Eleanor. Bob, a retired airline pilot kept us entertained and enthralled in his quiet and understated way, with stories of his early flying experiences - like teaching a one armed man to fly and the like. He is rebuilding an old biplane that last flew in 1937 and was previously worked on by two guys that build Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis. One was 'Wrong Way Corrigan.'

Calhoun Airport was dark, cold and frosty when we arrived this morning, but we could already see our new cover pilot, Jeff Perry, in the traffic pattern overhead setting up for a landing. He would be joined by Dave Mattingly, who you will remember provided top cover for us last year. No more had Jeff landed than I heard the familiar voice of my old triking friend, Chuck Goodrum, a guy I hadn’t seen in a long, long time.

Years ago, Chuck produced the first American magazine devoted exclusively to trikes - the type of ultralights we fly - and it was through his efforts, coupled with the sheer force of his incredible enthusiasm that kick started the early acceptance of trikes in America, and the popularity they enjoy today. But like all enjoyable reunions, this one was too short, as we took off to begin the next leg of the migration.

Walt and Laurie opened the pen gates as Marie Swamp Monstered, and 17 birds blasted out of the pen and into the morning air. One bird remained in the pen and was picked up by Joe. We headed up the runway and passed Bob's hangar where he and Eleanor and family got what I hope was a great view of the birds - a sight they so deserved to experience.

It was especially comforting to hear Jeff Perry's voice from his top cover plane above keeping us a safe distance from some very busy Atlanta airspace. It was also comforting to know that Dave Mattingly was sitting next to him so I didn’t have to worry about my bicycle being stolen while I was airborne.

The birds were at their magical best, and with Chris flying chase behind me informing me when a bird was starting to drop or anticipating any other problems I might have, we settled into a long flight. My video camera even got a workout, until that all too familiar, 'low battery' sign, like the one that flashes behind my eyeballs at the end of each day - began flickering. I yelled quietly to myself, 'Eat your heart out National Geographic.'

Over our original stop we flew, as a sweet tailwind pushed us on to the next stop. Then, before you could scream, “I’m tired of migration and I want to go home!” we were over a small crowd of Craniacs Liz had assembled at an intersection, and then on the ground at Doug and Bonnie's.

Each day is a gift that is a given, but today is a special one, the kind that lifts a tired migration crew's spirits, lightens everyone's step, and makes smiles more quick to appear on our faces.

Now we begin to prepare for tomorrow.

Date: December 5, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Great Fly Day

Location:

Pike County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 62 - 106.5 Miles Accumulated Distance:
902.9 miles

It was a great fly day with more than 100 miles covered in a flight of just over two hours.

The lead pilot’' report will be posted later - as soon as Brooke's other duties are finished and he has time to compose it.

Note: Apologies to our members for the late EarlyBird e-bulletin. The fly-in planned for Pike County this morning meant I had to be on the road by 5:30am and as a result had no opportunity to get the email off to everyone.

Stopover Trivia - Pike County, GA (by VN (Vi) White)
Named for Zebulon Pike, a war hero and mid western explorer, Pike County was established in 1822. Zebulon Pike was never documented as having set foot in Pike County, or to have climbed Pikes Peak, the 14,115 foot mountain in Colorado also named for him.

Located 25 miles south of metro Atlanta, Pike County's 218.4 square miles is home to 13,700 inhabitants - a population density of just 62 people per square mile. Zebulon is the county seat and boasts 1,200 citizens and a County Court House built in 1895 which is now on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The county shares its name with five other counties in the U.S. In addition, several communities have Pike in their names. There is a Pike Island between the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, and Pike himself gave the name Pikes Peak to a 500-foot bluff on the Mississippi River. It's fairly certain he actually had been to both of those places.

Date: December 4 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Georgia Flyover!!

Location:

Gordon County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 61 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
796.4 miles

Craniacs, birders, wildlife enthusiasts, conservationists, and the general public are invited to gather to watch a ‘fly-in’ tomorrow morning as the ultralight-led flock approaches its next stopover in Pike County. OM’s pilots hope to be able to lead the cohort to where Georgia residents can catch a rare glimpse of one of North America’s most endangered birds.

Watchers should gather south of the community of Zebulon, at the intersection of US19 and Old Zebulon Road, no later than 8:30 AM. It is important to remember two things. The first is that flying with birds is not an exact science so it is impossible to predict a fixed flight line or flight time – but the pilots are going to do their best to provide a good view. The second thing to keep in mind is that the possibility also exists for the Pike County being skipped should flying conditions permit.

Dress warmly if you plan on coming to the fly-in, and please remember to be considerate of drivers using the highways and to park and disembark from your vehicles safely.

As always, our ability to fly at all tomorrow will be dictated by the weather. We hope it cooperates so that those of you who make the trip will not be disappointed.

Date: December 4 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Migration News

Location:

Gordon County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 61 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
796.4 miles

Dr. Richard Urbanek advised OM today that an artic air mass that settled into central Wisconsin November 30 seems to have convinced DAR627 and DAR632 to begin their migration. They left the Necedah NWR with 312 and 316, so if they stay in their company they will have two migration veterans to show them the way.

"Intern Serena Grover tracked the group of four birds to Kendall County, IL, where they landed to roost," said Richard." (see Serena's photo below) A major sleet/snowstorm occurred that night and continued into the next morning, but the group resumed their migration nonetheless, moving on to Kankakee County, IL where they foraged in harvested cornfields," he said.

Richard noted that the other two DAR juveniles 626 and 628) remain on a Sandhill crane staging area near in Jackson County, IN.

Date: December 4 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Back stuck on the ground

Location:

Gordon County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 61 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
796.4 miles

Clear, cool day with light winds on the ground, but that is not the case up top. 30+ mph winds stopped the take off this morning.

Stopover Trivia - State of Georgia (by VN (Vi) White)
If you spot an automobile license plate with a peach on it, you'll know without having to read the name of the state that it's from Georgia, The Peach State. It ranks third in the country in peach production although peaches are only 0.5% of all the crops produced in Georgia.

The history of peaches in the state goes back to 1571 when Franciscan monks planted peaches on islands along Georgia's coast. By the mid 1700s Cherokee Indians cultivated them and by the early 1800s many home orchards had been planted. After the Civil War the farmers were looking for alternatives to cotton. Having lost their slave labor, they sought crops that were less labor intensive. Also the boll weevil wreaked havoc on cotton making that crop unprofitable.

Today, peach orchards are concentrated in Crawford, Peach, Taylor and Macon Counties situated along the fall line. This area is called 'The Piedmont' and is the transition zone between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Coastal Plain.

Recipe for a Georgia Peach Cooler, one serving:
1.       Cut a Georgia peach into four pieces, remove skin and pit.
2.       Blend together until smooth: peach, 1 Tbsp honey, 1 cup milk, ½ chilled (may be frozen) banana, and ½ cup crushed ice.
3.       Serve immediately in a tumbler.  Enjoy, y'all. 

Date: December 3 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Photos

Location:

Gordon County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 60 - 73.4 Miles Accumulated Distance:
796.4 miles

View the photos here in the 2006 Migration Photo Journal.

You can see why Richard referred to the beautiful morning in his Field Journal posting below. The colors were spectacular. Photo by Joe.

Two birds fly off Chris's right wing on their way from Hiwassee to Gordon County, GA. In far the background is the Cumberland Ridge and the Hiwassee River is in the foreground. Photo by Chris.

Marie and Charlie make room in the DNR van while Walter and Laurie wait to load 601, one of today's non-fliers. The chick can't see out which is why the crew is not costumed. Photo by Bev.

OM's four trikes on the ground in Gordon County down the way from the pensite just before the pilots took off again to hangar their aircraft. Photo by Chris.

Date: December 3 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Richard vanHeuvelen

Subject:

Georgia At Last!

Location:

Gordon County, GA

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 60 - 73.4 Miles Accumulated Distance:
796.4 miles

We woke up to a beautiful morning. With light winds forecasted from the south it looked like a maybe fly-day. Deciding to try it, the pilots set out on the 35 minute drive to the airport where our trikes were hangared. While it was a long drive to the hangar it is only be a short flight to the pen site.

When we got to the airport the sun was rising in the east - red, purple and orange, with yellow streaks across the sky. There was no frost, so I pushed my trike outside and began preparing for flight. Soon we were airborne and headed to the pen. There was actually a tail wind and calm air. I landed at the pen and taxied to the end away from the birds. This is the only way to take off from this site.

The ground crew released the birds, but they were slow to come out. While one costumed character went inside the pen to encourage the reluctant birds out of the pen, the other danced around outside the pen with a bunch of exuberant birds. This was looking good. The caretakers disappeared into the pen leaving all the birds outside the pen dancing around. So I took off flying over them expecting them to excitedly follow. Nothing! They just stood there looking up at me so around I went again. A few followed this time - but most still just looked.

Third time around the Swamp Monster came out and off we all went. As I headed on course, one by one the peeled off back to the pen, but wouldn't land due to the Swamp Creature’s cavorting around the pen site. Back again they followed, but again they start leaving the wing. With all the confusion of trikes and birds in the sky I manage to leave with six. Brooke eventually coaxed seven and Chris three.

This left two behind who would not follow. One went back to the pen and the other landed on a sand bar on the river. Joe kept an eye on that one, trying to get it to come with him. It was reluctant, so he went to check on the other one and finding it at the pensite he returned to the sand bar and the bird finally decided to fly. With time running out he led it back to the pen, leaving it for the ground crew to deal with.

Mean time, Brooke was out ahead with seven birds, Chris behind with three, and I had six; 5 on my left wing and 1 on my right. While flying like this one is constantly looking back left and right, to check on the birds as things can change very quickly. One look to the left to check on the five, a look to the right to check on the one and ' there it was, gone.' In the brief instant looking the other way it simply left and turned back. Unable to locate it I radioed Charlie in his tracking van and gave him the coordinates. How ever, it turned out that it just turned around and flew back to the pen leaving the ground crew to box three birds.

As we climbed to over 3,000 feet altitude from sea level (ASL), the air got rougher and the tail wind slowed down to a head wind. With an easterly wind, we flew on the east side of the ridges trying for smoother air. Sometimes it was working and some times not. At times considering an alternate short stop, but this would be less than favorable, due to facing high ridges the next morning.

Persevering, the air smoothed out a little and the ground speed increased slightly. With fifteen birds in good shape we pressed on to Gordon County, GA. Somewhere along the way Chris and I managed to get ahead of Brooke. Getting split up at the beginning of the flight meant we all had different headings and were flying at different altitudes. This resulted in Brooke having more headwind than Chris and I.

With five chicks challenging the wing for the last 20 miles we made better head way. Finally after over two and a half hours I circled the pen, landed safely and put my five chicks in the pen before calling Chris’s three chicks down. Once those three were penned, next were the seven Brooke had, but they wanted to keep following him so he landed with them. After putting the last fliers away we flew to our hosts' main runway for some coffee and taco soup. Yes, we sure are well fed everywhere we stop - God bless the south!

Date: December 3 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Georgia Bound

Location:

Meigs County, TN

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 60 - ? Miles Accumulated Distance:
723.0 miles

Departure from Hiwassee Refuge in Meigs County was later than usual and slower than usual.

The pilots had a real crane round-up on their hands this morning. 15 birds flew, 3 are being crated for transport. A good size crowd gathered at the gazebo at Hiwassee to watch the departure. It was great to see so many people out, and to meet so many supporters that we hear from throughout the year. Nice to have faces to go with the names.

Delay in posting the Field Journal entry yesterday and reporting today is due to difficulty picking up a wireless internet signal. Hopefully it will be easier later today as we move south into Georgia. As usual, the lead pilot's report will be posted as soon as we can later today.

Next stopover is Gordon County, GA. The pilots are already on their way of course, and the ground crew is packing up and will also be enroute shortly - and me too.

Date: December 2, 2006 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Over the Mountain

Location:

Meigs County, TN

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 59 - 47.2 Miles Accumulated Distance:
723.0 miles

Public Viewing Opportunity at Hiawassee Refuge
Once again this year, Craniacs and the public will have an opportunity to view a departure flyover from the Gazebo on the Hiwassee Refuge. We are hopeful for a departure tomorrow morning and suggest you be on site by 7am.

As always, please remember the day's weather determines our ability to fly, so keep in mind it may or may not happen. 

The Hiwassee State Wildlife Refuge is between the towns of Dayton and Cleveland Tennessee. To reach the refuge from I-75 take exit number 25 onto Highway 60 and go north on 60 toward Dayton passing through the small town of Birchwood. Brown signs will lead you east (right) on to Shadden Road, then right on to Blythe Ferry Lane, and left onto Priddy Road. Priddy Road is a one lane road with two-way traffic, so drive with caution as you go to the parking area and gazebo.

The photo on the left below was taken today by Chris Gillikson as he crossed the Cumberland Ridge. The one on the right was taken by Walter Sturgeon as today's lead pilot, Joe Duff, was just lifting off the grassy strip in front of the pen with seven of the birds.

View the photos here in the 2006 Migration Photo Journal.

Date: December 2, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

Over the Mountain

Location:

Cumberland County, TN

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 59 - 47.2 Miles Accumulated Distance:
723.0 miles

'Over the Mountain' is a generic expression that can be used for having cleared a great obstacle or accomplished a miraculous feat. For us it is true in both the literal and metaphorical sense. Today we crossed the Cumberland Ridge. Part of the Appalachians, they are not impressive by geological standards. They were once higher than the Rockies but have been warn smooth over time until they could be cross in a conventional aircraft with only a 1000 feet of altitude. Even our trikes could clear them easily if we were able to climb at full power. But with birds in tow they represent a challenge that inspires a story for each time we have attempted this journey, and this year was not different.

Our Crossville, Tennessee host had to tolerate us of 11 days if you count the day we arrived and the morning we left. That’s above and beyond the call of duty for stopover hosts, 10 to 12 people invading your home with no idea of when they are leaving. But Tom is exceedingly generous and has a large home with ample room, so this layover lets the crew spread out and is always good for moral. 

To give us a slight advantage we pen the birds 12 miles to the north. This allows us some time to gain altitude before we attempt to cross the ridge. After 10 days in the pen we were not sure how the birds would react. We let them out to exercise a few times but that’s a long interval without seeing the aircraft. Thanks to the generosity of a gentleman from Nashville we had the birds penned in a long narrow field that is surrounded on three sides by a deep river gorge and on the fourth but a lockable gate. It was a perfect spot despite our long stay.

It was my turn to lead so I took off to the south with 17 birds behind me and one still trying to exit the pen. It wasn’t long before the turned back and another aerial rodeo ensued. Brooke picked up a couple and at one point Richard had seventeen but the order changed depending on who was going in which direction. It was clear that there were reluctant birds in the mix and those few  kept turning the others around. Brooke managed to get 4 birds on the wing and knew that circling back would only add to the confusion, so he announced his departure and headed on course. Richard collected two other strays and followed him, keeping a distance so as to not interfere.

With some of the birds and two of the aircraft out of the way, Chris and I were slowly able to get their attention. We were five miles out when they turned again. This time Chris picked up 5 and headed west while I made a large circle that intersected the other seven. It seemed to me that I had all the reluctant birds because they broke several time while Chris was able to climb albeit slightly.

Each time I gained altitude one bird would drop below and I would have to give it all away to retrieve him. By the time we reached the ridge we didn’t have near enough altitude to clear it so I turned east into the wind and slowly worked us up. Chris was somewhere to the west and I heard Richard report that he was 19 miles from the destination and almost 3000 feet high and Brooke was a few miles behind him.

Heading north east directly into the wind we slowed to a ground speed of 19 miles per hour and repeatedly gained almost enough altitude to make the crossing, then lost it again to collect a straggler. Finally we came to a saddle in the ridge and I turned south clearing the trees with a hundred feet to spare. The birds all charged ahead as if intimidated by this dark mass that loomed up to catch them. I checked my stopwatch and realized it had taken 51 minutes to travel 12 miles and gain 1200 feet.

Once up over the plateau, the air smoothed and the birds fell into line like they knew the danger was behind them. I headed on course with 28 mile to go and turned my head from wingtip to wing tip, counting birds – and then there were only 6. I checked behind us and circled back and 500 feet below us was one bird. Richard was making his descent into our destination and reported rough air down low so was not about to give all my hard earned altitude. Six on the wing is better that one in the trees or so I convinced myself.  

We kept going while I checked over my shoulder and called Charlie Shafter (Patuxent WRC) in the tracking van. Although he must drive the route that we fly and deal with traffic and mountain roads, Charley has an uncanny knack for being were we need him or only a few miles away. When I was losing birds on the north side of the ridge he was standing by if needed. When I lost this one on top of the plateau he was somehow in place for the rescue.

We crossed a large area of forest and despite the fact that the errant bird was directly behind us I could still see him coming. I could also see that we were abut to cross some open fields and I thought he might land so a recorded the coordinates and read them off to Charlie. I was hoping the bird would keep following because just past the field was the southern edge of the plateau and we could see our destination far below. I began a slow descent and heard Charlie say he has a strong signal on number 612 confirming that he had landed.

Richard landed first at Hiwassee and had called Brooke’s birds down to land with his. He was doing the same with the five that followed Chris when I arrived. As I circled to make a slow approach and pass over the pen so Richard could call mine down when one peeled off and landed in the midst of a hundred Sandhills in the corn stubble on the other side of the pond. The other 5 landed next to the pen after a 1 hour and 31 minute flight.

Chris and I circled overhead hope our lone birds would join us but it was obvious he was preoccupied chasing off the Sandhills. There he stood in a crowd of grey birds I a little hole as they all gave him his space.

We discussed the situation on the radio but had very few options. Richard would have to walk a mile through mud to get around the pond. Charlie was on top of the ridge collecting number 12 and neither Chris nor I could find a closer place to land. We were worried that if the we left to park the aircraft and drive back, the Sandhills might take off for places unknown with our bird following.

The air down low was as rough as Richard reported and getting worse as we circled without knowing what to do. I picked out a field and flew the approach getting bounced as I dropped below the trees. I had to add full power just to recover the descent and landed in the only field available. I climbed out just in time to be informed that I was actually not of refuge property and the owner would be furious if he showed up. So I taxied to the far end of the pasture and took off again not wanting to anger the locals.

I was reluctant to fly too close to the feeding Sandhill and our one bird, after all this habitat is preserved for them. But we had run our of options so I circled low and the entire flock took off with one white bird at the end. I moved in a gave him a wingtip and he followed me over to the pen. Richard saw us coming and turned on his vocalizer and the last bird landed next to him.

Thereafter we fought a strong headwind and very rough air to fly the 6 miles to the Mark Anton Airport where they have generously offered us hangar space for the night.

Once on the ground a Cessna 206 taxied up and out jumped Mike Frakes of Windway Capital and Sara Zimorski from ICF. They are members of the WCEP Tracking Team and had called on their way in to see if we needed help. I had asked them to check on Charlie and they reported that they picked up the signal and were tracking it south. However their suspicions were confirmed when it led them right to the pen. They had been tracking the bird in the back of the van. Nonetheless we are grateful for the help.

Date: December 2, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Facing the "Beast"

Location:

Cumberland County, TN

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 59 - ? Miles Accumulated Distance:
674.8 miles

All four trikes are in the air with all 18 birds. There was some reluctance on the birds' part this morning, and it took some convincing by both ground crew and pilots that today was not another day off for them. A bit of a rodeo as a result, but the lead pilot's report will give you the story later today.

Now it's time for me to disconnect and load the computer gear and get my tail out of here too and head over the mountains to Hiwassee. Boy will it feel good to finally get to the 'other side'.

Date: December 2, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Maybe - Maybe Not

Location:

Cumberland County, TN

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 59 - ? Miles Accumulated Distance:
674.8 miles

We emerged into the crispy, cold to find everything coated in a heavy layer of frost. The scurrying around this morning was purposeful, had an edge, as everyone anticipated a fly-day. Temp in camp at 4:30am was 23 degrees and the winds were blowing 7mph with gusts to 11.

The important stats though, were those aloft. 25 mph winds out of the north are much stronger than we wanted to see. Equally crucial this morning however is the cloud cover. With the reported low ceiling, the question became, is it high enough to allow us get the trikes and birds up and over the Cumberland Ridge.

As I type this it is 5:45am CST and the ground crew is enroute to the pensite while the pilots are headed for the airfield. The aircraft are stored in our host's hangar so no time will be lost this morning de-icing. They will put up a test trike in order to make the go - no go call. Stand by.

No EarlyBird e-bulletin this morning Our bulk email delivery service provider notified us that their system will be unavailable to us today as they shut down for regular maintenance. Please continue to check here for today's news.

Date: December 1, 2006 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

Drive - Not Fly

Location:

Cumberland County, TN

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 58 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
674.8 miles

After over a week stuck on the north side of the Cumberland Ridge, several supporters have asked why we don’t crate the birds and drive them to the next stop. We get emails daily with this suggestion. Today I tried to explain to my 7 year old daughter why I couldn’t come home just yet, and when I told her about the mountain ahead of us, even she asked why we don't drive the birds over.

Our decision to stick it out is based on a determination to give these birds every opportunity to become migratory. It is supported by many years of research, and the experience of 15 migration studies with 4 species. Or maybe it’s just plain stubbornness.

In earlier studies with Canada geese we attempted a stage-by-stage migration, where birds were trucked between stopovers 25 to 50 miles apart. At each location we released them to fly and observe their surroundings. In the spring, none of these bird returned to the introduction site so we know they were not able to ‘connect the dots’. We also trucked geese all the way south with the same results. In fact many communities have successfully dealt with their nuisance goose problem by collecting them while they are in molt and relocating them.

In 1998 we conducted a study with Sandhill cranes to see if we could teach them to follow our aircraft yet somehow learn wild behavior. We knew from earlier work that they would follow us on the migration and return on their own, but those birds were overly tame. So our objective in this study was simply to test for wildness.

To minimize the cost (back when we were self-funded) we trucked them to South Carolina where there were no other Sandhills that could influence their behavior. Some members of the Recovery Team felt they would migrate back despite being trucked. To assist them, we used our ultralights to lead them the last hundred miles so they would at least know from which direction they had arrived. In the spring they were unapproachable by humans and exhibited wild behavior so our experiment was a success, however the migration was a problem. They wandered extensively up and down the coast and ended up in New York State.

Dr. David Ellis of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center conducted several migration experiments with cranes conditioned to follow costume handlers who rode in the back of an army surplus ambulance. (also cost effective) He too found that birds have a better chance of returning if they fly their first southbound migration.

Brooke Pennypacker once helped Environmental Studies at Airlie, Virginia to conduct a passive migration. Geese were conditioned to ride in a cage that was suspended below an airship. They were carried along a short migration and able to view the passing countryside. It was reasoned that if they experienced the migration visually but without actually having to fly, or be conditioned to follow an aircraft, they might have some awareness of their location. Further study was proposed but the birds failed to return.

With many species the idea of trucking them to the next stop would work perfectly. Pigeons have a homing instinct that is almost infallible, and other birds seem to know their migration route through some sort of genetic instinct. But it is apparent that at least geese, swans and cranes learn it by following their parents. As surrogates we assume that responsibility.

Many people who follow our progress will know that on occasion we have been forced to transport birds in crates to the next stopover. Fatigue may cause them to drop out, or some unexplained reluctance keeps them from leaving the pen with the rest of the birds. In fact that happened at the beginning of this migration. But we have never been in a situation were all the birds missed a complete section of the migration. On each migration some of the birds make the entire trip and the others have only missed a leg or a few sections. During the return journey they fly as a group, and maybe their combined knowledge is what gets them home.

It is my belief, based strictly on my own observations, that our birds need to experience the migration first hand. We know from earlier work that landmarks do not play a critical role in their ability to navigate, but the method they use is still a mystery. Likely it is a combination of factors with no one guidance system that reliably gets them back. Unlike humans they are not subjected to artificial stimulants that remove us from our environment. They don’t ride in cars or live in buildings. Once they are transported to Necedah they spend their entire lives outdoors. They see the sun rise every day from the same direction and they only move under their own steam. It seems to me this would give them a better sense of direction than ours.

Maybe it’' as simple as that, they know where they are because they got there themselves and that chain of knowledge is broken when they are put in crates and transported somewhere unfamiliar. If we trucked them to the far side of the ridge they would have no awareness of the mountains and maybe they could be pushed off course when they encounter that obstacle on the way back.

All of this is speculation, but we do know that while taking them south in crates does not work, leading them there does. How far we can transport them remains to be seen, but after investing this much money and effort to get them this far we are not prepared to risk their ability to migrate, simply because we have been stuck for a week. As the entire team will attest, this is not about us – it's about the birds.

Date: December 1, 2006 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

BIG winds - New Record

Location:

Cumberland County, TN

Distance Traveled: Migration Day 58 - 0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
674.8 miles

Walking down the path headed for the coffee pot this morning I had to lean hard into the wind; and that was on the ground. At altitude the winds are blowing 40mph. We won't be flying.

The last two days and nights the sound of rushing wind has been constant. What is good however is that it has shifted somewhat - now out of the WSW instead of directly out of the south, and should shift around further by tomorrow morning. The wind shift combined with a system bringing in colder air makes a flight tomorrow a good possibility.

On the ground early this morning it was 36 degrees, a 30 degree drop from yesterday morning. The thunderstorms and rain predicted to continue from overnight haven't happened. The sky is clearing, the sun is breaking through, so perhaps the light rain/possible snow predicted to arrive by noon won’t happen either.

This being our ninth day in Cumberland County breaks the previous record for most consecutive down days set in 2005 when we were stuck in Morgan County, IN for eight days.

Where we were on December 1st in past years versus 2006

Year

Location

Migration Day

2001

Gilchrist County, FL

46

2002

Finished Migration Nov.30

-

2003

Terrell County, GA

47

2004

Walker County, GA

53

2005

Pike County, GA

49

2006

Cumberland County, TN

58


NOTICE TO MEMBERS

No EarlyBird tomorrow - Saturday, December 2nd. Our bulk email delivery service provider notified us that their system will be unavailable to us tomorrow, as they will shut down for regular maintenance. Please check the website Field Journal for news.

Stopover Trivia - Tennessee's Famous Names (by VN (Vi) White)
Famous people born in Tennessee include Davy Crockett, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, Morgan Freeman, James Agee, Alvin York (Cumberland County), Cybill Shepherd, Tina Turner, Lester Flatt and Benjamin L. Hooks.

If you're all shook up about Elvis Presley, the ‘King of rock 'n' roll’, not being on that list, it's because he wasn't born in Tennessee but in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1935. He moved to Memphis at the age of 13, and died there at his Graceland home on August 16, 1977.

 Unless you're a devotee of Elvis you may not know these facts about him:
- He had a twin brother, Jesse, who was stillborn.
- Various and diverse music disciplines were integrated to become his trademark style: pop and country music of the time, black R&B, and gospel music heard at the all-night gospel sings he frequently attended.
- Elvis was first billed as "The Hill Billy Cat".
- His singing career took off in 1954 on the Sun Records label and in three years he was an international sensation.
- More than one billion of his records have been sold, with more of them having won gold, platinum or multi-platinum awards than any other artist.
- He won three Grammys, (14 nominations) as well as the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at the age of 36.
- Elvis was the star of 33 successful films.
- His TV appearances, specials and live concerts, which often had record-breaking attendance, made history. He made over 1,100 personal appearances in eight years.
- He served his country in the U.S. Army without any special privileges that might have been accorded a celebrity.

 

          

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