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Give A Whoop

Date: November 30, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Cumberland Co. IL
We've certainly had better forecasts than what the weatherman predicting we will face tomorrow - but we've had worse too. The main problem will likely be a crosswind situation, making the opportunity for a flight an iffy one at best. To quote Chris Gullikson, "Tomorrow is going to be one of those mornings where it looks like we can fly, but once in the air, at some point we're going to be saying - what were we thinking?!?!"

Only the morning will tell. If we do fly, and you are interested in watching the departure, the viewing location will be the same as it was last year.

It is along CR626E (also called Frontage Road) just east (approx half a mile) off 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.

You will want to be on site by sunrise - approximately 6:50 - 7:00AM. Remember, that you could make the trip for naught if conditions are such that the cranes and planes are unable to fly. Assuming we think we might fly, Linda and I will be 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 30, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:NOT GREAT BUT NOT BAD EITHERLocation: Cumberland Co. IL

  Piatt Co. to Cumberland Co. IL -55.6 Miles

Accumulated Distance:
350.5 Miles

Rough air is rough air. No matter how hard you try to keep your wings from swinging about, its still rough air. Today's test flight revealed rough air down low that seemed to smooth out as we climbed. Even though the wind was coming out of the west at a good clip, we decided to go for it - and go for it we did.

Because the birds were penned in flooded bottom land, we had to do a air pick up. As Erin and Geoff released the birds I turned in to catch up to them, and soon we were climbing up over the trees. The wing of my trike was pitching about like an out of control game of tether ball. The birds kept trying to follow, but were pitched about by invisible air currents provided by both my wing and the rough fast air.

It was incredible to watch as they skillfully attempted to catch the vortices off my wing. But soon they became frustrated, and as a group turned away from the inferior flying machine they so desperately wanted to follow. (Photo snapped by Heather shortly after this morning's launch.)

Still determined, we circled about to try it all over again. And they would faithfully follow again doing crazy maneuvers in an attempt to follow, all the while trying to climb to the promised smooth air above us. This bartering process continued for the next twenty minutes or so as they finally were faithfully led on course still climbing towards the smooth air that would never come.

They followed loyally then for about 45 miles, still being tossed about like a slinky in the sky, until they became frustrated again. First one bird landed, then three more. It was all I could do to keep the rest from landing but we prevailed, and sixteen birds continued to follow. Brooke stayed behind to babysit the four on the ground.

About five miles out they once again became frustrated, and another bird landed with the rest determined to land as well. Circling around, dodging trees, I tried to keep them airborne. After about three tries and flying three feet off the ground they finally were persuaded to come on, and followed to the next stop.

Later, Joe arrived with the single bird and later still Brooke arrived with one more of the four that went down. This left three birds for Bev and Sharon to crate.

Not a banner day, but with only three birds boxed a very few miles, not a bad day either. With the rough air and one and a half hour flight time, it took more out of the birds and myself than the three and a half hour flight last week when the birds flew off on their own. And so the migration continues.

Date: November 30, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TEST YOURSELF WHILE YOU'RE WAITING Location: Cumberland Co. IL

At the WHOOP It Up! event, Walt Sturgeon, our resident Whooping crane expert, dispensed paper and pens to those in attendance and conducted a quiz. For those of you who weren’t able to tune in via the live broadcast, we thought you might enjoy testing your historical knowledge too while you're waiting for Richard's lead pilot update.

Below are the first five of Walt's 15 questions. We'll publish the next set of five soon. Warning...they get tougher.

What year was Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) established?
Answer: 1922. WBNP was established to protect some of the last few Wood bison. It was only a coincidence that the Whooping crane nesting area fell within the boundary of this 11 million acre park. The birds nest in a huge expanse of pot-hole lakes in the Sass and Klewi River area near the northern boundary of the park.

When was Aransas National Wildlife Refuge(ANWR) established?
Answer: 1937. The 47,261 acre Aransas refuge was one of the first National Parks established to protect a specific species. Today there is known to be at least 5 endangered species using ANWR.

What was the lowest number of Whooping cranes counted at Aransas, and in what year?
Answer: 15 in 1941. There were 13 adult or sub-adult cranes in this number and 2 young of the year.

Why do some authors report the 1941 number as 21 birds?
Answer: In 1941 there were still a reported six birds in a Louisiana population near White Lake.

When did the last Whooping crane disappear in Louisiana?

Answer: 1950. The last of these birds disappeared in 1950 and that winter there were 31 birds at Aransas.

Date: November 30, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 46Location: Cumberland Co. IL
31F at 4am this morning but it felt like 27 with the windchill. We had wind out of the northwest both on the surface and aloft; 6mph, and between 5 and 20mph respectively.

Strong, but as it turns out, not insurmountable. We did have a crane rodeo this morning, and although they made it to close to the destination, three birds were crated. All the birds are now in the pen in Cumberland County at Stopover #9.

More from Richard in his lead pilot report later this afternoon.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Cumberland cOUNTY
Cumberland County in southeastern Illinois is a relatively small county occupied by approximately 11,000 people. It was named for the Cumberland Road, aka the National Road, that passes through it. The county seat is Toledo, a tiny village of somewhat more than on thousand inhabitants living on only 0.8 square miles of land There are only four communities in the county, plus part of two more that are mostly in adjoining counties. It's a perfect spot for a remote Whooper stopover.

Date: November 29, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Piatt Co. IL
Folks in Piatt County will know the winds have already shifted around to the northwest... brrr. They are strong and cold! Based on the forecast for tomorrow morning we should have a better than even chance of a flight tomorrow. Chris Gullikson says the odds are 70 - 30.

Not being as expert as Chris at reading the weather models, and being more optimistic (based on nothing but wishful thinking) I'm calling our odds of flying as 80 - 20 if not 90 - 10. Frankly, I don't care who is right...... as long as we FLY!!!

Assuming we are able to fly in the morning Linda and I hope to see you at the departure flyover viewing location around 6:45 - 7am). In case you've forgotten, it is on the westerly edge of the town of Milmine at the intersection of 22 (Milmine Road) and Bodman, just before crossing the railway tracks.

Date: November 29, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Jack Wrighter
Subject:HANGAR BREAK-INLocation: Tennessee
I have become very close to this wonderful organization and the dedicated people who tirelessly strive to right one of the conservation wrongs in our history. This is why the break-in at OM’s Necedah hangar is especially disturbing to me.

2009 is my fifth year as one of OM’s volunteer top cover pilots. Over the past five years I have gotten to know and love every one of these dedicated individuals involved in this much worthwhile project. During this time I have seen dedication which is so far above and beyond normal, that it would be hard to believe had I not actually witnessed it.

I have seen ultralight pilots land with frostbitten fingers after an unusually lengthy flight. I have seen ground crew members wading waist deep in a swamp to retrieve a wayward bird.

I have seen volunteers gladly sleeping on sofas and floors to save expenses. I have seen pilots and ground crew trying to repair a broken down vehicle by flashlight in the pouring rain after an already long scrambling day.

I have seen the disappointment on all of the crew's faces when they are faced with day after day of delays due to unfavorable weather. I was there when Chris’s engine failed forcing him into an emergency landing in a field.

These unplanned circumstances heaped upon them only add to the stress of attempting to keep the the operation running  under what more often than not are difficult circumstances at best. These events would surely have caused a less committed and dedicated bunch of folks to throw in the towel. It is beyond my comprehension how, year after year, they tolerate these conditions, overcome obstacles, cope with disappointments - and continue to press onward with their mission.

I kept my Cessna airplane in the Necedah hangar for most of the initial inclement weather delay at the beginning of this year’s migration. Like a mother hen with her chicks, it sat cozily nestled over the ultralights parked below. I had the honor of seeing the other treasures kept in that hangar. I saw one of the historical trikes; one used on the very first ultralight-led migration. I saw the beauty of Richard’s Whooping crane sculpture. I saw the graceful wings of the ultralights standing proudly at attention awaiting their next training mission. I saw the many personal belongings of crew members.

I cannot fathom the mentality of someone who would destroy these things. I cannot imagine the distress and disappointment experienced by the people of Operation Migration as a result of this devastation. But, maybe there is a way that we Craniacs (yes, I am one too) can help.

My role as a top cover pilot volunteer includes the donation of the use of my personal airplane, myself as pilot, and the recruitment of Gerald Murphy and John Cooper as top cover observers/spotters. Operation Migration normally funds the fuel cost for my airplane.

Anyone involved in aviation knows that airplane fuel is not cheap! This year my aviation gas receipts totaled nearly a thousand dollars. So here is an official challenge. I will forego the reimbursement of my aviation fuel expenses if you other Craniacs will band together and match it.

Are there 100 people out there who have yet to WHOOP? Will YOU give a $10 WHOOP! today?

I will match every WHOOP! that comes in from 'new' Whoopers for the next 10 days, up to $1,000. This will not right the wrong done to Operation Migration and these wonderful people, but it will help a little, and hopefully give their spirits a lift.

Date: November 29, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NO AIR TIME TODAYLocation: Piatt Co. IL
With a temperature in the mid 40's and winds a little stronger, but very close to what was forecast, the cranes and planes won't get any time in the air today.

An early look at what Monday holds for us is encouraging. High pressure systems are moving in to the area, and the change to winds out of the northwest should give us an opportunity to hopefully advance at least one more leg of the migration.

Give a WHOOP!!

Yes, we’ve achieved the avian and aviation milestone of flying 10,000 miles leading and teaching Whooping cranes a migration route. But – we are still a ways away from achieving our goal of finding 10,000 people to show that they ‘give a whoop’ about Whooping cranes by making a $10 WHOOP!

We wanted Give a WHOOP! to be meaningful, which is why we set a goal of collecting one WHOOP! for each of our 10,000 air miles, and, although $10 for a WHOOP is modest, the collective potential is large-scale and would greatly boost our ability to continue our wildlife conservation work.

We wanted Give a WHOOP! to be fun, so we added many draws for thank you gifts, and to recognize participants we created the Honor Roll.

But Give a WHOOP! is as much about a public show of support as it is about fundraising.

To illustrate the huge and widespread interest in safeguarding Whooping cranes, we will be sending all the names on the Honor Roll to the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP); to the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team; to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; and to the Department of the Interior – the agencies on which this project, and Whooping cranes, depend. From this perspective, one $10 WHOOP! from 10,000 people is better than 100 WHOOPS! from 1,000 people.

While the dollars are important, not everything is about money. By helping us to achieve our goal of 10,000 WHOOPS!, you will be sending a message of solid support for the conservation of wildlife, and especially for the work being done to safeguard the Whooping crane from extinction.

If you haven’t already, please show your support of our and WCEP’s work, and at the same time, invest in the conservation of wildlife for the future. Please give a $10 WHOOP! today.

Date: November 28, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Piatt Co. IL
It appears we can expect around 7mph SSW winds on the surface and ~20mph from the same direction aloft at both our departure and arrival locations tomorrow morning.

Along with the wrong-way winds, the radar is showing we could on the receiving end of some rain, the timing of which could hit about the time we'd be enroute. Based on what we're seeing at the moment, we’d have to rate our chances of flying tomorrow as low, low, and low.

Date: November 28, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Chris Gullikson
Subject: YESTERDAY'S FLIGHTLocation: Piatt Co. IL
Yesterday morning was looking like one of those days where it was going to be either too windy to fly, or we would be skipping some stopover sites.

The winds at the surface were from the west/northwest at 5-10mph, and 20 plus from the NW aloft - which is on the high end of our ability to get the smooth air needed to fly with cranes. But as the sun turned the low clouds a deep orange indicating it was finally rising, the winds felt like they were dropping out a bit…or maybe it was just our urge to migrate that made it seem calmer.

Joe was the last trike inside the protection of the landowners utility shed which made him Friday's designated wind dummy. (last in = first out) The wind dummy has the job of putting the test trike in the air and making the call on the weather conditions. Joe soon radioed to us that there were a few burbles through 1000 feet, but that it looked fine otherwise. The rest of us were soon pushing out of the hangar and getting airborne.

The area we were in has seen a ton of rain and we had to find an alternate location for the pen as the original site was a quagmire of mud. Besides providing us with a makeshift airstrip at the new pen location, the landowner pulled our heavy pen trailer with his tractor on an otherwise impassable muddy farm road, and gave us use of his ATV to make the mile and a half trek out to check on the birds on the days we were down.

Seeing there were only 4 cranes to lead on my last flight, the other pilots suggested I take a turn leading again. After landing and taxiing back to the pen, I adjusted the camera on the TrikeCam, and gave the waiting ground crew the signal to release the birds. I was soon aloft with 20 cranes climbing strongly with me. I began a slow right turn to avoid a treeline along a small river, and continued the turn until we were pointing south.

The burbles of air that we encounter are hardly even noticed when flying alone. But with the bar out and flying near stall, they can be an annoyance, and it makes it difficult to fly as the wing gets quite heavy in roll and stalls occasionally. The 20 cranes were following me well and climbing, but were falling back as I struggled to fly slow enough for them.

Not wanting to make a turn back towards the pen and cause a rodeo, I continued south, doing an occasional turn to help them close the distance. As I neared the crowd gathered for the flyover, I was able to make a sharper left turn and get all 20 gathered on the wing. (The photo here shot by Chris Linnell caught Chris as he made this turn to gather up the birds on his wing.)

We continued on, with gaps forming in the line. Without smooth air it was prudent to split the birds up. Joe dropped back behind and was soon able to get 12 birds to separate from me. With only 8 birds on the wing, I was able to climb faster and pull away from Joe and Richard who now had their hands full trying to get the 12 on the wing and climb.

Clear skies were in the forecast by early morning but that had yet to happen as we were blanketed by a layer of stratus; the clearing had yet to work its way in from the west. The promised headwind was still above us and we were stuck below the clouds in a crosswind situation with our groundspeed in the upper 30’s, nearly matching our airspeed. At this pace, skipping a stopover was out of the question, especially in the turbulent air.

We knew the inevitable windfarm loomed ahead of us, and once it came into view, the massive spinning blades looked much more ominous then they usually do when we are much higher above them. I will not incriminate myself by telling you the altitude between the bottom of the cloud layer and the tops of the turbines, let me just say that our margin between the two was enough - - but wished it was much more.

As we neared the turbines, the cranes became alarmed and surged ahead of me as we passed over the first one, their eyes wide and looking about. I listened as Joe and Richard talked about picking a path that led through the towers as they were still much lower then me, but soon they too were also able to get the birds to climb and get into that narrow window between blades and cloud.

We continued, the birds settling back onto the wings' vortices and looking around as we passed several more turbines. Eventually we cleared the last row of towers and I breathed a sigh of relief as Don and Paula radioed that the ceiling was creeping downward and they chose to leave us rather then risk flying with us in reduced visibility.

Only 10 miles remained and I pulled the bar in a bit to begin a slow decent with the 8 birds in tow and gliding effortlessly. 906 led most of the time on the right wing, save for the time 908 took the spot by sliding down the leading edge of the wing and dropping in front of 906 who retaliated the move by biting at number 908’s secondary feathers.

As we neared our Piatt County location, the skies began to clear and the bright sunlight lit up the cranes in spectacular fashion against the gray backdrop. I had the field in view and began a decent with all 8 cranes still locked onto the wing. I circled the field and setup for a final along a treeline and over the top of the awaiting pen that still needed to be setup.

The birds glided in with me, landing on a harvested bean field where they promptly began probing in the soft earth for goodies. Brooke landed behind me, followed by Richard within a few minutes with his 12. We led the birds off to another flooded field out of view of the pen and where they could hang out enjoying themselves until the pen was set up and ready for them.

Richard and I left Brooke to hang out with the cranes and met Bev, Joe, and Sharon at the pen where we made quick work of getting it setup. Joe went to help Brooke bring the group back to the pen, while Bev and Sharon made their retreat, and Richard and I donned our flying gear and costumes. The birds were soon back in their pen and we took off to land at a nearby airfield where our trikes are once again, thanks to a kind landowner, in the safety of a hangar.

Early arrivals at the Livingston County departure viewing location. (Photo by Chris Linnell)

Joe Duff, Friday's 'wind dummy' makes a low flyby for the crowd gathered at the flyover location. (Photo by Chris Linnell)

Despite the dark backdrop, a no less spectacular photo of all 20 birds in the Class of 2009 lining up off Chris Gullikson's wing. They did this in a matter of seconds after the photo in the main body of this Field Journal entry was taken. (Photo by Chris Linnell)
Chris G captures a shot of the line of 20 cranes off his wing on the leg from Livingston to Piatt County. No smooth air here for gliding and the birds are having to work to follow Chris' wing.

Date: November 28, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
If you have been 'around the project' for a few years you will recall the name Nadia Studnichka. A couple of years ago, Nadia and her sister Eve folded hundreds upon hundreds of origami cranes, and sold them as a way to fundraise for OM and the Whooping cranes. They sold them to friends, relatives, in stores, at fact anywhere they could. Even people from abroad were contacting them to buy their origami cranes.

The girls also gave talks to groups, interviews to the media, and were featured on their local TV news. Thanks to their very supportive parents, they learned about Whooping cranes via their home-school curriculum, and the Studnicka family fast became part of ours.

When Mom, Abby emailed to tell us that Nadia was developing her own Whooping crane PowerPoint presentation to give to youth in her area, we quickly sent off some of our new Craniac Kids Whooping Crane Activity Books for her to share with her audiences.

Recently, Nadia gave her first 20 minute presentation to a group of Girl Scouts and adults, and followed it up with a video on the reintroduction project and then an origami lesson.

Each of the girls got to take home their origami crane ornament, a copy of OM's Activity Book, and a wonderful lesson in wildlife conservation from a peer. Nadia says she will continue to try to get more 'gigs' so she can spread the word. (In the photo, Nadia is front right wearing the "I'm a Certified Craniac" t-shirt.)

Our hats are off to Miss Nadia. What initiative! And what a shining example of 'the power of the individual' - and a very young one at that!!

Date: November 28, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 44 = DOWN DAY #1Location: Piatt Co. IL
So much for a streak of fly days - tongue in cheek here. By sunrise, the temp had warmed up 6 degrees to 36F but there was no change in the direction or strength of the wind; southerly 8 - 10mph on the surface and 15mph from the southwest altitude. Not flying weather for the Class of 2009.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Piatt cOUNTY
An abandoned Illinois Central rail-bed trail runs through the county with a bridge and trestle over the Sangamon River that is a tourist attraction. Steam trains once took on water from the river at this location. In order to restore the area's landscape, the non-profit organization Heartland Pathways was established in 1983 by David Monk, an Australian emigrant. More than 33 square miles prairie in the Champaign area has been acquired to restore and preserve the area's historic buildings, bridges, railroads, and cemeteries.

The Monticello Railway Museum (MRRM) abuts the Heartland Pathways trail at White Heath, just a mile away. It is possible that the museum could extend to Shady Rest, giving museum visitors the opportunity to visit a bottomland forest and historic recreational site. Some historic railroad interests would like to extend the MRRM's tracks to Lodge to join a Norfolk Southern mainline to complete a 23 mile tourist circuit south to Monticello and back to the Railway Museum.

Date: November 27, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 43Location: Piatt Co. IL

  Livingston Co. - Piatt Co. IL 55 Miles

Accumulated Distance:
294.9 Miles
Sorry, no lead pilot report for you today. Chris promises he'll have it done for tomorrow. In the meantime we can tell you what we think of our chances of flying in the morning - not terribly promising - with wind dead out of the south forecast on the surface and southwest winds aloft. We will see what the morning brings...

The departure flyover viewing location will be the same as was used last year. 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.

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 approximately 6:50 to 7:00AM.

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 tomorrow morning, Linda and I will be at the viewing site to meet and chat with those gathered, as well as offer anyone interested an opportunity to purchase some OM Gear.

Date: November 27, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 43 - A FLY DAY AT LAST Location: Livingston Co. IL
At 4:00am the temperature was 23F and the NW winds were blowing 8mph on the surface. What started out as a 1700 foot ceiling gradually lifted as the morning progressed. Aloft, it looked like the cranes and planes would have NW winds at 10 to 20 mph. Launching test trike to check conditions became the order of the day.

Before any launch, all the team, including me, left to get in position and wait, hopeful of hearing good news over the aviation radio from the trike. Linda, Heather and I drove to the departure flyover location and were greeted with the sight of a looooong line of cars and a crowd of viewers already waiting.

And wait we did for a while as we watched the trikes zipping around and up and down testing the air. Finally, we heard Joe's voice saying, "There are definitely a few burbles, but I think it's doable." Chris, today's lead pilot eventually appeared leading the entire Class of 2009. As they passed overhead, five or six birds were falling behind, and the last we could hear on the aviation radio was the pilots discussing the possibility of breaking them up amongst the trikes.

Once the cranes and planes were out of sight, and Linda and I had wound up the sale of OM Gear to many folks (we counted 78 people at today's flyover), we too hit the migration trail. We were about 40 minutes away from our Piatt County stopover when word came that the tailwind we thought we might have wasn't there and that the flying component of our outfit was about to land at the Piatt pensite. No skipping a stop in the cards today.

As I write this, the birds are safely in their pen; the pilots are busy hangar-ing their trikes; and Heather is off to deploy the CraneCam. The rest of the crew are still enroute, but should be pulling in to camp very shortly.

Check back later for Chris G's lead pilot report, and information on the departure viewing location from Piatt!

Date: November 26, 2009 - Entry 5 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Livingston Co. IL
Dare we say it? Dare we even think it? There just might, and I mean might, be a chance we could fly tomorrow. The winds are forecast to be pretty strong, but...

It's going to be a cold one overnight, and with WNW winds a very cold morning too. So, if you are planning to be at the departure flyover site at 6:45 - 7am tomorrow, bundle up warmly.

As a reminder - the flyover location to view the departure from Livingston County is on N 1900 E, at approximately the mid-point between E 1200 N and E 1100 N Roads. This location is to the north and west of the town of Fairbury, IL.

And remember, when it comes to the weather there are no guarantees. You could make the trip for nothing if we find conditions not favorable for flying with the birds.

Date: November 26, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: THANKSGIVINGLocation: Livingston Co. IL
There is NO way that on Thanksgiving, we will allow anyone, much less some callous and cowardly hooligan to be the focus of what is a day for gratitude. We, the OM Team, do know how very, very lucky we are, and we are all exceedingly grateful.

We don't have the easiest jobs in the world, but to a person, I think we all believe we have the best ones. And we see the rewards from our efforts every year as the number of Whooping cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population grows.

We are an eclectic bunch, mostly with self-taught skills in a multitude of disciplines, who somehow all blend together to do something that can have a lasting and meaningful effect on a species and the planet. You just can not beat that - and we're grateful to be a part of this reintroduction project.

We are grateful too for all of you folks; for your support, for your enthusiasm for the project, for your unflagging commitment to Whooping cranes, and, for your kindnesses and friendships so many of you extend to us as a team and on a personal basis.

We are spending Thanksgiving Day this year in a place we've never been to before. People we've never even met have invited us - all 15 of us - to share Thanksgiving dinner with them and their family. Funnily enough, while in less than an hour from now we will be 15 strangers arriving on their doorstep, I'm betting none of us will be feeling one little bit like 'outsiders'.

Such is the good in people. Such is the power of Whooping cranes.

We wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving...

Date: November 26, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:ONE CRANIAC'S REACTIONLocation: Livingston Co. IL
Among the many emails expressing shock and sympathy for the theft and vandalism at our Necedah hangar was this message we received from one outraged Craniac. He was moved to write a letter to the authorities in the village of Necedah in which he said...

     I received information about the break in of the hangar of Operation Migration and the destruction of their aircraft and charitable and personal property.
     Sir, thousands of people follow the Operation Migration website, and the eyes of the world are on Necedah at this moment. I wish you the best of luck in solving this crime and I know you will do your best.
     In this regard, I implore you to request assistance from every source. Since this airport is in the domain of the FAA, you are well within your authority to contact the FBI to request their help, and I hope you do so immediately.
     Countless people world-wide are disheartened by this needless act, and we look forward to receiving notice that the culprit or culprits have been arrested.
     Again, they can be charged under Federal statute...entry to hangars and destruction of aircraft is a Federal Crime."

Date: November 26, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Announcing a new addition to our line of OM Gear

New to our line of OM Gear are two types of Operation Migration Awareness Wristbands. One is plain white with ‘debossed’ lettering, and the other is also white, but with black lettering representative of the colors of Whooping crane feathers. In addition to their availability via our Merchandise webpage (usual shipping charges will apply), we will be offering them for sale at flyovers along the migration route and at the Arrival Events in St. Marks and Dunnellon, Florida. Get yours and help raise awareness for OM’s work to safeguard the endangered Whooping crane.

While you are visiting the Merchandise page, take a look at the Quilted Wall Art crafted by award winning quilter Roberta Williams and donated to OM. It is really quite spectacular with its appraised value coming in at $2500. It is being sold by Silent Auction - that means no one knows what anyone else has bid. It costs nothing to bid of course, but only one bid per person is allowed, so put in your top bid and hope for the best. Silent bids will be accepted up to 5:00 pm EST on the evening before the final flight of the 2009 migration. The highest bidder will be announced in the Field Journal and notified by email. Click this link to put in your Silent Bid.

A perfect and very personal holiday gift is a one-of-a-kind 2010 Wall Calendar. Using special photos meaningful to you or our recipient, you can create your own calendar with a different photo for each month. Alternatively, you can also select from photos we’ve provided. Either way, your calendar creation will be professionally printed and shipped directly to you. Order by December 7 to be sure you’ll have it in time for Christmas.

And one last reminder - South Dakota Craniac Lou Anderson suggested we remind everyone about using GoodSearch when surfing the internet. OM receives a penny per search – and surprisingly, the pennies really do add up. If you are doing any holiday shopping online you might want to also consider using GoodShop. This too costs you nothing and helps generate funds for OM.

Date: November 26, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 42 = DOWN DAY #5Location: Livingston Co. IL
More rain this morning. At 4:00am the temperature was 28F and the 17mph westerly winds made it seem much colder than that. It that wasn’t already enough to keep us on the ground, the 15mph winds gusting to 23mph aloft certainly are.

To all our American friends, have a Happy Thanksgiving from OM's 'international' crew!

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Fairbury, IL was founded in 1857 by civil engineer Octave Chanute. A French native, he managed the construction of the New Peoria and Oquawka Railroad, which made the establishment of the town possible. Chanute, also an aviation pioneer, was famed for publishing "Progress in Flying Machines" and credited by the Wright brothers as being one of their mentors.

A group of Fairbury citizens formed the Anti-Horse Thief Association. However, since horse thievery was uncommon, the group spent the majority of its time hosting picnics and holding parades. One resident, a restaurant owner named Ronald McDonald, was engaged in a 26-year legal battle with hamburger giant "McDonald's" over the name of his restaurant.

Fairbury once claimed to be the motorcycle capital of the world. The town had more than 300 of them, more per capita than any other place in the world. It was once known as the most flammable town in the Midwest, due to the large number of fires that started in the town. Perhaps for that reason an ordinance was passed forbidding people from launching missiles within the town. Violators could be fined up to $100.

Date: November 25, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Livingston Co. IL
With the recent bad news we've had, I wish I had some good news to report as far as the weather goes. Unfortunately that is not the case as it appears we've got 'more of the same' to deal with again tomorrow.

There might just be a ray of sunshine coming our way on Friday however. I don't want to say anything too much yet in case I jinx it.

Date: November 25, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DONATIONS RE OUR LOSSLocation: Livingston Co. IL
All of you folks have such kind hearts and are so generous it never ceases to blow us away.

Within minutes of my uploading Joe's entry (below) to the server, the first donation came in. You never fail to come to our rescue; you never fail to lift our spirits; and your support and faith in us never fails to give us heart and strengthen our resolve.

Some of you have asked that your dollars be given to one or more of the crew who suffered personal losses. We would be happy to do this if we legally could. However, as a 501(c) we have to abide by IRS rules. That means donations made to/thru Operation Migration are receipted by us and must be used for and by the organization.

If you would like to contribute toward the Wing Replacement Fund, please use this link and type 'Wing Replacement Fund' in the message box. However, if, as some of you have indicated, you would like your dollars to go to a crew member(s) who suffered a personal loss, please make out a check in their name, mail it to our office, and we will ensure it gets into their hands.

That this is a setback there is no doubt. But, never fear, we're just like a Timex watch that, "takes a licking but comes back ticking."

Date: November 25, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:STEALING FROM A CHARITYLocation: Livingston Co. IL
Keeping a small non-profit afloat is never easy and in this economic climate it is considerably more challenging. When times are tough, people understandably have other priorities demanding their attention, and charitable donations must take a back seat. Even in the best of times, conservation causes like ours attract only three percent of all the philanthropic dollars given by Americans.

Operation Migration is a lean organization with a small staff and a 600 square foot, one room, basement office. Everyone works long hours for modest pay, and none us have a job that doesn’t demand multiple talents. We each cover all the bases from working with the birds, to fundraising and public speaking. We design our own equipment, build our own pens, write our own copy, and prepare our own presentations.

We are conscientious about every dollar we spend. Accountants audit the financials at the end of each year and we answer to our membership and a volunteer Board of Directors. That is why it hurt so much to hear that sometime after we left Necedah in October, the hangar we use during the summer was robbed and vandalized.

What we don’t need with us on the migration is left behind locked up in the hangar, as are some of the crew’s vehicles. Both Bev and Geoff left their cars there until they could return to pick them up once we got the birds to Florida. Their tires were slashed and lights smashed.

Brooke lives with the birds all year long. He moves to Patuxent for the hatch and early training, spends the summer in Necedah, and the fall en route to Florida. He helps to monitor the birds over the winter at St Marks, returning once again to Patuxent in the spring. His entire life is spent on the road so he uses the hangar to store all the belongings that the rest of us would keep at home. Most of them are now gone or destroyed in some distorted expression of violence that we simply can’t comprehend.

Thanks to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund we have new wings for our aircraft. The old Zoom wings had a king post protruding out the top that supported all the wires that keep them ridged in flight. The new ones don’t need that superstructure and our birds are safer because of it. Because the old wings fly slower, we use the them during the summer to train the fledgling birds. All four of these wings were slashed. A few minutes of senseless destruction by a mindless hooligan(s) and we’re looking at a bill for $20,000 to replace the wings.

When Richard van Heuvelen is not flying with birds he bends metal to his own whims. Out of solid steel he creates lifelike sculpture, and if he were not trying to safeguard an endangered species, he would likely be a famous artist and far richer. One of his pieces was a full size Whooping crane. He told me it was his hardest work because he knows so well what it was supposed to look like. He captured it perfectly. Now, the wings are broken, the body smashed and the rest spray painted in an obscene gesture of cowardice.

We still have two of the original aircraft originally purchased for the making of Fly Away Home. They were used first to lead geese, then swans and eventually Sandhill cranes. I flew one and Deke Clark flew the other when we led the first flock of Whooping cranes from Wisconsin to Florida. In fact we only have one now because the other was donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington. The second aircraft was in the hangar and has now suffered the ravages of someone with too much anger and too little self-control. Hopefully it can be salvaged as it cannot be replaced.

It’s hard to understand why anyone would do this. The things destroyed were worth far more than the things stolen. Was Operation Migration targeted and if so, for what? What could we have done to deserve such vengeance? Or were we just an easy target for the same kind of displaced aggression we see so often in the birds.

All of us lost something in that willful destruction of property, but mostly we lost faith. Who knows what motivates such unrepressed anger. I know what motivates mine. So now it’s time to prove that we are made of better stuff. Instead of lashing out, we will redirect our anger at this cowardly act of destruction into more resolve.

Date: November 25, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 41 = DOWN DAY #4Location: Livingston Co. IL
Winds are blowing 9mph out of the WSW; two and three times that aloft. The rain has let up – finally - but more is expected as the day wears on. This will be Down Day #4 in Livingston County, IL.

migration trivia compliments of Mary Wollitz-Dooley
Livingston County has one of the most active Chapters of Pheasants Forever (LCPF), resulting in landowners and operators planting and maintaining over 7,000 acres of grassed waterways in the last five years. Though pheasant are not a native species, providing them habitat also favors native grassland species.

The LCPF provides free seed to landowners for filter strips (grassed lanes) along streams, creeks, wetlands, drainage ditches and rivers. These strips filter sediment, fertilizer, and pesticides from storm runoff water and generally help improve overall water quality and wildlife habitat, either as nesting cover or winter cover in the country.

Most filter strips are 66 to 72 feet wide. and are planted with a mixture of Smooth Bromegrass, Alfalfa and Timothy. Warm season grasses also can be placed on filter strips and provide better winter cover. Illinois DNR suggests farmers delay mowing of roadsides and other grassy areas until after Aug. 1. That's to allow pheasants, quail, rabbits, mallards and grassland songbirds an undisturbed area to give birth and raise their young.

Date: November 24, 2009 - Entry 5 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Livingston Co. IL
It’s really crummy when you look ahead and all you see is bad news. That’s the case when we looked at what the weatherman had in store for us tomorrow. It looks all too much like today in fact. Strong SW winds both on the surface and aloft and more precipitation. What a short while ago was a small puddle you could step over outside my motorhome door, is now a little pond about three feet by 5 feet.

We are not the only ones suffering from the wet weather. We’re surrounded by fields of corn and beans and the poor farmers have been scrambling the last few days to get what they could off the fields before this rain hit. We could hear their machinery running long before sunrise and long after dusk.

Fortunately (for both of us I think), by Wednesday night the SW winds should shift to come out of the west and drop the temperature far enough to make it more than likely that any moisture will fall in the form of snow rather than rain.

Date: November 24, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MORE WHOOP IT UP! PHOTOSLocation: Livingston Co. IL
It's a bit of a come down from celebrating 10,000 miles in the air with Whooping cranes to being grounded for days and days. But we do have a few photos to remember the happy occasion by, thanks to long time OM supporter Dale Shriver.
Getting the trikes and tables set up and ready for guests. Heather and Joe test the hand-held camera and sound.
The star of the show - enabling the live broadcast of the Class of 2009 daily, and the WHOOP It UP! event -  OM's CraneCam sponsored by Duke Energy. A Whooping crane puppet head peeks out beside a miniature of Dr. Jane Goodall's beloved "Mr. H" who travels everywhere with Joe in his backpack.
Chris Gullikson (foreground) chats with guests while Walt Sturgeon stands listening to the interviews being taped at the end of the hangar. Dale captured a good photo here of the helmet worn by the pilots when they are flying with the birds. Joe says their heads look a bit like Snowy owls.
Joe looks on and Heather films as Liz displays the plaque that was presented to Gerald Murphy in absentia at the Whoop It Up Event. Gerald was named OM's Volunteer of the Year. This photo shows the tracking antennae affixed to Richard van Heuvelan's ultralight. It came in handy to help locate the 16 'escapees' a few days later.

Date: November 24, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHOOP IT UP! PHOTOS & SPECIAL OFFER Location: Livingston Co. IL

Thanks to Chris Linnell we have a few photos to share with you from the WHOOP It Up event held in LaSalle County in celebration of flying the 10,000 mile leading endangered Whooping cranes on their first migration.

As we previously announced, Patricia O’Brien-Giglia's name was drawn to receive the thank you gift of a week's stay at Pelicans Beach House in Fort Myers Beach, FL. Patricia is from Tampa, FL. The gift was generously donated to OM by the Ruth Irvin Family.

Don't despair that your name wasn't drawn. You can still get a great deal on a vacation stay in Florida. Irvin family spokesperson, Craniac Margaret Irvin, has a special offer for you.

If you've given a WHOOP! and you are a MileMaker, she will discount the cost of the rental on Pelicans Beach House in an amount equivalent your MileMaker sponsorship (to a maximum of 4 miles). What a DEAL, and how typically generous of the Irvins!

For photos and info on Pelicans Beach House click the link above, or to contact them for more information or to book a stay click here.

Top: Joe welcomes WHOOP It Up! guests - those present in person as well as online via our live CraneCam broadcast.

Bottom: Joe explains the operation of OM's Duke Energy sponsored CraneCam to Chris Linnell.

Top: Chris Gullikson answers questions from folks about all the gizmos on his trike.

Bottom: With OM's display booth as a backdrop, Heather Ray poses with three 'super' Craniacs.

Date: November 24, 2009 - Entry 2  Reporter: Linda Boyd
Subject:WHAT'S AMAZING TO MELocation: Livingston Co. IL
Greetings from the new kid on the migration team. My husband David and I are first time volunteers with the migration team.

Our journey finally got underway after weeks of bad winds, rain, snow, fog, and every other weather condition that prevents flying twenty juvenile Whooping cranes to the first stop on their trip to Florida. Besides the weather, any number of things can go wrong in an operation involving four ultralight aircraft, one top cover airplane, seven RVs, two mobile pen trailers, an aircraft/equipment trailer, and a camera trailer, all in the effort to care for and lead a generation of Whoopers on their first migration.

Those of you who follow this journal know all about this. And you know how capable the OM Team is, and how resourceful and adaptable they have to be on a daily - even hourly basis. What you may not know about, and what has been amazing to me, is the degree of support, generosity, and love that comes from OM supporters.

This whole effort, of course, is only possible through the donations of individuals and corporations. But the migration could not happen without the generosity of our stopover hosts along the route who open their homes, fields, barns, hangers, and electricity and waterlines to us - and feed us waaaay too well in the process. What is more, they do all this while never knowing when we will arrive, how long we will stay, or when we will leave.

Without the generosity of Duke Energy, and the dedicated volunteers who remotely control the CraneCam and handle the ‘chat’ to help folks understand what they are seeing, we would not have the glimpses into Whooping crane life or flight that we’re now privy to. Beyond all of this, everywhere I turn there is evidence of supporter generosity to help make our journey a little nicer or easier. We’ve had gifts of delicious cookies, wonderful apples, mayhaw jelly (brought to us all the way from Florida) and a cornucopia of other treats from homemade soup to doughnuts.

At Stopover #4, hotel owners donated a room for the crew to use for showers and electric lines for our RVs. At Stopover #5 supporters sent us everything from wine to cookies. Curan’s Orchard donated pumpkins for the cranes (solicited and delivered by Alice Leaich). Alice also brought along some of Pat Curan’s delicious pumpkin and apple doughnuts for we ‘wingless creatures’. The friendly and personable owners of the Stone Wall Café in Pecatonica treated the entire team to breakfast, not once, but twice! And it goes on at each stop we visit.

It's amazing to see the way this project has touched hearts and seems to bring out the best in people. The idea of bringing this magnificent bird back from the brink of extinction is a dramatic one, for sure. OM emerged from an ‘out there idea’ of how to make this species’ return from the brink happen, so it is wonderful to know, that although at times we think we must be crazy volunteering to do this, you all are right behind us and helping out in both big and little ways every step of the way.

Date: November 24, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 40 = DOWN DAY #3Location: Livingston Co. IL
No good news this morning on any front. Surface winds are ESE at almost 10mph and at altitude, at least double that. In addition to fog, we have a 200 foot ceiling and a scant quarter mile of visibility. Today will be Down Day #3 in Livingston Co. IL.

More rain is forecast beginning this afternoon, changing to a chance of snow Wednesday evening through Thursday as the winds swing around to come out of the west and the temperature drops out. By Friday, northwest winds should clear the skies and give us sub-zero temperatures, and although Fridays winds will be favorable direction-wise, they are predicted to be very strong; double digits both on the surface and aloft. One day at a time however.

Date: November 23, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Livingston Co. IL
The current forecast calls for SE surface wind at 6mph + and almost certain rain if not before launch time tomorrow morning, very shortly thereafter. Aloft it’s a repeat of today in the sense that the wind will again be directly out of the south and once more be very strong - 15mph or more.

We will wait and see what the morning brings of course, but based on the current weather models, we’re not liking our chances for a flight tomorrow morning. Grrrrr

Date: November 23, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION PROGRESS NOT FAR OFFLocation: Livingston Co. IL

Today, November 23rd , is Migration Day 39. As we sit here grounded in Livingston County
thinking about the approach of Thanksgiving day, we can’t help but remember that last year, we celebrated the day with an all-hands helping home-cooked turkey feast in Union County, Kentucky, Stopover #11; four stopovers ahead of where we currently are.

In 2008 we were fortunate enough to have conditions that allowed us to skip Livingston County, and also Stopover #10 in Wayne County, IL. On this date last year it was Migration Day 38 and we were on Down Day #2 in Piatt County. So while we’ve fallen one day and one stop behind, our progress isn’t that far off.

Thanks to Yannis Arvanitis for this very cool photo. It was taken at the LaSalle County flyover location. As we stood watching Chris flyover leading the four birds to Livingston County, we noticed a jet seemingly flying just above the trike and the birds.

Yannis, who captured the shot and sent it to us said, “Just as they were passing overhead, I noticed that a United Airlines jet was passing by too (the flyover locations is only a few miles from Plano which is a common inbound fix for Chicago Airport Approach) so I made an attempt to get all three flying forms into the frame."

Date: November 23, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 39 = DOWN DAY #2Location: Livingston Co. IL
Stepped outside to a warmer morning temp wise- not a good sign. It was already 40F at 4am, but the 8mph cold easterly raised shivers as the windchill made it feel like 32F. We have heavy fog too; so heavy it looks like the sky has come down to meet the ground. Aloft, 15mph winds are coming from due south, and the humidity is so high the fog is practically drizzling. 

Wind, fog, will be Down Day #2 in Livingston Co. IL

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Consisting of 1,043 square miles, Livingston County was organized on February 27, 1837 and named after prominent New York and Louisiana politician Edward Livingston. Though he had no connection to Illinois, the General Assembly found Livingston accomplished enough to name the county after him. Pontiac, the county seat, was incorporated in 1856. The 1984 movie "Grandview, U.S.A." was filmed on location there. The comedy/drama starred Jamie Lee Curtis, Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell.

Date: November 22, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Livingston Co. IL

Although it appears we will have wrong-way winds both on the surface and aloft tomorrow morning, they are not forecast to be as powerful as today's. If yesterday's odds in favor of flying were 30%, we think it safe to say that chances are better tomorrow - maybe 40%.

For departure flyover viewing site info, see Entry 3 below.

Please bear in mind that we cannot guarantee you will witness the flyover. The flight should pass over/by this viewing site, however, should the young cranes initially be reluctant 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.

Also keep in mind that weather always is a factor. We seldom know right up until the last minute whether we will be able to fly on any given day. This is the reason why we cannot pinpoint the date or time any flyover will occur.

If you're planning on being at the flyover, please also remember that weather permitting, the flight will get underway shortly after sunrise (approximately 6:50am) 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 the viewing site no later than sunrise.

Date: November 22, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FLYOVER AND CRANECAMLocation: Livingston Co. IL
Between Google Earth, mapping online and in our Gazetteers, we found three potential flyover locations. An in person scouting expedition made the optimal choice an easy one. The flyover location to view the departure from Livingston County is on N 1900 E, at approximately the mid-point between E 1200 N and E 1100 N Roads to the north and west of the town of Fairbury, IL. Look for OM’s white and blue motorhome – Linda and I should be on site by approximately 6:45am on the next possible flyday. Check back here later today for our best guess about tomorrow's chance for a flight.

Unfortunately there will be no broadcasts via the CraneCam while we are here at Stopover #7 in Livingston County. The pensite is back in a field that is just too muddy to get the camera trailer through. In fact, even for the handlers to reach the pen it is a mile long ATV ride across fields covered in standing water from the rainfall the area has received this fall.

The TrikeCam will of course go live on the next flyday, and Heather will join Linda and I at the Livingston County flyover site and use our handheld camera to shoot the flyover departure from a different perspective.

We hope to have a good turnout at the flyover from folks in the area so we can record their reaction to what is likely to be their very first opportunity to view not just a flyover, but endangered Whooping cranes.

Date: November 22, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:GOING WHERE THE WIND BLOWSLocation: Livingston Co. IL
I once spent some time in the Yukon Territories of Canada. Locals there, say that after a year in the Great White North, you consider yourself an expert, but after two you learn how much of a novice you really are. It’s like that with Whooping cranes. The more you think you know them, the more you are surprised when they do something unexpected - and they will do something unexpected.

Every third day that we are unable to fly because of poor weather, we release the birds for some exercise. They usually fly a few circuits around the pen, then land and jump and dance in the pure exuberance of freedom. Then, after a half hour of posturing, probing, pecking, and play, they wander back into the pen for food. Occasionally, their circuits are extended over the tree line and the crew spends a few anxious moments waiting for their return, but they always come back.

Walter Surgeon has raised cranes for 30 years and has 50 birds in his private collection including 7 species. When he joined the migration team several years ago, one of his first jobs was to watch the birds while we moved the pen. It had been in one location for a long time and we wanted to move it to cleaner ground.

We let the birds out, and after their usual romp we walked them into the next field and left Walter in charge. It wasn’t long before they leaned over in their traditional pre-flight posture and off they went, leaving Walter to wonder what he was going to tell us when we came back to collect him and the birds. Walter aged a year in the 10 minutes it took for them to reappear, and we all learned what we thought was a hard and fast rule – they always come back. On Friday they broke that rule.

One look at a Whooping crane wing and you can tell that it was intended for soaring. The bird stands close to 5 feet tall, but from tip to tip, their wingspan is 7 feet or more. Almost too big to flap efficiently, their wings are long and thin and designed to catch every ounce of lift. In normal conditions they ride on rising warm air like a hawk or an eagle, barely using any energy.

We, on the other hand, fly in the calm air of early morning, so our birds have likely never felt the free lift generated by warm rising air. When they were released in the late morning on Friday, they circled a few times and caught their first thermal. It must have been exhilarating to feel the upward push, like the rush a downhill skier gets moving in the opposite direction. The warm air carried them up, and up, and the wind pushed them southeast. It wasn’t long before they disappeared from sight.

There is a theory that schools of fish or large flocks of small birds sometime function with one mindset, often referred to as group-mind. You can see them wheel and turn as one unit made of several parts, reacting too fast to be taking their cues from each other, more like they are all thinking the exact same thing at the exact same time.

Maybe there is some group-mind taking place in this year’s flock of Whooping cranes. And that may explain why they have all stayed together on one aircraft whereas in years past they have broken up into smaller groups. It may be that one dissenter has little influence over a flock this large. Perhaps they all feel more secure in the anonymity of a larger group - like mob psychology without the aggression. Possibly the joy of soaring and the confidence of the group was all it took to overcome the insecurity that has always brought them back. Whatever the motivation, sixteen of them surprised us and kept going.

Richard took off in his trike, and after a prolonged chase managed to get them on his wing and lead them to the next site. On Saturday morning we led the remaining 4 to join their flockmates, and now they are all together again in Livingston County.

As soon as we posted our report of the day’s events the questions began. Why don’t you just let them go? They seem to know the way. Do you really need to lead them south? The answer is still, yes.

With no parent, surrogate or otherwise, to show them a migration route to safe habitat, the population would be scattered. Each generation would winter in a different location, and it is unlikely many would make it all the way to Florida. If we had begun this reintroduction by simply releasing birds in the north hoping they found their way south their ability to survive as a self-sustaining population would be doubtful.

Birds that established territories during mild winters would suffer loses during the cold ones. With no other Whooping cranes in the flyway they would likely associate with Sandhill cranes. The Cross Fostering Project at Greys Lake demonstrated that Whooping cranes can imprint on Sandhills. The result is birds that are sexually attracted to the wrong species.

Essentially, the Direct Autumn Release Project (DAR) is an attempt to have inexperienced birds associate with migration veterans. This gives them the advantage of being led south by an older generation of adults that know the way. Operation Migration’s assignment is to keep building that experienced population until it becomes self-sustaining.

The birds that took off on Saturday headed southeast because, fortuitously, that is the direction the wind was blowing. Had the wind been blowing to the northeast instead, we would have likely had to crate them back to their starting point. It worked out as a serendipitous advantage that helped us make some progress.

With no ingrained sense of where to go, just releasing birds into strange surroundings to disperse in the direction of the prevailing wind of the moment is not a sound or viable reintroduction method.

Date: November 22, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 38 = DOWN DAY #1 IN LIVINGSTON CO. Location: Livingston Co. IL
It was 33F at 4am with little to no surface wind. Thousands of stars were testimony to the clear skies, but ground fog was developing. Despite the ground fog burning off as sunrise approached, as it turned out, with an almost 20mph SSE headwind aloft it was not even a questionable enough to make launching a test trike worthwhile.

We will be spending time today searching out a suitable flyover viewing site for when we depart Livingston County. Assuming we are successful, we will post that information here in the Field Journal later today along with our prediction for the chances of a flight tomorrow.

Date: November 21, 2009 - Entry 5 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Livingston Co. IL
70 - 30. That's the odds Chris Gullikson is giving for our chances of flying tomorrow. With the forecast 15mph southerly winds and the potential for early morning heavy fog, giving us a 30% chance of a flight might even be on the generous side.

If there can ever be an upside to having a down day, it will be that it will give us a chance to scout around for a suitable departure flyover location, something that there was no time to do today. So, should we be unable to depart for Piatt County tomorrow, perhaps we'll be lucky and find a great spot for you to come out and view the departure.

Date: November 21, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TODAY'S PHOTOSLocation: Livingston Co. IL
Our thanks to Craniac Chris Linnell for sharing her photos taken at this morning's departure flyover from LaSalle Co.

Top Left: Craniacs gather at the departure flyover site in LaSalle County, IL

Top Center: OM Outreach Volunteer Linda Boyd briefs the waiting crowd.

Top Right: Lead pilot Chris Gullikson approaches with 903, 906, 907 and 924.

Bottom Left: As they flew over our heads, the four birds formed up to make a perfect 'V'.

Date: November 21, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Chris Gullikson
Subject:CRANES AND PLANES AT STOPOVER #7 Location: Livingston Co. IL

  LaSalle Co. IL - Livingston Co. IL - 54.5. Miles

Accumulated Distance:
239.9 Miles
It certainly was not as an exciting day as yesterday, but we could use a day of less excitement. And who knows, its not over yet.

It was a beautiful cold and foggy morning. Winds aloft were forecast to be 10 or less from the south, and that proved to be quite accurate. We were under a dense fog advisory and I had a quick opportunity at sunrise to take a peek above as the runway was clear of fog.

I climbed to 800 feet to test the winds and get a better perspective of the fog surrounding us. It was quite expansive in some areas while others areas were completely clear. It was rather low to the ground and we hoped it would burn off quickly as the sun rose higher in the sky. After a one hour delay, we found the fog to have mostly cleared and we scrambled into action.

While Joe and Brooke circled high and to my south, I landed near the pen and gave Geoff and Walt the thumbs up to release. The birds eagerly got airborne, finding my wing as I flew west along the runway before turning south to go on course.

The four cranes (903, 906, 907, and 924) flew strongly on the wing and were eager to climb. We passed over the flyover event where a good number of people had driven many hundreds miles just to see me and my amazing flying machine. (Or maybe they had a good coffee shop in town.) Whatever.

We continued on, climbing past 1000 feet only to find the ground speed slowly decreasing. With only 4 birds to deal with and the ability to climb well, I stayed under 1000 feet, below the stronger headwind aloft and above the inevitable thermals that would be lurking below as the flight continued.

We passed interstates, wind farms, freight trains, passing aircraft, and a power plant with a huge cooling pond with steam rising off the still waters. The birds reacted to all of this, jostling around for positions, flying ahead and above me, as we encountered these manmade hazards that they obviously were a bit alarmed of.

Despite the headwind and the occasional scary distraction, the birds flew wonderfully, and I was able to push them along at a 43mph airspeed. I hope I was able to give TrikeCam viewers a good show and that my camera pointing was tolerable. I am unable to see what the camera is pointing at, so I have to just kind of guess. I will soon be rigging up a keyboard, monitor and mouse so that I may join in on the chat sessions. Let me know if you see a tower or airplane getting bigger.

It seemed like a rather long flight, especially to Brooke and Joe who had nothing to do but sit there and be cold. As we neared the Livingston site, I made contact with Bev who was awaiting us in costume, ready to help lure the birds in.

I descended down into the thermals with the four on my wing, making a low pass over Bev and the rest of the birds before applying full throttle and climbing. They tried to follow me for a short time but soon turned back and landed at the pen while we three pilots made our escape to land at our hosts' private airfield. We will once again have the safety of a hangar for our aircraft which is quite a relief for us.

I am out sitting on a wagon in the warm sun writing this update on the TrikeCam's computer while the ground crew brings camp to us. I don't have much of a story to share with you today, but am hoping that Richard will have time in the next few days to tell you about his experience locating the 16 cranes who had a 1/2 hour headstart on him in thermally air - then being able to lead them due west into a headwind approaching 20mph.

Date: November 21, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:POSTING COMINGLocation: Livingston Co. IL
Yes - as you can see by the location above, we're in Livingston Co. Bit of a scramble today, but we had a super flyover and all 20 of the youngsters in the Class of 2009 are now reunited in the pen here. The delay in reporting has been difficulty in acquiring a satellite signal, but as of 2:50pm CST we're good to go.

The entry from Chris, today's lead pilot, will be posted shortly.

Date: November 21, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day 37 Location: LaSalle Co. IL
It has been relatively calm on the surface this morning with what little wind there is coming out of the west. Aloft, we had SSE~10mph winds, and less than a mile of visibility due to freezing fog conditions.

With only four birds left here with us in LaSalle County, (see entry below for details) a flight in conditions that would not be possible to make with 20 could possibly be done just four, so everyone was up and on standby this morning. As sunrise approached the fog thickened, and we began the 'wait and see' game.

As Richard's trike was left in Livingston County yesterday, he will have an experience he hasn't had since the project's early years....he will be part of the ground crew. As we wait for the fog to dissipate, Chris is readying his trike to go up and test conditions - oops, I hear an engine, he's off.

Date: November 20, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Walter Sturgeon
Subject:QUITE A DAY - QUITE A STORYLocation: LaSalle Co. IL
[Note: This entry is being posted just before midnight. Joe, Heather and I have just arrived back from a fast trip home, a 12 hour drive that precluded getting entries posted here today. While our drive back was uneventful, that was not the kind of day the team had in our absence as you will discover as you read Walt's entry below. LC]

Operation Migration was founded and for nine years has worked on the principal that ultralight aircraft and their pilots would work as surrogate parents to teach juvenile Whooping cranes the migration route south. Today was a first in OM history as 16 juvenile Whooping cranes led an ultralight, and its pilot Richard van Heuvelen, south.

We started the day in LaSalle County watching the weather from several sources, including an observer on the ground at our next programmed stop in Livingston County, IL. Patchy fog and haze seemed to dominate the landscape between us and the next stopover.

Ultralights went up at 7:30 and again at 8:30 to get a firsthand look at the situation. Each time the ultralights’ engines started, the birds in the pen gathered at the fence ready to burst out and follow them. Each time they were disappointed when the trikes landed and shut down. At that point it looked like another down day in LaSalle County.

Part of the crew, namely Richard, Chris and I headed about twenty miles north to get the furnace for our Sierra ‘home-away-from-home’ trailer repaired. Before we got back to camp we got an urgent call from Bev. Her message –“I need some tracking help. The birds have headed out and don’t seem to be coming back.”

I need to step back about a half an hour to 11:30. Bev, Brooke, Sharon, and Geoff had gone to the pen to let the birds out for exercise, which we try to do every three days when we haven’t flown. This was the fifth day, but because of the inclement weather, and the fact that they usually won’t fly if it is raining, this was the first suitable day to let them out.

To make a long story short, four cranes came back to the pen and 16 headed south. After about 15 minutes it was obvious that they had left the area and we would have to find them. As soon as the ‘furnace crew’ got back to camp, Richard headed for his trike which has a tracking antenna mounted to the front cowling. He took off to the south and almost immediately picked up a signal.

Chris and I took off in one vehicle and Brooke and Sharon in another. Brooke’s vehicle had the better tracking device, and the path they took allowed them to pick up a signal. At about this time Richard started seeing air traffic along his route and called for top cover.

After having little luck at picking up a signal, Chris and I headed back to camp to put tracking equipment on our host’s airplane. The clamps wouldn’t fit, so the decision was made to put the antennas in the back seat of the plane and I went along to run the tracking equipment and to act as an observer in his Cessna 206 aircraft.

By the time we caught up with Richard and the birds they were almost 60 miles south and just west of Kankakee, IL. Richard was following them in his trike with the tracking antennae, but had trouble catching up with them.

When we finally spotted Richard, we also spotted the birds flying in a perfect “V” formation. Richard had actually passed them and they were now following him at a distance. From their vantage point on the road below Brooke and Sharon spotted the birds at about the same time.

Between us, we led Richard to the birds and he was able to gather them up, and get them on his wing. He led them some 20 miles west into the wind to our next stop in Livingston County. It took him over an hour.

We circled over him and Brooke and Sharon followed below so the birds had a ground and air escort all the way. Bev, Chris and Geoff left camp and got to the new site about 20 minutes ahead of Richard and started setting up the pen in full costume. Bev was in the field and called them down at 3:15. Richard had about a gallon and a half of fuel left in his tank.

We have had a lot of exciting days over the past nine years of migrations put this is the first time that the birds decided to migrate without the ultralights.

[The day ended with four birds in the pen in LaSalle County and 16 in our other travel pen in Livingston County. Assuming we have flying weather tomorrow, we will lead the remaining four south to join their classmates.

The viewing location for the LaSalle County departure flyover will be on the east side of the town of Sheridan, IL at the junction of East Pleasant Street and County Hwy 32 / Main Street / N41st Road. As a landmark, across the street at the top of the ‘T’ where East Pleasant meets County Hwy 32 / Main Street / N41st Road is Sheridan Cemetery. Use this link to see the location on Google Maps. LC]

Date: November 20, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 36 = DOWN DAY #5Location: LaSalle Co. IL
Much colder this morning with westerly winds bringing the temperature to 29F with the wind chill. Winds aloft are almost the same -WSW and gusty.

Between the less than favorable winds, patchy fog, and high humidity (92%) that can make it difficult for the birds to breathe in flight, we did not have optimum conditions, but the pilots put up a test trike - twice in fact, just in case a flight was possible.

Foggy conditions at departure site and the landowner reporting fog at the arrival site, plus the fear of having to land out somewhere on the first day of deer gun season, helped make the decision not to make the attempt an easy one.

Date: November 19, 2009- Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: LaSalle Co. IL
According to our weather guru, Chris Gullikson, Friday, that is tomorrow, is a possibility for a flight. Winds are predicted to be out of he southwest on the surface, but light, and aloft, 10 out of the west. Not optimum, but at least a 'maybe'. There will likely also be fog so any launch could be delayed. See the entry below for the departure viewing location if you'd like to make the trip in hopeful anticipation of seeing the Class of 2009.

Date: November 19, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
The viewing location for the LaSalle County flyover will be on the east side of the town of Sheridan, IL at the junction of East Pleasant Street and County Hwy 32 / Main Street / N41st Road. As a landmark, across the street at the top of the ‘T’ where East Pleasant meets County Hwy 32 / Main Street / N41st Road is Sheridan Cemetery. Use this link to see the location on Google Maps.

As usual, we will try to give you a heads up as to what we think our chances of flying are via a posting here in the Field Journal the afternoon/evening before. Viewers will want to be in place by 6:50 to 7:00am CST and remember, dress for the weather.

Date: November 19, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:Migration Day 35 = Down Day #4Location: LaSalle Co. IL
Little has changed on the weather front so the cranes and planes will not be moving and inch today.

While marginally, we are still ahead of the game in terms of keeping pace with last year's migration progress. On this date in 2008 it was Down Day #1 for us in LaSalle County, and we were able to fly two days later on November 21st. On that day we had great flying conditions and were able to skip the next stopover in Livingston County, logging 114 miles to reach Piatt County.

David and Linda have taken advantage of the downtime to make a fast trip to Milwaukee to visit family, while Joe, Heather and I made the 12 hour drive to our homes. We all expect to be back 'on station' soon.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Several famous citizens hailed from LaSalle County. Helen Hokinson, born and raised in Mendota, was a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine from 1925 until her death in 1949. Star Minnesota Vikings running back Bill Brown was born and raised there.

Streator boasts of citizen Clarence E. Mulford, writer of the Hopalong Cassidy series. Hopalong Cassidy River Trail winds along the banks of the Vermillion River past his boyhood home. Three other notable natives of Streator are George "Honeyboy" Evans, the composer of "The Good Old Summertime"; astronomer Clyde Tombaugh who, at the age of 24, discovered the "dwarf-planet" Pluto, and last but not least, the legendary Wild Bill Hickok, born in Troy Grove.

Date: November 18, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: LaSalle Co. IL
Betting person or not, I wouldn't be afraid to gamble a more than a few dollars about our chances of flying tomorrow. If the winds out of the south weren't discouraging enough, the rain that isn't expected to let up until tomorrow evening, certainly is. A flight on Thursday does not appear to be in the cards. What's that Kenny Rogers song? "You gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em."

(Departure flyover viewing information for LaSalle County will be posted here tomorrow.)

Date: November 18, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie

With the release of the nine 2009 Direct Autumn Release birds on the Necedah, NWR, the size of the Eastern Migratory Population is estimated at 86 birds; 48 males and 38 females. In this update, * = females; D = direct autumn release birds.

As of November 14th, there were 53 Whooping cranes in Wisconsin’s core reintroduction area which number includes birds that have not been detected since mid summer. Fifteen were at other locations in Wisconsin; two in Lower Michigan (D737, D533*); two in Minnesota (707, D739*); three each in Illinois and Indiana; one in Tennessee; five whose locations are unknown; and two which have not been found in 2009.

2009 Autumn Migration Record

bird #


last known location



313* & 318

Nov 2-3

Greene Co. IN

Nov 12


415* & 505

Oct 28





Nov 3

Jasper Co. IN / possibly in Meigs Co. TN

Nov 5/9


D831, D836, D838

Nov 10-11

Peoria Co. IL

Nov 15


303* & 317

Nov 15




401 & 508*

Winnebago Co. IL

Nov 16


212 & 419*









Winnebago Co. IL

Nov 16




Winnebago Co. IL

Nov 16




Winnebago Co. IL

Nov 16


Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
D744* last detected Nov 2008
516 last detected Dec 2008
706 last detected May 6
511 last recorded May 11
D628 last detected June 23
724 last detected June 26

During this report period 312*, 506, 519*, and 412 were captured for transmitter replacement.

This update was compiled from date supplied by WCEP’s Tracking Team consisting of Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, Jess Thompson, J. Longenecker, and K. Wyman.

Date: November 18, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie

Apologies for being ‘off the air’ and absent from emails. I had a computer mishap, the result of which was being first intermittently and then totally disconnected since shortly after 7:00am on Monday, until this morning. I hope to rectify the lack of Field Journal entries before the day is out, as well as to begin catching up on the backlog of emails awaiting my response. Thanks for your understanding and patience.

With some of the Whooping cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population having started their fall migration south, reports of sightings are on the increase. To the right of this Field Journal under ‘Links’ there is a graphic that says, “REPORT YOUR SIGHTING HERE”. Should you spot what you believe to be a Whooping crane(s), please use this link. The information you provide via this form is automatically transmitted to all WCEP partners and can be of immense assistance to the Tracking team.

Most commonly mistaken for Whooping cranes are Sandhills and Wood storks. Can you tell the difference?

Although smaller and grey in color, when backlit by the sun, Sandhills can appear white and it can be difficult to tell them apart. One clue is their numbers. If you see a large number of birds, you can almost certainly know you are not seeing Whooping cranes. Unlike Sandhill cranes, Whoopers do not flock. They most often travel in small groups of twos and threes, sometimes as many as 5 to 7, but while not unknown, seldom larger numbers.

A Sandhill Crane is smaller, grey, not white, and it does have a similar silhouette so that when backlit by the sun, they can be difficult to tell apart. Due to their similar coloring, Wood storks too are also often mistaken for Whoopers.

So, if you see a large white bird flying overhead it may be a Whooping Crane, but then again, maybe not. Check out the neck and the legs. If both the neck and long legs are extended (out) it could be a Whooping Crane, and you are super lucky! Other large white birds will appear different in flight. If the neck is out, but the legs are in (not extended), it could be a swan, a goose, or a pelican. If the neck is in (short or folded) and the legs out, it could be an egret or ibis. All you have to remember is that a Whooper has both ‘outies’.

Date: November 18, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter:Liz Condie
Subject:RAIN, RAIN & MORE RAINLocation: LaSalle Co., IL

This morning brought a temperature of 45F with strong 11 mph northeast wind making it feel 5 degrees cooler. Rain continues to fall and dominate the forecast. Today will be Down Day #3 in LaSalle County, IL.

Date: November 17, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CRANECAM Location:Main Office

Occupying the driver’s seat of the new CraneCam has provided me with a fresh viewpoint into the lives of these incredible birds we are working to preserve.  I’ve been working in proximity to each year’s cohort since we began in 2001, but never before have I had the privilege of spending a few hours each and everyday, over the summer months when they change so quickly, observing them.

One of the things I used to love watching, which really seems so simple now, is the way they would lay down or ‘hock-sit.’ Each day after training, and following some food and water, they would each pick a grassy spot inside the pen, and one-by-one would bend forward, shift their weight back toward their fluffy butts, and their legs would seemingly collapse. I don’t know exactly when they stopped hock-sitting, or having their midday naps. It just occurred to me as I watched them this week that they don’t do it anymore. A sign of maturity I suppose.

It’s fun watching the social interactions among the large group of 20. One of the darkest birds, I suspect 927 but can’t tell for certain, was on a mission a couple mornings ago. On two occasions, both within the span of a half hour, he approached another crane from behind and very casually wait till just the right moment. As soon as the other crane would bend over to peck, poke or prod at something, he would very cautiously lean toward the target tush and strike! I couldn’t help but chuckle, as he proceeded to prance oh so proudly away with a tail feather held valiantly in his beak.

We’re still hearing from some folks that they’re having difficulty accessing the video stream. It seems the culprit is Internet Explorer, in particular, version 8. If you are one of the many users whose browser of choice is Internet Explorer, then you’re very likely using the latest version, which is #8. I’ve just received some new embed code from the WildEarth team, which has resolved this issue! Please keep in mind that the CraneCam will be LIVE each day from 6:30 to 10:00 and then in the afternoon from 3:30 to 4:30 just before sunset.

And of course the TrikeCam will be LIVE whenever we’re flying – which we REALLY hope will be VERY soon.

So tune in when you can and perhaps you too can enjoy watching the Class of 2009 go through their late afternoon routine which involves several strutting, almost in unison to one end of the pen before turning around and flying to the opposite end. It’s as if they’re playing some sort of schoolyard game and if I may, just this once project thoughts and voices onto them, it’s as if they’d be yelling as they fly last one to the other side of the pen is a Sandhill!!!

Date: November 17, 2009 Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:GROUNDED Location:LaSalle Co. IL

Very strong winds will be keeping everyone grounded today in LaSalle Co., Illinois. And as if that isn't enough, rain is expected to begin mid-morning and will continue to fall over the next couple of days.

Looks as if we won't be going anywhere for a while.

Date: November 16, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHOOP IT UP CELEBRATIONLocation: LaSalle Co. IL

It was great fun with some great friends and Craniacs yesterday afternoon. We know we didn't have the best signal at all times, but hope those of you who were able to catch us via the CraneCam enjoyed watching.

One of the things planned to take place during the WHOOP It Up! Celebration last afternoon/evening was the draw to determine the recipient of the special Give a WHOOP! Thank you gift donated for the purpose by the Ruth Irvin family. The gift is a one week stay at Pelicans Beach House in Fort Meyers Beach, FL.

With approximately 3,000 WHOOPS given, we decided to add a bit of excitement and suspense and do a ‘reverse draw.’ Our guests at the event narrowed down the field to 30 people who had WHOOPED. They were:






Margurite Mousseau


Vicki Hedrick


Valerie Gilbert


Nancy Eddy


Patricia Hendrikson


Joy Saunders


Margaret Lunnum


Nancy Eddy


Marilyn Flemming


Nancy Bradley


Kirk Drause


Betsy Christ,


Joni James


Karen Richter


Ron Herman


Merle Black


Teresa Hull


Nancy Miller


Peter Braat


Debora Bacigalupo


Herb Ayreo


Mary O’Brien


Christine Barnes


Dennis Allen


Diane Brown


Diane Hester


Cynthia Rouch


Robert Henderson


Dale Shriver


Patricia O’Brien-Giglia

By process of elimination, and with the final selection made by our host Brent Bish, we’re thrilled to announce that the winner of the one week stay at Pelican’s Beach House is Patricia O’Brien-Giglia, of Tampa, FL!

Date: November 16, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 32 = DOWN DAY #1Location: LaSalle Co. IL
Our camp is virtually surrounded on all sides by fields of corn, and the sound of the wind rattling the dried stalks vied with the muffled pings of rain on the roof as my ears seemingly woke first this morning.

During the couple of dozen steps from the motorhome door to the hangar (where we have the luxury of 'facilities') it was easy to tell the wind direction it felt so cold. Despite the rain slowing to a sprinkle, it's no day to be out in, much less flying.

Today, we won't be adding any miles to our landmark 10,000 in the air leading Whooping cranes on migration - and perhaps not for a few days if the weatherman's got it right.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
located along the Illinois River, the city of Peru was incorporated in 1851. Its most famous citizen was Maud Powell (1867 - 1920), first woman to achieve international acclaim as a solo violinist. After making her American debut with the NY Philharmonic Orchestra in 1885, she toured the US and Europe. In 1904 she recorded on the Red Label for the Victor Talking Machine Company. She visited every US military camp in WWI and played for the troops. She survived a heart attack onstage in St. Louis in 1919, only to succumb to a second attack while warming up for a concert in Uniontown, PA in 1920.

Date: November 15, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: OM TEAM
The OM Team and a few friends will be celebrating - that is - WHOOPING It Up later this afternoon. We would have liked to have every Craniac everywhere be able to come to the party, but with Craniacs spread around the world we knew that wasn't possible.

As the next best thing to being here, we hope you will join the celebration as we broadcast it live via the CraneCam. The set up process is happening right now, and provided we can snag and maintain a signal, we will start broadcasting around 4:00pm CST.

We'd love to hear from you.

If you have a message for us, or a question for any of the crew, email us at If time and the opportunity presents, we'll read a few of the messages live during the broadcast.

Date: November 15, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:THE 10,000TH MILE IS IMPORTANT BUT... Location: LaSalle Co. IL

  Winnebago Co. IL to LaSalle Co. IL - 55.0 Miles

Accumulated Distance:
185.4 Miles

All of the pilots take turns flying in the lead position. We have made three attempts to leave our Winnebago County stopover, so by default it has been my turn for the last few take-offs. It’s like I get to keep doing it until I get it right -- and this morning I finally did.

Twenty birds came charging out of the pen when Geoff and Erin opened the gate. I taxied down the grass runway while they caught the aircraft and then we all lifted off and turned away from the buildings at the far end. We slowly started a climb on course then turned a little east to fly over the spectators gathered a few miles away at our designated flyover viewing site.

After dismantling the instrument panel on my trike yesterday to access the front wheel for some maintenance, it seems my radio was not working well. When I called for a radio check on the ground I could hear everyone’s response, but once I got airborne my communications dropped to almost zero. I could hear a little of what Chris said, and Lou in the top cover aircraft when it was close to me, but other than those snippets I was on my own.

I noticed some of the birds separate and start to fall behind so I began a circle to let them catch up. My lack of a radio added to the confusion, and as I came around I found myself face to face with Richard who had moved in to collect them. I turned to avoid a mid air mishap while he turned east and took 15 birds with him. Five stayed with me.

Once we reached smooth air at 600 feet the birds settled in to cover some ground. The more altitude we gained the more cross wind we encountered. To correct for wind from the side you have to turn into it and let the aircraft 'crab'. It feels odd to be flying sideways with the ground passing under you from a ¾ angle, but you get used to it. If you relax your correction the wind naturally takes you to the west and your speed increases. Then you must work your way back to the east and suffer a stronger headwind. With each degree you turn to the right, your time-to-destination on the GPS reads shorter but with each battle back it increases again.

You would think after leading birds 10,000 miles you would be used to it, but in fact, each time is like the first. There are some things that you come to anticipate, but the spectacle never gets tired. Add that to the concentration it takes to keep them all in line, and there is little time left to contemplate the achievement.

10,000 miles is a long journey, but most important are the miles we are flying now. Once the birds are settled and the aircraft secure there will be time to reflect. Maybe the thoughts will organize in my head and I’ll come to understand what it all means. And maybe then I’ll be more articulate.

Thanks to Mark Blassage for the photos of this morning's departure from Winnebago County!!

Date: November 15, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 31 - and WHOOP IT UP EVENT DAY!! Location: LaSalle Co. IL
So much for predictions. The 80-20 against us flying flip-flopped by this morning. We had favorable winds both on the surface and aloft.

Joe was lead pilot, and the launch with the birds was almost perfect with a blur of white bursting out of the pen and into the air. The take-off trajectory was relatively low so we had a good view of the trike and trailing birds. That view was prolonged when Joe had to do a circuit to get the Class of 2009 to form up off his wing.

By 8:30 the cranes and planes were safely on the ground in LaSalle County. More soon, including a couple of photos.

Remember to tune in to the CraneCam around 4:00pm CST today to join in the Give a WHOOP! /  WHOOP It Up celebration.
Joe Duff taking off for the 10,000th mile leg. Circling around so the birds can form up off the wing.

Date: November 14, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Chris Gullikson
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
What we are looking at is a low pressure over Lake Superior lifting northeast with a trailing cold front sweeping through Wisconsin and northern Illinois tonight. North winds will usher in cooler air back to the northeast through the morning hours across northern IL. There will be some light rain associated with the frontal passage, but that should be clear of our area by sunrise tomorrow morning.

Our concern is that the pressure gradient remains rather tight behind the cold front as high pressure builds in to the west. The northeast winds will likely be a bit too high for us, but we will be ready - just in case. With the winds forecast being out of the northeast, even if they do drop out sufficiently by sunrise to allow us to fly, we will have a crosswind situation.

If we had to give odds for a flight in the morning based on what we are seeing at the moment, we'd have to guess 80 - 20 against our being able to fly. BUT, if there is one thing certain about the weather, it is that nothing is certain, and we'll be ready to give it a try regardless.

Date: November 14, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
The first aerial census of the 2009-2010 Whooping crane season was conducted November 12th in a Cessna 210 piloted by Gary Ritchey of Air Transit Solutions of Castroville, Texas with USFWS observer Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Sunshine and light east winds made for ideal weather conditions for the four hour flight.

On the first census 91 Whooping cranes - 87 adults and 4 juveniles were sighted. Tom said, “Based on August fledging surveys done on the nesting grounds by the Canadian Wildlife Service, I am expecting up to 22 juveniles. With that number of juveniles produced, the flock may experience a break-even year with a flock total around 247 expected.”

Migration Update: The first Whooping crane arrival at Aransas was reported the morning of October 17th when refuge staff going over to Matagorda Island saw a pair. This sighting was just one day later than the average first Whooping crane arrival date.

Stehn said, “A cold front that reached Aransas early on October 16 brought great migration conditions through October 17 that aided the arrival of the first migrants. The next strong cold front at Aransas on the afternoon of October 26 brought multiple reports of Sandhill cranes moving through Texas, and I had my first sighting of 125 Sandhills north of the refuge on October 27th. Two cold fronts, one October 30 and another November 9 brought favorable migration conditions lasting through November 5th and 12th respectively.”





October 1


Cranes over-summer at Aransas in 2009

October 17


First known presence of 2 migrants

October 19


A single was seen in flight over Holiday Beach

November 4


A pair seen on Matagorda Island

November 5


Johnson Ranch pair arrives on Lamar

November 7


Newcomb Bend family group arrives on Lamar

November 9


Tour boat reports 14 refuge additions

November 12


First aerial census covers all of the crane range

“From this, and weather records, it appears that a low number of Whooping cranes reached Aransas in the second half of October and the first week in November, but quite a few cranes arrived between November 7-12,” Tom said. “These later than average arrivals were simply due to birds not moving down the flyway.”

The migration appears to be about a week later than average this year. In 2008 we flew on November 14th and tallied 239 cranes, quite a difference from the 91 counted on 2009’s first flight.

“Numerous Whooping cranes were reported between November 2 -11 in Kansas and Oklahoma, including 39 at Quivira NWR in central Kansas on November 10. Quivira at one point had 36 cranes together, a record flock size for Whooping cranes in migration. A flock of 32 was seen the following day by Salt Plains NWR in Oklahoma. The next strong pacific cold front is forecast to reach Aransas on November 16th, which I think will allow a large number of additional Whooping cranes to arrive at Aransas.”

Habitat Use: As a result of Hurricane Ida that crossed the Gulf and reached Alabama as a tropical storm on November 10th, Tom estimated that tides were one foot above what he considered to be high water levels for the crane area. Ida raised tides 2.5 feet along the central Texas beaches. He said the cranes responded to the high water by being mostly in vegetated marsh, with 19 cranes on uplands next to the marsh. He believed the distribution he saw on the first census flight was a result of the cranes responding to wolfberries that seems to have had a good crop this year.

Stehn noted that not a single commercial blue crab trap was seen in the crane area, including in the shallow bays edges next to the crane marshes. He said that this was unusual and indicative of the poor harvest that has been ongoing all summer caused by the drought and insufficient inflows reaching the crane area.

Marsh salinities were approximately 24 parts per thousand and continue to be above the threshold when Whooping cranes must seek out fresh water to drink. Tom noted that two cranes were observed on at a fresh water dugout and two at a private game feeder. The largest group size he observed was 5 birds on a high salt prairie at Welder Flats.

Date: November 14, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Potpourri Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Impromptu Presentation
Our generous and enthusiastic stopover hosts organized an impromptu event for us last evening. They printed up flyers, distributed them to neighbors, and posted them in local stores to let folks know Joe would be giving a presentation at 7:30pm.

Thanks to the cooperation of the owners of the Stone Wall Café in Pecatonica who offered their back room as a venue, almost 50 people were able to hear all about the project firsthand.

One attendee, Ann Whitney, emailed us this morning to tell us how much she enjoyed Joe’s presentation, and particularly the photos and videos “from behind the scenes.” Ann went on to say, “It was great to see Joe’s enthusiasm for the project. He answered all of our questions and stayed as long as we still had some. We hope Operation Migration continues to come through the Pecatonica area leading Whooping cranes – and only stop because there is a self-sustaining population.”

Crew Change
We are about to have another crew change. Patuxent’s Charlie Shafer finishes his two week stint with us today and he will be leaving tomorrow after he brings his replacement, Sharon Marroulis, a first-timer on migration, up to speed. We are waiting for Sharon’s bio and photo, and once we have it in hand it will be posted to the OM Team webpage so you can ‘meet’ her.

Take a Winter Adventure
Dave Davenport and OM’s own Walt Sturgeon are still looking for people interested in taking the trip to Patagonia they've organized. They are just a couple of people short of being able to declare the “Odyssey to Patagonia” a go.

Enjoy a thrilling adventure to the bottom of the world and at the same time help Operation Migration. EcoQuest Travel will donate $200 to OM for each participant. The trip is scheduled for January 15 – 29, 2010. Also offered is a fantastic post-trip extension that concentrates on the wildlife of the Atacama Desert and high Andes Mountains of Northern Chile.

For a complete itinerary or for answers questions, you can contact Walt Sturgeon or Dave Davenport.

Date: November 14, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day #30 = Down Day #9Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Strong southeast winds both on the surface and aloft will keep the cranes and planes on the ground again today. As the winds swing around to come out of the northwest in the evening, the likelihood of rain increases.

Provided the rain ends overnight, the favorable north winds are sustained and are not too strong, we could be looking at a flight on Sunday morning.

Test Flight
By 7:00am CST, despite the unfavorable conditions the weather models were showing aloft, there was virtually little to no wind on the surface here. That was all the excuse Chris needed to give his new engine a test run in the air. He and Richard launched, and turned onto the course we would use to head to the next stopover site.

With the chicks peeping loudly as they heard the trike engines, Walt, Joe, our host, and I, stood by the hangar and watched as the headwind slowed the two trikes almost to a standstill. In fact, at one point it looked like they were just hanging there, hovering.

Back on the ground, Richard said that the air was rough, and that the higher they went, the stronger the wind.

At altitude they couldn’t do better than 8mph over the ground. The best air they could find was at a lower altitude, and even at that, they could barely make 20mph of ground speed. Assuming that held all the way to the next stopover, it would have meant a flight time beyond the fuel capacity of the trikes.  The decision to make today a Down Day was a good call - not that there was any doubt.

migration trivia compliments of craniac sue merchant of pecatonica, il
Founded in 1958 by George B. Fell of Rockford, IL, the Natural Land Institute is one of the oldest, private, not-for-profit conservation groups in the Midwest.

The Institute works with landowners throughout northern Illinois to protect their properties with voluntary conservation agreements. The group preserves forests, prairies and wetlands at areas like Pecatonica Ridge Prairie and Nieman Marsh in western Winnebago County, Castle Rock State Park near Oregon, Harlem Hills Prairie Nature Preserve in Loves Park, and Franklin Creek Nature Preserve in Lee County. With the help of hundreds of volunteers, it is restoring native vegetation at the 721-acre Nygren Wetland Preserve located on the banks of the Rock and Pecatonica rivers near Rockton.

Jerry Paulson, executive director, said the Natural Land Institute connects land conservation to people’s daily lives by helping to provide clean air and water, recreation and natural places to explore. “With the help of our members, volunteers and partners, we are creating an enduring legacy of natural land for our children and grandchildren. The Natural Land Institute’s vision is that children born today will be able to see wildflowers at original, native prairies, and hear the sound of cranes flying overhead,” he said.

Date: November 13, 2009 - Entry 5 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
It appears we will likely be grounded again tomorrow. Strong SSE winds are forecast both on the surface and aloft with rain showers likely developing before sunrise.

Sunday however holds some promise as the winds swing around to come out of the north and north east. While coming from the right direction it appears as if they will be quite strong. We shall have to wait and see what things look like 24 hours from now.

Date: November 13, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FOR THEY ARE JOLLY GOOD FELLOWS!Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Camp has been a lot quieter the last couple of days. We’re missing the chatter, and the teasing and joking we’ve become accustomed to with having.....

Gerald Murphy and Jack Wrighter around.

Both Jack and Gerald’s ‘tour of duty’ was scheduled to end November 16 when they would switch off with their top cover replacement pilots Don and Paula Lounsbury. When this past Wednesday’s flight to LaSalle County was aborted, and it appeared that we could be grounded by strong southerly winds for at least a couple of days, Gerald and Jack decided to hightail it home a little early.

We were all barely back in camp after the unsuccessful attempt for a flight when the dynamic duo started scurrying around in preparation for their departure. Jack would fly ‘plane-plane’ to his home in Tellico Plains, TN, while Gerald would drive Jack’s motorhome as far as the Knoxville airport where Jack, and wife Judi would meet up with him to pick it up. From Knoxville, Gerald had a flight to catch to Atlanta, where his son would meet him for the drive to home to Milton, FL.

Their departure was a bit of a whirlwind; barely time for hugs goodbye before they were roaring down the road and into the air. Brooke managed to snap two quick photos just as they were on the verge of leaving camp.

Gerald and Jack’s time with us was long – in the sense that we took forever to go not very far; and short – in that we only get to see them once a year and had all too little time with them. They are great sports, and a great help to have around – even when we are grounded. They always cheerfully jump in to help wherever they can, and equally cheerfully lend a hand with everything from grocery shopping to mail runs, and from cooking and washing up to helping me fight with my motorhome’s sewer hose.

We consider ourselves immensely fortunate that they put up with the vagaries and deprivations that go along with migration, (not to mention putting up with us), and, that despite all we dish out, they continue to come back for more.

Sincere thanks to Gerald and Jack – hope you can catch up with us for a reunion when we get to Florida.

Date: November 13, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Chris Gullikson
Subject: What happens when the engine quits? Location: Winnebago Co. IL
"What happens when the engine quits," is one of the top 10 questions we get when we give tours at the hangar in Necedah. Our usual answer is something like, "No problem, as long as we have a suitable place to glide down and land."

Wednesday I was able to demonstrate live on the internet via the TrikeCam what it's like to land with no engine. Those watching were probably unaware what was going on as they watched me rapidly descend and land in a beautiful hay field.

The engines we use are Rotax 503cc air cooled, 2 stroke, specially designed light aviation engines. They produce 50 horsepower, burn unleaded aviation fuel and are considered the most reliable aviation engines in this horsepower and weight category.

A 2 stroke engine produces power on every downward stroke of the piston, unlike 4 stroke engines that produce power every other revolution of the crankshaft that the piston is connected to. 2 stroke engines do not have an oil reserve to lubricate the engine, instead, oil is injected into the carburetor where it mixes with the air/fuel mixture and is drawn into the engine. Some of this oil is burned in the combustion chamber while the rest is separated from the air/fuel mixture and covers the internal engine components to lubricate the bearings and cylinder walls. This type of lubrication requires the use of roller bearings on the crankshaft main journals and connecting rods, unlike 4 stroke engines that use pressurized oil to float the crankshaft on a specialized bearing surface.

Rotax has a maintenance and replacement schedule for all of the components of their engines that we adhere to religiously. They recommend the crankshafts be replaced at 300 hours. The ultralight community has proven time and again that the Rotax 503 crankshaft can easily exceed 600 hours, with several stories of engines reaching the 1000 hour mark.

My engine was just shy of the 200 hour mark when the lower connecting rod bearings on the front cylinder decided to disintegrate into a million pieces and contaminate my engine with flying metal debris. The result was a sudden drop in RPM, no indication on my engine instruments that there was a problem, and within 20 seconds of fiddling with the choke, throttle, and looking around for a place to land...silence.

My first thought was one of annoyance, I was within 1 minute of trying to take some birds from Joes wing in an attempt to break the flock up for the very long flight ahead of us. With my engine obviously failing, I turned away and was soon a glider with hundreds if not thousands of acres of landable terrain below me.

To my east I had a huge hay field with a road along the south side, it was just a perfect scenario and I hardly had to maneuver at all as trike quickly rushed up to join ground, a bit of flare at the end to arrest my descent and coast to a smooth landing. There are times and places where this scenario could have been the most scary experience of my possibly upcoming short life. I was very lucky where and when this happened, some might think I was being watched over by some higher power and I will not argue that statement.

I radioed to the other pilots that everything was fine and listened as they rounded up cranes and continued south into an increasing headwind. I began poking and prodding at the engine looking for the usual suspects and finding the engine completely seized. This mechanical bird was going nowhere under its own power.

Meanwhile, people were stopping to ask me if everything was okay and if I needed any help. A nice woman and her son were able to watch as the trikes and Class of 2009 glided right over us on their return to our Winnebago County location. We chatted a bit and I realized that she worked at the same place as my instructor who taught me how to fly an ultralight trike back in 2001. I told her to say hi to him and to thank him for teaching me how to deadstick a trike into a field. It turns out he is one of many people who started a campaign to help raise funds to pay for my engine - which is the amazing part of this story.

Everything related to aviation has an elevated price attached to it. A new engine costs about $4000, and this is an unplanned expense for a small organization on a tight budget. I started getting word yesterday morning that donations were coming in to cover the cost of my engine, as well as lots of personal messages wishing me well and good landing.

I cant give enough thanks to you all for your concern and financial support. I also need to thank the people who stopped alongside the road to see if I was okay and if I needed any help. Also to the landowner who was totally cool with me dropping in on his beautifully harvested hayfield, and of course our crew for giving me so much help getting me and my trike out of the field and assisting with the replacing of the engine in record time.

My only worry is that, with such a show of support over this engine problem, Liz will soon be asking me to do it again... J

Date: November 13, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Looking for Volunteers Location: Winnebago Co. IL
For those of you in the Big Bend area of Florida interested in a volunteer opportunity, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is looking for help with Wiregrass Seed Collection.

The folks at St. Marks are seeking volunteers to participate in hand collection of native plant sees for upland restoration on the refuge. If you can help out any of the dates listed below, please get in touch with David Moody (volunteer coordinator) or Michael Keys (biologist) or call 850-925-6121.

When: Friday, Nov. 13th, Monday, Nov. 16th, Wednesday, Nov. 18th, Monday, Nov. 23th, Tuesday, Nov. 24th, or Monday, Nov 30th.

Transportation will be provided to and from the collection area but you are asked to bring your own lunch, gardening gloves and scissors or cutting tool. You will be collecting pure wiregrass (Aristida stricta) seed for direct seeding this winter in the Panacea Field restoration site. You will be working in some of the finest remnant examples of longleaf pine sandhills and flatwoods remaining in North Florida.

Hope there are some Florida Craniacs who will be able to lend the folks at St. Marks a hand.

Date: November 13, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 29 - DOWN DAY #8 Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Without doubt today will be Down Day #8 in Winnebago County, IL.

By mid afternoon the south winds will bump the 4:00am temperature of 36F to around 60F. Surface winds of 10 to 15 mph out of the SE will become south winds with gusts to 20mph as the day wears on. Aloft the SSE winds are blowing a powerful 35mph.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Lying entirely in the Interior Plains, Illinois has three major geographical divisions. Northern Illinois is dominated by the Chicago metropolitan area along with the adjoining exurban area into which the metropolis is expanding. Rockford, in Winnebago County, is the second largest city in Northern Illinois.
Central Illinois, the "Heart of Illinois," was an area of undisturbed prairie, most of which is now under cultivation. This area is characterized by small towns and mid-sized cities such Springfield, the state capital, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, and Champaign-Urbana. The land west of the Illinois River originally was part of the Military Tract of 1812 and forms the distinctive western bulge of the state.
Southern Illinois is comprised of the area south of U.S. Route 70. Effingham is the area’s largest city with a population of 34,000. The southernmost tip of the state, in the vicinity of the junction of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, is known as Little Egypt. At the very tip is the town of Cairo, pronounced "KAYrow" as in Karo Syrup by locals. This region is distinguished from the northern and central Illinois by its warmer climate, different variety of crops, more rugged topography, and its many acres of cypress swamps.

Date: November 12, 2009 - Entry 5 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
If you were thinking of leaving your warm bed to come and view our Winnebago departure at the flyover site tomorrow morning we're going to suggest you think again. After analyzing all the data on the weather models, Chris G's assessment of our chances of flying Friday morning is 99 to 1 - and that 99 is not in our favor.

Saturday is not looking very promising either, but we'll try to give everyone a heads up here again tomorrow afternoon.

Date: November 12, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:BUDGET RESCUERSLocation: Winnebago Co. IL

Phenomenal! The new engine for Chris Gullikson’s trike is paid for!!!

We are all so very, very grateful (and Chris especially) to generous folks who rushed to help us cover this unexpected and unbudgeted expense. Coming to our rescue were:

Anonymous, Bellevue, WA
Nancy Blake, Duxbury, MA
Kerry Brookman, Fort Collins, CO
Colleen Chase, Havana, FL
Paul Dempsey, Braceville, IL
Nancy Drew, Clifford, ND
Suzanne Elsea, Norcross, GA
Charles & Ellen Herring of Cary, IL
Dorothy Nesbit, Madison, WI
Jennifer Scott, Rohwer, AR

Watch this space for an entry coming very soon from Chris about his experience, and the removal and install of his trike engine.

Date: November 12, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WOW! COST OF NEW TRIKE ENGINE 66% COVERED! Location: Winnebago Co. IL

Even before we posted the entry about having to replace the engine in Chris Gullikson's trike, the first message arrived along with a donation designated to help offset this unexpected and unbudgeted for expense. This commitment came, not unsurprizingly, from one of OM's most dedicated Craniacs, our good friend Nancy Drew of Clifford, ND. It wasn't long before another arrived from good friend, Dorothy Nesbit of Madison, WI.

Then, this morning, a brand new Craniac from Bellevue, Washington (who wishes to remain anonymous) thrilled us with a $1,500 contribution toward the replacement engine. This was followed by another super contribution - $1,000 from Jennifer Scott from Rohwer, AR.

There just CANNOT be any better supporters for any organization anywhere. It would be IMPOSSIBLE.

We already have THEE BEST!

Date: November 12, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter:Liz Condie
Subject:YOU STILL HAVE A CHANCE...Location: Winnebago Co. IL
For those of you who haven’t yet ‘WHOOPED!’, we (that is all our weather delays) are certainly giving you lots of chances to do so before the first big thank you gift draw.

In addition to the limited edition Give a WHOOP! thank you gift T-shirts being drawn for every time we add 50 WHOOPS! to the total, there are two other very special thank you gift draws.

The first of those two special draws will be made during the live broadcast of the WHOOP It Up! event being held at our Lasalle County, IL stopover. We will be drawing the name of the lucky “WHOOPER” to receive a one week stay at Pelicans Beach House, in Fort Myers Beach, FL.

Click here to be taken to the webpage with all the details. And click here to Give a WHOOP! We owe a debt of gratitude to the Ruth Irvin family for donating this super thank you gift to us.

You know the saying...“you can’t win if you haven’t got a ticket”. Well, you won’t be in the draw for the Pelicans Beach House thank you gift if you haven’t WHOOPED! You’ve still got time before we fly that 10,000 mile…But we hope not too long.



Date: November 12, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 28 - DOWN DAY #7Location: Winnebago Co. Il
It seemed very odd to have wind out of the south but still have a windchill factor into the temperature this morning. At 5am it was 34F but 27F with the windchill. On the surface the wind swung back and forth between coming out of the SW and the SE, but regardless of its direction, it was blowing at around 6 to 9 mph. Aloft we were facing 10mph and up of headwind.

Not a day for cranes and planes. Today will be Down Day #7 in Winnebago County, IL.

Although things could change, at the moment, Friday and Saturday's forecasts hold little promise of weather suitable for a flight. Sunday though, appears as if it could present us with an opportunity to take to the air. We will continue to try and keep you informed via a late afternoon/early evening "Predicting" Field Journal entry.

Visit the Field Journal again later this morning to read about the upcoming Give a WHOOP! thank you gift draw!!!

Thanks to Mark Blassage for sharing these photos he took at yesterday's flyover.


Top left: The Class of 2009 prior to getting 'organized' off Joe's wing.

Top right: Nov 11th's lead pilot Joe Duff has all 20 birds.

Bottom left: A cool photo of a trike in the distance with a field of corn stalks in the foreground.

Thanks again to Mark Blassage for sharing his photos with us (and you).

Date:November 11, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:FORWARD, BACK BACKLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Sometimes we feel like we are walking uphill in deep sand – one step forward and two back.

Our step forward this morning was calm, cold air, after a long chain of less than perfect days. Our step back was the MP3 player on my aircraft that refused to work, likely due to the sub-freezing temperatures. The MP3 player generates the brood call that the chicks have heard since before hatching, but these little electronic wonders are not designed to fly in open aircraft at 28 degrees fahrenheit. For that matter, neither am I.

It was my turn to lead the flock on our historic flight over the 10,000 mile mark, and I was not about to forfeit that reward for the lack of a double “A” battery, so I taxied into position and gave the thumbs up to Erin and Geoff. They opened two panels on the pen creating a 20 foot wide gap and all the birds charged out.

The second step forward was the location of the pen. It sits 50 feet to the side of a long, smooth, grass runway and allows you the room to take off slowly, rather than blasting into the air to clear the trees and leaving the birds a hundred yards behind. Instead you can begin a slow taxi until they line up with the wing and increase speed until you lift off together.

The step back was the headwind that met us just above the ground. Anyone who has ever tried to run while chest deep in water knows the frustration of a headwind. It’s like the dream you have of being chased by something evil while you try to escape on legs that feel mysteriously sluggish. In your mind they should be fleet and swift, and the fear is certainly providing enough motivation. But in reality they are restricted by blankets and sheets and the only real threat behind you is the ire of your spouse who is rapidly losing patience.

I hate headwinds. In fact I hate all wind. Yes I know, that’s as nonsensical as saying you hate air, but I am indulging in a little self pity. There is a windsurfing shop in a town south of where I live called, “Never Enough Wind.” Someday I’m going to burn it down.

The next step forward this morning was the way the birds followed. Cold air is more dense than warm air, and each downward push with their wings produces more lift, each breath captures more oxygen and they were eager and willing to fly. I flew 'S' turns as they cut the corners to catch up, and we climbed through 500 feet. Not one turned back.

As we slowly gained altitude the mass of air we were flying through increased its speed to the north while we flew south. Drivers of cars only have to concern themselves with one speed. You go fast enough to get you there in a reasonable time yet slow enough not to attract the attention of the State Trooper. Pilots however have to deal with two speeds ,and inattention to either has a consequence more severe than a ticket.

Air speed is the velocity of the aircraft through the air. If you go too slowly the wing cannot generate enough lift and it changes from a marvel of modern technology to a pile of twisted aluminum in record time. At the same time, the air through which you are flying is also moving. Think of a speed boat powering upstream in a river. It may be cruising at 50 mph though the water, but if the water is flowing downstream at 20 miles per hour, the boat is only passing the shore line at 30.

In the air that is called ground speed, or the actual speed you are passing over the surface. This morning the birds were eagerly flying along at 38 miles per hour air speed, but only making 25 mph ground speed.

The big step back came next when Chris told us over the radio that he had an engine issue. He was out ahead, and about to climb to see if the winds diminished as we got higher when he lost power. He added some choke to see if it was a fuel problem but it soon quit and he started to go down. The engines we use are Rotax 503’s and we often refer to them as bullet proof. In the thousands of hours we have accumulated we have not lost an engine in flight. Yes we have had problems with them occasionally, but never an abrupt loss of power while flying – until now.

This is exactly why we changed our migration route to avoid overflying the Appalachian Mountains. If this had happened over the rocky and wooded terrain of Kentucky or Tennessee the outcome may not have been so assured. But with a hundred open, flat, harvested bean fields to choose from, Chris made an easy and uneventful landing.

Greatly relieved that Chris was okay, we slowly climbed to 700 feet and watched as the ground speed dropped to 17 then 15 miles per hour. The GPS gives you the time-to-destination in hours and minutes. We took off with 2 hours to go and now, after flying for 30 minutes, the next stop was 3 hours, 20 minutes away. We only carry enough fuel for 3 and a half hours so it was obvious we were not going to make it.

Jack Wrighter in the top cover Cessna said if we could get the birds to 2500 feet the headwind diminished, but we were still within the Rockford airport restricted airspace and not able to climb. We needed several more miles before we could begin to force the birds higher, and then it was only a gamble. We had to weigh the odds of making the destination with enough fuel in reserve, or finding a place to hide a flock of twenty birds in an isolated field where we hadn’t been invited – all the while short an aircraft.

The next few days are forecast to be windy so the options were limited. We could choose a secure pen back at the departure point and a hangar for the aircraft, or a field somewhere below us with a long explanation to an irate landowner outlining our excuses for trespassing.

At 47 minutes into the flight we were only 14 miles from the take-off point. The birds were strong and following beautifully but the numbers on the GPS were in conflict with the fuel we had left, and we made the hardest decision of the migration.

The ground crew had already been given permission to dismantle the pen and the Top Cover pilots had to scramble to get on the ground. The wind that slowed our progress was now speeding our return so there were only minutes left to prepare for the arrival of the birds.

As we approached, we could see Chris on the ground talking to the farmer, and the aircraft trailer already deployed to retrieve him. Within the hour the only thing left to deal with was the disappointment. By mid afternoon we determined that Chris’s engine was not salvageable and made a 4 hour road trip to purchase a new one. Four thousand dollars puts a huge crimp in the budget, but then it’s not like we had a choice.

Crossing the 10,000 mile line is proving as hard as it was to accumulate them in the first place. Let’s hope it doesn’t take 10 years.

Date:November 11, 2009 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:8 MILES OUT THEN 8 MILES BACKLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
East winds on the surface and ~10mph headwind aloft, but we made a valiant attempt this morning. The birds formed up okay, but the pilots were clocking as little as 13mph ground speed at times. Brooke said the birds were flying beautifully for the most part, but with the slow going, and this being one of our longer legs, fuel could have become an issue. Discretion being the better part of valor, the pilots reluctantly turned back.

The birds are all back in the pen and camp is reestablishing here in Winnebago.

Chris also had an issue with his trike and just a couple of miles out from our stopover location, he put down in a bean field. The team is on its way with the aircraft trailer to pick both him and the trike up. More news later.

The CraneCam will be back up and operational by approximately 9:30am CST.

Date:November 10, 2009 - Entry 3Reporter: Chris Gullickson
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Winnebago Co. IL

Here is Chris G's assessment of conditions we will face tomorrow morning.

A west to east elongated area of high pressure will sit just to our north on Wednesday morning bringing us light east winds at the surface that will slowly back to the south as the high continues to drift east. We will be under clear skies, allowing a cold layer of air to develop at the surface. This cold dense air should be calm enough to fly in. It should also allow us to climb the birds to a higher altitude where we will likely find a bit of a headwind component from the easterly wind flowing clockwise around the high to our north.

We should have light northeast winds at the surface, and will likely put a trike up to see how much of a headwind component we will have to deal with before making the call to 'go' or stand down.

If we are able to fly tomorrow, we will use the same departure flyover location as previously posted. It is on N. Hoisington Road, just outside of the town of Pecatonica, IL. The exact location is only 0.68 miles from the intersection of Saunders and N. Hoisington Road. Use this link to view the location on Google Maps. If it is a 'go', look for OM's RV on the side of the road.

Date: November 10, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:'ALMOST' DEPARTURE PHOTOSLocation: Winnebago Co. IL

The photos below were taken yesterday morning as we tried to depart Stopover #5 for LaSalle County. Thanks to Linda and Walt for sharing them with us.

Brooke prepares for take off. Joe, yesterday's lead pilot launches.

Jack Wrighter's aircraft is ready for top cover duty. Joe launches with the Class of 2009 - but not all of them.

 Joe has 19 of the 20 at this point, one landed out. Circling around trying to get them to form up.

Wanting to fly, but not willing to follow. Back on the ground and headed for a return to the pen.

Date: November 10, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 26 - DOWN DAY #5Location: Winnebago Co. IL
One good sign this morning at 4:00am CST was the temperature; colder. There was very little surface wind, but as sunrise approached that changed, and the crosswind effect Chris predicted last evening that we would have this morning came into play.

As we gathered around the coffee pot the debate began. Would we be able to fly a migration leg today? Unfortunately the answer turned out to be, definitely not. Between analyzing the computer weather models and checking the wind activity for ourselves, it wasn't even borderline enough for it to be worthwhile putting up a test trike. Today will be Down Day #5 at Stopover #5.

It was on this date in 2008 that we arrived in Winnebago County, IL, and here we remained for the next seven days waiting for favorable weather. Quite a contrast last year to this. In 2008 it was wet and cold; at one point we even had enough snow to make snowballs! This year, we've had days of t-shirt weather - in fact warm enough for Gerald to break out his shorts and Bev her sandals.

Although today will be the fifth day we've been ground-bound here, if we are able to fly the next leg any day up to and including November 17, we will still be beating last year's migration timeline. Just keeping positive....

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Winnebago County, IL
Remember those nights gathered around a campfire and toasting marshmallows? We loved those sweet and sticky confections and didn't give a hoot about where they came from. Marshmallow history goes all the way back about 4,000 years to the ancient Egyptians. They made a honey-based candy, thickened with an extract, from the mallow plant that grew in the marshes. Thereby was born the name - marshmallow.

In the mid 19th century European candymakers added egg white and sugar to the recipe, whipped it into a meringue and poured it into cornstarch molds. Later, gelatin replaced the mallow root extract in the concoction. One of the first makers of marshmallows in this country began production of Campfire Marshmallows in 1917 in Rockford, IL. Thirty years later his son, Alex Doumakes, revolutionized production by inventing the "extrusion process". This reduced the handwork considerably by running the mixture through tubes, cutting it into equal pieces, cooling and packaging. Just thinking about them makes one wish for 'Smores’.

Date: November 9, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Winnebago Co. IL

As for tomorrow's prospects - we have a high pressure system to the north of us that will give us ENE winds on the surface. Chris Gullickson says, that may give us a crosswind that will make things a bit breezy. The prognosis is that if the pilots can find some reasonably calm air they'll attempt a flight in the morning. The downside of flying in those conditions is that with the not so cooperative winds, they won't be able to make much speed and so it could make the approximately 55 air mile leg longer.

If we are able to fly tomorrow, we will use the same departure flyover location as previously posted. It is on N. Hoisington Road, just outside of the town of Pecatonica, IL. The exact location is only 0.68 miles from the intersection of Saunders and N. Hoisington Road. Use this link to view the location on Google Maps. Look for OM's RV on the side of the road. Hope to see YOU there!

The Winnebago to LaSalle County migration leg will be the last flight before our WHOOP It Up! event in celebration of our 10,000th mile leading endangered Whooping cranes on their first migration. You are invited to tune in to the live, online broadcast of the event.

More details will be posted here the day we fly that leg - whenever that may be. In the meantime, if you haven’t already participated in Give a WHOOP! (we’re still well short of our goal – one for each of the 10,000 miles) here is a link to the details about Give a WHOOP! and here is a link so you can give your $10 WHOOP! right now.

Date: November 9, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:BORDERS AND BOUNDARIESLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Migratory birds have been moving north and south across this continent for millions of years. Since the arrival of Europeans we have divided the land over which they fly into increasingly complex segments. First it was fields that changed the grassland diversity into monoculture habitat, then roads that joined all the fields.

Thereafter the divisions became less obvious like city limits, county lines and state borders. We subdivided the land into jurisdictions of law, congregations of religion and boards of education. Even the air through which they navigate we have apportioned into flyways, air routes and classes of airspace with varying degrees of restriction none of which are heeded by birds.

The avian culture ignores these manmade limitations occasionally to their peril, but this morning our Whooping cranes were confined by another sort of invisible border that formed a layer of turbulent air above them.

As the sun began to rise, the winds on the surface dropped to zero, and the fields of dried and yellow corn were quiet for the first time in days. It looked like a perfect morning until you climbed about 200 feet. Between there and 600 feet the air was rough, and the temperature a few degrees warmer than on the surface. In fact it was 58 degrees fahrenheit which is unusual for this late in the season.

Warm air is less dense than cold and the molecules of oxygen are spread thinner. It can also hold a lot more water. The high humidity and warm air meant the birds had trouble breathing and keeping themselves cooled as they exerted energy climbing to catch the aircraft.

The rough air meant they couldn’t get any benefit from the ultralight’s wing and the combination is often enough to turn them back. We circled several times gaining altitude on one pass, and losing it all on the next. For 20 minutes they formed on the wing, then broke for home, then reformed over the pen as the swamp monsters paraded below.

We made another attempt, but as they climbed to catch the wing all of them were breathing with beaks open. Even if we could work them up another 400 feet to smooth air we had an hour to go and the conditions were deteriorating quickly.

Eager to follow if we were heading home they all formed on the wing and landed with the aircraft in perfect unison. For the birds, and for us, the borders you can’t see are often the most restrictive.

Date: November 9, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:BIRD SONG CARDSLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
When did you get your first? When did they start? You know what we’re referring to: those birthday-anniversary-graduation greeting cards with accompanying music. It’s those cards that when you open them will greet you with a slice of “Wild Thing,” or “Smoking in the Boy’s Room,” or “Crazy,” or “Roxanne,” or, goodness knows, something from “Hair.”

Well, the next step in their evolution has now occurred: new greeting cards which contain real bird songs and calls. Check out

Open one of these cards, and out will come 13 to 15 seconds of chirps, peeps, whistles, and croaks from a variety of birds. The cards were announced last month, produced by the U.K.’s Really Wild Cards along with accompanying bird recordings from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Each card also features a painting of the species selected from the Cornell Lab’s art collection, along with information about the bird.

These cards are made from recycled or sustainable forest products. The sound chips run on lead-free lithium batteries and even the clear wrapper is biodegradable. (Note: despite the claim of the cards being environmentally friendly, all batteries should be treated as potentially hazardous.) A percentage of profits from the sales of the cards will fund projects at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The folks at Really Wild Cards expect to release a new set of bird-sound cards approximately every six months.

Excerpt from the November issue of the Birding Community E-bulletin.

Date: November 9, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:A 'GO' TURNED INTO A 'NO GO'Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Although the wind and weather conditions were not at all optimum, the pilots decided they weren't so bad that a launching a test trike wouldn't be worthwhile. Once in the air, they decided they could give it a try and Joe, today's lead pilot, landed to pick up the birds.

I'll leave the rest of the story for him to relate in his lead pilot update, and just let you know now, that they had to turn back. Linda and I and the crowd of folks at the flyover site watched the trikes circling and at one point spotted Joe with a string of birds off his wing, but then word came over the aviation radio that it wasn't doable.

Check back later today for Joe's report, and for some photos of yesterday's release of the birds for some exercise.

Date: November 8, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
We MAY have a small window of opportunity for a flight tomorrow morning. It is likely to be rough air at the surface and lower altitudes, but Chris Gullikson thinks that if they can get the birds to climb above it, they might find some smooth air, albeit with winds mostly out of the west. In fact, a little later in the morning than we usually see a take off appears to be more favorable.

We will have to wait and see what the morning brings.

Once again, the flyover viewing site is on N. Hoisington Road, just outside of the town of Pecatonica, IL. The exact location is only 0.68 miles from the intersection of Saunders and N. Hoisington Road. Use this link to view the location on Google Maps. If the pilots think a flight is doable, you will see OM's RV on the side of the road.

Date: November 8, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Hmmmm, not looking too great for a flight tomorrow. Surface winds are out of the south and aloft they are expected to be 25mph out of the WSW. We will have to wait and see what the morning brings, but with out a major swing in the wind direction....

Remember, for just $10 you can Give a WHOOP! and then join the celebration online that we will broadcast live via the  CraneCam on the afternoon of the day we achieve that milestone. (Which will be the next day we fly...)

Date: November 8, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject:VIEW FROM THE TRACKING VANLocation: Winnebago Co. IL

This year on migration I am fortunate enough to be in the tracking van. The van drives as close to underneath the flight path of the trikes and chicks as possible. It is equipped with tracking equipment for the birds, crates, a medical kit prepared for us by the vet team, GPS / mapping software on a laptop, and, the most crucial piece, an aircraft radio to maintain contact with the pilots.

This job is either the easiest or the toughest depending on how the birds are following. It has been extremely easy the last two flights, with all the birds following the entire trip. Past years, the tracking crew (usually consisting of just the Patuxent rep) has been the last to camp, driving a crated chick or two.

On my first migration, now already four years ago, half the birds decided not to follow out of our Sauk County, WI stop. It was easy to track down the majority of them, but one bird kept Charlie Shafer out until dark, navigating through the bluffs and hills, dead end road, and thickly forested hillsides, trying to find the chick. Eventually he found the wayward chick, crated her up, and got her into our Green County pen well after sunset.

This year it was decided to have two people in the tracking van at all times. It is not only a good idea for helping crate birds if needed, but it is a safety consideration. Trying to drive, navigate and communicate at the same time, over sometimes hilly, winding roads is not an easy task. With two people, the labor is divided, ensuring not only safety, but better attention to the task at hand.

Something else new for this year, is that the Patuxent staff is rotating in and out at two week intervals. With me in the van, there is continuity from flight to flight. By riding along since the beginning, I have a better idea which birds follow and which do not. Which one is more likely to drop out, or insist on its own trike.

An added bonus to me being in the van under the pilots is that I have the expertise in airspace navigation and can call ahead, if needed, to give ATC towers a heads up that trikes and birds (What!) are soon to be invading their airspace. I can also call, via cell phone, further ahead on the route to check local airport weather conditions. This aids in making a “shall we skip?” decision if we know how windy, or not, our destination is.

For me the best part of riding or driving the tracking van is obvious. I get to see the show from up close and underneath. Yesterday, as Charlie drove, he would get us into position so that when the trikes would continue on their route, they would fly right over the van. I rarely, if ever, have gotten this view, and it was breathtaking. To see all 20 chicks strung out behind one wingtip left me awestruck.

As they would pass, and Charlie would continue driving, I couldn’t take my eyes off the chicks. One long line, straight as an arrow one moment, suddenly would undulate, almost like an inflight version of crack the whip. This shifting continued periodically for the entire flight and I never tired of watching it.

With Charlie’s knowledge of the route and expert navigation, we reached our Winnebago County stopover just as the trikes were arriving. This is a view I have only seen one other time - and that was from the top cover aircraft.

With the cool morning air and relatively short hop, the chicks were still wanting to fly, so Richard had to land to ensure that they would, too. After only one circle, trike and chicks were on the ground and the glorious sight of the flight was relegated to the memory banks.

Thank goodness I still have many miles to drive in the van and many more flights to witness. I just hope the birds keep behaving like they have and I am able to remain just a passive participant in the daily migration. (Left: Bev's photo of the arrival at Winnebago County, IL stopover.)

Date: November 8, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day #24 Location: Winnebago Co. IL
If, instead of being in Illinois, we were in Holland, Poland, or Italy, we would describing this morning's conditions as: te winderig, zbyt wietrznie, and troppo vento, respectively.

Yes, once again it's too windy for the cranes and planes, so this will be Down Day #3 in Winnebago County.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Winnebago County, IL
The Anderson Japanese Gardens is a must-see for visitors to Rockford, IL. From its website description: "The gardens are designed to allow our guests to reflect upon the tranquil beauty of nature, to leave the stresses of everyday life, to commune with nature and thus with one's self. The three essential elements of a Japanese garden are: water for its soothing and reflective qualities; rock for its sense of permanence; and plants for their textures and shades of green."

In late August, BirdLife International announced the launch of a remarkable campaign to find 47 rare birds thought to be possibly extinct. This is a global bid to try to confirm the continued existence of 47 species of bird whose existence has not be verified for decades, with at least one species unobserved for 184 years.

Announced at the 21st British Birdwatching Fair, this year’s campaign’s symbol was the rare and endangered Cebu Flowerpecker of the Philippines. The Cebu Flowerpecker, a species feared extinct by the early 20th Century, was rediscovered in 1992, just before the last remnants of its forest home were to be destroyed.

"The mention of species such as Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Jamaican Petrel, Hooded Seedeater, Himalayan Quail and Pink-headed Duck will set scientists' pulses racing. Some of these species haven’t been seen by any living person, but birdwatchers around the world still dream of rediscovering these long-lost ghosts," said Marco Lambertini, BirdLife International's chief executive.

The end goal of the project is, of course, the conservation of bird species. Should these birds be rediscovered, serious conservation efforts to keep them in existence will have to be launched. To read more.....

Also in the category of rarities, the very first Fiji Petrel specimen ever collected was taken in 1855 on the island of Gau, in the Fiji Island group; a second was not taken until 1984. Since then, there have only been a handful of reports, mostly of birds colliding with houses on Gau. Until this year nobody had ever positively identified the species at sea. At long last, a live Fiji Petrel was photographed at sea this spring, and the news and photo were announced and published last month.

Date: November 7, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: TOMORROW’S PROSPECTSLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Prospects for a flight tomorrow are not looking at all promising. Forecast winds are alternatively 6mph out of the east and 12mph out of the south on the surface, and aloft there is also a strong southerly flow. Chances are zero to none that the cranes and planes will be in the air Sunday morning.

Haven’t WHOOPed! Yet? We need you to do it now!!
We’ve still a very long way to go to reach our goal of 10,000 WHOOPS. A disappointing 6,543 yet to go in fact- - AND we are only one migration leg short of achieving our 10,000 mile in the air leading endangered Whooping cranes on their first migration.

For just $10 you can Give a WHOOP! and show that YOU care about the future of this magnificent species. Please Give a WHOOP! today and then join the celebration online that will broadcast live via the Duke Energy sponsored CraneCam on the afternoon of the day we achieve that milestone. (Which will be the next day we fly...)

MileMaker Update: So far, 820 (64%) of 1,285 miles have been sponsored – which is super – but, if we are to cover the costs of the 2009 migration we need all the sponsorships sold out. Can you help?

Click the link to go to the MileMaker page, or call the office toll free Monday - Friday between 9 and 4 EST. Chris or Linda will be happy to take down the particulars of your sponsorship. 1-800-675-2618.

Date: November 7, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Whooping crane Recovery Team Report Oct 08 – Oct 09 Location: Winnebago Co. IL
Recently received was a report from International Recovery Team Co-Chair, Tom Stehn. Tom is with the USFWS and is the Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Aransas, Texas. His 27 page Whooping crane recover report covers the period October 2008 to October 2009. Below are highlights from his report. Click here to read the Tom’s entire report.

The Aransas-Wood Buffalo population (AWBP) of Whooping cranes reached a record population of 270 at Aransas in December, 2008. The number would have been substantially higher but for the loss of 34 birds that left Aransas in the spring, 2008 and failed to return in the fall.

Faced with food shortages from an “exceptional” drought that hammered Texas, record high mortality during the 2008-09 winter of 23 cranes (8.5% of the flock) left the AWBP at 247 in the spring, 2009. Total flock mortality for the 12 months following April, 2008 equaled 57 birds (21.4% of the flock). The refuge provided supplemental feed during the 2008-09 winter to provide some cranes with additional calories. Two Whooping cranes failed to migrate north, but survived the hot and dry 2009 Aransas summer.

A below-average 2009 production year in Canada with 22 fledged chicks from 62 nests was half the production of the previous summer and is expected to result in a break-even year for the AWBP. Threats to the flock including land and water development in Texas, the spread of black mangrove on the wintering grounds, and wind farm construction in the migration corridor all remained unabated in 2009.

The Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracking Project documented 79 confirmed sightings of Whooping cranes in the U.S. Central Flyway during fall, 2008 and 38 sightings in spring, 2009.

The captive flocks had a very good production season in 2009. Twenty-nine chicks were raised for the the Eastern Migratory Population. Three chicks of high genetic value were held back for the captive flocks.

Production in the wild from reintroduced flocks in 2009 was disappointing. In Florida because of the continuing drought, only 4 of 11 pairs nested and fledged one chick. In Wisconsin, all 12 nesting pairs abandoned their nests. Five or six pairs re-nested hatching two chicks, but neither chick survived.

The major hurdle of nest abandonment in Wisconsin must be overcome for that reintroduction to have a chance of success. Although efforts to clear this hurdle should continue, the Recovery Team recommended starting reintroductions in different areas, both looking for other release sites in Wisconsin for the migratory Whooping cranes, and starting a non-migratory flock in Louisiana.

In 2009, total production could not quite keep up with mortality, with the total population of wild and captive birds dropping from 538 to 534 during a 12-month period. The drop was primarily due to the high mortality experienced by the AWBP.

Canadian Whooping Crane Coordinator Brian Johns retired in October, 2009 after 36 years with the Canadian Wildlife Service and many excellent years helping Whooping cranes. Thank you, Brian, for all you have done.

Note: The Board of Directors and staff of Operation Migration also send their gratitude and appreciation to Brian Johns for his years of service and tireless efforts on behalf of Whooping cranes. Happy retirement, Brian!!

Date: November 7, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FLYOVER PHOTOSLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Early on Thursday morning, Anne Saeman left her warm home in Madison, WI to drive to the Green County, WI departure flyover site. Once there, despite the chilly wait, based on the message we received from her, it was all worth the effort.

Anne said, “Thank you so much for providing the opportunity for a flyover. It was absolutely fantastic! I wasn't able to make it to the flyover at Ferry Bluff, so I was elated when I saw there would be one more time I might be able to see the cranes before leaving Wisconsin. I’m sending a few photos, although my hands were shaking so much I'm surprised they even turned out!” [Anne's photos, for which we are grateful, are below]

Sunrise over Green County, WI. Leading 3 birds off RVH's wing. Richard with 19 and Brooke with 1.


Below are a couple of other pictures I hadn’t until now had an opportunity to process and post here.

This is sight that greeted the crew when they returned to the Canfield pensite on the Necedah NWR to remove the pen top netting and winterize the site. Under all that water is what is normally the runway. Geoff, thankful for his high rubber boots, helps to remove the top net from the Canfield pen.
The can be no doubt that Wet-consin successfully dethroned Wind-consin.

Date: November 7, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:Migration Day 23Location: Winnebago Co. IL
As with yesterday, today's weather is not amenable for a flight with cranes and planes. We have a mild 54F. But even on the surface the winds are strong, 5 - 9mph out of the SW, and aloft they are blowing a stiff 35 to 40.

Whether you say it in Spanish, - demasiado viento; in French - trop de vent; or in German - zu windig, it's too windy. This will be Down Day #2 in Winnebago County, IL.

May we suggest another item for those hard to buy for folks on your holiday gift list? For a personalized gift, create a one-of-a-kind 2010 Wall Calendar. "MiCalendar" is easy to use, and you can either choose from the many beautiful images we have provided, or upload your very own special or meaningful photos. Click the graphic to the right to be taken to our merchandise page for the simple instructions.

Note: We have received some more photos of the departure from Green County, WI to our stopover here in Winnebago, IL. I hope to post them here before the day is out. Check back later today.

Date: November 6, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Based on what the weather models are predicting, a departure from Winnebago County tomorrow is 99.9% unlikely. The forecast calls for SSE surface winds around 12-13mph and WSW 40mph winds aloft.

On a more upbeat note, Walter and I did some scouting this afternoon and were able to find what we believe will be a reasonably good viewing site for a flyover when we do depart Winnebago County.

The site is on N. Hoisington Road, which is just outside of the town of Pecatonica, IL. The exact location is only 0.68 miles from the intersection of Saunders and N. Hoisington Road. Use this link to view the location on Google Maps. We will try to give you a heads-up late the afternoon or evening ahead of any morning it looks like we might be able to fly.

There is no off-road parking so safety first please. Be sure to pull your vehicle as far onto the shoulder of the road as possible. If it is 'a go' for a flight, OM's RV will be on site to give viewers an opportunity to purchase some OM Gear. I will also have an aviation radio with me so you can hear the pilots' 'chatter' as they take off.

Sunrise is at approximately 6:40AM these mornings so viewers will want to be in place not much later than that.

Date: November 6, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:HOLIDAY SHOPPINGLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
Last week I noticed that right beside their Halloween paraphernalia, all the stores had stocked their shelves with their Christmas merchandise. Thinking they obviously know something I don’t about early shopping, I figured it must be time for a reminder here about what OM has to offer for holiday gift giving.

Why not consider an OM Membership for your favorite Craniac - or, for someone who, with a little nudge, could become one.

Our semi-annual magazine, INformation, is but one perk of membership. Distributed in April and October, INformation contains a mix of Whooping crane, OM, and other conservation and environmental news, as well as articles by guest authors on a diversity of related topics.

While a relatively small publication, INformation receives terrific reviews, and we think it has some fascinating content that the public, as well as Craniacs, would greatly enjoy. If you tell us at the time of ordering that the Membership is a gift, we will send you a special card for you to give or send to announce your gift to the lucky recipient.

Members also receive discount pricing on OM Gear and other merchandise, and, they will be included on the list of recipients for our EarlyBird e-bulletin. Throughout each year's migration, OM's EarlyBird e-bulletin is delivered directly to Members' email inboxes first thing in the morning, within moments of the decision to fly or not to fly being made. Members learn the news of the day first - usually hours before the go, no-go update can be posted to the Field Journal.

There’s some great OM Gear on our Merchandise webpage, and don’t forget we’ve got two types of greeting cards. Order them now and you’ll have them in lots of time to get them in the mail to all the friends and family you send holiday wishes to. (Note: the boxed set of embossed Christmas cards always sell out fast, and with our limited supply you’ll want to order yours early.)

Date: November 6, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:LESSONS LEARNEDLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
The first migration we even attempted was in 1993 when Bill Lishman asked me to help him lead a small flock of Canada geese from Ontario to Virginia. We doubled that distance the next year leading a larger flock all the way to South Carolina.

When we finished the filming of the movie Fly Away Home in ‘95 we led the 60 actor geese on their first migration and also began working with Sandhill cranes. Thereafter we conducted three migrations with Sandhills, two with Trumpeter swans, and every year since 2001 we have taught Whooping cranes the way south.

You can add in a few more experiments, like when we transported the birds all the way south in a truck hoping they could return on their own like homing pigeons. Or when we tried a stage-by-stage migration where the birds were crated and transported 50 miles by truck. After they were released to fly around they were crated again for the next 50 mile journey. All of this in the fruitless hope that they could somehow connect the dots on the way back.

In total we have conducted 20 migration experiments with 4 species, and the one lesson I have learned the hard way is that each flock is different. Just when you think you know a thing or two, you can relay on a bird to take you down a few notches.

As little as ten days ago I was very worried about this migration. It was day 12 already and the birds were only at the first stop, just 4 miles off the refuge. Weather can change in an instant so I had faith that it would eventually get better, but it was the birds’ behavior that scared me most.

Of twenty birds, only five followed us even the intentionally short distance to the first stop. The rest divided themselves between three training sites back at Necedah and eventually had to be crated. Migration leg two was almost as bad. Only 10 birds flew there, and the other ten had to be crated. It was their disinterest that concerned me. Birds that should follow, were leaving the wing and turning back in complete disregard for the aircraft. The affinity we worked so hard to establish seemed to have disappeared.

And then it all changed. Chris Gullikson led the birds from South Juneau to Sauk Co and they all followed well. There was no turning back or separation. One circle was all that was needed. They began a slow climb, and soon they were on their way taking 51 minutes to cover 26 miles.

This last leg was similar. Brooke launched with the birds at Green County but Richard soon moved in to take the lead and 20 birds followed him all the way to Winnebago Co.

From disinterest to dedication, from 6 days behind to 5 days ahead –just when you think you know a thing or two.

Date: November 6, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 22Location: Winnebago Co. IL
At 4:00am CST it was already 43F. Not only was it warm, it was breezy too, with 11mph ESE surface winds that are forecast to both increase and have gusts up to 30mph as the day wears on. Aloft the story was worse. Aloft, the winds out of the south were booming along at 30 to 40mph. No weather for cranes and planes to be flying in. Today will be Down Day #1 in Winnebago County, IL.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Winnebago County, IL (Thanks to Becky Hartman of IL for this bit on conservation in Illinois.)
About midway between Winnebago and LaSalle Counties are the Nachusa Grasslands owned by The Nature Conservancy. Its 2700 acres feature large stretches of remnant native prairie stitched together by volunteer-led prairie restorations and reconstructions.

One of the uncommon or rare animals that survive at Nachusa are Blanding’s turtles. Nachusa is home to over 600 native plant species and 180 species of birds. Grassland birds, including grasshopper sparrows, dickcissels, bobolinks and Henslow’s sparrow, perch in the colorful prairie grasses, alongside one of the state’s largest populations of federally threatened prairie bush clover.

Who knows, Whooping cranes, prairie chickens, and bison may roam here again one day. It is the featured cover story of the fall issue of the Nature Conservancy magazine. Check it out online.

Date: November 5, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Erin Harris
Subject: Behind The Scenes On A Fly DayLocation: Winnebago Co. IL
As the winds aloft were supposed to be strong, we woke up this past Tuesday not knowing whether or not it would be the day the Class of 2009 and the OM crew left Sauk Co. for Green Co. WI.

As the sun came up the pilots took to the air to test the conditions. First Chris, and then Matt, Brooke, and Richard took off, and once airborne, decided that it would be a 'go'. The two cameras, the CraneCam and TrikeCam were ready to record the departure and flight, the crew was in position, and Geoff and I went down to the pensite to prepare for the release.

Preparing the pen for release is very important and we have to be ready, as the chicks are eager to go when the trike gets there. The preparation involves turning off the electric fence (which gives you a nasty reminder if you forget), removing all items in front of the release panels, and the key component to the release, pulling back the flight netting.

The chicks are so eager to fly that they are usually airborne before they reach the panels, so it’s crucial that the flight netting be out of their way. As soon as the pen was ready Geoff and I hid in the mobile pen trailer to wait for the lead pilot's trike to arrive.

Once we got the go ahead, Geoff and I took up positions in front of the release panels and waited for Richard to arrive. He landed on the runway and gave us the ‘thumbs up’. Geoff and I opened the panels and then moved out of the way as 19 eager chicks ran out of the gate and took to the air.

Richard had to gun his trike in order to stay ahead of them as they flew down the runway. As we looked around, we realized - 19 chicks??? Who’s still here? We found 905 back in the pen, but with some encouragement from me, she ran to the gate and flew away, catching up with her flockmates.

Geoff and I ran back into the pen, grabbed the decoy, and waited for the pilots to call for swamp monster. When swamp monster was called into action, I quickly took my costume off, grabbed my radio and air horn, pulled the tarp over my head, and went to stand on the runway.

I went on there expecting to see chicks flying around the area, but I didn’t see any nor did I hear any trikes. After the pilots and chicks were clear of the area, I got the 'OK' to take the pen down. At the same time, Heather turned off the CraneCam, and began to get it ready for travel.

Geoff and I started to take down the pen. We were soon joined by Joe, Dave Boyd, and others, to help speed up the tear-down process. When the pen was disassembled and all supplies were accounted for, Joe pulled the trailer out of the field, to where camp was assembled.

When the pen trailer and CraneCam trailer were ready to hit the road, Heather and I made the beautiful drive to Green County, WI. Using walkie-talkies, Heather and I were able to keep in touch. Once we arrived at our final destination, we were greeted by a happy crowd. It was a wonderful feeling knowing that all 20 chicks made the trip in fine style and we were on the move.

Once camp was assembled, and the trikes tied down, everyone gathered at our stopover hosts' house for sandwiches and a bowl of delicious hot, homemade soup. Our hosts are so generous to share their home with us, and we are lucky to have such great supporters.

Date: November 5, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:SO LONG WISCONSIN - - HELLO ILLINOIS!! Location: Green Co. WI

  Green Co. WI to Winnebago Co. IL - 34.0 Miles

Accumulated Distance:
130.4 Miles
As you can tell by the subject line above, we've left Wind-consin (or Wet-consin) behind and are now in flyway state number two, Illinois - or as Brooke calls it, "the land of flat".

As darkness fell yesterday it got colder and colder. That was good news. The return of the chilly temperatures heralded a change in wind direction. As the winds swung around from the south to blow from west and then from the NW, the temperature continued to drop.

By early morning it was 29F, and while we had almost negligible westerly surface winds there were gusts up to 2mph. Aloft the NW winds were stronger, reading around 10mph which meant if it wasn't to trashy, the planes and cranes would have a tailwind to give the a little push.

By 6:20am CST the entire team was on the move, and speculation was high about the possibility of being able to skip the first Illinois stopover in Winnebago County.

Brooke was lead pilot today and his launch from the pensite was a good one. In moments he was in the air with all the birds. There was some bird to trike, shuffling before they finally formed up (I'll leave the play by play for the lead pilot's report), but in short order we could see the four trikes low on the horizon approaching the excited crowd at the flyover site.

As the Class of 2009 came closer, we could see that Brooke was down to just one bird off his wing, while the other 19 were strung out like a strand of pearls off Richard's right wing. They didn't have a lot of altitude at this point, so we gawkers on the ground had a glorious, lengthy, and excellent view as the necklace of glistening birds passed overhead.

As they disappeared from view, many of our 'old' friends who had braved the cold early morning to come to the flyover gathered around to say hi, and to allow me to collect hugs for my hug bank. Some folks helped to lighten the load in Erin and my motorhome as they picked up some of their favorite pieces of OM Gear. Then Linda and I repacked all the merchandise cases and we too hit the migration trail, enroute to Illinois.

Thanks to Gary and Kay Jones we have photos to share with you from today's departure and flyover.

Top Left: Brooke starts off with the group.

Bottom Left: Brooke has one and Richard has the rest.

Bottom Right: Richard with 19.

Date: November 4, 2009 -  Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:POTENTIAL FLYOVERLocation: Green Co. WI
Should we be able to fly tomorrow morning, Green County offers a super flyover viewing spot for folks interested in witnessing first hand, the planes and cranes departing Wisconsin for Illinois.

The location is at 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 totally off-road parking so safety first please. Be sure to pull your vehicle as far onto the shoulder
of the road as possible. If it is 'a go' for a flight, OM's RV will be on site to give viewers an opportunity to purchase some OM Gear. I will also have an aviation radio with me so you can hear the pilots' 'chatter' as they take off.

Sunrise is at approximately 6:40AM these mornings so viewers will want to be in place not much later than that. At the moment, the chance of a flight tomorrow morning is looking about 60-40.

Date: November 4, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject: Chicks are Growing Before My EyesLocation: Green Co. WI

The chicks are growing before my eyes.

Being 'mama' of 20 juvenile Whooping cranes has many rewards. It can also make one’s head spin. Right now, I feel as if I am in the middle of a tornado my head is spinning so fast. The cause of this? How fast 'my babies' are growing.

I am used to the growth spurts at Patuxent. The chicks, at that young age, grow approximately 1” a day. You read that right, a whole inch per day. After two days off, the chicks are barely recognizable. Cute fuzzy little chicks that could barely walk are running around their pens, gobbling food on their own. It is stunning to witness.

What still gets me though, is how fast they are maturing at this stage of the year. It seems that I could put a camera on each chick, and after a day, I would see the color change from the cinnamon brown, to the brilliant white. Its not quite that fast, but is certainly not slow. (Photo of 904 to left)

I took an overnight last week to visit my mom for the last time prior to leaving town, and when I came back I was literally startled when I did roost checks that evening. I stood with mouth agape (luckily my hood covered that silly look) slowly looking from chick to chick. When did they start looking like adults? I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. It seemed that in the one night I missed, they all grew up.

One of the interesting aspects of this job is gaining the intimate knowledge of each chick. Watching personalities that are evident at hatch, grow and develop as the chick grows. Not only are the colors changing, but the grace and dignity that is so evident in the adult birds is also growing. They strut now as much as they hop about. They still play as much as they did, but much as a ten or eleven year child plays less with their dolls, the chicks are now being more productive in their play. It is more about actually catching and eating the food instead of just chasing and playing with the frog or mouse.

Each bird is developing at their own rate, with the females definitely maturing faster than the males. At least as far as appearances go. The development is not age specific, though. 901, albeit our oldest and a female, does not look the most adult like. She sounds like it however, actually managing an occasional croak instead of just a peep.

914 (photo to left) is by far the most adult looking. Another female, but the middle child, she is obtaining her red crown patch already. Barely visible, but definitely there, the tawny feathers are shedding, revealing the red skin beneath. 904, our second oldest female, is, and always has been the most graceful of the flock. Currently, in my opinion, she is the most beautiful. Her black 'mustache' coupled with her mostly white plumage and fine delicate legs, make her a real beauty. Breathtaking almost. She looks as elegant as fine crystal.

929, the youngest, is also one of the largest. He stills tries to stare me down, but has grown out of his obnoxious, beat up the handler, phase. He has mixed plumage, typical of his age. No rhyme nor reason as to which brown feathers shed or where the white ones come in, he has a very mottled look.

927 (photo to right) is not the baby, but certainly looks like it. I always know where he is because he is still mostly brown. Very few white feathers have grown in and he still looks very baby-like. He is also one of the quiet ones. Rarely do we hear him peep. He goes about his daily business quietly, almost shyly.

The year goes fast in spite of the fact that migration doesn’t. The ageing process goes even faster. On the birds, too, I mean. I look forward to seeing them each day, to watch the progress, the development. I would hate to wake up one morning to a flock of white birds, having missed the in between, the mottled, awkward, croaking 'tween' phase. I love this part of being a crane mama and treasure each day.

Date: November 4, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 20Location: Green Co. WI

Last evening, our own personal weather guru, Chris Gullikson, was convinced the weather would for sure keep us grounded today - and he was right. The warming temperature, harbinger of the south winds we now have, and the light rain he said we could expect, were exactly what we woke to this morning.

Today will be Down Day #1 in Green County.

OM's migration team expanded by one yesterday afternoon with the arrival of volunteer, Walter Sturgeon from North Carolina. A migration veteran, we can rely on Walt for assistance in a multitude of ways, from hauling one of our trailers, to bird handling, to turning out tummy-warming slow cooker meals. Walt is here to replace Gerald Murphy, another volunteer team member. They will overlap for a few days before Gerald bids us and the 2009 migration trail farewell and departs for his Milton, FL home.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Green County, WI
Beer and Cheese: Well known for its cheese, thanks to the little town of New Glarus, Wisconsin, and Green County in particular, is also becoming well known for its beer. A recent addition to the little town with a Swiss influence, is a new brewery. A showplace designed to resemble an European village, the brewery offers tours and beer tasting.

The per capita consumption of cheese in the United States in 2007 was 32.7 pounds  - seventh in the world.  Greece was first with 82.2 pounds followed by France, 51.9 pounds and Malta, 49.2 pounds.  Canada was 11th in line with 21.2 pounds per person. Mozzarella and Cheddar are the most popular with their consumption being almost two-thirds of the total produced.

Date: November 3, 2009 - Entry 5 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHAT ABOUT TOMORROW YOU ASK?Location: Green Co. WI
From the emails and phone calls that have come in there are lots of folks anxious to know what the prospects are for a flight tomorrow and a flyover viewing opportunity. So....I asked our weather guru, Chris Gullikson to look into his crystal ball for an answer.

According to him, when he looked into the ball he saw south winds - read headwind - and the likelihood of rain. When he looked even deeper into the ball, he said, "we don't have even a remote chance of flying tomnorrow." So there you have it folks - it looks like we'll be spending the day on the ground tomorrow.

Thursday is another story however, it should bring conditions similar to those we had for today's flight. With that in mind, in the morning I will post flyover information for viewers wanting to see the cranes and planes depart Green County. Need to check out the flyover location one last time first.

ABOUT THE CRANECAM: WildEarth has confirmed that the problem people are having (seeing just a white screen) is an Internet Explorer Version 8 issue, and they are working to resolve it. In the interim, if you use another browser to connect, such as FireFox, or Chrome, you will be able to view the broadcast.

Date: November 3, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:VIEWS FROM THE FLYOVERLocation: Green Co. WI
Craniac Karla Ritter emailed to thank us for the, "wonderful viewing this morning at Ferry Bluff." In Karla's words, "The flyover was magnificent!"

Ferry Bluff has long been a popular spot for flyovers - and due to its elevation, one that affords one of the most spectacular views of the entire migration. We even had a Craniac couple who drove there all the way from Minneapolis in hopes of seeing today's flyby.

Karla was kind enough to share some of her photos with us, so we will share them with you.

 Left: The Wisconsin River as
 dawn breaks at Ferry Bluff.

 Right: A few of the Craniacs
 gathered in anticipation of the
 flyover with the Class of 2009.

This photo can't do the excitement of the  moment or the sight folks saw justice, but it does have all 20 birds in it. Amazing sight - amazing shot! Thank you, Karla.

Date: November 3, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:LIFE IS GOODLocation: Green Co. WI

  Sauk Co. to Green Co. WI - 45.0 Miles

Accumulated Distance:
94.4 Miles

The day dawned crisp, cold, and clear, with a 20 mile an hour WNW wind aloft, which meant a tailwind. We found the trikes covered in frost so we had to wait for the sun to come up. While the sun warmed our wings we prepared for today's flight; adjusting altimeters, entering new destinations in our GPSs, and strapping backpacks, along with a multitude of other small tasks that come with flying small aircraft.

One by one we took off into the morning air to be greeted with somewhat rough air over the trees causing our wings to do what Liz calls a dipsy-doddle.

After deciding we would try a flight with the birds, I landed and taxied up to the pen. Adjusting the volume on the sound system, I gave the thumbs up, and Geoff and Erin quickly opened the pen gate and twenty birds came piling out. Pushing to full throttle we slowly climbed through the trees.

The chicks slowly drifted east, I turned toward them, and then turned east myself. They followed but at a short distance. Not wanting to back to the pen area I continued on to the east. They fell farther back but still followed. We were now over a valley and away from the pen site so I turned in to them, and as they came up to the trike I turned back on course, headed for Green County with the entire Class of 2009 nicely formed up off my right wing tip.

We began a slow climb out of the turbulent air and they settled in to form a nice long line of well behaved birds. We would find smooth air as we gained altitude, but eventually the rough air would come up to meet us so we would climb higher. Periodically, we would encounter more turbulence, and first the trike, and then each bird would fly through it, creating a wave through the long line of birds caused first by lift then sink, as we passed through the rough air.

About 20 miles from our destination all of the birds suddenly charged ahead of the trike nervously looking to the east. I looked but I could not see anything. But they were clearly bothered by something out there. After almost caving my chest in with the control bar, I finally got ahead of them again. They began to settle down and then they all resumed their long line off my right wing with the exception of 912. He moved over to my left wing and so we carried on.

With our destination field looming into sight, we began a slow descent. Last evening, having promised our Stopover Hotsts a good show, we circled the farm two or three times as we spiraled down to land.

After putting up the birds in their pen, Brooke and I flew to the runway down below - but not before doing the 'happy dance' in the sky. On landing, we found our hosts very happy and excited about our arrival. If we were greeting with such happy faces every where we went we would truly be blessed. And, then they fed us homemade soup, sandwiches and cookies. Life is good!

Date: November 3, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day #19 - AND WE FLEW!Location: Green Co. WI
Clear skies and 28F at 4am this morning headed for a forecast high of 47F. Light winds - 2mph WNW on the surface. At 3000 feet the wind was clipping along at 20 t0 25 mph. As the early morning minutes ticked away toward sunrise (6:36am), the wind velocity, both on the surface and aloft, racheted up. Oh -oh not looking too good.

But then, as sunrise approached, everyone felt a flight was a possibility. Places please! We watched and waited while two of the trikes that had not as yet had their Zoom wings replaced by the North Wings, de-frosted. Our wing covers don't fit the old Zoom wings (slower so used for summer flight training), so two trikes were ready to fly and two were not.

Eventually all the trikes were in the air and Richard, today's lead pilot landed at the pen to pick up the Class of 2009. All 20 blasted out of the pen and in a flash were in the air behind Richard's trike. And, despite some 'dipsy-doodling' (description to come in Richard's lead pilot report) that's where they stayed - - right behind Richard all the way to the pen waiting for them in Green County!

All the planes and cranes are safely on the ground here in Green County, and the rest of the team is on the road making their way here.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Green County, WI
Monroe, the county seat of Green County, is known as the Swiss Cheese Capital of the World. Wisconsin has several other distinguished communities worthy of "Capital" status. They are:
• Sheboygan, the Bratwurst Capital of the World.
• Wausau, the Ginseng Capital of the World.
• Mount Horeb, the Troll Capital of the World.
• Eagle River, the Snowmobile Capital of the World.
• Green Bay, the Toilet Paper Capital of the World.
• Somerset, the Inner Tubing Capital of the World.
• Mercer, the Loon Capital of the World.
• Bloomer, the Jump Rope Capital of the World.
• Sturgeon Bay, the Shipbuilding Capital of the Great Lakes.
• Potosi, the Catfish Capital Wisconsin.

Date: November 3, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Craniac Kids Whooping Crane Activity Booklet Location: Sauk Co. WI
OM’s Craniac Kids Whooping Crane Activity Booklet is off to a running start. Orders have been pouring in from teachers throughout the country, and our hard working volunteer shippers, the sister team of Darlene Lambert and Cindy Loken, have been sending them out as fast as they come in.

The fun and educational Activity Booklet was produced with the hope of getting young people interested not just in Whooping cranes, but also in wildlife conservation. Recipient teachers’ comments have been both favorable and flattering.

If you are an educator and would like complimentary copies for your students, please click here to place your order, or call toll free: 1-800-675-2618.

The Craniac Kids Whooping Crane Activity Booklet is also now available to individuals for purchase. Visit the Merchandise Page to order copies for the children in your life. While the activities and puzzles are geared to Grades 4 through 7, younger students will enjoy it as a coloring book, and, with a little help from an adult, be able to do most of the quizzes.

Darlene works on filling teacher's orders.

Now THAT's a day's work!

Cindy counts out booklets for an order.

Date:November 2, 2009 - Entry 4Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FLYOVER OPPORTUNITY?Location: Sauk Co. WI
While the weather latest models are now showing stronger winds aloft that had previously been projected - maybe too strong - we are still hopeful for a flight from Sauk to Green County tomorrow morning.

If you are interesting in a flyover viewing opportunity – it will be at Ferry Bluff. (See today’s Entry 1 below for directions).

Please remember that we are at the mercy of the weather, and should winds be unfavorable, the cranes and planes will not take off. This means of course you might make the early morning trip for naught. Also keep in mind that the behavior of the birds can dictate the flight path, and the pilots and their charges could end up miles off our intended/hoped for course.

If you ARE planning on heading to Ferry Bluff in the morning you will want to be on site around 6:45 to 7:00am. The morning temp is forecast to be 27F. Dress warmly!!

Date:November 2, 2009 - Entry 3Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:A BROOKE 'SPECIAL'Location: Sauk Co. WI
Note: Here's a special Down Day treat for Field Journal readers; an entry from Brooke about the activity and flight made on Tuesday, October 27th.

The morning of October 27th began out at the site with the mournful call of that lonesome train whistle blowin’ through the darkness. All I needed was a good ol’ dog, a pickup truck, and a cheatin’ wife and I would have had the makings of my very own original country song. “Nashville, here I come…after migration, that is.”

But I may not have to wait for my ‘Train Whistle Reward.” A local bar which happens to be situated next to the railroad tracks has an ongoing special of 25 cent shots of the liquor of your choice every time a train goes by. In fact, a local entrepreneur put his son through four years of Harvard by selling train schedules at the door, operating under the age old assumption that where there is noise, there is profit. Just listen to a Session of Congress if you don’t believe me.

But here we fly to the sound of a different drummer; in our case the sound of the wing beats a Whooping Crane makes as it flaps its way to Florida, and the time has come for us to turn up the volume.

The rain, with its ceilings so low they touched the ground, had for days pounded our spirits into depression, and turned the bird pen into something resembling an Olympic sized pool, necessitating the hiring of a has-been actor from “Baywatch” to spend his daylight hours sitting on a stand holding a sign which said, “We don’t swim in your toilet, please don’t --- in our pool!” But as any Realtor will tell you, it’s all about “Location, Location Location,” and waterfront property ain’t half bad if you’re a crane.

It was my turn to lead on the leg from Juneau to South Juneau County, not because of our rotation, but because I had worked for years as a commercial diver and knew all the words to the Beetle’s song, “ We All Live In A Yellow Submarine.” So as dawn broke, I found myself sitting in the trike as near to the pen as the water would allow, my seat made lumpy and uncomfortable by all the question marks that filled it.

Just how well would these birds fly after days punctuated by fits and starts? But as anyone who has ever faced a firing squad knows, there is great exhilaration and hope in uncertainty, and as Bev, Erin and Geoff executed the release, the morning’s drama began to unfold.

The birds blasted free of the pen and launched themselves skyward with all the pent up enthusiasm of a paroled convict on his first date. And, as expected, the morning’s rodeo began in earnest. I was soon away with first nine, then seven birds - as the three other trikes moved in an attempt to impose order in the ranks and practice the art of aerial persuasion with the others.

With the usual effort, our little group made it a little more than halfway to the next Stopover site only to have one bird pull away and soon take the others with it which would necessitate another roundup and a lecture by me punctuated with four letter words only I could hear.

Meanwhile, Joe had picked up three birds that were heading back to the refuge and climbed them so high I thought he had previously arranged a rendezvous with the space shuttle as he headed for the next site. Then I heard Richard call out that he had landed back at the pen with seven birds. Then Bev, after seeing the birds and realizing they had plenty of energy still left in them, radioed Richard and encouraged him to give it another try. So Richard, never one to give up without a fight, blasted off skyward again, his seven charges obediently following, this time at tree top level.

Before long I heard him announce he had made it to the next site but because the birds just wouldn’t climb he had to fly under a tractor trailer, through some guy’s cellar and under a clothesline while the lady of the house was hanging out her wash. I gave him an invisible High Five at the news, which in my case is a High Four and a Half.

Off my own wing, order had returned as my seven flew beautifully in line. All went well until a large military aircraft appeared seemingly out of nowhere and occupied a nearby piece of sky , putting an end to my little party. Four birds broke off in panic and headed towards a nearby military base with all the patriotism of WWII enlistees who just got the news of Pearl Harbor. Although three birds remained dutifully on my wing, the prospect of later having to recover those four wayward angels held little appeal, so we turned, and with all the speed the trike could produce, finally caught up to the four and turned them back toward our starting point.

On the way, another bird appeared from the east and we picked him up, then another appeared going somewhere from the west, and we collected him also. Soon we were on the ground right where the morning adventure had begun, but at least my seat was more comfortable, the questions answered. Bev, Erin and Geoff quickly returned these nine to the pen and I got airborne to look for a missing bird, little 925.

Soon the search began in earnest with Brian and Marianne Wellington in the tracking van, Bev and Erin in the truck, Richard in his trike equipped with a tracking receiver was on the way, and the rest of us trike drivers squinting hard against the countryside below.

It must be noted here that Richard, on his own initiative, had spent a good deal of time this summer fitting our his trike with the necessary tracking equipment and practicing his tracking skills in anticipation of just such a scenario as the one we now faced. So it was no surprise to any of us that Richard soon skillfully homed in on the bird. He directed Brian and Marianne down a dirt road to his location where they retrieved him none the worse for wear. Another High Four and a Half for Richard!

We all breathed a collective sigh of relief and I headed back to the airfield. The ten birds would continue their migration to Stopover Site #2 in boxes, which prompted some soon to be t-shirt mogul to coin the name, “Operation Boxation.”. It could have been, “Operation MiCratetion,” had our boxes looked a bit more like crates.

The important thing is simply that all the birds ended the day safely at the next stop. And besides, it’s like Joe Botchagalloup, the Poet Laureate of my native state of New Jersey always says, “The toughest part of a long journey is bending over to tie your shoes.” Or was it, “The hardest part of stripping a car is prying off the first hub cap?” Something like that anyway. You get the idea.

But seriously, if any of you are looking for a “Lead Pilot” to take you on a flight to “Nowhere” and if you are not bothered in the least that your trip will end exactly where it began, then don’t waste those Frequent Flyer Miles on a major airline that will only charge you extra for any bag larger than a pack of playing cards and that will fly you a hundred and fifty miles or so past your destination in a transparent attempt to relieve you of some of those valuable Frequent Flyer Miles it took you so long to convince your ex-brother-in-law to gift you. Just call me toll free at 1-800-You-Can’t-Get-There-From-Here. I’m definitely your man!

Meanwhile, while I await your call, I’ll be heading back to camp to look for my train schedule….for I have “miles to go before I sleep.”

Date: November 2, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day #18 Location: Sauk Co. WI
Too bad we can't fly in the dark. Just before 4am CST the thermometer outside our motorhome read a pleasant 44F and the only thing moving was me. Not a bit of wind stirred the leaves.

That slowly but surely changed, as it usually does as dawn approaches. Degree by partial degree the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. By 6am NE winds had swung around to come out of the WNW and were blowing strongly enough to give voice and life to the leaves; ~6mph on the surface and 25mph aloft.

After yesterday's elation at a successful migration leg, the unfortunate reality today is that it will be Down Day #1 in Sauk County, WI.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Sauk County, WI
Taliesin, the summer home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is located in Spring Green, WI. Wright began building the home in 1911 on land that was settled by his maternal family during the Civil War. The family was Welsh, so Wright named the home after the Welsh bard Taliesin, whose name means "Shining Brow."

Twice destroyed by fire, the current version, named Taliesin III, was completed in 1925. Wright used the house as an experiment in his philosophy of organic architecture, continuously changing it. Organic architecture strives to integrate space into a unified whole, and Wright believed that every building should grow naturally from its environment.

In 1940, he formed the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and, upon his death in 1959, ownership of Taliesin passed into its hands. The entire estate is designated a national historic landmark.

Date: November 2, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Over the past week, dozens upon dozens of messages have been coming to our info@ email address inquiring about opportunities to see the Class of 2009 along the migration route. To forestall more inquiries, here is the story…

It is my hope to host as many, if not more departure flyovers on this fall’s migration as last year. With luck, there will have been no changes of consequence on the landscape at last year’s flyover locations, and we will be able to use the same ones again this year.

As we reach each Stopover, I will be checking out the previously used locations to be sure they are still viable, but keep in mind that in most, if not all cases, this can only be done a day or two in advance at best. As usual, I will post the location and directions to each flyover viewing site in advance of each departure, here in the Field Journal.

Meeting folks at flyovers is almost as exciting for us as it is for you to get a personal look at the Class of 2009 being led by our ultralights. New to OM’s Migration crew this year are husband and wife team, David and Linda Boyd of Rhinelander, WI. David will be driving one of our vehicles for us, and Linda will be assisting me with outreach and at flyovers. She and I are hoping for even larger turnouts at flyovers this season.

Please note: In order to protect the birds and our stopover hosts’ property and privacy, we never reveal our stopover locations beyond the county level. To ensure WCEP’s isolation protocols are observed, there is NO accessibility or opportunity to view or photograph the young Whooping cranes in the Class of 2009 other than at flyovers.

Keep in mind too, that because our ability to advance each day is entirely weather dependant, we never know where we will be when….or, is that, when we will be where? To give you some idea of the unpredictability of this, check out our Migration Timeline page. This webpage shows the progress - that is, the date we arrived and departed all Stopovers on every migration since 2001.

By following our progress (or lack thereof) in the entries we post to the Field Journal on a daily basis, you will be able to determine when there is potential for a flyover viewing day in your area.

If you don’t mind an early morning start and would like an opportunity to see the Class of 2009 flyover on their way from Stopover #3 in Sauk County to Stopover #4 in Green County, WI, here is the information on the flyover viewing site.

The viewing location is Ferry Bluff State Natural Area. It is 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), a spot which usually provides spectacular views of the cranes and planes as they pass by.

Please bear in mind that we cannot guarantee you will witness the flyover. The flight should pass by this viewing site, however, should the young cranes initially be reluctant 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.

Also keep in mind that weather always is a factor. We seldom know right up until the last minute whether we will be able to fly on any given day. This is the reason why we cannot pinpoint the date or time any flyover will occur. We will TRY to give everyone a heads-up in the Field Journal the night before, once we've had a chance to check the evening’s forecast for the morning’s weather conditions.

If you're planning on being at Ferry Bluff, please also remember that weather permitting, the flight will get underway shortly after sunrise (approximately 6:45am) 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 Ferry Bluff within 10 to 15 minutes of sunrise. Don’t forget to dress appropriate to the weather!!

Date: November 1, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Chris Gullikson
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #17 = STOPOVER #3Location: Sauk Co. WI

  S. Juneau Co. to Sauk Co. WI - 26.4 Miles

Accumulated Distance:
49.4 Miles

This will have to be a very quick update. We have a ton of work ahead of us moving camp, and basically getting mobile for the first time this year...and the Packers play Minnesota at 3pm!!

The winds were calm this morning with a mid-level stratus cloud deck that would help block the sun and limit thermal activity. Once aloft we found a headwind of about 8mph to 1000 feet above the ground but the air was mostly smooth so we decided to give it a try.

The pen sits in a pseudo box canyon with only one way out pointing to the west. After landing, and giving the ground crew the signal to open the pen doors, we were blasting off to the west with most of the birds coming out well and flying well.

The plan was to continue west, and then cut south around a hill and head on course. The cranes of course did not know what the plan was, and decided to turn north away from me. I gave chase and soon had them back on course, 6 on the wing and 12 others lagging behind but still following.

Two had come out the pen a little late [901 and 905] and Brooke moved in to pick up these stragglers. When I made my turn south on course the 6 birds as well as the group of 12 still a good ways back stayed with me. I could have made a turn to pick up the 12, but didn't want to give the birds any excuse to turn back and begin a rodeo. As the 12 continued to fall further back, Richard moved in and picked them up.

We flew on; Brooke with the two stragglers (photo to right), Richard with 12, and me with 6. We climbed past a light area of turbulence at 1000 feet to about 1500 feet above the ground. With the headwind, our groundspeed was only about 22mph, but the air  remained smooth and the birds were flying well.

Our flying time with the birds lasted about 55 minutes and they all looked great when we finally coaxed them down at our destination in Sauk County.

The TrikeCam seems to have worked well this morning. Click the following link to review the archived footage.

We have a cold front moving through tomorrow, that could bring us some light rain and winds, so our next flight could happen on Tuesday.

Date: November 1, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:BREAKING NEWS 8:40am CST-ish Location: Sauk Co, WI
It appears as if the cranes and planes are coming in to circle the pen at Stopover #3 in Sauk County - and - it appears as if they have all 20 birds. No doubt you'll be as anxious as I am to read the lead pilot's report of today's flight.

Tune in later this afternoon. Note that it could be quite late this afternoon before it can be written and posted. Everyone now has to drive back to the refuge, pack up, disconnect, and secure our motorhomes, hook up trucks and vans to trailers, clean up and break camp, drive the 60 road miles back to our new camp site, and then get set up there.

Date: November 1, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PRELIMINARY REPORTLocation: S. Juneau Co. WI

At 31F, it was colder yet this morning. Surface winds were practically non-existent, but what little there was, came from the SSW. Aloft, the winds were mostly westerly. The aviation reports gave pilots 4 miles of visibility and a broken cloud cover at a 13,000 foot ceiling. The birds had the cold temp they prefer for flying. This was the most promising weather we’d had in the past four days.

By 6:20am, camp was deserted. The ground crew had left to get into position for a potential release, and the pilots, including top cover, were enroute to the hangar. With last evening's time change, official sunrise this morning was 6:36am CST, and the pilots wanted to be ready to put up a test trike for a first hand investigation of conditions. If the test trike pilot found conditions were such that a flight was doable, or even worth an attempt, the rest of the pilots could be in the air within a matter of minutes.

Once aloft, the aviation radio crackled and Richard was heard saying, “I have turbulence at 1,300 feet”. All four trikes went aloft to check the conditions at various altitudes. As the scene played out over the radio, we heard the pilots report headwinds of 5 to 7mph. Then, as the crackle of radio went quiet, a splatter of rain drops took its place - but thankfully ended within minutes.

At 7:21am CST, after nail-biting minutes that seemed like hourrrrs, word came that they had launched. Chris was aloft with 18 - which where breaking up - while Brooke was back at the pen with two birds.

Gotta get going, so that's as much as I can convey in this post folks. For further news - hopefully that we've successfully flown the migration leg to Sauk County - check back here later.

The cellular aircard we use to broadcast the live video feed limits the amount of data we can stream per month. As a result, on 'Down Days' during the migration, the CraneCam will broadcast live for approximately 3 hours each morning beginning shortly after sunrise. On 'Fly Days', once the departure has been broadcast, the CraneCam will be shut down so it can be moved to the next Stopover location. Circumstances will dictate whether live video will be again be available later that day. In all instances, when the CraneCam is not broadcasting live, it will play archived video clips.

To watch live video broadcasts via our CraneCam or to view archived video clips click here or the "Live CraneCam" graphic to the right.

Date: October 31, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:SAY 'SO LONG' TO BRIAN AND 'HELLO' TO CHARLIE Location: S. Juneau Co. WI
Today we will lose one crew member and at the same time gain another. Seconded to OM’s Migration Team by the Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre, Brian Clauss, Biological Science Technician (BST), will leave us today when his replacement, Charlie Shafer, also a BST arrives. Surely we can get Charlie further south than we managed to do with Brian. (smile)

Both Brian and Charlie have joined us to help with migration duties for several years. In the past, they have shared the ‘Patuxent position’. They would either switch off at the migration halfway point mile-wise, or at a guesstimated halfway point date-wise. From year to year, they would flip back and forth – one doing the top end of the route one year, and the bottom end of the route the next.

This year, Patuxent is sending crew on a different rotation to help us. They will be coming and going in two week shifts.

Charlie will relieve Brian today, and then in two weeks time he in turn will be relieved by Sharon Marroulis, BST. Jane Chandler, Patuxent’s Flock Manager, will take over from Sharon, followed Robert Doyle, BST. As does Brian, Robert also spends part of each summer here in Wisconsin with the Flight Training team.

If we are still on migration after Christmas, Brian Clauss will return to duty, and if necessary, Brian's better half, Barb Clauss, BST, will take over from him.

That schedule covers from now until January 23rd, and as much as we enjoy having the Patuxent Crane Crew with us, we’re hoping our progress is such that at least some of them will be able to remain in Maryland to enjoy the comforts of home instead of the rigors of the road.

Date: October 31, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WIND-CONSIN OR WET-CONSIN?Location: S. Juneau Co. WI

Last year, for obvious reasons, we took to calling the Dairy State, 'Wind-consin'. This year however, 'Wet-consin' has been struggling mightily to wrest away the title - and it may be winning. Yet another fight broke out between them last evening as Wind fought Wet in a titanic battle that raged on through the night.

Wind was in a vile mood. Spoil sport that it is, it was determined to rob all deciduous trees of any remnants of their fall glory, and screaming and howling, it pushed the envelope. As it freight-trained through camp, it carried with it the whip-crack sound of breaking branches, and the swish/thud of their descent and hard landing. Wet, not to be outdone, stepped up its efforts, gradually turning its rooftop pitter-patter to an incessant loud, get-on-your-nerves, rat-tat-tat. (Believe me, when your bed is a cab-over bunk with your nose ~18" from the roof, it IS loud.)

And, like two adolescents muscle flexing and showing off, Wind and Wet double-teamed us. While Wind ferociously heaved and rocked us, Wet ensured we were kept captive by pounding down with force; promising an immediate and thorough drenching if one dared to take even one step outside. Now, with dawn approaching they seem to both be slowly slinking away. Are they afraid of the light? Perhaps they are part vampire... It is All Hallows Eve after all.

Nothing will change in time, or sufficiently, to save the day for the cranes and planes though. Today will be Down Day #4 in South Juneau County - and we puppets of the weather gods will be making another wardrobe adjustment. While yesterday at 4:30am it was a toasty 58F, there was a 21 degree difference at the same time this morning; 37F. It will be off with the t-shirts and on with the sweatshirts.

To see where we stood in the greater scheme of things I borrowed Chris G's crystal ball to look back in time. Before this season, the latest it has ever been when we departed South Juneau County was last year, 2008, - and that occurred on October 28. Hmm, three days off the pace - not so bad I guess. Yes, I's also nothing to cheer about. But at this point, we have to focus on every positive we can.

And perhaps we can take some small consolation in knowing we aren’t the only ones off to a slow start this migration season. Vicki Muller, Wildlife Refuge Specialist at the Aransas National Wildlife refuge reported in the Victoria Advocate (a Texas newspaper), that the Wood Buffalo/Aransas population is also behind schedule.

So far, just two Whooping cranes from that flock have arrived on the Aransas refuge. Vicki noted that while the approaching cold front should soon prompt more movement, to date, most of the sightings of birds in the western population have come from North Dakota and Nebraska. These Whoopers, like us, still have a long way to go.

Date: October 30, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Chris Gullikson
If you have been following our story, you likely know that weather is the critical component to our ability to fly with the cranes. The ideal conditions that we look for are no winds at the surface and a very gentle north wind aloft.

The birds fly best when the air is cold and dry. A cold frontal passage with gentle high pressure building in from the west is what we look for. We fly light aircraft that are susceptible to turbulence and they tend to dance about in 'trashy' air as we call it. The birds get a benefit from the vortex of air that is generated off the wingtips, and they need to be very close and in tight formation with each other to benefit from this lift. They become reluctant to follow us if they cant 'lock onto the wing', and usually break off and go back to the pen if we push our weather tolerance.

As I said, high pressure building in behind a cold front can bring us the ideal weather that we are looking for. Air rotates clockwise around an area of high pressure, skies are generally clear, and the atmosphere is stable. Once the high pressure has passed us to the east, the winds turn southerly and we are faced with a headwind situation.

If the air is smooth enough, and the headwind not too strong, say 10mph or so, and the birds have been flying well with us...we can sometimes get them to fly into a headwind situation. They are smart, and know that it takes a lot more energy to force their way into a headwind, and they likely turn back to the pen knowing that a better day is coming.

So when is the next fly day? Looking into the crystal ball - otherwise known as computer weather models - my guess is Tuesday for the best weather scenario.

We have an area of very low pressure over southern Minnesota that will be deepening and moving to the northeast across Hudson Bay in northern Ontario. A cold front sweeps through Wisconsin late tonight with high pressure building in across Missouri and southern Illinois late Saturday.

The winds will be much too strong for us on Saturday morning with strong cold air being advected from the north in the tight pressure gradient created by the departing low pressure system. Sunday does show some promise of calm air, but the high pressure center is forecast to be south of us, and the models are already showing light south winds across southern WI. We will likely be ready to fly on Sunday morning and will test the air by putting a trike up and measuring the actual headwind.

Wind usually always veers with height - the southerly headwind becomes a crosswind as the winds veer from more of a westerly direction giving us a better groundspeed. If the winds veer at a low enough altitude, and the cranes are willing to plow into a bit of a headwind - then Sunday may be our day for the next flight.

Tuesday looks to be more of an ideal day with gentle high pressure still out to the west giving us calm winds and a light tailwind. This is a crystal ball however, computer models, while quite sophisticated, cannot fully predict the future for something as complicated as weather.

Date: October 30, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:ZERO MILES TODAYLocation: S. Juneau Co. WI
We’re breaking out the shorts and tees. Well before sunrise it was already 58F and the forecast is for a high of 67F by mid afternoon. Yes, that unfortunately means south winds, southeast to be exact, and when you add that component to the drizzle that’s falling off and on, the inevitable outcome is Down Day #3 in South Juneau County, WI.

Hope springs eternal however. Although some improvement is needed, Saturday and Sunday do hold out some promise.

In other Whooping crane news, the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) birds were released from Site 3 on the Necedah refuge last Saturday. ICF’s Marianne Wellington said they were released in small groups at several locations around the refuge where adults and sub-adult Whoopers were known to habituate. Hopefully they will associate with the older birds, and eventually, follow them when they initiate their southward migration. Click the link to be taken to the ICF site to read the latest update on the DAR birds.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
The village of Wonewoc is the midpoint of the 400 Trail, one of the area's many trails used by bikers, hikers, horseback riders and snowmobile enthusiasts. The name “Wonewoc” is of Native American origin; probably means "howling hills".

George and Lucinda Willard first settled the area in 1851. The town was incorporated as a village in 1878 and once the railroad was built, village growth exploded. The end of the railroad era halted Wonewoc’s growth. It is now a quiet, scenic town, with a population less than a thousand largely of German descent.

Wonewoc's location on the Baraboo River makes it attractive for canoeing and kayaking, as are the nearby lakes, Dutch Hollow and Lake Redstone which offers fishing, swimming, and other water sports.

Date: October 29, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: CHALLENGES MET!Location: S. Juneau Co. WI

We're delighted to be able to tell you that the two MileMaker challenges recently issued have been met. Along with the Class of 2009, the entire OM team sends our sincere gratitude!

Denice Steinmann from Illinois issued a 100 mile challenge, and just like champs, many of you stepped up to the plate and met it - doubling the value of your contribution in the process. And Annelise Jorgensen's (of Canada) 10 mile challenge which happily was for NEW MileMakers - was also met. Thanks to Denice, Annelise, and all you good folk, MileMaker has been bumped to 793 miles - just 492 short of a total sponsorship!

In previous years, more often than not we anxiously watched as we approached the point where the sponsored miles ended, worriedly looking at how much of the migration route we had yet to cover - and the miles that remained unfunded.

This year is wonderfully strange. While we are seemingly nailed to the ground here in central Wisconsin, you terrific Craniac MileMakers are galloping ahead of us.

At the rate you - and those you are encouraging to become sponsors - are going perhaps you will make our year and have MileMaker fully sponsored before we manage to escape wet and windy Wisconsin. Now wouldn't THAT be something to WHOOP! about?!?

Date: October 29, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject: Camp Life Location: S. Juneau Co. WI
Living with a group of people in close-quarters for an extended (and unknown) period of time has its challenges. Meals are usually left up to the individual with the exception of dinner when we try to cram into the Sierra trailer, which is the largest of our (not yet) roving entourage of RV’s. It’s normally occupied by Joe, who gets the big bed at the front and Geoff, who will soon be joined by Walter to share the bunk room at the back.

In the middle is a kitchen/living room area which seats four comfortably, but often sees 12 to 14 hungry people crammed into it. Dinnertime becomes a game of passing the salt and pepper-- around and over everyone, and then carefully circumnavigating your way to the sink to rinse and stack dishes and cutlery for those that have volunteered for clean-up duty.

The fridge in the Sierra is not large enough to hold all that is needed to feed the crew for more than a day or two so groceries are often spread out amongst all of our refrigerators. As a result, someone is always looking for something and it takes extra time to prepare meals as you have to forage for the necessary ingredients.

Laundry is another challenge we face daily. Most RV’s do not offer a great deal of storage space so it’s wise to not pack too much, yet when it’s cold outside, layers are the way to go, so it becomes a balancing act. Pack enough to stay warm and so that you’ll always have a change of clothes in case you get caught in the rain but not too much because you wont have space to store it.

We’re fortunate while still here at the Necedah Refuge in that we have a full size washer and dryer that we purchased in 2003. They are in the building referred to as “The Annex,” which also houses 3 offices for refuge staff so we must be considerate and only use them on evenings and weekends. If one plays their cards just right and gets their laundry in first, it will inevitably make its way into the dryer and will even be folded if you just happen to forget you were doing laundry in the first place – Nobody wants to be known as the person that took clothes out of the dryer to put theirs in, and didn’t fold them!

There are also two bathrooms in the Annex – complete with showers. Because of the number of folks using them, one has to strategically plan their visits. Thankfully, I’m an early riser so I’m often the first one in each morning.

This is the sixth migration for me and over the years I’ve learned some important ‘Camp-life Lessons’:
1. The propane bottle will always run out in the middle of the night
2. If there is even a glimmer of a possibility that you might be able to migrate on any given day – do NOT have that second cup of coffee
3. Heed your mothers advice and “go” before you get on the road
4. Carry tissues in your pocket in case you forget number 2 or 3
5. Pilots aren’t very good at navigating on the ground
6. Things DO go bump in the night
7. Field mice are cute but can find there way into any RV, no matter how much tinfoil you cram into the crevices: case in point when Chris was awakened a couple nights ago by one chewing on his hair
8. Joe will always lose at least one glove during a migration
9. Batteries never last as long as they’re supposed to – have spares
10. Meteorologists are liars

Date: October 29, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 14 - DOWN DAY #2 IN S. JUNEAU COUNTY Location: S. Juneau Co. WI
Apologies for the late posting, but connectivity, or at least sustaining connectivity, has been an issue this morning. As you will have surmised from the subject line, we will not be migrating today.

The rustle of leaves and the whipping sound of tree branches could be heard without stepping foot outside this morning. The temperature has heated up - 52F here but we have gusty ESE winds even on the ground, and aloft they are also blowing strongly - and the wrong way.

Brian, Geoff and Erin are on their way to the pensite to take advantage of being on the ground to de-worm the birds. Happily for the chicks, this means smelts.

Date: October 28, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Class of 2009
Subject:WE WANT PUMPKINS!!Location: S. Juneau Co. WI
We're sending a shout out to local Craniacs and Field Journal readers. We LOVE pumpkins - and sometimes our costumed handlers don't have any for us. Today they said they had no more left ...sob.

Do you have any pumpkins you might like to donate to us - or know of someone who would? If you do, we sure would be glad to hear from you. It would be great if you had some pumpkins and were willing to deliver them to us, but if you live not too far from Necedah or Mauston, we know if we WHOOPED loud enough, a couple of costumes would go and pick them up for us.

When we have pumpkins to play with and to eat we're not so bored being stuck here in the pen waiting until we can fly. The costumes call it 'enrichment', but we just call it 'having fun'. Please, can we have pumpkins...please please, please?

Here's where to email if you can help us out.

A whooping big thank you from the Class of 2009.

Date: October 28, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: All it takes is a little smooth airLocation: S. Juneau Co. WI
For the first time in recent memory we took off Tuesday morning into smooth air. We covered the five miles from the hangar to the first stop with mixed expectations, alternating between optimism and dread.

Because of standing water on the makeshift runway Brooke was only able to use half the field, so he circled once to allow the birds to catch up. On his first turn two of them broke and headed north with such determination there was no mistaking their destination. It was as if they had been waiting a week for the gate to open and you could not have drawn a straighter line back to the refuge.

I was a thousand feet up and staying out of the way so as to not disturb any of the birds Brooke was trying to gather. I followed the two returnees until I was sure I could drop down without drawing attention. I was descending from above and behind them and I watched a line of five trucks heading east along highway 21 as they headed north.

As if on cue, the trucks roared past just as the birds were about to cross over the highway. The spectacle was too much for them and they turned south again. Slightly shaken, and with their retreat cut off, they were happy to see the familiar aircraft and they formed on the wing.

Richard and Chris had joined Brooke but none of them were having much luck. From the radio chatter it sounded like birds were flying in all directions, and one of the strays spotted the two birds off my wing and it formed up as well.

We headed downwind to the east and made a wide arc around the rodeo that was taking place at the first Stopover Site. Once we were a few miles away, we turned on heading and began to climb. The wind was from the southwest so the farther east we travelled the more we had to fight our way upwind to get back on course.

We were flying through the air at 40 miles per hour, but because of the headwind we were covering ground at only 28. But the air was smooth and all three birds were simply gliding on the wake created by the wing so we started to climb. At 3,000 feet (by far the highest these birds have ever been) our ground speed was up to 32mph. The interstate is just north of our destination and we stayed high so the traffic wouldn’t scatter them. Then began the long slow descent. We circled several times keeping the birds on the wing and eventually landed after one hour and eight minutes.

Throughout all of this Brooke managed to coax several birds half way to the destination, but they kept turning back. The passing of a very low KC 135 jet from the local military base was the last straw, and all the birds headed home.

Richard had another seven birds and he kept them low where the headwind wasn’t as strong. When it was his turn to cross the interstate he found a stand of trees that obscured the traffic until the last moment. The bird exploded upward when they finally saw the rush of truck just beneath them, but by that time it was behind them and they soon settled down.

By mid morning we had ten birds in the pen at Stopover Site #2 and we headed back to look for 925 who had gone down in some trees a few miles from our starting point. After circling for 30 minutes it was finally spotted, and the ground crew were directed in to collect it.

After almost 3 hours we returned to the airport. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon crating the remaining ten birds to the new site. Part of the crew disassembled the pen and moved it to Stopover Site #3 in Sauk County.

By sunset everything was in place just in case today, Wednesday, would be another good day.

Date: October 28, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #13Location: S. Juneau Co. WI
  0 Miles Accumulated Distance:
23 Miles
With the exception of wrong way winds the components for a fly day were there. The winds on the ground were even cooperating, but aloft, it was another story.

As we all formed up the 'morning circle' in the parking lot, everyone's eyes kept turning upwards to check the tree tops. As dawn approached, the rustle of leaves became more pronounced and the movement of the tree branches increased. A final check of the aviation weather sites revealed our fate for today was sealed. We're earthbound.

The Down Day count restarted today.

Date: October 27, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:925 FOUND Location: S. Juneau Co. WI
  Juneau Co. to S. Juneau Co. WI - 18 Miles Accumulated Distance:
23 Miles
Not long ago Bev reported that 925 had been located and they were walking him to where they have left a crate to transport him in. At this juncture, we are unsure if he was going to be taken back to Stopover #1, or ahead to Stopover #2.

As of right now, the pilots and top cover are back here in camp, after stopping at the hangar to put together more of our special crates we use to box the birds. Three crates are already enroute to the pensite, and once boxed, three of the birds will make the trip to Stopover Site #2 by road.

Joe and Brooke have just pulled out with the balance of the crates and will box up the remaining birds at Stopover Site #1. After that is accomplished and the birds are gone, Richard and Chris, who, with Jack and Gerald pulled out right behind them, will go in and tear down the pen. The mobile pen trailer will then be hauled to Stopover Site #3 in Sauk County and set up there.

Tomorrow is another day - and appears to offer another chance to fly. Maybe tomorrow is the day the Class of 2009 will 'get its act together.'

Date: October 27, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:QUICK UPDATELocation: Juneau & S. Juneau Co. WI
  Juneau Co. to S. Juneau Co. WI - ? Miles Accumulated Distance:
? Miles
After some problems – wind or bird related I don’t yet know which, Joe managed to lead three birds to Stopover Site #2.

There was some debate over the aviation radio about returning to Stopover #1 as some of the other birds were getting tired (suspect there had been a rodeo), but the pilots turned back on course for one more try. The one more try worked as Richard was successful at leading seven more to the S. Juneau pensite, while Bev reported that nine were back in the pen at Stopover Site #1.

3 + 7 + 9 = 19, so the pilots and ground crew are doing a ‘beak count’ – checking their math and bands to see which, if any, bird is unaccounted for.

Wonderful live video via the CraneCam and TrikeCam this morning....hope you didn't miss seeing the first ever view of a migration flight arrival.

News just received from Bev: 925 is the unaccounted for bird and the search is on...both on then ground in the tracking van and from the air.

The birds that made the flight to South Juneau County Stopover Site #2 were: 901,  903, 905, 904, 908, 913, 918, 919, 926 and 929. That means still at Juneau County Stopover Site #1 are: 906, 907, 910, 911, 912, 914, 915, 924 and 927.

Date: October 27, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day 12 - FLYING!!Location: Juneau Co. WI
  Juneau Co. to S. Juneau Co. WI - ? Miles Accumulated Distance:
? Miles
As usual, I was first up in camp. It was just after 3:30am when I left my ‘motorhome away from home’ and headed for the refuge Annex, the nearby building that has two bathrooms that we use. On the trek there, I noted we had a starry sky, dead calm, and a nip in the air that was absent yesterday. All good signs for the chance of a flight Chris Gullikson predicted we would have today. After yet another dousing with rain yesterday afternoon, just the thought of a another possible fly day gave me my first smile of the day and put a little spring in my step.

Almost without fail, every morning before it becomes light, there is a deer that comes to feed on the acorns beneath the trees that skirt the parking spaces along the camp driveway. He lifts his head when he hears me, freezes in place, as do I, and we spend a few moments contemplating each other.

At first, he would immediately bound away. But after more than two weeks of our paths crossing, he’s decided I’m harmless. Using whatever radar he has that tells him I'm no threat, he now just gives me a quick glance, then lowers his head and goes back to his breakfast. I sometimes stand and watch him until he leaves; as gracefully and as soundlessly as he came. Beautiful.

The light in Heather’s camper is generally next to wink on, and coffee cups in hand, we meet under my porch light or her’s to quietly speculate on the day’s chances. If it’s looking good, we use mental telepathy to send messages to the rest of the crew. "Get up, get up, get up! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!" This morning was one of those.

Mental telepathy must work because lights came on and bodies started emerging from trailers and motorhomes. Before long, the bathroom parade was in full swing, and not long after that, people were suiting up while trucks were warming up.

Everyone quickly got mobile - moving into place for an attempted flight from our Juneau County Stopover site #1 to Stopover site #2 in South Juneau County.28F, 0 wind on the ground, and light up top. The clear pre-dawn sky had turned to overcast, and the product of the temp and the dew point being almost identical was, of course, fog.

Neither fog nor a low ceiling kept us ground bound this morning however. The cranes and planes are in the air!

Anxious to get going it seems, all the birds readily came out of the pen and took to the air behind today's lead pilot, Brooke with apparently little to no Crane rodeo needed. Try turning into the CraneCam now and watch their arrival (we hope shortly) at Stopover site #2.

Date:October 26, 2009 - Entry 2Reporter: Geoff Tarbox
Subject: The Plant Man Returns For MoreLocation: Juneau Co. WI

With the first migration stop, a new great lake with all the rain we’ve had, we were destined to have  some slow days. And what else is there to do on a slow day? Plants, of course! With my day free as bird, I zipped off into the refuge, from the West Site, to Boghaunter to round up some more of the usual suspects.

First and foremost, catching up since my last update, wooly milkweed season has been over for this plant man for close to a month now. I managed to whittle down the patch to a mere ten pods before Rich King asked me to step back and leave a few to propagate on their own. After all, sooner or later, you’ve got to let mother nature do her job. I honestly lost track how many pods I hauled in, but it’s safe to assume that I pulled in thirty or forty.

But one last thing I’d like to mention about wooly milkweeds actually comes from a question Kirk Garanflo asked me over a month ago. This volunteer at a remnant prairie site in Cook County Illinois shot me an e-mail almost a month ago asking me who exactly pollinates wooly milkweeds.

From what I've gathered, two of wooly milkweeds' most prolific and reliable pollinators are pair of bees. The first is the leafcutting bee (Megachile mendica), which are about the size of a regular honeybee, only they're a little darker than honey bees, have light bands along their abdomen, and are native to our neck of the woods. They're pretty mellow, and only sting if you're actually picking them up. And even then, it's pretty mild compared to hornets or yellow jackets. They make their homes by tunnelling through rotted wood and thick-stemmed plants like roses. I doubt they hang out in woolies, since based on the ones I've seen, they are way too small for honeybee-sized critters to hang out in. In some cases, the pods are every bit as tall as the plant itself is.

Living up to their name, they cut little snippets off of leaves, sort of like leaf cutter ants. But unlike their ant brothers/sisters, they don't use the leaves as food (or rather cultivating food). Instead, they carry them back to their tunnel/nests and use them to rig up some nesting cells. They're also solitary little fellas, which means it's the ladies who get saddled with digging the tunnels, making the nests, and raising the kids (usually 35-40 of 'em). Fun times.

The second is the plasterer bee (Colletes armatus), which are mostly black with whitish body hairs. Again, they only sting you if you're really ticking them off, or if you're standing over their nest. Plasterers like to hang out in crevices in the ground, or between stones and bricks. They get their name from the goop they produce to make their mud nests. I guess you could say they form "villages" since they like to hang out in aggregations/clusters, but each female build and maintains their own home/nest. They don't form a collective, cohesive hive or colony like honeybees or ants would.

They're actually only active for roughly a month, and never actually raise their kids themselves. All they do is the build their nest/cells, lay their eggs, stock up enough food for the kids to eat, seal the nest off, and that's it. See ya, nice knowing ya. Even though they're not threatened or endangered (as far as I know) these guys are having it kind of rough since their nests keep getting paved over or plowed under as we keep building on top of them.

Back on track, the Virginia meadow beauties (Rhexia virginica) have also been harvested out for the year. The little fellas actually ripened up a day or two after my last entry. So I was pleasantly surprised to see them ready to roll when I strolled by them one evening, just to check on them. I left Boghaunter Trail with over fifty bitty, little, vase-shaped seedpods each about the size of my pinky fingernail. That pretty much instantly filled Rich’s quota on meadow beauties. If there’s any pods I missed, Rich and I agreed that’d be best to let them stay wild.

That leaves us with our enigmatic white lettuce. First off, Bev and I managed hunt down not one, but four wily, elusive white lettuces by the West Site. Upon questioning Rich King, I found out that the white lettuce he wanted me to fetch was Prenanthes alba AKA, rattlesnakeroot, and lion’s-foot. Once again, it’s fancy Latin name, broken down bit by bit, means drooping (Pren) flower (anthes) and white (alba). The plant itself is roughly two to three feet tall, sports jagged, toothy leaves, bleeds white sap when bruised, and is crowned with dozens upon dozens of tiny, white, vaguely dandelion-like flowers (which isn’t surprising, since it’s related to dandelions). There’s actually no real shortage of anywhere in Wisconsin. Ol’ Rich had his share of the threatened endangered white lettuce species in stock, but ironically, none of rattlesnakeroot.

Either way, the lettuce-y plants I spotted along my strolls along Boghaunter Trail were indeed rattlesnakeroot. Between those, the elusive four along the West Site, and another one I found behind the dorms by chance, I had plenty to keep me busy. Before migration “started”, I had already filled up two Ziploc baggies worth of tiny little, dandelion-like seeds courtesy of West Site, Boghaunter, and the dorms.

But that all isn’t to say that I didn’t have new plants to keep me busy. One of which is yellow-eyed grass (Xyris sp.). With its fingernail-sized, yellow, three-petalled flowers and slender, grass-like growth form, you’d be forgiven if you overlooked it any tamarack swamp or marsh. Incidentally, its Latin name is actually derived from the Greek “xyron” meaning razor, a reference to its double-edged leaves.

I spotted a handful by chance growing next to some sundew in a ditch just past Site 4, which was exactly where Rich wanted me to investigate two weeks ago. Truth be told, pickings were kind of slim. Whether they’re that easy to miss, or there weren’t that many to begin with (which wouldn’t surprise me; I only saw one or two in bloom), I only came away with four seedheads. Oh well. Not every hunt can be as overwhelmingly successful as the woolies were, can they?

And last but certainly not least, my personal favorite, the closed gentian (Gentiana andrewsii), one of the prettiest plants anyone could hope to find in the fall season. With its myriad of striking deep blue, bud-like flowers that never actually open, it truly is a sight to behold. Sadly, even though it’s the most common gentian, it’s fairly rare.

If you haven’t seen one yet, be sure to keep an eye out for one in the late fall when you’re in a moderately damp, meadow, prairie, or open woods with full to partial sun. Just be sure to not pick it. Translated, its genus name, Gentiana, refers to an Illyrian king around 500 BC named Gentius, who used the roots of a yellow gentian to help fend off malaria in his troops. The species name, Andrewsii, refers to 19th century English botanical artist and engraver, Henry Charles Andrews.

Bev and Robert found a patch growing out in the Canfield site, pretty close to the runway, no less. There were even a handful growing along the path we frequently walked down to reach the pen. However, they can be finicky little plants that have always given Rich King trouble when he tries raising them. But it’s a challenge he seems to be up to since he gave me the go to fetch a few for him.

Around a week or two ago, I ventured out to Canfield site and filled up a Ziploc baggy’s worth of ripe, split open gentian pods, all filled with countless powder-like seeds. As with the meadow beauties, I was amazed to see that the gentians were ready to go this soon. But with frost and winter knocking at their door this time of year, and considering they’re actually one of the last plants of the year to bloom, I guess they don’t have the time to dilly dally around that spring or summer plants do. And there’s still more capsules out to plucked. But seeing as how tough they are to raise in captivity, and how well these guys were growing without us (or at least here they were), I figured it’d be best to leave several of the plants alone. At least until the lost art of raising gentians was recovered.

With all that brushing up done, I’m actually sad to say there wasn’t much going on much of anywhere. With November around the corner, and the first frost and snow already here, a lot of the plants ‘round these parts have already closed up shop. All the white lettuce by the dorms and West Site are fished out. Boghaunter proved to be a little more rewarding; I had a half baggy full of white lettuce seeds when I left. I didn’t bother checking out the yellow-eyed grass. If there really aren’t that many to go around, it might be best to let the ones I missed to fend for themselves. The important thing is, I didn’t come away empty-handed.

But that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my little sojourn. I always have a ball walking these trails, even this late in the season. And some time out of the trailer never killed anybody. The world is safe again. But…for how long??

Date: October 26, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #11Location: Juneau Co. WI
Under overcast skies, with a temp of43F and very light winds, a flight this morning turned from possibility to reality.

The ground crew left camp to get in position, and by 7:10am CST, the pilots were enroute to the hangar. With the soggy condition of the ground at Stopover Site #1, they were expecting to have to do an 'air pick up' today rather than a trike landing to collect the birds. But...

But...performing an air pick up never became an issue. We already knew a low ceiling was likely, but after waiting at the hangar for an hour or more, rather than lifting it descended with a thud. Reluctantly, the pilots were forced to call it a day and the entire team stood down.

At the moment, tomorrow appears to offer another opportunity to fly, and perhaps even Wednesday too.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
Volk Field Air National Guard Base is the home of Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, the 128th Air Control Squadron and the Wisconsin National Guard Museum. It consists of 2,336 acres adjacent to Interstate Highway 90/94, north of the Village of Camp Douglas and provides a year-round training environment for Air National Guard units to enhance their combat readiness.

The single runway is 150 feet wide and 9,000 feet long with 1,000 foot overruns. It can accommodate all military aircraft and has both precision and non-precision navigational approaches along with a tower and radar approach control. It is one of four such sites located in the United States.

Others are located at Alpena, Michigan, Gulfport, Mississippi, and Savannah, Georgia. Directly under the command of the Adjutant General of Wisconsin, each year more than 200 units from the Army and Air National Guard, Air Force, Air Force Reserves, the Marine Corps and Naval Reserves use Volk Field. Other users include federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, Civil Air Patrol and youth organizations.

Date: October 25, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:LESSER OF THE EVILSLocation: Juneau Co. WI

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership is based on the premise that no one is in charge. In truth, that is not as sarcastic as it might sound. It is, in fact, a commentary on the management style of a large group of diverse agencies each bringing a different talent to the table.

OM does not report to the Fish and Wildlife Service, and certainly they don’t answer to us. Instead, we strive for consensus when tough decisions are necessary. If we can’t reach a happy conclusion we at least try for consent. In other words we may not agree but we can live with the wishes of the majority.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has authority over all endangered species so they have the final say, and we work on a National Wildlife Refuge at the discretion of the manager. But OM is in charge of all the day to day bird activity, and those decisions are also made by consensus. Depending on the situation, that is either an excellent way to capitalize on the expertise of a well experienced team or, an attempt to share the blame. Lately those decisions are harder to make, and rather than selecting the best course of action we are picking the lesser of two evils.

The weather is the scapegoat for all the things wrong with our world. We blame it for wet feet, frayed nerves, leaky motorhomes, and shortcomings in our training schedule. These complaints are not unfounded. In the last month we have flown only a few times. The rain and the wind and the cold came after an extended period of perfect flying conditions, and coincided with the mixing of the last cohort.

Once the three groups of birds have learned to fly we bring them together to form one flock. They must then organize a new governing body within their ranks. They peck, push, and bully each other with more bluster than menace, like high school boys vying for top position in their peer group. It doesn’t take long for each bird to find its place and for order to be enforced under a new hierarchy.

It does however take decent weather and lots of practice flights before unity is restored in the air. And that’s the problem we faced this year. Just at a critical time, the skies opened, the temperature dropped, the winds picked up, and nothing flew for what seemed like weeks. Even the mornings when we could get airborne were not perfect.

Split Decisions -
Aircraft lift is produced by air passing over the wing. The faster you go the more lift is generated. That’s why fighter jets can maneuver perfectly well on stubby wings no bigger than a sheet of plywood. We work at the other end of the flight envelope. The slower we go the less lift the wing produces, and at some point, it stops being an airplane and becomes a rock. That transition is known as a stall, and we spend a lot of time on that ridge hanging on the few pounds of lift left in a wing not allowed to move fast enough to do its job.

You can change the wing on a trike in only a few minutes and we have two different wings in our arsenal. The original is big and forgiving with 19 square meters of lifting area and lots of wires and posts to hold it up. It is the favorite among the pilots because it holds on to every last ounce of lift before giving up into a stall so moderate we call it mush. The problem with these wings is the wires that can form an airborne catcher, and over the years they have caused the death of 3 birds and injured 2 others.

Thanks to the generosity of the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund we were able to buy strut based wings without the overhead superstructure. They are far safer for birds but not as forgiving. They are smaller with only 17 meters of lifting surface and when they decide to stop flying and begin falling, they do it abruptly without much warning. In the gusty winds that have been our best flying days lately, slowing to a stall at low altitudes becomes dangerous.

So the question is, do we fly the more forgiving wing and risk a bird injury or, fly the smaller one and risk everything. In fact if you visit our hangar you will see two aircraft fitted with the old wings and two with the new.

Tough Decision -
With the birds stuck in the pen and little or no opportunity to fly they become sedentary and more reluctant to leave. The poor conditions we have been forced to train in means we can’t slow the aircraft enough for them to find the wing. Soon they fall behind, and discouragement turns them back to the pen. With each weekly training session in gusty winds we teach a similar lesson. They fly a few circuits with the aircraft, break for home, and soon they are back in the comfort of the wet pen with lots of food.

So here is the question. Do we keep training at the familiar pen site and reinforcing that same bad lesson, or risk crating them to the first stopover? There is always the possibility of injury in the crate, and birds captured and packed into a box can soon become wary of people dressed in white. A couple of good flying days would help, but that wasn’t in the forecast, so this week we boxed 8 birds and moved them off the refuge. A disappointing start to a long journey.

Pending Decisions -
The next flight will be ~18 miles and I worry that we will have birds scattered all over the county. So here’s the next question. Do we pick a few of the birds we know will turn back and crate them to Stopover #2? That would prevent them from dropping out and encouraging the rest to give up the chase. We could at least take the ones that have a chance of making it. Even one good flight with the core group would teach the right lesson, allow us to begin rebuilding the flock, and do wonders for our spirits. But, we have to balance that advantage against the potential damage crating could do to the few that are already reluctant to follow the aircraft.

With limited options and no break in the forecast, there are no good decisions, just less bad ones.

Date: October 25, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day #10 - DOWN DAY #5Location: Juneau Co. WI
If you read the entry and looked the photos posted here yesterday afternoon (see below) you will have a better idea of what we've been experiencing here at Necedah.

Unfortunately the welcome respite from the rain we had mid to late day yesterday was all too brief. The rain started up again last evening, and while for the moment it has slowed to an off and on drizzle, the wet weather is still with us this morning. Needless to say, we're still grounded.

Regrettably, we can't even offer you views of the cranes via the CraneCam. The rain has turned the ground at the pensite at Stopover #1 into one big bog, making it impossible for us to haul the camera trailer in there.

Date: October 24, 2009 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:AFTERMATH OF THE RAINLocation: Juneau Co. WI
Bev and Brooke shot the photos below at our Juneau County Stopover site early this afternoon.

The travel pen was set up in a small dip in the landscape, and as you can see, what started out as a dry pen is now a wet pen - much to the delight of the Class of 2009. The record rainfall of the last few days has left much of the area either underwater or 'sink-in' soggy. It also required moving our camper to high ground before it became impossible to get it out.

Joe, Heather and Chris went to the site earlier to deploy the CraneCam only to discover that even the ground that is not underwater is so saturated that they can't get the camera trailer into position. As of this moment, whether we will be able to provide CraneCam views from this location appears to be iffy at best.

We've currently got some very welcome sunshine under brilliant blue skies along with a relatively stiff breeze. Hopefully this will help speed up the drying out process.

Accumulated rain water floods the grassy strip in front of the pen which serves as the runway for our trikes. At one point, Brooke reported the water level in the pen reached the top of his rubber boots. Chicks are happy.

Much of the runway is underwater - the balance is 'swampy'. Departure from here will likely require an 'air pick-up'.

OM's tracking van is pulled up behind the Arctic Fox, the camper that stays within proximity of the birds.

Date: October 24, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
In this report, *=Female, D=Direct Autumn Release.

As of October 17, WCEP trackers reported a maximum of 54 birds in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) were located within the core reintroduction area. 15 others were also in Wisconsin but outside the core area. Locations of the rest of the EMP were: 2 – Lower Michigan; 1 – Indiana; 2 – Minnesota; and 1 whose location was not determined.

Two Whooping cranes, 516 and D744* have not been located in 2009. D744* was last detected in Paulding County, OH on November 18 of last year. 516 was last confirmed in Marion County, FL in December 2008.

Population Composition and Distribution
All 12 of this past spring’s breeding pairs remain in the core reintroduction area. 105 and 501* have separated and 501* has since paired with 316.

Six sub-adult pairs also remain in the core area: 216 & 716*, 307 & 726*, D627 & D742*, 402 * D746 512 & 722*, and 709 & 717*. A seventh sub-adult pair, 707 & 739* were in Minnesota as of Oct. 13.

Unpaired adults / sub-adults in the core area (not including the Class of 2008 who are all in Wisconsin) were: 101, 412, 416, 506 (last observed Sept 1), 509, 514, 524, 713 (last detected Sept 17), 712, 107*, D528*, 733, D527* (last observed Sept 30) 703.

Outside the core area were: 727* (last reported in Indiana Oct. 3), D533 (Last reported in Michigan Aug. 18)

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
706 (last detected May 6)
511 (last recorded May 11)
D737 (last reported in Michigan June 14)
520* (last reported June 16)
D628 (last detected June 23)
724 (last detected June 26)

Report compiled from data supplied by WCEP Trackers Richard Urbanek, Eva Szyszkoski, Sara Zimorski, Jess Thompson, and K. J. Farrell.

Yesterday, the cool temp and WNW winds may have prompted many of the Sandhills here on the refuge to begin to make their move south. In the morning, score after score flew over headed in a south-easterly direction. Last evening it seems as if only a small percentage returned.

Brooke and Bev reported they had three adult Whooping cranes visit Stopover Site #1 yesterday afternoon. Two disappeared quite quickly, but Brooke watched as the the third, calling loudly, took to the air. He said even after he lost sight of the bird, he could hear his calls for almost ten minutes.

Date: October 24, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Migration Day #9 - Down Day #4Location: Juneau Co. WI
It's been four days since there were cranes and planes in the air. Today will be another day spent going nowhere. The rain finally let up and the threat of snow overnight never materialized. So, what's left? You guessed it - WIND. Very strong WNW winds have even the larger branches on the trees in motion.

The CraneCam remains out of commission. Thursday, the batteries went into the hangar for an overnight re-charging, but then some technical problems delayed its redeployment. Hopefully we will have them resolved and the CraneCam in place at Stopover Site #1 before too long.

migration trivia compliments of vi white and steve cohen
"Forward," is the state motto of Wisconsin since 1851. Would that the bogged down OM team could be a living example! Perhaps the folks who currently are pushing to change it to "Live it like you mean it" are onto something. While they're at it they should change the state bird from American Robin to Whooping Crane.

"On Wisconsin," the famous fight song of the University of Wisconsin, was regarded by John Philip Sousa as "the finest of college marching songs," The little known truth, is it was originally intended for another school. The tune was composed in 1909 by William T. Purdy, with the intention of entering it into a competition for a new fight song for the University of Minnesota.

Carl Beck, a former University of Wisconsin student, convinced Purdy to withdraw it from the contest at the last minute and allow his alma mater to use it instead. Beck then wrote new lyrics, changing the words "Minnesota, Minnesota" to "On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!" What we need is "On Migration! On, Migration!"

Date: October 23, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Erin Harris
Subject:BIRDS GONE - PEOPLE NOTLocation: Juneau Co. WI

After several failed attempts to join the two groups by air, it was decided to crate the eight remaining chicks housed at the West pensite and transport them to the first Stopover site in the van.

Before transporting the chicks to their new temporary home yesterday, we released them one last time at the West Site for some playtime and exercise. While Chris, Geoff, Richard and I were babysitting the West Site chicks, Bev and Brooke were allowing the other 12 chicks to exercise at the Stopover site.

When we arrived at the West Site we were happily greeted by 8 excited chicks. Once the doors were open, 6 graceful chicks ran out of the pen and immediately took to the air. After some joyful flying they landed at the end of the runway. Two reluctant chicks, 910 and 913, didn’t want to leave the wet pen, but with encouragement by Richard and some treats, they ran out and flew a few circuits ending up with their flock-mates at the end of the runway.

The ‘hang out’ spot today was a puddle at the end of the runway, which had many exciting ‘toys’. Even though we gave them cranberries and grapes, the favorite toy was simply clumps of grass. They were so excited to be free. Their favorite game was throwing clumps of grass into the air and jumping with their wings spread out, all the while never taking their eyes off of their new discovery. When recess was over, we got them all into the pen, limiting them to the dry pen area, in preparation for crating.

The four of us went back to camp to come up with a plan and to collect the crates. We decided that Brian, Richard, Geoff and I would crate the chicks and transport them to the first stopover. With Brian as the coach and Richard in the pen handing out the chicks, Geoff and I crated them one at a time. Geoff and I took turns as to who handled the chicks and who dealt with the crate door so that we would both be able to do this if required while on the road.

It took two trips to move all of the chicks to the first stopover. The first trip we only transported three chicks as there was a problem with one of the crates. Brooke was awaiting our arrival, and when we arrived, he went and prepared the pen for the new chicks. We unloaded the van on the runway, and after Richard drove the van away and we got the all clear from Brooke, Brian, Geoff and I walked the chicks to the pen, and got them in safely with treats. We then went back to camp to make more room in the van so we could move the rest of the chicks.

We returned to the West Site to crate the remaining five chicks. Once all five crates were safely in the van, Richard, Brian, Geoff and I again went back to the stopover site. This time, it was Bev awaiting our arrival. She walked ahead to prepare the pen, and when she gave us the signal, Brian, Geoff and I walked the last five chicks to the pen. Brian was positioned in the back of the pen, trying to keep the already resident chicks distracted. Geoff and I were standing at the gate, trying to make sure nobody got out, only in. I failed at this twice, as 914 snuck past me. Luckily, she only went foraging not too far from the pen, and was easily lured back in.

910 and 913 were the last to go in because they were playing with clumps of grass, and running around with them. You can’t help but smile when they get so excited, especially about grass. Richard and Bev were very patient, and eventually got them in the pen. Brian stayed behind to watch over the chicks, and to make sure they all settled in to their portable home.

With all of the Class of 2009 now at Stopover #1 the question becomes, “When will the OM Team be able to migrate off the refuge?”

Date: October 23, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #8Location: Juneau Co. WI
You might think that with all of our trailers and motorhomes parked within steps of each other, that communication between team members would be a simple matter. The reality is that at any one time we can have 16 people all going in different directions and all doing different jobs. Not surprisingly, this often leads to several left hands not knowing what the right hands are doing. In the absence of knowledge, assumptions are made.....and you know what they say about ‘assume’.

This is how today got to be Migration Day #8. Yes, that's right, it's Migration Day #8. But, no, you haven't missed anything. While I’ve been waiting for ‘a departure flyover’ and all of the birds to be at Stopover #1 to begin counting Migration Days, I discovered that Joe has been updating the Whooper Hotline daily counting October 16 as Migration Day #1. Sooo, that is how today, October 23rd, got to be Migration Day #8.

Yesterday afternoon, the last eight birds still on the refuge made an inauspicious departure when they were crated and moved to Stopover Site #1. Hopefully, the strange location will encourage their attentiveness and loyalty to the aircraft on the next leg of the migration – a flight of <20 miles.

There will be no further movement of any sort today however. The temperature hovers in the high 30's; winds are out of the NE blowing 10 - 20mph; and, the rain continues to fall - alternating between spitting, drizzling, and beating down.

And speaking of down, so is the CraneCam. The batteries went for an overnight re-charging but it will be re-deployed at Stopover Site #1 later today. An entry by Intern Erin Harris describing yesterday's activity will be be posted here, also later today.

Date: October 22, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DIFFERENT DAY - SAME STORYLocation: Necedah, WI

Maybe weathermen have a quirky sense of humor. This morning's forecast called for a 40% chance of rain - despite the fact that it hasn't stopped raining since early last evening.

Large or small, every indentation in the ground is brimming with water. The puddles are everywhere - and they are likely to grow larger as the prediction for tomorrow is a 100% chance of rain.

The rain has us grounded of course, but wouldn't you know it...we've got favorable winds. They've swung around to come out of the NNW. What we wouldn't give for a confluence of good weather and winds!!

Date: October 22, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:710 - AKA KERNELLocation: Necedah, WI
Thought you might be interested in an update on 710. He was the Whooping crane that was removed from the Eastern Migratory Population in early June due to his lack of human avoidance and his continual ‘leading other birds astray’. A home for 710 was found at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FL.

I recently heard from Rachel Nelson, Director of Public Relations at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, and she also kindly send along the two photos we share here with you.

“We call him Kernel,” Rachel said. “He now lives with Whoopie, an adult female Whooping crane, in a large natural exhibit shared with four endangered Key deer. Zoo animal care staff report that Kernel did exceptionally well with gradual introductions to the exhibit and other animals, and has successfully transitioned to a crane diet (previous preference for corn). Kernel and Whoopie responded well to one another and have been observed wading in shallow water side by side, digging and foraging, and displaying the crane mating dance.”

710 (Kernel) on exhibit at the Lawry Park Zoo. Whoopie and Kernel make a handsome pair.

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is recognized by the State of Florida as a primary center for Florida wildlife conservation and biodiversity. In addition to housing a pair of these endangered birds in the Lykes Florida Wildlife Center at the Zoo, the Zoo partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to provide veterinary and staff support to both the non-migratory and migratory endangered Whooping crane population in Florida.

Date: October 21, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Bev Paulan
Subject: Babysitting the Birds Location: Necedah, WI
I awoke Sunday night around 2 am. As I lay in my bed listening to the deep breathing of my camper mate, I felt the rig rocking with the buffeting winds. The sounds of coyote yapping and howling came to my ears through the cracked window. My thoughts immediately went to the pen, a mere 100 yards from the camper, separated only by a small woodlot.

I listened to the music of the night, trying to judge distance, determining if I should get up and walk out to check the 11 chicks tucked into their pen here at Stopover Site 1. Deciding the coyotes were far enough away, and knowing I had double checked the electric fence at the pen, I drifted back to sleep gently rocked by the stiff breeze.

When I woke at a more civilized hour of 6:30, I felt and heard the same wind, reinforcing the guess from the night before of another day of no flying. Brooke offered to go do the morning check of the birds and I gladly took him up on this.

Being out here where the birds are really is not a hardship. Even though we have no electricity or bathrooms with showers, we make up for that lack in quiet and proximity to our flock. It is always dark, no street lamps robbing us of the starry skies. And we can always hear the owls, coyotes, crickets and wind.

At every remote site on migration, Brooke and I camp as close to the pen as possible to ensure the safety of the chicks. We have been out in the middle of the night in thunderstorms, repairing wind damaged pens at midnight and using the night scope to spy on too close coyotes.

This ability to be at the pen in mere moments gives the entire team peace of mind. We can intervene in case a wayward hunter wanders too close to the birds, act as Whooping Crane ambassador to curious neighbors, and as all-around repair team and aviculturists as needed.

Even at our second migration stop, we are the only two on site with the birds. We are so close to Necedah, that it is easier for everyone to stay camped on the refuge and to keep the trikes safely in the hangar, than to pack up and move the entire flying circus. Others on the team are good about spelling us when we need to get a shower or do laundry, so it is not total solitary confinement. We do miss a lot of group meals and both of us are rarely at the same event together, but I am not complaining.

It is all worth it when I walk out to the pen after having just exited the camper and I hear the excited peeps of my charges. I can watch unseen from a spot in the woods and see what they are up to. I can wander out to give treats, pumpkins or corn, whenever I get the urge, instead of having to drive over to the pensite.

It is truly a privilege to be here babysitting the birds during migration. It is also an honor bestowed upon us by the team, indicating their deepest trust in our abilities to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety and security of these wonderful creatures.

Date: October 21, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:ONE WORD TELLS THE TALELocation: Necedah, WI

Today's story can be told in just one word - rain. The inclement weather moved in last evening, persisted through the night, and as it continues, negates any opportunity to fly this morning.

Heather and I are debating whether this is, "Operation Stagnation" or, "Operation Frustration". Seeing this is the 12th morning past our target departure date, I guess both descriptors work.

Migration Trivia compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
Necedah, population ~888, is a friendly village nestled among majestic rock formations, natural bluffs and pine trees. It is located near Petenwell Lake, Castle Rock Lake, and the Wisconsin and Yellow Rivers. The Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and Buckhorn State Park are close by, and many bike trails are minutes away.

The Necedah National Wildlife Refuge offers a 'back to nature' experience, and is of course, the site of summer flight training for the young-of-the-year Whooping Cranes that are led south by Operation Migration's ultralight aircraft each fall. Necedah is also home to the Necedah Lions’ Club Whooping Crane Festival”. It is held annually on the third Saturday in September and attracts Craniacs from across the country.

Date: October 20, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:AM I ALLOWED TO SAY, "D--N"?Location: Necedah, WI
Although east winds opened a potential window for us this morning, we thought a flight today might be a challenge – and it proved to be that and more.

The pilots deployed for an attempt to lead the nine chicks remaining at the West pensite to our Stopover Site #2, as well as to pick up the 11 birds from Stopover Site #1 and lead them there as also.

Everyone was off and running - Heather and Erin to release the birds at the West pensite; Bev and Geoff to Stopover site #1 for the release there, while Brian Clauss went to get in position in the tracking van. Jack Wrighter, Gerald Murphy, and John Cooper were each in a vehicle at the East, North and Canfield pensites to play swamp monsters, in person or with vehicle horns, in case birds decided to land out there.

When Heather and Erin released the birds, Joe, today’s lead pilot, got eight of the nine into the air. One bird, 911, hung back and wouldn’t come out of the wet pen. (Poor Erin got a freezing cold soaking trying to coax him out of the wetpen.) Despite Joe circling and circling to try and get the birds to form up on his wing, they wouldn’t cooperate, and it was another Crane Rodeo.

While Joe flew off with one bird on the wing, Richard swooped in to help with the round-up. And Brooke, who had been on his way to Stopover Site #1, turned back to also lend a hand.

Eventually they got seven birds back on the ground at the West pensite, which, including 911 who never got out of the pen, made eight. Joe managed to make it to Stopover site #1 with his one bird, 907.

So the scorecard now reads: 12 at Stopover Site #1 and 8 still on the refuge. I guess that's progress - but d--n, will we ever get going?!?

Date: October 19, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject: CraneCam & TrikeCam Truly GlobalLocation: Necedah, WI

Advances in technology have made it possible for us to give you, our supporters, never-before-seen firsthand glimpses into our work. Whether flight-conditioning in the summer months or simply watching the young Whooping cranes socializing in their enclosure at the Necedah NWR, the OM CraneCam, made possible through the generosity of Duke Energy, is gaining new viewers each day.

Deploying a wildlife camera is challenging and when you add the remoteness of the Necedah Refuge into the fray, it multiplies the challenges. There are no electrical outlets anywhere near the training sites, so batteries must be used – 6 large industrial batteries, in fact. They must be charged every 2nd day to keep the camera and the onboard computer and video server working. To do this we acquired a very quiet generator, which consumes about a gallon of gas for each re-charge. Because the camera is set-up as close as possible to the cranes, the generator must be connected to the camera-trailer by a 250-foot extension cord to ensure they don’t hear it when it’s running.

LIVE images are captured by 1 of 2 cameras, each mounted inside plastic domes, which are situated atop a large mast that can be raised 30 feet skyward. The footage then travels down the 30 ft. mast; joins with an audio feed; goes through an onboard video server in analog format and then travels to what is called an ADVC unit, which spits it out in digital format.
Once digitized the combined video/audio signal travels back up the mast to a yagi antenna mounted just above the camera domes before being sent by radio frequency to another yagi antenna, which is mounted atop a 40 foot tall recycled TV tower.

This tower and the receiving yagi are fastened to the tallest tree we could find, near the closest location we could get a DSL line installed, which just happens to be 4.5 miles away from the Canfield training site, and separated by hundreds, if not thousands of very tall trees--all this just to get the feed ready to go somewhere!

Once it reaches this point, the data travels through an Ethernet cable that winds through roughly 500 ft of trees and then underground a short distance, before eventually arriving at a router, which sends it to Holland – a distance of roughly 4100 miles. But the journey of the CraneCam feed isn’t over yet. In fact it still has to travel another 5700 or so miles from Holland to just northeast of Johannesburg, South Africa before you; the viewer gets to see it.

And we can’t forget that the camera doesn’t move on its own! We’ve been incredibly fortunate to recruit some amazing volunteers to assist with ‘camera-driving’ duties. When I’m not in migration-mode, most mornings, I remotely control the pan/tilt/zoom from either my home, or my desk at OM headquarters in Ontario, Canada. Add this responsibility to the myriad other duties and well, there are not enough hours in the day, so we recruited 7 individuals to help out, in this, our first year with the camera.

They too can log in remotely from their homes, and they do so quite readily to give viewers an enhanced viewing experience. Colleen Reidy-Chase, Sue Walsh and David Howell are in Florida, Mary Dooley; Indiana, Dave Kitzman; Minnesota during the summer and Florida in winter, and lastly, but certainly not least, we have sisters Darlene Lambert and Cindy Loken, both from Wisconsin.

These are the volunteers who together give MANY hours each week to driving the camera AND to responding, very knowledgeably I might add, to the many questions posed to them during the live chats. We have hundreds of NEW Craniacs watching now—and we expect this number will only increase.

Understandably there are many questions being asked and our CraneCam volunteers respond to each and every question, to the best of their ability, while simultaneously operating the Pan/Tilt/Zoom so that there is always something of interest to see. We cannot possibly thank them enough for the enthusiastic dedication they have each provided since the end of July when we went LIVE with the CraneCam.

We must also pay homage to the folks at Zaplive in Holland, and (WE) in South Africa. When I first made contact with the fellas at WE back in April, our task seemed incredibly daunting, but Graham’s encouragement and can-do attitude is infectious and Peter’s technical skills with streaming video are second to none. If you haven’t yet visited them online, please be sure to stop in to watch their wildlife cam located on the Djuma Game Preserve in South Africa – When you’re NOT watching the CraneCam or the new TrikeCam, of course.

And now, weather willing, migration is upon us (or so we hope); with it, comes an entirely new set of challenges where the CraneCam and TrikeCam are concerned. We will not have benefit of a DSL connection at our remote stopover locations along the route. We will therefore have to rely on Plan A: cellular technology; however, given the remoteness of our stopover locations, we may not be able to count on decent connections at every location.

Plan B: involves shooting video clips at those locations where no reliable signal exists and then, once I get to within decent cellular signal, I’ll upload these directly to our YouTube Channel, which can be found at:  Once you subscribe to our YouTube Channel, you’ll be notified each time a new clip is posted.

We’d also like to invite you to keep up with us via Facebook and Twitter; where postings and tweets will be made during each migration day. You can join our Facebook Group here and/or follow us on Twitter @OperMigration.

Who knows, we may even need to resort to developing a Plan C, D or even E but until then, we ask for your patience and understanding. Rest assured we’ll do our best.

Date: October 19, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:THE TEMP TOLD THE TALELocation: Necedah, WI
What a change. When I ventured outside this morning there was no doubt that the south winds had arrived. At 4am, it was already 23 degrees warmer that at the same time the day before.

With 6mph winds on the ground and the SSW winds aloft blowing from 10 - 20 mph, camp was a picture of inactivity. No flying today for the Class of 2009.

(Apologies for the very late posting today. We exceeded our allowed bandwith on the satellite yesterday so connectivity was a problem this morning. In fact, in order to accomplish what we need to get done today, Heather and I are currently working from a restaurant in town so we can use their WiFi.)

Date: October 18, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NOT DOABLELocation: Necedah, WI

Again we were hoping this would be 'the' day. Our weather guru, Chris Gullikson, determined that although the winds this morning had a southerly component, they were primarily out of the west, and that we might have a chance of a flight.

Once the pilots and ground crew cleared camp, David, Linda and I once again headed for the DU Observation Platform to join the Craniacs waiting there in anticipation of a flyover. We were barely in place when the aviation radio came alive with a chorus of pilots' voices.

"It's pretty trashy," said Chris. "It's rough up higher too," said Richard. "I don't think we can do this," said Brooke. "This just isn't doable," said Joe, "let's call it and stand down."

And so, before it got started, this morning's attempted flight to move the last nine chicks from the refuge to Stopover #1 ended. If we're lucky enough to have another window of opportunity late this afternoon, it's possible the pilots will try again today. If not.... well, tomorrow's another day.

The CraneCam will be going off air shortly. We are pulling it out of the field to take it to the first Stopover site to test what kind of a signal we can pick up there. After that, it will be returned to the refuge and broadcasting will resume.

Date: October 17, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FOUR MORE AT STOPOVER #1Location: Necedah, WI

Joe, Richard, and Chris took to the air again shortly after 4pm to try and take advantage of the late afternoon calm. Erin and Geoff manned the pen doors for the release. Four of the 13 chicks that remained on the refuge, (those at the East site) are in the air (following Richard) and are enroute to Stopover site #1 where Brian Clauss is waiting to call the birds down.

CraneCam viewers were treated to quite an extended view of the departure as the trike circled around giving the chicks time to 'latch onto the wing'.

Now we have 11 birds at Stopover #1 and 9 still at the refuge. It may not be the fastest way to do a migration leg, but it is progress - - and we'll take it!

Date: October 17,2009 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:ANOTHER, GO - NO GOLocation: Necedah, WI
The 0 to light winds on ground this morning shortly after 4am began to pick up as sunrise approached. Aloft, they were a little stronger than we had hoped for, but the pilots thought a flight might be doable. With this in mind, camp emptied out as everyone headed out for their respective positions.

David and Linda Boyd and I once again joined the crowd gathered at the DU Observation Platform in the hope of witnessing the departure flyover - but it was not to be. Over the aviation radio I could hear the pilots enroute to the pensite discussing the conditions. Within moments they called it - we would stand down. They turned back toward the hangar, but altered course enough to do a fly-by of the Observation Platform for the loyal, but disappointed Craniacs.

Had we been able to lead the 13 young Whoopers who are still on the refuge to our first Stopover site this morning, we would have been on our way and could have officially called today, "Migration Day 1". Oh well, there's always tomorrow...or the next day....or the next - it was the tortoise not the hare that won the race, remember.

Date: October 16, 2009 - Entry 4 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:THERE'S ALWAYS AN 'IF'Location: Necedah, WI
When the wind died down to almost a dead calm late this afternoon, Richard and Chris flew over to the Canfield site to try and get 905 and 925 to follow. And follow they did. So well in fact that instead of leading them over to the East site to join their flock-mates there, they were able to lead them to our first stopover site. There, they were put in our travel pen with the five birds who had successfully made the flight in the morning. That makes the score: 7 on migration and 13 yet to leave the refuge.

If the forecast for tomorrow holds - 34F, light winds out of the NNW, and partly cloudy skies – it will be great for flying. If we manage to get the last 13 young cranes in the air and to the first Stopover site, we can officially call Saturday, October 17th, “Migration Day #1”.

Date: October 16 - Entry 3 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:THE REST OF THE STORYLocation: Necedah, WI
This will be a poor substitute for an exciting lead pilot report, but I'm afraid for today you will have to make do with me as other pressing duties are keeping Joe away from his computer this afternoon.

By the time the cranes settled this morning, we had all 20 birds safely tucked in a pen - but in four different locations.

Back at the East site, from whence this willful bunch of 20 recalcitrants began this morning, are: 912, 918, 927, and 929. In the pen at the West site are: 901, 907, 910, 904, 913, 914, 919, 911, and 903. Keeping each other company at the Canfield site are 905 and 925.

Thanks to 906, 908, 915, 924, and 926 - and their fearless leaders, pilots Brooke and Richard, we can say the 2009 migration has officially begun - sort of. Brooke managed to lead three birds and Richard two, over to the our first Juneau County stopover site. Bev and Brooke have already moved to that location where they will remain camped until our next move.

And speaking of our next move - later this afternoon, wind conditions permitting, Chris and Richard hope to be able to lead 905 and 925 from the Canfield site, back to the East site. This would mean we would have six at that site and nine at the West site.

IF the forecast conditions for tomorrow morning remain unchanged, the prevailing thought of the day is to launch and lead the birds from their locations to Stopover site #1, one group at a time. Now, that's our plan, but of course the birds seem to always manage to have the last word.

Departure Flyover Viewing Location for those wanting a glimpse of the cranes and planes in person:
The Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is located on the north side of Highway 21 and west of Highway 80. Approaching from the west off Interstate 94 at Tomah, WI, travel ~15 miles east on Highway 21; from the east, travel ~5 miles along Highway 21 from Necedah, WI. Turn north onto Headquarters Road and continue about half a mile to the Ducks Unlimited Observation Platform.

Sunrise will be around 7:17amCST tomorrow, so you will want to be in place no later than that time. Hope to see you there!

Date: October 16, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:2009 MIGRATION IS UNDERWAY - of a sort Location: Necedah, WI
Six days after our October 10th target departure date, the Class of 2009 finally got off on the first leg of their first migration. Sort of....

Camp came alive early. At 4am the temp was 26F and the sky was clear and filled with stars. There wasn't a leaf stirring on the trees - all signs of a potential fly day. By 6:30, vehicles were being warmed up, and the entire team was in motion.

Just after sunrise this morning (7:17am) all four pilots left OM’s hangar for the short flight to the East pensite. While Chris, Brooke, and Richard circled above, Joe, today's lead pilot, landed and signaled the ground crew to open the pen doors. Bev subsequently reported that six were reluctant to come out of the pen, but eventually they got airborne.

And that's when the Crane Rodeo started.

The details of this morning's action will come later today in a Field Journal entry from lead pilot Joe, but in the meantime we can tell you that Brooke eventually did manage to get away with three birds. We watched from the DU observation platform as he disappeared from sight leading the three toward our travel pen set up at stopover #1.

As of the moment, (8:50am CST) the word is, that the rest of the Class of 2009 are on the ground; some at the East site, some at the West site, and some at Canfield. The team is re-grouping to check and ensure that all are accounted for and also which birds are where.

Date: October 16, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NUMBER 928Location: Necedah, WI

It is with much sadness that this entry is written. Yesterday morning the very difficult decision was made to pull this little guy from the cohort due to persistent respiratory issues.

From the beginning of his short life, number 928 developed breathing trouble. Several rounds of medications were administered but he simply did not respond. The team had hoped things would clear up but recently it became apparent this was not to be and while he did train with the group, he simply could not fly any further than the length of the runway. Once he landed he would peep very loudly and convince his flockmates to return and join him on the runway.

There was simply too much scarring in his lungs, making it very difficult for him to breath. Several options were discussed but ultimately the decision was made to euthanize him yesterday.

Without a full (and invasive) work-up, the health team was reluctant to ship him anywhere for fear of contaminating others and presently there are no available spaces at any of the zoos for an educational display Whooper. And even if there were an opening, it would have to be a location in the north with very little humidity as he struggled for breath in such conditions.

Other contributing factors are that he was low on the genetic totem pole and, unfortunately, a male, which we currently have a surplus of in the population. A DAR release was considered, however, given his condition it was rather doubtful that he'd be able to follow other cranes for the distance needed during migration and his fate would be sealed when left behind by other, stronger birds as he would very likely freeze to death.

The health team felt this was the most humane approach... The entire team is sad about this outcome but we have 20 others in the Class of 2009 that are counting on us – whether they realize it or not. Onward and upward.

Date: October 15, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:GOING NOWHERELocation: Necedah, WI
We woke to a third morning of rain and wind, and as the weatherman said, "If you don't like today's weather, wait a while, it's going to get worse." Dropping temps and freezing rain could be in the offing. Ugh.

Obviously, the OM team and the Class of 2009 will once again be going nowhere. The upside, (if there is one) is that everyone is finding time to do a myriad of little odd jobs. Chris is mounting a replacement loudhailer on a trike; Joe is repairing locks on our merchandise storage bins; Richard is replacing a door in one of the motorhomes; and on and on.

The 'wait' is also giving crew members time to bring some organization to the chaos that playing 'musical motorhomes' wrought when almost everyone had to shuffle their belongings from their 'summer home/vehicle' into their designated 'migration home/vehicle'.

Getting jobs done and getting organized is great. But as the bumper sticker on at least one vehicle in the parking lot here says...."I'd rather be flying."

Date: October 15, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WOW - Disney really Gives a WHOOP!Location: Necedah, WI
We had a huge and happy surprise when we picked up our mail last Friday. In it was a letter from Jackie Ogden, Vice President of Disney’s Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives. Jackie’s letter read:

     “With great pleasure I am enclosing a check from Disney’s Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives in the amount of $10,000, in recognition of your upcoming 10,000 mile celebration!
     Our team highly values our partnership with Operation Migration and has great respect for all you have accomplished. We wish you continued success with this year’s young cranes and look forward to their arrival in Florida!

With warmest regards,
   Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives
   Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S."

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, and the organizations' wonderful cast members, have been there for Operation Migration and Whooping cranes every year since the start of the Whooping crane reintroduction program.

Much of what OM has accomplished has only been possible because of Disney’s ongoing commitment to this project - for which we are immensely grateful. And make no mistake, Disney's support goes well beyond the financial as they enthusiastically contribute human resources, expertise, and hands-on help to various aspects of the project. 

In the photo are four Disney cast members with whom OM has been privileged to work.

Left to right - Scott Tidmus, Zoological Manager, Disney's Animal Kingdom; Alex McMichael, Manager, Special Events and Media, Disney’s animal Kingdom; Jay Therien, Zoological Manager, Disney's Animal Kingdom; and, Scott Terrell, DVM, Veterinary Pathologist and Operations Manager for Walt Disney World Animal Programs.

To Jackie Ogden, Dr. Beth Stevens, and to all the other many good friends we have made in the Disney organization over the years, we deeply appreciate your generosity, and we look forward to both working with you and seeing you again in the not to distant future.

Date: October 14, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WEATHER ALL TOO OBVIOUSLocation: Necedah, WI
No need to visit the weather forecasting websites, or even look out the window of our trailers and motorhomes this morning. The sound of rain beating a tattoo on the roof told the tale, and that and high winds sealed our fate for today.

The system that was to the west of us has finally arrived, and if it hangs around as long as currently predicted, we could have light to heavy precipitation straight through until Saturday.

While we won't be in the air today, you can still watch the Class of 2009 via our CraneCam - which has been moved from the Canfield site to the East pensite. Click this link to view.

Date: October 14, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TrikeCam OPERATIONALLocation: Necedah, WI
The first ever webcam mounted on an ultralight aircraft is now operational.

On flydays, OM’s TrikeCam will provide online viewers with never-before-seen live video of Whooping Cranes in flight as they follow our ultralights from migration launch site in Wisconsin to the southern terminus in Florida.

OM’s TrikeCam follows in the footsteps of our Duke Energy sponsored CraneCam. The CraneCam began streaming live online video in late July. Since that time, tens of thousands have tuned in to watch the OM ground crew and pilots train with the Class of 2009.

Once the 2009 Migration gets underway, online viewers will be able to watch each morning’s departure as we make our way south. [However, keep in mind that connectivity - or lack thereof - at our remote stopover locations will dictate our ability to provide a live video feed.] The CraneCam will also deliver views of the Class of 2009 in their travel pen at the conclusion of each migration flight leg.

On completion of the migration, the CraneCam will be set up at Florida’s St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge to provide an unprecedented opportunity to watch the young Whooping cranes as they mature over the winter. The CraneCam will offer viewers a ringside seat to witness their “soft release” into the wild.

You can link to the TrikeCam via our CraneCam webpage.

Date: October 13, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:GO - - OOPS, NO GOLocation: Necedah, WI
32F (26F with the windchill), + partly cloudly skies, + 6mph winds out of the NNW, = a flyable day - at least that's what we thought. The ground crew was all in place, but once again after the pilots launched from the hangar and got over the refuge, they found the air too trashy to fly with the birds.

The entire crew has stood down. Now all that remains is to get ready to do it all another day. Hopefully SOON.

Date: October 13, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TWO 'SNOWY' CAMPAIGN UPDATES Location: Necedah, WI
While Wisconsin may have seen snow in October before, this is the first year we've experienced it before leaving on migration. This photo was taken yesterday by Craniac and CraneCam Driver Darlene Lambert. Darlene lives in Nekoosa, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Necedah refuge.

MileMaker Update: So far, 556 (43%) of 1,285 miles have been sponsored. With Denice Steinmann's 100 mile Challenge Match, (she will match up to 100 miles of MileMaker sponsorships) now is the perfect time to become a MileMaker. Click here to go to the MileMaker page, or call the office toll free 1-800-675-2618.

Give a WHOOP! Update: Like MileMaker, we've a long way to go to reach our goal - 7,900 WHOOPS to go in fact. Our hope is to collect 10,000 Whoops – one for each of the 10,000 migration miles we’ve flown with endangered Whooping cranes following our ultralights.

It won't be long before we are on our way with the Class of 2009 and ticking off the air miles. The landmark 10,000th mile - the equivalent of flying almost halfway around the world! - will be flown somewhere over Illinois.

For just $10 you can Give a WHOOP! and show that YOU care about the future of this magnificent species.

Date: October 12, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MOVEMENT - of a sortLocation: Necedah, WI
We took our resident meteorologist, Chris Gullikson at his word when he told us it appeared we just might have a small window of opportunity to fly this morning before the band of weather carrying snow moved in.

With this in mind, camp emptied out as pilots and ground crew left to take up their respective positions for the morning's hoped for activity. The plan was to lead the chicks still at the Canfield site, over to the East site travel pen to join the rest of their classmates.

The ground crew was barely in place before they heard the pilots on the radio talking about turning back to the hangar. That small window had disappeared. There was so much turbulence, the pilots knew that the young birds would never be able to manage to stay on the wing.

This afternoon, after much discussion in a team meeting, it was decided to crate the birds and transport them to the East pensite. At least they would be all in one place and ready for a departure when ever we do get a flyable day. 10 of the 11 birds at Canfield made the 'road trip' to join their classmates. 928 was also crated, but he was taken to the West pensite for some 'abandonment conditioning'. He will be tended to there by costumed handlers, and will also be given opportunities to flight train, but on his own. Hopefully this will help us to discern if his problem is behavioral or related to his respiratory issue.

Will tomorrow will be 'THE' day? The forecast is currently calling for 25F, partly cloudy skies, and light winds out of the north-northwest. If it is 'THE' day, with sunrise is at 7:12 tomorrow morning, it is possible that the the planes and cranes could be in the air shortly thereafter.

The Departure Flyover viewing location is at the DU Observation Platform just a short way down Headquarters Road (off Highway 21) on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

Date:October 12, 2009Reporter: Liz Condie
Operation Migration is delighted to announce the launch of a new, entertaining and educational book for school children. A labor of love that has been more than two years in the making, we were thrilled when sufficient sponsorships were secured to allow it to become a reality.

Thanks to the generosity of The Amos Butler Audubon Society, (Indiana) The Hagen Family Foundation, (Florida) and OM supporter Denice Steinmann (Illinois), the Whooping Crane Activity Book is going to press and will be available for distribution by November 1st. Special thanks go to author/illustrator, Vickie Henderson, and to Nan Rudd of Rudd Designs for graphics and layout.

Artfully designed to stretch imaginations about the science and story behind saving Whooping cranes from extinction, the Activity Book was produced with the hope of getting young people interested not just in Whooping cranes, but also in wildlife conservation. Why? Because Operation Migration believes young people are our most important audience: It is with the next generation that lies the hope for all the earth’s creatures – including humankind.

Teachers and educators are invited to order complimentary copies of OM's Whooping Crane Activity Book for their students. In order to accommodate as many classes/schools as possible, there is a limit of 30 booklets per order and a maximum of 300 per school. (A shipping/handling fee of $10 to be paid at time order is placed.)

Teachers/educators - click here to place your order. Or, call toll free 1-800-675-2618. You will need to provide the following information to order:
- Teacher/Educator’s name and email address

- Name of school and street and shipping address

- Contact telephone number

- Grade level and number of students in class

While we will have a reasonably large quantity available, orders will be filled on a first come, first served basis. Order early to ensure complimentary copies for your students. Shipping will begin November 1st.

Also beginning November 1st, individuals may purchase a copy of the Whooping Crane Activity Book via OM’s merchandise page at a cost of $3.00 each (not including shipping).

Date:October 11, 2009 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FOUND!! Location: Necedah, WI
With Bev, Chris, Brian, Brooke, and Geoff on the ground, and Richard back in the air, finally, late this afternoon - success.

Once in the area, Richard picked up 910's signal almost immediately and quickly zoned in to his location. The bird was in a clearing in the center of a wooded area to the north and west of the Canfield site. Although Richard tried to coax him into the air, the bird wouldn't follow, so the crew moved in with a crate to box him up and transport him to the pen.

Assuming 910 is now in the Canfield pen, that brings the total of birds there to 12. (The other 9 birds in the Class of 2009 are already at the East pensite.)

Whew! That's enough excitement for one day. Wonder what our next flyday will bring?

Date: October 11, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: And now for the rest of the story…Location: Necedah, WI

As Brooke directed Bev and Erin from the air, they tromped and tripped their way through the bush and undergrowth to where 914 had decided to secret herself after being chased off by that area’s resident pair of adult Whoopers. She had a bit of blood showing through her feathers where she had been struck mid-back, but she checked out fine.

She was initially frightened when the costumes approached, but time and patience and some reassurance from the vocalizers did the trick. As they walked her back out, helping to direct her through the thick brush, Brooke arrived on the scene. Erin stayed with 914 while Bev and Brooke readied a crate, and it wasn’t long before she was loaded onto the back of the truck for the drive to the East site. Once there she was uncrated and off she went into the pen to join her flockmates.

While all this was going on, 903 and 919, which Joe had landed out with at the North site, were being crated up by Geoff, Brian, and Chris. These two birds made the rest of the trip over to the East site in the back of the Tracking Van. With the arrival (by land) of 903, 919, and 914, the East pen now held nine of the Class of 2009.

Meanwhile, back at Canfield, there were nine birds that were back in the pen there. 926 was on the runway, and when Erin arrived to help put her away, she discovered 918 – one of the wayward birds – had flown back to the pensite on his own. Between she and Geoff, they managed to coax them both into the pen, bringing the total at that site to 11.

If you’re doing the math, 9 + 11 = 20; one bird short. Who’s missing? To answer that question, Brian and Chris walked back to the Canfield pen to check bands, and Erin and Geoff drove to the East pensite to check bands there.

When they put their notes together, it turned out that neither of them had 910. This sent Brian and Chris off on the hunt in the Tracking Van. They picked up a strong signal at the north end of the Canfield site and Chris took off on foot to see if he could find him. No luck. And the hunt is still on.

Date: October 11, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: How’re we doing so far?Location: Necedah, WI
It was a chilly 21F this morning as camp came alive, and one by one, team members trekked across the yard to visit the ‘loo’ and perform their morning ablutions. The wind on the ground was light, registering just 2-4mph out of the west, but the aviation websites were indicating they were stronger than that up top.

The plan for today was basically the same as yesterday’s, that being, to try to combine training with the Class of 2009 with leading them to the East pen site where one of our travel pens is set up. Being slightly closer to our Migration Stopover #1, the unfamiliarity of the East site and the different pen can tend to make the birds more attentive to the aircraft and more willing to follow - which will help when we actually depart the refuge on the first migration leg.

928 continues to have respiratory problems, and his ability to manage the migration is a question on everyone’s minds. On training sessions he launches eagerly, but then just flies a short circuit around the pensite, quickly returning to the runway where he calls and calls. His quick return and calling encourages others to do likewise, a hindrance to training. As a result, the plan for today was to leave 928 behind in the pen when the other birds were released.

There were about three dozen people braving the cold on the Observation Tower this morning. Once again the Sandhills, Swans, and others put on a visual and audio show for us, and three deer even got into the act as they leapt their way from the treeline down to the water that fronts the tower. For added spice, a pair of adult Whoopers flew in to land in the water just beyond the marsh. (Click the link to view more photos from this morning.)

We watched the four trikes zipping around off in the distance, and our cold vigil was eventually rewarded with a flyby. It looked like it was Richard leading six of the chicks from the Canfield site over to the East site.

Unfortunately, that’s the sum total of the birds that made that trip today. As we watched, Brooke flew toward us with six or seven on his wing. But despite a couple of attempts, each time they’d approach Rynearson Pond, first one, then two, then more would break off. He would have to swing around with the few remaining on his wing and give chase in order to pick the break-away birds up again.

The long and short of it is that the flying part of the day’s activity ended with six birds at the East Site; two at the North site, and nine (including the left behind 928), back in the pen  at Canfield. 6+2+9 = 17 you say? That’s right, we had four birds that went down at various locations.

Bev and Erin took off hot on the trail of one of them. Richard pinpointed the spot where he saw another go down. At last word, two of the four were found and once they have been rounded up will likely be crated and taken over to the East site.

Meanwhile, back at the Canfield site parking area, the battery had died in the tracking van Brian Clauss drives. I scurried back to camp for jumper cables, then stopped back at the tower to pick Heather up for the run out to Brian’s vehicle. Next came Chris Gullikson’s voice over the radio saying he was heading back to the hangar with a broken foot pedal cable.

Heather and I hurried back from Canfield to deliver the truck we were driving back to camp for Chris to use to go out to help track the wayward birds. We then transferred to the white van to head for town and a diesel fill up - it was operating on fumes I think - before going to the hangar.

We arrived there just in time to greet Brooke, Joe and Richard who landed and pulled in to the hangar in that order. They quickly got out of their flight gear, bagged their costumes, and the passle of pilots leapt into the red truck to also go out onto the refuge and help track. Heather and I closed up the hangar after them and made our way back to camp to do some 'real' work; she to process some photos, and me to write this entry and get it posted.

So, the long and the short of this morning's activity is..... We had the first Crane Rodeo of the migration. We are still tracking down two birds (at least). We’ve got some of the Class of 2009 at three different pensites on the refuge. We had one ground vehicle that needed ‘roadside assistance’. We had one aircraft that had to head for home for ‘minor surgery’. Jack Wrighter, our top cover pilot, is still trying to get here from Tennessee where for the third straight day he's been grounded due to weather.

How’re we doing so far? It’s Migration Day #2 and we haven’t gone anywhere yet. Welcome to our world!

Date: October 10, 2009 - Entry 2 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NO DEPARTURE TOMORROWLocation: Necedah, WI
Brrrr…despite the cold temp, more than a dozen hardy souls were on the Observation Tower this morning in case there was a chance to see flight training. The high winds precluded that happening, but we did get to watch several other species putting on a morning show. The Sandhills were especially active, with group after group flying by and over our heads. Joe responded to a myriad of questions and regaled the small crowd with stories of events past.

With a forecast of clear skies, a crisp 22F, and one mph winds out of the west (on the ground) for Sunday, we have hopes of doing flight training tomorrow morning - and - it culminating in leading the Class of 2009 to the East pen site where one of our travel pens has been set up. So, yes – that means the 2009 migration will be postponed at least one more day.

Date: October 10, 2009 - Entry 1 Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: A Whooper of a Challenge Location: Necedah, WI
Craniac, and long time OM supporter, Denice Steinmann of Illinois, has come up with a WhOOper of a challenge. She will match every MileMaker sponsorship of a quarter, half, or one mile (or more) up to…100 miles!!!

If you’ve been waiting to do your MileMaker sponsorship there will never be a better time. Denice’s challenge means that the value of your sponsorship will be DOUBLED.

So how about it folks? Won’t you take up the challenge and ensure OM can take full advantage of Denice’s fantastic generosity? Please help us get the 21 young Whooping cranes in the Class of 2009 to Florida...

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Date: October 9, 2009 Reporter: Liz Condie

Today was almost the twelfth consecutive day of no flight training with the Class of 2009. In fact, as a result of poor weather, there have only been a handful of training days throughout the past few weeks. All three Cohorts have been together at the Canfield site for some time, and while they are socialized, until this morning they had not flown as one group. And to say that that was happened this morning, would be considered a bit of a stretch.

All the birds were released from the pen together, but getting them all in the air and following was another story. Here a bird, there a bird, everywhere a bird.

928 flew a short circuit but immediately came back to the runway. Hard on his heels was a group of 11 others. Brooke flew in to try and get them to take off again with him and managed to do just that successfully. But continued success was not to be, as the theme for the day was ‘utter chaos’. Richard eventually returned to the runway with most if not all of the birds, and in short order they were all back in the pen.

Tomorrow, Saturday, October 10 is our target launch day. As of this evening, the weatherman is calling for mostly cloudy skies, 31F degrees, and 5mph winds straight out of the west.

Assuming we have decent flying weather, without doubt there will be trikes and birds in the air. But…. they won’t be heading out to our first migration stopover site. Given this morning’s debacle the crew decided to set up one of our travel pens at the East site. That will be tomorrow’s target; to get the birds to follow the trike(s) just as far as that location.

If you were planning to come here to the Necedah refuge in the morning to witness the departure flyover at the DU Observation Platform, travel a little further down Headquarters Road to the Observation Tower instead. With luck, you will still see ‘planes and cranes’ as the pilots try to combine some flight training with a move to another site.



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