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Date:November 30, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject: THANKSGIVINGLocation: Marshall Co. KY
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 525 miles
Some holidays are celebrated on the day the calendar tells you to. Others are celebrated when circumstances, not dates, dictate. Yesterday was one of those holidays.

My Thanksgiving took place yesterday in a rural bean field in Marshall County, Kentucky after a flight of less than two hours. Richard had just left our little hiding spot down the back of the hill to help Walt, Bev and Brian, who had perfectly timed their arrival to match ours, set up the pen. Meanwhile, I was left to enjoy what has become my favorite time of all.

One would think the best of migration times would be while flying with the birds, but in fact, for me, it is the 'just having flown' time, the arrival time. The period just after landing from a long flight when the birds are still exuberant from effort and challenge, more than a little shy because of their new surrounds, but hugely inquisitive, alert, and, most endearing of all, they are most trusting.

They surround you in quick animated motions and look up at you with cocked heads, their piercing eyes asking, “OK, Big Bird, you brought us here, now what?” The 'what' in this case was going to be Thanksgiving dinner, and here’s why. My belly was still full from the truly incredible feast the crew had cooked up the night before in the parking lot at Sturgis Airport.

Richard deep-fried a turkey so tasty that it bordered on being a narcotic and therefore illegal. And Heather and Liz made potatoes, squash, and stuffing, and crowned it with a gravy so tasty a king would conquer a neighboring country just for the recipe. To me, that meal was one of those little accidents in life which come literally out of nowhere and take their rightful place in your memory - for as long as you have one.

And it wasn’t because there was more food to eat because of the reduced size of our crew. Four members had left that morning for much needed and well deserved R&R at their respective home fronts due to an unfavorable long range weather forecast and in the ever hopeful but next to impossible effort to relieve some of the stresses which accompany the universal dilemma of trying to be in two places at the same time and satisfying two masters. It is a high wire act for which fate refuses a net, a burden heavier than any other the project demands. The stresses of raising and training and migrating birds is child’s play compared to the agonies some members of our crew face daily in this regard. But we try. And some of us EAT!.

It was during this feast that Bev entered the trailer and announced the aviation weather forecast updated and changed, and was to be excellent for the next day. That news was the sweetest of desserts, and the crew was instantly unanimous in the decision that despite being shorthanded, we should 'go for it'. A call to Joe concurred.

When Richard and I pulled open the hangar doors we were greeted by the cold morning gray as the rest of the crew positioned themselves for the release at the bird pen ten miles away. Walt was already well enroute to the next site, second bird pen in tow, with Liz close behind with the motor home. Minutes later, Bev and Heather swung open the pen doors while John swamp-monstered and the birds and trike went airborne.

Then, as Richard and I got on course, Brian and Bev followed from below as Heather and John took down the pen. The birds, as if finally sensing their true role as part of our team, and as such, the importance of a good performance, flew beautifully and followed obediently in a cohesive group. No hot-dogging, no ego trips, no show boating as the earth with bigger rivers and lakes than they had ever seen rolled out beneath us.

And then, there below us, was Walt, Bev, Brian and the white truck and the pen and the destination. Richard and I and the birds landed, experiencing, in a sense, the true spirit of Thanksgiving.

So there we stood, the birds and me, and their, “Where’s the beef?” look. All I had was a bag of grapes and some corn. Not much but at least it was better than the parts of my trike...or my flesh! And since I’m definitely not the guy who could feed the masses with only one fish or quench their thirst with a single grape, I did the best I could. So as the chicks lined up in front of me, I, like a priest at Communion, gave each chick a grape with my puppet head as he or she passed by, along with my best wishes in a sacrament of gratitude and thanksgiving. I sensed a calming, almost spiritual effect favor us, one which lingered until Richard appeared on the hill top and signaled the pen was ready. Dutifully this little congregation followed and were soon safe in the cathedral of their pen.

Bev arranged for hangar space ten miles away, so after a short but trashy flight, our two trikes were in the sanctuary of a cathedral of their own. Then it was back to our starting point in Sturgis to roll up the rest of camp, retrieve the pen from the field, and for Richard and I to fly the remaining two trikes to join their stable mates.

Retracing our long morning’s flight without birds was both fun and strange, not experiencing the stresses and joys of birds flapping off our wing tips and remembering what fun flying was all about. We arrived at sundown and were soon at camp and in the home of our new host feasting on homemade soup, cornbread and fudge as the fireplace and the deeper camaraderie of host and crew added warmth to the satisfaction, pride, and sense of accomplishment of the day’s events.
I hope everyone out there had a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving. But if not……there’s always tomorrow.

Date:November 30, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:THREE STRIKESLocation: Marshall Co. KY
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 525 miles
We woke to 38F and, although it felt like a lot more, the wind read just 5mph - but straight out of the west. Strike one. Aloft the winds were blowing 20mph from the southwest. Strike two. Lastly, it began to rain last evening just before bedtime and we've still got some drizzle. That's strike three so we've been knocked out of the game at least for today.

Migration Day #45 will be spent on the ground in Marshall County, Kentucky.

Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Marshall County, KY
The county was formed in 1842 from part of Calloway County. The first settlement was around 1818, when the area was bought from Native Americans as part of the Jackson Purchase. The county was named in honor John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States from 1801 to 1835, who had died not long before the county's founding. The 2007 Census Bureau population estimate was 31,258. Its county seat is Benton.

Date:November 29, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NEWS ROUND-UPLocation: Marshall Co. KY
Distance:63 miles Accumulated Distance: 525 miles
With logistics a little skewed today, most of the team is back on the road to Union County to relocate vehicles. As a result, it will likely be very late tonight if not tomorrow before we have Brooke's lead pilot report.

Not having to be behind the wheel this afternoon is giving me a chance to say thanks to everyone for their "Happy Thanksgiving" messages to the team. Having done two migration legs on Thanksgiving Day, it was very late by the time everyone was finished their tasks. We had all the fixings for dinner, but it was too late to thaw the turkey, etc. Everyone was tired and starving so it was every man for himself for leftovers.

Being down yesterday we declared it 'Turkey Day' and we Canadians, who had already celebrated our Thanksgiving in October, decided to prepare the feast for our American team members. Richard, as always was in charge of the deep fried turkey. It had spent the day marinating in a maple syrup laced salt brine. Heather took on potato, veg and gravy duty, and all that left for me to do was the stuffing. It was unanimous - delicious meal, and I don't think anyone missed going back for seconds.

With the prospect of a great fly day this morning, we made fast work of the clean up and dishes, and all the groaning tummies headed for their respective beds.

Thankfully the weatherman hadn't changed his mind overnight, so the morning circle didn't last very long. It was a 'go' and the team wasted no time leaving for their posts.

When the ground crew released the birds on lead pilot, Brooke's signal, all 14 charged out of the pen as if they were as anxious to get going as we were. Brooke started the flight with 14 and finished with 14! What a great bunch of birds the Class of 2008 is turning out to be.

Date:November 29, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:ROADSIDE REPORTLocation: Marshall Co. KY
Distance:63 miles Accumulated Distance: 525 miles
We're at Stopover #12! Well, at least some of us are. The cranes and planes are on the ground here. The pilots have walked the birds off out of sight and sound so Bev, with the help of Walt and Brian, can set up the pen. The rest of the ground crew have packed up the pen at the Union County site and are breaking down camp there. They'll soon be on the road to join us. We'll have a bit of vehicle jockeying to do yet today as Tom Miller our top cover spotter who flies with pilot Jack Wrighter, left camp yesterday to get home for some scheduled knee surgery.

Joining us as spotter and driver is our old friend from Tallahassee, Florida, Gerald Murphy. No doubt we can expect Gerald to produce some of his famous biscuits.

More later in Brooke's lead pilot report of course, but until then we can tell you he left with 14 on the wing and from the ground it appeared he arrived with all 14. We're all elated - - - super day!!!

Date:November 28, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NOT FAIR Location: Union County, KY
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 462 miles
36F here this morning and the winds were close to perfect; 4 - 5 out of the NNW on the ground and 10mph aloft. Nonetheless we're e grounded.

We had a sprinkling of rain very early this morning, and while it soon let up, there was a rain storm cell just to the west of us on track to cut right across our flight path and intersect with the cranes and planes about half way to our next stop. How frustrating - great wind and we can't advance a mile. Doesn't seem fair.

Migration Day #43 will be spent on the ground in Union County, KY.

Date:November 28, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WOOD BUFFALO - ARANSAS POPULATION UPDATE Location: Union Co. KY
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 462 miles
Tom Stehn, Whooping crane coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge reported that the second aerial census of the 2008-2009 crane season was completed November 25. Tom and Darrin Welchert were flown in a Cessna 210 piloted by Gary Ritchey of Air Transit Solutions of Castroville, Texas.

On their five and a half our flight in ideal weather conditions, they located 266 Whooping cranes; 228 adults and 38 juveniles. Tom noted that the total of 266 matches the peak population of last winter.

In his explanation of numbers located and additional cranes in the flock Tom said,” Due to considerable crane movements during the flight, it was difficult to pin down the exact number present. 86 birds were found in uplands (45 at fresh water sources and 41 on coastal prairie). Such movements make it possible to double-count cranes, or to completely miss cranes as they move to and from the marshes. For example, a group of 8 adults, 4 juveniles and 1 sub-adult was found at one waterhole on Matagorda Island, and 24 whooping cranes were on a prescribed burn on Matagorda Island. Crane presence on uplands also makes it very difficult to identify specific territorial cranes since they are not in their marsh territories.”

In addition to the estimated 266 counted, Tom presumes that the following additional cranes can be added to the estimated flock size: 2 whooping cranes in central Kansas; 1 whooping crane juvenile seen south of Austwell, TX on Nov. 20-21; and two family groups (4 adults and 2 chicks) believed overlooked at Welder Flats. This would bring the unofficial estimated population size to a record 275! (234 adults and 41 juveniles)

The 38 juveniles seen on the census flight indicates survival was very good from the 41 juveniles located in Canada in mid-August. With one additional juvenile seen November 20-21 north of the refuge and possibly 2 family groups overlooked at Welder Flats on the flight, it’s possible that 41 juveniles can be accounted for. Pinning down that number is a priority on future flights.

TOM’S REPORT NOTES
Wood Buffalo-Aransas Population Migration
The cold fronts reached the Texas coast on November 15, 20, and 24 enabled an estimated 27 Whoopers to reach Aransas since the Nov. 14 census. Sighting reports in the migration corridor have all but ceased. The National Tracking office in Grand Island, Nebraska reports only the two Whooping cranes still in central Kansas. The most recent sighting before that was a family group in Nebraska on November 17th. However, it is well documented that some Whooping cranes make it to Aransas in December every year. With the one known sighting in Kansas, it is very likely that low numbers of additional Whooping cranes are in migration since most stop in isolated areas and never get reported.

Notable
One pair arrived with twin chicks. This family has brought twin chicks to Aransas three times in the 12 years (1997-2008) since the egg pickup ended, and they have brought 6 single chicks to Aransas during that same time period. That adds up to having brought one or two chicks to Aransas 9 out of the last 12 years, and a total of 12 chicks in 12 years, making them the most productive pair over the last decade.

Aided by a strong cold front, they arrived November 15th about 9:00AM, and a single-chick family that presumably had migrated with the twin family landed next to them about 5 minutes later. The territorial male re-established his territory within 20 minutes, scattering the other family and the nine sub-adult cranes that had been present. One bird in the sub-adult group of nine flew with one leg hanging down, despite the fact that no limp was observed when it was walking. Perhaps this was the crane reported with an injured leg in the fall migration in Saskatchewan.

Habitat
The conditions at Aransas this winter do not look very good. The wolfberry crop seems notably lower, perhaps a result of the summer drought. Although some blue crabs were found on a count conducted November 10th, the cranes initially seemed to be foraging more on fiddler crabs. This suspected minimal amount of food resources was indicated by the 41 whooping cranes seen on uplands during the census flight. A prescribed burn of around 2,500 acres conducted on Matagorda Island on November 15th held 24 whooping cranes, with 17 on unburned uplands. The use of unburned uplands this time of year is indicative of less than ideal food resources in the marsh. Bay and marsh salinities are around 30 parts per thousand, forcing the cranes to make daily flights to freshwater to drink. Forty-five cranes were found at fresh water sources during the recent census flight.

Date:November 27 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NO FLYOVER FOR UNION COUNTY Location: Union Co. KY
Distance:108 milesAccumulated Distance: 462 miles
Apologies to those who would have liked to have viewed a departure of the cranes and planes from Union County. Despite thoroughly scouring the countryside, we could not find a suitable viewing location. We could not find even one that met at least two of our three main criteria.

However, our hoped for flight path does go over the town of Dekoven, and while by that time they may be fairly high, keeping an eye peeled may reward the viewer with a glimpse.

Date:November 27, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: Keeping your promises Location: Union County, KY
Distance:108 milesAccumulated Distance: 462 miles
For the most part, pilots are not a superstitious lot, at least not any more than your average rabbit’s foot carrying, four leaf clover seeking, sidewalk crack avoider.

Aviation is a 50 / 50 sort of thing. Half of it is the art of flying and the other half is all science. You learn the theory of aerodynamics and mix it with the finesse it takes to nail a short field landing in a crosswind. And just to make sure you have all the bases covered, when no one’s around, you talk nice to your airplane.

The aircraft we fly are commonly referred to as trikes, primarily because of the three wheeled fuselage that carries the pilot and the engine. That appendage is suspended under a hang glider type wing that can easily be removed for storage or replacement with a variety of styles for different flight characteristics. During the migration we fly a North Wing M-Pulse that has 17.5 square meters of lifting area. They are all white except for the leading edges, which are different colors so the top cover pilots can figure out who is who. Last year my leading edge was black but that wing was destroyed when a gust of wind blew it over while we were busy leading the birds to the pen.

In September, a brand new wing arrived with a bright yellow leading edge that matches the trike perfectly and is my favorite color. Even though I have assembled many wings, I read the manual cover to cover before I opened the box. I took extra care putting it together, and when I taxied out for its first flight we stopped at the end of the runway and had a little talk. I promised to look after her if she promised not to kill me, and off we went. I have kept that pact ever since and obviously so has she. I keep all the bugs off her nose and make sure the tie-down ropes don’t chafe and she flies true and straight.

We knew it would be cold last night so I wrapped her in frost covers and tied her down in the trees out of the wind. In the morning, I left the covers on until the last minute so the frost wouldn’t have time to form before we were airborne. But just as we were about to go I realized I was missing a glove. It was far too cold to fly without hand protection so I back taxied until I found where it had dropped out.

The farmer’s road we were using for a runway was a hundred yards from the pen and my plan was to begin my take off roll as the birds came out and intercept them just as I got airborne. There were two flaws in that plan.

The last thing we do before taking off on cold mornings is pull on your headgear. It only takes a minute of breathing warm air into a cold helmet before the goggles fog up. A moment after lift off the wind clears the fog but while you are on the ground everything is reduced to shapes and silhouettes. The time it took me to find my glove and taxied into position was enough to obscure my vision and leave a thin layer of frost on the wing.

The world began to refocus as the birds made a perfect arch to intercept the wing and we flew low over a cultivated field. The fog was gone in an instant but the frost took its toll on the wing.

A stall in an aircraft is when the wing can not generate enough lift to keep the aircraft flying and it begins to fall. I felt the controls grow heavy in my hands as we sunk and I knew that my wing was reminding me that she doesn’t like the cold. She dangled me there, an inch away from a hard landing in a muddy field that would have sent us both end over end. The lesson lasted long enough to ensure it will never be forgotten, and then, at the last possible moment, she let go of my throat and gradually began to fly again. Her point made and the lesson complete, we circled once to collect all the stragglers and began a slow climb in perfectly still air.

Normally after a few miles one or two of the birds drop back and are eventually picked up by the chase pilots, but this time the all stayed. We climbed at 50 feet per minute to 2000 feet with 7 birds on each wingtip. Occasionally one on the end would drop and we would lose a few hundred feet to let it catch back up. The front birds would challenge the wing once in a while by charging ahead to take the lead.

For a time they were all off one wing with the last two birds working hard to keep up, so I climbed sharply and did a steep turn, then settled back into the flock and they resumed their split formation. With only seven birds on each wing they all get some benefit from the wake it generates.

The winds were calm even at 2500 feet and the air speed matched the ground speed exactly. An hour and twenty minutes into the flight we passed overhead of our first stop [Wayne County] and plodded on at 38 miles per hour. We covered 108 miles in 2 hours and 50 minutes, and all the birds except 827 stayed with me the entire way. Thirty minutes from the destination it grew tired and dropped down until Richard picked it up. Alone on the wing it simply soared in a relaxing free ride.

We landed in Union County, Kentucky at close to 10 am and still the winds were calm. After the birds were safely in the pen, we flew to the Sturgis Airport where they kindly let us use a hangar. My wing is warm and dry now and freshly cleaned as my way of keeping the pact. I must end this report early though because it’s getting dark and I’d like to have a few words with my engine.

Date:November 27, 2008 -Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: THANKSGIVING DINNER WILL BE IN KENTUCKY!! Location: Camp
Distance:? miles Accumulated Distance: ? miles
A quick note from roadside to let you know that the cranes and planes are in the air. With Joe leading and all 14 following the folks gathered at this morning's flyover location had a picture perfect view. The pilots radioed to the ground that they had a 3mph push out of the NW (at least at that point) and were going to be able to skip our stop in Wayne County, IL and head for Union County, KY.

The pen is pack and loaded and we are now breaking camp and we'll soon be on the road for what appears to be about a 4 hour drive to our first KY stopover location. More later.

Date:November 26, 2008 - Entry 4Reporter: Richard van heuvelen
Subject:LEAD PILOT (AND CHIEF REPAIRMAN'S) REPORT Location: Cumberland Co. IL
Distance:56 MILES Accumulated Distance: 354 MILES
Well there we were again this morning downing our coffee, rushing about preparing for what might happen, or not, as was the case yesterday. So when I took off from the landing strip and climbed out to 600 feet I was quite happy to find decent calm air all the way up.

Again, landing and taxing around the pen, giving the thumbs up to the ground crew, it was getting like a well rehearsed play with the ever so patient ground crew, and we were off all 14 birds in a cluster - the good kind. They all followed as we circled the valley and we were soon on course.

It was looking good but then some started to fall back and break off so we circled again collecting up together and headed on our way. After a few miles with all 14 on my wing and looking good, two chicks suddenly, for no apparent reason, turned away and headed back. Then, seeing them go, one more also turned back.

With the other 11 birds still on the wing we continued on and slowly climbed to get more altitude, trying to get above the head wind we had encountered, leaving Joe and Chris to deal with the three wayward chicks. Brooke fell in behind to keep an eye on the 11 loyal chicks and the miles slowly passed beneath us.

As we climbed, the head wind became less, but never went away. The air was still smooth until about 25 miles out from our destination when the first bumps in the air started. As the air became rougher the chicks began to have more difficulty staying on the wing, however they did well keeping up, and as we got closer to our destination we began a slow decent and the chicks were able to follow well.

Our ground speed began to decline but the chicks liked the long decent to the pen site. After landing, Brooke and I walked the birds away to allow the ground crew to come in and set up the pen. The chicks followed Brooke past me as he had his vocalizer turned up, so I took the opportunity to get out of the heavy clothes and flying helmet, with the intent of going back and letting Brooke do the same.

Once you are on the ground after a long cold flight you warm up quickly with all that clothing on. However it was not to be. Brian called. The axle on the pen trailer he was bringing to us broke in half. so we had to wait for Bev to bring the one from the previous site.

While Brian and I waited we began to figure on a way to repair the broken axle. Our kind host offered the use of their shop and directed us to a local welding shop to find some material to fix the trailer. Then we went back to set up the pen which by then had arrived. After setting up the pen Brian and I set off to repair the travel pen trailer well enough to get it back to camp.

While Brian and I struggled underneath the trailer, Brooke, Chris, and John joined us, and soon we had the trailer in our host's shop. As a metal sculptor I'm never happy unless i have some tools with me and today they came in handy. While the others jacked up the trailer and took the wheels off, I gathered up my welding tools.

Brooke and Bev went to town to find new tires, Chris and John went to put frost covers on the trikes, while Brian and I repaired the trailer properly, Brian referring to himself as my 'welding boy'. After finishing the trailer we went to check on the chicks, hiking two pumpkins across the field to give the chicks a well deserved treat.

Having forgot my costume, Brian continued on as I went to help Chris and John finish with the trike frost covers. When we finally got back to our host's place it was getting dark, and Brooke and Bev arrived with the new tires. We quickly put the wheels back on, towed the trailer out of the shop, and then put all of the panels back on the trailer. Finally finished for the day, we commiserated together in the dark over a cold beer with various family members of our hosts. Thanks for all your help!

Date:November 26, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:WHAT A TEAMLocation: Cumberland Co. IL
Distance:56 miles Accumulated Distance: 354 miles
I wish we could take several different days and put them together to get the perfect weather we need for flying. Yesterday we had a great tailwind, but winds on the surface were so strong that the birds could not form on the wing. We bumped around just over the trees for what felt like 2 hours but was only 30 minutes until we finally gave up. Today the air was perfectly smooth as we took off just at the crack of sunrise.

When the conditions are calm, an ultralight is a beautiful thing. It glides through the air like a canoe on still water and nothing is more graceful. Richard Van Heuvelen was the lead pilot today and the rest of us climbed high to watch and stay out of the way. The pen was in the bottom land next to the river, and Richard led the birds on a few circuits to gain enough altitude to clear the trees. The stragglers cut the corners and soon they were all formed on his wing. He headed on course and it looked, for all the world, like a perfect take off.

But there is a lesson to be learned from counting your cranes too soon, and as I watched, one bird worked his way up the line until he was in front of two others. He literally pushed them out of the formation and turned them back as if he wanted compatriots to join his mutiny. Richard carried on while I gave chase. We called for the swamp monster to discourage them from landing near the pen, and as an added dissuader Walter Sturgeon drove the truck close by and honked the horn.

Brooke Pennypacker continued on with Richard so Chris Gullikson came back to help with the reluctant trio. For 40 minutes we collected them on the wing and turned them south. They would fly in perfect formation for a mile or two, and then, on some mysterious cue, they would break and head back north with determination.

Chris had them on course and we were about to settle in to the business of migration when they broke again. We were about to give up, and began looking for a place to land so Brian Clauss in the tracking van could crate them to the next site, when they formed on my wing one last time. I was flying west at the time but was reluctant to turn south in case they took the change as an excuse to turn back. So I kept going. After about five miles I slowly turned them south and began to climb.

Below a thousand feet we had a headwind and were down to 24 miles per hour with 55 miles to go. As we passed through 1500 feet the speed began to increase and by 3000 feet we actually had a 3 mph push. Our aircraft have a 3 hour range and we were pushing 2½ hours when we finally began our descent. Brooke and Richard had already landed when we arrived with the last three.

Before this all started we had ambitions of skipping a stop, so we didn’t set up a pen in advance. Brian Clauss was pulling it behind the tracking van so it would be available wherever it was needed. But as we circled Brian radioed to tell us he was stuck on the side of the road with a broken axle.

Bev Paulan was pulling the other travel pen trailer and within the hour she arrived and we began to set it up. Chris and Brooke held the birds in a hiding place until the pen was ready. Just when we were about the retrieve the birds, the truck became stuck and we had to scrabble to keep them hidden for a few minutes more. By mid afternoon we had the birds secured and the aircraft tied down; by late afternoon the damaged travel pen trailer was repaired; and not long after dusk we had camp established.

It is my honest opinion that there is nothing this team can not do. From before dawn until after dark they freeze the toes, forgo meals, risk their lives, and use all their talents to make this work. Whooping cranes have never had greater advocates.

Date:November 26, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:STOPOVER #9 - FLYOVER OPPORTUNITY Location: Cumberland Co. IL
Distance:56 miles Accumulated Distance: 354 miles
Now, THAT's more like it! How great it was to get moving today! While the birds are of course safely tucked away in their pen and have been since late morning, we humans are still not quite settled in camp. With it taking Joe and Chris almost 40 minutes of persuading to get the last three birds to stop turning back to the pen, the ground crew had a very late departure from Piatt.

Then, Brian Clauss (our Patuxent pal) who was following the flight below in the tracking van, got bogged down when the axle broke on our mobile travel pen his vehicle pulls. There was a people, tools, and vehicle exchange roadside as we needed to get Richard, our handyman extraordinaire, from the pensite to the breakdown site to affect a temporary repair.

Add to this the fact that all of us, with the exception of Bev and Brooke, have never driven this route, so the journey is a little slower than normal as we shuffled between reading driving directions, consulting Gazatteers, and re-programming GPS units.

With one thing or another, from looking after the birds to doing media interviews, and from making repairs to shopping for parts - and groceries too when we suddenly realized tomorrow was Thanksgiving and everything would be closed - everyone's been pretty much on the go non stop.

It's now 5:45pm CST and it's pitch black in the campground a supporter has kindly agreed to allow us to use for the night. The last of the vehicles with the last of the crew coming from the pensite just pulled in. There's a big BBQ here and because everyone either has no interest or is too tired to cook, we're going to have a BBQ - every man for himself. The potatoes are baking in the oven and the bags of salad just need a dollop of dressing.

It appears as if the weatherman might be going to give us another chance to fly tomorrow. If you're in the vicinity, why not come out to see the (we hope) departure flyover.

CUMBERLAND COUNTY FLYOVER VIEWING OPPORTUNITY
In the anticipation of and hope for good flying weather tomorrow morning, we searched out what we think might be a good site for folks to gather to view the cranes and planes when we depart Cumberland County for Wayne County, IL.

It is along CR626E (also called Frontage Road) just east (approx half a mile) of Montrose Black Top Road (also called Spring Creek Road) and just west of CR 575E. We suggest you use MapQuest or GoogleMaps to come up with driving directions to it from your home location.

Remember - safety first. Please park your vehicles well off the road and be respectful of private property. You will want to be on site by sunrise - approximately 6:50AM - and dress warmly. Also remember, that you could make the trip for naught if conditions are such that the cranes and planes are unable to fly.

Assuming we can fly, there will be a crew member at the viewing site to meet and chat with those gathered, as well as offer those interested an opportunity to purchase some OM Gear.

Date:November 26, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:Migration Day #41Location: Enroute
Distance:? miles Accumulated Distance: ? miles
Not a leaf nor a blade of grass was stirring at 4am this morning. After days and days of high winds it seemed unnatural. It was evident that the cloud cover had moved on through the night as the still black sky was adorned with hundreds upon hundreds of stars.

Back inside, the weather sites reported an early temp of 27F degrees, dropping to 22F by sunrise. For 6am they were calling for just 1mph WSW wind on the ground and NW 15 aloft. If you've guessed it's a fly day, you'd be right! And unlike yesterday's abortive attempt, we 're actually logging miles and making progress.

Great crowd again at the flyover this morning in the tiny town of Milmine. Over the aviation radio we could hear the pilots chatter as they struggled to get the birds on the wing. Richard apparently had most if not all initially, but from the sounds of the radio talk, that didn't last long. We could see the rodeo happening off to the north - just the trikes were visible because of the distance.

Eventually Richard was able to get away with what appeared to be the majority of the birds, and we watched as he flew passed just to the west of us with Brooke flying chase. Voices on the radio caught our attention shortly thereafter as Chris and Joe were trying to convince one or two birds to keep going rather than return to the pen. That was some time ago, and as I sit roadside typing this, the last word is that they are still within a few miles of our Piatt pensite.

The ground crew have dismantled the pen and are loading it onto the travel pen trailer and will soon be returning to our camp site to break it up and head out. I'm off to try and intersect with them some where along the route. More news from the road if there is any and the opportunity presents itself.

Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Piatt County, IL
Shady Rest is a twenty-eight acre natural area on the Sangamon River just west of White Heath. The landscape includes a river, morain, a forest with under-story herbs and wildlife, a rail-trail that moves through the site and cultural history spots. The park is part lowland and part upland, and the recreational nature of the woods remains identifiable by the presence of big and small, but no in-between trees, great for hiking.

Date:November 25, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Richard van heuvelen
Subject:UP - - - - AND THEN DOWNLocation: Piatt Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 298 miles

The day started with uncertainty, was it flyable? After Chris tested out the air in his trike, we decided to go for it. We pulled the trikes out of the small hangar our kind neighbor had lent us, and we were off. I landed near the pen, taxied around it, gave the thumbs up, and all 14 chicks bounded out of the gates eager for another flight.

We circled around in the small valley gaining altitude to clear the trees. As we cleared the trees we were hit with very rough air, and the chicks could not get on the wing as it bounced around in the sky. We continued on trying to climb to the promised smooth air above, just another 100 feet, but by the time we got there the rough air had come up higher.

We continued trying for another 100 feet, only to be disappointed by more rough air. This situation continued on through 600 feet and 30 minutes of flight, at which point the chicks refused to climb any further. We were still being tossed around like fourteen lost souls swimming in a fish bowl and being pounded up and down by some invisible entity. It seemed cruel to continue, so we let them go back to the pensite to be cared for by their costumed handlers.

Date:November 25, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject:GROUND WORKLocation: Piatt Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 298 miles
Today started out like any other day - out of bed at 5 am; fumble around the RV grabbing a coffee while trying to wake up. Wander next door to the neighbors trailer to see what and who, if anything or anyone, is up. You can always determine the temperature by the location of the morning meeting circles. This morning's circle was more of an elongated, egg-shaped circle that occurred inside the Sierra, which is the longest of our RV's. Chris soon entered (in jeans only - no jammies) and based on his weather report it was decided it would be worth it to put a trike up to test conditions.

Since his trike was the one packed into the large pole barn beside our trailers, he was nominated as this morning's wind test dummy. As the sun barely peeked over the horizon he was airborne and reporting back that there was a nice little push from the northwest and while it may be a bit bumpy on the way up to a suitable altitude, he thought we should get ready to give it a try.

Everyone sprang into action and we were quickly heading down the road to the pensite, located about a mile away from camp. John, Bev and I walked out to the pen while the pilots were busy getting the other three trikes ready. We pulled out the fencer stakes for the exterior hotwire and laid them on the ground then John pulled out the fencer stakes immediately adjacent the panels that would form the exit. Bev untied the rope holding the panel to the ground stake and pulled out the stake from the frozen ground, while I released the top net from the same panels we needed to open to release the birds.

Within a couple of minutes the pen was readied and the pilots were airborne and advancing toward the pensite. Today's lead pilot, Richard, was soon overhead and Bev and I got into position so that we could each pull open a 10ft. Wide panel, while John hid inside the trailer, ready to spring into action as today's Swamp Monster, if called upon by the pilots. Richard landed on the south side of the pen and taxied around the north end so that he was aimed toward the west and into the wind. I love observing the birds when the aircraft approaches. Their heads pop up, as high as they can and they they start peeping loudly, as if calling out to the trike. As Richard taxied around the exterior of the enclosure, they followed him, as a group, from the interior before completing their own morning circle and arriving back at the panels that would be their exit once Richard gave us the "Ok."

Over the tiny earphone attached to my aircraft radio I heard him give the signal and quickly pulled open the right side panel, while beside me, Bev pulled open the left panel. As Richard powered up and down the field, all fourteen cranes ran past us in flashes of white and black, and with only two or three steps they were airborne and away from the pen! Next, we reverse our actions and pull the panels shut; run through the pen; grab the decoy, which is hanging from the top net and quickly hop up into the trailer to hide. John was ready to jump out the back door of the trailer as Swamp Monster if called into action, while Bev and I take off our airheads and take time for a high five over a picture perfect release.

Within seconds we could hear the pilots chattering; each providing counts as to who had how many birds. They probably don't realize it but these reports are always welcomed by those of us on the ground who can't see what it going on. Chris reported that one lone bird was breaking away from Richard, who still had the main group. Bev and I simultaneously said "827" because of his reputation for preferring to have his own aircraft. Richard soon reported that his birds couldn't form up on his wing and kept turning back and the next transmission we heard was Joe asking for the Swamp Monster to make an appearance.

John did his best but the birds just couldn't form up in the breezy conditions this morning and after a half hour of crane wrangling, Swamp Monster was ordered back into the cave and the attempt was called off so Bev and I walked to the western end of the field and began waving out puppets in the air to attract the attention of the chicks. Within a couple of minutes they all drifted down, landing lightly around us as the aircraft quickly exited stage left. All of them entered the pen fairly quickly after their half hour exercise session but #829 just wasn't ready to call it a day and had to be cajoled somewhat by Bev before he too finally decided he could use a drink of water.

You can't say we didn't give it a valiant effort today... And there is always tomorrow.

Date:November 25, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:ANOTHER, 'ALMOST, NEARLY, BUT NOT QUITE,' FLY DAY Location: Piatt Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 298 miles
We not so patiently waited this morning for the sun to come up and the winds to drop. When the velocity subsided, moving from double to single digits, the pilots decided to put a test trike up. Chris's aircraft was the most accessible so he was elected to go aloft.

We all stood and watched as he zipped back and forth at tree top level before trying to climb. When he radioed down that he thought we should give it a try, everyone turned tail to speed to their respective positions.

With no time to spare, and thinking I could send out the EarlyBird e-bulletin from the road, I battened down the Outreach RV and took off for our advertised flyover location in the nearby town of Milmine. What's that they say about the best laid plans? EarlyBird wasn't even in the running to get the worm as the inverter in the RV failed, making my laptop inoperative. So much for roadside messaging and updating.

Vehicles and people lined the roadside at the flyover site. How many? Enough hardy folks anxious to see the cranes to make it too many to count. A very impressive turnout. As we hunched behind vehicles to try and stay out of the bitter wind, we listened to snatches of the pilots' conversation coming in over the aviation radio.

Despite what I learned afterwards was a picture perfect release and take off from the pen, it was clear they were having one heck of a time in the bumpy air to get and keep the birds on the wing - any wing. The sounds of a rodeo filled the airwaves, as the pilots tried to update each other on the antics and locations of the birds as they moved from trike to trike.

After about 30 minutes of abortive attempts to get the birds on the wing and on track, we heard today's lead pilot, Richard's voice saying, "Okay, they're getting tired. One more try before we turn them back." The next voice on the radio was Joe's telling the ground crew still standing by at the pensite, "Get ready, we're coming back."

Camp is now all put back together and we'll just have to wait for morning to see what Migration Day 41 holds in store for us.

Date:November 24, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:AN ACTIVE DAY PLANNED BUT NOT IN THE AIR Location: Piatt Co. IL
Distance: 0 miles Accumulated Distance: 298 miles
Testament to the fact that the winds are out of the southwest, it's much warmer this morning - 36F - which means the precipitation  we're getting is in the form of rain rather than snow. Yesterday afternoon, in anticipation of the high winds forecast for overnight, the pilots found indoor storage for the trikes and that's where they'll remain - safely tucked inside today.

It's still a tad rock and roll in the RVs this morning, and between that and the rain and winds aloft, we'll be sitting out Migration Day 39 on the ground.

Being the third consecutive down day, the handlers would normally release the birds for some exercise, but the weather will likely preclude that from happening today. A pumpkin for entertainment may have to do. As for the crew, it's our third 'without' day, so we'll be off in search of a Laundromat and a place that will allow a dozen people troop in to shower. Two RVs will be on the road in search of a propane fill, and Bev and Brooke are off to do a school presentation. Hmmmm, I wonder whose turn it is to cook supper....?

Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Piatt County, IL
The village of Cerro Gordo (Fat Hill) is named after the 1847 Battle of Cerro Gordo in the Mexican-American War. The battle saw General Winfield Scott's US troops flank and drive General Santa Anna's larger Mexican army from a strong defensive position. The Fourth Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry caught General Santa Anna off guard, and he was forced to ride off without his artificial leg. This spoil of war is on display in Springfield, Illinois at the National Guard Camp Lincoln Illinois State Military Museum.

Date:November 23, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PIATT COUNTY FLYOVER - DEPARTURE VIEWING OPPORTUNITY Location: Piatt Co. IL
Distance:0 miles! Accumulated Distance: 298 miles
With the hope that the improving weather forecast holds, we thought we'd better get the location for a potential flyover viewing opportunity posted. We've found what we think might be a good site for folks to gather to view the cranes and planes when we depart Piatt County for Cumberland County.

It is at the on westerly edge of the town of Milmine at the intersection of 22 (Milmine Road) and Bodman, just before crossing the railway tracks. We suggest you use MapQuest or GoogleMaps to come up with driving directions to it from your home location.

Remember - safety first. Please park your vehicles well off the road and be respectful of private property. You will want to be on site by sunrise - approximately 6:50AM - and dress warmly. Also remember, that you could make the trip for naught if conditions are such that the cranes and planes are unable to fly.

Assuming we can fly, there will be a crew member at the viewing site to meet and chat with those gathered, as well as offer those interested an opportunity to purchase some OM Gear.

Date:November 23, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day 38Location: Piatt Co. IL
Distance:0 miles! Accumulated Distance: 298 miles
No rock 'n rolling RVs last night, but we did have enough wind this morning so that we were not even tempted to put a trike up. The aviation websites confirmed we could go back inside and put the coffee pot on.

Under partly overcast skies we had an early morning temp of 17F but with the windchill it was more like 9F. The winds are out of the south both on the ground and aloft; SE6mph and SW25mph respectively. The cranes and planes will spend today on the ground.

EMP ALL MIGRATING
There are no Whooping cranes left at Necedah NWR. As of November 20th, the last of the cranes departed on their migration south. Below is a brief summary sent by trackers of the departure dates of Whoopers on or near the refuge.

Departed Oct. 26: DARs 627 and 628. The data logger picked up their signal in the Chassahowitzka area on Nov. 19.

Departed Nov. 15: 101, 211 & 217* (the First Family), 311, 312*, 706, 712, and 713. The data logger also picked up their signals in the Chass area on Nov. 19, as it did 733’s.

Departed Nov. 17: 213 & 218*, 309* & 403, 310 & Wild601*, 313* and 318, 524, 216, DARs831, 832*, 836, 838*. This group was still present in Ogle County, IL as of Nov. 21.

Departed Nov. 18: 509 and 514, 709, 717*, 726*.

Departed Nov. 20: 105 & 501*, 303* & 317, 307, 721*, 401 & 508*, 402, 408 & 519*, 710, 722*, 737, 412, 415* & 505, 511, 512, 716*, 724, DAR746*, 810, DAR837*. Near Rockford, IL, 415* and 505 separated. The remaining birds roosted in Livingston County, IL that evening and resumed migration on the 21st.

According to PTT data DAR739* (part of a group composed of 703, 707, DARs739* and 42*) stopped in southern Illinois on Nov. 16 and in northern Alabama on Nov. 18.

As of Nov. 21 506 was along the Lower Wisconsin River.

A pair, presumably 311 & 312*, were reported in South Carolina Nov. 20. 213 & 218* were reported in Alabama Nov. 21, as was 524.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Piatt County, IL
Atwood residents wait all year for Apple Dumplin' Festival. Live music, a small-town bazaar, the ever-popular Mud-volleyball tournament and, of course, delicious apple dumplin's are highlights of the weekend event.

Date:November 22, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject: SOME DAYS BEGIN...Location: Piatt Co. IL
Distance:0 miles! Accumulated Distance: 298 miles
Some days begin with the sweep of the hour hand past twelve while others begin as the sun pops above the horizon. But some, like yesterday, began long before - - months before. So as I taxied down the long green runway toward the pen to lead the birds on the first leg of the new migration route, my mind drifted back to all the days, weeks and months we spent developing it; the pouring over charts, maps and satellite photos, hour after hour banging around in Bev’s Cessna, and days traveling rain soaked highways and byways, banging on doors with our crazy plea for help and cooperation.

Then there were the people, the wonderful and accommodating people, always generous of heart and filled with cheerful enthusiasm for our project and the hope it represents. This would be a safer journey. Hopefully a faster one. It’s promise lay before us on this cold, clear morning.

And Chris’s weather forecast was spot on, although I had my doubts when I emerged from the camper at 2:30am to answer the call and was blown sideways into the next field. I closely scrutinized him as he entered the hanger for any telltale signs of his jammies. None to be seen. In fact, his confidence was such that I was soon given to the belief he hadn’t even worn them to bed that night! Nor his BVD’s for that matter.

“Conditions are going to be awesome, but just a little cold,” he said. So I immediately began wrapping myself in the entire grocery cart full of clothes I’d bought during my last visit to the Goodwill, hoping against hope I could save at least some parts of my anatomy from the ravages of frostbite.

Walt and John pulled open the pen doors while Bev, our swamp monster, waited for her cue, and the birds and trike blasted down the runway and into the above where our new route awaited. It wasn’t long before we were settled into good formation and heading south.

Little #27, always the cry baby and consistently insistent on flying alone with his own trike, soon dropped down from the formation, awaiting his limo, which today, was Richard, who skillfully picked him up from chase position and put a smile on his naughty little face.

Below, the familiar right angled geometries of Illinois smiled up at us. It is not hard to appreciate the little known fact that the word Illinois means 'God’s checkerboard' in some Indian language or another. It is an ultralight friendly land, offering up a veritable quilt of welcome mats extending from horizon to horizon. It is a cold, hard reality that our aircraft are powered by two cycle engines; engines which trade light weight for less reliability than the engines that pull most aircraft through the skies.

They say the loudest sound in aviation is the silence produced when your engine quits. Our aircraft can glide safely back to earth should we be accosted by this silence, but we must have a suitable place to land safely. The water in lakes is too wet, and woods and forests too woody and unyielding. The flat open fields of Illinois offer welcome and solace to the flyer suddenly deafened by the silence, and they disarm this threat of its menace.

And herein lies the most important reason for the new route, for as they say in aviation, “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.” The terrain of the old migration route required Bold Pilots. The terrain of this new route gives us a better chance at becoming Old Pilots. An easy choice, really.

The birds are flying beautifully, the cold air providing solid and reassuring lift to each wing beat and thick sweet oxygen to each breath. Their power increases and their confidence with it. It’s hard to believe these young masters of the air were, just a few short months ago, standing only inches above the Patuxent earth, their spindly legs challenged by every step.

As we moved across the sky, aided by the cold air and fresh tailwind, it became clear that we could skip over our Livingston County destination and make it to our second stop. This is a gift we are eager to accept though it comes with some regret, for we know we will disappoint our new hosts…our new friends…below at the stop; folks who have gone to great efforts to accommodate us. But go on we must, so we punch into our GPS’s the coordinates for our next stop and press on. Jack and Tom circle above in the Cessna as Brian fights the traffic and roadways in the tracking van. They are, as always, the good shepherds.

Suddenly the calm is broken by Richard’s voice as he announces 827’s refusal to fly over a wind farm. Below, 240 towering fans stand tall on the landscape, cranking out their harvest of renewable kilowatts while apparently scaring hell out of 827. He does a 180 - which is pilot talk for doing an about face -and he heads back north again at top speed with Richard in hot pursuit. Control bar pulled to his chest to the max, Richard gains enough speed to finally catch the little scardy-cat, and coaxes him back onto his wing for a trip way west around the wind farm, then south again.

Meanwhile, our little troupe plods ahead as the cold begins to strengthen its grip on bird and pilot. Some birds chose to retract their landing gear, lifting their leg up into the cover of their bodies. It’s always a funny sight and one not without merit. For a moment I consider replicating their action by pulling my feet off the pedals and pulling them up under my butt. But with my bulky snowmobile suit and boots, I soon realized this would be a feat which could be accomplished only by an Eskimo Yogi…and I ain’t one of those! Oh well.

Finally, we were over our destination and I began to unwind the altimeter, as man, machine and birds headed down in decent. Then a funny thing happened. The birds wanted to continue. Too much of a good thing, I guess. I understood. Flying is, after all, addictive. Otherwise why would so many people spend so much money to do it? And why do the birds have longer wings than legs? Interesting things to contemplate, but not here and not now.

I circled in the now bumpy lower air, air not so smooth and tranquil as the air above. Joe went down to land and attempt to call the birds down. “Pretty rocky and rolly down here.” he radioed up. Chris, hovering higher and seeing the problem, joined up for a little counseling session. “What goes up must come down,” he said. “Learn to live with it!”

By then, Joe and I were both on the ground singing, “We Are The World”, “Would You Like To Ride In My Beautiful Balloon,” “Welcome To My World,” and a few other songs the birds just love to hear. I’m not sure if it was because our singing was so great or because it was so bad the birds just wanted us to stop, but they finally set up their approach and landed at out feet.

And soon Richard was overhead dropping off 827. I don’t know if it was my imagination or what, but I swear our birds looked as proud of themselves as we were of them. They had been in the air 2 hours and 20 minutes, withstood teen temperatures the whole flight, and performed beyond our greatest expectations. It is still a long way to Florida, but these wonderful little guys gave us a much-needed morale boost, one we would savor the rest of the day.

Now, all I have to do is worry about making it to Florida before I become an old, BALD pilot!

Date:November 22, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day 37Location: Piatt Co. IL
Distance:0 miles! Accumulated Distance: 298 miles
The temperature was right this morning, as was the wind speed, but the direction was not.

Headwinds early were at 4mph, increasing several notches by sunrise. The picture was even less rosy up top; WSW at 25mph aloft. Migration Day 37, and our first day into the new route, will be spent on the ground.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Piatt County, IL
The town of Bement is proud of its Bryant Cottage State Historic Site, a four-room house built in 1856 by Francis E. Bryant who arrived in town that year. He was a personal friend of Senator Stephan A. Douglas, who was running for re-election in 1858. Abraham Lincoln, Douglas' opponent, had written to him challenging him to meet, and debate issues at various sites across Illinois. Lincoln renewed this challenge when the two men met in person on a road in Piatt County.

The campaigning Douglas was, at the time, going southward to Bement, where he would spend the night in the Bryant Cottage. It was during this one-night stay that Douglas decided to accept Lincoln's challenge and wrote him a letter with a proposal for seven debates, which Lincoln accepted.

After the deaths of both Douglas and Lincoln, the Bryant family tradition became a bit distorted and as time passed it was believed that the two men had met in person in the parlor of the Bryant Cottage to negotiate the debate details. Though it is clear that Douglas made the key decision of accepting Lincoln's challenge while staying at the cottage, the surviving letters between the two men indicate that actually they negotiated on paper.

Date:November 21, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day 36 - A 'TWO FER' DAY Location: Piatt Co. IL
Distance:114 miles!Accumulated Distance: 298 miles
We woke up to the coldest morning yet; 16F and 7 frosty degrees with the windchill. The RVs were rocking throughout the night, and as we stepped outside it was still blowing hard enough to make us doubtful of our chances. As dawn approached it started to calm down some, and the waiting and watching ended with the decision to put a test trike up. With this decision made, I quickly readied the outreach RV for travel and, aviation radio in hand, hit the road headed for the flyover site in the nearby town of Sheridan.

By the time I arrived, there was a hardy little band of Craniacs waiting, stomping feet and rubbing hands to keep warm. First to come into sight was top cover, Jack and Tom in the Cessna. Shortly thereafter, someone pointed through the trees and shouted… "I can see a trike!"

It was only moments before all four trikes were in view; 3 flying chase as Brooke, today's lead pilot, had all 14 birds with him. We were a little further away than usual, so they were a little higher over head that at some flyovers, but we had a clear view of the leading red edge on Brooke's wing and the gorgeous cinnamon and white birds trailing behind.

After chatting with the friendly and enthusiastic group at the flyover - some who had driven 2 hours to glimpse the Class of 2008 - and accommodating their requests to purchase some OM Gear, it was time to hit the road. About an hour out I got the call - - were were skipping a stop. Yippee! Stopover #7, Livingston County would have been the first site on the new migration route, but instead, the planes and cranes carried on to Stopover #8 in Piatt County. As a result, all we earthbound crew, strung out in various locations on the road, had to switch maps and re-program GPS units mid trip. As much as we'll miss meeting and greeting our Livingston County Stopover hosts for the first time, I can't help but wish we had to make those adjustments every flight!!

The majority of the crew are all gone to the nearest town in search of breakfast…er brunch, or maybe it should more correctly be called a late lunch. Meantime, John just pulled in to camp with the aircraft trailer, and top cover - plane and road vehicle should both be arriving here shortly too.

By the time Brooke arrives back in camp and gets his lead pilot report written it will likely be late in the day, but we'll get it posted for you ASAP. In the meantime, the next task is to scout the area to see if there's a suitable departure flyover viewing spot for when we get some favorable wind to leave Piatt for Cumberland County. (Photos Posted)

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Piatt County, IL
Piatt County was named for James A. Piatt, Sr., one of its first residents. Established January 27, 1841 from territory taken from Macon County, it is 34 miles long, containing 279,680 acres.

Monticello, named after the home of Thomas Jefferson, became an established town in 1837 and four years later was designated to be the seat of Piatt County. The first building in the new town, a grocery store, was built by a Mr. Cass who also used it as his home. Monticello's star resident, Dr. William B. Caldwell, arrived in 1885 to practice medicine. It was his homemade mixture of senna and pepsin that brought the city to a level of national prominence. The Pepsin Syrup Company was founded in 1893 and became the leading employer in the city for decades until its closure in 1985.

Date:lNovember 21, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: SKIPPING!!Location: Enroute
Distance:? miles Accumulated Distance: ? miles
From roadside enroute to Stopover #8 in Piatt County, IL. That's right #8 in Piatt! The last quick word from the pilots is that they were able to skip our Livingston County Stop (#7) and planes and cranes are safely on the ground at Stop #8. More news to follow as soon as possible.

Date:November 20, 2008, - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 35Location: LaSalle Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 184 miles
Grounded today. While the winds have again shifted around to come out of the north and the northwest, they are much too powerful for the cranes and planes to handle. We will spend Migration Day 35 in LaSalle County, IL.

EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION ON THE MOVE SOUTH
Some Whooping cranes in the 74 bird strong Eastern Migratory Population Migration began their migration on Saturday, November 15. Nine birds began their journey south that day. The initial nine Whoopers were followed by fourteen more on Monday the 17th, and five more on the 18th.

It was noted on Tuesday's Bird Team conference call that the Whoopers that were in southwestern Minnesota are now in Illinois, and those that were in North Dakota are now in Indiana. The bi-monthly data from the trackers is currently being compiled into a report and will be posted here in the Field Journal later today.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
LaSalle County, IL
The City of LaSalle is located at the point on the Illinois River where, in pre-settlement days, it was necessary for boats to portage rapids to continue upstream. LaSalle flourished when it became the terminus of the newly constructed Illinois and Michigan Canal. At first LaSalle was much larger than Chicago, but was soon dwarfed by its partner on Lake Michigan. It has a population of about 10,000 people living in an area of 6.4 square miles. Industries there include the production of cement and the chemical potassium permanganate.

Date:November 19, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:SATELLITE AND CELL PHONE HELLLocation: LaSalle Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 184 miles
For folks calling or emailing, or more especially, looking for updates, we thought it important to let everyone know that we are in a spot that one supporter described to us today as "satellite and cell phone hell." Acquiring a signal is a feat in itself, maintaining long enough to complete a sentence is cause for celebration.

The 'signal vacuum' we are located in is likely to cause us to have problems sending out EarlyBird and posting updates to the Field Journal. Thanks in advance for bearing with us - - there's not much we can do until we are able to move from this location. Apologies.

Date:November 19, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WOOD BUFFALO - ARANSAS POPULATION UPDATE Location: LaSalle Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 184 miles
On the November 14th aerial census conducted at the Aransas NWR and surrounding areas, 210 adults and 29 juveniles were found, for a total of 239 Whooping cranes. Whooping crane Coordinator, Tom Stehn said, "After the strong cold front that reached Aransas around 10pm on the 14th, additional reports brought the estimated Aransas total by noon on November 15th 246.

The first Whooping crane arrival at Aransas was reported the afternoon of October 20th. The sighting was just 4 days later than the average first arrival date of October 16th. Stehn said, "The cold front with north winds that reached Aransas on October 17th presumably helped the crane complete the 2,400 mile migration."

Collating the sighting reports from portions of the wintering area, Tom came up with the following minimum number of cranes present.
Date Minimum # of Cranes Present
October 20 - 1
October 25 - 6
October 28 - 21
October 30 - 47
November 2 - 53
November 6 - 81

"With some necessary guesstimates, it looks like 14 territorial pairs have not yet returned to Aransas, Stehn said. "Although migration sightings have dried up in the last week, there has been a recent sighting of a pair of whooping cranes in central Kansas, so we know more cranes, hopefully at least 40, are still in migration. I expect more family groups to arrive since there were 41 chicks alive in mid-August and only 32 chicks have made it to Aransas so far. Six pairs have arrived with single chicks as expected, and so far it looks like 3 pairs have arrived without their August chicks, but 2 families have shown up with unexpected chicks. One pair has arrived with only one of the two chicks they had in August."

"The second pair that had twin chicks surviving in August arrived the morning of November 15th with both chicks! The oldest male known in the flock (Lobstick, age 30) has once again returned with a juvenile. The territorial pair at Mustang Lake that is visible from the refuge observation tower does not have a chick but have been seen consistently by refuge visitors. The pair that got into oil a couple fall migrations ago has returned with a chick."

"No cranes were in open bay habitat as expected due to the continued higher than normal tides, and movements of the cranes to and from fresh water made it more difficult to keep track of all the cranes during the census. Extra flying was done to ensure that 29 family groups were present with none counted twice. With bay and marsh salinities measured on November 11th at 30 and 31 parts per thousand, the cranes are forced to make daily flights to fresh water to drink."

"Cedar Bayou, the pass between the Gulf and the bays in Whooping crane critical habitat remains silted shut for the second year in a row. Although Hurricane Ike in September brought storm tides in excess of 3 feet, Cedar Bayou did not re-open as the storm turned to the north and hit the upper Texas coast near Galveston."

"On the census flight, three different sub-adult groups of 9, 7 and 6 cranes were located on the refuge and on Matagorda Island. This is about as large as sub-adult groups ever seem to get at Aransas, at least in recent years. A total of 9 kayaks involved with either nature observation or fishing were seen during the census flight. This is the most I’ve ever seen, indicative of the growth of this activity along the Texas coast."

 

Date:November 19, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:Migration Day 34Location: LaSalle Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 184 miles
It was not hard to tell which direction the wind was out of this morning - it felt that much warmer than it did yesterday morning. 32F - headed for a mid-forties high - with 11mph SSE winds, gusting to 16mph. If that wasn't enough to keep us out of the air, the 40mph south west winds aloft sure are.

The planes and cranes will spend Migration Day 34 on the ground in LaSalle County, IL.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
LaSalle County, IL
"Ole man river, Ole Illinois River, He just keeps rollin', He just keeps rollin' along,'' with apologies to Paul Robeson. The River is the most prominent geological feature of LaSalle County. It flows from east to west bisecting the county with heavy barge traffic of bulk goods such as grain and oil. Most of LaSalle County's cities and towns have sprung up along its banks.

Oops! Re yesterday's trivia. One of our readers correctly pointed out that the land area of LaSalle County is not 1,148 acres, but 1,148 square miles. Quite a difference!

Date:November 18, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Chris Gullikson
Subject:NO JAMMIE WEATHER THIS MORNING!!Location: LaSalle Co. IL
Distance:55 miles Accumulated Distance: 184 miles
Finally, a morning with calm winds!! I had predicted 3 consecutive days of possible flying weather but the first two were just way too windy for us to fly with the birds. We have been caught between an area of low pressure to the northeast and high pressure to the northwest, with subtle disturbances moving through the upper level flow. The tight pressure gradient between the two systems has been bringing us a brisk northwest wind and even some light snow showers.

With this morning’s clear skies, the mercury had plummeted into the mid-teens and it was very important that we dress properly for the long flight. I dress in layers, with an insulated, windproof flight suit. I protect my face with a fleece balaclava and use chemical heat pads in my boots on really cold mornings such as today.

Richard and I had gotten tired of having numb fingers so we installed heated hand grips on the control bar of our trikes wings. This has been a wonderful addition to our cold weather arsenal, and allows us to fly with lighter weight gloves so we can operate our radios, GPS units, and take pictures without pulling off a bulky mitten.

Brooke was the first pilot aloft this morning and he radioed down to us that it was not perfect. A light north breeze was creating mild mechanical turbulence down low, but it was smooth above 600 feet. We can’t wait for perfect conditions, so I landed down at the pen and gave the signal to Walt and Bev to release the anxious young cranes. We took off to the east and turned south towards a small crowd of people that had assembled to watch the departure.

Fighting the mild turbulence, I was unable to fly as slow as I would like to, and the cranes began to fall back behind me. I made a slow right hand turn back to the west and gave the stragglers a chance to close the distance that they had lost. A gentle turn back to the south and I had 5 birds solidly on my wing, with others still strung out behind me. Knowing we had to climb through turbulence, and had a long flight ahead of us, it was best to break the group up a bit, so I continued south with 5 birds, and let Brooke, Joe, and Richard pick up the rest.

As I began a slow climb over rolling farm fields, I listened as the other three pilots performed their rodeo around the pen. Richard eventually got away with one, Brooke with three, and Joe finally getting his five to leave with the help of John disguised as a Swamp Monster blowing an air horn. Once we had all the birds on course, our top cover pilots Jack and Tom were able to take off and help guide us past the controlled airspace near Rockford.

It was a fairly uneventful flight once we got the birds to altitude – save Brooke who was struggling to keep one bird on his wing. All of us were observing birds that were folding their legs up into their body to help conserve heat. My birds spooked on three different occasions; dropping below the wing and cocking their heads sideways to look up into the sky. On each occasion I tried to see what they were looking at, but could only make out a distant contrail.

As we got further into the flight, we talked briefly about skipping our LaSalle county stop and flying to (Livingston County). With a ground speed of about 50mph, our total flight time would be getting close to 3 hours if we skipped LaSalle. We quickly gave up that idea when Brooke informed us that he had a bird that was continually dropping off his wing to fly below the trike. Brooke had only made it to 600 feet and eventually dropped down to 100 feet in the turbulent air trying to keep the bird on his wing. He did a remarkable job, and the crane was able to make it to the pen on its own power. We have not had to crate a bird since leaving the Necedah refuge.

Our trikes are once again in the safety a spacious hangar and we are looking forward to another wonderful meal from one of our generous supporters. I cannot say enough about the generosity of our hosts, and it is always with mixed emotions that we say goodbye to the wonderful people who inevitably become such good friends of ours.

With strong south winds as an area of low pressure passes by to the north, the weather looks doubtful for a flight tomorrow. Thursday through Saturday looks more promising however, as we will be back in northwest winds with high pressure building in from the west.

(To understand Chris' 'No Jammie' reference in the title of his posting, read the entry below, and Brooke's from Nov. 16)

Date:November 18, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NEW WEATHER VANELocation: LaSalle Co. IL
Distance:55 miles Accumulated Distance: 184 miles
There is one happy crew on the ground in LaSalle County this afternoon. Everyone was buoyed at finally getting another migration leg behind us.

Something else that has been putting a smile on our faces is our new 'weather vane'. If you read Brooke Pennypacker's FJ posting for November 16 - Entry 4, you will have seen his reference to "an inch of Chris’ jammies hanging suspiciously down from the bottom of his pant legs." The next day - when we gathered in the hangar for the morning weather check, Chris showed up with his jammies over top of his jeans. Today there was no sign of any jammies.

We've got it figured now that jammies underneath means maybe we'll fly; jammies overtop means no way are we going anywhere; and, no jammies in sight is thumbs up for a GO. We all think it's a good a weather vane as any - and so far Chris' jammies are batting 1000.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
LaSalle County, IL
LaSalle County was named for Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle (1643 - 1687) a French explorer who sailed down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. He claimed the entire region for France and named the area Louisiana after King Louis XIV. De la Salle was responsible for the first European settlements in the area. He and two other French traders built Fort Creve Coeur on the Illinois River near Peoria in 1680, and Fort St. Louis on Starved Rock in 1682.

LaSalle County is the second largest county in the state of Illinois by land area, 1148 acres. It is one of the few counties in the United States to border as many as nine counties.

Date:November 18 - 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FLYING!! Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:55 miles Accumulated Distance: 184 miles
Based on the final weather check late last evening, everyone went to bed pumped for a flight today. Lights twinked on early this morning, and prep started soon after. It was great to hear lots of noise and the upbeat chatter!

Wow - best looking morning in a long, long time. 17F degrees, 1mph winds out of the north on the ground and clear skies. At our LaSalle destination it was 20F and the winds were showing 7mph also out of the north. Aloft winds were 15mph so once on course, the planes and cranes have a tailwind.

Chris was lead pilot today, and once Joe, Brooke, and Richard were aloft, he scooted down the runway to pick up the birds as they burst from the pen. Off they went, with Chris initially having all the birds with him - except perhaps for one that may have lingered in the pen - we couldn't quite see from our vantage point. Eventually however, we could count all 14 in the air - just before the rodeo broke out.

The crane round up lasted the better part of 20 minutes. Chris got away first with 5, we think Richard had 4, but Brooke might have picked up one of those, Joe had to make a couple of more circuits to convince the last 5 birds it was time to move on - but not before he called for some assistance from the Swamp Monster.

The ground crew has finished dismantling the pen, and as soon as we've got the satellite dish packed up and have everything disconnected and secure in the RVs, the rest of us will be off too.

Tune in to the Field Journal again later today for the rest of the story.

Date:November 17, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:MIDWAY Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
Our team slowly evolves over the course of the migration. Don and Paula Lounsbury join us every year for the first half of the trip and the aviculturists from Patuxent Wildlife Research Center switch out sometime around the mid point.

The problem is trying to determining what constitutes the half way point. If you base it on geography, it would be somewhere in Kentucky but you would have no idea when we would get there. If it is determined by time, then the location would be the unknown.

Well a month has passed and we should be somewhere near the middle, but we’re not, and it’s time for some of team members to go home. Jack Wrighter and Tom Miller arrived today. They are the top cover pilots from Tennessee who volunteered to cover the second half of the migration - but didn’t expect to have to fly all the way up to northern Illinois.

Paula and Don will leave on the next good flying day. They have provided top cover on every migration we have ever done starting back in 1993, and we will miss them. They have been doing this so long they know every Air Traffic Controller along the way and have developed a unique flying method. Our little aircraft are difficult to see from a thousand feet below, so Don keeps an eye on us and flies the turns around us while Paula monitors the radios and the GPS and uses the other controls to maintain their altitude.

I can’t tell you how reassuring it is to see them circle overhead ready to help out when needed, or just adding an encouraging voice of calm when things are starting to fall apart. Once on the ground Paula is our aviation authority and Don is a master fixer willing to take on any project.

Friday, Charlie Shafer from Patuxent headed back to Maryland and Brian Clauss arrived to take over for the rest of the trip. We were sorry to see Charlie leave too. He has one of those inquisitive minds whose curiosity isn’t limited to one topic. He understands electronic and mechanics and is one of those rare people who actually reads the instruction manuals – for fun. He is the first to examine a new piece of equipment and before long he knows everything about it.

Charlie is quiet about his expertise, but you soon learn that the easiest way to a solution is to ask Charlie. He is very generous and spent a lot of time fixing computers, re-aiming the satellite dish, and working out the many bugs in our motorhomes.

So here we are at the mid point of the 'anticipated' migration time line. Let’s hope we can catch up on the geography.

Date:November 17, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:STUCK Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
I started writing my new book today. It’s called, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Being Stuck But Were Too Stuck To Ask.”

’m embarking on this great endeavor not out of any need to join the literary ranks in hopes of one day being a guest on “Oprah”, but rather to make Mrs. Coomber, my fourth grade English teacher proud of me. She always believed in me and assured me I was uniquely possessed of a great talent for illiteracy and that I was destined to graduate into a long and unproductive life filled with the stuff.

It’s not easy living up to such high expectations from one you so greatly respect and admire, even if she was eventually picked up for shop lifting and deported back to Slovinia or someplace cool like that.

However, I abandoned my efforts when I walked over to the Sierra and found Walt madly word processing away on his new book, “Being Stuck For Dummies Made Easy.” He was hoping to impress his fourth grade English teacher, who was also deported to Slovinia about the same time as my Mrs. Coomber.

I felt sorry for Walt, since just yesterday he had started on a new novel called “Fly Away Home,” and I had to break the news to him that he was a little late. “Great idea!” he protested. “Bad timing,” I replied. We agreed to split the proceeds from the movie deal sure to follow the “Dummies” book, if he would agree to give Oprah my telephone number with the instructions for her to call me collect.

As you have probably guessed, we’re stuck again due to bad weather after being scolded profusely by Mother Nature for even attempting a flight this morning. Being taken to the ‘wood shed’ by the ‘Great Mama’ isn’t an experience I would recommend. Even wearing two pairs of long underwear and a snowmobile suit, the spanking still hurt.

Afterwards, She explained it wasn’t that we tried so hard this morning that made Her mad, rather, it was that watching of our attempt at migration, despite the windy conditions, made Her laugh so hard She strained her rib cage, began to cough, then sneezed, and the resulting tornado wiped out three small towns. I apologized.

But the truth is, ‘stuck’ isn’t all that bad. I mean, we’re here in the beautiful State of Illinois with her wonderful people and the gift of time to catch up on the ‘wish I had time for’ things put off all year. If Papillion had it this good, he’d still be living it up on Devil’s Island.

I finally have the opportunity to diminish the pile of unread flying magazines which have, over the course of the year, grown to landfill proportions. I’m held spellbound for hours by articles of exciting new advances in aviation. One of particular interest is about the new glass cockpits which do away with the traditional steam gage instruments, while transforming the adventure of flight into one great video game, complete with something called Synthetic Vision. You don’t even have to look out the windshield of the airplane anymore, let alone clean it.

This allows the pilot to accumulate points for safe takeoffs and landings, while earning penalty points for fatal crashes. Very life like. We ultralighters have been awaiting this technology for years. So I asked Joe if there was enough money in the budget to upgrade my trike with my very own shinny new glass cockpit. To my surprise he assured me there was, that he would do the installation himself, and he would let me know as soon as it was finished.

An hour or so later, Joe banged on my door and yelled, “She’s all ready.” Wow, is he ever fast, I thought. In great anticipation, I threw on my jacket , burst through the camper door, and ran around the hanger.

“Where’s the fire?” Walt yelled.
“Got a date?” Richard asked
“Out of toilet paper?” John inquired.

But my excitement obscured their inquiries. Moments later I stood at the trike, my heart pounding, my senses screaming with expectant delight. Then I saw it. My glass cockpit. There, before me, where my GPS used to rest, was a newly installed cupholder containing a shiny new wine glass!

Every object in the hanger, inanimate and otherwise ,broke into a chorus of laughter which could be heard in the next county. It was then I heard Mother Nature’s voice echoing through the laughter, “You made me laugh this morning, Sonny boy, now it’s your turn. Knock yourself out!”

Date:November 17, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:IT AIN’T FOR LACK OF TRYING: A THREE ACT PLAY Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
Act I
The morning started out as a huge disappointment. We were up beat about our prospects for a flight today after the final weather check before bed last evening. This morning however, before dawn broke, we could feel the icy, fierce northwest winds gaining strength and blowing away our chance to get in the air today. At 4AM we had manageable 4mph NNW winds. By 6AM they were averaging 10+mph, gusting higher, and 25mph aloft.

Despite the almost certain hopelessness, the team, and our stopover hosts gathered in the hangar, where first one, and then another, and then another team member would step outside, hoping that the wind velocity had eased.
Try as we might, wishing couldn't make it so, and we resigned ourselves to spending a seventh day on the ground at Stopover #5.

Act II
It wasn’t long after Act I ended before the wind started to drop. That was all it took to encourage a test trike to get up and check out the conditions. Chris circled around before climbing to 1000 feet in search of some favorable air. With everyone strung alongside the hangar, some clutching aviation radios, we heard him say, “It’s not perfect, but I think it might be doable.” After much debate – it was decided to give it a go, with the caveat that if the birds showed signs of not cooperating, or not being able to handle the bumpy air, the trikes would turn back before the 5 mile mark so the birds wouldn’t have to fight the NW winds for very long to get back to the pen.

Act III
Before Chris’s wheels touched down, the line, of what moments ago were spectators, had scattered. Everyone from pilots, to top cover, to ground crew hurried to get suited up, geared up, and get in place. Spirits lifted despite knowing it could still turn in to a ‘no-go’.

The ground crew scurried to the pen as the pilots warmed up their trikes on the runway. Top cover pilot, Jack Wrighter, hauled his Cessna 172 out of the hangar and onto the apron at the top of the runway.

Chris, today’s lead pilot gave the signal and the costumes released the birds. Out they came in a rush and eleven were almost immediately on Chris’s wing. Eventually the other three became airborne and the chase trikes moved in to try to pick them up. It wasn’t long however, before the main body of birds turned and left Chris on his own – and the rodeo was on. Not a big rodeo by past standards, it played out within sight of the pen and those of us watching anxiously from where we were hidden near the hangar.

It wasn’t long before all the trikes and all birds were back on the ground. We consoled ourselves with the fact that they’d at least had some exercise – and we still have favorable winds forecast for tomorrow.

Date:November 16, 2008 - Entry 4Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:THE OPTIMISTS CLUBLocation: Winnebago Co., IL
Distance: 0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles

There is, in the United States, an organization called the “Optimists Club.” The members meet for breakfast once a month to enjoy good conversation and camaraderie while promoting a positive outlook on life and the good in their fellow man. I always wanted to join but just knew they would reject me. Besides, like the comedian said, I never wanted to join an organization that would accept someone like me as a member.

But sometime last night, while we were all asleep, a member of the “Optimists Club” snuck into Joe’s trailer and bit him on the neck. This became evident to me this morning while I was fighting against a ferocious wind, crawling hand over hand across the parking lot towards the Sierra and saw Joe emerge from the door and yell, “Looking good out here. Let’s put a plane up!” No problem, I thought. It’s the getting it back down part that worried me. It was just then that I unconsciously relaxed my grip on a rock just enough that the wind caught me and threw me against the side of the hangar. It didn’t hurt that much really because I was still numb from yesterday when it did the same thing.

I eventually made my way to the inside of the hanger in time to see our weatherman, Chris, emerge from the other door. I was surprised to see he wasn’t wearing his “jammies,” which is usually a sure sign we aren’t flying. Instead, he was dressed in full flight attire and said it might be a little bumpy but perhaps doable. Surprised, I got down on my knees to look for a clean place on the floor to kiss when I landed after what I feared was going to be an aborted attempt at migration. It was from that vantage point that I saw about an inch of Chris’ “jammies” hanging suspiciously down from the bottom of his pant legs.

Moments later, as I was putting the finishing touches on my “Last Will and Testament” the hanger door opened and a costumed Joe pushed out his trike, aimed it down the runway, pulled his helmet over his new haircut and blasted off into the “Great Beyond.” Liz immediately placed a call to the folks at Disney to explain her idea for a new ride while Heather filmed away for a segment of America’s Craziest Videos… all this, while Joe held on for dear life as the trike jumped and fell, twisted and gyrated in what only could be described as an aerial bull riding event. “Eight seconds!” Walt hollered over the radio. “Just hold on for eight seconds!” “A little trashy up here” Joe replied, his voice elevated to that of an operatic diva.

In about five minutes, Joe said he could see folks lined up in front of a church in downtown Chicago seventy miles away so he was heading back to the field. That’s when we knew it -- No migrating today.

This all happened several hours ago. Joe’s not back yet but in his last radio transmission he mentioned something about trying to be back by Christmas. That’s ok. You have to look at situations like this optimistically. I wasn’t going to buy him a Christmas present anyway.

Perhaps I should apply for membership to that club after all!

Date:November 16, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: PEE-WILLIELocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
Despite our high speed internet connection and cell phone links to myriad meteorological sites the best way to check the weather is still to stick your head out the door. On most mornings it only takes a second or two to realize that we aren’t going anywhere. On other mornings, however, it can take an hour before we finally get a yes or no answer.

This morning we ignored the obvious and put an aircraft up even though it was blowing strong at sunrise. Winds on the surface were 10 to 12mph and winds aloft were 25, both from a favourable direction. On a normal day we would roll over and go back to sleep, but we are desperate now and willing to accept less than perfect conditions. Besides, compared to the past week it was practically calm, so I pushed my aircraft out and took off to test the conditions more out of denial than optimism.

I was only 50 feet up and was already fighting the wing to keep it level, and when I turned on course I hit a large area of sink. Sink is the opposite of a thermal. When the warm air goes up, the cold air goes down and despite the full power setting and climb attitude, I was descending. The air didn’t get any smoother even above 500 feet and the time-to-destination reading was over an hour.

I was raised in a small town during gentler times when parents didn’t worry as much as they have to now. We often camped out and I recall a sensation that all the kids related to and even named.

It always happened after dark when you left the glow of the campfire and headed for the coolness of the tent. On the way you’d slip behind a tree to answer the call of nature and there, at your most vulnerable, the cold air, the noises of the night and the threat that lurks in the shadows would send a shiver up your spine.

It was an involuntary shutter that vibrated up your back to make the hair on your neck bristle and made you zip up and run back to the security of the camp. It seems to have been a common childhood occurrence because we all referred to it as a ‘Pee-Willie’.

Trying the read the GPS while fighting the wing and thinking of what it would be like to spend an hour leading the birds through that mess could best be described as a pilot’s Pee-Willie.

Date:November 16, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject:CRANE CHORESLocation: Winnebago Co., IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance:129 miles

Once the decision was made to stay put this morning John Martineau and I pulled on our rubber boots and our one-upon-a-time-white costumes and ventured the half mile or so out to the travel enclosure to check on the crane-kids. It's always a quiet walk out to the pen and I love that moment when -- just as we crest the small knoll that hides the pen from view -- we see fourteen tawny heads positioned as high as they possibly can in hopes of catching a glimpse of the costumes approaching.

After shutting off the electric fence we entered the enclosure and began checking the water buckets and feed containers. This morning there was a good thick layer of ice in the water buckets that had to be cleared away before we could top up each of them with fresh water. After kicking the ice with the heel of my boot to break it, the birds had fun trying to pick up the slippery pieces of ice while John refilled the water containers and I replenished their supply of crane chow.

It's been raining off and on since we arrived here last Monday and as a result there's now a nice 5 -6 inch layer of goopy black mud that they love to probe in. It always amazes me that they somehow manage stay so clean - especially considering that after only 20 minutes of tending to them this morning both John and I were covered in mud. Just before leaving we split another pumpkin for them to carve up so they should be busy for most of the day, and if they run out of pumpkin they can have fun trying to catch the fat snowflakes that are now falling. (Photos)

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Winnebago County, WI
The Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League were one of the first all-female baseball teams in the world. They played from 1943 to 1954 and won the championship four times. When former player Eileen Burmeister was asked why The Peaches supposedly favored theatricality over technical skill, she shrugged and said "If God meant for us to play baseball, he would've made us good at it."

Date:November 16, 2008, - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:ALMOST, NEARLY, BUT NOT QUITELocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance:129 miles
Verrry, crisp here in Winnebago County this morning, with west and northwest winds making us think a flight was at least a possibility. As the skies lightened, the quiet of the grey morning was broken as bodies poured out of RVs, and headed for the hangar where a computer was set up to surf the aviation weather sites. With everyone bundled in bulky jackets, their heads hunched as they hovered over the computer screen, the crowd at the end of the table looked like a gathering of two legged turtles.

At 6:34AM the decision was made - it's a go, or at least we'd make an attempt to go. Joe launched in his trike to test the wind conditions. Everyone stood strung out along the side of the hangar to watch, and to shelter from the nippy wind. We watched as he took off to the south east, hitting a spot of lift, and then a pocket of sink. He climbed - to 1,000 feet - to check out conditions at that altitude, and radioed back, "It's not good." Even from the ground we could see him 'rocking and rolling' as he fought the wind out of the west to return to the runway.

Down came Joe. Off went the vehicle engines. Off came the costumes, and on went the coffee pot. We and the Class of 2008 will spend a sixth day in Winnebago County.

LASALLE FLYOVER
With the hope that the improving weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday holds, we thought it worthwhile to repeat the Flyover information we previously posted for when we depart LaSalle County. (Of course we've got to get there first!)

The location for the departure flyover viewing opportunity (as we are enroute from LaSalle to Livingston County, IL) is at the junction of East Si Johnson Avenue and East Pleasant Street in the town of Sheridan, Il. Use this link to see the LaSalle flyover viewing spot identified on Google Maps. We suggest you use MapQuest or GoogleMaps to come up with driving directions to it from your home location.

Remember - safety first. Please park your vehicles well off the road and be respectful of private property. You will want to be on site by sunrise - approximately 6:50AM - and dress warmly. Also remember, that you could make the trip for naught if conditions are such that the cranes and planes are unable to fly. Assuming we can fly, there will be a crew member at the viewing site to meet and chat with those gathered, as well as offer those interested an opportunity to purchase some OM Gear.

Date:November 15, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Walter Sturgeon
Subject:Q & A Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
OM often gets questions about aspects of the project, the answers to which might be of interest to many. One supporter recently posed this interesting series of questions about the webpage with the chart of the Eastern Migratory Population's (EMP) Family Tree.

Q.
"I was expecting to see members of the Wood Buffalo Aransas Population in the family table. Are they there hidden by the numbering scheme, or is that population no longer being utilized as a source of eggs? If not, is the reason unknown genetics, transportation?"


A.
All of the birds in the current captive populations are descended from eggs removed from wild nests in and around Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) in Canada. The birds in WBNP are all progeny from the 3 or 4 females that remained in the population when it reached its low point of 15 birds in 1941.

In 1967, through a cooperative agreement between the United States and Canada, biologists started taking the second egg from Whooping crane nests in the park. Those eggs were used to build a captive population at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, and its first captive egg was produced in 1975. Eggs were collected from the wild until 1993, and some of the parents of our birds (those in the Eastern Migratory Population) are from those wild collected eggs.

There are no birds in the EMP hatched from the eggs removed from wild nests. All our cranes are from captive pairs at one of the five breeding centers supporting the project, including the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, the International Crane Foundation, the Calgary Zoo, ACRES in New Orleans, and the San Antonio Zoo in Texas.

In 1993, because it was thought there were enough birds breeding in captivity, and that there was as much genetic diversity in that population as in the wild flock, egg collection was stopped. Recently, an agreement was reached that would allow more eggs to be collected from the wild to enhance the genetics of the captive flock. But in order to do this, a more detailed study of the WBNP breeding birds is required. It is entirely possible that with mate swapping and artificial insemination, that there is now more diversity in the captive population than in the wild flock.

WCEP has a geneticist who has done DNA sequencing on all of the captive birds. These birds are intensely managed for diversity. All five captive populations are managed as if they were one population, with bird and egg swapping performed in order to achieve the goals of the plan between these facilities.

Date:November 15, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day 30 Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
There was little need to step outside this morning to see what the weather held in store for us. The rain began playing its rat-tat-tat on the roof just before 5AM. Although the rain was short-lived, the wind setting the RV to rocking came on stage for Act II.

The rest of the story is, we had 34F, 29F with the wind chill this morning. Winds, although from the right direction, were, and still are, very strong; NNW 15mph and gusting on the ground, and NNW35mph aloft. The weatherman reported there's a 20% chance he'll make it snow today. Another no-go day, the fifth one in Winnebago County.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Winnebago County, WI
The Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum in Rockford is an historic place on the National Register of Historic Places. Robert Hall Tinker built it as his personal residence in the 1860s. Tinker moved to Rockford in 1856, where Mary Dorr Manny employed him as an accountant. She was the wealthy widow of John H. Manny of the Manny reaper works.

Tinker traveled Europe in 1862 and was greatly impressed by the estates and gardens he saw there. On his return to Rockford, Tinker built himself a 20-room Swiss-style cottage on a limestone bluff overlooking the Kent creek and the home of Mary Manny.

A romance flourished and in 1870 Robert and Mary were married, becoming Rockford's most influential couple. Tinker was mayor of Rockford in 1875, and a founding member of the Rockford Park District. Upon the death of the Tinkers, the cottage was left to the Park District and is now a popular destination for school trips and wedding receptions.

Date:November 14, 2008 - Entry 4Reporter: Walter Sturgeon
Subject:LETTING THE BIRDS OUTLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
Letting the birds out to fly for exercise is one of my favorite times during migration. The birds get as frustrated as the team members when we are stalled in one location for a period of time. The interaction between the costumed handlers and the birds is at its greatest as we watch them take off and soar in lazy circles above our heads. Usually they will come in and land around us after a couple of circles and then take off again for a few more.

Birds as large as Whooping cranes with their landing gear planted in front of them just seem to drop from the sky with hardly ever a stumble. Today was one such day, and I always consider myself privileged to be asked to participate. Brooke and Joe opened the double door to the travel pen, and off they went. Several pictures in recent photo journal entries document it quite well, and as they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

We often get the question of why the birds come back to the pen after we let them go. Just think about your own children when you let them out in the back yard to play. They come back in because they are hungry, to make sure you are still there, they don’t like the dark, or for a number of other reasons. The crane chicks come back to us for the same reasons–the fact that they are imprinted on the handlers, their surrogate parents, the security of the pen, treats like grapes, cranberries, pumpkins, and such.

They still feel very dependent on us, and if they didn’t we would never get them to Florida. They are so imprinted on the costume that years after they are released they will respond to it and allow themselves to be caught so that we can check on a medical condition or change a radio transmitter.

Every time I get involved in releasing the birds it brings back memories of my first migration in 2004. We were at our last stop in Florida and I went out to help Joe and Brooke move the traveling pen. We had to release the birds and after they had flown around a bit, we led them into an adjoining pasture out of sight of the pen so that they wouldn’t see the truck that was necessary to make the move.

All of a sudden Joe and Brooke were gone and I was left with 14 whooping cranes. This was an awesome responsibility. They hung around me for a while picking through the cow pies and fire ant mounds but all of a sudden they were up and away. They circled the field a couple of times and seemed to respond to my vocalizer when I turned it up to full volume.

In any event it was either the brood call coming from the vocalizer, the corn that I shook out of the puppet, or my charming appearance while wearing an ill-fitting white gown, black boots, and an awkward head covering that brought them back to me. They hung around for a few minutes and took off again. This time they went out of sight.

They were gone long enough for me to start working on my story about how I had let an early release happen. I went through several scenarios before I finally decided to blame it on Joe and Brooke for their poor judgment in leaving me with the birds to start with. About that time the birds reappeared and practically landed on top of me. It was as if they scared themselves by getting so far away.

While it seemed like they were gone for 20 minutes it probably was a much shorter time. About that time Brooke appeared and signaled that we could start leading them back to the pen. That period of two hours alone with 14 young Whooping cranes was one of the highlights of my life.

Date:November 14, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:QUIT MOVING THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
Here we are almost at the end of the fourth day at our first stop in Illinois. Since our arrival on Monday, November 10, either headwinds or rain, or a combination of the two, have kept the Class of 2008 from taking flight.

Having gone only 129 miles in 29 days is discouraging. It's like someone keeps moving the light at the end of the tunnel further and further away. So, we just had to do some comparing, trying to find some reassuring numbers, numbers that would hopefully allow us to say, "Well, that's not so bad."

In 2007, 2006, and 2005 we were gone from Winnebago County on November 2nd, October 28th, and October 25th respectively. After adjusting for each year's differing departure dates in order to put the time frame in sync with 2008, those dates would be November 6th, November 9th, and October 28th. That means we are here just five days later than we've ever been. "Well, that's not so bad."

In 2005, the fastest of the last three year's migrations, it took 48 more days once we left Winnebago to complete the migration. We need to do better than that this year if we have any hope of being home for the Holidays. "Well, that's not so good." We are anxiously waiting to see what weather the new route has in store for us; hoping for that anticipated following wind instead of headwind.

In the meantime, what we could use is some of Past WCEP Chair, John Christian's uplifting cheerleading. He's wont to remind us that we need to be like the Little Engine That Could…. Yes we can. Yes we can. Yes we can.

Speaking of the Holidays, if you haven't got your greeting cards yet, consider OM's little 'tongue-in-cheek' Santa cards, or our beautiful, embossed Whooping crane Peace cards. An OM Membership makes a super family gift, and our handsome, 24K gold PageMarkers make great stocking stuffers. Visit our Merchandise page and check out the gorgeous Keepsake boxes and Coaster sets crafted by Florida artisan, Charles Bear, and what about Derrick the plush crane for the wee ones on your gift list. From OM gear to Whooping crane jewelry and gourd art, there's something for every Craniac - and also for those that could use a little nudge to become one.

Date:November 14, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WINNEBAGO & LASALLE COUNTY DEPARTURE FLYOVERS Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
We've scouted the area surrounding our stopover site here in Winnebago County and were not able to come up with a suitable location for folks to gather for an opportunity to see a departure flyover when we leave for LaSalle County. The locations we found were either too close to the pen/take off site for the safety of the cranes, too far away to offer any kind of a view, or had no spot where viewers could park safely off the road.

We've had better success however, finding a viewing location on our departure from LaSalle County. Viewers could gather near the junction of East Si Johnson Avenue and East Pleasant Street in the town of Sheridan, IL. Use this link to see the LaSalle flyover viewing spot identified on Google Maps.

Date:November 14, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:GO? MAYBE. GO? NO. GO? MAYBE.  NO-GO Location:Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance:129 miles
Stepping outside this morning about 2 hours before sunrise it felt much warmer than the 45F degrees the thermometer indicated. Just a light breeze ruffled the few remaining leaves on the trees on the fringe of camp, and we tentatively started to hope.

Back inside to check the weather websites, which, as it turns out, were calling for a slight chance of light rain, and 5mph winds from the NW. By sunrise, the crew was assembled in the hangar, hanging over the shoulder of our top cover 'weather goddess', Paula Lounsbury, as she flitted from one internet aviation site to another.

Can we? Can't we? Will we? Won't we? In the final analysis, the high moisture content in the air (making breathing difficult for the birds) combined with the prospect of very trashy air for them to cope with enroute, brought the team to a consensus. We'd stay on the ground. But….

Not long after the no-go decision was made came the second thoughts. And as everyone reconvened at the hangar to pour over updated aviation weather reports, Chris Gullikson took off in his trike to check out the actual conditions. Back on the ground, Chris said, "It's likely doable, but….."

For the next 30 minutes the team debated - to go or not to go. Should we try now or wait a while longer and see if the conditions change? Then, a call to our destination stopover host who confirmed it was raining in LaSalle County pushed everyone off the fence, and it was after much agonizing that we stood down for the second time this morning.

Bev, who had returned from the morning pen check just as Chris was landing from his exploratory flight, gathered up fellow handlers to go back to the pen to let the birds out for some exercise. To see them enjoying Ed Mueller's gift of pumpkins, and a flight around the pensite, visit our Photo Journal.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Winnebago County, IL
"How much is that doggie in the window?" Among the many services Winnebago County provides its citizens is a no-kill adoptive animal shelter for cats, dogs and a variety of other small animals - rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and one ferret. They charge a nominal adoption fee and are selective in choosing new owners.

Date:November 13, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day 28 Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
In Winnebago County, IL the mostly cloudy skies at 1300 feet and overcast skies at 2000 are just about all that's right for today.

We had 38F this morning headed for a high in the low 50s, and you can be sure that the warm temps aren't being carried to us on favorable winds out of the north! On the ground, the SSW winds range between 9 and 15 mph, and aloft between 20 to 30mph.

Brooke made the call this morning in his own inimitable fashion. As he turned back toward his RV, he tossed over his shoulder, "I'll go put the coffee on."

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Winnebago County, IL
A
ll the world's a stage and the Rockford Region is full of them - the Coronado, the Starlight, the MetroCentre are some of them.

The Coronado Theatre, a beautifully restored historic movie theatre, now plays host to some of the best Broadway shows and touring concerts in the Midwest. The Rockford Symphony Orchestra has scheduled a Brahms/Schumann Festival for February 2009. Beatles fans can hear their favorite classics in a new way March 14, 2009, during the “Classical Mystery Tour” tribute. The tour consists of four musicians who resemble the original band in appearance and sound, and feature Beatles tunes from the band’s early days sung, played and performed exactly as they were written.

The stars on stage and in the sky glow at Starlight Theatre, the area's oldest outdoor summer theater. Rock concerts, sporting events and home and garden expos can be seen at the Rockford MetroCentre in the downtown River District. You might attend a hockey game and cheer for the local Ice Hogs.

Date:November 12, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MILEMAKER HALF WAY THERELocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
The OM Migration Team and the Class of 2008 have so far travelled only 10% of the way, but thanks to you folks, MileMaker sponsorships stand at just over 50%. Being half way there, financially speaking, is terrific, and we hope the sponsorships will start rolling in for the balance of the MileMaker miles - 600 more to be precise.

Perhaps you have a neighbor, friend, or co-worker you could entice into becoming a MileMaker sponsor? Maybe all it would take to intrigue someone could be an encouraging word in an email from you and this link to some cool video of one of the Class of 2008 flying off the wingtip of OM pilot Chris Gullikson's trike.

If you've already taken out your 2008 MileMaker sponsorship - many thanks. If you haven't, please click the link to the right. There are lots of quarter miles, half miles and one miles left!

Date: November 12, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: surely we've got to catch a break soonLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
When I looked out this morning shortly after 4:00AM I could see I wasn't the only other early riser. Brooke's light was on and I could see him peering out at me peering out. On emerging from our RVs to investigate the weather, even in the pitch black we could sense, if not see the wind blowing tall trees in the stand nearby.

Back inside, the coffee had just finished dripping when the loud patter of rain on roof of the RV confirmed that we'd be spending another day in Winnebago County, IL.

If the system over top of us continues to hover as the weatherman predicts it will, it is more than likely that we'll also be spending tomorrow, Thursday, right here as well. As it is, Migration Day #27 will be Down Day 22.

To reiterate the often repeated comment around last night's dinner table, "Surely we've got to catch a break soon."

In addition to the usual bird/pen checks etc, among today's crew activities will be the inevitable laundry run of course, a presentation to a school in Sycamore, and a visit by some of the team to the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford. (see Vi & Steve's trivia for today)

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Winnebago County, IL
The Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, the county seat, is worth a visit. Some of its interesting exhibits are: 'Jane - Diary of a Dinosaur'. Jane's 21-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton is on display. She lay buried for 66 million years in the Hall Creek Formation in southern Montana.

One exhibit displays the local landscape with insects and amphibians as they existed 300 million years ago. Another exhibit focuses on 'Fossils of the Midwest' from 455 million years ago. Others of interest are geology including glaciers, minerals and plate tectonics, the history of humankind in North America, and wildlife of the Rock River Valley with mounted as well as live animals.

Date:November 11, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FLYOVERS ALONG THE ROUTE & FLORIDA ARRIVAL Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
Because we continue to receive many, many emails inquiring about public viewing opportunities of flyovers both along the migration route and on our arrival in Florida, we are repeating here the information we've previously posted.

Along the Migration Route Flyovers
As in past years, we hope to be able to offer Craniacs, the public, and media, as many opportunities as possible to view flyovers as the the cranes and planes depart locations along the migration route. Because of the new route this year, and it being the first time we will use the majority of our stopover sites, more than a day or two advance notice of a potential viewing opportunity is unlikely.

Please keep your eye on our Field Journal as the migration progresses. We will post any potential flyover viewing opportunities and the location for Craniacs and others to gather, as far in advance as we possibly can. It is important to keep in mind that our ability to fly on any given day is entirely weather dependent and you could make the early morning trek to the viewing area only to discover we cannot get off the ground.

As of this moment, we have no departure viewing sites confirmed for our current location in Winnebago County, IL, or our next two stops in LaSalle or Livingston Counties. We are working on locating suitable sites and securing landowner permissions.

Arrival Flyovers
1) New this year will be an Arrival Flyover Event somewhere near the St. Marks Refuge, the wintering site for half of the Class of 2008. Once the location has been confirmed and the arrangements put in place the information will be posted here in our Field Journal.
2) We expect to hold the usual Arrival Flyover Event at the Dunnellon Airport in Florida as we fly the other half of the Class of 2008 to their last stop (at the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve) before their final destination, their wintering site on the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

Date:November 11, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:STALLED AGAINLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
The window giving us winds from the north has slammed closed. And, the winds both aloft and on the ground have ganged up on us - blowing out of the south east at 10 to 15 mph and above. If that already wasn't enough to keep us from flying, the threat of freezing rain and/or sleet between 6AM and 9AM certainly was. Migration Day #26 will be Down Day #21.

Finally escaping Wind-consin yesterday prompted us to take a look at where were were on November 10 in 2007. The answer is that we were in Morgan County, Indiana at Stopover #9. That's 4 stops and 266 miles further along. We did leave 4 days later this year however, so once that's factored in, and if we were matching up with what happened in '07 on that day, we'd be sitting at our next stop in LaSalle, IL. Hmmm, not so bad, given we just tied the 'longest ever in one spot' record.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Winnebago County, IL
Winnebago County was named for it's original Native American inhabitants. The tribe is commonly known as the Winnebago, also as the Ho-Chunk. Glory of the Morning was the first woman ever described in the written history of Wisconsin. She became chief of the Ho-Chunk tribe in the year 1727, when she was 18. In 1728 she married a French fur trader named Sabrevoir Descaris. During the time she was chief, the Fox tribe harassed the Ho-Chunk and their French trading partners. Under Glory of the Morning's leadership, the Ho-Chunk allied themselves with the French and fought the Fox tribe in several battles during the 1730s and 1740s.

Date:November 10, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: Cold as a witch’s breathe Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:34 miles Accumulated Distance: 129 miles
We are not normally this far north this late in the season. In fact we have migrated so often that we rarely see these conditions, and for us, November is usually far more temperate. This morning was a harsh reminder that most of us are native to a boreal region.

It always surprises me how the birds survive. We spent a comfortable night in warm beds while the birds stood on one foot in the pen with nothing more than ruffled feathers to protect them. In the morning we layered on clothes interspersed with chemical hand-warmers, while they simply endured. We took off and felt the bone chill, but they did it with wings fully extended and I can’t imagine how they didn’t freeze their wing-pits.

During the flight Chris filmed the bird on his wing as it folded his feet and tucked them into his chest feathers. They bring up one at a time and hold it flat against their chest for only a second before it is enveloped in the feathers and disappears. Then, up comes the other like retracting the gear. (Watch Chris' video clip on YouTube!)

The frost covers on the wings have been in place all week and this morning they were covered in a thick layer. We untied the aircraft, fired up the engines and made all the preparations before ripping them off and charging down the runway. The first thing we do is check how slow we can fly. With full fuel, layered clothing and all the emergency equipment we carry in the backpack, we can normally get them down to 34 miles per hour. If there is any frost on the wings they will start to drop well above that speed and way too fast for the birds.

The runway we take off from runs north-south but the birds were in a pen on top of a hill. The property owners have cut us a short runway that runs east-west. When you launch with the birds you lift off from the hill, cross over the main runway and turn left to fly down the valley. I delayed my turn and made it quite steep so the birds could cut the corner and catch up as we began to slowly gain altitude.

Liz was positioned on a hill top few miles away with 25 or so spectators who responded to her public viewing opportunity posting on our site. We flew directly overhead at only 200 feet. The winds were out of the west and rolling over the hills so it was turbulent down low. Don and Paula Lounsbury in the top cover Cessna told us they had a nice tailwind if we could get them up over 1000 feet, but I was struggling to get them over 500. Every time we gained a few feet, the line would break and we would have to give it up. Arms extended to fly slowly I battled the bumps and rolls to keep the aircraft smooth letting them surf on the wing.

For every 1000 feet you gain the temperature normally drops by 3 degrees. This standard lapse rate may have had something to do with their reluctance to climb. Maybe they could feel it getting colder and preferred to stay low, or maybe they were just having a tough time staying with the undulating wing.

Two birds fell behind and as I slowed they abruptly turned towards Richard who was flying chase. Another dropped back and Chris picked it up. We slowly scratched our way to 900 feet still bumping and twisting while Brooke and Chris flew behind only 200 feet higher in perfectly smooth air with a better tailwind. Don and Paula were reporting a 20 knot tailwind at 3000 feet but we didn’t have a hope of getting that high.

The lead pilot for the day has the strongest vote if he thinks we can skip a stop. Ten miles out I finally reached some smoother air and hoping for increased speed I made the call to go on. By this time Richard and Chris were over the first stop and they turned on course for the second.

Then, three birds broke, dropping down 200 feet and with them went my hopes for a smoother flight. When I descended I was back in the rock and roll with no way out but up. I had to circle twice to let the stragglers catch up, and even when they did they were spread out.

I began to rethink my vote to carry on. We had over an hour to go to the next stop and there was no guarantee the birds would ever climb to the smooth air. Plus, with the sun up and shining, it wouldn’t be long before the thermals started to get higher and it was possible we would never out climb them. By this time I was a few miles south of our stop and turning around meant fighting a headwind. Unfortunately Chris and Richard were already 8 miles passed and the GPS told them they would be 30 minutes getting back.

Brooke and I landed and walked the birds into the pen before we heard Chris and Richard overhead. The wind had picked up and their landings were a testimony to their piloting skills. Luckily our host has a hangar which he generously shares. Within minutes the birds and the aircraft were safe.

It was only an hour flight that covered 34 miles but it finally took us out of Wisconsin. There is one more stop on our traditional route before we start the new one. Let’s hope for better weather.

Date:November 10, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:BYE BYE WISCONSINLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Distance:34 miles Accumulated Distance:129 miles
Gosh it's nice to type something besides "0 miles". Yes - Green County, WI is behind us now and the planes and cranes are at Stopover #5, the first stop in Illinois. Joe was lead pilot today and with Don and Paula circling overhead, he and all 14 birds in the Class of 2008 took off into the cold, relatively calm air.

I was stationed at the flyover site just a few miles south and east of the pensite where a small, but enthusiastic crowd was treated to one of the best - and longest flyover views I've witnessed in a couple of years. Standing on top of one of Green County's rolling hills, we had a panoramic view across the valley as all four trikes, rose above the treeline and headed straight for us.

Joe was fighting for altitude, so as a result, he and his charges rewarded the patiently waiting early risers shivering roadside in the cold, with some sensational photo ops both as they approached, and as they passed overhead.

In addition to the pilots, who have now all tucked their trikes into our host's hangar, Charlie in the tracking van, Bev with the Dodge pulling the second travel pen, and me in the Outreach RV have all made it to Winnebago. After a quick coffee and a carbohydrate fix compliments of our host, Mr. L, Chris, Charlie and Richard left for LaSalle County to set up the travel pen at Stopover #6. Still on the road after breaking camp are: John driving the white van pulling the aircraft trailer, Walter driving the white truck pulling the Sierra motorhome, and Heather driving Deke's RV, the Flair.

Once all the vehicles arrive we will be able to park them in their designated spots and set up camp. It shouldn't be long after that before we have Joe's lead pilot report to post - and perhaps some photos and/or video. Chris shot some great footage of a bird flying off his wingtip with its legs all tucked in trying to keep them warm. Don't touch that dial!

Date:November 9, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:USING THE WEATHER FORECASTSLocation: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
Recently, we sent an aircraft up around mid afternoon to test the air to see if we might be able to fly. That led to questions, so I thought I’d explain our reasoning.

We use several websites to get a picture of the weather conditions. Some information is based on predictions, a few sites use actual pilot reports and others are recorded from remote automated weather stations. None of them provide the specific information we need.

Winds aloft - Most aviation weather reports start reporting wind speeds at an altitude of 3000 feet but we rarely get that high. These winds normally range around 10 to 30 knots per hour. That only works for us if they are going the right direction.

Surface winds - They also provide surface wind speeds but when the frost begins to melt or the heat stored at night within a forest begins to dissipate it can cause a turbulent layer a 100 feet above the tree tops. A pilot in a Cessna would hardly notice the little burble as he passed through it, but it could be enough to cause our birds to break and head back to the pen. We could find ourselves stuck in that turbulent area for the first hour of the flight as we collect the birds for repeated attempts at a departure. If we could somehow convince them to stay with us long enough to get above the rough spots we’d have it made, but that’s a hard message to convey with only a puppet and a costume.

Convective thermal activity - One of the principles of weather is that the sun does not heat the air. If it did, the higher you go, the hotter it would become. Instead the sun heats the earth and that heat is transferred to the air. Dark areas of the earth, like ploughed fields or forests, attract more heat - like a black car over a white one. The air above those areas gets hotter too, and begins to expand and rise. Cool air rushes in to fill the void and all this movement is called convective thermal activity. It causes the aircraft wing to bounce around too much for our birds to get any benefit from the wingtip vortices.

When the sun goes down at night that heating effect stops and we often experience very calm winds. It is those conditions that we take advantage of first thing in the morning. But as the sun begins to heat everything back up, it doesn’t take long before the thermals start working and the winds aloft are drawn down to the surface.

Cloud cover - A high solid overcast ceiling at 5000 feet or higher is ideal for us because it limits the sun’s ability to heat the earth and start the thermals working. It generally means that the air stays calmer longer.

Dew point - Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. That’s why you sweat in the summer and your skin dries out in the winter. If the temperature is 50 degrees and the dew point is 48, it means that the humidity is very high and all you have to do is reduce the air temperature by 2 degrees before the moisture will be forced out in some form. If it’s cold we get frost and if it’s warm we get fog, or sometimes both.

Temperature - Cold air is more dense than warm air. Its particles are packed tighter together and when you breathe cold air you get a higher concentration of oxygen. Because it is thicker it creates more lift so the bird’s wings work better and they have an easier time keeping cool when they fly.

Humidity - High humidity means there is more water in the air. Breathing more water reduces the endurance of the birds causing them to pant and run out of steam.

All of these factors can influence the local weather. Then you have the bigger picture that includes pressure systems, cold fronts, storm cells and all the things that are measured on a national scale. For the last week we have experienced a system that has stalled over the mid west. Nothing has developed that is big enough to influence it, so here we sit.

Each day we get up to relatively calm surface winds and clear skies. It looks deceptively perfect but the winds aloft are out of the south at high speeds and the lack of cloud cover means that in short order the thermals will draw them down to the surface.

Last Saturday was unusual. We had an even overcast at 3000 feet that kept the thermals at bay and by mid afternoon the wind dropped out and everything became still. This is like an alarm for an ultralight pilot and soon we were checking the internet. Chris took off to check the conditions.

The air in the valley was smooth, but as he climbed it began to slow him down. We factored in the high humidity and relatively high temperatures and the fact the there was a large break in the clouds to the south that would let the sun do its work. Added to that was the headwind, and the fact that we only had 4 more hours of daylight left. If something happened we might be out overnight.

This is a team that jumps to action when all else is quiet. We are most active when the air is calm. That happens rarely enough in the morning let alone in the afternoon, but if we got an opportunity we’ll be out of here in a heartbeat.

Date:November 9, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:KEPT IN SUSPENSELocation: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
We're not even out of Wisconsin and I've run out of ways to say 'too windy', and 'wrong-way winds'.

There's lots of frost on the old pumpkin here in Green Co. this morning. Underfoot, the grass crunches with every step. The temp is 29F, and 25F with the wind chill. It is hard to believe that just a few afternoons ago, I stumbled on Bev over by the aircraft trailer, ensconced in a lawn chair grabbing some rays.

The good news today is that the wind has started to turn from the south and is now out of the WNW. The bad news is that while the direction is right, finally, with gusts up to 25mph, it is way too powerful for young cranes and our trikes.

The suspense builds each migration morning as we wait for the sky to lighten, peering at the treetops to try and discern movement. But the suspense is much preferred to knowing, even before the sun comes up, that we're going to be grounded. Migration Day #24 will be Down Day #20.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Green County, WI
Mustard on your emuburger? What's that? A burger made with emu meat. What's an emu? It's a bird about the size of a whooping crane, but unlike cranes, it cannot fly. Its closest relatives are the ostrich, cassowary, rhea and kiwi in the family of flightless birds from around the world.

Emus are native to Australia and are increasing in numbers here in the US on emu farms. Brodhead in Green County is the home of one of about ten emu farms in Wisconsin. Not only do they sell low-fat, iron-rich red emu meat, but also its Omega rich, moisturizing oil.  Other products are leather items made from the leg skins. Emu eggs are a beautiful dark green weighing between 1.5 and 2 pounds. They are offered for sale as beautifully painted craft items.

Date:November 8, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: FRUSTRATIONLocation: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
I once owned an MGB. I bought it new, so that’s an indication of how old I am. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, an MGB was a hot little British sports car from the 60’s with two seats and a convertible top. Basic by today’s standards, it was considered cool back then, and I thought I was on top of the world. When it was a month old someone slashed the roof and ripped out the radio.

If you’ve ever been the victim of theft you know that feeling of frustration. You’re left with anger, resentment, a sense of loss and great injustice yet there is no one to blame or take a poke at, no target for your revenge.

It’s like when your spouse takes the opposite side in some all-important argument that happens in your own mind in the middle of the night while you’re deep in a dream. Then you wake up in the morning and there she is completely innocent of all charges yet your annoyance persists. Even you know that the grudge you carry all morning is completely unjustified but it’s far too stupid to explain so by noon she’s mad at you for being irritable. You’ve ruined the entire day and there is no one to blame but yourself so you spent the afternoon buying flowers just to get back to where you were when you woke up.

Talk radio hosts often make controversial statements just to boost their ratings. This is common knowledge but we still get hooked. There I am, simply driving to work yet I’m all cranked up by some inane assertion intentionally made by an announcer to increase listenership. You’ve rehearsed your response and it’s irrefutable but you’re caller number 64 and you’ll never get a chance to set the record straight.

Frustration by definition is a feeling of disappointment, exasperation, or weariness caused by goals being thwarted or desires unsatisfied. Frustration is likely the most common emotion. It’s a direct result of do-it-yourself projects, diets, income tax forms and sexual abstinence. It occurs before anger and after displeasure and is the consequence of all those things that you can’t do anything about like a whirlpool of feeling, frustration is frustrating.

And that’s what it’s like to wake up each morning and realize that the weather system that has been stuck over most of the mid west is still here.

Date:November 8, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #23 - GOING NO WHERE AGAIN Location: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
There is no doubt there must be some folks, some place in the world, who would be pleased to have 32F degrees, 9mph west winds, and light snow. None of them, however, can be found at Stopover #4 in Green County, WI.

Today is the 10th consecutive day we will be held on the ground, just 95 miles south of our departure site. The last time our Green County stopover hosts had to put up with a yardful of RV's and a crew of frustrated migrators for anything close to this long, was back in 2004 when we were flightless for 7 days running.

As of this morning, Green County has the dubious honor of hosting the OM Team for the second longest number of consecutive down days in our eight year migration history. The current weather delay has caused us to surpass the 9 days we were stuck at our first stopover site in Juneau County last fall, and the 9 days we were stuck in Cumberland County, TN in 2006.

Top spot however still belongs to Cumberland County, TN (and the Beast' - the Cumberland ridge). That was in 2007 when we were held in place for so long in December (11 days), that we broke to let most of the crew go home for the holidays. We sincerely hope to NEVER out-do Tennessee's record, and to avoid this happening, we need to get in the air on Sunday or Monday morning.

FLYOVER VIEWING OPPORTUNITY
In anticipation of a departure, we've been doing some scouting around the countryside. We have found a potentially terrific flyover viewing spot for folks interested in witnessing first hand, the planes and cranes departing Wisconsin for Illinois.

We suggest the top of a hill on County Road N, just north (~1/2 mile) of the intersection of County Roads N and C. Coming along CR N from the north, the apex of the hill is just past Ron-Hill Lane (on your right). Coming from the south, if you pass Ron-Hill Lane (on your left) you've gone a bit too far.

There is no off road parking so safety first please. Be sure to pull as far as possible off the road onto the shoulder, and, exit your vehicle on the passenger side. We will do our best to get one of our RV's in place so that viewers will have an opportunity to purchase some OM Gear, along with a crew member equipped with an aviation radio so folks can hear the pilot's 'chatter' as they take off ……or not.

Sunrise is at approximately 6:40AM these mornings so viewers will want to be in place not much later than that. At the moment, a Sunday morning flight is looking like only a very remote possibility. Monday appears to offer more potential.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Green County, WI
The Brodhead Band was organized in 1857 and their famous six-horse band wagon was in great demand, going as far away as Freeport, Illinois for the Lincoln-Douglas debate. Enlisted in the Civil War, the band went with Sherman to the sea and marched in the Grand Review in Washington at the war’s end.

Put a quilt on your barn. Well, not a whole quilt, but an enlarged version of one quilt square. The biggest concentration of decorative barn quilts is in and around Monroe in Green County. The brightly colored motifs are about 6 feet square and are applied to the wall of the barn best seen from the highway. Some of the replicated quilt patterns are Whirligig, Dove At My Door, Corn and Beans, Carolina Lily and Hen 'n Chicks. For photos go to- greencountybarnquilts.com

Date:November 7, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject: MONTICELLO CRANIAC KIDSLocation: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
One of my most pleasurable things to do on migration is outreach. I love to talk to people of all ages about the Whooping Crane and our project. Luckily, yesterday, I got to indulge that love when I spoke to a group of Craniac Kids at Monticello Elementary School here in Green County.

Mr. Cappelle, the Craniac teacher of the fourth grade, stopped by camp yesterday and was given a tour of the trikes and equipment. At that time, he asked if we could come to speak to his class. Without hesitation, Liz assured him someone would be there.

When Brooke, Heather and I walked into the classroom we were greeted with a big round of applause making us feel very welcome. It took but a moment to get the PowerPoint program running, and soon I was answering more questions than I could keep track of. Mr. Cappelle had been having the kids follow our progress online and had a big migration map on the wall. It was obvious the kids had been doing their studying as they tried to play stump the crane crew for the better part of an hour.

It does my heart good to see these Craniac Kids and their enthusiasm for an endangered species. Hopefully at least one of them will translate their excitement into a future career, or even just a life long passion for conservation. Based on their attention I’d say the future is indeed bright, shining through even on a cloudy day like today.

Date:November 7, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FLORIDA NON-MIGRATORY POPULATION Location: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
In a statement release to the news media today, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced that based the recommendation of the multi-agency International Whooping Crane Recovery Team (IWCRT). releases of Whooping cranes into the Florida Non-Migratory Population will be discontinued.

The IWCRT created the release program 15 years ago in an effort to establish a self-sustaining, non-migratory Whooping crane population in Florida. The decision to stop releasing cranes into the Florida Non-Migratory Population was made for a variety of reasons, including problems with survival and reproduction, both of which have been complicated by drought. Additional considerations were shorter-than-expected life spans, scarcity of birds for release, project costs and the loss of habitat from development.

The team felt that project resources, and birds produced in captivity could be better used for other Whooping crane releases as well as to maintain the captive flock. “It was a tough decision,” said FWC biologist Marty Folk. “Many people were involved, but most agreed that this was the right decision and the right time to make it.”

Beginning in 1993 biologists released a total of 289 captive-raised, non-migratory Whooping cranes into Osceola, and Lake and Polk counties in Central Florida. The last releases took place in winter of 2004-2005. The FWC was the lead agency in Florida in the cooperative effort to establish a non-migratory flock and FWC bilogists will continue to study the remaining 31 birds.

Click here to learn more about Whooping crane research programs.

Date:November 7, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:YET ANOTHER 'NO GO' DAYLocation: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
On stepping outside shortly before 4AM this morning the old standard sung by Dinah Washington came to mind. "What a difference a day makes."

We have 39F and steadily strengthening SSE winds with gusts that set the RV to rocking. Aloft the +20mph winds are also against us. It appears the gorgeous Indian Summer of late is over, as the weatherman is saying we'll likely have snow before the day is out. Need I say that Migration Day #22 will be Down Day #18?

For the third consecutive week, Constant Contact, our bulk email delivery service provider, has advised that they will shut down for maintenance on Saturday. As a result, OM member subscribers will not receive an EarlyBird e-bulletin tomorrow. We apologize for our inability to deliver.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Green County, WI
In 1836, the territorial legislature designated the County of Green -- which was named for Revolutionary War hero General Nathanial Greene, as well as for the lush vegetation found in the region.

With a history dating back to 1914, Green County Cheese Days is the oldest and largest food fest in the Midwest. The festival honors the Swiss heritage and the cheese-making and dairy farming traditions of the area. Monroe's historic courthouse square serves as a scenic backdrop to the festival grounds, and the celebration attracts crowds of revelers ready to yodel, polka, and consume cheese by the truckload.

Date:November 6, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DAR MORTALITYLocation: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
Dr. Richard Urbanek reported today that the carcass of DAR835* was found yesterday afternoon on the Necedah refuge in a remote, densely vegetated area consisting mostly of dry sedge marsh. The mortality site, as well as the marshes north of Sprague Pool are mostly dry. Her remains were found in a small area of standing water approximately 75 yards from where a predator had made the kill.

DAR835* was released with DAR836 on October 18 but they both returned to the area of their pensite on the refuge the following morning, rejoining DARs 837* and 838* there. The last DAR835* was observed was flying alone over western Sprague Pool the morning of November 3rd. Tracking data shows she roosted that evening away from the other DAR juveniles, moving in morning to the area where she was killed, either during the day November 4th, or that night.

This latest mortality reduces the size of the Eastern Migratory Population to 74, and the number of 2008 Direct Autumn Release birds to five.

Date:November 6, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:LET MY PEOPLE GOLocation: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
The weather pattern is changing - but so far not for the better. At 54F it's just a tad cooler than it was at 6AM yesterday, but the 11mph SE winds we had Wednesday have grown to plus 15mph this morning on the ground, and double that strength up top.

Yesterday's high was t-shirt temp (72) but at best will be sweatshirt temp today (60). The weatherman is also threatening us with rain showers. Much as we love the area and our amazing stopover hosts here in Green County, we’ve seen enough of Wisconsin. All together now - and a one, and a two, and a three....everyone start singing a rousing rendition of “Let My People..er…Cranes Go.”

Migration Day 21 will be Down Day 17.

Mark Blassage of Winnebago County, IL emailed to say he was not so patiently waiting for the Green County, WI weather to, "release the migration team." He said he has been watching the sky every morning and wondering, "if today would be the day." In his message to us yesterday he said, "I didn't mind so much that today was another no-fly day because the only cloud in the sky gave me the idea that everything will unfold as it is meant to. I think it's a sign saying Winnebago County is ready for you. C'mon down!" Mike shared this photo and swore that it was real, not photo-shopped.

Date:November 5, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CHASS PENSITE READIEDLocation: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
Keith Ramos, Acting Refuge Manager at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Crystal River, FL advised that the winter pensite for the Class of 2008 is now ready. All that is left to do is to bring in the fresh water source, but that won't be done until just before our arrival.

"We had a great turn out," Keith said, "with 13 people helping on the first day, 11 on the second, then some extra touch up, for a total of three work days." All in all it sounds like it was a great team effort by the Chass staff, volunteers, and ES people from Jacksonville and St. Petersburg.

Thanks to everyone on behalf of the half of the Class of 2008 who we will be leading to the wintering pensite at Chass. Click here to see Keith's photos and an aerial overview of the pensite.

Date:November 5, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:'NON' MIGRATION DAY #20Location: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
The frustration of going no where the past week will be extended yet another day. Today's forecasted weather is almost identical to yesterday's. The system stalled over us continues to produce unseasonably warm temps along with strong headwinds. Aloft, the winds out of the SW are blowing 30-40 mph. Migration Day #20 will be Down Day #16.

Two FREE Ways to Help OM Raise Much-Needed Funds
In addition to using GoodSearch when you are surfing the internet, we encourage you to use iGive when you are shopping online.

Every time you shop at any of 700+ online stores in the iGive network, a portion of the money you spend benefits OM. It's a free service, and you'll never pay more when you shop at a store on iGive. In fact, you can take advantage of iGive's repository of coupons, free shipping deals, and sales, and up to 26% of each purchase benefits our cause! You'll find everything from daily necessities to special occasion and holiday gifts, at stores you know and love.

To get started, just create your free iGive account. You can buy the things you need, or shop for the coming holiday season and feel good knowing that a portion of each purchase benefits OM. Make your shopping dollars do double duty. Learn more at www.iGive.com.

Date:November 4, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:EXERCISE DAYLocation: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
The calm air this morning held every promise of a good fly day. The overall appearance was very gray when I first stepped out of the camper. The predawn sky was still gray, the ground was even gray with patchy fog shifting about. But alas, in spite of the appearance, a phone call from top cover pilots Don and Paula confirmed the forecast of southerly winds precluding any notion of flying with the birds.

So after lingering over a cup of coffee and waiting until the sun was up a bit, I trudged up the hill to check on the birds. It is difficult to keep track of the days when we are not flying. The only way I can do this is to remember that every 3 down days, we let the birds out for exercise.

After ensuring all chicks were still in the pen and water buckets and feeders full, I walked back down the hill to find some teammates to help let the birds out to fly. Part of our protocol is that when all the birds are let out to fly, a minimum of three handlers will be present. This morning there were more volunteers than were practically needed (perhaps indicating our boredom), so I opted to play photographer and lie in wait for the chicks to fly.

Hiding myself at the base of the hill, trying to calculate the now rising winds to figure which way the chicks would fly and worrying that my white t-shirt would be visible to them made me miss the initial flyover. I had miscalculated my position, so madly scrambling while the birds were out of sight, I found a new hiding spot that gave me wonderful views of ‘my babies’.

The first clue they are coming is not the sight of them, but the sound of them. Excited peeps floated down the hillside giving me ample warning of where to aim the camera. Next I could hear the wind through their feathers as they beat their wings to gain altitude. Finally, I spied them. Beautiful 7 foot wingspans stretched across the now blue sky, black wingtips glistening, brown heads belying their age.

The circuits continued with brief pauses in between giving me an opportunity to enjoy my surroundings. Bluebirds chirped competing with juncos in a seasonally confused chorus. A pheasant cackled somewhere on the hillside, and from across the valley came the low hoots of a great horned owl. Bugs chirred in the quickly warming air giving notice of the record warmth we have been experiencing. One last circuit from the chicks and after waiting for several minutes and neither seeing nor hearing them anymore, I wandered back to the camper to record my thoughts for the morning.

Now what to do with the rest of the day…..?

Date:November 4, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:IF THIS IS WINTER WE CAN'T BE IN WISCONSIN Location: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
It was so warm when I stepped out of the RV this morning that I just knew we had to have south winds and were going to be down yet again today. Sure enough, it was 56F, well on the way toward today's predicted high of 72F, with 5mph SSW winds. Aloft it was more of the same only at 6 times the strength. Migration Day #19 will be Down Day #15.

Help spread some cheer
We've learned that Alice Oneal, a long time, dedicated Craniac is in ICU in Tampa as a result of a stroke. Alice is the artist who designed, handcrafted, and donated the stained glass Whooping crane piece we are raffling, and that will be drawn for at the Dunnellon Arrival Event.

We understand that her recovery is going to be a slow process, and we were thinking that Alice might enjoy some receiving some get well wishes and cheery words from fellow Craniacs. If you have a minute, why not send Alice a message via our GuestBook. We will collect and copy them and send them along to Alice's husband, Herb and her son Floyd who will ensure she receives them.

Date:November 4, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATE Location: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
With the release of the 2008 DAR birds on the Necedah NWR, the size of the Eastern Migratory Population stands at 75; males - 42 and females - 33. In the notes below, females are indicated by *. DAR = direct autumn release.

401 was captured October 21st to have his non-functional transmitter replaced.

INDIANA
Kosciusko County - 727* last reported Oct. 8

MICHIGAN
Jackson County – 516 last reported Oct. 20
Kalamazoo County – DAR533*
Allegan County- DAR740* last reported Oct. 6
Alpena County – DAR744* last reported Oct. 19

MINNESOTA
Lincoln County – 703, 707, DAR739*, DAR742

WISCONSIN
Necedah NWR
101, 105NFT & 501*
211 & 217*, 213 & 218*, 216NFT& 508* (previously paired with 401)
303* & 317, 307 & 721*, 309* & 403, 310 & W601*, 311 & 312*, 313* & 318, 316NFT(previously unreported since March 30th)
401 (lost mate 508* to 216NFT), 402, 408 & 519*, 412, 415*NFT & 505
509, 511, 512, 514, 524NFT
709, 710, 716*, 717*, 722*, 726*, 724, DAR737, DAR746*
810 (pulled from UL Class of 2008 and single released on the refuge Oct. 22. Has been observed with 509, 307, 721* and 310 & W601*, and DAR837*)
DARs831, 32*, 35*, 36, and 38* (Released in pairs but have regrouped - see photo.) DAR837 (Is integrating into the sub-adult population)
Juneau County – 733
Adams County – 506
Jackson County - 520*NFT
Waupaca County – DAR527*

LOCATION UNKNOWN
107*NFT – last observed in Adams County Oct. 16
212NFT & 419*NFT - last observed in Wood County Sept. 18
416NFT – last observed at Site # on the refuge Oct. 10
420*NFT - last observed in Rusk County Oct. 11
DAR528* - last reported in Wood County Oct. 7
DAR627NFT, DAR628 – last observed on the NNWR Oct 25. An unconfirmed report on Oct. 29 of two Whooping cranes in Winnebago County, IL may have been these two birds.

LONG TERM MISSING (more than 90 days)
205NFT last recorded at Necedah Oct. 16/07

This update was compiled from data supplied to OM by WCEP's Tracking Team.

Date:November 3, 2008Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day #18 = Down Day #14Location: Green Co. WI
Distance: 0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
Winds are at SSW 6mph on the ground, and aloft they are out of the same wrong direction; 20mph at our departure site and 30mph closer to our Illinois destination. As a result of the overnight cooling of yesterday's unusually warm air, we also had patches of fog this morning. The early morning temp here was a mild 47F degrees, and a high of 72F is forecast for Green County by mid-afternoon. While the unseasonably warm weather is lovely, what we really need is a cold front to move in - preferably borne on a gentle north wind.

So - what are we up to day? The ground crew will be busy checking the birds of course, and everyone's laptops will get a workout. We will be topping up RV water tanks and emptying others. At least two of our vehicles will be making a trip for a propane fill, and the laundromat and the grocery store are likely stops enroute. Yesterday I organized and re-packed all our outreach materials and the OM gear/merchandise we will offer folks along the way, but have the cataloguing left to do today.

TWO 'MONEY' REMINDERS
Taking the lead from Barb Neibrand of Homosassa, FL who's recent entry in the GuestBook urged folks to use the GoodSearch search engine, we thought it worthy of another mention here in the Field Journal. Every internet search generates a penny if OM is selected as your charity of choice. Last season, revenue from this was equal to almost 10 MileMaker miles. It's a cost-free way to help put some much needed revenue in the coffers.

And speaking of revenue… if you haven't already sponsored your 1/4, 1/2, or MileMaker mile, there's no time like the present. At the moment 598 of the 1285 migration miles are sponsored, leaving 687 miles still looking for sponsorship. Last year was the first ever sellout of MileMaker miles, and if ever we needed a repeat, this is the year.

Last evening, OM’s Board of Directors held a conference call meeting to review the six month financials. As a group they acknowledged that the current tougher economic times are proving particularly challenging. “That discretionary dollars are tight, and foundations and institutional funders along with individuals are feeling the effects of the economic downturn is evident,” noted OM’s Treasurer, David Johnson.

Bottom line numbers revealed that while only 30% of budgeted/anticipated revenue had come in, more than 50% of budgeted expenses had been incurred. “Hopefully, people think enough of Operation Migration and the work we do, that even with times being tight, they’ll still help us out,” Board Chair Vickie Henderson said.

Perhaps you'd consider sending a, "I support Operation Migration’s work with Whooping cranes, and I'm asking if you will too," email to your relatives, friends and colleagues, and include a link to our MileMaker webpage (http://www.operationmigration.org/https://secure.operationmigration.org/np/clients/om/campaign.jsp?campaign=45) or to the Contribute webpage
http://operationmigration.org/contribute.htm

The OM Team is grateful for the generous and ongoing support of our loyal Craniacs. Anything you can do to help – from individual fundraising efforts to sending messages to others to raise awareness and encourage new contributions – will be sincerely appreciated.

Date:November 2, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject: YESTERDAY'S EXERCISE SESSION Location:Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance:95 miles

Yesterday was our third day on the ground since arriving in Green County, WI last Wednesday so we decided to release the crane-kids and give them an opportunity to blow off some steam. Joe, Charlie, Bev and I made the trek up the steep hill to their pen, and while the three of them released the birds, I shot some video. Once the double doors were opened the birds exited quickly - excited to get out and flap their large wings. A few took off into the southeast wind and circled to the south, while the rest got airborne toward the south to intercept the others.

It never ceases to amaze me when I get to see these large gangly birds fly and it's difficult to believe that just five to six months ago they were clumsy, toddling chicks, with wings resembling those on a 3 pound roasting chicken. Yet here they are now, on their first-ever southward migration flight, boasting 7 to 8 foot wingspans.

We all watched as they flew off toward the north, climbing slightly higher with wing beat. I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if they decided to keep going... Fortunately just as this thought crossed my mind they arced back toward us and began their slow gliding return to drop down beside us. To watch the video shot yesterday, please visit us on YouTube. While you're there we hope you'll rate the clip and forward it to your friends to help us get the word out.

Date:November 2, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: déjà-vu Location: Green Co. WI
Distance: 0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
On stepping out of the RV around 3AM to answer nature's call, three things immediately stood out. The first was the Eau de Skunk wafting on the light breeze, and the second was the almost shirt-sleeve temperature. It was the third thing though, the moisture laden air, that made me fire up the computer for a look at what the weatherman held in store for us at sunrise.
It was not good news. 46°F with SE winds aloft ranging from 35 to 45mph. If that wasn't enough to keep the wing covers on, the patchy light drizzle certainly was.

Migration Day #17 will be Down Day #13 and our fourth day on the ground in Green County, WI. If there is any consolation, it is that with a high of 69F predicted for this afternoon, we'll have great weather for all our outdoor chores today.

TIP OF THE MONTH: PITY THE ELECTED BUREAUCRAT
Excerpt from the November BIRDING COMMUNITY E-BULLETIN
An election year is a time when Americans have an opportunity to make decisions that impact the country, the state, and the county and town where you live. No matter who is elected to fill various political positions, we can be pretty sure that he or she under-appreciates the value of birds and other natural resources. It's just reality.

For our tip of the month, we suggest that you make an effort to track down newly elected (or re-elected) officials where you live. Let them know that not only are birds and their habitats important to you, but that you would be delighted to share and show them to the official or his/her staff at a local park, refuge, forest, and/or nature center. Don't underestimate the impact of a personal bird-and-habitat experience for an otherwise often oblivious elected official or staff member. It makes the issue "real," and there is no substitute for such an experience.

Date:November 1, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:THERE'S STUCK, AND THEN THERE'S STUCK Location: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
The name, Wisconsin, I have recently learned, is derived from the Indian word for Velcro. A fact which should have been obvious to me since it was an Indian that first learned that money sticks to the stuff, and thus began the stampede of casinos in the state. This goes a long way to explain why it is that year after year our migration stalls in Wisconsin, seemingly before it ever really starts.

The little arrows of the Winds Aloft Computer Chart point as bold and threatening at us as the ones pointed at Custer’s back at Little Big Horn, and it makes about as much sense for us to launch birds into this headwind as it did for Custer to charge into that hail of hostile arrows. So here again we sit - -stuck!

But as I recently learned, there’s stuck…and then there’s STUCK. Just about the time I pulled out my crying towel and starting soaking the thing with my tears of frustration at our predicament, I met a woman who gave the word, “STUCK” a whole new meaning. The encounter went like this…

While driving through Necedah last Sunday on my way back to the second stop pensite, I chanced to see Harold Carter and his wife Sharon attempting to wrestle a giant reclining chair into a trailer parked outside their second hand furniture store. Harold recently retired from the Necedah Refuge where he spent his entire career. In fact, he was born on the Refuge, and his father was the first Refuge Manager back in the 30’s.

Harold spent many days over many years helping to carve out our bird training sites and construct our bird pens, and his ever constant enthusiasm, expertise, and good humor contributed greatly to the success of this project. So, feeling like I had a few good lifts left in my back and excited at the opportunity to finally return a favor, I pulled over.

“Here comes the cavalry,” Harold said, with his characteristic good cheer. And as we completed the loading, he informed me we were delivering it to the lady who got “stuck” in her bathtub a couple of months ago. “You heard about it, didn’t ya?” he asked. I hadn’t, so on the way he filled me in.

Seems this senior citizen, with bad knees and carrying around a few too many pounds, lived alone at the edge of town. One morning while stepping into her bathtub for a bath, her knee gave out. She lost her balance and fell hard, becoming instantly and inextricably wedged. And there, unable to move anything but her arms, she remained stuck - - -for the next FIVE DAYS!

I was instantly intrigued and fascinated by this story. This was clearly a special woman, so when she came to the door I found myself just starring. “Where do you want it?” Harold asked, breaking the spell, and we were soon at war with this electrified, vibrating monster of an easy chair as we moved it by sheer force of will through the front door; a door too narrow for even the thinnest folding chair.

The battle won, I stood sore and panting in front of a living room wall, every inch covered by photographs of family; sisters, brothers, children, their children and their children. It was truly a wall of pride and achievement, and stood in testimony to this humble woman’s contribution to life. I wanted to understand and felt I was beginning to when I realized she was standing next to me, gazing too at the wall. Summoning the nerve for the question I just had to ask her, the words suddenly came out sounding dull and stupid, giving me the feeling that I’d just passed wind in church. ”Would you please tell me what happened to you. I just have to know.”

Recognizing, I suppose, my sincerity, she walked to the dining room table, sat down and began the story, day by day, what she did, what she thought, and how the ordeal had changed her life. She ran the hot water to lessen the chill, broke the window and the shower door in a vain attempt to alert a neighbor, and she prayed. She was rescued on the fifth day when her son came to the front door to check on her. Hearing her screams, he called the fire department and she was saved. Her story is, in a nutshell, an affirmation of faith, and a story of hope and its power and rewards. Her religious faith played a huge role as well.

And there are some practical lessons to be learned here, for this story is nothing if not a cautionary tale. She went on to suggest - plead even:
1) If you live alone, set up with a family member or neighbor or friend a time every day when you will call and confirm all is well, with an understanding of what to do if the call is not made. Nothing elaborate necessary, just a quick call. Harold and Sharon have set up a free service in their store since they are there from 10 to 4 every day, that anyone who wants to can set this up with them. If they don’t hear from that person, they will respond. Just people caring about other people. Incredible!
2) As much as we need bathrooms and bathtubs, as we age or collect injuries, they may over time become less and less our friend and more and more a potential threat. Making the bathroom more user-friendly, in effect taming it down and reconfiguring it to our changing needs and abilities, is absolutely necessary. Nobody needs to get stuck or injured in the bathroom, even if we enter it with a good read!
3) And finally, believe in people. They will almost always try to help when asked, and it makes them feel as good helping you, as you feel when you help them.

You can’t do anything but feel good after an experience like this, and as Harold and I drove away, I hoped the feeling would last for a good long time. So as I sit here, stuck, at our last migration stop in Wisconsin, the sun is shining, birds are singing, I’m still in one piece and life is pretty darn good.

Now, if I could just figure out a way to put wings on a bathtub!

Date:November 1, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #16 = DOWN DAY #12Location: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles

We are still stalled in Green County. Once we got the word on wind conditions from top cover pilots, Don and Paula Lounsbury, who were on station at a nearby airport, we knew without any doubt we would spend a third day here on the ground.

As I approached the crowd of expectant neighboring Craniacs gathered along the roadside down the way from the pensite I called out, "Don't shoot the messenger." While we weren't able to give them an opportunity to see the planes and cranes flyover today, it was great to have an opportunity to meet and chat briefly with them.

Where were we last year on November 1st? In 2007 November 1st was Migration Day #20 and we were one stop ahead in Winnebago County, IL. That's one way of looking at progress status. Another and more positive view of things is that on Migration Day #16 last year we had only just arrived in Green County, WI compared with our arrival this year on Day #13.

The forecast for the next few days is not showing us favorable wind direction, but we will see what the morning brings. The longest we've ever spent at this stopover is 7 days and that was in 2004. The only years we had 0 down days here were 2003 and 2006.

Date:November 1, 2008 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: EARLYBIRD E-BULLETIN UNAVAILABLE TODAY Location: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
For the second straight Saturday, Constant Contact, our bulk email service provider has shut down their system to perform server maintenance. (I guess they think people don't work on weekends.) As a result, we are unable to send out EarlyBird, OM's e-bulletin sponsored by Southern Company, this morning.

Please check back here later this morning for updates. At the moment it is looking much like yesterday and it is likely we will be putting a test trike up once the sun comes up.

Date:October 31, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:NO GUARANTEESLocation: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
The frightening part about migration has nothing to do with flying over 1200 miles in a machine that only weighs 400 lbs, or white-knuckling an RV pulling a trailer over the Appalachians. The scary part is that there are no guarantees.

We raise the funds and hatch the chicks and spend the summer teaching them how to follow us. We prepare all the equipment, organize our support team and take on the responsibility entrusted in us by the many others who have worked hard to make this happen --- but we can’t guarantee that it will.

This project is entirely dependant on getting these birds south, but there are no promises in weather; we have no right to an allotted number of flying days each fall. We can’t wish it calmer or orchestrate better conditions, or find a benefactor to buy us a tailwind. But without those commodities, made rare by the changing seasons, we can’t teach these birds to migrate, or justify the expense to our supporters, or earn the trust of our partners. And that is more scary than a hundred Cumberland Ridges.

With Don and Paula Lounsbury flying top cover plus the four ultralight pilots and Bev Paulan’s experience as a Flight Instructor, we have our share of weather expertise. Everyone’s prediction for this morning agreed that winds aloft would be from the west at 20 to 25 knots and likely too strong for us. But the responsibility weighs heavy, and unless we can hear the rain pelting to top of the RV, we roll out of bed while it’s still dark and cold just to see for ourselves.

The air on the surface was dead calm and there were no clouds to prove to us what we already knew. It was my turn to lead so I volunteered to be the 'wind dummy'; the one who takes off to check on the conditions and report back.

Preparation for a departure is time consuming so we start before sunrise by untying the aircraft and stowing the tie downs in case they are needed later. We add layers of clothing slowly to balance between the cold temperatures and the exertion it takes to get everything ready. There is nothing worse than taxiing onto the runway sweating under layers of clothing only to climb into freezing temperatures and a 40 mile per hour windchill.

I took off to the north and turned downwind to fly the valley at the same speed as the birds would cruise. There were turbulences over the hills but nothing we couldn’t handle so I climbed higher. At 800 feet there was a sheer layer as the wind changed direction. The aircraft bumped and rolled for a minute or so and began to rotate to the right. To counter a cross wind you have to aim into it in order to stay on course.

It’s a very odd feeling to be pointing west yet moving south in an almost sideways flight pattern. It’s like crossing a fast moving river in a speed boat, you must aim upstream to reach a point on the opposite shore or you’ll end up some place down river. The more you aim into the current, the slower your progress across, and as I flew toward our destination my speed began to decrease. Flying through the air at 38 MPH, I was only passing over the ground at 26.

So we are down for another day, but we can take small consolation in knowing we did our best. Our only guarantee is the knowledge that if we don’t make it - it won’t be for lack of trying.

Date:October 31, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #15 = DOWN DAY #11Location: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
With Don and Paula in the top cover aircraft circling overhead, Joe launched to test the winds. The ground crew was in place, Charlie was set to take off in the tracking van, and the pilots were all costumed and had their trikes warmed up ready to launch on Joe's word. The 6mph SSW winds were too much however. When Joe radioed back that it was 'pretty trashy air' up top, the mood below the hill from where the birds are penned changed. The air, which moments before was charged with hopeful anticipation, deflated, as the pilots shut down their trike engines, and they and the other crew peeled off their costumes.

DUCK STAMP $$$ HIT ONE BILLION DOLLAR MARK!
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last month that the one billionth dollar from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF) - the nation's primary funding source for migratory bird habitat acquisition and protection - had been spent. The lion's share of the MBCF comes from funds collected through the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, commonly known as the "Duck Stamp." Over $700 million of the $1 billion spent has come through sale of the Stamp. The rest is from excise/import fees, fines, and several lesser sources.

The Migratory Bird Conservation Fund is used to acquire habitat, typically wetlands and grasslands that are important for migratory bird conservation for the National Wildlife Refuge System and associated small wetlands and grasslands (WPAs and permanent easements).

The billionth dollar was actually spent to complete the purchase of a permanent conservation easement on a 133-acre grassland tract on private land in Campbell County, South Dakota.

Excerpted from October's Birding Community E-bulletin

Date:October 30, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 14 = DOWN DAY #10Location: Green Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
There will be no 'three-fer'. A third consecutive flying day wasn't in the cards for us this morning. Strong wrong way winds will keep the planes and cranes on the ground in Green County, WI today.

Dancing Cranes in the Land of the Rising Sun
Time is running out for Crane aficionados to sign up for the trip to view cranes in Japan, If you are up for a unique adventure, join OM's own Walter Sturgeon, a crane expert in his own right, and zoologist Dave Davenport, President of EcoQuest Travel, as they lead an exciting Bird Watching trip to Japan in February 2009.

To quote from the brochure describing the journey - "From the crowded bustle of Tokyo and the glitter of skyscrapers to the still forests of Hokkaido and the quiet reverence of ancient temples, Japan is a land of contrasts. The Land of the Rising Sun is known more for its cultural riches, but the birdlife of Japan is rich and varied."

The February timing for the trip – which includes visits to three of Japan’s main islands, Honshu, Hokkaido and Kyushu - means travelers will have the opportunity to view a diversity of cranes and waterfowl. Click here for trip details and a description of the itinerary, or visit EcoQuest Travel's website for information on how to get quotes or to sign up. The group for this exclusive tour will consist of a maximum of 14 individuals.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Green County, WI
The first cow to fly in an airplane was the Guernsey, Elm Farm Ollie, also known as "Nellie". As part of a study on the in-flight effects of flying on animals, Nellie was milked on a plane in mid air on February 18, 1930. The milk was sealed into paper cartons and parachuted to waiting spectators below at the St. Louis International Air Exposition. Her mission was "to blaze a trail for the air transportation of livestock". In celebration of the event she inspired an especially composed opera, Madame Butterfat.

Date:October 29, 2008 - Entry - 4Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:BETTER LATE THAN NEVERLocation: Green Co. WI
Distance:46 miles Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
Seems at times as if life is a succession of flashbacks and flash-forwards with not a whole lot of time for flash-nows. Yesterday was my lead, so it became my date with the dreaded ‘Update’. However, the demands of a full day of flash-nows turned me into a no- show”, a situation I endeavor to rectify in this flashback.

The morning began with a thirty mile drive from our temporary pensite camp, where Bev and I had spent the last week, to Necedah and our old camp where we’d spent the summer. As I listened to a Golden Oldies radio channel reminding me of what had been, and what might have been, I looked up at the stars passing overhead and was thrilled at the knowledge that I too would soon be passing overhead, along with three other ultralights as we retraced this commute back to the pen to begin the next leg of our migration.

And soon it was so.

Walt and John opened wide the pen gates and the birds blew out in a stream of flashing white and mottled brown. Together, we lifted off into the cold morning sky as the rising sun peeked over the ridge in seeming amusement. “Sweet Freedom!” the formation screamed…as much for our crew as for the birds, for we too have been held captive and penned by the same mischievous weather god. Together, we circled, collecting up the weaker fliers, and building the formation begun so many months ago at Patuxent.

And climb we must, for our destination is new. It rests atop a ridge, which has year after year proved our nemesis, forcing us to box birds which didn’t make it over, and to collect birds which landed out. Our next leg, the one after this, will this year begin at its top, not its bottom or its side as in previous years, and hopefully eliminate this threat.

But first, we have to get there, and to get there we have to climb. Keeping up with the trike is one thing; climbing with the trike is another. Like young Olympians, the birds must dig down into themselves, to that place where determination and heart takes precedent over conditioning and experience…a place which will become so familiar to them in the days and weeks to come.

Higher we climb, inching up ever so steadily into the blue above.

It is then one of the birds gives up the quest; drops lower and is picked up by Richard. Then, ever higher, two others drop and Joe gathers them under his wing. The rest continue and stream in a line of 11 off the right wing. What a sight they are! It is times like this that beg to be shared, and you can’t help but wish the back seat in the trike was big enough for all the people that made this moment happen; to see and be thrilled by it.

Below, the rising sun has washed over the shadows of the morning landscape liberating its fall color and creating a rich and intricate tapestry of curves and tucks and folds. Wisconsin is not a land of the straight lined, purely angled, and exact definition. Rather, it is a topography of whimsy, as if drawn by dull runaway crayons, free form, softly drawn and flowing.

Flying over Wisconsin in the fall can only be described as magic, and flying over Wisconsin in the fall with birds…..well, that just can’t be described. Not by me anyway.

You pick up a heavy thing. It becomes lighter in the holding. Then you put it down. And all too soon the destination is in sight, the ridge is below us and our climb turns to descent. Soon we are on the ground, the birds are in the pen, the trikes are tied down and covered, and the morning’s quest finished. All that remains is the memory. Not a bad flashback as flashbacks go.

Date:October 29, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:A TWO-FER! Location:Green Co. WI
Distance:46 miles Accumulated Distance:95 miles

After a successful flight yesterday (more on that later from Brooke) it was time to finally wrap up camp on the Necedah refuge. While Charlie and I headed off to set up the pen at the next stop the rest of the crew went back to the refuge. This turned into a very long day and we arrived late for dinner at our host’s house -My apologies to them. However, it was worth the wait with a delicious dinner capped off with an amazing apple pie, and so the migration feeding frenzy begins.

After sleeping off yesterday’s dinner we woke up to a beautiful calm morning with a slight northwest breeze. The runway was narrow with tall pine trees on either side so we all took off to test the air and determine how to best leave with the birds. Once all the trikes were in the air I landed my aircraft and taxied up to the pen; turned around gave the thumbs up to Bev and Heather and we were off with all the birds following with the exception of #814. As we cleared the trees we circled around to let the stragglers catch up. We were on top of a ridge so we took advantage of the altitude and allowed the weaker birds to catch up on the down slope. After another circle ten or so chicks settled on my wing while Joe picked up two, Brooke had one and Chris had already picked up number 814.

With the air slightly bumpy from the breeze passing over the ridges below it was difficult to get the birds to climb. However, we did eventually manage to climb to calmer air and Chris passed off 814 to allow him to join with the ten birds on my wing. With 11 birds on the wing we silently passed over Ferry Bluff with people watching from there as we crossed the Wisconsin River.

After crossing the river we hit another bumpy spot in the air but the chicks continued to try and stay on the wing, with the occasional bird or two falling behind. I would push the bar out to slow down and let the slower birds catch up as the faster birds passed me. It was fun to watch them as they turned their heads from side to side glancing back at me to make sure we were all going in the right direction. They wanted to lead but were still following.

As all 11 birds strung out off the wing they would jockey for position - each wanting to get ahead in the line up. One chick even tried to bite the lead bird but he or she deftly maneuvered out of its way while still maintaining the lead position.

As we approached our next stop we began a slow descent and circled around our hosts farm as Brooke with his lone bird lined up on final approach. Once Brooke and his bird were safely on the ground we also landed. Five birds landed as the other six circled the pen, and then Joe’s two birds joined them for one final circle over the pen site before they all touched down.

After putting up the birds in the pen Brooke and I took-off from the hilltop to do an aerial happy dance in the sky before landing on our hosts private air strip below. It’s another beautiful day in another neighborhood! (photos)

Date:October 29, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 13Location: Sauk Co. WI
Distance:46 miles - Sauk Co. to Green Co. WI Accumulated Distance: 95 miles
With the weather stations reporting 2mph NW winds on the ground and between 5 and 15mph aloft, we were sure we'd be heading for Green County, WI this morning. BUT THEN...when Brooke checked it out on the ridge where our aircraft were parked, he came back to camp to say it was pretty windy, making a flight today 'iffy'.

Undeterred, pilots and crew left camp for the pensite. Shortly thereafter, top cover pilots, Don and Paula Lounsbury arrived on station in their Cessna. Then it was wait and see time. It was just a short wait because - Yippee - we were off!!

Today's lead pilot, Richard van Heuvelen, got the birds up, and then he started circling around to let them get on the wing so he could turn on course. You'll have to wait for the pilot's update for the details, but the cranes and planes are now safely on the ground in Green County!!

While it is great to visit with our Stopover hosts and catch up on a year's worth of news, taking to the air two days in a row really makes us smile. On 2007's 'Marathon Migration' we reached Green County, WI on the same date - October 29 - but it was Migration Day 17. Four days to the good so far. Here's hoping…

The travel pen's dismantled and packed up for it's trip to Stop #5 in Illinois, and we are about to break camp and head down the road for Green County to catch up with the air crew. We have some vehicle issues to deal with this afternoon, but if I have to, I will sit on Brooke and Richard until they get the lead pilot updates done for posting here.

IN OTHER NEWS
810
We have some news for you on what 810's been up to. According to trackers, he has made significant movements away from the Canfield site and initiated integration into the Whooping crane population on the refuge.

On October 26 he was seen foraging in a corn stubble field with 307 and 721* to the east of the refuge, and by roost check time, his signal was picked up at West Rynearson Pool along with those of 310 & W601*, and 307 and 721*. He was next observed the following day foraging with 310 & W601* in the company of a couple of hundred Sandhills. By midday he was at East Rynearson Pool along with 211 & 217*, 412, 505, 512, 310 & W601*, and DARs 746 and 837.It appears that the pair of 310 and W601* do not mind his company as these three were also together on Upper Rice Pool at roost check.

Wood Buffalo/Aransas Population
Tom Stehn, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas NWR reports that so far, a minimum of 19 adults and 2 juvenile Whooping cranes have returned to Aransas. Sixteen of the 21 birds were seen on the refuge on Tuesday - the only area extensively checked from a boat. The other 5 Whoopers present were reported earlier and on other parts of the winter range.

Stehn said he believed that, "Many of the cranes arrived with a strong cold front that reached the coast October 27th. With basically only one part of the winter area surveyed, I would guesstimate that total number having made it back to the Aransas area is probably over 40.

Tom also told us he believes that the Lobstick pair returned with a juvenile. At 31 years old (hatched in 1978) the Lobstick male is the oldest known-age Whooping crane in the Wood Buffalo/Aransas population.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Green County, WI
UFO sighted! More than a dozen reports of extraterrestrials came from New Glarus and Belleville in Green County. The tempting aroma of cheese is probably what attracted them. The possibility of the presence of man-made or natural objects was ruled out in an investigation by the Center for UFO Studies. The reports were declared to be legitimate sightings. Belleville is now known as the UFO Capitol of the World and celebrates accordingly.

Date:October 29, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FLYOVER Location: Sauk Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 49 miles

All is looking good for a flight to Green County today. If you're checking here early this morning and are within driving distance of Ferry Bluff - grab your woollies and get going. If all things go according to plan - the planes and cranes should be in the air around 7:30AM.

Date:October 28, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #12 IS A 'FLY DAY'!Location: S. Juneau Co. WI
Distance:26 miles - S. Juneau Co. to Sauk Co. WI Accumulated Distance: 49 miles

Just when we were beginning to wonder if we would ever get moving.... we got flying weather.

Cold, cold, cold - 22F, and winds between 0 and 5 mph out of the WNW at ground level. All four trikes took to the air before sunrise this morning for the 40 minute flight from the hangar to the pensite.

Brooke was lead pilot today. After a six day lay-off, the Swamp Monster was on standby in case of reluctant fliers, but there was no work for her this morning. Brooke swooped in and all 14 birds took to the air behind his trike. Launch was at 7:49. YAY!!!It took a couple of circuits but he eventually turned on course with the entire Class of 2008 strung out behind his trike. (We will have some great photos to post in the Photo Journal, hopefully, later this morning.)

At around 3/4 of a mile out Brooke still had all 14 birds, but shortly thereafter at least one dropped off, and Richard zoomed in to pick it up off his wing.

Not long after 8:30AM the planes and cranes had landed at Stopover #3 in Sauk County and the birds were safely in the pen shortly thereafter. The pilots and some of the crew are on their way back to help break camp, and some others are headed for Stop #4 to get that site ready for tomorrow. Yes, that's right, I said 'tomorrow'. Wednesday looks like another fly day!!!

We will be vacating the hangar and moving camp this morning and afternoon so that means we all have a long list of chores to accomplish. As a result, it is likely that Brooke's lead pilot update will be considerably later than usual. (If there is such a thing as 'usual' that is.)

IMPORTANT NEWS RE CHANGE FOR SAUK CO. TO GREEN CO. FLYOVER
In an earlier Field Journal entry we listed two sites for potential flyover viewings in Wisconsin. (Sauk County to Green County - the flight we hope to make tomorrow - Wednesday.) The first viewing site at Ferry Bluff State Natural Area remains a possibility. However, the second at Grundahl Park site in Mount Horeb is definitely out. After re-assessing the GPS coordinates last evening the pilots told us that they believe they will be flying too far to the east of town for anyone to see anything.

Again, please remember that the vagaries of the wind and the behavior of the birds can dictate the flight path, and the planes and cranes can end up miles off the intended/hoped for flight path. Also remember that weather permitting, each day's flight gets underway shortly after sunrise. This means viewers will want to be in place within 15 minutes of sunrise - which these days is at approximately 7:20AM.

For the details on how to get to the Ferry Bluff viewing site for tomorrow's (hoped for) flyover, click here.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Sauk County, WI
Sauk County was named for the once-resident tribe of Native Americans. The Sauk, or Sac, was a tribe that was characterized as a patrilineal clan, thus family oriented. They are a group of Indians of the Eastern Woodlands culture group. Their original territory was along the St. Lawrence River, but they were forced by other tribes to migrate to Michigan, and later to Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

Date:October 27, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: AIRHEADS...Location: S. Juneau Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance:23.0 miles

This project owes much of the success it has had to its supporters. People have been very generous, from our stopover hosts who let us take over their property, to the Craniacs who loan us motorhomes.

Mary O’Brien has been a Craniac from the beginning, and for the last few years she has created new costumes for us each season. It has always impressed me how pristinely white the birds can keep their feathers while living in a marsh. It only takes a few weeks before our costumes take on a gray hue despite regular washings. Mary’s costumes are a welcome contribution. Because of her generosity and talent, the trainers are saved from wearing the formless bags that I hacked together so many years ago.

Paul Young is a supporter of many talents, and the more he learned about this project the more sympathy he had for the trainers. Covered head to mid-calf, we often overheat during the hot summer months, so he found us some cooler pack vests. The gel inserts can be recharged in the freezer in only a few minutes yet can keep us cool for hours.

He also tackled the problem we have with our visors. Under our head gear there is little space for your breath to escape. If the humidity is high, the inside of the reflective Mylar that keeps our eyes hidden from the birds can fog up in moments leaving us almost blind.

Paul re-thought our basic helmet design and incorporated a silent cooling fan that runs at two speeds and will last up to 18 hours on a single charge. It blows outside air over the visor and clears the fog in seconds. He set up a production line in his basement cutting new visors, drilling holes in the white construction helmet base and soldering wires, while his wife Margaret sewed new fabric covers that include mesh vents to let the warm air escape. He called these new helmets “AIRHEADS” which seems appropriate considering who’s wearing them. To see the costumes and the Airheads check out the Photo Journal.

We are very grateful to Mary, Paul, Margaret, and all the others who have donated talent and hard work to make this project successful.

Date:October 27, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #11 = DOWN DAY #9Location: S. Juneau Co. WI
Distance: 0 miles Accumulated Distance: 23.0 miles
Going no where is NOT fun. It was 35F this morning but with wind chill it felt like 27F. Once again the blustery winds have kept us from flying. Shortly after sunrise they were 11mph out of the WNW on the ground but gusting up to 40mph aloft.

The days no longer warm up to the extent they have been, and the temptation is to abandon the windbreakers for the winter jackets, especially seeing that the weatherman's threatened snow showers have finally materialized.

OM pilot cum resident weatherman, Chris Gullikson, is projecting a 70-30 chance that we will move to Stopover #3 in Sauk County tomorrow. And looking at the forecasts as they stand at this moment at least, he said he thinks the odds are 80-20 in our favor that we'll be able to fly on Wednesday. Yeeeessss!

Date:October 26, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WIND-consin? Location: S. Juneau Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 23.0 miles
With the strong airflow aloft the past few days we could almost be fooled into thinking that we were back in Windy-ana. Now that our new, more westerly route bypasses Indiana, perhaps the Badger State thinks it needs to take up the slack. If it doesn't soon loosen it's hold on us, it too will be renamed - to Wind-consin. Migration Day #10 = Down Day #8.

Despite not making a move for the past five days, we take some small consolation in the fact that at least we're ahead of last year when on Migration Day #10 we were still at the first stopover site just 4 miles down the road. Tomorrow, that is Monday's forecast, is calling for 27F and a slight chance of snow showers, but if anything it will likely once again be the gusty winds that will prevent us advancing. BUT, Tuesday looks terrific!

FLYOVER VIEWING OPPORTUNITY
We've identified a viewing area where the public can gather to potentially see a flyover of our ultralights leading the Class of 2008 from our 3rd migration stopover in Sauk County to our 4th stop in Green County, WI. (We are currently at Stopover 2 in S. Juneau County.)

The viewing location is Ferry Bluff State Natural Area, situated on the Wisconsin River, just southeast of Sauk City. Directions: From the intersection of Highways 60 and 12 west of Sauk City, go west on Highway 60 4.4 miles then south on Ferry Bluff Road 1.1 miles to a parking area and canoe landing at the end of the road. A trail leads to the top of Cactus Bluff (300ft.), which should provide spectacular views of the migration as it passes by.

Please bear in mind that we cannot guarantee a sighting. The flight path should pass over both of the above viewing areas, however, should the young cranes be reluctant to initially fall into place behind the aircraft, it could take some time (and distance) to gather them up and get back on course. This could result in a deviation from the intended flight path and unfortunately is beyond our control.

Weather is also a contributing factor, which is why we cannot pinpoint the exact time/date a flyover will occur. We will try to give everyone a heads-up the night before once we've had a chance to check weather conditions.

If you're planning on heading to Ferry Bluff please also remember that weather permitting, the flight will get underway shortly after sunrise and it normally progresses at ~35-40 mph. If we should be fortunate enough to find a tailwind, the speed could increase so it's best to plan on being at your chosen viewing location within a half hour after sunrise.

Date:October 25, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject:EXERCISE SESSIONLocation: S. Juneau Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance:23.0 miles

The migration has been stalled at this location for four days and as Bev mentioned two days ago, it's important that we keep the young cranes entertained and exercised. We let them out this morning to stretch their wings and they all appeared to have a great time. Click here to see some photos!

Date:October 25, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:ANOTHER NO-FLY DAYLocation: S. Juneau Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 23.0 miles
We are grounded again today - due to the strong winds out of the west and high humidity. Shades of 2007 when, after reaching Stopover #1, it was 9 days before the planes and cranes had the right weather to take to the air again.

Migration Day #9 = Down Day #7. If the weather gods played fair, we'd have an equal number of good weather days in a row, but somehow that never happens. Our resident weather guru, Chris Gullikson, predicts that it could be Tuesday before we have a potentially favorable day for flying. Don't shoot the messenger.

Note to OM members re the EarlyBird e-bulletin: Constant Contact, our bulk email delivery service provider advises that their system maintenance will conclude today, so EarlyBird will once again appear in your Inbox tomorrow morning.

Date:October 24, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject:Number 810Location: S. Juneau Co. WI

As the chicks hatch out at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in the spring they immediately begin training to become an ultralight crane. Because they are aggressive at first, they train on their own but eventually they are paired with another chick similar in age and begin training sessions together.

This is the first step in socializing these young birds, whom if hatched in a nest, instead of an incubator, would immediately begin fighting for the limited food supplies. It's that survival of the fittest mentality inherent in most wild creatures, and something that must be taken into consideration by the team when combining the cohorts at Patuxent.

As the chicks grow, others are added into the group, until eventually a cohesive cohort is formed, and while little squabbles will always break out, they are usually quickly resolved, either by the birds alone, or, if necessary, with some handler intervention. Unfortunately, this was not the case with number 810 - From the time he was placed with another chick, he went on the offensive. All sorts of chick combinations were attempted and he just would not play well with others and had to be watched constantly.

When the first cohort was shipped to the Necedah Refuge in June two words were written on the outside of 810's shipping crate; "GOOD LUCK." As a result this young rebel bird spent the first couple of days in lock down; separated from the others by a fence inside the pen, which would still allow him to socialize with this others but keep them safe from his wrath. After observing his interactions for two days, the decision was made to allow him to mingle and the fence was removed. A couple of hours later, at roost check handlers found three seriously injured cranes.

All three were transported to the International Crane Foundation for assessment and treatment, where number 807, a genetically valuable crane, succumbed to her injuries. Number 809, sibling to 807 and therefore also genetically valuable was returned to Patuxent, and after a few days of treatment and observation, number 811, ironically 810's sister was returned to the ultralight cohort. Due to the stress experienced during the attack from her brother, feathers on 811's wings did not develop properly, which rendered her unable to fly and keep up with her flockmates and she is now living out her life as a display crane at the Milwaukee Zoo.

Eventually, 810 did gain back the trust of the team and was integrated into the oldest cohort. He was a good follower and a great flyer and seemed to get along for the most part with the three other chicks in Cohort One or they learned to stay out of his way.

Then came time to blend the oldest group with the two younger groups, which had already been mixed. Immediately, 810's old ways of dealing with stressful situations, which was to lash out at those unfortunate birds that were within striking distance, resurfaced.

In Mike Tyson style, He managed to grab hold of 813's beak through the chain link fence that divided him from the others and he would not let go. Luckily Brian Clauss had been monitoring him via the WC-TV channel from inside the feed shed and came to 813's rescue.

The next morning, in an attempt to allow him to socialize with the others during a training session, this little fighter again grabbed at several of the youngest cranes and fearing a repeat of the attack that occurred in late June, where we lost three birds, the decision was made to pull him from the ultralight study and release him on the refuge in hopes that he will follow some of the older Whooping cranes south.

Some of you that have been following our efforts over the years may recall that this is what happened 4 years ago with number 418. This first ever one-by-one release WCEP bird had feather issues very early in the season and some of his primaries were pulled so that new feathers could generate. While they did indeed grow in, they did so too late for him to train with the aircraft so he was released in November; a couple of weeks after we had departed the refuge with his former flockmates. Now bear in mind that we had gotten a two-week head start on number 418, so imagine our surprise, upon arriving at the Hiwassee State Wildlife Area in Tennessee, to learn that he had arrived a few days ahead of us!

The tracking team had been closely monitoring this bird since he departed the Necedah area and had noted him in the company of various older cranes along the way. When we observed him at Hiwassee, he was in the company of number 107 -- a first year female.

Number 418 did eventually make it to Florida that year - and he did successfully return to his summer home in central Wisconsin the next spring, proving to us that the one-by-one release method can work. (Crane 418 died in July 2005 after apparently striking a powerline)

We can only hope that number 810 can put aside his social inadequacies long enough to meet older, experienced Whooping cranes and follow them south.

Number 810 was released shortly before dusk on October 22nd, and after realizing that he was on his own, he apparently flew to the North training site where he had spent the majority of the summer with Cohort One. Upon arriving, he was chased off by number 310 and W601* and he ended up flying to the Canfield training site, where he spent the past three weeks.

The latest word we have on him is that he is still there but he is not alone as there is a pair of older white birds also spending time at the now vacant site. In what can only be described as another twist of irony – the older pair of cranes at the Canfield site are 313 and 318; the parents that abandoned number 810 just over five months ago when they walked off the nest just one day before he and 811 were expected to hatch.

After spending a great deal of time trying to socialize and rehabilitate this rogue bird, if we could, we would say only two words; "GOOD LUCK!"

Date:October 24, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day #8 = Down Day #6Location: S. Juneau Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 23.0 miles
Unhappily, the number of grounded days versus flying days is growing, and if the long range forecast is accurate, will continue to increase. It's quite mild in camp this morning, mid forty’s, but the misty drizzle that began shortly after 3:30AM has turned into a light but steady downpour. A day for chores, laundry, and grocery shopping.

Heather is still waiting for post release info to come in from the trackers on 810, and hopefully we will have that news to post here later today.

In other news…. Here’s an interesting item we excerpted from a recent Birding Community E-Bulletin
IBA NEWS: BAFFIN ISLAND WILDERNESS
Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are not simply meaningful for identifying sites, but they can be crucial in highlighting and deepening the protection of these sites.

An example of this transpired in early September, when the Canadian government announced that it will protect more than 1,737 square miles of Arctic wilderness in the Nunavut Territory by establishing three new National Wildlife Areas. These three sites, all located on or adjacent to the northeast side of Baffin Island, are Niginganiq (Isabella Bay), Qaqulluit (Cape Searle), and Akpait (Reid Bay). The areas include two globally significant IBAs.

"This is great news for Canada's birds, biodiversity and the cause of wilderness preservation," said Julie Gelfand, president of Nature Canada. "Two of Canada's Important Bird Areas are found within the Qaqulluit and Akpait National Wildlife Areas. This means critical breeding and feeding grounds for millions of migratory birds will be preserved."

The Qaqulluit (ka-koo-loo-eet) and Akpait (ak-pa-eet) National Wildlife Areas are inhabited by many seabirds, including, respectively, Canada's largest colony of Northern Fulmars and one of Canada's largest colonies of Thick-billed Murres.

Once a site is designated as a National Wildlife Area, natural features integral to the location are protected from disturbance, and activities considered harmful to species or their habitats are prohibited. Wildlife research and interpretation may take place in these areas, but these activities require a permit.

For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, and those across the U.S., check the National Audubon Society's Important Bird Area program web site.

Date:October 23, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CHECK THE PHOTO JOURNALLocation: S. Juneau Co. WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 23.0 miles
If you haven't already checked out the Photo Journal, take a look at today's pictures. Bev sent along a terrific shot of 829 feasting on a piece of pumpkin, and Charlie provided the photos of 810 prior to his release on the refuge.

Date:October 23, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:NOTES FROM THE TRAVEL PENLocation: S. Juneau Co., WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance:23.0 miles
The hardest part of my job on migration, besides ensuring all the vehicles get on the road, the travel pens are well stocked, and the driving directions are correct, is keeping the chicks from getting bored.

Imagine 14 teenagers all in your basement on a rainy day and there is no TV or stereo or internet. Nightmarish! Well, my job might not be quite that bad, but I do not want the chicks to get bored. Boredom leads to trouble, whether aggression, or pecking at things on the pen that shouldn't be pecked, i.e., the canvas end panels.

Thank goodness we migrate in the fall because there are plenty of items that can be brought to the pen to keep them all entertained. Pumpkins, of course are a favorite. As soon as the pumpkin gets broken up, every chick either claims a piece to carry around, or starts pecking away at the chunks and seeds.

Squash will also do (yes, I know pumpkin is a squash) as will ears of corn, sticks, leaves; basically anything natural that fits in the beak. Inside the pen where the chicks are currently housed, there is a patch of late blooming clover. Imagine my surprise when upon entering the pen, I was greeted by a chick with a beak full of flowers. A mother on Mother's Day couldn't be more delighted. Maybe it's not such a hard job after all.

Date:October 23, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #7 = DOWN DAY #5Location: S. Juneau Cty, WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 23.0 miles

If only we were headed for North Dakota. With the winds aloft this morning we'd be there in one heck of a hurry. Unfortunately winds blowing to the northwest aren't what we're looking for so we won't be going anywhere today.

In other news, 810 was released late yesterday afternoon from where he was being held - the pen at our Canfield site. Since the migration started on Friday the 17th and he lost his flock-mates, members of our crew took turns going out to visit and check on him a couple of times a day.

On Monday Charlie gave him the last of his meds (camouflaged inside a smelt treat). On Tuesday Chris took him a pumpkin to play with/eat. We are trying to track down the tracking team, (grin) and once we have the details of his release we'll post the story here. Hopefully 810 will find an adult Whooper to follow south. Just watch, the little devil will beat us to Florida and embarrass the heck out of us.

Date:October 22, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DOWN DAY #4Location: S. Juneau Cty, WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 23.0 miles

You'd be forgiven, if you were standing in the middle of camp this morning thinking, it will be a great day for flying. Given the overcast sky, cool, crisp air, and not enough wind to rustle the dry autumn leaves, it was hard to accept that we wouldn't be leaving the ground. Why? The answer lies up top. We have 12 to 16mph of wind aloft and it is coming at us out of the southeast. That means the birds would have to fight a strong headwind, almost right on the nose.

Bottom line is that Day #6 of the migration will be Down Day #4. The flying days to down days ratio is going in the wrong direction. And looking at the forecast for the next few days it appears it will get worse before it gets better.

Check out the Photo Journal to see some pictures taken on yesterday's flight.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
S. Juneau County, WI
The '400' State Trail, the Elroy-Sparta State Trail and the Juneau County Omaha Trail are the three bicycle trails that meet in Elroy in southern Juneau County. They are all built on discontinued rail lines that once served the area. They are also used as snowmobile trails in the winter.

Date:October 21, 2008 - Entry 4Reporter: Chris Gullikson
Subject:LEAD PILOT UPDATELocation: S. Juneau Cty, WI
Distance:19.0 miles - Juneau Cty to South Juneau Cty, WI Accumulated Distance: 23.0 miles

Two weeks ago I would have had a hard time believing that we would actually begin the migration on our planned start date of Oct 17th. The training opportunities in September and October were very few and far between and we had not had an ideal training day since the Festival back on the 20th of September. The birds had not had a good flight as a group yet, and we expected a delay of at least a week to get the youngest birds flying for more than a few minutes with the trike.

Needless to say we were all amazed when all the birds followed us quite willingly to the South site last Thursday where we had setup a travel pen the previous evening. The colder weather and changing leaves must have had an influence on the young cranes behavior.

This morning’s sub-freezing temps combined with calm air and clear skies caused a light frost to form on vegetation, and ice scrapers were busy cleaning off windshields of our migration vehicles. Once at the airport we kept our excitement in check and waited for the sun to break the horizon before pushing our trikes out into the cold, moist air.

The 4 mile flight down to the travel pen was beautiful as the sun began to illuminate the trees which have now passed their peak colors. The ethanol plant just south of Necedah is a fantastic wind sock and we could see that we had a light wind out of the east.

It was my turn to lead. The pen is situated at the southeast corner of an old field surrounded by tall trees. I landed to the south, turned the trike around, and gave the signal to the ground crew to release the birds. A 20 foot wide opening in the pen soon appeared and I revved my engine to help motivate the birds to rush out of the pen.

There was a slight hesitation as they stood there realizing their sudden freedom, but after a few seconds they got the idea and rushed out of the pen and began flying. I quickly got airborne myself, taking off to the north and making a left hand 180 degree back to the south with the birds strung out behind me.

I held my wing out, flying just above stall over the treetops hoping the birds had enough speed to catch up to me. They were too far behind me and they began breaking off and heading back towards the pen. The two birds that had been in close contact with me broke away and headed for familiar territory. Brooke was able to quickly move in and pick up most of the birds. I came back around to pick up one, while Joe grabbed two and Richard one. The rodeo was rather short lived and soon we were all on course and making a slow but steady climb.

The rest of the flight was fairly uneventful. With less then 20 miles to our destination I felt no need to climb very high, topping out at about 600 feet. We talked briefly about carrying on to our next stop in Sauk County, but we all agreed that would be pushing our luck with the birds’ endurance.

I sat back and enjoyed the scenery and watched as number 14 studied his new surroundings filled with man-made structures. A couple of times he pulled ahead of me, flying just in front of my trike, and I reached out and tickled his toes with my mitten. He climbed up to the leading edge of my wing and discovered the lift that precedes the wings edge. I bumped up the RPM’s a bit on the engine, pulled the bar in and he slid along the leading edge and fell back into the favorable position at the wingtip.

We cross the interstate a few miles from our destination. The birds usually spook at this obstacle, sometimes even turning back. As expected, 814 became alarmed at all the vehicle traffic and made a rapid climb above me. He soon settled down and joined back up with me as we crossed over and began a slow descent down to the valley where the travel pen was setup.

I landed at the pen with 814 still locked on my wing. I left the recording of the brood call playing over my loud speaker to help convince the other birds, who were now circling overhead, to land.

As Joe, Brooke, and Richard landed with their birds, I began filling the water buckets and food dishes inside the pen. It was quick work getting the 14 birds into the pen and we were soon all back up into the air, heading back for the airport in Necedah where the trikes will be safe as we wait out what appears to be a day or two of unfavorable weather.

Date:October 21, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NEWS FROM ARANSAS, TXLocation: S. Juneau Cty, WI
Distance:19.0 miles - Juneau Cty to South Juneau Cty, WI Accumulated Distance: 23.0 miles

Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas NWR in Texas, advised this morning that the first Whooping crane arrived at Aransas yesterday afternoon. "USFWS Pilot/Biologists Jim Bredy and Patrick Walther spotted the single crane while doing an aerial waterfowl survey on the refuge," said Tom. "At the moment, it is the only crane we know of being at Aransas," he said.

The October 20th sighting is just 4 days later than the average first Whooping crane arrival date of October 16th. Tom said that a cold front with north winds that reached Aransas on October 17th presumably helped the crane complete the 2,400 mile migration. "The next cold front is forecast to reach Aransas on October 23 and should bring more Whooping cranes," Stehn said.

Date:October 21, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WE'RE ON THE MOVELocation: Juneau Cty, WI
Distance:19.0 miles - Juneau Cty to South Juneau Cty, WI Accumulated Distance: 23.0 miles

The planes are safely on the ground and the Class of 2008 are all tucked in the travel pen at Stopover #2 in Juneau County, WI. This leg is the second shortest of all, just 19 miles (by air) from pensite to pensite.

It was our first morning with a temperature below freezing - 19F at 6:15AM - and everyone reached for their long underwear and grabbed sets of hot packs for inside their gloves and mitts. Winds were out of the WNW at 4mph, and while there was shallow fog, it was clear above ground level. The promising conditions sent everyone scurrying out of camp.

On his signal, (7:43am) the ground crew released the birds, and today's lead pilot, Chris, swooped in. With the exception of 830, who had to be chased out of the pen, all the birds took to the air and the crane rodeo began. After several circuits, 10 birds had found Brooke's wing and he turned to head south. The other pilots were left to round up the other four.

Although we're still in Juneau County, albeit South Juneau, we've finally made it to migration Stopover #2. In fact, despite leaving on migration 4 days later this year, we've reached stop #2 two days ahead of when we did in 2007. Admittedly, not much to brag about given the slowness of last year's journey, but I'm going to take the optimistic view that we're setting a trend.

We try to get the EarlyBird e-bulletin sent and this Field Journal posted as quickly as possible every morning. It can be challenging, and it has been more than challenging the last couple of days. Our contract gives us a specific limit of bandwidth and - oops, we'd exceeded our allotment. This means we're taken down to a pace that would make a snail a contender at a Nascar race. All this is to say that we do know you're anxiously waiting for news and thank you for bearing with us.

FLYOVERS
Because we are receiving many emails about public viewing opportunities at flyovers we are repeating here the information we've previously posted.

Along the Migration Route Flyovers
As in past years, we hope to be able to offer Craniacs, the public, and media, opportunities to view flyovers as the the cranes and planes depart locations along the migration route.
Because of the new route we will be using this fall, and it being the first time for the majority of our stopover sites, more than a day or two advance notice of a potential viewing opportunity is unlikely. Please keep your eye on our Field Journal as the migration progresses. We will post any potential flyover viewing opportunities as far in advance as we possibly can.

Arrival Flyovers
1) New this year will be an Arrival Flyover Event somewhere near the St. Marks Refuge, the wintering site for half of the Class of 2008. Once the location has been confirmed and the arrangements put in place the information will be posted here in our Field Journal.
2) We expect to hold the usual Arrival Flyover Event at the Dunnellon Airport in Florida as we fly the other half of the Class of 2008 to their last stop (at the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve) before their final destination, their wintering site on the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
South Juneau County, WI
Southern Juneau County is low, hilly oak savannah country.  The only dramatic scenic spot in the county is Mill Bluff State Park with its flat-topped, cliff-sided rock formations that once stood as islands in a glacial lake.

Date:October 21, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATE Location: Juneau Cty, WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 4.0 miles
AT 39 males and 29 females the number of birds in the Eastern Migratory Population is unchanged at the end of the latest report period. In addition to 40 Whooping cranes present on the Necedah refuge, 5 were within the core reintroduction area and 12 were at other locations in Wisconsin. Four birds were in Minnesota (703, 707, DARs739*and 742*); four in Michigan (516, DARs 533*, 740* and 744*); and one in Indiana (727*).

LONG TERM MISSING (more than 90 days)
205NFT last recorded at Necedah Oct. 16/07
316NFT last observed on the Necedah refuge March 30

Notes
Non-functional transmitters have been replaced on 509, 722*, and 310.

When checked this month, 107*'s maxillary swelling, which was first noticed in 2005, appeared significantly larger.

508* and 401NFT remained together in the area of either Pool 18 or 13 until October 18th when 508* was observed with 216. These two birds continued to be observed together up to October 20th, while 401 was observed on his own elsewhere on the refuge.

On October 18th the 2008 DAR birds were released in pairs at different locations on the refuge. on October 18. The DAR birds are numbered 831, 832*, 835*, 836, 837* and 838*. Although costume reared, 838* was not originally planned to be a DAR release because of a bilateral leg rotation.

Update compiled from data supplied by WCEP's Tracking Team.

Date:October 20, 2008 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:WINTER PEN SITE NEARS COMPLETION Location: Juneau Cty, WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 4.0 miles
Our migration is off to its usual slow start - fly one day and sit for three. At the same time, the winter pen at the St Marks National Wildlife Refuge is proceeding at a much faster rate.

It was Billy Brooks from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Jacksonville, Florida office who coordinated all the efforts to find an alternative wintering site. He pulled together information from hundreds of sources, including historical weather data, tidal records, habitat analysis, land use and projected development into the future. He introduced the idea to the St Marks people and arranged tours for the WCEP partners. He worked closely with their management team to satisfy several permit requirements and helped to gain public support. Now that the decision has been made to split the flock this winter they are working hard to prepare the site.

The release pen itself will incorporate two natural tidal pools of the several that are in the area. Fourteen hundred feet of 8 foot tall, plastic fence will encircle both pools as well as a large area of land that is sometimes dry and sometimes covered in a few inches of water. It will also have a top-netted pen area that will be used for a short time when the birds first arrive before they undergo their vet checks. It could also be used to isolate a sick bird, or separate an aggressive one.

There will be two feeding stations / shade shelters, and two observation blinds. The depth of both pools has been modified using sandbags covered in a layer of oyster shells. The entire pen will be protected by several strands of electric fence.

In the photos Billy forwarded to us we were impressed to see Refuge Manager, Terry Peacock, and Refuge Biologist, Joe Reinman working in water up to their knees along with a team of volunteers and staff. Click here for photos of the pensite at St. Marks.

We are very excited and gratified by the level of support this new wintering site has generated from the management and staff at St Marks, to the local schools and businesses and all the people that visit the refuge regularly.

Now, all we have to do is get the birds there.

Date:October 20, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DOWN DAY #3Location: Juneau Cty, WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 4.0 miles
Our celebration on launching the migration on the target date was short-lived to say the least. One fly day followed by three down days has somewhat dampened our initial elation.

A very mild 50F degrees this morning, with favorable winds on the surface but unfavorable aloft. The kicker though were the  rain showers scattered throughout our area, and ultimately that's what confirmed we'd be going no where today.

On another note….Have you ever put something away, saying to yourself, "I'll put this right here, that way I'll know exactly where to find it." If you have, you will understand what I was feeling/thinking this morning as I searched for the data I needed to update the EMP's Family Tree webpage.

Eventually, after much teeth grinding, the lost was found, and the page now shows the lineage of the Class of 2008. For those interested in 'Who's your Momma' type information (or Poppa) here's a link to the Family Tree page.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Juneau County, WI
The county seat of Juneau County is Mauston, population 3,740, and largest city in the county. The native Menomonie and Ho-Chunk peoples occupied the area until the early 1800s. A dam and sawmill on the Lemonweir River became the center of a tiny village plotted out by Milton Maughs. Dropping the "gh" from his name, the settlement became known as Mauston. Now five of its businesses are members of the Fortune 500. It is the home of Western Technical College offering associate degrees.

Date:October 19, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DOWN DAY #2Location: Juneau Cty, WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 4.0 miles
Last evening's weather check said we'd have 38F degrees, partly cloudy skies, and 8mph winds straight out of the south at flight time this morning - and it was right. Between the wind blowing in our faces and the fog the temperatures caused, we will be held on the ground again today. Down Day #2 in Juneau County, WI.

If the precipitation we're anticipating arriving later today/tonight moves slow enough, maybe (it's a big maybe) we'll be able to get going tomorrow.

In other project news - The banding of the DAR birds was undertaken the second week in October. Dr. Richard Urbanek reported that, “All birds exhibited excessive struggling during handling and banding, and DAR833 sustained a fractured right tibiotarsus. He apparently exacerbated the condition after the initial injury and was transferred [from the DAR pen at Site 3 on the Necedah Refuge] to ICF for hospitalization. From there he was taken to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine for surgery. A CT scan indicated that the fracture was beyond surgical repair however, and he was euthanized.” Dr. Urbanek advised that as the other DAR birds had not yet resumed their normal movement behavior and as a result their previously scheduled release was postponed. The DARs were released yesterday.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Juneau County, WI
Juneau County was named for an early pioneer, Solomon Juneau, 1793 to 1856. He was a fur trader, land speculator and politician ho helped found the city of Milwaukee. He built Milwaukee's first store and first inn. He started the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper in 1837, merged with the Milwaukee Journal in 1995, and has become the oldest continually operating business in Wisconsin. He had no personal connection to Juneau County.

Date:October 18, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DOWN DAY #1Location: Juneau Cty, WI
Distance:0 miles Accumulated Distance: 4.0 miles
The team wound down quickly last night after a super spaghetti dinner cooked by Walter, and by 10PM the lights in the trailer, motorhome, and RV started to wink out. While I converted the chairs and bench in our RV to beds, Heather went in search of a pot of water to stoke our coffee pot to be ready for the morning. It wasn't long before the excitement and activity of Migration Day One gave over to zzzzz's.

We were the first to stir in camp, around 4:45AM, but it wasn't long before we could hear doors opening and closing as others emerged, headed to perform their morning ablutions. By 5:45, coffee cups in hand, we were discussing the fog the various weather sites were reporting as blanketing much of Wisconsin. Undaunted, everyone congregated to determine the morning's game plan - who would go where to do what and driving what vehicle. Sunrise here happens about 7:20AM these days, so unlike the summer's very early starts, this morning's pace seemed almost leisurely.

Walt was assigned to drop the pilots off, and then to back up Charlie. In the tracking van, Charlie headed out to get in position. Bev and John would be at the pen to release the birds, along with Heather who, if necessary, would be today's Swamp Monster. My job was to sit on the sidelines, laptop warmed up and humming, while I chewed down a few more fingernails waiting to see what happened. Just when I was beginning to wonder if my cell phone would EVER ring, Joe called to say it was a no-go.

After standing around waiting for almost two hours, the fog still hadn't lifted. As the winds out of the southwest had picked up to the point that even if the fog instantly dissipated, we weren't going to be able to fly, the pilots decided to call it Down Day #1. We were so ready and wanting to go, that's not all they called it...believe me.

Chris Gullikson, our resident weather guru, isn't giving us very good odds for tomorrow, but we've all got our fingers crossed anyway.

2008 Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Juneau County, WI

The topography of northwestern Juneau County is relatively flat, covered by large areas of streams, swamps, and ponds called flowages. Besides being ideal for cranberry bogs, it also is perfect habitat for Whooping cranes.

Juneau County could be characterized as "The Boondocks". It boasts of only three small cities and several small villages. Predominately rural, it has just 25,000 inhabitants. More than 700 farms make agriculture the key industry. Rich soil, hard-working farmers and abundant natural resources produce the major crops - corn, hay, soybeans, cranberries, oats, sweet corn and wheat, along with dairy farming.

Date:October 17, 2008 - Entry 3Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: Two miles per hour.Location: Juneau Cty, WI
Distance:4.0 miles - Juneau Cty, WI to Juneau Cty, WI Accumulated Distance: 4.0 miles

If you divide the 1250 miles we covered last year to get to Florida, by the 97 days it took us to get there, you will find that we travelled about 2 miles per hour. That’s not very impressive considering you can cover 3 miles per hour in a slow walk. Let’s hope it’s not a harbinger of things to come but so far this year we have exactly matched that speed.

This morning at sunrise the 2008 migration began. We pushed the aircraft out at 7:15 AM and took off into perfectly calm and very cold air. I had the honour of leading the birds out but they soon began to drop off my wing. Brooke moved in to collect some, a few turned back and a couple didn’t even leave the runway. Chris and Richard began their rodeo as five birds formed on Brooke’s wing and three followed me. We swung wide past the observation tower in order to gain enough altitude to clear the trees, and then we turned south.

When the birds are following two separate aircraft that are flying closely together, their loyalties are divided. They can’t decide which grass is greener, and they move back and forth between the two leaders using up precious energy. The cure is to remove the distraction, so Brooke drifted east while I moved off to the west. Focusing most of my attention on the birds I soon lost track of him. Just when I thought I was the first to arrive at the destination, I realized that Brooke was already on the ground ahead of me. I hit the stop watch at 25 minutes just as I landed and the two of us cajoled the birds into the pen.

As I took off again I could hear radio chatter between the ground crew and Richard and Chris back at the west site. It seems that the birds could not be persuaded to leave the refuge and they had landed at the West site to try and regroup. One of the birds had hit Richard’s wing, tumbled a few feet before recovering, and then landed in the marsh. From the air it looked uninjured and was only a couple of hundred yards from the rest of the birds on the runway.

The training sites are only a mile or so apart and easily reached in a few minutes by air. But the ground crew had to take the circuitous route along the gravel refuge roads and we had them running from one site to the other with shipping crates and swamp monsters. Charlie Shafer was in the tracking van and Bev in the refuge truck as they criss-crossed the refuge like panicked postmen on some crazy rural route.

An hour had passed since we released the birds and we had eight at the destination, one in the marsh and five at the West site. Richard tried another launch but the birds broke up. Chris collected one, as did Brooke, and they managed to get them across the highway and to the new location. Richard tried at least a dozen times to lead the rest south, but each time they would veer off heading back to the familiarity of the Canfield site. Eventually we landed there, and fortunately there was a swamp monster costume in the feed storage shed.

I donned the green plastic tarp and charged out of the pen as Richard took off. It worked so well that the birds beat him into the air and it looked for a while like they would follow him south. But they soon recognized familiar territory and turned off for one of the other sites. Eventually we gave up and he led them back to the East site were John Martineau and Heather Ray were ready to help by either scaring them off with the swamp monster, or welcoming them home.

Once they were safely on the ground, we all converged at the West site to look for our one bird in the marsh. I circled low over where I had last seen him but he was gone. Just then Chris spotted him flying in from the west. He must have headed for home but been attracted back by all the airborne activity. Alone now without his flockmates he was more attentive and he followed Brooke all the way to the new site without hesitation.

This surprising turn of events prompted Chris and Richard to try one more time and they launched with the remaining three birds from the East site. Their luck wasn’t any better however, and before long all three birds landed in the open grassland north of the pen. This time they just walked out and led them back to the pen. Eventually they travelled to the first stop in crates.

If you use a calendar to track this project, October17th is one of our latest departure dates. But if you use the age of the youngest bird, it’s our earliest. The last time we left as late as October 17th was year one of this project. It only took us 48 days to reach Florida that season so we can only hope.

We made our first stop only a short distance away in order to get the birds off the refuge and break a summer long habit of circling the pen sites. We logged two hours this morning to cover a distance of only four miles. Four miles in two hours equals two miles per hour. We’re off to a good start.

Date: October 17, 2008 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: ONE BY AIR, THREE BY ROAD Location: Juneau Cty, WI
Distance:5.0 miles - Juneau Cty, WI to Juneau Cty, WI Accumulated
Distance
5.0 miles
While their younger peer (827, who had gone down in the marsh) took to the air to follow Brooke (who was circling searching for her) and followed him all the way to the first stopover, 804, and 805 were crated and transported in the tracking van a short while ago. It was hoped that we could try to fly them over later this afternoon, but the rain moving into the area put an end to that idea.

For a few photos of today's action, click here.

Date:October 17, 2008 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: DEPARTURE!!Location: Juneau Cty, WI

And we're off!!

The 14 young Whooping cranes in Class of 2008 took to the air this morning shortly before 8AM. Five followed one trike and three another, flying over the heads of the crowd of Craniacs gathered on the Necedah refuge to witness the departure.

Once the two pilots safely penned their charges at the first stopover site, they returned to help with the crane rodeo being put on by the six remaining Whoopers. Walter Sturgeon and I stood with the crowd and watched as the pilots tried, and tried, and tried, and TRIED to get the birds to follow. They would just get them on the wing only to have them turn away and head back to their pensite.

At one point five of the six reluctant fliers were on the runway at the West site and one in the marsh. Another attempt to get the five in the air resulted in two trikes, each with one bird on the wing, making the trip to stop number one. When they took to the air, the other three birds broke off and flew over to the Canfield site, and despite another attempt by Joe to get them going, they are still on the runway there.

The scorecard reads: 10 in the pen at Stop#1; 3 on the runway at Canfield; and 1 in the marsh (we think 827). The decision is to give the birds (803, 804, 805) a rest for the better part of the day and then try to fly them to Stopover #1 late this afternoon if the winds are calm enough.

Tune in later for the installment two of …..The Adventures of the Class of 2008….

Today's departure marks only the second time in eight migrations that we actually left on the target departure date. That first happened in 2005, and similar to this year, the original target departure date had been postponed by one week. It's a good start, and if we could match or better 2005's migration timeline…. Whoopee!!

Date:October 16, 2008Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject:FINAL PREPARATIONSLocation: Wisconsin

Everyone is scurrying about camp trying to get everything ready for tomorrow's planned departure. At 5am today, conditions appeared too windy to fly but as the sun started to rise above the horizon, the winds subsided so everyone grabbed their gear and we set off to get in a much needed training session.

Bev, John, Charlie and I headed over to the Canfield site where Bev and I would release the cranes, while Charlie would play the role of Swamp Monster - if required. Richard van Heuvelen landed on the grass strip and as soon as Brooke was in the chase position slightly south of the pen, Richard gave us the thumbs up. We opened the double doors wide to allow the excited cranes a wide berth as they exited. They were peeping loudly, seemingly thrilled to see the aircraft and get a chance to flap off some energy.

Out they came; two and three at a time until we were left with only 810 in his sequestered half of the enclosure. We quickly shut the doors and hid inside so that none of the chicks would be attracted to the costume and decide to land. Richard led them north, away from the site and as he banked to the west, several birds broke away and headed toward the pen. Charlie, aka Swamp Monster lumbered onto the strip and they quickly changed their minds. Brooke moved in and managed to get eight on his wing, while Joe and Chris each picked up one.

After a few minutes we heard the pilots commenting on how well the young birds were flying and that they were actually getting some good altitude. Yesterday afternoon the travel pen was set up over at the East training site, which hasn't been used this year because refuge staff had to drain down East Rynearson Pond to allow the vegetation to regenerate. The decision was made to fly the group over to the East site, which would allow them the opportunity to experience the travel pen, which will be their home-away-from-home during the southward migration, and also, would bring them to within a 5 mile flight of our first migration stop.

All of the birds landed at the strange location except for a rather reluctant number 827, who Joe had to convince to eventually land with him. Once all the birds were inside the new pen, Chris returned to the Canfield site and we let 810 out of the pen to get in some flight time with the aircraft. It was sad to hear him peeping so loudly as it departed earlier with the rest of the birds so it was a nice reward for him to fly, and for us to watch him. Once he landed he walked back inside the pen which is now without his sequestered area since he's now the only bird there. He has full run of the entire pen, including the wet section.

When we fed the birds at roost check last night, it seemed they were really hungry and Bev noted its as if they know there's a long migration flight looming and they need to load up, just as wild birds do in preparation for a long journey. The weather forecast for tomorrow looks promising, so I'd better go see where I can pitch in to help get things ready to leave.

Date:October 16, 2008 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FLYOVER VIEWING OPPORTUNITIESLocation: Main Office

Departure Flyover - Friday, October 17
Individuals hoping to witness the ultralight-led Class of 2008 depart the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge on their first migration should plan on an early morning. The forecast for Friday is not promising, and if the weather isn’t suitable for flying, the departure will be re-scheduled for the next day - or the next - or the next. Well, you get the idea.

Weather permitting, OM's pilots will take off with the birds as soon after sunrise as possible. This means you will want to be in place no later than 7:00AM. The viewing site will be at the DU wetland observation stand which is just a few hundred yards down Headquarters Road off Hwy 21. Please note, there is no access further into the refuge beyond the viewing site as Headquarters Road is closed for construction.

Once the migration is underway, daily entries on our progress will, as always, be posted here in the Field Journal. Not a Supporting Member yet? Join today and get on the list to receive OM's EarlyBird e-bulletin --- the news of the day delivered directly to your email inbox first thing every migration morning by our sponsor is Southern Company. The Whooper Hotline (904-731-3276) will also be updated each migration afternoon.

Along the Migration Route Flyovers
As in past years, we hope to be able to offer Craniacs, the public, and media, opportunities to view flyovers as the the cranes and planes depart locations along the migration route.

Because of the new route we will be using this fall, and it being the first time for the majority of our stopover sites, more than a day or two advance notice of a potential viewing opportunity is unlikely. Please keep your eye on our Field Journal as the migration progresses. We will post any potential flyover viewing opportunities as far in advance as we possibly can.

Date:October 15, 2008Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject:CRANIACS ARE THE BEST!Location: Necedah, WI

Long time OM supporter and Craniac Alice Oneal has donated a lovely stained glass panel for a raffle prize to help raise funds for this year's migration. Framed in oak, this 15 x 24" panel consists of 105 pieces of carefully cut and beautifully colored glass and depicts an adult Whooping crane standing in water.

The panel has been constructed using the copper foil method and has been finished with a pewter patina, which sets off the vivid colors nicely. We're excited to offer Alice's work of art as a raffle prize, which will be drawn for at the conclusion of the '08 migration, at the arrival event.

We also want to remind everyone of the wonderful quilt that Craniac Nancy Drew has provided as a raffle prize. This is Nancy's third quilt that she has constructed and provided to OM and as the winner of her first beautiful creation, I can personally speak for their beauty and quality.

Both of these beautiful creations can be viewed by visiting our Marketplace - Be sure to purchase some tickets and get in on the drawings, which will be held at the arrival event marking the conclusion of the 2008 migration.

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