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Date: January 31, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: KUDOS AND MANY THANKS TO OUR TOP COVER FOLKS Location: Homosassa, FL

As this past migration has once again proven, some of the most important and integral people on the OM Team are our Top Cover pilots. This is the second (or is it the third?) migration that top cover pilot Jack Wrighter has participated in, and he and his spotters, along with long-time top cover pilots Don and Paula Lounsbury, deserve much of the credit for the safe and sound delivery of the Class of 2007 to their wintering ground in Florida. We could not have done it without them!

WHAT THE HECK IS A TOP COVER ANYWAY?
by Jack Wrighter

That was a question asked by one of the kids surrounding my Cessna aircraft shortly after landing at Dunnellon following the last leg of this year’s record setting migration.

Before I could answer, three of the kids had their own explanations. One said, "Top cover is what the ultralight pilots put over their wings at night to keep the frost and bugs and stuff off." Another added, "Nope, top cover is what the ground crew puts over the pen to keep the cranes from flying away and getting lost."

The third answer was nearly correct. A bright young lady, who had been following this migration from the start, stated that, “top cover was the airplane flown above the ultralights and cranes by that nice lady pilot who kept them out of restricted airspace and helped locate lost birds.”

She was referring to Paula Lounsbury who, along with her husband, Don, flew top cover for the first half of the migration in their Cessna 182 airplane. I stepped in for the second half of the migration after being recruited for a second year by Dave Mattingly from the organization, "Touch our Planet".

I volunteered two weeks of my time and the use of my airplane to complete the top cover duties for the 2007 migration. My two week stint ended up lasting nine weeks due to the continuous bad weather. Dave Mattingly, John Cooper, and Tom Miller, all retired commercial pilots, along with my wife, Judi, all volunteered their time as spotters on different legs between stopover points. Between myself, Dave, John, and Tom we probably have the equivalent of over 100 years of flying experience, but not one of us could change the inclement weather which hindered us for the duration.

So - what the heck IS Top Cover? The young lady at Dunnellon pretty much summed it up. The top cover pilots and spotters fly in continuous slow circles about 500 to 700 feet above the ultralights and cranes, keeping them in view at all times when in flight. From that vantage point, we have an excellent view of the ultralights and cranes below us.

The reason we circle is because the cranes and ultralights fly at about 35 miles per hour, and we cannot fly that slow. The top cover planes and crews are typically in the background and no one hears much from us unless there is a problem. We would prefer that the pilots never heard from us, but unfortunately that is not always the case.

Our functions, in addition to watching the ultralights and cranes, include establishing and maintaining communications with FAA air traffic controllers near major airports, restricted areas, and military operations areas. We also monitor the changing weather and wind conditions during the flights, and relay messages from the ultralight pilots to the OM crew members on the ground.

My three most memorable episodes on this migration were the successful location of 733, the bird that went missing Louisville, KY; locating the four cranes that had been spooked by a fog bank and scattered south of Valdosta, GA; and finally, finding the opening in the solid cloud cover over the Dunnellon airport that allowed the ultralights and cranes to safely descend for the arrival flyover at the airport and then land successfully at the Halpata pensite.

Paula and Don Lounsbury could probably add their adventures from the first half of the migration. It was rumored that the two of them were intercepted by F-16s during their top cover duties. That makes a good story, however, it was not true. Perhaps this bit of folklore comes from the similar scenario depicted in the movie, Fly Away Home.

Now, after nine weeks of sleeping in campers, airport terminals, and on hangar floors at one end of the spectrum, and an occasional hotel or guest accommodations offered by our hosts at the other end, I am really enjoying being home and sleeping in my own bed again.

In one sense I am relieved this migration is over, but I must admit that I miss the entire team and the cranes already. What a privilege to be associated with such a fine group of professionals dedicated to an incredibly worthwhile cause.

Date: January 31, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: we have a winner Location: Homosassa, FL
Last fall Super Craniac Nancy Drew of North Dakota donated a beautiful quilt for OM to raffle as a fundraiser. Thanks to the striking quality and beauty of Nancy’s quilt, we sold hundreds of tickets to supporters from all over North America. A quilting publication work even featured her hand-made work of art.

We started selling raffle tickets in September at the Necedah CraneFest with a promise that we would make the draw at the Arrival Event at migration's end. In front of the hundreds gathered to view the arrival flyover, Roy Sieger, Supervisor of the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport made the draw. While those gathered watched, we transferred all the entries to a large box, and Roy stirred, and stirred, and stirred before he pulled out the lucky ticket.

The winner? Deke Clarke of Solomon’s, Maryland.

We had to laugh because we happened to overhear the conversation at CraneFest as Rebecca, Deke's better half, tried to convince a reluctant Deke to buy some raffle tickets. Rebecca ended up buying the tickets in Deke’s name, as she said, “I’m jinxed, I never win anything.” Of course now, the tussle is on as Deke is claiming ownership of the quilt. (Many of you will recognize Deke’s name. He was an OM team member and pilot until a stroke a few years ago forced him into retirement. Deke is also one of the two generous individuals who donate their motorhomes to us for use on the migration.)

Our thanks to all who purchased raffle tickets – and to its talented and generous creator, Nancy Drew.

While at the Arrival Event, supporter Jan Doudna presented us with another quilt for raffle. In
the not too distant future we will have everything done and ready to open raffle ticket sales on her terrific handiwork.

Date: January 31, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: Update re 703 Location: Homosassa, FL
As you know, 703 didn't make the final flight with his classmates. He was held back because of an injury he sustained in the travel pen a number of days earlier. 703 is one of the biggest, if not the biggest bird in the Class of 2007. He was also the most dominant and was definitely the alpha bird of the flock - to the point that Bev often called him a bully.

There is a flock mentality in the social structure of some birds. They will try to push out any who are injured or displaying signs of illness. It may be a strategy to eliminate any attraction for predators. 703 was found with a spot of blood on his chest. Whether he picked on one or more of his pen mates once too often and they retaliated, or he ran into the fence in an attempt to get out, once he was marked, he became a target for the others and became a pariah. In his attempts to escape he sustained abrasions to his wrists. (The part of the wing that sticks out the front when they are folded.)

Because he was a target for aggression by the other birds, the crew erected a separate pen for him to keep him apart from the other birds. When we flew the last leg to Chass he was left behind in his pen at Halpata because we were afraid that his injuries would make him incapable of flying the distance.

Brian and Brooke have been going out to the pen regularly to check on him, and he has been examined and treated by the vets, who noted in their report that the crew had done a "great job on treating the wounds." They left a list of instructions for 703's care, from directions for administering meds and inspecting and cleaning wounds to exercising his wing with gentle manual manipulation.

Once the Vets on the Health Team complete the health checks of the rest of the Class of 2007 at Chass, 703 will be reassessed. If he gets the okay, he can be can be moved to join his flockmates in the larger release pen where he can avoid the aggression and if not regain his position in the dominance structure, at least be accepted back in.

Date: January 29, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: belated entry Location: Homosassa, FL

A few days ago we received this Field Journal entry from trike pilot Matt Ahrens who so ably filled in for Joe for a portion of the migration. We owe Matt a huge debt of gratitude. The team is all happy to know that we now have a capable 'on call' pilot - especially such a personable one who just happens to also be a fantastic cook!

On my last flight related to my time working with Operation Migration I was zooming along at 32,000 feet. I wasn’t in an ultralight of course, rather I was on my way home in an American S80 airliner.

It was a fantastic journey for the weeks I spent flying with the Whooping Cranes; camping out with the dedicated crew of Operation Migration; and getting up at 5:00am each day to watch the mist fade away as the sun broke the horizon. I can’t thank Joe Duff and the crew enough.

Starting out in Tennessee and finishing in Florida with a complete series of flights over Georgia, it’s by far the most miles I’ve flown, and still just a pittance of the whole migration route.

For the rest of the team remains the sprint towards the finish line. This year’s migration has taken longer than any migration to date. I know the crew is tired and anxious to be reunited with their family and friends back home.

We met many new supporters and formed lasting relationships with each other. Sharing an experience like this, living in close quarters and flying with our avian companions forms a deep bond that few outside of the pilots and ground crew can ever understand. For my part it was an extraordinary experience.

I’m hoping to be invited back, and look forward to spending time training in Necedah this coming summer. However, until then, I will have my memories, photographs and short movie clips to remind me of the very special moments I spent suspended between the sky and the earth in the company of friends – both those with, and without feathers.

Date: January 29, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: THE DAY AFTER Location: Citrus Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
26.2 miles

Marion County, to Citrus County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1262.1 miles

After three and a half months of trailer living, the migration crew can see an end in sight. There is a lot of organizing and packing going to happen today as some prepare for the trip home. Others of us will fit those chores in as we can over the next three days while we attend the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership's Winter Meetings in Homosassa. In a normal year we've had a break of a month or so before having to present reports and ramp up with plans for the new season. Not so this year. Our meetings start at 8:00am this morning.

Richard, Chris, Brooke and Joe will be doing their best complete entries about their last few flights, fitting some writing in as they can between packing the trikes in the aircraft trailer, readying their gear for departure, and attending the meetings.

You may even see an entry here from Walter Sturgeon and Top Cover pilot Jack Wrighter in the coming days. We received a posting from pilot Matt Ahrens about his time on the migration and that will be posted soon too.

Our final meal together last evening was a very subdued affair. Everyone was happy and relieved but there was more exhaustion around the table than elation. No one wanted to linger over dinner, we toasted, ate, hugged, and said goodnight.

We will continue to post entries to catch you up on past flights, and also share some photos. Postings are likely to appear here very early in the morning or late at night as that work will have to be done before and after the day's meetings. We will also try to pass on any news from the meetings themselves.

Today we can share some photos sent us by Paul Simison. Paul captured these shots at the Dunnellon flyover.
 
Top Left: Richard's flyover with his 3 birds.

Top Right: Brooke's passes by with his 1 bird.

Center Left: Chris approaches with the rest of the Class of 2007.

Center Right: Chris waves to viewers below.

Bottom Left: Chris returning to the airport to greet Craniacs after dropping of his birds at Halpata-Tastanaki.

Date: January 28, 2008 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: saved? by the alberts Location: Citrus Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
26.2 miles

Marion County, to Citrus County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1262.1 miles

I’m afraid I’m going to have to beg forgiveness. Not only haven't I been able to write an update, I haven't gotten to processing photos to post. 'Work-work' was screaming for attention; an almost due grant application and trying to meet the February 3rd deadline for our Member Magazine, INformation.

However, luckily for me – and for readers – Carol and Henry Alberts have come to my rescue. Carol and her husband were at the Dunnellon Arrival Event and sent me a link to their website photo-album. Carol told us, “We were just astounded, it was so awesome.” Their photo-album is a great pictorial of the day and the flyover. To view it click here Carol and Henry’s Album.

Date: January 28, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: The end!! finally!! Location: Marion Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
26.2 miles

Marion County, to Citrus County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1262.1 miles

The 2007 Migration is officially over - in fact it ended at 8:48AM.

After a quick cell phone conversation with Joe (he's headed north and I'm headed south) I started looking for a likely spot where I could pull over and borrow a wifi signal. It took some searching, but I met with success thankfully as I knew you folks would be anxiously waiting for the 'last' word.

It took the pilots just 1 hour and 6 minutes to complete today's leg. It took only 42 minutes to get over the Chass pensite - the rest of the time was spent circling and circling trying to get the birds to land. At last there was just one bird left aloft and still reluctant to land. They think it was 710, and he took a little more coaxing.

The pilots found some strong wind along the way this morning and were hitting speeds of around 60mph until they ran into a heavy crosswind that slowed them to 40mph. For a short while it looked like they might not be able to hold course long enough to overfly this morning's viewing site.

Richard led this morning he landed with 15 of the 16 birds. Brooke had the other one. 703, who sustained a bit of an injury in the pen a few days ago, didn't fly with his classmates this morning.

Joe dropped off the card from his camera somewhere for me so that I could pick it up and give you some pictures from today's flight. There's still 40 miles between me and 'there', but I'm hoping I can find it, get them processed and at least a few up here for you to see before the day/evening is out.

Nathan and I did some loading in and some loading out of the aircraft trailer this morning, organizing a bit to make room for the 4 trikes to be dismantled and packed up. He's now on his way to meet up with the pilots, and I'm on my way to meet with a potential sponsor, with a stop at the post office enroute.

Once again today all the team is here there and everywhere trying to get done all the chores that need to be done at the end of 3 plus months on the road. We also have to get ourselves ready for three days of WCEP Winter Meetings which begin tomorrow in Homosassa. THEN we can go home.

By 5pm tonight the OM Team will stop whatever they are doing to get ready for our annual End of Migration celebration dinner. It is the last time we will all be together until next fall, so along with much hand-shaking and back-slapping there will also be some good-bye hugging going on.

More later when I'm not parked on the side of the road.

Date: January 28, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: Migration Day 97 Location: Marion Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
68.7 miles

Marion County, to Citrus County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1235.9 miles

With Richard in the lead, the cranes and planes just launched on the final leg of the 2007 migration!!! The pilots just radioed to say that they were getting blown to the south of their hoped for course. They are still fighting to keep on course so they can overfly the viewing site in Homosassa - here's hoping.

A successful flight today flight from the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve to the Chassahowitzka refuge will bring to an end a journey of over 1260 miles - one that has taken over three months to complete. We don't want to chance jinxing anything, so we won't celebrate prematurely with any cheers or shouts of joy. We'll save those for later Field Journal entries.

I have to be on the road momentarily and the satellite dish will be packed up for transport, but hopefully I will be able to let you know a little later this morning that the cranes and planes have arrived safely at Chass.

Date: January 28, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: Video of yesterday's flyover Location: Marion Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
68.7 miles

Marion County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1235.9 miles
We know you have been following our progress - and sometimes lack thereof - on a daily basis. Many have told us that through sharing our stories in the field journal they feel like we have 'taken them with us' on our journey south. Thanks to Bryan Farrow we are able to also share the Arrival at Dunnellon with you. Click here to see Bryan's video of the flyover.

Date: January 27, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: Flyover viewing opportunity tomorrow enroute to chassahowitzka Location: Marion Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
68.7 miles

Marion County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1235.9 miles
Will wonders never cease?!? We can't find any negatives that might rule out a flight tomorrow.

The temperature at flight time will be close to the freezing mark, but with the trikes and the top cover plane all tucked up in a hangar at the Dunnellon Airport, icing won't be an issue. The weatherman is promising clear skies, and it seems that surface winds as well as those aloft will not only be manageable, but out of the right direction.

Those wishing to catch a glimpse of the cranes and planes when they pass overhead as they make their way from the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve to the Class of 2007's wintering ground on the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge should congregate at the Wal-Mart parking lot in Homosassa.

This last migration leg is a short one of around 26 miles. This means they will reach the viewing spot very quickly so to be sure you don't miss them you will want to be in place around 7:00-7:15am. Sunrise tomorrow is at 7:17am and the team will be trying to get airborne as close to that time as is possible.

Date: January 27, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: ARRIVAL fLYOVER eVENT dAY Location: Marion Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
68.7 miles

Marion County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1235.9 miles
James was a little optimistic about when we would get time to sit down and post an entry today. He should be excused though, not only is he relatively new to OM, last evening was his wedding reception. We thank his new bride Cara for lending him to us long enough this morning to at least let everyone know we had been able to make the Gilchrist to Marion County flight.

It is after 5pm and this is the first time my fanny has hit a chair since hitting the road at '0-dark-thirty' this morning. But I'm the lucky one. All the rest of the team are still out and about. Some are at the Chass pensite attending to last minute fixes and set up and making sure all is tickety-boo and ready to receive the Class of 2007 tomorrow. The aircraft are being refueled; other crew are on their way back from Gilchrist County having driven back up there in order to pick up vehicles that had to be left behind in camp; and still others are enroute back to the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve to do the afternoon pen check.

We have much to tell you about the today's flight and the Arrival Event and will get as must posted here as quickly as we can. We will have photos too of course. I'm afraid I'm going to have to try your patience a little however. I have several media beating down the door, and a number of OM volunteers that I want to spend some time and heap a ton of thanks on before before they head for home.

Date: January 27, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 96 - SUCCESS!!! Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Halpata-Tastanaki, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1167.2 miles
Great news for everyone waiting on the edge of their seat - they made it!!! After our last communication with Liz in the field, we learned that the second-to-last migration leg was successfully completed today, and that the flyover event was packed with supporting Craniacs.

Check the field journal frequently as more details will likely be arriving soon.

Date: January 26, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: We'll be trying to fly Location: Gilchrist Cty
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Gilchrist County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1167.2 miles
After one last late check of the weather and wind we still think we have a good chance of a flight to Dunnellon in the morning. With the temperatures forecast, fog is a possibility, which may mean a wait for it to lift or dissipate.

Regardless, Walter and I will be heading for the airport early in the morning where we will wait for word from the crew as to whether or not they are able to get in the air.

See you there?

Date: January 26, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 95 Location: On the Road Again
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Gilchrist County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1167.2 miles
When the OM crew woke this morning all they could hear was, 'pitter patter, pitter patter', and it wasn't the sound of little feet. It was the rain dancing on the roof of the trailers and motorhomes. No debate, no kicking dirt in the morning circle, no need to send up a test trike, no agonizing over whether we have a chance for a flight or not - the rain made it all that superfluous.

Even without the inclement weather it is doubtful we could have made a flight today. Surface winds were favorable, but aloft the planes and cranes would have been facing a 20mph wind right on the nose. Today will be down day #2 in Gilchrist County.

We feel much like John Henton Carter who, in A Day with Mark Twain said, "Yes, the weather is bad, and if I were dealing in weather it is not the brand that I'd put up in cans for future use. No, it is the kind of weather I'd throw on the market and let it go for what it would fetch, and if it wouldn't sell for anything, I would hunt up some life-long enemy and present it to him."

On checking the weather models available to us at the moment, it appears as though a flight on Sunday is a reasonable expectation - but we will check those forecasts again later today and post our 'best guess' here in the Field Journal late today.

Date: January 25, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: Guess for Tomorrow Location: Titusville, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Gilchrist County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1167.2 miles
Many, many of you have emailed, or called me or called the office asking if I could please post something very early in the morning (like 5AM - ish) so you would know whether or not to head out to the Arrival Event.

Unfortunately the answer is, 'no, I can't'. When we have a hoped for arrival viewing - as we did this morning - I, just like you have to get up and get on the road not knowing whether or not we will be flying. My morning started at 4AM and I was already at the Dunnellon Airport this morning to set up our booth when I received word from the crew that they could not fly - and this morning's decision to stand down was made unusually early. Then we got the word out as quickly as we humanly could.

Sorry folks, but in almost all instances about all we can ever do is to give you our best guess the night before as to what we think our chances for a flight might be the next morning. Even when it looks bleak, or even impossible, we always try to remain optimistic - we won't throw in the towel until flight time, and/or we know 100% for sure there is no possible way we can fly.

We know this doesn't make it easy for you, and believe me we DO empathize. After all it's been our way of life virtually every day since October 13, 2007.

Date: January 25, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: Guess for Tomorrow Location: Titusville, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Gilchrist County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1167.2 miles
The forecasted winds aren't too, too bad, but the probability of rain is very high. When we factored in the temperature and humidity, it made a flight tomorrow look less than probable. In fact, if I was you - I'd stay in bed tomorrow morning. Looking at everything, Chris and I tried to arrive at a percentage of probability of a flight in the morning. Taking all things into consideration we arrived at less than a 5% chance that we would be flying.

Sunday however is another story. It looks quite good and we are thinking it is more than likely going to be ARRIVAL day. Hope to see you all at the Dunnellon Airport!!

Date: January 25, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject: A MORNING AT DUNNELLON Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Gilchrist County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1167.2 miles
In anticipation of a flyover event this morning, hundreds of enthusiastic Craniacs turned up at Dunnellon airport, hoping to catch a glimpse of the planes and cranes. Unfortunately we had to break the bad news to many of them. While a few departed after hearing the disappointing news, many stayed around to join us at the OM display on the tarmac.

Despite having the flyover postponed, a few of the other exhibitors present set up their booths for curious onlookers, including the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and two Audubon Societies from Hernando County and Citrus County.

Meanwhile the entire OM team in Gilchrist County jumped into our ragtag caravan of vehicles and raced south to speak to the crowd - and to apologize for dashing everyone's hopes. While waiting for their arrival Walter Sturgeon did a great job entertaining the supporters that remained at the airport. He was telling his favourite migration stories and responding to their many questions keeping everyone captivated.

Top cover pilot Jack Wrighter also flew down and landed his Cessna at Dunnellon, taxiing right up to within 25 ft of OM display.

Afterward, supporters crowded around the OM table checking out the varied merchandise available for purchase. Volunteers Karen & Dale Richter helped Liz out tremendously while they dealt with the brisk business. Ivan Vicente, Visitor Services Specialist from Chassahowitka National Wildlife Refuge did a super job coordinating everything for the day and undoubtedly will have his work cut out for him again when we try for the next flyover.

Looking at the next few days' forecasts, we are predicting that the next likely window of opportunity for a flight be Sunday. However, like any other migration day, we are keeping our fingers crossed that we'll have a chance to fly on Saturday. The team will send a test trike up tomorrow, just in case there's a chance for flight. If the conditions prove to be favorable the cranes will head for Halpata-Tastanaki refuge, flying over the Dunnellon Airport.

We would like to extend our thanks to airport supervisor, Roy Seiger, who was on hand to help out and thoughtfully supplied hot coffee and fresh donuts for the event crew.

Please see entry 4 on Janurary 24th for details regarding time, directions, and protocol.

Date: January 25, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 94 - STANDING DOWN Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Gilchrist County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1167.2 miles
Despite fair temperatures and clear skies, the OM team will remain grounded today. The surface winds are extremly strong, making a departure too risky.

This means that there will NOT be a flyover at Dunnellon airport today. Although we had hoped that there would be an opportunity, we simply do not have control over the conditions.

Please continue to check the field journal as we will be posting updates with additional information as it comes into the office. This web page will be your best source for information, as any new developments will appear here first.

Date: January 24, 2008 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Megan Kennedy

Subject: A VISIT TO CHASSAHOWITZKA Location: Gilchrist Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
2 day total =
68.9 miles

Gilchrist County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1167.2 miles

A few days ago my ever-increasing suspicions were put to rest. Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, purportedly the final destination of the ultralight-led whooping crane migration, does exist after all.

Richard, Chris, Nate and I traveled down to Crystal River to help prepare the winter pen for the birds' arrival. One of the pen modifications prompted by last year's tragedy is a release gate that will automatically open in a flooding event. The triggers, heavy, buoyant tanks, are set to a specific water depth, at which point they will lift an arm that unlatches the gate, dropping it away from the birds and providing an exit.

We went to the pensite to assemble and install the gate. Since the site can only be accessed by airboat, we had to ferry out our gate in pieces. With the added weight of our equipment and low water levels, it took us two trips to make it to the island.

We started our work by laying out all of the pieces in shape and prepping the nuts and bolts for tightening. We then cut a large hole in the side of the pen and adjusted the three layers of fencing to fit the new gate. The best possible location for the flood gate also happened to be where the bird handlers’ entrance to the pen already was. So, leaving Chris and Richard to finish assembling, (see photo) Nate and I worked on relocating the entrance gate.

With only a few hours of daylight to work by, we managed to get most of our task completed. Our next visit will include finishing covering the new gate with fencing and rewiring the electric fence to accommodate the changes.

We now have over three months on the road behind us and only two more stops to go. It is strange that a place only a two or three hour drive away can still seem so unattainably distant and yet almost right around the corner.

It has been a long trip, and your words of encouragement have helped to offset our disappointments. Thank you all for your continued enthusiasm and support.

Note: For more on the precautions being initiated to mitigate the impacts of potential weather events such as the one that struck at Chass last February, see Entry 1 for January 22nd and click the links.

Date: January 24, 2008 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: ARRIVAL EVENT POSSIBLE TOMORROW Location: Florida
Distance
Traveled
2 day total =
68.9 miles

Gilchrist County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1167.2 miles
Completion of the migration leg to Gilchrist County today brought us just one flight away from our next stopover at the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve and the Arrival Event planned for at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport.

The Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve is the last place the cranes will overnight before OM’s pilots lead them the final 26 miles to their final destination and wintering ground on the Chassahowitzka NWR. Using the Halpata site allows us to stage the Arrival Flyover Event at the Dunnellon Airport, giving attendees a rare chance to see one of North America’s rarest and most endangered birds. Viewers will want to be on site by approximately 8:30am.

Having checked the winds and weather predictions as they stand at the moment, we believe a flight to Dunnellon tomorrow is possible. At this juncture the main concern we have is for projected winds on the surface - they may turn out to be too strong.

The airport is located at 15070 SW 111th Street, Dunnellon, where volunteers will be on hand to direct you to parking. We suggest those unfamiliar with the location use MapQuest or a similar online program to find driving directions. As is customary, there will be a number of speakers on hand to address the crowd and answer questions prior to the arrival flyover by OM’s intrepid pilots leading the Class of 2007. Also, several organizations, including Operation Migration, will have booths set up offering information and/or merchandise for sale. For the early birds among you, there will be coffee and breakfast available for purchase.

In closing we must add our usual reminder. Our ability to fly on any given day is entirely weather dependent. Despite any prediction we make the day before about a potential flight the next morning, remember it is only our best guess. In many, if not most instances, the decision to fly on any given morning can only be made just moments before we are able to take-off. This means that the possibility always exists that viewers could make the trip to the Arrival Flyover site at Dunnellon only to learn that we could not fly.

One last note to attendees. Please be mindful of your children and their whereabouts and kindly do not touch the general aviation aircraft parked on or adjacent to the field. Airport management has also asked us to advise everyone that no smoking is allowed on the tarmac or aircraft field. We are grateful to Airport Supervisor Roy Sieger and his staff who have gone out of their way to accommodate us for our Arrival event.

Date: January 24, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: THE CRANES HAVE LANDED Location: Florida
Distance
Traveled
2 day total =
68.9 miles

Gilchrist County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1167.2 miles
The Class of 2007 is now safely on the ground at our Gilchrist County stopover site. Whoopee! We should have a report later on from Brooke who was lead pilot today, but it appears he had all 17 birds with him for the entire flight.

A quick check of the winds and weather for tomorrow leave us feeling very optimistic for our chances of a flight to the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve and in the process of course, the Arrival Event and Flyover at the Dunnellon Airport. Check back here later in the day for more on the possibility of tomorrow being THE day.

Date: January 24, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 93 - update Location: Florida
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Suwannee County

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles
Will wonders never cease? We got a break in the cloud cover and the fog lifted sufficiently for the pilots to have the confidence they could make the short flight to yesterday's hoped for destination - Gilchrist County. All 17 birds took off, following the lead ultralight like the champs they are. We will post here again once we've heard that the cranes and planes are safely on the ground at our stopover site in Gilchrist County.

Date: January 24, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 93 Location: Florida
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Suwannee County

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles
No need to check temps, wind strength or direction this morning. All it took to determine our fate for today was a look out the window. Much of central and northern Florida is totally blanketed with huge fog banks so dense that some stretches on the I-95 and other major routes have been shut down.

In the event that conditions improve sufficiently for a flight, we will consider leading the birds from Suwannee to our Gilchrist County stopover - a short hop of about 25 miles.

While the airborne part of the team could go no where this morning, trackers were on the road before first light heading for the location of 721, which they identified last evening. We are happy to report she has been safely picked up and is on her way to our Suwannee pen site to be reunited with her 16 classmates.

As for the Hornet motorhome, we are hopeful that a new fan belt and some coolant may resolve the problem. By the end of today we should be all A-OK, road and sky-ready and set to re-focus on making our second to last migration leg.

2007 Migration Trivia compliments of Pam Roberts, Branford, FL
SUWANNEE COUNTY, FL
Formed in December 1858, Suwannee County lies between Hamilton and Gilchrist Counties. Forming its northern and western borders is 105 miles of the river it is named after. Along the way, the Suwannee’s wide sandy banks change to rocky cliffs and then to swamp-like areas.

Early occupants were Seminole Indians and before them, Timucuan Indians. Since then its inhabitants have been mostly farmers. Many chicken farms and dairies dot the landscape, but the county’s major crops are peanuts, tobacco, and hay. There are numerous fresh water springs for cave diving or swimming, and a few ponds for migratory birds to camp.

Date: January 23, 2008 - Entry 8 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 92 - Installment 8 Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Hamilton County to somewhere in Suwannee County

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles
Well folks, this should be the last Field Journal for today. The last word we had is that all the birds with the exception of 721 have been recovered. Unless the crew find her very quickly, darkness will force them to abort the search until the morning.

The Hornet motorhome needs some service done on it before it goes any further, and with our other vehicles here there and everywhere, it is a pretty good bet that while we might make a flight to our Gilchrist County stopover, (if possible and weather permitting) in all likelihood we will not be flying to Dunnellon tomorrow.

We will be trying to regroup this evening and sort ourselves out. If we have anything more to report it will appear here early tomorrow morning.

Date: January 23, 2008 - Entry 7 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 92 - Installment 7 Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Hamilton County to Suwannee & Gilchrist County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

We’ve heard from Walter. He and Jack in the Cessna were able to lead Brian to the location of 712. We don’t have confirmation yet, but we expect Brian will have captured and crated him by now.

Jack and Walter then flew down to help Chris and Richard who were picking up signals on 709, 724 and 733. They were unsuccessful at spotting the birds from the air but were able to confirm by the signals they were picking up that they were right on top of them.

From there, they flew to a location where Richard thought one of the birds had dropped out. Sure enough they picked up 721’s signal, GPS’d the location, and relayed the coordinates to Chris to pass on to someone on the ground so they could go and track it down.

Since then, Chris called to report that he and Richard had managed to track, capture, and crate 709 and transport him to the temporary pen. They are now on the trail of 724 and 733.

 

By the time you are reading this posting, Brooke is likely to be in the air leading 710 back north from Gilchrist County to join his penmates in Suwannee County.

Hopefully, we will have all the birds collected and in the pen by dark.

Date: January 23, 2008 - Entry 6 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 92 - Installment 6 Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Hamilton County to Suwannee & Gilchrist County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Cell phone communication continues to be either intermittent, non-existent, or abysmal. It can take connecting 5 or 6 times to have even the shortest of conversations. But we do have some news.

Brian, (who has had crated 717 with him from early this morning) along with Nate who has been tracking in the Hornet, have located 712 and hopefully will have her on board shortly. Brooke made it all the way to our Gilchrist County stopover with 710 and is 'bird-sitting' him - something he will have to do for some time yet.

Chris and Richard are on the ground in a field in Suwannee County and have their 10 birds safely tucked into one of our travel pens.

Top Cover pilot Jack Wrighter and Walter were able to get back in the air and have tracked, found, and marked the locations of the four remaining dropout birds. One is several miles north of our Gilchrist County destination, and the other three are in a wooded area not too distant from our temporary Suwannee pensite. With luck, we will be able to get to them all before dark so they can be crated and transported to the travel pen.

As we are able, we will post here either on the progress and/or the successful recovery of the wayward birds. With the ground that has to be covered and the difficult and arduous and often time consuming nature of a capture, we expect it will be a few hours before we have the final word.

Please don't even think about asking about tomorrow at this point. In addition to recovering the birds, we have trailers we've had to leave stranded at our Hamilton County stopover, planes stuck on the ground in Suwannee, ground vehicles helter-skelter, top cover trying to figure out whether to go north or south, and poor Brooke faced with sitting waiting all alone in an isolated spot with his lone bird, likely for hours yet, until we can sort out the logistics and put all into action.

It's going to be one looooooong day - at the end of which we will be very happy if we can simply say, "All's well that ends well."

Date: January 23, 2008 - Entry 6 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 92 - Installment 6 Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Hamilton County to Suwannee & Gilchrist County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Cell phone communication continues to be either intermittent, non-existent, or abysmal. It can take connecting 5 or 6 times to have even the shortest of conversations. But we do have some news.

Brian, (who has had crated 717 with him from early this morning) along with Nate who has been tracking in the Hornet, have located 712 and hopefully will have her on board shortly. Brooke made it all the way to our Gilchrist County stopover with 710 and is 'bird-sitting' him - something he will have to do for some time yet.

Chris and Richard are on the ground in a field in Suwannee County and have their 10 birds safely tucked into one of our travel pens.

Top Cover pilot Jack Wrighter and Walter were able to get back in the air and have tracked, found, and marked the locations of the four remaining dropout birds. One is several miles north of our Gilchrist County destination, and the other three are in a wooded area not too distant from our temporary Suwannee pensite. With luck, we will be able to get to them all before dark so they can be crated and transported to the travel pen.

As we are able, we will post here either on the progress and/or the successful recovery of the wayward birds. With the ground that has to be covered and the difficult and arduous and often time consuming nature of a capture, we expect it will be a few hours before we have the final word.

Please don't even think about asking about tomorrow at this point. In addition to recovering the birds, we have trailers we've had to leave stranded at our Hamilton County stopover, planes stuck on the ground in Suwannee, ground vehicles helter-skelter, top cover trying to figure out whether to go north or south, and poor Brooke faced with sitting waiting all alone in an isolated spot with his lone bird, likely for hours yet, until we can sort out the logistics and put all into action.

It's going to be one looooooong day - at the end of which we will be very happy if we can simply say, "All's well that ends well."

Date: January 23, 2008 - Entry 5 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 92 - Installment 5 Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Hamilton County to Gilchrist County, FL?

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

The travel pen we were using in Hamilton County is now packed up and on its way to where Chris and Richard are waiting on the ground with 10 of the birds. Once they are safely penned, we expect that the one bird with Brooke will be picked up and taken to join its 10 classmates.

Brian has managed to locate and safely crate one of the two early dropouts, and it has joined 717 in the back of the tracking van.

Jack and Walter have refueled Jack's Cessna and will get into the air the moment flying conditions permit. They, and as soon as they are able, the pilots and ground crew, will start searching/tracking the four birds still unaccounted for.

With zero to one bar on their cell phones, communication with team members is at best, sketchy, but we will do our best to relay any news if and when we do manage to make a connection.

Date: January 23, 2008 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 92 - Installment 4 Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Hamilton County to Gilchrist County, FL?

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Richard and Chris have managed to find a field on which to set down with their birds - ten in all. Brooke, who is some distance ahead of them, has one bird and we understand/believe that he too has found a safe place to land.

Brian, in the tracking van with 717 crated in the back, is on the trail of the two dropouts we mentioned earlier, while Nathan, driving the Hornet, is headed for Chris and Richard's location with our second mobile travel pen.

Megan, Jack, and Walter are hard at work dismantling the travel pen at our Hamilton County site and once it is disassembled and packed up, they will break camp and get it too on the road in case we end up having to hold birds in more than one location.

If you've done the math, you will have figured out that we have three birds unaccounted for. At this moment communications are still sketchy so we aren't aware of whether or not any of the pilots were able to get a fix on where they went down - or even if they broke off individually or as a group.

Holding our breath here for more news.

Date: January 23, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 92 - Installment 3 Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Hamilton County to Gilchrist County, FL?

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Talk about a live, heart-stopping reality show!

Two birds have dropped out of the flight. The first one, 717, who was the early drop out near the pensite was safely recovered and crated. Brian in the tracking van and Nathan in the Hornet are racing to the locations of the latest dropouts.

Top cover pilot Jack Wrighter, and Walter Sturgeon who was flying with him today as spotter, have had to return to the grassy runway back at our campsite in Hamilton County. Fog and the low ceiling forced them to decrease altitude to around the 400 foot level - the same as our trikes - so for safety reasons they curtailed their flight and headed back north. They had to touch down at camp as in the interim, the local airport closed due to the poor flying conditions that had developed.

With the ground crew out of range and top cover on the ground no longer able to speak to the pilots on the aviation radio, we are, for the moment, without the means to communicate with the ultralights. The last word we have is that the trikes were popping in and out of the fog (something that spooks the birds) and that the pilots were searching hard for a suitable field where they could put down early.

We will post more news as we have it.

Date: January 23, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 92 - Installment 2 Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Hamilton County to Gilchrist County, FL?

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

We are on our way - sort of.

Conditions improved and we got the break in the cloud-laden skies that we needed. After putting up a test trike, the team agreed a flight to Gilchrist County was on. Our ultralights leading the Class of 2007 are now on their way, but not before they suffered through what was likely one of the worst crane rodeos of the migration.

One bird dropped out almost immediately, and Megan is helping Brian with the retrieval so that as quickly as possible, he can get on the road following the cranes and planes. This because the pilots are concerned that there might be other dropouts given the combination of headwind and high humidity.

In fact, if in the early going the birds appear to be struggling too much breathing in the heavy, humid air, the pilots will turn around and bring them back rather than carry on to Gilchrist. Stay tuned.

Date: January 23, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 92 Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Last evening we once again believed the forecast promised a chance for a flight this morning; in fact, an even better chance than the previous two mornings.

The reality of this morning is a temp of 53F, 2mph winds out of the NNE on the surface, and what appears to be a manageable headwind aloft. BUT - we don't yet know if we will be flying. The combination of overnight rain and the rise in temperature has produced a patchy fog. And overhead we have a cloud ceiling ranging from just 200 to 1000 feet.

At the moment we are waiting it out to see if conditions will clear sufficiently to allow us to fly to Gilchrist County on the last migration leg before our the flight to Dunnellon and the long awaited Arrival Event and Flyover.

Date: January 22, 2008 - Entry 5 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: AND FOR TOMORROW WE HAVE... Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Tomorrow we have another 'possible' fly day. The wind on the surface should be light and out of the NE and aloft, while in our faces, not so strong as to be insurmountable. If anything will ground us it will likely be the potential for rain at our departure site, or, fog at our destination. We are so wishing, wishing wishing for a break and a chance to fly. Hope tomorrow is it.

Date: January 22, 2008 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: ANOTHER CRANIAC KID Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Young Taylor Richter, (son of OM Board of Director Dale Richter) and a super Craniac Kid himself, sent along a photo he took at the Georgia flyover site, which, unfortunately for gathered viewers, we skipped over.

The photo is of 3½ year-old Allan Muise. Allan is a member of an enthusiastic birding family, and his Mom tells us that he can identify quite a few birds by sight and sound. Mom Tracey said, “We have taken him on many a bird trip so he has quite a 'life list'.”

Allan's Mom told us they had met Bev and Brooke while camping outside the Chassahowitzka NWR last spring and Allan was hoping to see Mr. Brooke flying and leading Whooping cranes. “We were sad for us that you over flew the viewing site and we missed you, but were glad for you and the birds,” she said.

Tracey, we're glad to know you are raising a birder and a Craniac both!

Date: January 22, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: MIGRATION DAY 91 Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Clear skies, good temps, but the wind....! Last evening we believed the forecast promised a reasonable chance for a flight in the morning. It still appeared promising enough this morning for the pilots to launch not one, but two test trikes.

Hopes were dashed however when Chris radioed down that with the wind he was encountering aloft he was, "almost flying backwards". Need we say that today will be down day #7 in Hamilton County, FL.

The only time in the previous six years' migrations that we have been held on the ground in Hamilton County was in 2006, and then we were down for just one day.

Date: January 22, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: HOLD YOUR CALLS AND EMAILS RE ARRIVAL Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles
Although we do our best to respond to all emails and inquiries, it is impossible to keep up with the hundreds of emails we receive daily. The majority ask the same question, so we will once again answer it here.

When will you arrive in Dunnellon?
Who would have thought w
hen we arrived in Hamilton County, FL that we'd still be there a week later. While frustrating, with this year's weather track record it should be no surprise.

We remind everyone that our ability to fly each and every migration morning is entirely weather/wind dependent. Most often we don't even know for sure if we can fly the next morning much less when we will arrive at our destination.

Recently we began posting late in the day our 'best guess' as to our ability to fly the next morning. But that's all it is – a guess. In almost all instances, the decision to fly on any given morning can only be made just moments before take-off time. Once we reach Gilchrist County – our last stopover site before the Arrival Event and our hoped for flyover at Dunnellon – check here for our latest 'best guess' based on the evening’s weather/wind projections for the following morning.

However, remember that ultimately the pilots will make the ‘fly / no fly’ decision based on the actual conditions at flight time. As a result the possibility always exists that viewers could make the trip to the Dunnellon Airport only to learn that we could not fly after all. Wish we had a definitive answer for you folks, but unfortunately the weather gods and Mother Nature give no guarantees.

Date: January 22, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: QUESTIONS.....WE GET QUESTIONS Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

As we approach Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, our final destination and the wintering ground for the Class of 2007, some of you have been asking about the precautions the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) has instituted to mitigate the potential for a repeat of last year's disastrous loss.

Click here to read WCEP’s Report and its Action Plan to Reduce the Risk of Catastrophic Mass Mortality.

One of the biggest changes is a custom-built automatic gate that OM's multi-talented Richard van Heuvelan was commissioned to construct. The gate, which has now been installed in the top-netted pen, has latches connected to floats. If rising water lifts the floats to a certain level, the latches will release and the entire gate will fall open releasing the birds from the top-netted pen.

And regarding other questions -
Each partner within WCEP has agreed to carry out specific roles and shoulder certain responsibilities. To help you direct your questions about specific aspects of the Whooping crane reintroduction project to the appropriate and responsible WCEP partner, we repeat below a chart previously posted in our Field Journal.

PROJECT PHASE

WORK PERFORMED BY
WCEP PARTNER(S)

AUTHORITY AND RESPONSIBILITY
FOR THE BIRDS RESTS WITH

Breeding/Incubation/Hatching/Rearing

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Rearing/Imprinting/Early Conditioning

Operation Migration
and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Operation Migration

Summer 'Flight School'

Operation Migration
and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Operation Migration

Migration

Operation Migration
and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Operation Migration

Winter Monitoring at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and Tracking of Previous Years’ Birds

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, International Crane Foundation, and Operation Migration

US Fish and Wildlife Service and
International Crane Foundation

Date: January 21, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: Tomorrow Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles
Well folks, it appears that what we may have for tomorrow is much like what we had today - but less of it, wind we mean.

That's good news, as the headwind aloft this morning was too strong for the cranes and planes to tackle. As we approach the end of the 6th day on the ground in Hamilton County, we will once again go to bed hopeful of being able to fly tomorrow morning to our next stopover in Gilchrist County. Sure wish someone would move Dunnellon (the stop after Gilchrist) or for that matter our final destination, Chassahowitzka, about a hundred miles closer.

Date: January 21, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: migration day 90 Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles
This morning showed us once again that we should learn not to get our hopes up.

Late yesterday we thought we had a good chance to fly this morning. However, on checking the aviation weather sites before daybreak we found winds aloft forecast at 25mph out of the south east.

By sunrise and take-off time, we knew our fate was sealed by just looking at the sky. We watched as the the clouds zoomed northward over our heads, driven by the strong flow out of the south. No need to put up a test trike today.

Disappointment filled the trailer as one by one team members filed back in; disappointment so thick you could slice it and server it on a cracker. The cranes and planes will, for the sixth day, be held on the ground in Hamilton County, FL.

Date: January 20, 2008 - Entry 5 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: CHANCE TO FLY? Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles
Yea! Tomorrow looks like a fly day. Projections are for north east winds on the surface and manageable winds out of the south east. With luck, the cranes and planes will spend tomorrow night in Gilchrist County.

Date: January 20, 2008 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: Seeking Interns for the 2008 Season Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles
Another first. We are posting the ad seeking applications for Intern positions with OM for the 2008 season and we still haven't finished the 2007 fall migration.

Individuals interested in applying for one of our three Intern positions can click the following link to go to the 2008 OM Intern Position information page.

Date: January 20, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: New Craniac Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles
Not long ago we had a letter from two Wisconsin Craniacs, Marilyn and Jim Hampton. They wrote to tell us that they were sharing their interest in our work with Whooping crane with their grandkids, and also those of a friend who the Hamptons said, "have kind of adopted us as honorary grandparents."

Here’s what Marilyn wrote. "I purchased 4 plush cranes from Operation Migration. I kept one for myself and gifted the other three to each household. The final family to receive a crane was our 'honorary grandkids'. The 5 year boy, Benjamin, loved his pop-up dinosaur book, since he loves all things dinosaur but Derrick the crane never left his arms, except when he made a nest for him out of a horseshoe shaped pillow he found in our family room. Then Benjamin carried Derrick and the pillow around, even while looking at the dinosaur book and feeding the backyard squirrels.

Today I got the attached picture from my friend, with a note saying they discussed endangered species all the way home. That night they found their little guy asleep with Derrick. He now thinks he wants to be "one of the guys in white who lead the cranes'. His little sister naps with Derrick when her brother is at school. Glad to know we've contributed to the 'birth' of a new Craniac Kid!

Hope you enjoyed the Hamptons’ story and the picture they sent as much as we did. We think they are pretty special people to be able to inspire young folks.

Date: January 20, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject: New Merchandise Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles
A fine piece of art by Michael DiGiorgio is the latest addition to OM's Merchandise page. The watercolor print features an adult Whooping crane in mid-unison call. The setting is its natural habitat in northern Canada. Click here to read more about it on our merchandise page.

Date: January 20, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Migration Day 89

Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Hamilton County, FL has clear skies this morning and temps below the freezing mark. That means the trike wings, which were thoroughly soaked in the drenching rains of yesterday, are wearing a heavy coat of frost.

Unfortunately we don't have to worry about defrosting the wings. We have high winds on the surface, and through 1500 feet and above they are blowing in excess of 30mph. Way too much for cranes and planes. Today will be down day #5 in Hamilton County, FL.

Once again later today we will post our best guess regarding the possibility for a flight tomorrow, Monday, to Gilchrist County. C'mon Sunshine State, PLEASE live up to your reputation if only for the next two or three days.


2007 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
HAMILTON COUNTY, FL

The Suwanee River flows from the Okefenokee Swamp, changing in character along its 225 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. The Suwanee River State Park in the southwestern corner of Hamilton County is a showcase of the upper river where it is narrow and flows through tupelo and cypress stands, quite different from the saw grass flats near its mouth. The park is the locale of long mounds of earthworks guarding against raids by Civil War Union Navy gunboats.

Hamilton County is often called a peninsula within a peninsula, and is separated from the rest of Florida by the Withlacoochee River on the west and the beautiful Suwannee River to the east and south. In the middle of the county is the fascinating Alapaha River, called the "River of Sand," which disappears underground during certain parts of the year, leaving a dry and sandy riverbed.

Date: January 19, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

GO OR NO-GO?

Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Why didn't someone tell us all it would take to trigger rain and end Florida's drought was to lead our Whooping cranes here?!? (smile)

The heavy rain that was falling in Hamilton County earlier today and morphed into a light sprinkle has now stopped. There is standing water in every dip and depression as the ground has absorbed all the moisture it can; good news, as run off will help replenish wetlands and refill reservoirs.

At this stopover we don’t have the luxury of a hangar in which to store our aircraft. That means our trikes’ wings are soaking wet. With overnight temps predicted to fall below 32F, we are afraid to put the wing covers on them in case they freeze to the wings. As a result we may have an issue with frost on the wings in the morning.

Winds tomorrow are forecast to be favorable; light on the surface and out of the north. The wind aloft will also be out of the north – but at 25mph+ perhaps too much of it. We are hoping to be able to make the flight to Gilchrist County in the morning but we’ll have to wait until flight time to see for sure if it is going to be possible.

Date: January 19, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 88

Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

In camp we have temp of 45F and favorable 5mph winds out of the NE - neither of which matters unfortunately. Why? Because someone turned on the waterworks last night and the pouring rain continues to drench the area this morning. Today will be down day #4 in Hamilton County, FL.

For an update on our hoped for plans for Sunday and more on the upcoming Arrival Event at the Dunnellon/Marion County Airport, check the Field Journal later today.

Note: This morning we were the victim of the ongoing deterioration of something that at one time was an expectation - 'customer service'. Constant Contact, the company with which we contract for the delivery of OM's EarlyBird e-bulletin (sponsored by DUKE ENERGY) seems to be unfamiliar with the term. They have once again shut their server for maintenance, and once again failed to provide any advance warning. Their distain for their customers astounds us.

We apologize to our supporters who, through their membership in OM, are entitled to receive our migration updates via our EarlyBird emails. We understand that Constant Contact will be available to us by tomorrow morning and we will resume EarlyBird then. We thank you for understanding that the non-delivery of your EarlyBird e-bulletin is beyond our control and assure you that we will investigate an alternate service provider for next season.

Date: January 18, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

OUTLOOK FOR FLYING TOMORROW (SATURDAY)

Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Nathan, where's your Scrabble Dictionary? Is 'UGH' a real word? If it is, it about sums up what the weather looks like for tomorrow.

On his latest check of the aviation weather sites Chris said he didn't find any good news. A system will bring more rain into the area overnight and it is forecast to continue and even intensify tomorrow morning. The wind won't be co-operating either apparently. So while we won't call it a 'no-go' until we are absolutely sure we don't have a chance to fly in the morning, as of the moment we're not holding out much hope we'll see Gilchrist County tomorrow.

Date: January 18, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Bev Paulan

Subject:

FIRST ‘THIRD DAY’ IN HAMILTON COUNTY, FL

Location: Hamilton Cty, FL
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Since today is our third non-fly day, you all know what that means. Exercise for the chicks!

Yesterday, there was a minor tiff between the birds and 703. This can be a fairly common occurrence and it is strictly a dominance battle. Rarely does anyone get seriously hurt, but there can be a few scrapes. So to be on the safe side, we separated out 703 until everyone calmed down.

Today, because 703 was the victim in this incident, we took pity and let him out first to see how he did. He strutted his stuff like nothing ever happened, flew a couple of short circuits, ate some smelt and grapes, and seemingly enjoyed his little foray out of the pen. In other words, he was a good boy.

Not so with the other 16. They were all very naughty and decided to test our patience and nerves, and flew away. Out-of-sight away! Out-of-hearing range away! As we all scrambled to get the best vantage point (think 'Keystone Cops'), we caught glimpses of the flock of juvenile delinquents through the trees.

Eventually they came back, but not until we had all lost several pounds of water-weight sweating it out. When they all landed we escorted them immediately into the pen before they changed their minds and took off again on another flight. After checking feeders and water buckets, we secured the pen and left the youngsters to probe, preen and contemplate the now clear skies.

Photos by Bev Paulan.

703 takes off for some exercise. Isn't he a handsome fellow?
"Please eat the smelt!" The 'juvenile delinquents' coming in for a landing.

Date: January 18, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 87

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles
With a temp of 39°F, surface winds out of the north 6 - 12mph and a manageable headwind aloft, you'd think we'd be charging down the runway, cranes in tow.

But there are three flies in the ointment - rain, fog, and cloud cover. It's raining in Hamilton County; patchy fog banks dot our flight path all the way to our destination; and the cloud cover has the ceiling down to 300 feet in some places.

Today will be down day #3 in Hamilton County, FL. Check the Field Journal late today to see our best guess on the possibility of a flight to Gilchrist County tomorrow, Saturday morning.

2007 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
HAMILTON COUNTY, FL

Lying on the Georgia/Florida border. Hamilton County is called the "Jewel of the Suwanee". It was named for Alexander Hamilton the first United States Secretary of the Treasury. Nearly 13,800 people live in this county, primarily rural in nature. Jasper, the county seat, is one of only three incorporated municipalities in the whole county.

Hamilton County is steeped in the rich tradition of southern heritage. One of the prime examples is the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, honoring the memory of the folk composer Stephen Foster. Many of his compositions peal out through the park on its 97-bell carillon. You probably would recognize "Old Folks At Home", "Oh, Susanna", "I Dream Of Jeannie With The Light Brown Hair", "Beautiful Dreamer", "The Camptown Races", and many more.

Date: January 17, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 86

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

At 56F degrees, things are warming up in Hamilton County. Good news for the humans.

The not so good news for cranes and planes is the 6mph SSE wind on the surface, a 900 foot ceiling, and definite rain on the way. If that wasn't enough to seal their fate and keep them grounded, the 45+ mph winds aloft out of the SSE definitely would do the job.

Looking ahead, the team also noted that at their destination in Gilchrist County, they'd be facing a 9mph headwind straight out of the south, and flying into rain and patchy fog. Needless to say, today will be down day #2 in Hamilton County.

Date: January 16, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

OM IS LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS

Location: Florida
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Operation Migration will be participating in the 11th annual Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival January 23 – 26, 2008 in Titusville, FL. Sponsored by NIKON and the Brevard Nature Alliance, the event is being held at the Titusville Campus of Brevard Community College.

Joe Duff will be giving two presentations during the Festival; Friday, January 25th, at 1:00PM and Saturday, January 26th at 10:30AM. Seating is available for 150 people.

In the Exhibit Hall, OM's Display Booth will feature continuous video for visiting viewers, and in addition to information on the Whooping crane project, offer 'OM Gear', photograph enlargements, and other items for sale. One of OM's ‘working trikes' will also be on display. (assuming we are finished the migration by then of course)

To make our attendance a success we need help. We need volunteers to help our on-the-ground coordinators, Mark and Peggy Chenoweth man our booth, as well as volunteers to stand sentinel beside our ultralight, respond to questions, and offer informational brochures to visitors. If you are interested and able to commit to one or more of the following shifts, please contact Mark and Peggy at greybyrd@earthlink.net. If possible, we'd like two volunteers for each time slot.

DATE

TIME

TASK

Wed. Jan 23

10am – 1pm

Set up exhibit, organize booth and display merchandise for sale.

 

 1pm – 4pm

Work booth

 

 4pm – 6pm

Work Booth

Thu. Jan 24

12pm – 3pm

Work Booth

 

3pm – 6pm

Work booth.

Fri. Jan 25

9am – 12pm

Work Booth or Ultralight Display

 

12pm – 3pm

Work Booth or Ultralight Display

 

3pm – 6pm

This time slot is covered

Sat. Jan 26

9am – 12pm

Work Booth or Ultralight Display

 

12pm – 3pm

Work Booth or Ultralight Display

 

3pm – 6pm

Work Booth or Ultralight Display

Date: January 16, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

ARRIVAL EVENT INFORMATION

Location: Florida
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

The OM team is closing in on the second to last stopover before we conclude the migration that departed Necedah, WI on October 13, 2007, what seems like eons ago.

Our last stopover site before leading the birds to their final destination and wintering ground on the Chassahowitzka NWR is at the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve in Marion County.

Using the Halpata site allows us to stage the Arrival Flyover Event at the Dunnellon/Marion County Airport, and offer the public and the media an opportunity of a view, if only fleeting, of one of North America’s rarest and most endangered birds. Viewers will want to be on site by 8:30am.

Because we have people coming to the Arrival Event from all over, we suggest that folks use MapQuest or a similar program to determine their driving directions from home to the Dunnellon/Marion County Airport. The airport is located at 15070 SW 111th Street, Dunnellon, Florida 34432. Ample parking is available.

As is customary, there will be a line up of speakers on hand to address the crowd and answer questions prior to the arrival flyover by OM’s intrepid pilots leading the Class of 2007. Also, several organizations, including Operation Migration, will have booths set up offering information and/or merchandise for sale. For the early birds among you, there will be coffee and breakfast available for purchase.

In closing we must add our usual reminder.
Our ability to fly on any given day is entirely weather dependent. Despite any prediction we make the evening before about a potential flight the next morning, remember it is only our best guess.

In many, if not most instances, the decision to fly on any given morning can only be made just moments before we are able to take-off. This means that the possibility always exists that viewers could make the trip to the viewing site only to learn that we could not fly.

Date: January 16, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 85

Location: FLORIDA!!
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Comparatively speaking, at 45°F it's a positively balmy morning in Hamilton County, FL. (Gosh, is it great to say FLORIDA.) We have 9mph east winds on the surface and it is almost totally overcast.

While the rain predicted for our area has yet to materialize, it is already falling to the south of us and appears to be moving our way. If encountering rain enroute didn't keep us on the ground today, the southeast winds aloft would.

As much as we'd like to go, go, go, we don't mind calling this a down day while at least parts of Florida receive some desperately needed rain.

Now that we are so close to the finish-line, we are going to TRY to give you as much of a heads-up about our potential arrival date as we possibly can. Based on short and long-range forecasts, it appears the weather for tomorrow – Thursday – will be even more unfavorable for flying than is today’s.

Chris Gullikson, our resident amateur meteorologist, thinks we may have a chance (50-50) of flying to our next stopover in Gilchrist County on Friday. If current wind projections remain unchanged, he believes that Saturday may be another down day, but that we should be able to fly on Sunday.

So there you have it folks – our best guess at the moment is that Sunday, January 20th is likely the earliest we will arrive in Dunnellon. However, keep checking the Field Journal as we will post any further updates/news/revisions to our current arrival guesstimate here. And remember, it is just that, a GUESSTIMATE.

(Hope this helps the 409 people who emailed me last night asking when we will arrive, and the 277 who have emailed so far this morning. Have a heart folks, there’s hundreds of you and only one of me.)

Date: January 15, 2008 - Entry 5 Reporter:

The OM Team

Subject:

IT'S OFFICIAL - MILEMAKER TOTALLY SPONSORED!!!

Location: FLORIDA!!
Distance
Traveled
138 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

As best we could, (because Whooping cranes don’t always let us fly in a straight line) we calculated the migration flight miles between Wisconsin and Florida as 1,260. And that is the number of miles for which we sought sponsors. Many of you who follow our exploits – from spring chick rearing and imprinting, through summer flight school, and then come along with us on the migration - dig deep in your pockets and sponsor a quarter mile, half mile, a mile – or even multiple miles.

It is you folks who are the wings of this migration. It is your MileMaker sponsorships that make the migration possible. It is your generous support of Operation Migration, your care, concern, and commitment to help us ensure the survival of the Whooping crane that drives us and this project.

As you well know, for OM this migration has broken and set several records; none of which were very positive to say the least. But that all changed today.

Today, thanks to you folks, we set a record that has taken us seven migrations to achieve. We 'sold out' MileMaker. That’s right, for the very first time all 1260 MileMaker miles have been sponsored. From the OM Team to each and every one of you – APPLAUSE, APPLAUSE, APPLAUSE.

Not that any 1/4, ½, or mile sponsorship is more important or valuable than the next, but we have to tell you that the generous gesture made today by John and Kate Christian by sponsoring the last remaining 5.25 miles truly moved us and brought on both smiles and tears.

John is the Assistant Regional Director, Migratory Birds and State Programs, for USF&WS Region 3. He has also held the position of co-chair of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP); a post he retired from in September of 2007. If there is one person who has been the glue, the rallying point, the motivator, the go to guy, and the master of diplomacy requisite to a project of this magnitude with its many partners and cooperators, it is and has been John Christian.

John's official title was Chair of WCEP. What should tell you everything you need to know about what John Christian has done for this project is his unofficial title. We call John the Godfather of Whooping cranes.

After taking out their sponsorship, John and Kate wrote an entry in our GuestBook. In case some of you don't visit it regularly, we wanted to share it with you here.

OM’s GuestBook, January 15, 2008
By John and Kate Christian, Minneapolis, Minnesota


“Our family considers it an honor and a privilege to be able to support the last 5.25 miles of the longest migration on record!

We have supported the project from its inception and I consider all the OM crew as family and equal to the early explorers who had the vision, courage and fortitude to carve new paths in the world. The field crews from OM, ICF, FWS, Patuxent Wildife Research Center and the dedicated volunteers are real heroes that have helped make wildlife history!

I also want to recognize the families of these brave explorers. Being gone from home for months creates a strain on families that is very difficult. Chores remain undone and special occasions are missed. The sacrifice here is obvious and we thank the family members that have contributed so much. They are very much part of the project and the Power of Partnership. Hang in there...and thank you for your patient understanding and support.

Supporting the MileMaker campaign and Operation Migration and other partners is an affirmative statement that we can make a difference in our world---and work together to make it a better place for us and our children and grandchildren.

This year is also important as it represents the beginnings of recovery from the storm caused disaster in the winter of 2006-2007. Its ironic that we lost 17 birds last year...and we are now in sight of adding 17 ultralight-led birds back to the population---and additional birds through Direct Autumn Release. That attitude of facing adversity and overcoming it has been the hallmark of the project since its inception. And the pilots and field crew of OM have been at its core.

To my friends at Operation Migration and their family members--thank you for what you do...The Christian family is forever grateful.”


We assure John, Kate, and each and every MileMaker, that for what you have done and continue to do, none are more grateful than we at OM. Imagine - 1260 MileMaker miles sponsored! Congratulations and THANK YOU.

Date: January 15, 2008 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Richard van Heuvelen

Subject:

PILOT REPORT

Location: FLORIDA!!
Distance
Traveled
138 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

Camp awoke under the live oaks which seemed to make the morning warmer than usual. However, as our host predicted, the field where our birds and aircraft spent the night was much colder. That meant we were greeted with frost on our wing covers and had to wait for the sun to come up before we could take them off.

It was Chris's turn to lead. While the rest of us circled above, he took off with all 17 birds in hot pursuit. For a while it was looking like the rest of us would have nothing to do, as he circled and climbed out on course. Soon thereafter though, the chicks became uncooperative and began to split up. Chris headed on course with 2 birds as I gathered in 13 while Brooke picked up two stragglers.

The higher we climbed the better the ground speed. Chris and Matt climbed out to 5000 feet MSL reaching a ground speed of 75 miles per hour or more. My birds refused to climb beyond 3400 feet MSL, however we did achieve an average of 70 miles per hour. As a result we decided to over-fly Terrell County. As we trucked along, it was decided to also over-fly Worth County. Things were looking good.

The miles rapidly clicked by and soon we were discussing over-flying Cook county as well – and we did just that. Soon the last chicks in line began to waver and were having to slow down to let them catch up. They caught up quickly, but then would repeat the routine; each time getting harder to pickup. Glancing back I would catch 5 of them diving down, obviously getting tired.

After picking them up once again I pulled the bar in slightly and began a slow decent to give them a break. This seemed to work and as we were closing in on the site in Hamilton County, Florida we continued to descend.

FLORIDA?!?!? Florida had begun to seem as though it was only a fantasy, some far off place as elusive as the fountain of youth that Ponce de Leon had never found centuries earlier. But yes, we crossed into Florida. A half mile or so across the state line lay the stopover site’s 4000 foot grass runway.

Cruising over the site at 600 feet I circled around for a quick landing. Chris, Brooke and Matt had already landed and were trying to coax the remaining 14 chicks down. As we circled preparing to land I looked back and 12 of the chicks were going the other way having caught a thermal and were already 1000 feet higher than my trike.

Circling back into the same thermal I quickly caught up to them and began to lead them back to the runway. As we came over the runway, only much higher now, they caught another thermal and a game of tag began. They seemed to want to keep going after the rest they had coming in.

To try and keep them from circling I began to do figure eights over the site, and about twenty minutes later, they finally came back and landed. So I circled and landed as well, glad to be down after almost a three hour flight.

(Photos by Chris Gullikson)

Date: January 15, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 84 UPDATE

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
138 miles

Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
1,098.3 miles

It's official - the cranes and planes are on the ground safe and sound. Today's journey was a long one at 138 miles, taking more than 2 hours to complete.

The extra-long flight today left the ground crew in the dust, and as a result there will be some delay in getting the communications equipment set up. This likely means that the lead pilot report will not be available until later this afternoon or evening.

Nonetheless, keep checking the Field Journal to find out more details about today's adventure.

Date: January 15, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

THE SUNSHINE STATE!!!

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Marion County, GA to Hamilton County, FL

Accumulated
Distance
?? miles

We've just received a phone call from Liz in the field - and the great news is in! The OM team has managed to overfly not one but two stops, finally coming down in Hamilton County, FLORIDA! Well, almost down anyway.

What started off as a cold day has turned into a bright, sunny, warm one. The warming of the Earth has created thermals around the stopover location and the birds are taking full advantage of them, soaring around the landing strip. This leaves the pilots with the difficult task of catching the birds' attention and bringing them down safely.

Currently they are circling around with the vocalizer's blaring, trying to call in the birds and get them safely to the pensite. Fortunately the top cover pilots are up in the air, and will keep an eye out for any wayward birds.

Stay tuned as there will definitely be more updates detailing today's exciting events.

Date: January 15, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 84

Location: From the road
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Marion County, GA to ???

Accumulated
Distance
960.3 miles
Brrrr. 32F chilly degrees under partly cloudy skies in Marion County, GA. The winds on the surface are 2mph out of WNW and aloft the winds are between 20 to almost 40mph, also out of the WNW. A bit strong up top, but the team decided they would give it a go.

The cranes and planes are now in the air. Chris is lead pilot today and he took off with all 17 birds behind him. If conditions turn out to be what the pilots expect, it is very possible that they will overfly our Terrell County stopover. Stay tuned.

Date: January 15, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATE

Location: From the road
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Marion County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
960.3 miles

This update was compiled from data supplied by the WCEP Tracking Team consisting of: Dr. Richard Urbanek (USF&WS), Sara Zimorski, and Interns Anna Fasoli, Eva Szyszkoski, Colleen Wisinski (ICF). Thanks to Windway Aviation and Wildlife Trust pilot Greg Baker, Dean Harrigal (South Carolina DNR), Bryan Woodward (USFWS), Jason Jackson and staff (Tennessee WRA), Marty Folk (Florida FWCC), and Dan Kaiser for tracking assistance.

Estimated maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population at the end of this report period was 31 males and 28 females for a total of 59 individuals. * = females; DAR = Direct Autumn Release.

INDIANA
102
*, 303* & 317
TENNESSEE
105
& 420*; 107*NFT, 401 & 508*, 415* & 505, 520, DARs 527*, 528* and 533*, DARs 737, 739, 740*, 742*, 743*, and 744*, 746*
ALABAMA
213 & 218*
GEORGIA
209*NFT & 416NFT
SOUTH CAROLINA
310 & 501*, 311 & 312*
FLORIDA
101, 211 & 217*, 212 & 419*, 216, 309* & 403, 316 & 511, 402, 412, 408, 506, 509, 514, 516, 519*, W601*, DAR627, DAR628
UNKNOWN
201*NFT - Last observed June 9.
202* - Suspected dead. Last recorded March 13.
205NFT - Last located Oct. 16 on Necedah NWR.
305 & 507* - Last recorded May 26 in Wood County, WI.
307 – Last recorded Nov. 30 in Georgia.
512 – Last recorded during previous reporting period in Alachua County, FL.
524NFT - Last recorded Nov. 23 on Jasper-Pulaski FWA, IN.
313*& 318 – Last recorded Jan. 7 Putnam County, FL

Date: January 14, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 83

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Marion County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
960.3 miles
Despite good temperatures and clear skies, the OM team will be grounded for a second day in Marion County, GA. The culprit: strong winds both on the ground and aloft.

2007 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
MARION COUNTY, GA
Buena Vista is the county seat of Marion County. Two antebellum courthouses still stand here, the second of the county built in 1848, and the third in 1850. The first courthouse was built in Horry in 1839 but burned down in 1845.

Another interesting tourist attraction is Pasquan, created by Eddie Owens Martin on his family farm. Martin painted and decorated every square foot of every structure on the farm, inside and out, with images from Asian, African and Native American cultures.

Date: January 14, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

WOOD BUFFALO-ARANSAS POPULATION UPDATE

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
? miles

Marion County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
960.3 miles

On his aerial census conducted January 8-9 the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas, Tom Stehn reported locatin 236 Whooping cranes. Sea fog rolling in from the Gulf prevented completion of the census. The estimated size of the population remains at a record 266.  The flock consists of an estimated 144 adults, 83 subadults, and 39 juveniles.

Tom remarked, “I started doing census flights in 1982, so this initial flight in 2008 marks my 27th different calendar year trying to maintain my equilibrium as we do aerial maneuvers looking for cranes.”

The survey was conducted in a Cessna 210 piloted by Gary Ritchey of Air Logistic Solutions of San Antonio, Texas with USFWS observers Tom Stehn and Darrin Welchert. With difficult ‘soupy’ viewing conditions on January 8th, Tom said they found all the cranes expected plus a few more, but that they were only able to cover about 1/3rd of the census area. They resumed the census the following day with clear skies, but the clouds moved in soon after, and then sea fog that rolled in off the Gulf in the late afternoon terminated the flight.

Tom said he believes the Whooping crane migration is complete. “The crane that was staying in frozen conditions in North Dakota apparently resumed migration around December 22 and headed south with a strong low pressure system. It is presumably at Aransas along with the 2 Whooping cranes reported December 19th about 50 miles up the coast from Aransas. Two promising reports right before Christmas each of 3 cranes west and southwest of Houston could not be confirmed. One juvenile whooping crane sighted in west Texas November 27-28 has not been sighted subsequently and is wintering in an unknown location. If it doesn’t re-surface this winter, it will probably next be seen on the Platte River in March since it is accompanying Sandhill cranes,.”

No cranes were found at fresh water sources during this survey, which Tom said is not surprising with salinities recently measured at a moderate 15 ppt. Only 2 cranes were found in open bay habitat. “Foods have been plentiful in the marsh and the cranes have not had to seek out alternative foods,” he said. “A crab count done on January 9th by refuge volunteer Katherine Cullen found 13 crabs in an hour of hiking the marsh along with some wolfberry fruits, so the cranes are still getting these two important food items and not having to revert to clams which are less nutritious.”

Stehn’s report noted that a family group that has been seen as 1+1 some weeks and 2+1 some weeks was back as a two-adult family group, an indication he says that re-pairing may be taking place.

“Captain Tommy Moore on the tour boat named the Black Skimmer has made interesting observations about a particular crane he calls the “Scarbaby”. The crane is recognizable by missing feathers on the back of its head. This crane, hatched in 2004, sustained a very serious head injury at Aransas possibly from a snake bite or was hit by a raptor in April, 2005. It missed two northward migrations, but did make its first northward migration in the spring, 2007. Now, as a 3 ½ year-old, this male crane apparently has a mate and has established a territory on the refuge’s Sundown Island. Captain Moore noted this new duo also trying to spend time right next to Scarbaby’s parents, the Lobstick cranes that this year have two chicks.”

Date: January 13, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Joe Duff

Subject:

ON THE ROAD AGAIN – soon

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Marion County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
960.3 miles

I’m kind of the ‘old man of migration’ now. I don’t know how that happened, but I have been around now longer than anyone and it sneaks up on you like wrinkles and grey hair.

Bill Lishman started all of this when he first flew with birds back 1988. He paid his dues with hard work, and retired from bird training in 1998 and from the migration and work on the project in 2002.

Richard van Heuvelen has been around from the start. He would join us on the migration every fall to lead the ground crew until in 2002 we recruited him for the summers too as a trainer/pilot. Don and Paula Lounsbury have helped us on every migration since the beginning.

But I’ve been at this pretty much full time for 14 years. I started in 1993 and have participated in 15 migration studies, helping to lead just under 300 birds over 12,000 miles. I’m not laying the ground work here for any claim to fame, rather, building my excuse for not having been with the team.

More than any other, this migration has taken more time and a higher toll on the team and their relationships. Each of us must balance our love of family against our commitment to conservation, and the two often seem in opposition. Weeks of summer training and a migration with no definite end can play havoc on family plans. Social events, our share of household chores, family dinners, bath time and birthdays, are all traded for days on the ground waiting for the weather to improve.

I have a daughter named Alex who is eight years old. In fact I was attending a Recovery Team meeting in Wisconsin to help select Necedah as the introduction site and rushed home just in time to be a part of her birth. I have been away most of her summers and all of her autumns since then. I’ve never seen her in a Halloween costume and missed countless events like teacher/parents meetings and recitals.

Many of us take consolation in the fact that, in the end, our children will benefit from our absence, not in terms of personal memories, but in a richer environment and a heightened awareness of conservation. We hope to leave them with a better place than we were left. But sometimes the strain is too much.

In order to survive, a small organization like OM requires a bigger commitment from its staff. In addition to the field work, I have fundraising, Board, and WCEP responsibilities, and my travel for the last two weeks of January and part of February is already booked for presentations.

Normally we complete the second half of this migration in only 17 days. If that average prevailed, we would arrive in Florida by mid January, giving me a just few days at home to recover from our most arduous migration, before having to say good-bye again.

I was torn between two great loves and a hundred responsibilities. My guilt is self imposed; I wanted to be here with my family but also wished I could be in Georgia. For me it was time to pay attention to what really counts. Matt Ahrens, an experienced pilot who has helped us in the past volunteered to fly my aircraft. Our team is more than competent, and I had every confidence they would get along fine without me.

I’m grateful for the time I had at home. After all, if we achieve our goal, and I am confident we will, there will always be Whooping cranes, but there will never be another Alex.

Note: Joe will be on his way shortly to re-join the migration. I too will rejoin the team shortly after spending a few days at home fulfilling a long promised family commitment. Will we catch up with the team before they finish the job? The race is on. Liz

Date: January 13, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 82

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
0 miles

Marion County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
960.3 miles

Despite the crew's best efforts today, they will remain grounded in Marion County. Conditions this morning were adequate for a flight, at 38 degrees with light winds out of the East, except for one thing. A very thick fog rests to the south of them stretching right to the Florida/Georgia border.

Everyone was using their will power to its fullest potential to have the fog burn off or lift this morning, but instead it chose to move Northwards. Unfortunately this means that while the current pensite is clear, next stopover location is blanketed by the fog.

2007 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen (with an assist from Jane White)
MARION COUNTY, GA

Marion County was created in 1827, in mid-western Georgia just east of present-day Columbus.

It was named for the "Swamp Fox", Revolutionary War hero General Francis Marion. He campaigned successfully against the British in South Carolina.

Date: January 12, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Brooke Pennypacker

Subject:

LEAD PILOT REPORT (On Time!)

Location: Marion County, GA
Distance
Traveled
83 miles

Marion County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
960.3 miles
An apology is not the usual way to begin an Update, but today was not usual. So to all of our friends, supporters and fellow Craniacs, and to our hosts at the Pike County stop, who over the years have become a part of our family, and to Dale Richter who made the long drive up to represent us at the flyover location, we apologize for not providing a viewing opportunity.

I know you would all tell us you understand and that it’s OK, but we feel very badly about it just the same. We didn’t mean to disappoint you or let you down. When we took off this morning we intended to fly to Pike and the flyover. However, once airborne, with the birds flying well and weather conditions favoring a push to the second stop, we felt obligated for the sake of the project to go for it.

We did not enjoy the tailwinds we had hoped for which would have allowed us to make the flyover and still go on to the next stop. Then the threat of headwinds and turbulence began to rear their ugly heads. So on we went. We very much appreciate all your support and interest and do not take it lightly. It is, after all, the critical ingredient in the success of this project to date. So please know how badly we feel about missing you today and we can only hope that the knowledge that we got just that much closer to our ultimate destination will take some of the sting out of your disappointment…and ours.

The times we spend in the wee early hours of the morning just before a migration flight are often as interesting to me as the flights themselves. For me, mornings begin early in the Sierra with Walt and Brian long before anyone else is awake. We drink coffee, look at computer weather and generally solve all of the world’s problems. Some day we may even put our own problems on the docket. But then, so many problems…so little time!

Top Cover pilots Jack and John, now also Sierra residents, joined us, and John treated us to some computer video emails he had saved. John is a retired Delta pilot but is also a retired Navy fighter pilot. He began with a video of carrier landings as seen from the cockpit of a jet fighter. If this doesn’t get the old heart started in the morning, nothing will!

Then he showed us some video clips taken by a TV newsman while he went for a ride in the backseat of an F-18 Hornet jet fighter. This poor guy sat there chewing ginger flavored gum (stops air sickness) like his life depended on it as the pilot performed a series of high G combat-like maneuvers. At seven and a half G’s, this guy blacked out only to awaken to his own voice yelling convincingly, “I’m alright!” And two more times, as the plane rolled and looped and climbed this poor guy visited the “Land of Nod!” He would have been better off visiting the local laundromat, crawled into a dryer, handed the attendant three quarters and yelled, “Take me off!” Fortunate thing about it was, he never had to use the single puke bag that he had kept a death grip on the whole flight….fortunate, that is, because I needed it!!!!!!

Frost and fog greeted us as we stood in front of the barn sheltering our trikes about four hundred yards from the bird pen. There is great beauty in fog when it is not all bunched up in one place, but scattered in various yet vague geometries across the landscape. It totally obscures here, teases definition there as it plays with vision and perception.

While we awaited the rising sun to burn it into submission, we talked with our host, a great guy, about rock bands, guitar heroes he had seen in concert, amazing stage performances never to be repeated due to the untimely passing of the artist, and other similar wildlife related topics while the birds stood penned in the morning distance awaiting their release. The pen rested firmly on a nearby polo field. Then, when the time was just right, we pulled out the trikes and launched into another chapter of “Migration Made Easy.”

Polo fields have taken “flat” to perfection. I mean the polo field I was to launch with the birds from made the flat fields of Illinois and Indiana look like a continuum Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyons in comparison. Landing and taking off from such a place is like riding on a cushion of air; the transition between land and sky so exquisitely imperceptible. So smooth and vibration free in fact, that a man could operate an ultralight aircraft off a polo field for a thousand years and never loosen a single filling in his teeth.

As I lined up for my landing at the pen, I realized this would be the second time I took off with birds from a polo field. The first time, I was standing in the gondola of a helium balloon with two cages of Canada geese suspended on long ropes below. We were testing a theory which had been banging around the corridors of academia for years called, “Passive Migration,” which asked the question, does a bird have to actually participate in a migration, i.e. flap fly it, or can it simply ride along the route as a passenger in the comfort and security of an aircraft and simply watch the world go by, then successfully make the return trip in the spring on its own. In point of fact, we are still testing a different type of “Passive Migration”…. now we are spending most of this year’s migration sitting passively watching time go by!

Bev and Nate swung open the pen gates and off I went with 16 birds. The 17th bird, appropriately number 17 in this case, decided not to leave with the rest of his buddies but to stage his own ‘walk out. As the rest of us circled overhead to give him a second, then third chance at inclusion, he walked out of the pen, into a nearby drainage ditch and across into some woods. As Bev and Nate waded in waist deep water in pursuit, Megan swamp monstered.

It was time for the 16 birds and I, as well as Chris and Matt, to leave this drama and head off on course. Richard meanwhile landed to lend a hand. After a time, during which Bev’s cell phone was given the ‘float test’, Richard took off with 717 and was also on course as Jack and John circled over head.

The birds quickly assumed their migration rhythm and we headed for Pike County and a flyover. We knew many of our friends and supporters had arrived in the early hours to watch us pass over and we wanted very much to make this visit, though distant and brief, a memorable experience. However, conditions developed and decisions were made as described at the beginning of this update and the flyover was not to be.

The flight was yet another gift of this migration….birds, sky earth all at their best. The wind, however, was its usually teasing, then outright uncooperative self as we watched our slight tailwind begin to decrease causing the usual sense of frustration.

Would a headwind soon greet us? Could the birds endure this condition? Should we have played it safe and landed in Zebulon? Can we find a good field to land in and hide the birds till the pen arrives should they tire and descend? I laugh when I think of my young school days, when I misbehaved and was given a kick in the pants. I guarantee you each and every butt kicking I received was accompanied by an immediate tail wind!

It got so bad in fact, that I began the practice of jamming a Sears and Roebuck Catalog (what ever happened to Roebuck anyway?) in my pants in anticipation of this ‘Tail Wind’. The darn thing stuck out so far that while I was standing in line in the school cafeteria, kids used to put their lunch trays on it, pull up a chair, and start eating lunch!!! Where is a tail wind now that I really need it???

Finally, our field in sight, we head on down, leaving tail wind worries for another day. This is a new site for me. We haven’t used it in six years, and it has apparently changed a lot in that time. It’s fine, however, and we are soon down, the pen set up and the birds safely contained within.

Now, all I have to do is worry about is, will the Packers win this afternoon? Will my sweaty flight gear dry by tomorrow? Will tomorrow be a good flying day? And will John have more exciting stuff to watch on his computer over coffee tomorrow morning?

Date: January 12, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 81

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
83 miles

Coweta County, GA to Marion County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
960.3 miles

The OM crew has safely landed in Marion County, over flying the stop in Pike county. As far as we know, the birds behaved well during the flight; Brooke landed with his 16 and Richard with his one (717).

We would like to offer our apologies to all of the Craniacs that made it out to the Pike County flyover location. The crew took advantage of favorable conditions and elected to skip the viewing in order to make it to Marion county. We appreciate your support and know that you will understand.

Brooke's lead pilot report will (hopefully) be posted later today, recapping all of the events. We're keeping our fingers crossed for more flying weather tomorrow.

Date: January 12, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 81

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
? Miles

Coweta County, GA to ???

Accumulated
Distance
877.3 miles
There are flights that go perfectly; the cranes cooperate, the weather cooperates, and everything just seems destined to work out. Today was not one of those days.

All cranes and planes are in the air. However, this morning's liftoff was far from routine. Takeoff actually had to be delayed because of a lingering fog that slowly burned off. As the skies were finally clear and everyone was in the air, further problems persisted.

When the pen opened up 16 birds managed to get out and follow lead pilot Brooke. But 717 remained in the pen, refusing to take flight. Bev decided to go in after the errant bird and coax it out, finally succeeding. As soon as 717 was out of the pen she flew to a nearby cow pond, still refusing to take flight. Once again it was up to Bev to coax the now truant bird out - this included sinking up to her waist in muddy water.

Finally 717 took wing behind Richard's trike, and now all birds are en route to the next stop, hoping for a tailwind. Keep checking the field journal for additional updates and the lead pilot report later today.

Date: January 11, 2008 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Possible ARRIVAL FLYOVER viewing

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Coweta County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
877.3 miles

There is the potential for Craniacs, the public, and media to view an arrival flyover tomorrow morning as OM's ultralights leading the Class of 2007 approach the next stopover in Pike County, GA.

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 stopover site being skipped - should flying conditions permit.

Flyover location: Watchers should gather south of the community of Zebulon (about 5-6 miles), at the intersection of US19 and Old Zebulon Road. You will want to be on site no later than 7:15am. Operation Migration personnel will be on site to answer questions.

Please remember to be considerate of drivers using the highways and to park and disembark from your vehicles safely. As always, the ability to fly will be dictated by the weather. We hope it cooperates so that those of you who make the trip will not be disappointed.

Date: January 11, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Migration Day 80

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Coweta County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
877.3 miles

Today will be down day #2 in Coweta County, GA. 48F, rain and scattered thundershowers, and 8mph winds out of the WNW. Aloft winds are 30+ mph from the SW. Part of the problem today was the cloud ceiling in addition to the unfavorable wind etc. At our departure point the ceiling, at 6,000 feet, was fine, but closer to our destination the cranes and planes would have had only 600 feet.

Note from our resident amateur meteorologist, Chris Gillikson:
We had a cold frontal passage early this morning that ended the much needed soaking rains across Georgia. The winds turned northwesterly ushering in cooler and drier air and the sun is dazzlingly bright in a bright blue sky.

The desire to fly made it very tempting, but the low clouds on the southeastern horizon and memories of the gusty winds at 5:00am are keeping us grounded as the cold front to our south is still in the vicinity of our next stopover.

The forecast for the next several days actually looks quite promising. We have only had one opportunity on this migration to fly on consecutive days, and at this point, it looks like we have the possibility of flying Saturday through Tuesday. This information is based on computer models, and it can be very difficult to forecast the delicate conditions we need to fly with the birds. Keep your fingers crossed, we may be making some progress very soon.

Date: January 11, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

BIRD EXTINCTIONS

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
? Miles

Coweta County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
877.3 miles

LOOKING UPSLOPE AT THE THREAT OF BIRD EXTINCTIONS

Excerpt from January BIRDING COMMUNITY E-BULLETIN
As certain bird habitats shift to higher elevations driven by rising temperatures, birds depending on highland habitats and their associated vegetation are being seriously squeezed, possibly squeezed out of existence. Once a species retreats upslope far enough, as areas of once suitable habitat at lower elevations become too warm for the species, the habitable area for the bird could eventually be reduced to zero.

A Stanford University study on this subject has also asserted that many resident birds may be much more threatened from climate change than migratory birds (i.e., many sedentary mountain birds currently thought to be relatively safe may actually be at great risk). Click the link above to see a summary of this unsettling report.”

You can access an archive of past Birding Community E-bulletins on the National Wildlife Refuge Association website.

Date: January 10, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Richard van Heuvelen

Subject:

Lead pilot report - Yesterday's flight

Location: Coweta Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Coweta County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
877.3 miles

Over night showers and wind did not look promising for a flight yesterday. However, as the morning progressed, the rain cleared and the wind died down, providing a small window of opportunity.

With unpleasant weather forecast for the next few days it was decided to try and fly to the next stop 20 odd miles away. There, a good spot for the chicks and hangar space for the aircraft awaited us.

After Chris and Brooke took off I launched with 17 chicks from the abandoned runway for the short flight to Coweta County. We were met with rough air as we climbed out. The chicks had a hard time getting on the wing, but they kept trying, and eventually formed up in a long line off my left wing.

We continued climbing slowly battling rough air all the way in search of smooth air which never came. With trike and birds being tossed like rag dolls in the rough air, some of the chicks could no longer keep up, and about 7 miles into the flight 8 chicks began to fall behind, eventually to be picked up by Brooke and Chris.

With only a few miles to go to the next stop we continued on, never finding the promised calm air. With a giant field to land on we landed without incident. The chicks were hurried off to a safe out of sight place, while the pen was rushed in to another secure spot and set up. Once the pen was finished the chicks were brought back and secured in the pen with, as usual, some food and water. With the trikes safely in our kind hosts; hangar, we all began to relax and enjoy the beautiful sunny day.

 
Date: January 10, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Migration Day 79

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Coweta County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
877.3 miles

53F and 2mph surface winds straight out of the south greeted the team when they stepped outside this morning. Light rain was falling and there was a chance of thunderstorms building in the area.

Even if the rain and the threat of encountering thunderstorms in flight didn't keep us on the ground, what was happening up top would have. It was/is blowing out of the SW much to strongly to even contemplate a flight.

Today will be down day #1 in Coweta County, Ga, where, contrary to thoughts expressed yesterday, we have indeed stopped with Whooping cranes before. The last time we visited here was on the very first Whooping crane migration in 2001.

We are still waiting for Richard, the lead pilot on yesterday’s flight, to turn in his entry for posting here in the field journal. With today being a no-fly day, we should have it before too long.

Date: January 9, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Swamp Monster

Subject:

EMPLOYMENT WANTED

Location: Coweta Cty, GA

Experienced Swamp Monster seeks work. Position eliminated due to chicks’ improved following ability. Swamp monster feeling unloved and unneeded.

Talents include:
Running and dancing in rubber boots while covered in large plastic tarp;
Hiding in pen trailer and jumping out on command;
Being really scary;
Expert air horn operator.

Can work in all weather conditions except ‘trashy’ air. Equipped with own tarp and air horn. Benefit package must include motor home accommodation, a daily trip to Wal-Mart, meals, something to scare, and a promise to one day see Florida. Able to act civilized in public, and willing to do kid's birthday parties, mall openings, and Bar Mitzvahs. CPR certified to ensure resuscitation if overly frightened.

Interested employers please contact Bev the Swamp Monster c/o OM.

Date: January 9, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

:Liz Condie

Subject:

REMINDER EMP RINGTONES

Location: Main Office

According to a recent article by AP writer Susan Montoya Bryan, Wildlife ringtones have reached a milestone.

Field Journal readers may recall our posting last year about The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) offering free wildlife ringtones for cell phones. Their hope was that the ringtones would serve as an education tool and raise awareness for the plight of wildlife.

CBD’s campaign has been so successful that they have collected even more ringtones. They now offer, "growls, bugles and chirps of dozens of rare and endangered species from around the globe," the AP article said , and CBD plans to begin releasing new ringtones each month.

The Center's conservation director, Peter Galvin, was quoted as saying, "We’ve hit the 100,000th download in over 150 countries, reinforcing the worldwide movement to save endangered and rare species." In his interview with AP, Galvin said, "The extinction crisis is a global crisis." "I'd like to think of nature's diversity as a symphony," he said, "and extinction is like one of the instruments in the symphony going silent."

Ringtones offered include the Whooping crane's, which was supplied to CBD by Operation Migration. Facts on each of the species can also be found on CBD’s website.

Our thanks to OM supporter Marnie Geade for prompting us to give our readers another reminder about the ringtones’ availability. To access the site to download a ringtone for your cell phone click Endangered Species Ringtones.

Date: January 9, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

:Liz Condie

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 78

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
23.2 Miles

Haralson County, GA to Coweta County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
877.3 miles

The crew started the morning all sitting in our Sierra trailer watching the weather outside, the cloud cover, and the wind. Conditions weren't favorable at our usual flight time, so they decided to wait and watch for a while to see whether or not a flight would be possible.

About an hour after our normal launch time conditions improved and they decided it was ‘a go’. With less than perfect conditions, the plan was to target the next nearest stop – Coweta County just 20 odd miles away – as the destination.

The planes are all safely on the ground and the cranes all safely tucked away in our travel pen.

If memory serves, this is the first time OM’s Whooping cranes have visited Coweta County. The last (and only time) this stopover site was used was during the 2000 Sandhill migration.

Date: January 8, 2008 - Entry 4 Reporter:

:Liz Condie

Subject:

RECORD TOPPLED

Location: Haralson Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Haralson County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
854.1 miles

We’ve now broken another record we would rather have not seen fall. Today is our 77th day on migration. On December 19, 2006, 76 days after we left Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, we arrived in Marion County, Florida and were greeted by hundreds of people at the arrival flyover at the Dunnellon Airport.

There were two more fly days after that of course, as we returned to Florida to lead the birds from their interim stopover site on the Halpata-Tastanki Preserve to their winter home on the Chassahowitzka NWR. That was done over two days in two flights, one on January 11th and the second on 12th, adding day 77 and 78 to the total.

With 2005 being the exception, each year since the project’s inception in 2001 our migration travel timeline has grown longer. Encountering bad weather and intolerable wind conditions for cranes and planes is an unavoidable fact of life, but the number and length of consecutive down days seems to increase each year.

In an effort to get ahead of winter weather patterns in 2006, we left October 5th, the earliest ever. Unfortunately it didn’t help. The result was the longest migration ever and the latest ever arrival.

Migration Timelines
Summary

Year

Departure

Arrival

# Days

2001

Oct. 17

Dec. 03

48

2002

Oct. 13

Nov. 30

49

2003

Oct. 16

Dec. 08

54

2004

Oct. 10

Dec. 12

64

2005

Oct. 14

Dec. 13

61

2006

Oct. 05

Dec. 19

76

2007

Oct. 13

?

?

Long time Craniacs can click off here as what follows will be 'old hat' to you. We are hoping to reach the legion of relative (and welcome) newcomers to OM, our Field Journal, and the project generally with some helpful information. Perhaps the data above will help to illustrate the unpredictable nature of migration, and help forestall the many calls and emails we receive daily asking, “When will you arrive?”

”Yes, yes I know all that, but when will you arrive?”
Our answer? With a chuckle and our tongue in our cheek we sometimes start by saying, "Our crystal ball is broken." (Oh how I wish we had one!) To help them understand the vagaries of migration we sometimes say, “If you can tell us for certain what the weather, including temperature and humidity will be for the coming days; what the wind strength and direction will be on the surface, as well as at the various altitudes between the ground and 3000 feet that we fly; and, whether or not the birds will be ‘co-operative’ on each flight – we can tell you when we’ll arrive."

We promise we’re not kidding when we say the ability to fly each day is entirely weather/wind dependent – and honestly, we can’t tell you for sure even the day before if we will fly or not. Very often the ‘go’ or ‘no go’ decision cannot be made until sunrise and moments before take-off.

”Where can we go to see the cranes and planes enroute?”
In response to the many who have emailed asking where they can go to seen the cranes and planes as they pass overhead along the route, we also have no certain answer.

The pilots know the course they would like to follow, but again, wind conditions and the behavior of the birds will ultimately dictate their flight path. This means they could be miles away from the line they anticipated/hoped to take. It could also mean they pass directly overhead, but go unseen because they are a couple of thousand feet up.

”I want to come and see the birds, where exactly are you located?”
This note to the hundreds who call and write asking to visit us at our stopover locations to view/photograph the birds. We cannot identify our locations beyond the county level for the protection of and to ensure the isolation of the birds. No one is allowed near the birds except our handlers and aviculturists - so you would not be able to see them or even get close enough to photograph them – not with your longest lens. So that you can appreciate the strictness of this protocol, not even OM team members who are not directly involved in the birds' care or work with them in the air are allowed near the pensite. (Do you have any idea how much I’d like to visit the pen to see and photograph the birds?!?!?!?)

Another important consideration is that almost all of our stopover and pensite locations are on private property. We are merely guests of the property owners. We hope everyone can understand that they are not alone in wanting to view/photograph the birds – we get countless hundreds of requests. Out of respect, and in the interest of good relations with our stopover hosts and landowners, we cannot and do not invite the public to visit. As you will appreciate, we and they would be overrun.

Be assured that we chafe at all this as much as you do. No one knows better that we do how enthralling it is to see these magnificent creatures first-hand; how moving and inspiring the sight is; and how important to your caring about their future it is to have you, and as many people as possible, share what is truly a remarkable and emotional experience.

But Whooping cranes are reclusive birds by nature, and despite viewers’ most innocent of intentions, human interactions can have negative impacts on them. Until the Eastern Migratory Whooping crane population becomes well established, you can best help ensure their survival by not seeking them out, rather, keeping encounters to the minimum – only accidental ones if you will. In this way you will also be respecting and supporting the hard work, dedication, and $$ being invested in these birds in order for the species to survive and thrive.

As the population of this reintroduced population increases over the next few years it is expected that sightings of these rare cranes will become more common; especially in the areas of their summering and wintering grounds, as well as in the flyway during migration. Hopefully, some day in the not too distant future, our work will result in there being many, many opportunities to look up and see wild Whooping cranes.

Arrival and departure viewings
Lastly, some information about arrival and departure viewing opportunities. We do our utmost to arrange viewing opportunities when the planes and cranes are arriving or departing our stopover locations. There are several factors that determine a site’s appropriateness for this, and few sites are suitable. Things change from year to year, so locations have to be re-scouted which means we must first be in proximity. However, we always post potential viewing opportunities here in the Field Journal once we have arrangements in place and as we near that particular stopover.

You are all troopers for sticking with us throughout this over-long migration. Without your financial support we could go no where, and it is your cheering us on and many encouragements that keep us going and upbeat. Heartfelt thanks folks.

Date: January 8, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Chris Gullikson

Subject:

LEAD PILOT UPDATE

Location: Haralson Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Haralson County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
854.1 miles

Note: Blame the cyber monster not Chris for the delay in getting his lead pilot's report to you.

Looking at weather the night before our flight led me to believe we had a small chance of flying yesterday morning. The last 3 days we had calm conditions on the ground with southwest winds aloft of 20-30 mph at 3000 feet. Yesterday morning it was forecast to be 20mph or less at 3000 feet and very light southeast winds at the surface. Looking at conditions before daybreak they continued to suggest we could make a flight. So, we all got our heads together at 5:30am to discuss the possibilities.

Our closest stopover site was 43 miles away. With a guesstimated groundspeed of 25mph, we were looking at a flight of just under 2 hours. The southerly winds have really increased the temperatures so we knew that the birds would be tiring sooner. There was dense fog across southern Georgia that formed in the calm winds overnight, but we had clear skies and light, patchy ground fog to our destination. It was decided to put the trikes in the air and make an attempt.

Once aloft, we found that we had a headwind of 12mph or less as long as we stayed below 1000 feet. Once above 1000 feet we encountered a layer of turbulent air that smoothed out at 1500 feet, but the headwind increased to 20mph. We needed to stay low.

My turn to lead. I landed at the pen, gave the signal and was soon airborne with 17 birds chasing me. Our Gordon County stopover site forces a departure to the east, followed by a turn north, then back west as we gain altitude to climb out of a shallow canyon.

The birds were soon open-mouth breathing (as they usually do) early in the flight and they began to scatter (as they usually do). A short rodeo followed but I soon had 14 birds on the wing (photo to right) and slowly climbed through 500 feet. Richard had picked up 2 birds and was just ahead of me, while Brooke with one followed behind me. One of Richard’s birds broke from his trike, executed a 180 degree turn and quickly joined in with me.

The birds closest to the wing get an easy ride as they surf the vortex of air that is created off the wing of the trike. The birds further back need to work harder as this wave diminishes quickly with distance. I was worried about several birds further back in the line that were open mouth breathing; we had a long ways to go yet. We talked about breaking up the group between the trikes, but once I got to 900 feet I was able to give the birds a bit of a rest and they soon were breathing normally and looking strong.

Photo to the left was snapped by Chris in flight and shows 703 in his favorite spot - 'lead position'.

We continued on without incident averaging a groundspeed of about 28mph. There was a lot of lift being generated by the ridges below and I had to occasionally adjust my altitude as I found myself going through 1000 feet and slowing down to 22 mph. The extra lift in the air helped the birds as they did not need to flap as hard.

Brooke called out on the radio that his bird kept breaking and trying to fly to me. He pulled up closer to me and soon his bird had left him and was eagerly flying ahead towards me. With 100 feet of altitude working to his advantage, he quickly closed the distance and soon fell into the middle of the left line. I continued on with 16 birds on my wing.

Brian Clauss was following below us on the ground and had notified the landowner that we were on the way. We were alarmed to find out that a controlled burn was scheduled by the Forestry Service very near to where the birds were going to be penned. But a few phone calls later we glad to hear that they would delay their burn to accommodate our needs. Thank You!!

Richard was a few miles out in front of me and preparing to make his landing. He warned us that it was getting rough as the thermals were building, and suggested that I do an air drop. Brooke raced ahead and landed with Richard to give the birds a target to shoot for.
With so much lift in the air I was worried that the birds would continue to fly and that I would have to lead them right down to the ground, but they must have been tired for they quickly landed with Richard and Brooke. Matt and I fought the thermals and made our landings after the birds were safely on the ground.

We led the birds down a hill out of sight, then started taking turns getting our trikes out of the way and tied down before the wind had its way with them. Unfortunately before Matt could get Joe’s trike tied down, strong gusts caught it and blew it around. The trike came to a rest upside down, badly banged up, and the wing was pretty much done in.

Brian arrived with the pen and we quickly went to work getting it setup while Brooke kept watch over the birds. We soon had the pen assembled and I ran down to help Brooke escort the birds back from their hiding spot while Brian, Richard and Matt gathered up our flying gear and drove away with the van. With the birds safely in their pen, our thoughts turned to seeing what we could do with the damaged trike.

2007 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen (with an assist from Jane White)
HARALSON COUNTY, GA
Early settlers in Haralson County were the Indians.  There were approximately 34,000 Cherokees and 10,000 Creeks living there.  They roamed the wooded areas and streams hunting for their food.  There were few white settlers in area prior to the early 19th century when the final Indian treaty was signed in 1827.  Haralson County was created in 1856 and named for Hugh Haralson, a statesman.

Gold had been discovered in north Georgia and the settlers began moving in after the Indians were removed.  Searching for gold turned out to be more work than it was worth,  so the settlers turned to cultivating crops, especially cotton.

Date: January 8, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

:Liz Condie

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 77

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
? Miles

Gordon County, GA to Haralson County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
854.1 miles

When we checked this morning, the weatherman said it was 46F, with patchy fog and light SE winds on the surface. The reality was +50F, no fog, and winds strong enough to buffet our trailers. Aloft the story re the winds was worse; dead out of the south at almost 30mph. As a result, today will be a down day in Haralson County, GA for the cranes and planes.

In one respect, due to a trike mishap, having a day on the ground is not all bad. Yesterday's flight was slow and smooth until the last 20 minutes or so when the wind picked up. The landing required the full attention of the pilots. While the team was dealing with the birds, a gust of wind picked up Joe's trike and rolled it over. The aircraft only weigh 400 lbs and they have a large wing area. If the wind catches it just the right way it can easily be tipped, and then the upper wing can act as a sail and carry it right over. When the trike came to a stop it was upside down. The wing was trashed, the main mast bent, a wheel pant was cracked, and the prop and prop guard were damaged.

The pilots all spent yesterday afternoon and into the evening working on the plane. They have now checked out the engine which appears to be okay, and this morning they were doing fiberglass work on the wheel pant. We carry one of the old Zoom wings in our aircraft/equipment trailer so that will be installed in place of the North Wing. The prop guard cannot be repaired until after the migration is over, so the trike can only be used as a chase/spotter plane.

While we prefer to have the security and safety cushion of a fourth trike, in previous years we have made the entire migration with just three aircraft, and we are confident we will manage fine for the balance of this year's journey.

Some days it is hard not to feel that if we didn't have bad luck - we wouldn’t have any.

Date: January 8, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

:Liz Condie

Subject:

NEWS ITEM

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
? Miles

Gordon County, GA to Haralson County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
854.1 miles

A supporter emailed to tell us that as of yesterday afternoon, 508* and 401 have retreated to a location that's a bit more secluded. (Thankfully) He told us that along with several Craniacs, two Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency rangers were also on site observing the Whoopers and insuring no interference.

Date: January 7, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 76

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
43 Miles

Gordon County, GA to Haralson County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
854.1 miles

Despite being battered by a 15mph headwind this morning, OM's pilots managed to lead the Class of 2007 43 miles closer to their Florida destination.

Bev reported it was a bit of a rodeo this morning as the pilots tried to get the birds in the air. Fog was rolling in, spooking the birds as they left the pensite. Eventually they were off, with 14 birds on Chris' wing, 2 on Richard's and 1 on Brooke's. Before the end of the flight Brooke's lone bird fled his wing and joined the group with Chris.

With some inclement weather headed their way, we're not sure when the next flight will take place.

We've updated the migration map and charts, however please note that the team's current location in Haralson County isn't listed on the map. In the past we've been fortunate enough with the weather to over-fly that stopover. In fact we have not touched down there since 2004. But with the unpredictability that has characterized the 2007 migration, we're sure grateful that these gracious stopover hosts still make their property available to us.

Date: January 7, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 76

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
?? Miles

Gordon County, GA to Haralson County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles

This morning started off with two phone calls from the Operation Migration crew. The first one told us that this morning the cranes and planes were up in the air, and would hopefully make the next migration leg.

Hindering the possibility of a successful flight, some light fog remained on the ground that may have spooked the birds. However, the pilots were trying their best to persuade the birds into making it to the next stop at Coweta county.

The second phone call this morning confirmed that the planes and cranes were indeed on their way - despite a 12mph headwind! Stay tuned to the field journal, where we will continue to post updates as we receive them.

Date: January 7, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

stalking 508* and 401 for photos

Location: Gordon Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles

From messages coming in it appears people continue to flock to where the of the pair of Whooping cranes have stopped over in Davidson County.

Scott Somershoe, a State Ornithologist with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency was kind enough to post a lengthy explanation as well as WCEP's protection protocols for us yesterday on the TN Bird Listserv. Despite the posting and our requests here, some people are either not getting the message or are ignoring it.

Late last evening we received an email from a worried individual asking could not more be done to protect the birds from "insensitive Whooping crane chasers". Accompanying his message were photographs he had taken of two individuals who had gone far enough in the field where the birds were foraging to force them into retreat.

The good news is that the birds responded by moving off to avoid the humans. The bad news is that to some people, their viewing and collecting a photograph is more important than the safety and survival of the birds.

PLEASE, do not approach the Whooping cranes. PLEASE give them a chance to be wild and to live and survive undisturbed.

Date: January 6, 2008 - Entry 5 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

How about it?

Location: Gordon Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles
We have another MileMaker Challenge. "A.J.", a Toronto, Ontario supporter who previously sponsored 5 MileMaker miles, and also met someone else's 5 mile challenge, is now issuing a challenge of her own. She will sponsor another 5 miles if we receive enough sponsorships to make a match on or before January 20th. If you’re not already a MileMaker, grab your ¼, ½, or mile (or multiple mile) sponsorship between now and the 20th and you will double the value of your sponsorship through A.J.'s challenge, and we will be 10 miles closer to a 'sell out'!!

Date: January 6, 2008 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Nathan Hurst

Subject:

EXERCISE DAY

Location: Gordon Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles

The cold snap has finally broken and it is the third day since we've flown. Armed only with vocalizers, our wits, and a few cranberries, Richard, Matt and I let the birds out this morning for some exercise.

It was time to give substitute pilot, Matt, some 'ground training'. This was Matt's first experience with flying cranes from the outside of the seat of a trike. He was most impressed by the takeoff. He sat facing the door, camera all camouflaged and at the ready as they accelerated past him.

The pen is in a secluded field about half a mile or so from camp, and on a lazy Sunday morning the area was silent. Apart from a single train whistle and a couple of dogs barking in the distance, there was no noise to interfere with the wind whispering through their feathers as the birds spun circles and crazy eights above us.

After a short first flight and a bit of rest, we encouraged the birds to make a second trip. At first, as we ran and flapped ahead of them, they didn't seem interested. On the second attempt they went airborne and flew together on a significantly longer circuit. As they finally descended, their legs dangled beneath like landing gear on approach. Docile after expending a little energy, they followed us easily back into the pen.

At least some of us got to fly today.

Date: January 6, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Migration day 75

Location: Gordon Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles

The cold spell has lifted. In camp this morning it feels positively balmy at 42F. We have high humidity at 87% and the forecast calling for a slight chance of rain showers was right. Once again it is dead calm on the surface and without the rain showers it would have been decent flying conditions. But the powerful contrary winds aloft have again grounded us and ratcheted our frustration level up another notch.

The latest aviation weather updates report 40mph SSW winds up top this morning, and the news, sadly, is that it looks like it will be the same story for tomorrow, Monday. We tend not to put too much faith in reports more than 36 to 48 hours out, but on Tuesday they are calling for the SSW winds to drop to 15 – 20mph aloft as the system continues to move easterly through the area ever so slowly.

By our usual flight time Wednesday morning, current predictions are that the center of the system will have moved out to hover above the east coast, leaving us on the backside of the wind flow and giving us favorable northwest winds. Although from the right direction, they may still be too strong for cranes and planes to cope with.

Assuming the forecasts hold true, it appears we will be held in place in Gordon County today through Tuesday at least. It might take putting a test trike aloft on Wednesday to determine if we can take advantage of the northwesterly flow that day.

Date: January 6, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

WILDLIFE RINGTONES

Location: Gordon Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
? Miles

Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles

According to a recent article by AP writer Susan Montoya Bryan, Wildlife ringtones have reached a milestone.

Field Journal readers will recall our posting last year about The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) offering free wildlife ringtones for cell phones. The hope was that the ringtones would serve as a reminder and education tool to raise awareness for the plight of wildlife.

CBD’s campaign has been so successful that they have collected even more ringtones. They now offer, “growls, bugles and chirps of dozens of rare and endangered species from around the globe,” and plan to release new ringtones each month.

CBD’s conservation director, Peter Galvin said, “We’ve hit the 100,000th download in over 150 countries, reinforcing the worldwide movement to save endangered and rare species.” In his interview with AP, Galvin said, "The extinction crisis is a global crisis."

Ringtones offered include the Whooping crane’s which was supplied to CBD by Operation Migration. Facts on each of the species can also be found on CBD’s website.

"I'd like to think of nature's diversity as a symphony," Galvin said, "and an extinction is like one of the instruments in the symphony going silent."

Our thanks to OM supporter Marnie Geade for bring this to our attention and prompting us to give our readers another reminder about the ringtones’ availability. To access the site to download a ringtone for your cell phone click Endangered Species Ringtones.

Date: January 6, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

OM featured on seattle radio

Location: Gordon Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles

KPLU and KOHO radio in Seattle will re-broadcast ‘BirdNote’, with a segment about Operation Migration on Monday, January  7th. BirdNote is sponsored by the Seattle Audubon Society. Thanks to them!

Last January, Craniac and OM supporter Mark Chenoweth, (producer of Whooper Happenings) managed to get the attention of the Seattle Audubon Society, who sponsor the daily production about the environment, birds and wildlife. He supplied some requested information, and enlisted the help of videographer and long time friend to OM, Jeff Huxmann, (producer of ‘Hope Takes Wing') to provide ultralight sound effects for the piece. The BirdNote program about OM originally aired in January 2007.

The script has been revised slightly for the re-broadcast as the Class of 2006 was alive and well the first time this aired. Mark told us, "I still recall listening to this last year but it is a different feeling I get now listening to the revised program.”

The current program can be heard by clicking the following MP3 link http://www.birdnote.org/birdnote-transcript.cfm?id=1002

Click the following link to go to the original web page with photo (by Mark Chenoweth), and MP3 as it aired January 2007 http://www.birdnote.org/birdnote.cfm?id=987

Date: January 5, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

MIGRATION DAY 74

Location: Gordon Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles

This morning it is partly overcast but there are stars peaking through here and there. The temperature has risen to 29F, and what little breeze there is, is coming out of the ESE. Actually, standing out on the runway, there is so little wind it is almost imperceptible.

Up top it is a whole other story however. The system that is giving us the problem has in fact shifted a little to the east and is almost hanging over our heads. The wind it is producing is blowing in excess of 25mph aloft.

As we stood, coffee cups in hand in the morning circle, we were all shaking our heads in disbelief. On the ground, conditions appear nothing short of perfect for us to fly. Today will be down day number two in Gordon County. Frustrating as all get out.

Date: January 5, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

How can you help our conservation & preservation measures?

Location: Gordon Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles

We are prompted to write this by the many emails we are receiving excitedly telling us about their trip to see 508* and 401, the newly formed pair, who have been roosting in the Nashville, TN area. PLEASE remember how crucial it is that these birds (indeed any wild Whooping crane) not be approached.

While we completely understand how eager folks are to see and/or photograph the Whoopers, we can't help but worry about the welfare of the birds. After raising and training the chicks in isolation and making every effort to insure they never see a human or 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 threat to them.

Bear in mind that while we make every effort possible to 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.

Please do not approach any Whooping cranes or try to 'get a bit closer' for a better photograph. If they are to survive and be truly wild, they must regard humans and all things human as a threat to them. Several years ago a bird was lost to a power line strike when it was flushed by someone who 'meant no harm and only wanted a photograph.'

An enormous 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, (no closer than 600 to 800 yards) and afford these birds with which we have worked so long and hard the privacy they need to remain wild and survive.

Date: January 5, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

PHOTOS FROM HIWASSEE DEPARTURE

Location: Gordon Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles
Above: Chris Gullikson buzzes the Gazebo as the trikes come in to launch. Photo thanks to Andrea Caylor.
Below: Chris, Matt, and Brooke prepare to take off from Dayton, TN airport. Photo thanks to top cover spotter Tom Miller.
Above: Brooke leaves from the Hiwassee Refuge with all 17 of the Class of 2007. Photo thanks to Andrea Caylor.
Below: At this point, Brooke has one less wing mate as 721 had dropped off to be picked up by Richard.

Date: January 4, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Brooke Pennypacker

Subject:

Brooke's lead pilot report (He was always late with book reports in school too)

Location: Gordon Cty, GA
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles

There is an old Chinese proverb which says, “Man sit in chair with mouth open long time before roast duck flies in!” The moral here is obvious, but I would argue there are times when such behavior is actually beneficial and positive. This Chinese man is, after all, developing the discipline of patience, while at the same time probably making all kinds of good stuff to be sold at Wal-Mart.

But such insight does not make our migration lives any easier as the weather gods persist in tying us tightly to the chair with restraints of poor weather, while taunting us with pages flying off the calendar. We can only sit, mouths wide open, table set before us, and await the day when the feast will be served. Yesterday was that day.

As the sun peeked up over the horizon, we launched our hangar-weary trikes into the cold morning sky - a sky which presided over the most beautiful geography of the entire migration. (The photo to the left taken by Chris Gullikson enroute to Gordon County, GA testifies to Brooke's statement about the beautiful geography.) To our right the Cumberland Ridge, only last week our adversary, looked down respectfully upon our frail craft as the Hiwassee River and its attending serpentine riverlets and stub islands passed serenely beneath. The slanting rays of the sun painted playfully across the land and riverscape; flashes of gold illumination here, coal dark shadows there, an incredible tapestry of color and shape, but all preliminary to the main event awaiting just ahead. Leaving - no , ESCAPING Hiwassee with our 17 chicks.

Historically, this effort has always consisted of the classic Crane Rodeo as we ‘yank and bank’ our trikes around the skies in a frustrating attempt to coax our chicks away from Hiwassee and back onto the migration highway.

The problem is easy to understand. The chicks have grown to like it here. And what’s not to like? Great crane habitat, wonderful Tennessee hospitality, and thousands of cousin Sandhill cranes all around, each calling to them for days with the same message, “Don’t go. Stay here. This is where you belong. Besides, we love the company, the more the merrier. And, as everybody knows, thousands of cranes CAN’T be wrong!”

To this we can only counter, “Trust us. We know what’s best for you. And besides, Who’s your DADDY?” We eventually prevail, with most of the birds finally bending to our will and following us to the next stop while the rest make the trip in boxes via ground transport. Would it be the same this year, or would they repeat last week’s great performance over the Ridge from Cumberland County to Hiwassee, and which in past years was also a Rodeo? I wondered as the pen came into view and I dropped down to land.

The answer was soon clear. The energy in the pen was absolutely electric. I could not only hear it but I could feel it as well. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced The birds were not merely expecting a release and takeoff, they were demanding it! The fuse was lit. Detonation was imminent.

At the precise moment, Bev and Nate pulled open the pen gates and the birds literally exploded out, roaring after the trike as I headed down the field for liftoff. Their exuberance was mesmerizing as their wing beats flashed against sunlight and cold air, and for a split second I was more an awed spectator than a participant. As I turned sharply to pick them up, I knew as surely as I knew anything this was not to be a flight of conflict but one of cooperation. We were leaving Hiwassee. ALL of us.

Up we climbed as one, slowly, deliberately, all the months of work and wait coming together in this single quest for altitude and course. Only 721, late coming out of the pen, lagged behind, to be picked up by Richard at just the right time.

Chris and Matt kept watch from above, and above them, Jack and Tom were taking up their station as top cover. Below us, Brian maintained his presence on the highways and byways and on the radio. These watchful shepherds absolve me of all real worry and allow me the luxury of sitting back and enjoying the ride. Pilot AND Passenger. An enviable combination indeed. Especially with 16 birds, some on each wing, flying perfect lines trailing off each wing tip as the earth rolls out from under us. I get to fly the plane AND look out the window sight-seeing. (The photo to the right was taken by top cover spotter Tom Miller flying with pilot Jack Wrighter.)

At 3000 feet we even stumbled upon a long awaited tailwind. Not the 10-15 mph predicted, but a tailwind none the less. I was beginning to think the natural phenomenon of a tailwind was in fact an urban legend, rare as an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. But I never gave up the hope that if I flew long enough and lived long enough I would actually experience one in flight. And I did.

As if cued by an invisible director yelling, “It’s Show Time”, 703 decided to take over the lead from me. I watched with awe as he fought his way out of the shell back at Patuxent, and I watch now with the same awe as he flies inches in front of me, every movement a delight filled with wonder. He’s done this, taken the lead, on every flight the two of us have made together.

It’s just his thing, I guess, but he’s good at it. He can maintain his position with relation to the trike within an inch or two. I only allow him this privilege when it’s glassy calm, rough air is too risky. But in yesterday’s conditions, he was an absolute treasure to behold.

He looked back at me occasionally as if for assurance that he was doing it right, but of course there’s no need, because he was. Millions of years of evolution have seen to that. It is I who is the ground bound student and I am only the feeblest of visitors in his  world. I’m not about to tell him that, however. At least not until migration is over.

I regret I didn’t bring my camera, but at a ground temperature of 11 degrees for this flight and the ‘Up Here’ temperature a bit colder than that, (I guess so!), my camera battery wouldn’t last long enough for me to get out a single four letter word before it quit.

So instead I watch and concentrate my vision with as much energy as I can muster so that the memory of this magical creature and these magical moments will remain with me as long as possible. And that by doing so I can, hopefully, forestall the acidic effect of time which so inevitably works at the edges of such precious gifts, fades them, and eventually chews holes in their very core. Then I suddenly remember. In this case and this case alone I am in fact saved. I have only to visit the International Crane Foundation and lie under the beautiful crane sculptures that Richard did last year and I am assured of retrieving this memory. But will I remember my own name by then? I wonder!

Speaking of Richard, I looked up about a thousand feet above me and about half mile ahead and there is Richard with 721. At his altitude and the rate at which he was climbing, I wondered if he was considering pursuing a career as a astronaut after migration! In fact, I think he was contemplating flying top cover for Jack and Tom!

Brian called me for a progress report. I can tell you I’d much rather be up above than down there dodging traffic, tracking, navigating and doing radio checks. Too dangerous down there. I looked down and saw traffic on every road going every which way. Pure chaos! The folks on the ground; the tracking and ground vehicle crew have a far more hazardous job than we pilots. Sitting up here from this privileged vantage point, that lesson is all too clear.

It’s a jungle down there. We pilots seem to get all the attention, most of it underserved and it always makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Flying with birds is a piece of cake compared to towing our trailers up and down these interstates and back roads, some of which would challenge a mountain goat. Bev, Walt, Megan, Brian, Nate, and Gerald when he was here, get my vote as ‘Most Valuable Team Members’. Yet I’ve heard us pilots referred to as the ‘Rock Stars’ of the project. Well, the only thing Keith Richards and I have in common is, we both drool!

We easily slipped from Tennessee into Georgia; border crossings no problem up here. And soon, the brown tree covered ridges give up their length and surrender to the green, manicured, geometrical patterns of ‘settled’. Just across the river awaits our destination. The landing strip stands out like a giant welcome mat as we make our decent back to Mother Earth.

I hated that it had to end. I think the birds do too. But down we had to go to the pen, to our crew, our motorhomes, to our wonderful hosts, to our post-flight responsibilities, and in my case, to a chair in front of a table where I once again sat, mouth opened wide, waiting patiently for that roast duck to come flying on in - secure in the knowledge that when it does finally come, the feast that will follow will be well worth the wait.

Date: January 4, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

Migration Day 73

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles

The southerly winds being delivered by a weather system making its way into the region range from 15mph at 2000 feet to 30mph at 3000 feet. The planes and cranes will stay grounded in Georgia today.

It is so clear and almost calm on the surface that it is hard for us to accept that we can't fly this morning.

The forecast shows this system moving very slowly to the north east - slowly enough to possibly keep us on the ground until at least the first of the week.

2007 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
GORDON COUNTY, GA

The Cherokee Nation originally occupied Gordon County in the northwest corner of Georgia. In 1832 the Cherokee lands were divided into parcels that were distributed to the whites in a lottery. However, taking possession of their prize was prohibited as long as Cherokee lived on it.

A faction of the Cherokee Nation, in exchange for 5 million dollars, signed the Treaty of Echoa agreeing to leave their land. But the majority of the Cherokees did not recognize the treaty and refused to leave. Three years later President Andrew Jackson mandated that the U.S. Army round up the last 15,000 Cherokees and force them to march west in the famous "Trail of Tears."

Date: January 3, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

Migration Day 72

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
72.8 Miles

Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
811.1 miles

We received a brief update from Liz in the field just moments ago about this morning's flight. As we mentioned earlier, this morning's take off was perfect. It turned out that the entire flight was perfect; all 17 birds left with lead pilot Brooke, with one falling off to Richard a few minutes into the journey, and they stayed like this for the entire duration of a very long flight.

The birds are now safely landed in Georgia, and as soon as Brooke can send it, we'll have his lead pilot's report up for you.

Date: January 3, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

James Popham

Subject:

Migration Day 72 (Georgia here we come!)

Location: Main Office
Distance
Traveled
??? Miles

Meigs County, TN to Gordon County, GA

Accumulated
Distance
??? miles
Waking up to a freezing morning, the flight crew was uncertain if the birds would be up for flying. Last evening while doing the pen checks the crew noticed that the birds were only standing on one foot, keeping the other tucked up under their wings to keep it warm, and wondered if this would equate to reluctance today. It turns out that the the crew's uncertainty was unnecessary; the birds were eager to get up in the air and away from the 13°F morning (maybe the idea of wintering in Florida is just as appealing to them as it is to us?).

According to a phone report from Liz, this morning's takeoff was nearly picture perfect, with all 17 birds flying behind lead pilot Brooke's wing. The gathering crowd at the flyover location was treated to this spectacular view. Within a few miles of takeoff, one bird dropped out and was picked up by Richard. Both Chris and Matt Ahrens are flying backup today.

Stay tuned for additional updates and Brooke's lead pilot report later on today!

Date: January 2, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

Migration Day 71

Location: Meigs Cty, TN
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Meigs County, TN

Accumulated
Distance
738.3 miles
We've got a 2.5 out of 3 day again today; clear skies, cold temp, and NW winds. Unfortunately they are blowing even stronger up top than they were yesterday. Today will be our 4th day on the ground in Meigs County, TN.

Tomorrow however, is another story. Chris is calling for it to be a '3 for 3' day – so we are 99% certain we will be flying. If you are planning to come to the Gazebo to view the departure flyover be sure to dress warmly.

2007 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Meigs County, TN
The Hiwassee Refuge is located in the heart of traditional Cherokee Indian Nation land. In 1838 the Cherokees were forcefully removed from the area, moving westward on what has become known as "The Trail of Tears."

The Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, near Birchwood in Meigs County, is 6,000 acres located on Chickamauga Lake at the confluence of the Hiwassee River with the Tennessee River. In addition to being one of our stopovers, it is of great ornithological importance and hosts a wide variety of waterfowl, including the largest winter flock of Sandhill Cranes in southeastern United States, outside of Florida. Each fall, they migrate from their nesting grounds in the north to the Hiwassee Refuge and environs, where they rest and feed before some of them continue to migrate to Florida for the winter.

Our thanks to John Hooper for the photos below.
 

Above: Brooke arriving at Hiwassee.
Below: Sandhills take off enmass.
Above: Chris arriving at Hiwassee.
Below: One adult Whooper enjoys the water with many Sandhills.

Date: January 1, 2008 - Entry 4 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

MileMaker update

Location: Meigs Cty, TN
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Meigs County, TN

Accumulated
Distance
738.3 miles

It is another of those ‘2 out of 3 days'. Actually it's 2.5 out of 3. We've got clear skies, good temperatures, and winds coming from the right direction - the .5 we are missing is the wind strength. It's blowing 30mph plus up top. So what we have today is too much of a good thing. The cranes and planes and OM’s migration crew will spend New Year's day on the ground.

Beside is a photo taken by Megan yesterday at the pen – and you can see the grey cloud cover we had.

Date: January 1, 2008 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

MileMaker update

Location: Meigs Cty, TN
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Meigs County, TN

Accumulated
Distance
738.3 miles

Happy news to start off the New Year. The new total of MileMaker sponsored miles to date is 1088.5! Thanks to the always terrifically supportive Georgia Ornithological Society which sponsored 15 miles, that state is just one mile from being 'sold out'.

If you haven't as yet become a MileMaker there is still lots of room for you to sponsor a mile in Indiana, Kentucky or Florida. J

Date: January 1, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter:

Liz Condie

Subject:

EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION update

Location: Meigs Cty, TN
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Meigs County, TN

Accumulated
Distance
738.3 miles

This update was compiled from data supplied by the WCEP Tracking Team consisting of: Dr. Richard Urbanek (USF&WS), Sara Zimorski, and Interns Anna Fasoli, Eva Szyszkoski, Colleen Wisinski (ICF). Thanks to Dean Harrigal (SC DNR), Bryan Woodward (USFWS), Jason Jackson and staff (TN WRA), Marty Folk (FL FWCC), and Dan Kaiser for tracking assistance.

Estimated maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population at the end of this report period was 59 individuals (31 males and 28 females) distributed in Indiana (5), Tennessee (18), Alabama (2), South Carolina (4), Florida (17), and undetermined (13). * = females; DAR = direct autumn release birds.


BIRD #

LAST REPORTED LOCATION

101

Remained on winter territory Citrus County, FL.

102*

Greene County, IN Nov. 24. Still present when last checked.

105

Attracted by display female at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, FL was captured and transported to Halpata Tastanaki Preserve pensite Dec. 13 and then to Hiwassee WR, TN where he was released Dec. 16. (Almost all unpaired females in the population were currently at that site.) Remained there during the report period.

107*NFT

Hiwassee WR, Meigs County, TN.

205NFT

Last located Oct. 16 on Necedah NWR.

209*NFT & 416

Jackson County, IN to end of report period.

211 & 217*

Last recorded in Vermillion County, IN, on 13 December. No longer present when area was checked on 23 December.

212 & 419*

Pasco County, FL.

213 & 218*

Morgan County, Alabama

216

Pasco County, FL

303* & 317

Remained in Marion County, IN

307

Last recorded with 402, 412, 511, 514, and W601*at a migration stop in northeastern Georgia on Nov. 30. Had separated from 511, 514, and W601* by Dec. 2 and from 402, and 412 by Dec. 10.

309* & 403

Departed Pulaski County, IN Dec 5 and not located since.

310 & 501*

Remained in Colleton County, SC.

311 & 312*

Remained in Colleton County, SC.

313* & 318

Pair has not been located since beginning migration Nov. 22.

316 & 511

Remained in Marion County, FL.

401 & 508*

Remained in Davidson County, TN.

402 & 412

Found in Lake County, FL Dec. 19 and remained during report period.

408/519*/514

Found in Hillsborough County, FL Dec. 19 and remained during report period.

415*NFT/505

Remained Hiwassee WR, Meigs County, TN.

420*

Remained Hiwassee WR, Meigs County, TN

506

Last recorded in Iowa County, WI Nov. 23.

509

Found in Lake County, FL Dec. 19. and remained in area during report period.

512

Alachua County, FL.

516

Marion County, FL.

520*

Hiwassee WR, Meigs County, TN.

524NFT

Last recorded on Jasper-Pulaski FWA, IN Nov23.

DAR527*/528*/533*

Hiwassee WR, Meigs County, TN.

W601*

Hernando County, FL.

DAR627 & 628

Pasco County, FL.

DARs 737, 742*, 744*

Rhea County, and Hiwassee WR Meigs County, TN.

DARs 739*, 743*

Departed southbound from Hiwassee WR, Meigs County, TN and moved to Cherokee County, Alabama Dec. 17 where they remained until Dec. 23. They returned past Hiwassee WR and continued up the Tennessee River to roost in Roane County, TN. By Dec. 25 they had moved downriver Rhea County and returned to Meigs County Dec. 27 and remained for duration of this report period.

DAR740

Remained with wintering Sandhills in Franklin County, TN.

DAR746*

Hiwassee WR, Meigs County, TN.

Long Term Missing

201*NFT

Last observed June 9.

202*

Last reported Mar. 13.

503 & 507*

Last recorded in Wood County, WI on May 26.

 

Date: January 1, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter:

The OM Team

Subject:

Ringing in the neW YEAR

Location: Meigs Cty, TN
Distance
Traveled
0 Miles

Meigs County, TN

Accumulated
Distance
738.3 miles

Who would ever have thought we'd be sending out a New Year's greeting to you from Tennessee! Thank you for supporting us, encouraging us, cheering us, and for always being there. Craniacs Rule!! To all of you from all of us go our wishes for the very best of everything in 2008. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The OM Team
Pilots: Joe Duff, Brooke Pennypacker, Richard van Heuvelan, Chris Gullikson and volunteer Matt Ahrens. Ground Crew: Bev Paulan, Megan Kennedy, Nathan Hurst, and volunteers Walter Sturgeon and Gerald Murphy. Honorary OMer's Brian Clauss, Charlie Shafer, and Robert Doyle. Top Cover Volunteers: Don & Paula Lounsbury, Jack Wrighter, John Cooper, Tom Miller, and Dave Mattingly
Office Crew: Chris Danilko, James Popham, Liz Condie, and volunteers George McCubbin and Nevada Kennedy.


Special thanks go to 'survivor' Margie Carroll for this photo rendering.

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