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Date: January 31, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:VISIT 'THE PLATTE' IN NEBRASKA WITH DR. JANE GOODALLLocation: Main Office

Regular Field Journal readers will know of OM’s admiration and friendship with Dr. Jane Goodall. It is why we announce with great pleasure here, that the Jane Goodall Institute has organized a 'Pilgrimage to Witness the Great Crane Migration with Dr. Jane' – and you’re invited!

March 16 – 19th, you are invited to join the Jane Goodall Institute along the banks of the Platte River in Nebraska to view the great migration of the Sandhill cranes, one of Dr. Goodall’s most cherished pastimes. The trip cost ($5000) includes all scheduled events, hotel accommodation (Wyngate by Windham in Kearney, NE), meals, and transportation to and from the airport.

Some of the highlights of this all inclusive trip include:
• Guided trip at Rowe Sanctuary to view the world’s largest concentration of Sandhill cranes from observation blinds on the banks of the Platte River.

• Birding with acclaimed natural history writer and field ornithologist, Scott Weidensaul at the Rainwater Basin.

• Nature Photography Workshop and Field Survey at the Nebraska Nature and Visitors Center.

• Cocktails and dinner with Dr. Jane Goodall and acclaimed nature photographer Tom Mangelsen.

Click the link to see the detailed schedule. For more information please contact Alicia Zarillo, manager of donor relations and special events for the Jane Goodall Institute, at azarillo@janegoodall.org or, (703) 682-9288.

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Date:January 30, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:TIME IS RUNNING OUT!Location:Main Office

54 unsponsored MileMaker miles remain and there are just 61 ‘shopping days’ left before our fiscal year ends and any still unsponsored MileMaker miles will show as an ugly red number for 2010/2011. At the moment, that red number stands at $11,000, and we need your help to eliminate the color red from our books.

Our website analytics show that over the past year our Field Journal has been visited by folks from 148 countries, and that 115,667 people visited our website for the first time. If you were one of those first time visitors and have yet to sponsor a quarter, half or mile of the 2010/2011 migration, there is not a better time for you to join the ranks of OM’s devoted Craniacs and become a MileMaker sponsor.

Please, become a MileMaker sponsor TODAY. Click here to take out your sponsorship online, or call our office toll free 1-800-675-2618 Monday to Friday.

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Date:January 29, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:REWARD INCREASEDLocation:Main Office

Members of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board and the state DNR Foundation have contributed an additional $4,800 to a reward fund for information in the intentional shooting deaths of three whooping cranes, which were discovered in Calhoun County, GA on December 30, 2010.

In addition to the contribution which brings the total reward to $20,800 the Georgia Department of Natural Resources board passed a resolution this week supporting the continued investigation into the deaths of the three juvenile Whooping cranes. CLICK to read the resolution

Philip Wat, chair of the board's wildlife resources committee states "We are proud to be able to show our support in this way and hope the additional funds will entice someone to come forth with new information that will help solve the case.”

The USFWS is leading a joint investigation with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to apprehend the person or persons who shot the birds. Any information concerning the deaths of these cranes should be provided to USFWS Special Agent Terry Hastings at 404-763-7959.

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Date:January 28, 2011Reporter:Barbara Corcoran
Subject:MIGRATION MILE-A-THON!Location:Main Office

On September 8th we announced the Migration Mile-a-thon Challenge as a way to engage schools and students in the ultralight-guided Whooping crane migration and to create awareness in a fun, interactive way.

It was an enjoyable way for them to practice their math and geography skills and get fit at the same time. We challenged the children to walk the equivalent of 1,285 miles to Florida and beat the cranes on their journey.

By the time the 2010 migration began on Oct. 10, a number of schools had registered. Teachers and students alike were excited by the idea and classrooms were reading the updates from the Field Journal. As the migration advanced, we would often receive emails from the teachers saying how excited their class was about the cranes and how determined they were to keep ahead of them. Of course, that is no easy feat since the cranes can take to the air and often cover a lot of miles with a good tailwind.

The children were not daunted and enjoyed catching up on miles when the cranes were having a down day, or several in a row, which allowed the kids to catch up and even surpass them on their walking trek!

New Providence Elementary School from Lexington, South Carolina took an early lead and had 221 miles logged by September 28th - before the cranes even began their migration! They were followed by Mobile Jr. Academy in Mobile, Alabama and Dewey Elementary School in Evanston, Illinois. Dewey students even measured their average stride to improve their math skills. By Oct. 15th Mobile Jr. Academy had pulled into the lead logging 256 miles while the cranes had flown 130 miles and had just landed in Illinois.

The children were inspired by the young Whooping cranes and laced up their shoes. Some walked in the gym, some outside; some even got their parents involved. It wasn’t long before the cranes had some catching up to do!

By the time the cranes had completed their 1285 mile southward trek, we had two schools that beat them! In first place: The students and teachers at New Providence Elementary School in Lexington, SC logged an incredible 2115 miles, and in second place, Pittsburgh’s St. Bede School covered a distance equal to 1333 miles!

Congratulations to everyone who participated – we hope you enjoyed the adventure!

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Date:January 27, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:EMP UPDATELocation:Main Office

Many thanks to the WCEP Tracking team for the following report: Females are indicated by *. DAR = direct autumn release. SM = released at St. Marks NWR. CH = released at Chassahowitzka NWR (distinction of release site begins with 2008 birds).

General:
Maximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period was 108 birds (56 males and 52 females).

Removal:
Male no. 5-01 was removed from the population on 8 January because of repeated inadequate human avoidance behavior. He was transferred to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park on 14 January and will spend the remainder of his life in captivity.

Last Recorded on Autumn Migration; Wintering Area not yet Determined:
Nos. 16-02/16-07* were reported with nos. 4-08 (CH) and 10-09 (SM) in Knox County, Indiana, on 28 November and remained at least through 10 December.
Nos. 13-07 and 36-09* (DAR): The signal of no. 36-09* (DAR) was last detected at Hiwassee WR, Meigs/Rhea Counties, Tennessee, on the morning of 14 December.
Nos. 33-07 and HY2009 nos. 5* (CH), 7* (CH), and 42* (DAR) were last reported in Shelby County, Alabama, on 8 December.
HY2009 nos. 12 (SM), 24 (CH), and 41 (DAR): Radio signals of nos. 12-09 and 41-09 were detected by the Homosassa Springs WSP datalogger on 5 December. No. 24-09 (CH) has a weak transmitter and was likely still traveling with these two birds.
No. 13-09 was last reported flying over Chassahowitzka NWR pensite, Citrus County, Florida, with no. 19-09 (CH) on 2 December.
Nos. 34-09* (DAR) and 35-09* (DAR) departed from Muscatatuck NWR, Jackson/Jennings Counties, Indiana, during 6-9 December.
No. 32-09* (DAR) was reported with sandhills in Union County, Indiana, on 1 January. She was not found during a ground search of the area on 5 January.

Indiana:
Nos. 17-03/3-03* remained SW in Sullivan County, through the last report on 7 January. They were next reported at their previous wintering territory in Knox County, on 16 January and remained throughout the rest of the report period.
No. 27-07* was reported with sandhills N of the Jasper-Pulaski FWA, Jasper County, on 10 December and remained in the area at least through last report on 29 December. A whooping crane seen in the same area on 20 January was probably her. Her transmitter is suspected to be nonfunctional.

Tennessee:
Nos. 18-03/13-03*: Bradley County.
Nos. 5-05/15-04*, 28-05* (DAR), 37-07 (DAR), 28-08 (SM), 21-10 (DAR): Meigs/Rhea Counties.
Nos. 6-05, 6-09 (SM), and 38-09 (DAR): Hamilton County.

Alabama:
Nos. 12-04/27-05* (DAR), 11-02, 30-08* (SM), and 19-10 (DAR), 37-09* (DAR), HY2010 DAR nos. 22*, 25, and 27*: Cherokee County.
Nos. 13-02/18-02*, 1-04/8-05*, 24-05/42-07* (DAR), 27-06 (DAR) and 26-09* (SM): Morgan County. No. 13-08* (SM) had been present on Wheeler NWR, Morgan County, but was not detected during the current report period.
Nos. 16-04 and 4-09* (CH) were reported in DeKalb County, on 18 January and stayed during the remainder of the report period. They have reportedly been in this area for a while. They had last been recorded migrating over western Kentucky on 6 December.

South Carolina:
Nos. 11-03/12-03*, 10-03/W1-06*: Colleton County.

Georgia:
Nos. 3-07 and 38-08* (DAR), 7-07/39-07* (DAR): Lowndes County.
Nos. 23-10* and 26-10 were last detected in Calhoun County, on 6 January. No subsequent checks.

Florida:
No. 1-01: Citrus County.
Nos. 12-02/19-04* and W3-10*: Pasco County.
Nos. 7-03/26-07*, 8-04/19-05*, 12-05/22-07*, 14-09* (SM): Alachua County.
Nos. 2-04/46-07* (DAR), 9-05: Lake County.
Nos. 3-04/9-03* and W1-10* were found in Taylor County, during a survey flight on 13 January. They had last been found on their previous wintering territory, now largely dry, at Mallory Swamp WMA, Lafayette County, during an aerial survey on 21 December.
Nos. 12-07, 17-07*, and 31-08 (DAR): Polk County.
Nos. 4-08 (CH) and 10-09 (SM): Levy County.
HY2008 nos. 14 (CH), 24* (CH), and 27 (CH): Citrus County, at least through the last survey flight on 13 January.
No. 29-08 (SM) was found in Leon County, with HY2009 nos. 8*(SM), 11 (SM), 15* (SM), and 18 (SM) during a survey flight on 13 January. He had last been reported in Santa Rosa County, on 31 December.
No. 19-09 (CH) was found in Lake County, during a survey flight on 13 January. He had apparently been in the area for a few weeks. He had last been reported flying over the pensite on Chassahowitzka NWR, Citrus County, Florida, with no. 13-09 (CH) on 2 December.
Nos. 25-09* (SM) and 29-09 (CH) remained at the St. Marks pensite throughout the report period.

No Recent Reports:
No. 7-01*: Last reported NE of Horicon NWR, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, on 2 May. She has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked.
No. 16-03 was last observed on Sprague Pool, Necedah NWR, on 6 May. He has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked.
No. 14-05 was last observed on Necedah NWR on 18 May. He has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked.
No. 20-05*: An unidentified whooping crane reported from Dike 17 WA, Black River SF, Jackson County, on 24 May have been no. 20-05*. She has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked.
No. 33-05* (DAR) was last reported with migrating sandhills in Ewing Bottoms, Jackson County, Indiana, on 25 February through at least 6 March. She has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked.
No. 27-09 (CH) has not been detected since roosting with nos. 13-09 (CH) and 19-09 (CH) at a spring migration stop in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, on the night of 10 April.

HY2010 Ultralight-led Juveniles:
Nos. 1, 5*, 6*, 8, and 10* arrived at St. Marks NWR, Wakulla County, Florida, on 15 December. They were released from their temporary top-netted pen on 25 December. Salinity was 14-16 ppt and water elevation rose 0.88 inches during the current report period.

Nos. 3*, 9*, 15, 16* and 17 arrived at Chassahowitzka NWR, Citrus County, Florida, on 15 January and were released from their temporary top-netted pen on 18 January. Salinity was 18-21 ppt and water level varied from 0-13 inches on the center of the constructed oyster bar (21-38 inches on the water gauge). The chicks roosted in the pen every night since release during the report period.



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Date::January 26, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:SAVING THE GHOST BIRDS PREMIER - YOU'RE INVITED!Location:Main Office

“Saving the Ghost Birds: A Celebration of Human Accomplishment” presents in words and images the ground-breakingef="http://www.chasingtheghostbirds.com"> international efforts to save one of North America’s most significant creatures. This is truly a wildlife conservation adventure based on David Sakrison’s book Chasing the Ghost Birds, published in March 2007.

Through insightful interviews, stunning video footage and a lively soundtrack, the documentary offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the painstaking process of breeding Cranes in captivity, raising them without human contact, teaching them to migrate, and finally, releasing them into the wild. It offers a window into the nit and grit of conservation fieldwork and the empathy, patience, perseverance and dedication of the team members who went to where the birds were and carried out their work.

You’ll meet the incredibly passionate people at the very center of the Whooping Crane story, including:
• George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation and a world authority on Crane conservation, and
• Joe Duff, co-founder of Operation Migration, who helped pioneer the use of ultralight aircraft to teach captive-raised birds how and where to migrate.
• Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, who as governor actively supported whooping crane recovery and other major wildlife conservation efforts in Wisconsin.

In their own words, team members share with you the complexities, frustrations, triumphs and joys of this cutting-edge effort.

The film will premiere in Sheboygan, WI at the Stefanie H. Weill Center for the Performing Arts on April 28, 2011 and you’re all invited to attend! Here are some details of what the evening will hold:

Evening schedule:
4:00pm: Doors open at to view art work by Sheboygan County High School students
5:00-6:00pm: Cocktail Reception with Governor's Thompson and Walker
6:15pm: Introduction of Governors
6:30pm Documentary Begins
7:30-8:00pm: Q & A
8:30pm: Dinner at Margaux

General Admission: $10.00 Adults / $5.00 Children, and Students with a Current Student ID. General Admission tickets may be purchased online at: www.weillcenter.com Or at the Weill Center Box Office: 826 N. 8th Street, Sheboygan, WI, 53081
Ticket Office (920)208-3243 

$90.00/person: guests will enjoy cocktails and appetizers provided by Margaux with Governor Walker and Governor Thompson, George Archibald, Joe Duff, and Terry & Mary Kohler.  Price includes documentary admission ticket. $40.00 is tax deductible.

$250.00/person: This includes all of the above plus a 3 course dinner at Margaux with the Governor’s and other dignitaries. $100.00 is tax deductible.

The proceeds from this event will benefit the Aviation Heritage Center of Wisconsin, at the Sheboygan Municipal Airport, The International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI and Operation Migration in Ontario, Canada and Niagara Falls, NY

Please make checks payable to the “Aviation Heritage Center of Wisconsin” or “AHCW” and mail to: Ghost Birds Premier, c/o Aviation Heritage Center of Wisconsin, N6191 Resource Drive, Sheboygan Falls, WI 53085 David Sakrison, the author of the book Chasing the Ghost Birds from which the documentary is based on, and Ian Batterman will be available the month of March to speak to area clubs and organizations. If you are interested in having them as guests at your meeting please contact savingtheghostbirds@gmail.com

Sheboygan County 7th grade students will be visiting the Aviation Heritage Center in April to learn about the Whooping Cranes, how they were rescued from the brink of extinction and how they were taught to migrate following an ultralight plane as the lead bird. Students will also have the opportunity to learn about flight.

We hope you can make it to the event!

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Date:January 25, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:GOODSEARCH & GOODSHOPLocation:Main Office

Designate Operation Migration as your favorite organization, and each time you use GoodSearch to search the internet, funds are credited to us with every click of the search button. Each time someone uses GoodSearch to search the internet; money goes to your favorite organization. Why not give it a try and support the cause you care most about - which hopefully is Operation Migration.

The more people who use this site to search, the more money will go to worthy causes. If you like the idea please spread the word to your friends and family. Visit GoodSearch to register Operation Migration as your selected recipient charity and to start sending search proceeds our way.

And as more and more people are discovering the convenience of shopping online, why not try GoodShop? They have an impressive number of online retailers participating in their program with each offering varying percentage levels to your favorite charity every time you shop.

Check out GoodShop to see the list of participating retailers and the amount earned by your registered charity. Personally, I’ve begun using this every time I make an iTunes purchase. I’m going to buy my favorite songs anyway so why not generate some funds for Operation Migration at the same time?

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Date:January 24, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:BIRDS DIE FOR VARIOUS REASONSLocation:Main Office

On New Year’s Eve when as many as 5000 birds fell from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas, people were concerned. In the days and weeks that followed, numerous reports hit the media spotlight and included several incidents bird deaths as well as mass fish die-offs in Chicago and Maryland and an estimated 150 tons of red tilapia in Vietnam, and 40,000 crabs in Britain and other places across the world.

Are these events somehow linked? or is it simply that in our current times of easy communication, when one can whip out a Smartphone to take and post a photo to their Facebook or Twitter account, that we're becoming more aware of the frequency with which they occur. These days news travels fast.

And as usual the Google geeks were all over it and quickly posted an overlay to Google Maps, which included reports from around the globe of birds, fish and mammal die-offs. If you would like to see the map for yourself visit this link: Google maps - Mass Animal Deaths.

Understandably, public concern escalated as some media outlets and bloggers labeled the events as the "aflockalypse" but the truth is our wildlife faces harsh conditions. Some are weather related - others man-made and these are the type of threats that we must do whatever we can to reduce.

Dr. Daniel Klem of Muhlenberg College has done studies over a period of 20 years, looking at bird collisions with windows. His conclusion: glass kills more birds than any other human related factor. In fact it is an accepted estimate that for every building; whether a high-rise, or a single story home, that one bird is killed each year. How many of us have been sitting in our homes only to hear the unmistakable thud of a bird colliding with a window?

I can vividly recall Thanksgiving weekend in 2005. I was on a volunteer patrol at Consilium Place in Toronto and of course it was peak time for fall songbird migration. The three structures that comprise Consilium Place have mirrored glass facades - a deathtrap for songbirds which see the trees and sky reflected and assume they can off into it. That weekend, myself and several other volunteers collected well over 700 songbirds that slammed into the mirrored surface. At several times throughout the weekend it appeared to be raining warblers. We would no sooner pick up one feathered victim to determine if it was dead, or still alive, and another 2 or 3 would drop to the pavement beside us... Personally, I find the estimate of one bird per structure on the low side.

The National Audubon Society says 100 million birds a year fall prey to cats. Dr. Stan Temple of the University of Wisconsin estimates that in Wisconsin alone, about 7 million birds a year are killed by cats. And not just feral cats - Domestic cats that are allowed to go outside are killers, whether cat owners choose to believe it or not - Cats kill birds. We have domesticated  cats, so please keep them inside. It's better for them from a health standpoint. It's better for songbirds.

Scientists estimate the number of birds killed by cars and trucks on our highways to be 50 to 100 million a year. Those statistics were cited in reports published by the National Institute for Urban Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Estimates made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service demonstrate up to 174 million bird die each year as a result of colliding with transmission lines.

Pesticides likely poison an estimated 67 million birds per year according to the Smithsonian Institution. Cutting hay may kill up to a million more birds a year when ground nests are destroyed.

Suburban sprawl is a silent but deadly killer. The National Audubon Society says loss of bird habitat is the greatest threat to bird populations.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that bird collisions with tall, lighted communications towers, and their guy wires result in 4 to 10 million bird deaths a year.

We haven't made it easy for wildlife to survive but there are some things that we can do. Education is key - talk to others at any chance you can to let them know about the everyday dangers our wildlife face. Ask you neighbors to keep their cats indoors. Tell them why it's important.

Join a wildlife organization - By joining in, you can support an organized, ongoing effort to protect species and habitats. Reduce the pesticides and chemicals you use on your lawn or in your garden. If you're a gardener, don't be so quick to deadhead your blooms. There are a lot of seeds located in these spent blooms, which will attract and provide nutrients for songbirds.

It may seem an overwhelming issue when considering the numbers and causes of loss above, but if we all did just one thing, collectively we could make a difference. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."

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Date:January 23, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MIGRATION CONCLUSION PODCASTLocation:Main Office

"Whoopers Happening" is a podcast, which was produced on a regular basis until early last year by longtime Craniac Mark Chenoweth. Mark is continuing with producing podcasts focusing on endangered species, and he was present at the Dunnellon-Marion County airport on January 14th for the arrival event.

Click to listen to his latest production in which he chats with Brooke, Richard and Joe to get their thoughts on the 2010 migration. And if you'd like to catch up on past Whoopers Happening podcasts click this iTunes link to access the free downloads. As always, huge thanks to Mark!

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Date: January 22, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:WOOD BUFFALO/ARANSAS POPULATION UPDATELocation:Main Office

The third aerial census of the 2010-11 whooping crane season was conducted January 19, 2011 in a Cessna 210 piloted by Gary Ritchey of Air Transit Solutions, Castroville, Texas with USFWS observer Tom Stehn.

Tom reports that the flight only covered 2/3’s of the crane area due to limited flight time. Flight conditions and visibility were good throughout the 4-hour flight, although clouds made it a harder to find cranes during mid-portions of the census. A follow-up flight the next day had to be cancelled due to fog and low ceilings.

Sighted on the flight were 175 adults and 36 juveniles = 211 total whooping cranes. The only recent confirmed report I have of whooping cranes not at Aransas was one white-plumaged whooping crane in north Texas near Electra on January 2nd.

  

Adults + Young
San Jose   51 +   8 =  59
Refuge   80 + 18 =  98
Lamar     9 +   4 =  13
South ½ MI   35 +   6 =  41
Welder Flats   Not flown

Total

175 + 36 = 211

Assuming numbers had remained the same from the previous flight in the areas not covered, the numbers represent an increase of 3 cranes above the previous record-tying count of 270. However, although I fully expect flock size to be more than the 270 previously tallied, it will take several more flights before I can establish a better estimate of flock size.

Crane habitat use observed on the census flight (n=211):
74 of the cranes observed were in salt marsh habitat
82 were on prescribed burns
21 were in shallow open bay habitat
31 were on uplands areas
3 were at fresh water sources

The 82 whooping cranes on prescribed burns was notably very high.

The prescribed burns have changed the distribution of cranes on the winter range, with many cranes moving to the two refuge burns from different parts of the wintering area. For example, two of the radioed cranes have left Lamar and are staying on the refuge burns and adjacent salt marsh. One adult female crane was captured on Lamar and radioed on January 8th by biologists organized by The Crane Trust, Wood River, Nebraska. They set out a snare attached to a long twine, and when the bird stepped in the snare, they yanked on a fishing pole and tightened the snare, ran out from blinds and grabbed the bird.

This is normally a tougher time for whooping cranes to find adequate food resources, and this winter is no exception as evidenced by increased use of uplands, burns, and open bay habitat during the flight. A crab count conducted January 7th had found only 6 blue crabs in an hour of walking the marsh, but compared to some winters, this was not too bad. No wolfberry fruits or flowers had been found, with the crop over for the year. Salinities are currently 19 ppt in San Antonio bay just north of the refuge. Several inches of rain that fell January 15-16th has provided additional drinking water for the cranes in various areas of standing water next to the salt marsh and eased access to drinking water for the cranes.

A severe hail storm that crossed the Texas coast in the early morning hours of January 9th apparently killed over 1,000 birds in a narrow area on San Jose Island stretching over 15 miles. Initially reported by a waterfowl hunter, a reconnaissance by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department estimated at least 1,000 birds had been killed. Species found dead included sandhill crane, white pelican, roseate spoonbill, black skimmer, ducks, plovers, and terns. Sixteen specimens were necropsied by the National Wildlife Health Center, but I do not yet have the results.

During the reconnaissance, TPWD had observed 8 whooping cranes that looked fine. Additional searches in other parts of the crane range did not reveal any dead birds. On today’s census flight, there was no evidence of hail-killed birds or missing whooping cranes on San Jose Island. I think the whooping cranes dodged nature's bullet, though we'll probably never know for sure if a few whooping cranes perished. Tornados and wind gusts > 60 mph associated with the storm had also damaged buildings in various locations in the Coastal Bend.

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Date:January 21, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:St. Marks CraneCam!Location:Main Office

We wanted to let everyone know that you can still keep an eye on the five Whooping crane chicks currently wintering at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

Over the past couple of years, the St. Marks Refuge Association conducted a fundraising drive and thanks to the generosity of all the school children and others who gave to the "Coins for Cranes" project, as well as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for their $5000 grant through the National Wildlife Refuge Friends Group Grant Program, the Disney Corporation for covering the cost of a laptop and monitor for the Refuge Visitor Center – the camera has been operational since the  middle of December when the young cranes arrived behind Brooke Pennypacker’s ultralight-aircraft.

In addition to the above generosity, Network Tallahassee is providing the DSL service and WAVE 94 FM is sharing their very tall tower. Volunteer Alan Fortner made many trips up and down the two towers to install and tweak the direction of the yagi antenna’s, which broadcasts the signal from the pensite to the receiving yagi a few miles away.

This is just another example of how people have come together to help safeguard Whooping cranes and to provide an educational vehicle to gain and maintain interest in this endangered crane.

So why not log in and see what the cranes are up to and how they spend their day? You might just see an adult Whooper dropping in to visit.

Click to visit the St. Marks wintering Whoopers!

Please note that the feed is not a streaming, continuous feed but rather the image refreshes every few seconds. Also note that it is best viewed with Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. Internet Explorer does not behave properly.

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Date: January 20, 2011 Reporter:Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:FOG AT THE PENLocation: St. Marks NWR, Florida

Jay from Disney and I watched from the blind as the fog rolled in from the Gulf in advance of night and wrapped its smoky arms around the pen and surrounding marsh. All the chicks loafed around at ease within the security of the pen in anticipation of the coming darkness, their daily ration of energy and curiosity spent. All but #5, that is. She stood alone just outside the east side of the pen grubbing and foraging like a child refusing to go to bed.

But go to bed she must, or in this case fly back into the safety of the pen, walk out on the oyster bar and roost with her flock mates. The two yearlings, 25 and 29 stood calling to her from inside in frustration, like older siblings ordering a younger one -- the calls carrying within them the tone and frequency of increasing urgency as the fog worked to cover the landscape. A flight of only a handful of seconds was all the situation required, but #5 seemed reluctant to comply, her attentions still focused on the end of her beak and the little discoveries it continued to make.

But the timing of a thing is as important as the doing of it and experience states that the window through which the required action must pass closes with the coming of darkness. It is then the foundation for the calm confidence #5 now enjoys will crumble and fall into an abyss of panic and fear, bringing chaos to the scene and all within it. She will freeze and refuse reasonable action and even the familiar costume will represent only threat. And yet she must be given the freedom and the opportunity to learn and exercise judgment and discover for herself the rules of the game. #’s 1, 8, and even goofy #10 would have flown in by now. #6 also, only she would have first put us in the “tension zone.” Jay and I look on in uneasy anticipation as the drama plays out.

Then the decision is made, the costume put on followed by the slog out to #5. The other chicks have now joined the “Get Back Into the Pen” chorus of 25 and 29 but their urgings are met with increased reluctance by #5. A puppet head grape reattaches the connection, bird to costume, followed by a costumed flapping run to flight. #5 finally throttles up to lift off as do most of the birds in the pen and they join together at some aerial point in the fog and circuit the area. For several agonizing minutes there is no sound: no calls, no sounds of flapping wings, nothing but silent fog and darkness.

Back to the blind I rush for the big vocalizer to call them back in from wherever up in that soupy nowhere they have flown. But I am met by the sweetest words I could ever hear at that moment. “They’re back,” Jay says quietly, as he pierces the veil of fog with his binoculars. And in spotting scope I see seven smudges of white against the fog’s dirty grey, lined up on the oyster bar, preparing for slumber. The roller coaster of emotion has pulled into the station.

And now Jay and I can close up the blind and call it a day.

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Date: January 19, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MILEMAKER UPDATE - UPDATE!Location:Main Office

Those that read the entry from this morning will recall me stating: Today at 4pm, we’ll be making the final draw for the remaining copy of National Geographic photographer, Klaus Nigge’s new book; Whooping Crane - Images from the Wild. This beautiful book features 156 color photos taken at Wood Buffalo National Park, where the only naturally occurring migratory population summers, and at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge where they spend the winter.

The winner is.... (drum roll).... Cheryl Nichol of Ontario!!!

Congratulations Cheryl! We'll get your book out to you this week.

We received a total of 4 more sponsored miles today - thank you very much to everyone that stepped up to help! If you would like to help fund any of the remaining 68 miles, or even a portion of a mile, please visit the preceding links, or the MileMaker page.

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Date:January 19, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MILEMAKER UPDATELocation:Main Office

The 2010 ultralight-guided Whooping crane migration officially ended on Saturday, January 15th. This was the 10th year of such flights, which begin in Central Wisconsin and end 1285 miles to the south in Citrus County, FL.

This past migration lasted 73 days. Not bad considering the three previous years took 89, 88 and 97 days respectively, but there are still expenses to cover and we currently have 72 un-funded miles – all in Alabama. That's almost one mile for each day of the migration, and this adds up to a deficit of $14,400 miles. We could really use your help to ensure a fully funded 10th year.

Today at 4pm, we’ll be making the final draw for the remaining copy of National Geographic photographer, Klaus Nigge’s new book; Whooping Crane - Images from the Wild.

If you'd like to get your name into the draw click to select a portion or full mile in our MileMaker Campaign. Everyone who is a MileMaker sponsor will automatically be entered into the draw for this beautiful book!

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Date: January 18, 2011Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:THE WHETHER OF WEATHERLocation:On The Road

Richard van Heuvelen and I drove down from Ontario early last week to finish off the 2010 migration. We left the sunny skies of Canada and drove through the ice and snow of North and South Carolina to finally reach the freezing temperatures of Florida. How wrong is that picture?

Unpredictability is the only thing predictable about the weather these days and it gives you an idea of what we face each morning. With so many weather services available on the internet and smart phones, each member of our crew shows up at the morning gatherings armed with their own information. Most often they are in conflict with all the others, leaving us as uninformed as we were before any of those services existed. It used to be that fishermen could be depended on as the world’s greatest liars. Now that title is shared by weathermen and the battery engineers, who tell us our laptops will run for ten hours on a single charge.

Our trip south began a few days after the WCEP Tracking Team told us that most of the adult birds that often stop at the Chassahowitzka pen site and cause a disturbance, had already completed their migration and we had the “all clear” to bring down the class of 2010. We only had five birds and two legs to fly, so a minimal crew was needed. Richard and I joined Peggy Coontz from Patuxent who had been caring for the birds for the last week or so.

There is risk involved in flying the birds without top cover or a ground crew tracking below us and the chances of losing a bird go up accordingly. But there is also a sense of independence and camaraderie between the two pilots and the birds, knowing we must all depend on each other. Well, maybe that was just our interpretation. The birds hadn’t seen the aircraft for over a month and they had no idea if someone was watching from below or even what that meant, but I felt it.

Peggy has not been on the migration before and never released the birds for an early morning launch, but she has years of animal experience and a great sense of how to handle them. It is not a simple task and there are lots of variables but after long explanations of what to expect, she did a perfect job.

In our absence, the birds had been fitted with their permanent radio transmitters and a couple with satellite tracking devices. That required handling and they were still slightly leery of the costumes. Also after a month in that pen, we didn’t expect them to come charging out but I was surprised at how reluctant they were to leave. First one, then another tentatively came out of the gate but one would not leave. Peggy coaxed and cajoled but finally had to herd number 15 out of the pen. By this time, the others were all behind the pen, as far from the idling aircraft as they could get. With perfect timing, Peggy emerged from the trailer in swamp monster garb and off they went.

It was obvious they were a month older and that much more independent. But the familiarity was still there and they moved over to join the wing.

During the initial climb, it is always hard to fly slowly enough for them to keep up. In straight and level flight, the aircraft will slow to 34 miles per hour before it stops flying and begins to drop. But when you turn, some of that lift is lost and more speed is needed to stay airborne. It is a delicate balance between flying and falling and it happens just over the trees, as we circle to let the birds catch up. Several times, they formed on the wing and then fell behind, but at least they were trying.

A few miles to the south, they turned back. Sometimes it is as if they are encouraging you to go with them but if you stick to your course, they lose their conviction and rejoin the wing. Other times they are strong willed and head for home, whether you are coming or not. We chase them back and retake the lead. You could see them lose confidence in their leadership and again join the aircraft at least as long as we are heading north. Then we slowly change course, careful not to make it too abrupt. Sometimes we will head east or west or any direction they are willing to follow us, as long as it is away from the pen. There seems to be a certain distance away from the pensite, either in miles or familiarity, where they finally decide there is no turning back and they settle in to follow.

There was a perfectly clear sky while this rodeo took place and the sun began to heat the fields and forest below. That created thermals and the rising warm air pushed us around like a cork in the rapids and we had to climb slowly to 1000 feet to find smooth air. Once there, the birds locked onto the wing but occasionally they dropped down below it where there are no wingtip vortices to help carry them along.

Sometimes the lead bird will fly directly above the tip and disappear for a while until either beak or toes peek out from the leading or trailing edge of the wing. I had birds on each tip, so I spent my time looking from one to the other. In that divided attention, one bird dropped below and behind the aircraft and by the time I spotted it, it was a few hundred feet down. It kept following but was getting lower so Richard moved in to pick it up. The tired bird formed on his wing and with no competition for the best spot to fly, it climbed with him back up to our altitude and higher.

As we climbed, the headwind that was predicted to be a tailwind lessened and we were able to cover ground slightly faster. Richard’s speed at 2000 feet was up to 43 miles per hour while mine was a meager 21 at 1300 feet.

Maybe it was the month of not flying or our slow progress, but the birds seemed to spend more time under the wing and I had to lose altitude to keep them with me. Slowly we worked our way down to below 1000 feet into the bumpy air and slower speed as Richard moved further ahead.

For the last 20 miles, we bumped along, getting kicked and tossed like a Styrofoam cup on a freeway. Richard was rushing ahead as best he could to try to get his bird on the ground and come back to help. By the time we reached the Dunnellon Airport, we were down to a couple of hundred feet and we circled the crowd once before heading for the pen only a mile away. Eva Szyszkoski and Ben were at the pen site to help with the birds. Once they were safe and settled, we headed back to the airport to speak to all the patient people who waited hours just to see the birds.

Thanks to the generosity of Larry Morrow, our aircraft were hangared overnight. Saturday, it was my turn to fly chase for Richard and I watched as he landed near the pen on the Halpata Tastanaki Preserve and Peggy released the birds for the final time. Again, they walked out slowly and took off before him. Once airborne he corralled them and headed on course.

A mile or so to the south, they flew over a large wetland complex and it was obvious they were tempted to land. They circled several times while Richard intercepted them and headed them back on course only to lose them again. In all those turns and gyrations, one bird fell behind. Once he was far enough back I moved in to pick it up.

All the good weather that was predicted for the day before, finally materialized. There was no wind on the surface and a ten mile per hour push above a thousand feet.

The flight to the Chassahowitzka pen site was quiet and short and I watched the bird off my wingtip, concentrating on every detail so it would burn into my memory. It seemed as if no time at all had passed and we were already over the vast salt marsh of the Chassahowitzka NWR with the winter release pen in sight.

Richard went in, low and slow and as the birds dropped their landing gear, he pushed out on the bar of the aircraft to execute a quick, steep climb. A couple of birds had thoughts of attempting to follow him but quickly gave up and all four landed just outside the pen. My lone bird was easy to drop and it quickly joined the others as they touched down at their new winter home for the first time.

We climbed up to two thousand feet for the return flight to the Dunnellon Airport. At that higher level, we again had a tailwind. It is rare to have a push in both directions but it was a rare day. It was quiet on the way back. There wasn’t much chatter on the radio as we both silently wondered if we had just experienced our last flight with Whooping cranes. For the sake of this flock and all the work it took to create it, we hope that it wasn’t.

“Bittersweet” -- That was the response my wife sent to my text message telling her that the migration was finally over. Having been involved in this project as long as I have, she understood the emotion that both Richard and I were feeling as we led five birds on the last legs of the 2010 migration.

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Date:January 17, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CRANE LOVELocation:Main Office

Valentine’s day is almost a month away but a good love story needn’t wait till then to be told.

I, and I’m sure most others in the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, have mixed feelings about this story. On one hand, we’re disappointed that a 9 year old male crane from the Class of 2001 - the first year we led Whooping cranes on a southward migration, has been removed from the wild.

There’s an often used proverb that states home is where the heart is and in the case of #5-01 it seems he’s finally arrived home. So, on the other hand, you can’t help but be happy for him, and the object of his affection, Peepers.

Click to read the background story, published on Friday, January 14th and written by Barbara Behrendt of the St. Petersburg Times. Then, be sure to read this follow up article published on Saturday.

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Date:January 16, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:"IT AIN'T OVER UNTIL THE FAT LADY SINGS"Location: Main Office

The journey of 1,285 air miles that began in Necedah, Wisconsin on October 10, 2010 was brought to a conclusion yesterday morning with the delivery of the last five juvenile Whooping cranes to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge - 73 migration days later.

This was the tenth year OM's ultralights led young Whooping cranes south, and over the years, the migration has taken as few as 48 days (2001) to complete and as many as 97 (2007). At 73 days 2010's odyssey ranked in sixth place, and marked a reversal of the trend to lengthening migrations that began in 2006.

On average, the first five ultralight-led migrations took 55 days from start to finish. By comparison, the second five fall journeys averaged 85 days, the equivalent of an extra month.

It was in 2005 that the practice of standing down and holding the Class-of-the Year one stop short of their final destination was first instituted. Standing down allowed the migrating White Birds that frequently dropped in at the pen, to stop in and then move on to their usual wintering territories. When the young-of-the-year are at the pensite, the returning adults are attracted by the activity and the food, and tempted to hang around. They can become aggressive and injury can result, or the chicks can be chased away from the protection of the release pen.

The Class of 2005 was short-stopped in Marion County on December 14th and OM's pilots returned in January to fly the chicks the final leg. In 2006, that year's cohort was short-stopped December 20th with the ultralight-led migration completed January 12th. Due to the over long migrations in 2007, 2008 and 2009, those arrivals being January 28th, 23rd and 20th respectively, there was no need to short-stop and stand down.

Now, with the entire Class of 2010 ensconced on their St. Marks and Chass wintering grounds, all that remains is for pilots Joe and Richard to make the trip safely back home. Then the fat lady can sing.

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Date:January 15, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:2010 MIGRATION SUCCESSFULLY FINISHES TODAY Location:Main Office
Flown Today:26 MilesTotal Miles 1285

Pilots Joe and Richard took off with the Chass Five, the last of the Class of 2010, around 7:56am. They led them the 26 air miles from the stopover pensite on the Halpata-Tastanki Preserve to the young cranes' wintering ground on the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. "Delivery" time was approximately one hour later at 8:56am.

The last few miles gave the cranes and planes a bit of a bumpy ride with the trashy air that usually is encountered as they approached the coastline. (The pensite is in a marshy area five miles out.)

This flight brought the 2010 Migration, which began what seems like eons ago, to a close. On behalf of everyone at OM, here is a huge and sincere thank you to all our donors, members, sponsors, and grantors, for helping and supporting our efforts on behalf of Whooping cranes. As we've said many times before, we have the hands and the hearts, but could accomplish nothing without YOUR financial support. Your loyalty and unflagging support is stupendous. Whooping cranes could not have better friends!

Joe has promised an entry for posting here on both yesterday's second to last flight with the Class of 2010, and today's final and farewell flight. Be patient though. That is not likely to happen today with all the post final flight activity that is necessary. Do keep tuned.

Once again we can thank Julie Reagan for sharing her snaps from this morning's flyover in Homosassa.

Joe leads his one charge on the final leg of the 2010 migration to the Chassahowitza refuge. Richard has four of the Chass Five off his wing on their very last flight with OM's aircraft.
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Date:January 14, 2011 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Main Office
Flown Today:59.1Total Miles 1259

It could be that tomorrow's weather will allow a 'two-peat'. Surface conditions look very favorable, and if there is anything that could cause a hiccup it is the winds aloft. Right now the aviation sites are showing that the cranes and planes are likely to face a headwind as they fly the 26 mile flight to the Chassahowitzka NWR. That short leg can often be a test because of the swirly winds as they approach the coastline.

According to Joe, at the minimum they will be putting up a test trike in the morning, but as of this afternoon, he was feeling reasonably confident about being able to fly the last leg and thus conclude the 2010 migration.

Chassahowitza is undoubtedly as anxious to receive their new winter residents as we are to see them safely into their hands.

For those who would like one last chance to see the Class of 2010 and their airborne mechanical leaders, the flyover viewing location is at the Wal-Mart parking lot, 3826 South Suncoast Blvd., in Homosassa. Click here for Google Map

At today's Arrival Flyover Event at the Dunnellon-Marion County airport, super Craniac and volunteer extraordinaire, Colleen Chase, stood in for me both taking updates on the flight and in our booth. There aren't words to thank her enough for all she does for OM!

 

 

Here's to you Colleen....Applause, Applause!

 

(Photo compliments of Frances Brown)

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Date:January 14, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:SECOND TO LAST MIGRATION LEG COMPLETEDLocation: Main Office
Flown Today:59.1 MilesTotal Miles 1259

While we don't yet have any details about today's flight from pilots Joe and Richard, we can share a couple of photos taken at this morning's flyover thanks to Julie Reagan.

Richard flies over the crowd with one of the Chass Five. Joe gives flyover viewers a good look at his four charges.

Lisa, a videographer with WCJB.com was on hand for the Arrival Flyover Event which she described as, "...an awesome experience." She advised that the story, and we presume some of the footage she shot, will be available on their website - perhaps later today. Being stuck here in snowy Ontario, I'm anxious to check it out.

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Date:January 14, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 72 - THEY'RE IN THE AIR!!Location: Main Office
Flown Today:??Total Miles ??

The Arrival Flyover Event at the Dunnellon-Marion County airport is on! After coaxing one recalcitrant crane (15-10) out of the pen followed by a bit of a crane rodeo, Joe and Richard finally got the birds off at ~8:24am and are headed from Gilchrist County to Marion County with the Chass Five.

With ~70 air miles to cover, the flight should take ~two hours - more or less- putting them overhead of the folks waiting to view the flyover at the Dunnellon airport - we're guessing - sometime between 10 and 11am. If you live close by you still have time to get to the flyover site.

Check the Field Journal later today for our 'Predicting' entry with our thoughts on the chances of the final leg of the 2010 migration, happening on Saturday, January 15. (Marion County to Citrus County and the Chassahowitzka NW Refuge)

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Date:January 13, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTING - Expecting to fly tomorrow!Location: Main Office
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 1199.3

After scouring the weather websites, we're all reasonably confident that the five juvenile cranes destined for Chassahowitzka NWR and their mechanical leaders will be in the air tomorrow.

As usual, pilots Joe and Richard will try to take to the air as soon after official sunrise (7:29am) as possible. It remains to be seen how quickly they'll get off however. Not having flown for a while, it might take some coaxing (read crane rodeo) to convince the chicks to 'shape up so everyone can ship out'.

The flight from Gilchrist to Marion County is ~70 miles and on average the cranes and planes fly at around 35 - 38mph. That means a flight lasting around two hours. But, if the forecast holds, they could have a nice little 5 to 6 mph push. Daring to make an assumption here (and it could be a big one!) - that they'll get in the air and on course by 7:50am - that would see the flyover happening no sooner than 9:15am and most likely before 10:00am.

All of that means if you'd like to attend the Arrival Flyover Event at the Dunnellon-Marion County airport, you will want to be on site by 9:00am latest. It is predicted to be a very cold morning with frost so bundle up!

We HOPE to have the TrikeCam operational for the flight, but cam viewers take note. The Gilchrist stopover is in an area with a notoriously poor signal.

If you are planning to go to the Flyover, be sure to stop by OM's booth to say hello to OM Volunteer Colleen Chase who is looking after things for us, and don't forget to check out the sale prices on our OM Gear.

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Date: January 13, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:VISIT 'THE PLATTE' IN NEBRASKA WITH DR. JANE GOODALLLocation: Main Office
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 1199.3

Regular Field Journal readers will know of OM’s admiration and friendship with Dr. Jane Goodall. It is why we announce with great pleasure here, that the Jane Goodall Institute has organized a 'Pilgrimage to Witness the Great Crane Migration with Dr. Jane' – and you’re invited.

March 16 – 19th, you are invited to join the Jane Goodall Institute along the banks of the Platte River in Nebraska to view the great migration of the Sandhill cranes, one of Dr. Goodall’s most cherished pastimes. The trip cost ($5000) includes all scheduled events, hotel accommodation (Wyngate by Windham in Kearney, NE), meals, and transportation to and from the airport.

Some of the highlights of this all inclusive trip include:
• Guided trip at Rowe Sanctuary to view the world’s largest concentration of Sandhill cranes from observation blinds on the banks of the Platte River.

• Birding with acclaimed natural history writer and field ornithologist (or bird migration researcher), Scott Weidensaul at the Rainwater Basin.

• Nature Photography Workshop and Field Survey at the Nebraska Nature and Visitors Center.

• Cocktails and dinner with Dr. Jane Goodall and acclaimed nature photographer Tom Mangelson.

Click the link to see the detailed schedule. For more information please contact Alicia Zarillo, manager of donor relations and special events for the Jane Goodall Institute, at azarillo@janegoodall.org or, (703) 682-9288.

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Date:January 12, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTING - NO FLYOVER THURSDAYLocation: Main Office
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 1199.3

Two flights totalling 113.1 air miles remain to be completed to finish the migration that we began last October with the Class of 2010. There are still 102 unsponsored MileMaker miles - all in Alabama. That means we need 408 quarter mile sponsors @ $50; or, 204 half mile sponsors @ $100; or, 102 one mile sponsors @ $200 - - or any combination thereof.

We hope those of you who are not already a MileMaker Sponsor will click this link and become one TODAY. Alternatively, if you'd like to speak to a real person, call our office toll free at 1-800-675-2618. We'd love to hear from YOU! Thank you in advance for helping to cover the cost of the 2010 migration.

As for the possibility of a flight from Gilchrist to Marion County and the Arrival Flyover Event tomorrow – Thursday – we are looking at clear skies, a cool temp of 22F, and winds of ~6mph on the ground.

Aloft the winds are not expected to drop down in strength enough to allow a flight. As a result, the cranes and planes will NOT be flying tomorrow, meaning of course that the Arrival Flyover at the Dunnellon airport will not happen until another day.

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Date: January 12, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:USFWS SENDS OUT PRESS RELEASE RE 3 CRANE MORTALITIESLocation: Main Office
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 1199.3
This Press Release just received...

Endangered Whooping Cranes were Killed by Gunshot Near Albany, Georgia
-- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Offers $12,500 Reward for Information on Shooting --

Wildlife scientists at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, have concluded through preliminary testing the cranes found dead near Albany, Georgia, on Dec. 30, 2010, sustained injuries consistent with gunshot wounds.

The cranes were shot sometime before Dec. 30, 2010. They were discovered and reported by hunters. This was the crane’s first migration. They were banded and equipped with transmitters and were not part of the ultralight-led migration effort. Their identities were confirmed by the recovery of their bands. The three cranes, 20-10, 24-10, and 28-10, were part of a group of five 2010 Direct Autumn Release (DAR) cranes. According to Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership trackers, they had last been tracked in Hamilton County, Tennessee, where they roosted on December 10, 2010, with cranes 6-05, 6-09, and 38-09.

The cranes are part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership effort to reintroduce whooping cranes into the eastern United States. There are about 570 whooping cranes left in the world, 400 in the wild. About 100 cranes are in the eastern migratory population.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents are leading a joint investigation with Georgia Department of Natural Resources conservation rangers.

Numerous organizations are contributing funds for the reward. They include: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Humane Society of the United States along with the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, the Georgia Ornithological Society, the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration USA Inc, the St. Marks Refuge Association, along with the St. Marks Photo Club, and the Georgia Conservancy. The reward of up to $12,500 will be provided to the person or people who provide information leading to an arrest and successful prosecution of the perpetrator(s).

In addition to the Endangered Species Act, whooping cranes are protected by state laws and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Any information concerning the deaths of these cranes should be provided to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Terry Hasting at 404-763-7959 and/or Georgia Department of Natural Resources 24hr. TIP Hotline at 1-800-241-4113.

For more information about the reintroduction effort, visit http://www.bringbackthecranes.org

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Date:January 12, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATELocation: Main Office

With the December 25th release of five juveniles at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, the number of Whooping Cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) stood at 55 males and 49 females for a total of 104 at January 8th, the end of the latest WCEP Tracking report period. Not yet included in the EMP total are the five ultralight-led cranes in the Class of 2010 still in Gilchrist County, FL and destined for wintering grounds on the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

Legend
* = female
D = DAR or direct autumn release
NFT = non-functional transmitter
& connecting two cranes = bonded pair
SM = Released at St. Marks NWR (release site distinction begins with 2008 cranes).
CH = released at Chassahowizka NWR (release site distinction begins with 2008 cranes)

INDIANA
Jasper Cty - 27-07* as of Dec. 27
Sullivan Cty - 17-03 & 3-03* as of Jan. 7
Knox Cty - 16-02/16-07* as of Dec. 10
Jackson/Jennings Cty - D34-09* and D35-09* departed Dec. 6-9. No subsequent reports.
Union Cty - D32-09* as of Jan. 1

KENTUCKY
16-04, CH4-09*, 12-07, 17-07*NFT, D31-08 (Four of the five were detected together in flight through western KY Dec. 6)

TENNESSEE
Bradley Cty - 18-03 & 13-03* as of Dec. 30
Meigs/Rhea Ctys - 5-05 & 15-04*, D28-05* as of Dec. 22, D37-07, SM28-08, D21-10, D28-05 as of Dec. 22, 13-07 and D36-09* as of Dec. 14
Hamilton Cty - 6-05, SM6-09, D38-09

ALABAMA
Cherokee Cty - 11-02, SM30-08*, D19-10, 12-04 & D27-05*, D37-09*, D22-10*, 25-10, and 27-10*
Morgan Cty - 13-02 & 18-02*, 1-04 & 8-05*, 24-05 & D42-07*, D27-06, SM26-09*, SM13-08*
Shelby Cty - 33-07 CH5-09*, CH7-09*, D42-09* as of Dec. 8

GEORGIA
Lowndes Cty - 3-07, D38-08*, 7-07 & D39-07*, D23-10*, D26-10 as of Jan. 6

SOUTH CAROLINA
Colleton Cty - 11-03 & 12-03*, 10-03/W1-06* as of Jan. 5

FLORIDA
Citrus Cty - 1-01, CH24-08, CH14-08, CH27-08 as of Dec. 27, CH13-09 and CH19-09 as of Dec. 2, SM12-09, CH 24-09, D41-09 as of Dec. 5, CH14-08, CH24-08*, CH27-08 as of Dec. 20-21
Hernando Cty - 5-01 on Dec. 21 and Chass pensite Jan. 7, then Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park Jan. 8 where he was captured and subsequently transported to a holding pen Withlacoochee SF.
Pasco Cty - 12-02 * 19-04* and chick W3-10*
Alachua Cty - 7-03 & 26-07*, 8-04 & 19-05*, 12-05 & 22-07* by Dec. 30, SM14-09* as of Jan. 7
Lake Cty - 2-04 & D46-07*, 9-05
Lafayette Cty - 3-04 & 9-03* and chick W1-10* as of Dec. 21
Polk Cty - 12-07, 17-07*NFT, D31-08
Wakulla Cty - SM8-09*, SM11-09, SM15-09*, SM18-09, SM25-09*, CH29-09, 1-10, 5-10*, 6-10*, 8-10*, 10-10*
Levy Cty – CH4-08, SM10-09 as of Jan. 7
Santa Rosa Cty - SM29-08 as of Dec. 31

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
D33-05NFT last reported in Jackson Cty, IN March 6, 2010
CH27-09 last detected in Waukesha Cty., WI Apr. 10, 2010
7-01*NFT: last reported in Fond du Lac Cty., WI May 2.
16-03NFT last observed on Necedah NWR May 6.
14-05NFT last observed on Necedah NWR May 18.
20-05*NFT believed to have been in Jackson Cty., WI May 24.

Yet to be released into the EMP are Five Ultralight-led Juveniles
Gilchrist Cty 3-10*, 9-10*, 15-10, 16-10*, 17-10

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Date:January 11, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTING - NO FLYOVER TOMORROWLocation: Main Office

Having travelled through a south that weather-wise more resembled the north, Joe and Richard have reached northern Florida and should be in Gilchrist County in time for a late dinner.

As the day progressed we've been checking the weather for the area, both on the ground and in the air. Between the lateness of the pilots' arrival today and the turnaround in forecast winds, we can say with confidence there will be no cranes and planes in the air tomorrow - and therefore - no Arrival Event Flyover at the Dunnellon-Marion County airport.

Surface winds that promised to be light are now predicted to pick up well beyond tolerance, and what is now forecast aloft is almost triple the velocity previously forecast.

The waiting game begins...wonder what the weatherman has in store for us for Thursday. We will keep you posted.

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Date:January 11, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:POSSIBLE FLYOVER TOMORROW?Location: Main Office

Pilots Joe and Richard are enroute to Gilchrist County, FL and hope to rejoin the Chass Five of the Class of 2010 before the end of today.

The weatherman has so far been kind to them as they make their way back to Florida, however, when we last spoke, they had yet to encounter the blast of winter that had been promised particularly to Tennessee and Georgia which could slow them down.

And speaking of weather, the forecast for Gilchrist County for tomorrow morning holds promise, at least on the ground; clear skies, a temperature in the high 20's, and NW surface winds. If anything, it appears that the winds aloft could prove to be the anchor that holds them firmly in place.

Those wishing to attend the Arrival Flyover Event at the Dunnellon-Marion County airport, will want to check here late afternoon/early evening for an update. Much will depend on the pilots' arrival time at the Gilchrist stopover, and therefore their ability to get all in readiness for a morning flight. Based on that situation and a last check of the aviation sites for weather aloft, we will post our 'best guess' on the odds of Wednesday being a fly day.

Will tomorrow see the cranes and planes advance to their second to last stop on a journey that began October 10th and 1,172 miles ago? Stay tuned.

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Date:January 10, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:SANDHILL CRANE VIEWING DAYS IN TNLocation:Main Office

This year the annual Sandhill Crane Viewing Festival at Birchwood School and Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County, Tennessee is celebrating its 20th year.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation and the Tennessee Ornithological Society are partnering on the January 15 & 16 events, which will feature music, a bird show, an American Indian heritage program and, of course, the cranes – thousands of Sandhill cranes, and perhaps even a Whooping crane or two!

The festival will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Birchwood School, with children's activities, breakfast and displays. Throughout the day visitors can park at the Birchwood School and take shuttle buses to the Hiwassee refuge and to Cherokee Memorial Park, located nearby at Blythe Ferry on the Tennessee River.

Programs at the school will include presentations on local Native American history, TWRA programs and a special raptor show by the American Eagle Foundation.

On Sunday, Jan. 16, crane viewing will continue at the Hiwassee refuge and the Cherokee Memorial with spotting scopes and wildlife interpretation provided by TWRA and TOS.

To reach the Birchwood School for Saturday's activities, take Interstate 75 south from Knoxville, get off on Exit 25 at Cleveland, TN., and head north on State Route 60 for approximately 15 miles to the school.

To reach the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge on Sunday, first go to the Birchwood School, and continue 1.7 miles north on State Route 60 before turning right onto Shadden Road. Go one mile and turn right onto Blythe Ferry Road. Take the next left on Priddy Lane and follow the signs.

Admission to the festival is free.

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Date:January 9, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:COIN CONTROVERSYLocation:Main Office

Biologists say a silver dollar minted to honor the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada shows two endangered species not found in any national park.

Alex Reeves, a spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mint, defended the design, The Ottawa Citizen reported. He said the national parks play a key role in preserving endangered species and that’s what the coin tries to demonstrate.

The coin will be available for $55.95, considerably more than its face value. The design includes a whooping crane and Kentucky coffee tree, both found in national parks, and the southern maidenhair fern and western prairie fringe orchid.

The fern, common in the southeastern United States, grows in only one place in Canada, at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort in British Columbia, where warm runoff creates the conditions it requires. The orchid is found in a few boggy spots in Manitoba, none of them in national parks.

Dan Brunton, a naturalist whose field work led to the fern’s declaration as an endangered species, said celebrating species not found in national parks “seems a weird way to promote the importance of national parks, or to provide public confidence in their grasp of the science that is critical to their successful management and planning of the parks system and its dependent biodiversity.”

If you're interested in purchasing this new coin visit the Royal Canadian Mint Website.

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Date:January 7, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DAR JUVENILES SHOT IN GEORGIALocation: Main Office

Georgia Department of Natural Resources reported that necropsy results revealed that the cause of death of the three Whooping Cranes found December 30, 2010 in Calhoun County, Georgia, was gunshot. An investigation is underway. The cranes, according to the landowner of the property where they were found by hunters, had been in the area for a few weeks.

The deceased Whooping Cranes were part of a ten year effort of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) to reintroduce the species into the eastern United States. The three juveniles were released in Wisconsin in October 2010 with eight other first-year birds as part of the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) program operated by the Baraboo, Wisconsin based International Crane Foundation (ICF). The young DAR cranes generally follow older Whooping Cranes or Sandhill Cranes to learn a migration route south in search of suitable wintering habitat. The cranes were banded and equipped with transmitters and were not part of Operation Migration’s ultralight-led migration reintroduction program.

A reward will be posted for information leading to an arrest. OM’s Board of Directors, via a special call, moved to make a contribution toward that reward. “It was the Board of Director’s feeling that it is important that Operation Migration demonstratively support both Whooping Cranes and project partner, the International Crane Foundation.” said Board Chair, Paul Young

Operation Migration CEO, Joe Duff, said, “It is a bitter pill to swallow to have WCEP’s efforts to safeguard the endangered Whooping Crane from extinction so callously disregarded. For this magnificent species with an already tenuous hold on survival, these mortalities are tragic. We can only hope the perpetrators of this reprehensible act can be identified so that appropriate justice can be meted out.”

US Fish & Wildlife Law Enforcement Special Agent Hasting asks that any individuals with knowledge of the shooting contact him at 404-763-7959.

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Date:January 7, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHITE BIRDS VISIT - AGAINLocation: Main Office

Brooke and his helpers had another busy day yesterday as the five Whooping cranes released last winter at St. Marks and the one released at Chassahowitzka paid the pensite yet another visit.

He said there is some aggression within the group of six older birds. When they were hazed off on previous occasions, the costumes watched as an aerial battle carried on (they believe the aggressor was 15-09*) for more than 15 minutes. Apparently 15-09* takes particular pleasure in picking on little 25-09*.

1-10 has taken up the job of protecting the feed buckets. Brooke said #1 is not shy about putting the run on #15-09* or any of the other adults when they try to approach the food. So, 1-10 has been given a part-time job. When the adults arrive the costumes walk 1-10 over to one feed bucket and they deploy in front of the others to ensure none of the white birds get a free meal.

When the group arrived at the pen yesterday morning 25-09* was not with them - which had the costumes worried. It was almost two hours later before she finally made her appearance. The costumes went about the business hazing off the white birds - noisily banging feed buckets to startle them, and then literally running to chase them away. Brooke told us that the adults are beginning to get the message as they have started to run or fly off as soon as they see a costume approaching.

It was afternoon though before the costumes had finally convinced them to vamoose. However, they merely flew out to the nearby flats, so out to the flats trudged the costumes to haze them even further off.

Last evening around roost check time, 25-09*, which Brooke describes as a beautiful, tiny, timid bird, showed back up at the pen. She doesn't bother the 2010 chicks and they don't mind her being around, so for her own overnight safety, she was allowed to roost on the oyster bar with the juveniles.

We hope Brooke isn't turning green and sprouting shoots from spending so much time in the marsh!

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Date:January 6, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHITE BIRDS VISITLocation: Main Office

The St. Marks Five continue to fare well at their winter home on the refuge. They had visitors once again earlier in the week as the six returning adults stopped by the pen. Brooke and his helpers spent a day and a half in the marsh hazing them away, and finally put the run on them Tuesday afternoon. There were three 'White Bird free days' between this drop-in and their last.

In a telephone conversation with Brooke he reported: "They have not really posed a threat to the juveniles. My bigger concern is that they might lead them off somewhere. The most aggressive bird, 15-09*, has tried to peck at the youngsters, but I've watched that same behavior from her within her own peer group. Her most usual target is 25-09*. We've now hazed the adults off so much and so often that the chicks seem to have picked up on the action and have begun to run the adults off themselves."

Brooke told us that along with making sure the adults had no access to the juveniles' food and doing everything possible to make their visit an unpleasant and uncomfortable experience, they also ensured the costumes were always positioned between the White Birds and the chicks.

They have had no success at locating the six adults' favorite haunt on the refuge despite several attempts. Brooke said, "It is likely at some fresh water hole but we haven't be able to pinpoint it yet."

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Date:January 5, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: MORTALITIESLocation: Main Office

The discovery of three dead Whooping Cranes near Albany, GA was reported to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on December 30th. A DNR staffer went to the mortality site and notified WCEP officials by calling the telephone number on one of the birds’ radio transmitters. Also notified at the time was a US Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Officer who is investigating the deaths, described by USFWS and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources as, “suspicious”.

The identity of the birds was confirmed by the recovery of their bands. The three, namely, 20-10, 24-10, and 28-10, were part of a group of five 2010 Direct Autumn Release (DAR) cranes. According to WCEP trackers they had last been recorded as being in Hamilton County, TN where they roosted on December 10th with 6-05, 6-09, and 38-09.

This group of eight cranes departed this location December 13th. Although the three older birds subsequently returned to their Hamilton County location, there were no further reports on the whereabouts of the five DAR juveniles after that time. Two Whooping Cranes, presumed to be the other two DAR birds of the group of five, have been subsequently sighted in fields adjacent to the mortality site.

On Monday, January 3rd, the carcasses were shipped to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon for necropsy. Billy Brooks, Wildlife Biologist, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Jacksonville Field Office told us, “The results from the necropsies to determine the cause of deaths are expected to be completed in about two weeks.”

These mortalities, plus the three adult cranes now missing for more than a year and assumed dead, has dropped the number of Whooping Cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) to 96. The EMP has not been at this level since October of 2008 when the flock numbered 91. This despite the release of 50 juveniles (32 ultralight-led and 18 DAR) between October 2008 and today.

“These deaths, and the falling population number due to other mortalities, dramatically emphasize the vital importance of annual releases of the largest possible number of Whooping Cranes,” said Joe Duff, Operation Migration’s CEO.

Anyone with information concerning the deaths of these cranes is asked to contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Terry Hasting at 404-763-7959 (ext. 233).

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Date:January 5, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:TWO MIGRATION LEGS LEFT TO GO - AND A FLYOVERLocation: Main Office

Hold your phone calls and email inquiries folks - YES - there will be an Arrival Flyover at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport when OM's trikes and the last five of the Class of 2010 are back in the air.

As you know, we have been waiting for word from WCEP trackers that the last of the adults most likely to make a pen site visit at the Chassahowitzka NWR had moved through. As of yesterday, it appears it is down to all but two cranes. That has prompted us to begin figuring out the logistics and arrangements for the conclusion of the 2010 migration subsequent to the stand-down waiting for the white birds necessitated.

We've kept in touch with the good folks at the Chassahowitzka refuge and they are standing by, ready if not itching to swing into action to help make the Flyover event happen.

Those of you hoping to attend the Flyover and see first hand the spectacle of modern machine leading an ancient species - watch this space. We promise to keep you informed and to give you as much advance warning as possible. Do keep in mind however that the big unknown remains the same - the weather.

Stay tuned...

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Date:January 4, 2011Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:PEPSI REFRESH EVERYTHING UPDATELocation:Main Office

Whew! It has been over 60 days of daily voting, watching, and hoping… We started out in 72nd position in the rankings – a little unsettling but then within the first week of the contest and thanks to your help, we moved up to 27th.

Then 22nd shortly thereafter… 19th… 18th… 15th… 13th… 9th… at the beginning of the final week of voting, we made it to our highest ranking in the competition: 7th! And this would have assured us a slot in the next round of voting but over the holidays, I, and I’m sure many Craniacs saw our ranking slip to 8th – one spot away from where we needed to be.

Unfortunately, in the end we didn’t make it into the top two positions to receive the $25,000 grant, and we didn’t make it into the top five runner up positions to advance us into the next round of voting, which starts today.

As one who always tries to see the positive though, Operation Migration ranked FIRST in 'The Planet' category, which means nothing in terms of funding, but I think we can all be proud that thanks to your collective effort, a LOT of new people became aware of Whooping cranes.

So, thank you to everyone that voted daily and shared our cause with your friends and relatives! Thanks for posting it on your social media pages. Thank you for reminding them to vote daily. We didn’t achieve the final goal but we did increase support for Whooping cranes and that’s a major achievement.

The next submission date is February 1st and you can be assured that we’ll be submitting our idea again!

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Date:January 3, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:A BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ARANSASLocation: Main Office

The name, “Tom Stehn”, is a familiar one to Field Journal readers. For any new folk in our audience, Tom is the Whooping Crane Coordination at the 115,000 acre Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Texas, winter home to the Wood Buffalo-Aransas Population (WB-AP) of Whooping Cranes, and he is also the Chair of the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

Tom, who began tracking the Whoopers at the Aransas refuge back in 1982 when that population numbered just 75, supplies us with regular reports on how the WB-AP are faring, including the results of his aerial census flights conducted annually throughout the late fall/winter months.

When he saw the photo I posted here December 31st of three costumes performing their version of a ‘happy dance’ on successfully completing the health checks of the Chass Five, he emailed to say, “Operation Migration is not the only organization that can do silly things. Look at me!” and provided a link to a story that appeared on the Corpus Christi, Texas ‘caller.com’ website. The occasion for the celebration was the Aransas refuge’s 73rd birthday, and the signage in one photo dubbed it "Tom Stehn Day."

Wildlife conservation-minded President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the ANWR for the protection of migratory birds on December 31, 1937.

We send a belated Happy Birthday wish to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and to Tom, our thanks for sharing the festivities of the day with us and our readership.

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Date:January 2, 2011 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:SPONSORSHIPS STILL NEEDED!!Location: Main Office
While we have just 113 miles left to fly to complete the journey with the young Whooping Cranes in the Class of 2010, we have 189 MileMaker miles still unsponsored. It sure would be a huge relief to know the migration was covered financially by the time we reached the finish line!

Please, if you haven’t already become a MileMaker sponsor, won’t you do that right now? A quarter mile sponsorship is $50; a half mile $100, and a full mile $200. It's as easy as clicking the MileMaker logo to the right. Perhaps you know others who care about the survival of wildlife as much as you do and you’d ask them to consider also becoming a sponsor.

We sincerely thank our members, supporters, and Cranaics everywhere for all you have done for Operation Migration and Whooping Cranes throughout 2010.

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Date:January 2, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FROM ANOTHER PERSPECTIVELocation: Main Office
Volunteer, John Cooper, kept a log of sorts while accompanying the migration and he kindly shared it with me. I thought you might find it interesting reading so in turn, I am sharing some excerpts with you.

John does double duty, driving the white diesel truck that hauls our aircraft/equipment trailer, and also acting as spotter in the top cover aircraft. He flies with pilot Jack Wrighter whose light, single engine aircraft - a Cessna 172 – is used to fly top cover for the ultralights and the cranes while they are in the air. Once a migration leg is completed and all the planes and cranes are safely on the ground, Jack flies John back to the starting point so he can pick up the truck and trailer and drive it to our next stopover.

(Top cover’s job is to keep them in sight by orbiting overhead. They clear the planes and cranes through any restricted airspace and keep them away from nearby aircraft and airports. Each young crane is equipped with a small transmitter which emits a distinctive frequency and the top cover aircraft has tracking antennas on the wings to track any young crane that gets separated, or lands out along the way.)

Some excerpts from John’s log…

Chilton County, AL
Another wild, but typical migration day. After fruitlessly getting up at 5:00am three days in a row in order to drive to the distant airport so we would be able to launch in the Cessna about the same time as the birds, if we indeed could fly those days, we looked at the forecast and decided yesterday to stay put and not pack up all our belongings.

Wouldn’t you know it, at the last minute, Richard decided to put up his trike to test the weather conditions. It was marginal but doable, so we rushed to the airport as just as the cranes took off with the three trikes. However, a layer of frost on the wings delayed our take-off so much that we were not able to catch the cranes and ultralights until they had almost arrived at the destination.

Although we trailed the gaggle of planes and cranes (about thirty miles out in front of us), we were able to clear them through Montgomery, Alabama restricted airspace as they dodged two F-16 fighter aircraft taking off from MGM and numerous helicopters out of Fort Rucker. Meanwhile we managed to avoid a small aircraft flying an approach into the Prattville airport.

As we arrived over the stopover site we watched from above as Joe tried to round up the cranes that were spooked by several more low-flying helicopters. He was doing this all the while with a throttle stuck full open. He thought that he would have to shut down his engine and dead-stick his trike to a landing, but the iced-up throttle finally thawed out in the warmer low altitude air and he and all 10 birds landed safely.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly a ‘typical’ migration day.

Pike County, AL
We had a busy week as we managed to advance from Tennessee to southern Alabama. Today we are encamped in an RV park in Pike County and the Whoopers are in a pen a few miles away. We awoke this morning thinking we might be able to launch, so Jack and I made the 30 minute trip to the nearby airport where his plane was tied down. By the time we arrived there we got a radio transmission from the test trike flown by Richard van Heuvelen that the winds at altitude (about 1,500 feet above ground level) would prevent us from flying today. It was a good thing too, because it started snowing shortly thereafter and flurries continued off and on all day.

Jefferson County, FL
Things can go wrong in a hurry. Last night we found out that on our next flight we could not take the five birds to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. It was hunting season in that area and it wouldn’t end until after the weekend. The plan then was changed to leaving the St. Marks cranes along with one of our ultralight pilots to ‘mind’ them in Jefferson County while the rest of us - two trikes, top cover, ground tracking, etc - proceeded to our next stop in Gilchrist County leading the five cranes destined for Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. However, late last night the plan was changed for a third time when we found out that for several reasons, Chass could not immediately accept us with our juvenile cranes. Among other things, there were still adult cranes moving through.

Version four of the plan had us just waiting until Tuesday, flying the St. Marks birds there, and then proceeding towards Chass with the remaining five later in the week. That plan too was revised when the day began with perfect flying weather which led to the decision to at least fly the Chass birds to Gilchrist County.

At dawn, the ultralight pilots headed to the small airstrip about 20 minutes away where the trikes were hangered. Jack and left for the 45 minutes drive to the airport where we had found an unused hanger to overnight his Cessna. The bird handlers headed to the pensite to be ready to release the birds, and the tracking van started down the road to get positioned under our projected flight path in case a bird dropped off. With everyone scattering in different directions itt looked like a bomb had gone off in camp.

The late start proved troublesome however when the weather started closing in soon after the birds launched behind Richard’s trike. Joe and Richard began calling for top cover, “as soon as possible,” as they ran into increasingly lowering clouds and minimal visibility. Jack and I were making our pre-flight checks when we discovered that both of his fuel gauges read ‘empty’. This although we had fully fuelled the aircraft the night before and locked it in a secure hanger. It meant it was necessary for us to shut down in order to visually confirm that we had the fuel we needed. As it turns out the tanks were indeed full, but by the time we took off, the weather had decreased to below our minimums and we were forced to return to land at the airport.

No sooner were we on the ground than we received a frantic phone call from Liz. “Get back in the air! Get back in the air!” Liz exclaimed. The message, passed from the pilots, to the tracking van, to Liz, and then to us, was that the trikes had to turn around because of the weather. Because they didn’t have enough fuel to make a complete return, they were going to try for an alternate landing area. Unfortunately, on arriving they found that the proposed landing field had been freshly plowed and they couldn’t put down.

By this time the weather had lifted and reached our 1,000 foot ceiling minimum so Jack and I could finally get airborne again. We scouted ahead and relayed to pilots Joe and Richard that the weather was better to the south, so they again turned back on course toward stopover site #25 – Gilchrist County. While circling overhead at the cranes’ pensite in Gilchrist, Jack and I were able to give our hosts a flyby. That was soon followed by a Whooping Crane air show for them as our wayward birds and trikes finally appeared out of the haze. We landed there in the midst of a model airplane fly-in and said, “Hello and Goodbye” before heading flying back to our departure airport - in what was now beautiful weather. Go figure.

I’ve now decided that the only thing ‘typical’ about a migration day is that NONE OF THEM ARE!

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Date:January 1, 2011Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATELocation: Main Office

As of the end of the latest WCEP Tracking report period, (December 25), the number of Whooping Cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) stood at 55 males and 47 females for a total of 102, and down from 105. The reduction is the result of removing* from the population number three male birds that have been missing for more than a year and are now considered dead. Not yet included in the EMP total are the 10 ultralight-led cranes in the Class of 2010.

* Removed from the population number were: SM5-08 and SM12-08 last seen December 10, 2009 in Columbia County, WI, and D36-08 last detected in Lawrence County, TN, ~December 11, 2009.

Legend
* = female
D = DAR or direct autumn release
NFT = non-functional transmitter
& connecting two cranes = bonded pair
SM = Released at St. Marks NWR (release site distinction begins with 2008 cranes).
CH = released at Chassahowizka NWR (release site distinction begins with 2008 cranes)

INDIANA
Jasper Cty - 27-07*
TENNESSEE
Bradley Cty - 18-03 & 13-03*
Meigs/Rhea Ctys - 5-05 & 15-04*, D28-05*, D37-07, SM28-08, D21-10
Hamilton Cty - 6-05, SM6-09, D38-09
ALABAMA
Cherokee Cty - 11-02, SM30-08*, D19-10, 12-04 & D27-05*, D37-09*, D22-10*, 25-10, and 27-10*
Morgan Cty - 13-02 & 18-02*, 1-04 & 8-05*, 24-05 & D42-07*, D27-06, SM26-09*, SM13-08*
GEORGIA
Lowndes Cty - 3-07, D38-08*, 7-07 & D39-07*
SOUTH CAROLINA
Colleton Cty - 11-03 & 12-03*
FLORIDA
Citrus Cty - 1-01, CH24-08, CH14-08, SM12-09, CH24-09, D41-09, CH13-09, CH19-09
Hernando Cty - 5-01
Pasco Cty - 12-02 * 19-04* and chick W3-10*
Alachua Cty - 7-03 & 26-07*, 8-04 & 19-05*
Lake Cty - 2-04 & D46-07*, 9-05
Lafayette Cty - 3-04 & 9-03* and chick W1-10*

Polk Cty - 12-07, 17-07*NFT, D31-08
Marion Cty - SM14-09
Waulla Cty - SM8-08*, SM11-09, SM15-09*, SM18-09, SM25-09*, CH29-09
Levy Cty - Two unidentified Whooping cranes
Santa Rosa Cty - SM29-08

ON MIGRATION / LAST KNOWN LOCATION

COUNTY/STATE

CRANE ID#

DATE

Owen, IN

D32-09*

Nov. 26

Sullivan, IN

17-03 & 3-03*

Dec. 9

Gibson, IN

12-05 & 22-07*

Dec. 9

Jackson/Jenning, IN

D34-09*, D35-09*

Dec. 9

Knox, IN

16-02 & 16-07*

Dec. 10

Clay/Vigo, IN

10-03 & W1-06*

Dec. 11

Greene, IN

18-03 & 13-03*

Dec. 22

 

 

 

Winnebago, IL

CH27-08

Nov. 27

Shelby, IL

Possibly 16-04 and CH4-09*

Dec. 6

 

 

 

?, KY

CH4-08, SM10-09

Dec. 6

 

 

 

Meigs, TN

5-01

Dec. 13

Rhea/Meigs, TN

13-07 and D36-09*

Dec. 14

Rhea/Meigs, TN

12-04 & D27-05*

Dec 19

 

 

 

Shelby, AL

33-07, CH5-09*, CH7-09*, D42-09*

De. 8

Hamilton, TN

D20-10, D23-10*, D24-10*, D26-10, D28-10

Dec. 13

Morgan, AL

Possibly D33-05*NFT

Dec. 15

Cherokee, AL

D22-10*, D25-10, and D27-10*

Dec. 18

Cherokee, AL

D37-09*

Dec. 18

Hamilton, TN

6-05, SM6-09, D38-09

Dec. 25

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
CH27-09 last detected in Waukesha Cty., WI Apr. 10
7-01*: last reported in Fond du Lac Cty., WI May 2.
16-03NFT last observed on Necedah NWR May 6.
14-05NFT last observed on Necedah NWR May 18.
20-05*NFT believed to have been in Jackson Cty., WI May 24.

Yet to be released into the EMP are Ultralight-Led Juveniles
Wakulla Cty 1-10, 5-10*, 6-10*, 8-10, 10-10*
Gilchrist Cty 3-10*, 9-10*, 15-10, 16-10*, 17-10

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Date:December 31, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:HOLIDAY VISITORS Location: Main Office

Most folks have had company of one sort or another over the past week. Many have hosted either family members home for the holidays, or friends who have dropped by for a visit, a glass of cheer, or to share a meal.

It has been no different for the St. Marks Five. They too have had their share of company in the form of six members of the Class of 2009, namely, 8-09, 11-09, 15-09*, 18-09, 25-09, and 29-09. All spent their first winter in Florida at the St. Marks pensite with the exception of 29-09, who wintered at the Chassahowitzka Refuge.

More return visits of the '09 cranes to the pen have kept Brooke hopping the last couple of days as he repeatedly has had to haze them off. "They are attracted as much as anything to the abundance of food in the ponds," Brooke said. "As I watched from the blind I was amazed to see the birds catching and eating fish at least five or six inches long!"

"It's been hard administering the necessary tough love to discourage the presence of the 2009 yearlings," he said. "I spent the winter last year tending and watching out for them and now I have to scare them off. The fact that it is for their own good and in the best interests of the chicks doesn't make it any easier."

The Chass Five have had Holiday Week visitors too, but of the two-legged variety. The Disney Health Team led by Dr. Scott Terrell travelled to Gilchrist County to administer that group's health checks. They were assisted by Patuxent's Ali Lopez who is their current minder. The word is that everything went off without a hitch and the cranes are none the worse for wear.

 
On Tuesday, the five young cranes waiting in Gilchrist County for their opportunity to complete the last two legs of their 2010 ultralight-led migration, got their health checks.

The health checks were performed by a team from Disney's Animal Kingdom led by veterinarian Dr. Scott Terrell.

In the photos taken by Disney's Fran Miglore -

Top left: Hooded #17-10 is held, ready for examination and to have blood drawn.

Top right: Ali Lopez holds #9-10 for his turn to be checked.

Bottom left: With health checks completed and all the cranes safely returned to their pen, three costumes do their version of a Happy Dance.

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Date:December 30, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: EXPLORING, FORAGING, FLYINGLocation: Main Office

As you can see from the photos provided by Brooke, the St. Marks Five are faring well and enjoying searching for snacks in their open-topped four acre wet/dry pen.


The young cranes have begun to fly out of the pen during the day to explore areas surrounding their wintering pen. The dummy you see in the center of the photo, the lure of easily accessible water and crane chow, along with the presence of the costume broadcasting calls, helps to coax them back to the safety of the pen to water roost in the evening.

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Date:December 29, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:CRANE XMASLocation: Main Office

Pictures taken at the blind at the St. Marks Refuge pensite and snitched from Santa Brooke's Christmas Eve photo album.


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Date:December 29, 2010Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:FLYING FREELocation: St. Marks, FL

“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the pen, not a creature was stirring, not even a hen.” Okay, okay, sorry, but I couldn’t resist. So much for Holiday Humor. Liz asked me to write about releasing the St Marks birds from the top-netted pen Christmas day so here goes.

Christmas is a time of giving and what better way to celebrate than to give the five St Marks cranes their freedom. They had been confined in the top-netted section of the pen since their arrival, and since that time they have been banded and had their health checks. The health checks were performed by our friends from Disney with help from of a young lady from the Jacksonville Zoo, as well as two of the “Usual Suspects”…Charlie Shafer from Patuxent and myself, in addition to another old and dear friend of the project who shall remain anonymous.

As expected, all the handling, poking, and prodding, necessitated by such an event made our little quintet sore and mad and not wanting to see a white costume ever again. Because their trust in and attraction to the costume is an essential tool in controlling them and keeping them alive through the winter, for our Whoopers, that's not a good thing. But memory fades,. (which is why I keep renting the same movie at Blockbuster) and grudges …at least some grudges, heal with time. So it took until the day before Christmas before we were once again one big happy dysfunctional family.

As Gordon and Craig looked on from the blind, I swung open the pen door and out they came into the large, open topped pen and all that surrounded it. 1-10, 8-10, and 10-10 took off immediately for a few aerial circuits around the neighborhood while #5 and #6 just stared up in amazement. Soon, they too were airborne, and the scene was electric.

Then, as if to make sure the ground hadn’t gone anywhere while they were away, they all landed back in the pen and the tour began. First, the north feeding station with two of those familiar hanging feeders full of crane chow. Then the north pond with the oyster bar running half way across it just below the surface, followed by another feeding station. Then it was the south pond and enough marshy stubble to keep their beaks on the probe for weeks.

Round the pen we went until arriving back at the beginning. After a time I snuck away to observe from the blind as their new world unfolded before them. If there was a Christmas Carol called, “Joy to the Pen”, they would have been singing it despite the fact the skies opened up and pounded the pen and everything in it with a cold wind driven rain.

Back in the blind, there on the wall hung a Christmas stocking for each young crane as well as one for myself thanks to the kind and generous folks from the St Marks Photography Club who had worked so hard to help get the pen ready for this special day. And the true spirit of Christmas was so warm and wonderful in that little room that it didn’t bother me one bit that my stocking was full of coal. Besides, being good all year was just too high a price to pay for that measly little something from the fat man Christmas morning. (I’d given up on the pony years ago.)

So as Christmas Day drew to a close, I walked back out to the pen and assembled these five little merry makers for a trip to the last stop on the tour…the end of the oyster bar where they must learn to roost, for not just that night, but every night while they’re at St Marks.

One by one, they traded their merriment for one legged slumber as the darkness and the rain fell. Soon, I inched my way quietly off the oyster bar past their now barely visible shapes and went out the pen door and back to the blind.

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good....flight”.

Two screen capture photos from the St. Marks cam

And this reminder from Craig Kittendorf with the Marks Refuge Photography Club...there is video on the St. Marks Refuge Association's website crane page: http://stmarksrefuge.org/cranes.cfm. Scroll down below the heading for Class of 2010.

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Date:December 28, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NO WORD YETLocation: Main Office

We've had no word as yet from the WCEP trackers or via the data logger at Chassahowitzka on the status of the few remaining adult Whooping Cranes who have a habit of checking in at the refuge pensite before moving on to their wintering grounds. The last two legs of the 2010 migration will remain on hold until that time.

Meanwhile, at the St. Marks pensite, we hope to have news from Brooke today that the St. Marks Five were released from the top netted pen sometime over the past couple of days. When we last spoke, Brooke promised some photos as well as a Field Journal entry so hopefully we will have that for you very soon.

Over in Gilchrist County, the Chass Five's 'minder', Patuxent's Ali Lopez, reported that similar to their classmates at St. Marks, his charges too reacted negatively to having their bands put on. Their wariness of the costume post banding is only very gradually wearing off and they still have their health checks pending.

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Date:December 25, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: The OM Team
Subject:TO MEMBERS, SUPPORTERS, AND CRANIACS EVERYWHERELocation: Far and Wide

We hope this message finds you healthy, happy and enjoying a wonderful holiday season with friends and loved ones.

As the year draws to a close, in the spirit of the season we would like to express our appreciation to you for helping to make 2010 a successful year of growth for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. We are deeply grateful for your ongoing moral and financial support of Operation Migration’s wildlife conservation work. You can take pride in the fact that your commitment helped enormously in our efforts to safeguard this magnificent species, and we hope you will carry that commitment into the New Year and beyond.

OM’s Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers, extend their sincerest thanks for your support through what was a challenging tenth year of work on behalf of Whooping Cranes. We are confident that together, we can accomplish even more in 2011.

To you and yours we send warm greetings for the holiday season, and wish you all the very best for the New Year.

Cheers,
The OM Team

P.S. Regular postings to the Field Journal will resume Tuesday, December 28th.

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Date:December 25, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:READY FOR SANTALocation: Main Office

The poem and photo below appeared in my Inbox from the St. Marks Refuge Association and I thought you would enjoy knowing that the St. Marks Five along with their 'guardian' Brooke were not forgotten thanks to some of Santa's Florida based elves. (The stockings were hung inside the blind at the pensite on the refuge.)

 

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the pen,
Not a creature was stirring, not even 8-10;
The stockings were hung in the blind with care,
In hopes that Santa Brooke would watch his flock there;
The chicklets were roosting on the oyster bed,
While visions of pumpkins danced in their heads.

 


 

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Date:December 24, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:THE ST. MARKS FIVELocation: Main Office

In a call this morning, Brooke let us know that although the Vet Team had completed the health checks, he had not as yet released the five juveniles from the top netted pen. He said, "It has taken them a few days to come around after the health checks, and in fact, #8 was particularly withdrawn and untrusting of the costume. That all improved somewhat yesterday when I came bearing gifts of shiners and shrimp for them to catch."

All five St. Marks cranes have VHF bands, and three of them, numbers 1-10, 5-10* and 6-10* have also been fitted with satellite transmitters. Brooke plans to treat the youngsters to crabs today. In expectation of their confidence being restored in the costume, he hopes to release them from the top netted pen tomorrow - making the 25th of December the beginning of their gentle release into the wild.

Waiting in Gilchrist County to fly their last two migration legs are the Chass Five. They are being tended to by Patuxent's Ali Lopez who reported to Brooke that all are doing well. This half of the Class of 2010 have also now been banded, and it is likely that their turn to have health checks will come up around mid week.

In case you're keeping track, 1-10, 5-10* 6-10*, 8-10 and 10-10 are wintering at St. Marks. Once we've been notified that all the migrating adults that like to stop by the Chassahowitzka pensite have moved through, the Chass group consisting of 3-10*, 9-10*, 15-10, 16-10* and 17-10 will be led to their wintering ground on the refuge there.

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Date:December 23, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATELocation: Main Office

As of the end of the latest WCEP Tracking report period, (December 11), all Whooping Cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) had begun migration with some having already reached their wintering grounds. (Note: some late additions to location information have been included.)

The maximum size of the EMP at the end of the period was 105 Whooping Cranes - 58 males, 47 females which included the two 2010 wild hatched chicks. Also included in this total are the ten 2010 Direct Autumn Release juveniles comprised of six males and four females.

In this update, * = female; D = Direct Autumn Release; NFT = non-functional transmitter

Last Known Location at the end of this Report Period
ILLINOIS
3-04 & 9-03* and their chick W1-10 were detected, possibly in flight in Lawrence County, IL December 3.
2-04 & D46-07* were in Will County November 26 and remained in the area at least through December 2.

INDIANA
12-04 & D27-05* reported in Greene County November 29 and possibly departed on December9 .
11-02 and 30-08* found in Vermillion County December 2 and remained at least through December 9.
16-02 &16-07* reported in Knox County November 28 and remained at least through December 10.
17-03 & 3-03* found in Sullivan County December 3 and remained at least through December 9.
10-03 & W1-06* remained in Clay/Vigo Counties throughout the report period.
18-03 & 13-03* remained in Greene County at least through December 9.
D19-10 found in Vermillion County December 2 and stayed through the remainder of the report period.
8-04/19-05* remained in Greene County at least through December 9.
12-05 & 22-07* remained in Gibson County at least through December 9.

KENTUCKY
4-08 and 10-09 detected December 6 in flight through western Kentucky.
12-07, 17-07*NFT, and D31-08 detected in flight through western Kentucky December 6.
16-04 and 4-09* found in Sauk County, WI December 2. Two additional cranes reported with 12-07, 17-07*NFT and D31-08 in Shelby County, IL  December 6 were probably these two birds. Four of the cranes were detected together in flight through western Kentucky on the same day.

TENNESSEE
D37-07 arrived at Meigs County between December 6-10.
5-01 and 14-09*: 5-01 found in Miegs County November 28 where he remained throughout the report period. No radio signal of 14-09* was detected.
5-05 & 15-04* remained on their wintering grounds in Meigs/Rhea Counties during the report period.
6-05, 6-09, D38-09, D20-10, D23-10*, D24-10*, D26-10, and D28-10 were found in Hamilton County December 11.
D28-05* reported at Meigs County December 2.
24-08* arrived Meigs County between December 6 - 10.
28-08 found at his previous wintering location in Meigs/Rhea Counties November 28 where he remains.
D21-10 remained in Meigs County during the report period.
D22-10*, D25-10, and D27-10* - a high precision PTT reading for D27-10 on 13 December indicated a roost location in Jackson County.
5-01 found in Miegs County November 28 where he remained throughout the report period.

ALABAMA
24-05 & D42-07* confirmed at their wintering area in Morgan County November 29 where they remain.
1-04 and 8-05* reported in Morgan County December 9.
D27-06 and 26-09* reported in Morgan County December 8.
33-07, 5-09*, 7-09*, and 42-09* reported in Shelby County December 8.
13-08* found in Morgan County November 29 and stayed through the remainder of the report period.
13-02 & 18-02* reported at their wintering area on in Morgan County December 6.

GEORGIA
3-07 and D38-08* reported on the wintering territory of 3-07 in Lowndes County November 28 where they remain.
7-07 & D39-07* reported on their wintering territory in Lowndes County November 29 where they remain.

FLORIDA
1-01 detected at his wintering location in Citrus County December 3.
12-09, 24-09, or D41-09 detected in Citrus County December 5.
13-09 and 19-09 reported flying over the pensite on Chassahowitzka NWR December 2.
Two possible Eastern Migratory Whooping Cranes were reported in Alachua County November 28, However, none were detected during an aerial survey on December 3.
8-09*, 11-09, 15-09*, 18-09, 25-09*, and 29-09 reported at St. Marks NWR, Wakulla County December 9 where they remained through the report period.
No. 14-09* found in Alachua County December 13.
12-02 & 19-04* and W3-10 found December 13 on the adults’ wintering territory in Pasco County.
7-03 & 26-07* found on their previous wintering territory in Alachua County December 13.
2-04 & D46-07* found on their wintering territory in Lake County December 13.
9-05 found on his wintering territory in Lake County December 13.

ON MIGRATION – LOCATION UNKNOWN
16-04 and 4-09* began migration December 1.
12-02 & 19-04* and W3-10 remained in Greene County, IN until December 6.
7-03 & 26-07* apparently began migration from Necedah NWR November 23.
11-03 & 12-03* began migration from Necedah NWR November 17.
9-05 apparently began migration from Necedah NWR November 23.
13-07 and D36-09* began migration from Monroe County, WI November 25-26.
27-08 and 29-08 departed from Winnebago County, IL November27.
27-07* reported in LaPorte County, IN  November 27 and 28 and apparently was gone by November 29.
34-09* and 35-09* reported in Jackson/Jennings Counties November 26 and departed December 6 - 9.
D32-09*and D37-09* last detected (in flight) from Owen County November 26.
14-08 detected November 25 in Dodge County and remained through at least the last check on November 10 but was no longer present by December 1.

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
5-08 and 12-08 last reported in Columbia County, WI, Dec 10, 2009
D36-08 last detected in Lawrence County, TN Dec 11, 2009
D33-05* last reported in Jackson County, IN Mar. 6
27-09 last detected in Waukesha County, WI Apr. 10
7-01*: last reported in Fond du Lac County, WI May 2.
16-03NFT last observed on Necedah NWR May 6.
14-05NFT last observed on Necedah NWR May 18.
20-05*NFT believed to have been in Jackson County, WI May 24.

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Date:December 22, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:BIRDS AND THE FUTURE OF REFUGESLocation: Main Office

In the December issue of the Birding Community E-bulletin there was an article on the importance of refuges to both wildlife and humans we thought our readership might be interested in. Below is the excerpt.

The National Wildlife Refuge System's conservation mission puts wildlife first, but refuges are not exclusively for wildlife. More than 40 million people visit refuges each year, generating an estimated $1.7 billion in annual sales and over 27,000 jobs. Wildlife observers (dominated by birders at all levels), photographers, and general outdoor enthusiasts find enjoyment on the system's 150 million acres, and more than half of the nation's national wildlife refuges are available to anglers and hunters.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wildlife Refuge Association are currently leading a public engagement effort to share ideas and to shape a new vision for wildlife conservation, public appreciation, and the National Wildlife Refuge System. Strengthening the system, protecting these special places for the public, defining a specific role for active bird conservation and for popular birding are all appropriate issues.

A vision document to be adopted in July 2011 at a large conference in Madison, Wisconsin, will guide the system into the next decade and beyond. To participate in the discussion, visit http://americaswildlife.org/

Before you click off here, don't forget to vote for OM in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge. Currently OM is in 7th place and there are only ten voting days left. Please vote today and every day through December 31st. THANKS!

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Date:December 21, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Trish Gallagher
Subject:SAYING GOODBYELocation:HOME!

I am so happy and so sad that my heart is overflowing. You can tell by the tears that occasionally trickle unbidden down my cheeks. I have felt like the luckiest woman in the world this year because I’ve had the privilege of watching these chicks grow up. Wednesday morning I felt even luckier than usual because I got to stand in the pen to welcome the St. Marks Five to their winter home. The winter pen is situated in a marsh, so landing a trike there is a difficult task. Brooke planned an air drop off, so we needed to have costumes in the pen to decoy the birds out of the air. Lucky me!

Tuesday was a down day, but I woke up Wednesday with that feeling that we were going to fly. I also felt the buzz of excitement at the thought of seeing the chicks fly without having to run and hide in the pen trailer. Plus, it was the last leg for half of my babies! How could I not be excited?

Charlie and I got to the pen site around 7:45 and by that time I was bouncing off the walls with excitement. I hadn’t seen the chicks in a few days so I was missing them. I also knew it was probably going to be the last time I would ever see them so it would be hello and goodbye. We knew it was unlikely that Brooke would be there before 8:45, but to paraphrase one of Brooke’s sayings, I’d rather be at the pen wishing I were in the van, than in the van wishing I were at the pen. Plus I was so excited I couldn’t sit still. I think Charlie wished he had exchanged my coffee for decaf that morning! We waited in the blind for a few minutes, my excitement continuing unabated. Finally we made our way out to the pen. We filled feeders and water buckets and then stood there enjoying the morning. There was a snipe in the pond, bobbing his head at us. Two seagulls circled above us, dropping down periodically to fish for breakfast. A bald eagle flew by. We could hear the ground crackling like rice krispies, I guess from the freezing temperatures.

Just when I thought the waiting would never be over, the radio jumped to life and we heard that they were at the flyover. A few minutes later, Charlie spotted the first trike and my heart stood still. At last, I could stand there and gaze at the chicks flying with the trike! At first I couldn’t see them, just Brooke in his trike, and then they grew from specks to dots to glorious cranes gliding across the sky. Charlie turned on the hailer – the brood call hooked up to a megaphone – and I held my puppet over my head to decoy them down. As Brooke turned on the final approach towards the pen, the sun was at his back, so it looked like they were flying in on a beam of sunlight. Brooke dropped way down, and the chicks flew directly over our heads, so close we could even hear a peep or two. Then Brooke flew off to the left and the chicks circled around to the right. As they circled back towards us, #8 landed first, with #6 just behind him. The remaining three flew one more circle around the inside of the open topped pen and then landed next to us. The entire delivery took less than a minute.

Once all the chicks landed, there was much chirping and peeping in greeting. I stood there for a moment welcoming them, mentally saying “Well done.” My heart was so full! As we began leading them over to the top-netted pen, I tossed grapes liberally. #1 and #8 happily gobbled them up – at one point I saw a bulge the size of a golf ball traveling down #1’s neck as he swallowed three or four grapes at once! #5, #6, and #10 were more attracted to the pond than the grapes and walked over to check it out. After a few sips of water, #6 and then #5 followed us to the pen. #10, always in her own world, brought up the rear.

And then we were all in the top-netted pen. We showed them the water and the food and it was time to say goodbye.

 Goodbye #1. I loved how you were always at the door to greet me whenever I went to the pen. I loved how you pecked at the water buckets while I was filling them. And your pecks on my helmet when I bent over always felt like crane kisses to me. Goodbye #6. You were always at the door too, and the loudest peeper of all whenever the trike was around. Soon you can fly as much as you want – no more days on end in the pen waiting for a fly day. Goodbye #8, you bossy, pecky bird! I like your attitude! Maybe you can chill a little bit with the pecking. Ah, but maybe it’s a good survival skill in the wild. Goodbye #5. I loved your yellow band because I could always tell it was you. And goodbye #10, my Zoey-FlowerChild-Woodstock. Your little black mustache is so dark and so cute that I had to give you a nickname too. Goodbye Little Miss Mustache! I wish you plentiful food and lots of purple clover for dessert. I will miss you. Have a wonderful life, all of you! Be watchful for bobcats and power lines. Have lots of chicks!

I left the pen, lingering outside for a few minutes to soak up the sight of the chicks in their new home. My eyes stung and the tears started in earnest. An unfamiliar bird called and they stood at attention, alert to unfamiliar sounds in their new environment. As I walked away from the top netted pen, I looked back once or twice. #1 had already found a stick to play with and was rinsing it in the water pan while #8 looked on. #6 was foraging in the mud. #5 was at the feeder. And Little Miss Mustache was staring into space as usual. The chicks were going about the business of juvenile cranes, already adjusting to life without me. I’m as proud as any mother could be.

 
Photo:  From left to right: Zoey (#10), #8, Charlie, #1, #5, and #6 explore the top netted pen at St. Marks.

 

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Date:December 21, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject: PEPSI REFRESH EVERYTHING VOTING TUTORIALLocation:Main Office

Firstly, we need to thank everyone for voting to move us up in the ranks for the Pepsi RefreshEverything Competition. When you look at the overall leader board, Operation Migration is actually the top ranked "idea" in The Planet category! The competition offers five areas under which to submit your "idea" - these are: Health, Food & Shelter, Neighborhoods, Arts & Culture and The Planet.

However, there are only four levels of funding: $100k, $25k, $10k and $5k. There will be one grant awarded to the top ranked idea for $100k; two awarded for $25k, three grants awarded for $10k; and four awarded $5k each.

We're currently sitting in 8th position in the rankings and in order to receive $25k, we need to make it up to the 1st or 2nd place position BEFORE midnight on December 31st. This gives us 10 days to climb 6 positions so the push is on!

Following a discussion with one of our regular craniacs and voters, it became clear that there is some confusion over the voting procedure, so I thought perhaps a little clarification was in order. When you first visit: http://www.refresheverything.ca/helpwhoopingcranesnow you will see this page:

 

At the bottom left hand corner (see Step 1 arrow) click SIGN IN. This will open the following login window.

Enter your email address, password and the type both words in the Captcha security window to ensure that you're not a robot.

Once you've clicked SIGN IN again, click the VOTE button.

Only after you have clicked VOTE you will get the following message and your number of votes at the bottom of your screen will change to 9.

I hope this helps to clarify things. As mentioned, we have only 10 days left to move up 6 positions to receive funding from the Pepsi RefreshEverything competition. Please pass the word along to everyone you know!

Also wanted to mention that some folks have been experiencing login issues over the past few days, and this is very likely due to you requiring the most recent version of Java. Please visit this link to ensure you have the most recent java update, and thanks SO much for your continued DAILY votes!
 

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Date:December 20, 2010 Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:WHITE BIRD SIGHTINGS Location:Main Office
On December 14th while the five St. Marks Whooping cranes were waiting in Jefferson County, FL for good flying weather to complete the last leg of their long migration, they had some visitors drop in. Joe had just texted me to let me know if was taking the CraneCam out to the pen so that viewers could watch the young birds.

Occasionally, I need to get in to the computer that the camera is connected to so that I can adjust audio settings and luckily I can access this remotely so I was watching the feed as Joe approached the pensite, in costume, of course. It's often a bit of a jiggly ride when someone is carrying the camera, no matter how careful they are, so as he got closer to the pen, I saw 6 Whooping cranes outside of the enclosure. My first thought was that somehow, the chicks had escaped.

Then the logical portion of my brain spoke up and said "um, no, can't be cuz there are only FIVE chicks and clearly there are SIX Whooping cranes. Besides, look how white those six are! They can't possibly be juvenile cranes."

It turns out that earlier in the week, a group of six now-one-year-old Whooping cranes had been spotted inside the winter release pen at the St. Marks NWR. Five of them had wintered there last winter, those being: 8-09, 11-09, 15-09*, 18-09 & 25-09, and the other was one of the cranes that had wintered at the Chassahowitza NWR; #29-09.

So not only had they found their winter pensite but also the stopover location approximately 30 miles to the northeast! I wonder how surprised they were when they arrived only to find there old travel pen containing five juvenile cranes.

Those of us watching the Duke Energy CraneCam later that same day got quite a treat when some of the older birds walked up to investigate the small computer, which Joe had placed on the ground near the pen. Here's a video clip that I managed to grab.

Earlier that day, this same group of six had been spotted in Wakulla County on the St. Marks NWR, foraging in the mudflats and Carol Miller captured and sent us the following images. Thanks so much Carol! As you know there was a recent cold snap in Florida and proof of the cold conditions can be seen in the photos Carol took of the birds in flight. Notice some have their legs tucked up into their chest to keep them warm?

Click each image to jump to our Flickr page and to see the larger version

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Date:December 19, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:OUR 'COMMUNICATION' SPONSORSLocation: On The Road
Flown Today:On Stand DownTotal Miles 1199.3

With the Chass Five - the last young cranes in the Class of 2010 short-stopped in Gilchrist County until the adults in the Eastern Migratory Population have reached Florida and gotten any visits to the pensite out of their system, OM's EarlyBird e-Bulletin is paused. EarlyBird will start arriving in Members' inboxes again once trackers have given us the all clear.

While we wait for that to happen, likely in early to mid January, we would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to our two 'Communication' sponsors. Our ability to provide live views of migration flights via the TrikeCam and of the Class of 2010 in the pen along the migration was through the generosity of Duke Energy. Members' daily EarlyBird e-bulletin was made possible by Southern Company.

Many of you have written to let us know how much you appreciated and enjoyed having both these communications that are made possible by the commitment of these two companies to Whooping Cranes. On your behalf as well as ours we express our sincere gratitude to Duke Energy and Southern Company.

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Date:December 19, 2010Reporter:Liz Condie
Subject:WOOD BUFFALO-ARANSAS POPULATIONLocation:On The Road

Photographer, Daniel Streifel, captured a super family portrait when one set of parents and their twin chicks in the Wood Buffalo-Aransas Population made a migration way-stop in South Dakota. (link to photo at bottom of this entry) The photo was brought to my attention via an email that I received about a totally unrelated matter, and on contacting Tom Stehn, he kindly filled in the blanks with information on this Whooping crane family.

History supplied by Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge:
Hatched in 1985, the adult male of this pair is now 25 years old. He was banded on the nesting grounds in August of ’85 while still a flightless juvenile. His mate, also from hatch year 1985 was similarly banded that summer. According to Tom, the plastic color bands eventually crack and fall off the legs, though often they will stay on the cranes 15 years. “For this particular pair,” Tom said, “All color bands had fallen off by fall, 1993 except for the WbW on the female.

Currently, only about 7% of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock is banded. Stehn said, “Banding was carried out annually from 1977-1988, and then resumed in December 2009 and August, 2010 with 11 birds captured and radioed in the past 12 months.”

To give us some background on this pair, Tom’s notes included the following: “This pair’s winter territory on the Aransas NWR is in an area referred to as North Dunham Point. Their nest in Wood Buffalo Park is in the Klewi River marshes. They first nested in 1991 when they were both 6 years old, a bit on the late side since the average egg of first age production is 5 years, and pairs are sexually mature and can successfully breed at age 3. Since 1991, they have brought only 5 juveniles to Aransas, including one set of twin chicks in 2006. Their juvenile brought south in the fall of 2008 did not survive the winter. It apparently got sick, separated from its parents, and was found in the jaws of an alligator at a freshwater pond on the refuge.

At most, this pair has so far contributed just 4 chicks to the population over their ~20 reproductive years. You can see why the Whooping crane flock has a slow growth rate, averaging about 4.8% annually. Below is this pair’s nesting history.

Nested

June Chick(s)

Brought Chick(s) to Aransas NWR

1991

Yes

 

1992

Not sure if nested

 

1993

Probably nested

 

1994

No nest

 

1995

Yes

Yes

1996

No Nest

 

1997

?

Yes

1998

1 egg

 

1999

Yes

 

2000

?

 

2001

?

 

2002

?

 

2003

?

 

2004

Twins

 

2005

Yes

 

2006

Twins

Yes (2)

2007

Yes

 

2008

Twins

Yes

2009

Incubating

 

2010

Twins

 

Here’s hoping the family of four make it to Aransas safely!  Whooping Crane Family photo by Daniel Streifel

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Date:December 18, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MIGRATION HIATUSLocation:Main Office
Flown Today: Total Miles1199.3

The vehicles and their passengers and respective belongings were sorted out late yesterday and everyone has been on the road since last evening - each vehicle is heading toward varying degrees on the compass but all with a northerly bearing. Some to the northwest and some to the northeast and still others due north.

It's nice to know most everyone will be home for the holidays...

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen
 

Common Name

Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel

Genus/Species Name

Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat destruction from logging, clear cutting, certain forest management practices, and development. Infection by the parasitic nematode Strongyloides, carried by the Southern Flying squirrel.

Description

Small nocturnal gliding mammal. 10-12" long, 80% of which is a long, broad, flattened tail; 3-5 oz weight. Prominent eyes; dense silky fur. Folds of skin between wrist and ankle form aerodynamic surface for gliding. Brownish or grayish back with whitish underside. Makes chirping, bird-like notes similar to night-flying warblers.

Behavior

Feed on fungi and lichens; occasionally forage for insects, seeds and other vegetation. Active year-round, but during especially cold or snowy winters, may “den up” in tree cavities of northern hardwoods, e.g. yellow birch. In summer, may build leaf nests in foliage of conifers. Very social; may share a nest and live in groups of 8 or more. Begin nesting in April. In mid summer bear young, averaging 4/litter. Produce 1 or 2 litters/year. Life span is up to 4 yrs.

Where found

North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia

Habitat

Transition zone between coniferous trees and mature northern hardwood forests. Moist forest with widely spaced, mature trees and moderate to thick evergreen understory at elevations usually above 4500'.

Recovery Plan

Preservation of high elevation forests and bogs, and adjacent zones of northern hardwood vegetation.

Don't forget to cast your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the RefreshEverything Project! We're still in  9th position and have only 14 days left to reach the top two positions to receive funding. PLEASE VOTE TODAY AND EVERYDAY. For those that have been experiencing login problems on the Pepsi site this week, it would appear if you update your java to the newest version from this link, your problems will be solved. Thanks!

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Date:December 17, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: SHORT-STOPPING IN GILCHRIST COUNTYLocation: Gilchrist Co., FL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 1199.3

For the first time in a couple of years, we made it before Christmas.

In 2005, we began short-stopping the birds at the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve site. The idea was to wait until all of the older cranes, that normally stop in at the pensite in Chassahowitzka on their return migration had a chance to visit. When they found no activity and no free food, they moved on and left the coast clear for us to bring the chicks in. If however, the chicks were already there, that encouraged them to hang around. They would sometime dominate the food and even chase the chicks out of the pen where they were susceptible to predation.

Short-stopping has been the practice until the last few years when we arrived well after Christmas and the majority of older birds had already moved on.

This year we are back to arriving earlier. Maybe it had to do the better weather, or fewer birds, but either way we are again facing the problem of the older generations. It is hard to believe that I am actually complaining about too many Whooping cranes.

The last edition of Plan B – 248, Variation 6 was to get the birds to the Halpata site and participate in the flyover at the Dunnellon Airport on the way. Then we were going to stand down for the holiday season and wait for the tracking team to give us the all clear. That would happen when the majority of older birds finished their migration and were safely on their preferred wintering sites. Then we would come back and complete the last 28 mile leg to the Chassahowitzka pensite.

Unfortunately, the weather this morning did not cooperate. Low ceilings and light rain kept us on the ground as surely as did the headwinds yesterday. Tomorrow's outlook is dismal. In the long range forecast, there is a very slim possibility for a flight Sunday, and maybe even for Monday if you are an optimist. But, we have been there before. We could wish ourselves all the way to Christmas that way.

So now, the plan is to stand down here in Gilchrist County and wait for the older birds to pass through Chassahowitzka. When we get the go-ahead we will come back in the New Year and lead the chicks, first to Halpata and finally to the refuge pensite. For now, the crew is organizing, packing and readying vehicles for the trip back north.

We are sorry that we could not give you a final flyover before Christmas, but maybe in the new year you will need something to celebrate and you will join us to see the Class of 2010 complete their first migration.

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Date:December 17, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 69 - DOWN DAYLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles1199.9

Despite the forecast Joe and Richard both went up to check conditions this morning as soon as it was daylight. Unfortunately, they found patches of low ceiling coming in from the Gulf, which were being pushed inland by the westerly winds aloft.

The team will be standing down today in Gilchrist County.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Brown Pelican

Genus/Species Name

Pelecanus occidentalis

Status

Delisted

Status Cause

Recovery from Endangered after ban on DDT.

Description

Large, heavy waterbird with massive beak and huge throat pouches. Pouch can hold 2-3 times more than the stomach. As a poet rhymed: "A wonderful bird is the pelican, His bill can hold more then his beli-can. He can take in his beak Food enough for a week; But I'm damned if I see how the heli-can." Body 48" long. Wingspan 84". Grayish-brown body, blackish belly, yellow head. Non-breeding adult, back of neck white, bill pinkish gray. Breeding adult, back of neck dark chestnut; yellow patch at base of foreneck, bill gray. Exceptionally buoyant due to internal air sacs beneath skin, in bones.

Behavior

Gregarious. Dive from air after prey, trapping fish in pouch.  May be seen flying in long lines close to surface of water with heads held back, bills resting on folded necks. Maximum life span 43 yrs. Nest March - April in colonies. Nests in trees made of reeds, grasses, straw, sticks. Nest on ground is shallow scrape lined with feathers; rim of soil 4-10" high. 2-3 chalky white eggs incubated 28-30 days. Chicks fledge about 63-88 days old.

Where found Gulf coast, Atlantic coast, California coast, and a small population at the Salton Sea in Arizona.
Habitat Coastal waters
Recovery Plan Currently monitored by USFWS for effects of 2010 oil spill in Gulf of Mexico. 

 

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Date:December 17, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 69Location: Marion Co., FL
Flown Today:??Total Miles 1199.9

Trish and I have relocated to Marion County, FL while the rest of the migration crew is still camped in Gilchrist County with the 'Chass Five'. Trish is needed at this end of the flight leg to be on hand to call the cranes down at the Halpata-Tastanki pensite should that be necessary. As for me, relocating here means a half hour drive will get me to the Dunnellon Airport in time to set set up for the Arrival Flyover - - whatever morning gives us flyable weather for that Gilchrist to Marion County leg.

At the moment, it is 6:15am, and like you, we are waiting to hear whether or not conditions will allow a flight today. If they think there could be even a remote chance of flying, it will likely go right down to the wire; that is, they won't call it one way or another until they put a test trike up minutes after official sunrise...7:21 this morning.

Stay tuned. We will try to keep you posted here.

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Date:December 16, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject:PREDICTINGLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles1199.9

At this time, the odds of a flight tomorrow morning are not looking very good. With the temperatures warming up, and predicted to be on par with the dew point there will very likely be fog to wait out.  Once the fog clears we'll have the winds aloft to consider and the forecast is calling for them to be out of the south, or right on the nose (beak?) at 15 knots.

Another potential fly in the ointment is that there is a 10-20% chance of showers for most of the day... All this to say that a flight in the morning is rather unlikely.

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Date:December 16, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MILEMAKER UPDATE - A WINNERLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles1199.9

The entire team would like to express their thanks and appreciation for everyone that has come forward over the past few days to help us meet our current MileMaker Campaign. We've had a number of challenges issued and all but one have been met. We still have 6 miles available in the 10 mile challenge issued by Lonewolf so if you'd like your contribution to be doubled, just visit this page to select your portion of, or full mile.

Currently we're sitting at 1006 miles funded of the 1285 mile migration so we still have a ways to go!

When you sponsor a portion of, or full mile, we'll also enter your name into the draw for the last copy of Klaus Nigge's new book: Whooping Crane - Images from the Wild.

We made the draw yesterday for the first giveaway copy and the winner is.....(insert drum roll).... Yannis Arvanitis of Illinois!

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Date:December 16, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:HEADWINDS HALT FLIGHT PLANSLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0 milesTotal Miles1199.9

Joe and Richard launched at 7:39 this morning and headed toward the pen to retrieve the birds, however, conditions aloft turned out to be worse than were forecast. Joe reported that at 1300 ft. his speed was only 14.8 mph and his time to destination was reading 4 hours and 55 minutes. With only 3 hours worth of fuel onboard the ultralights... well, you see the problem.

Today will be down day five for the Chassahowitzka cranes: 3-10*, 9-10*, 15-10, 16-10* and 17-10.

Don't forget to cast your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the RefreshEverything Project! We have moved up to 9th position and have 16 days left to reach the top two positions to receive funding. PLEASE VOTE TODAY AND EVERYDAY.

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Date:December 16, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:ALL SET TO FLY TO MARION COUNTY!Location:Main Office

TODAY looks like the day the 5 Chassahowitzka Whooping crane chicks will fly over the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport!

Currently, surface winds are calm and aloft, while out of the south are currently light. At sunrise, our pilots Joe Duff and Richard van Heuvelen will leave Gilchrist County, FL with the 5 remaining juvenile Whooping crane chicks from the Class of 2010 and begin leading them south toward Marion County.

If you live in the Ocala area, there's still time to head to the flyover location. Visit this link to find a map and DRESS WARMLY it's only 28 degrees.

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Date:December 15, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject:PREDICTING FOR CHASS FIVE CRANESLocation: Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles 1199.9 (for Chassahowitzka Cranes)

Now that five youngsters from the Class of 2010 are nestled snuggly in their St. Marks NWR winter release enclosure, it's time to focus our attention on the remaining five juvenile Whooping cranes, which have been waiting patiently in Gilchrist county. Fortunately, it doesn't look as if they'll have to wait much longer!

The team has spent the day relocating themselves and the required equipment to our Gilchrist county stopover. But it won't be there for very long as tomorrow morning looks good for a flight which will lead them to the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve pensite in Marion County!

The winds aloft for tomorrow morning are expected to be light, as will the surface winds. The temperature will be a chilly 27 degrees so if you're planning on attending the public flyover at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport be sure to dress warmly and be on site no later than 8:15.

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Date:December 15 - Entry 2 Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MISSION HALF-ACCOMPLISHED! Location:Main Office
Flown Today:28 Miles: Jefferson Co., to Wakulla Co., FL Total Miles1113.9 (for St. Marks Five)

Today's lead pilot, Brooke performed an air pickup this morning at 7:56am from our Jefferson County pensite and after a few circuits, the five St. Marks cranes formed up on his wing.

They flew over the crowd of about 900 people gathered in the town of St. Marks at 8:50 and flew the remaining 5 miles to the pensite before the cranes touched down for the first time at their new winter home at 9:10am.

We will be making a draw at noon today for the first copy of Klaus Nigge's new book: Whooping Crane - Images from the Wild. If you'd like to get your name into the draw click to select a portion or full mile in our MileMaker Campaign. Everyone who is a MileMaker sponsor will automatically be entered into the draw for this beautiful book!

There is still an outstanding mile match available. Lonewolf has agreed to match a total of 10 miles so there's still an opportunity to DOUBLE YOUR DONATION.

We still have 295 miles that NEED sponsors!

Here are some images just sent in from the flyover this morning!

top images: Brooke Pennypacker leads the five St. Marks Whooping cranes over the crowd.
bottom left: Brooke, Joe Duff and Geoffrey Tarbox talk to the crowd gathered at St. Marks to witness the flyover. Right: Geoffrey, Joe and Gerald Murphy.

Date:December 15, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:ALL SYSTEMS GO FOR ST. MARKS FLYOVER!Location:Main Office

TODAY looks like the day the 5 St. Marks Whooping crane chicks will see their new winter home for the first time!

Currently, surface winds are out of the east but light, and aloft they're out of the north between 5 - 10 knots. At sunrise (7:45), our pilots Brooke Pennypacker and Joe Duff will leave the hangar where their ultralights are stored, and fly the 8 miles to the Jefferson County, FL pensite to retrieve the 5 Whooping crane chicks. From there, they'll head south-southeast and fly over the crowd, which has been patiently waiting for this day, and the chicks to arrive at their new winter home.

If you live in the Tallahassee area, there's still time to head to the flyover location. Visit this link to find a map and DRESS WARMLY.

Don't forget you can also watch LIVE via the Duke Energy CraneCam!

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Date:December 14, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: On the Road
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 1199.9

We know Craniacs are a dedicated and hardy bunch and you'll have to be to brave the cold temperatures the weatherman is delivering tomorrow for the anticipated Flyover Arrival Event at St. Marks.

In Jefferson County the temperature at take-off time (at approximately ~7:45) will be 22F. Here in St. Marks it won't be any warmer...23F. Surface winds are forecast to be almost identical in both locations with any where from 0 to 3mph out of the NNE. Aloft, it is possible the cranes and planes will have a tiny push from the 10mph NNW that is predicted.

If these forecast conditions hold, we will undoubtedly be seeing the St. Marks Five flying overhead tomorrow morning.

There is a hard freeze warning in effect for both Jefferson and St. Marks extending from 11pm tonight through 9am tomorrow morning. DRESS WARMLY FOR THE FLYOVER TOMORROW!!

There is a link to the right of this entry that will give you a Google Map and directions to the St. Marks Arrival Flyover Site Location. Sure hope to see you there.

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Date:December 14, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WOOD BUFFALO-ARANSAS POPULATION UPDATELocation: On the Road
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 1199.9

Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas advises that the second aerial census of the 2010/2011 season was completed December 9th. The census flight was conducted in a Cessna 210 piloted by Gary Ritchey of Air Transit Solutions out of Castroville, Texas with USFWS observers Tom Stehn and Brad Strobel on board.

Tom said they sighted 223 adults and 45 juveniles on the flight for a total of 268 Whooping Cranes. He noted that this represented an increase of 31 cranes since his previous flight of December 1st.

“Flight conditions and visibility were excellent throughout the flight,” Stehn said. “A low pressure system that had brought howling north winds on December 8th had moved off the coast, followed by clear skies and moderate southeast winds. With nearly complete flight coverage of the crane area, the 268 cranes counted represents an accurate estimate of the number of cranes present.”

In his report, Tom noted that one additional Whooping Crane was known to be present in northern Oklahoma, so the population numbers at least 269. He said that although there had been no additional recent migration reports, it was hoped that as many 15-20 more cranes were still on migration.

Tom said, “Recent reports of Whooping Cranes at Aransas possibly not located on this last flight include a group of 9 seen flying over the refuge’s back gate road on December 7, and a single crane that was observed roosting at Heron Flats Marsh on December 1st and 6th and followed Sandhills to forage on pasture land and/or farm fields north of the refuge.“

“To date, 45 of the 46 juveniles found in mid-August on the nesting grounds have made it safely to Aransas. The 45 chicks at Aransas include five sets of “twin” chicks, (adult pairs that have brought two chicks each). Five pairs with two chicks each had been sighted in Canada in August. This is the second highest total of “twin” families at Aransas, exceeded only by the 7 sets of “twins” present at Aransas in the 2006 winter."

Crane habitat use observed on the census flight:
209 of the 268 cranes observed were in salt marsh habitat.
10 were in shallow open bay habitat.
8 were on uplands in areas rooted up by feral hogs.
26 were on uplands with no sign of hog rooting.
4 were at a game feeder.
11 were at fresh water sources.

“Habitat use by the Whooping Cranes has changed some over the past week. A total of 78.0% of the cranes were in salt marsh, whereas the previous week it had been 89.0%. Upland use observed totaled 34 cranes compared to just eight last week, and freshwater use is starting to occur (11 cranes compared to zero last week).”

“The salinity at a gauge in San Antonio Bay north of Mustang Lake is currently 14.5 parts per thousand (ppt). Refuge salinities measured on December 6 ranged from 17 to 20 ppt, levels where crane use of fresh water sources starts to be observed. Blue crabs are still readily available, with 101 crabs counted on a 1,000 meter transect on December 6. However, the wolfberry crop is nearing an end with only 7 berries and no flowers observed on transects run on December 6. Tides were also considerably lower this week with exposed mud flats observed on San Jose. A string of about 100 commercial blue crab traps were noted in the bay edge off of Matagorda Island between Twin lakes and Power Lake.”

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Date:December 14, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NO FLIGHT TODAYLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles1199.9

The winds aloft are out of the north, however at 30-40 mph they're far too strong to allow a flight today at either of our locations. It looks as if the 5 St. Marks Whooping crane chicks will have to wait at least until tomorrow before they see their new winter home for the first time.

Today will be Down Day #3 in both Jefferson and Gilchrist Counties, FL.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Whooping Crane

Genus/Species Name

Grus americana

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat loss; shooting

Description

North America's tallest bird, males 5 ft tall. Snowy white, except for black primaries, sparse black bristly feathers on carmine crown and malar region, and gray-black wedge-shaped patch on nape.

Behavior

Loud, single-note vocalization, repeated when alarmed. Life span 30 yrs. possible. Summer diet: Nymphal or larval insects, frogs, rodents, small birds, minnows, berries, grain in harvested fields. Winter diet: Blue crabs, clams, wolfberry, acorns, snails, crayfish, insects. Spend summer and breed at Wood Buffalo, winter in Aransas, a 2,400 mi migration.  Migrate in pairs or family groups. Fly with neck and legs extended. Reproduce at about 5 yrs. old. 2 eggs laid April - May in large nests of marsh vegetation in marshes. Incubation 29-31 days, and rearing of chicks by both parents. Chicks follow parents south on fall migration.

Where found

Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada; Aransas, Texas; Recently introduced migratory population, Eastern North America; Wisconsin – Florida; central Florida - a captive-raised non-migratory flock.

Habitat

Coastal marshes and estuaries, inland marshes, lakes, ponds, wet meadows, rivers.

Recovery Plan

Habitat to be restored, enhanced or maintained; wild crane population monitored; captive breeding flocks maintained; self-sustaining Eastern Migratory Population developed. Currently the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, of which Operation Migration is a partner, oversees the Non-Essential Experimental Population that migrates between Wisconsin and Florida.

Don't forget to cast your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the RefreshEverything Project! We have moved up to 9th position and have 17 days left to reach the top two positions to receive funding. PLEASE VOTE TODAY AND EVERYDAY.

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Date:December 13, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:PREDICTINGLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:O MilesTotal Miles1199.9

Only 28 miles separate the St. Marks five from their current location in Jefferson County, FL and their new winter home at the St. Marks NWR in Wakulla County. 28 miles seems like a short hop compared to some of the recent flights logged by the young Whooping cranes and their ultralight leaders but weather conditions still need to be ideal.

The current forecast for Tuesday morning indicates that surface winds will very likely be acceptable, however, once we look at the winds aloft, we're placing the chances of a flight tomorrow at only 30% Currently, the forecast is calling for winds as strong as 30 - 40 mph out of the north.

Seems ironic that the entire journey the team has been hoping for northerly winds, then as soon as they're within reaching distance to the final destination for half of the flock, the winds are out of the right direction but far too strong. Mother Nature can be a jokester.

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Date:December 13, 2010 - Entry 2 Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:YEARLINGS RETURN TO ST. MARKS NWR Location:Main Office
Flown Today:0 Miles Total Miles1199.9

I received an email early this morning from George Burton, a member of the St. Marks Photo Club. George sent a link to some images he was fortunate to capture yesterday, which showed the six now-yearling cranes that returned to the St. Marks release pen late last week.

George captured the images with a Canon 40D using a 400mm lens and was responsible enough to also stay out of sight behind some vegetation so as not to disturb the cranes. Thanks SO much for sharing George!

Please click on each image to jump to a larger version on our Flickr page.

 

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Date:December 13, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:STANDING DOWNLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles1199.9

While the winds aloft are out of the direction we'd prefer, they're far too strong this morning. Today will be down day #2 at both of our Florida locations.

I wanted to thank everyone that has sponsored the MileMaker Campaign over the past few days - thanks to you, both 10-mile challenges have been met! However, I also want to let you know about a brand new challenge! This one comes from "Lonewolf" on the CraneCam chat and goes out to anyone that watches the Duke Energy CraneCam: Lonewolf has agreed to match, dollar-for-dollar every portion, or full mile to a total of 10 miles!

Currently, we're sitting with 319 un-funded miles - And the green miles-funded line is 206 miles behind where the migration team is currently waiting for the weather to improve. All this to say that we really, really need your help to ensure that the 2010 southward migration is funded before the team reaches the two winter homes for the Class of 2010.

Click to select a portion of, or a full mile. Not only will it be doubled, but you'll also get your name entered into the draw for one of two copies of Klaus Nigge's recently published book: Whooping Crane -- Images from the Wild. As soon as the St. Marks five arrive at their new winter home, we'll draw a name from the MileMaker sponsors, and then when the Chass five reach their destination, we'll draw for the second copy of this stunning new book.

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Date:December 12, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Jefferson Co., FL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 1199.9

We are not thinking tomorrow is bring us flyable weather at either of the locations where we are holding the Class of 2010 young cranes. Very high winds are projected to blanket Jefferson County where the St. Marks Five are penned, as well as Gilchrist County where the Chass Five are also waiting for their next chance to fly.

Our prediction for Monday morning is that it will be a down day for both locations. And while the weatherman has pulled a fast one on us on more than one occasion on this migration, we don't think tomorrow will be another one of those times.

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Date:December 12, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Class of 2010 juvenile 2-10 NEWSLocation: Jefferson Co., FL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 1199.9

Field Journal readers will recall that when Patuxent tech Charlier Shafer arrived to take over from Jane Chandler, she, along with Robert Doyle drove back to Maryland taking 2-10 with them. When Jane left she promised to send an update on 2-10 and as good as her word - here it is. Thanks Jane!

ALL ABOUT 2-10 by Jane Chandler
As many of you know, #2-10 was removed from the reintroduction project due to a wing injury, and at last report he was on his way out of OM’s camp in a minivan. (No, he wasn’t driving.) For those of you interested, I wanted to let you know what he’s been up to since then. Robert Doyle and I drove #2 back to Patuxent to become a member of the captive flock here. The 13 hour journey was long and tiring, but thankfully it went quite smoothly. The crane rattled his bill against the crate a few times, peeped occasionally, and overall was an excellent passenger – probably because he’d had plenty of practice.

Because #2 needs to adjust to living in captivity and being around humans, we have gradually begun to introduce him to humankind. It started in the van with whispers, which later turned to normal speaking, and by the end of the journey, I confess, there were even a few guffaws from me, as Robert told me amusing stories to keep me awake while driving. #2 didn’t seem to mind.

At about 1:30 AM on Monday, dressed in costume, we released #2 from the crate into his new pen. He stood on his tip toes, gave a series of the most vigorous wing flaps I’ve ever seen, then stretched and timidly glanced around at his new digs. I gave him a few consoling purrs, then we quietly backed away to leave him recover from his long journey.

By Tuesday afternoon, #2 was eating and drinking and moving around his new pen. First, technicians removed the headgear of their costumes, to gradually get him accustomed to people. Then, on Wednesday afternoon, I went to visit him in street clothes – with no costume at all. He was a bit wary, and probably wasn’t sure what to make of me, but he did not seem upset. I am confident that soon he will be comfortable around people and will adjust to his new lifestyle.

Presently #2 is living in an outdoor pen at the Patuxent Vet Hospital, away from the rest of the crane colony. Because he has been out and about the countryside, where he potentially could have been exposed to disease, he needs to be on quarantine until we are sure that he is healthy. When we are assured that #2 is not a disease risk to the rest of Patuxent’s cranes, we will move him to join other Whoopers.

In the meantime, he is settling in. This morning Barb Clauss brought #2 a small pumpkin – a favorite treat of the ultralight Whoopers—and he immediately began pecking at it. With pumpkin treats and no more crating, Patuxent might be a nice place to live after all.

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Date:December 12, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 64 - DOWN DAY #1Location: Jefferson Co., FL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 1199.9

Without even getting out of bed it was all too evident we wouldn't be flying this morning. The whoosh of the wind and the sound of rain sprinkles on the roof of the motorhome told the tale. By 4:30AM we had gusts of 13mph winds on the surface and aloft over the Florida Panhandle they ranged from 30 - 60mph. As if that wasn't enough, the weather gods tossed in a 500 foot ceiling and was sending a line of rainstorms marching in an easterly direction toward us.

Today will be Down Day #1 in both Jefferson and Gilchrist Counties, FL.

Sometimes getting my fellow team members to write Field Journal entries is like trying to pry a quarter out of a miser's hand. However, whether a result of sleeplessness, residual exuberance from the action of yesterday, or a combination of both, what Joe produced last night was another story about Saturday's flying adventure. Here it is for your Down Day reading pleasure.

Whooping crane champions
Whooping Cranes have been rare for so long that most Americans have never seen one. Some are surprised that a five foot tall bird even exists at all in the United States. For many people however, they have become wildlife celebrities and the birds that have learned their migration by following modern aircraft have a particular mystic.

It’s hard to believe that you can become blasé about flying with these beautiful birds, but after working with them for ten years, certain aspects of it do become routine. That’s not meant to sound elitist. We are very aware of the privilege we have been given, but when you have led ten generations and flown with them for over ten thousand miles, you remember certain flights as more entertaining than others.

Our last flight from Clay County, Georgia to Jefferson County Florida was mostly routine. It was cold and slow, but the birds followed well and the skies were clear. We climbed high and began our decent ten miles out. We circled a few times and all the birds landed with us without incident.

I suppose you have to be pretty jaded to say that flying at 3000 feet with Whooping Cranes only inches from your wingtip with the skyline of Tallahassee on the horizon is routine, but when you have done it before the blush wears off a little. The visuals of Saturday’s flight however will remain sharp in our memories long after time has rounded all the corners on the others.

The morning was calm and clear and far too nice not to lead birds somewhere. We were not able to take them to St Marks until the hunting season ended on Sunday, but we had another group destined for Chassahowitzka. Richard van Heuvelen and I took off from Jim and Charlotte’s place where the aircraft were safely hangared overnight. We flew the nine miles to the pensite and I circled overhead while he flew low over the pen. Brooke and Geoff on the ground released the birds and all five followed Richard to the north and away from the other pen just over the hill. He did a few turns to let them catch up and headed on course in a slow climb.

Again, we had headwinds and expected a two hour flight to cover eighty-six miles. All was going well and we settled in for another slow, but routine journey. We climbed to two thousand feet and plodded along, occasionally giving position reports to Walter Sturgeon and Charlie Shafer from Patuxent in the tracking van below. Ahead we could see a thin layer of cloud that seemed to get thicker as we got closer. Our top cover pilots were having unavoidable issues on the ground and couldn’t run ahead to check for us, so I climbed high to see if the other side of the cloud bank was visible. I could make out another layer farther along that was higher and thicker but couldn’t see a hole.

Our course was almost due east and the leading edge of the clouds ran from northeast to southwest so we hit it on a diagonal. The top cover pilots who could give us the answers we needed were just getting off the ground and were still twenty miles behind us. We ventured a mile or two out over a thickening layer 500 feet below us until the ground was no longer visible. It is not legal for us to fly without reference to the ground and just to the north, it was still clear so, before we got to the point of no return, we turned left and headed for open territory.

We have a stopover site that we have never used and the GPS told us it was 17 miles to the northwest so we headed there. Once we cleared the cloud layer, we dropped down and I circled back to have a look underneath it. This overcast layer was reported to be at 4300 feet but it was much lower than that. Walter reported that it was very hazy on the ground and that confirmed what I was seeing.

Within a few minutes, we spotted our site, but there was a small open marsh just to the west of the field we were to land in. As we descended, the birds changed course and headed for the water. The wetland was only a few hundred yards wide with a clump of tree in the center. There were two flocks of Sandhill cranes, several herons and a number of egrets, all decoying our birds in. Richard circled and dove, cutting the birds off with each attempt they made to land. I set up to land on the field hoping to call them over from the ground, but half the field was cultivated and the other half was a mess of bull wallows and anthill mounds. On three attempts, I couldn’t find a place to set down.

Richard made one more heroic attempt and all five birds locked onto his wing. We have no idea why they did that. Maybe something spooked them at the last minute, but both of us were shocked that they followed after being so determined to land. If they had landed I have no idea how we would have retrieved them from the marsh.

With the birds on the wing, we headed southeast looking for a new field to land in. The air down low was rough and we banged along at 35 miles per hour, eventually moving under the cloud cover that was now up to 1000 feet but hazy underneath.

From our low altitude, we started to lose communication with Walter in the tracking van, which would have been a problem if one of the birds dropped out. We headed in the general direction of our original destination but it was still 45 miles ahead and at our current speed, it was more than an hour away. The birds had already been airborne for an hour and forty minutes. We had been airborne for a half hour longer than that, which meant our fuel would be critical if we made it all the way.

We climbed to get out of the trashy air but had to drop down again because we were too close to the cloud base. We flew over a large area of reforestation with no roads and no place to land. We turned to avoid a wetland section so the birds wouldn’t get distracted and lose interest in following us.

By this time top cover pilots, Jack Wrighter and John Cooper, were back on course and they arrived just in time to relay messages to the ground crew. The haze seemed to get thicker ahead so they circled wide around us to avoid any chance of collision in the low visibility. They passed us to check on the conditions.

There are regulations on visibility requirements in order to fly legally and we did not break any of them - but we were close. Several times we had to drop down so we wouldn’t disappear into the cloud base. The aviation term for this kind of flying is scud running, and we were pushing the limits. I should point out that the adventure in all of this was trying to keep the birds safe and on course. If, at any time we felt our lives were in danger, we would simply abandon the birds and land. A four hundred pound aircraft that travels as slow as thirty miles per hour can land safely just about anywhere.

Jack and John were almost at our destination and reported that as they got close, the conditions cleared. We were ten miles out and looking ahead, that hardly seemed possible. We were down to five hundred feet and still fighting a headwind. It took twenty minutes to cover the last ten miles, but halfway there, the clouds did lift and the visibility went up to 10 miles or better. The thermals were strong and we passed several kettles of vultures. Richard began a slow descent and circled the field about four times before all the birds landed with him. We likely had 30 more minutes of fuel when we arrived. That is about two gallons but it looks like a lot less in our translucent fuel tanks.

There is great sense of camaraderie when a team faces a challenge and wins. I was proud that we had pulled it off and impressed with Richard’s tenacity. In hindsight, it was a great adventure and lots of fun. When I saw Richard after it was all over, I could tell by his smile that he felt the same way. I congratulated him on his skill as a master bird flyer and I was greatly honored when he said, “You taught me well.”

So now we have five birds in Jefferson County at the staging area north of St. Marks, and another five in Gilchrist County at the second to last stop north of Chassahowitzka. Richard is monitoring them while Brooke does the same for the St. Marks birds. I will travel back and forth wherever I’m needed. We have a spare trike in the aircraft trailer and we will assemble that so we have two at each location.

I continue to be impressed with this team. They are ready, willing and able, and no challenge is too great when it comes to the well-being of the birds. Whooping cranes have never had greater champions.

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Date:December 11, 2010 - Entry 6Reporter: Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:TO FLY OR NOT TO FLYLocation: Gilchrist Co., FL
Flown Today:86 MilesTotal Miles 1199.9

To fly or not to fly? That is always the question every morning since the day the chicks arrive in Wisconsin. But today, amidst the confusion we were left wanting, with some thinking we were going to fly and others not.

As a result it was a late start to the day by the time Joe and I were airborne. As we flew over the pensite Brooke and Geoff were ready, so turning back past the pen the birds were let out and eagerly followed the trike. They fell back and I quickly did a tight turn over the trees and we were on our way.

We slowly climbed out of the rough air and soon encountered a cloud bank in our path. We were high enough to go over it by this time though, and hoped there would be breaks in it. After thirty miles of flight it became apparent that there would be no breaks. So we turned 90 degrees and headed for a stopover site we had never used before.

As we descended past the cloud bank the air became rougher and the farm, with nice large marshes and wetlands surrounding it, came into sight. This got the birds attention and they gave up on the trike and descended rapidly intent on landing in one of the marshes. But, just before they appeared to land they began to flap their wings and circle around. It was then that I attempted to intercept them, but they were uninterested in the trike and continued to circle around.

This procedure of trike temptation versus marsh temptation repeated itself over and over again. By the tenth time they finally decided on a landing spot. With legs stretched below them, their feet inches from the ground, it appeared they were about to land. In desperation I turned the trike in a steep turn and dipped my left wing in front of them, and, to my surprise, they tentatively followed.

I slowly turned the trike away from they marsh and they actually followed over the farm fields away from the marshes. Joe had already informed me that after doing some low-and-overs, that the fields were not landable. So now we had to find a new landing site. The birds seemed comfortable with the trike again so we decided to continue for as long as we could toward the next stop in Gilchrist County.

Soon we were clear of the wetlands and forested areas and new more suitable landing sites were below us. The ceiling had lifted to bare minimums so we continued on with the knowledge that the terrain would allow us to stop at any time and find a landing site. The birds were well in hand, but the air was rough and the trike needed a strong arm to quiet the turbulence. Still forty-five miles out it was a constant battle to keep the birds from tiring out, and all the while looking for potential landing sites.

As we approached the next site the ceiling began to come down only to lift again to allow us passage. Twenty miles out..."We might just make it. "Ten miles out...hope we make it." Five miles out and the excitement of making it all the way to Gilchrist County begins to kick in. "Calm yourself," I thought. Then, as we flew over Stopover site #25 it was total relief.

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Date:December 11, 2010 - Entry 5Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Jefferson Co., FL
Flown Today:86 MilesTotal Miles 1199.9

Never say never... Anything's possible... and all those other cliches aside, it is with 99.9999% certainty we say that we will not be flying tomorrow. The forecast calling for a 50% chance of rain around sunrise, 16mph WSW winds on the surface and 40-60mph aloft.

It's a good bet that the Chass Five will stay put in Gilchrist County, and as the hunt will not be over at St. Marks until after tomorrow, we would not be flying from Jefferson County to there regardless of weather.

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Date:December 11, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Gerald Murphy
Subject:BEST DAY EVERLocation: Jefferson Co., FL
Flown Today:86 MilesTotal Miles 1199.3

Yesterday was the absolute best day of migration in my seven years as a volunteer with OM. It started out perfect; cold and crisp with frost on the pastures around us, not a cloud to be seen and the atmosphere was crystal. Just before sunrise I drove the interns to the designated spot for them to walk to the pen (which is always out of sight of the vehicle). Then, while I was waiting, I saw the sun break the horizon with the deep red color it has just as it is coming up or setting. After looking around just a bit I realized I could see the hangar (about 3/4 miles away across the pasture) and by standing in the back of the truck could just see the top of the bird pen trailer as well. This was going to make a perfect viewpoint for the show to come.

After about 20 minutes I could see the first ultralight taxi out for takeoff and the rest quickly followed. They took off, making their normal test flights, checking the winds and ground speed to the next stop, and determined it was a go. Joe was the lead pilot. He came in for his pickup and disappeared out of my sight just as he signalled for the release. I could see the cranes immediately as they became airborne and were trying to get up their speed to catch the ultralight. There were a couple turns to make sure everyone was in line, and then they headed straight for the next stop.

I watched for several minutes as the planes and birds got smaller and smaller. I was able to watch for a looong time as the air was so clear. They just grew smaller with nothing in the atmosphere obscuring the view. When they were almost to the horizon I could still (barely) see the string of birds on the right wing of the plane. I got to see the whole show, from the planes taking off to flying out of sight in perfect conditions. Probably something that will never happen again in my OM career.

We then got the travel vehicles all hooked up and had an easy drive to our current campsite with the knowledge that we had skipped which always improves our attitude.

My final experience of the day was helping walk the five cranes going to Chassahowitzka to the second pen that we had set up for them about a quarter mile away. Have you ever walked a dog that is so anxious to go that he is hard to control? After an initial slow start to walking the birds away from their original pen (leaving their food and buddies behind perhaps making them a little anxious), they spotted the new pen with Richard waiting for them. We lost total control of them at that point as they took to the air and flew the rest of the way at about 50-75 feet above the ground. In fact, they weren't quite satisfied to fly straight to the pen but made several circles around the field, and this is after flying 100 plus miles earlier in the day.

Another beautiful sight to add to an already exceptional day with OM.

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Date:December 11, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:ON THE GROUNDLocation: Gilchrist Co., FL
Flown Today:86 MilesTotal Miles 1199.9

I finally was able to take a deep breath.... Charlie called to say the cranes and planes were safely on the ground in Gilchrist County. Gerald was at that time only about 30 minutes out with the travel trailer so the Chass Five will be tucked in their familiar pen within the hour.

Top cover also landed at Gilchrist but had to wait for the clouds to break up so they could take off again to fly back to their airport of departure. That's happened and they are now enroute with David and Linda also enroute by road to go and pick them up and bring them back to camp.

While all this was happening, Brooke completed the morning's chores with the St. Marks Five who will wait for their turn to fly to their wintering ground on the first day we have favorable flying weather for that direction.

Either way - whether the next good fly day is for Gilchrist to Marion County, or from Jefferson to St. Marks - there will be an Arrival Flyover Event we hope you'll come out to see.

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Date:December 11, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:GETTING DIZZYLocation: Jefferson Co., FL
Flown Today:??Total Miles 1085.9

Feeling a bit like the hub of a wheel here as messages come in via radio, phone and text from our scattered crew. Pilot news comes via phone from Charlie and Walt in the tracking van who want messages relayed to the ground crew and top cover. Then the latest info and responses have to be circled back around to the waiting questioners.

The pilots and cranes ran into low cloud bank and diverted to Madison County, a never before stopped at site. Unfortunately, they couldn't land for reasons that will take too long to explain here. In the meantime, top cover had flown back to the airport of their original departure, and we couldn't find David to tell him to go back and pick them up.

The trike pilots circled around trying to find an alternative landing site to Madison County, but eventually gave that up to turn back on course for Gilchrist County. They relayed a message to me via the tracking van to contact top cover and tell them to get back in the air. Because of a cloud bank over their location, however, top cover couldn't take off.

Then, Gerald and Geoff pulled in with the travel pen in tow and we directed them to ignore the message to go to Madison and return to original plan to go to Gilchrist. They hustled out frantically flipping the pages of our migration guide book and madly trying to punch new coordinates into their GPSs.

But we still couldn't find David, and as we were trying to track him down to tell him to go back and pick up top cover guys Jack and John at the airport, John radioed to say they had a break in the cloud bank and were back in the air. I passed this news to the trike pilots via the tracking van, and the pilots passed back the info that at that point they were trying to stay under the clouds and were 27 miles out from the Gilchrist destination. I was afraid to ask what their fuel situation was.

There's considerable that is left out of this report for simplicity's sake and the fact that standing at the hub of the wheel with messages and everything and everybody zipping around and around me I'm getting dizzy trying to keep it all straight. I sure won't be the only one who will be heaving a great big sigh of relief when this flight/day is over! As my grandma would say...Oh my shattered nerves....

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Date:December 11, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 63Location: Jefferson Co., FL
Flown Today:??Total Miles 1085.9

We stepped outside to a much warmer temperature this morning; a balmy 37 degrees here in Jefferson County, Florida. After much debate, and some constant weather checking, the decision was made to 'go', despite the timing of that call giving us a considerably later start than normal.

It was the fastest morning scramble of the migration as the team got themselves in motion. David left with Richard and Joe for the hangar 10 miles away where the ultralights had been tucked up for the night. (With just five cranes to lead to our next stop - those designated to winter at Chassahowitzka - only two trike pilots will be in the air today.) After dropping Joe and Richard off, David carried on to take top cover to the airport another 30 minutes away where they, Jack Wrighter and John Cooper, had sheltered Jack's Cessna.

Pulling out right behind them was today's ground crew; driver Gerald carting Geoff and Brooke to the pensite. Hard on their heels was the tracking van with Walter and Charlie Shafer who headed for their starting position in order to be ready to follow the flight on the ground.

After the release, Geoff, Brooke, and Gerald quickly dismantled the empty pen. Once it was packed it onto the travel trailer and hooked up to the white truck, the plan was for Gerald to light out to drop Geoff back in camp to pick up the Flair motorhome so Geoff could move it to Gilchrist. Gerald would then take to the highway himself to haul the pen as quickly as possible to our Gilchrist stopover.

Two crew, Richard and Charlie would remain at our Gilchrist stopover to be with the Chass Five. The rest of the crew would return to camp in Jefferson County as we anticipated the weather would give us a fly day suitable for a flight to St. Marks before it would be favorable for a flight out of Gilchrist.

Last night, as we tentatively strategized today's plans A, B, and C, as to who would go where and do what and when, it got to the point where we had to reduce the logistics to paper to keep it straight. Now, with planes, cranes, people and vehicles are on the move we thought the logistics were behind us. But...

Joe and Richard took off with the Chass Five only to encounter a low cloud bank part way to Gilchrist. They are at this moment diverting to Madison County, Stop #24, and one we have always managed to skip in previous years.

We're back to figuring out logistics, so check back here later for more news.

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Date:December 10, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:NEW FRIENDSLocation: Jefferson Co., FL
Flown Today:104 MilesTotal Miles 1085.9

When we developed our new, more westerly migration route, we got permission to stop at rough thirty locations between Wisconsin and Florida. Each of those landowners agreed to let us take over a portion of their land for an undetermined amount of time on an unknown date. Many have hosted us several times and over the last three years, we have become great friends. Others have seen us pass overhead year after year with little more than a wave and an apology. All of them have been very understanding of our need to keep going if the weather is on our side but for some, it is disappointing.

Yesterday we arrived at a stopover we have never used before. The owner has been waiting to witness this spectacle since Brooke and Bev first knocked on his door almost 4 years ago. He moved his cattle to another field to let us in and did whatever he could to make the birds and us feel welcome. Only a few miles away a local crop duster agreed to let us use his hangar. His spraying season is over for the year so he pushed his big Ag Cat turbo-prop plane to the back and let us cram in our three trikes.

He was there this morning when we were preparing to take off. We only had a short time to talk and he was very interested but you could tell by his demeanor that he wasn’t 100 percent sure about us. He was willing to help and very generous but the costumes and toy airplanes must have seemed odd to him. We shook hands and took off into the cold morning air.

Less than a mile away, the ground crew had the pen all organized and ready for the launch. I flew low over the field and turned on the vocalizer while Geoff and Trish opened the gates. The birds came out just as I passed by. They were lower and as we crossed the field the climbed up all around me. We made one circle to let the straggles catch up and headed on course. By the time we passed back over the crop duster’s field, the birds were line up like troopers. We passed directly overhead. I saw him standing next to our outreach volunteer, Linda Boyd and knew he was getting an accurate description of how it all works. I think the birds have made another friend.

The air was calm and cold and the birds seemed strong as they climbed. At a thousand feet, the headwinds were slowing us to just 24 miles per hour. We kept moving up until we found neutral ground at about three thousand feet where we were flying directly across the wind. It was neither pushing us along nor holding us back. Our next stop was 61 miles to the southeast in Decatur County Georgia and it was directly in line with the one after that, which was 100 miles away in Jefferson County Florida.

The temperature aloft was a balmy 44 degrees. It was cold enough so the birds don’t overheat yet warn enough so we don’t risk frostbite. When we determined that going higher wouldn’t yield any speed advantage, we settled in at three thousand and patiently waited for the miles to drag by. After an hour and sixteen minutes, we made the decision to keep going for another two hours.

When we landed in Jefferson County, the winds were still calm on the ground and after setting up the pen and securing the birds, we took off to meet another new friend. Nine miles away we were introduced to Jim and his wife Charlotte who have a quiet little airstrip hidden in the trees. In true southern hospitality, he pushed his own aircraft back and let us tuck in the hangar, safe from the wind and the cows. Normally we tie down the trikes in the same field as the birds. We drop the wings, cover them against the frost and surround them with an electric fencer to keep the cows at bay. Before we learned the fencer trick, we couldn’t figure out what the unusual slime was that covered all the fiberglass parts. Turns out the curious cow were licking them and leaving behind the residue of dried slobber.

Jefferson County is only 28 miles from St Marks National Wildlife Refuge where half of our flock will winter this year. This is the staging area where we divide them into two groups in preparation for the last migration leg. Thereafter we take the remaining five to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

Eleven years ago when the rule was enacted that allowed this project to begin there were a few stipulations included. One of them was an agreement not close areas normally open to the public on state or federal land and not to impact hunting. This is the last weekend of the hunting season at St Marks and the area where we bring the birds is very close to the open hunting area so we are not able to complete this portion of the migration until Monday at the earliest.

This is the first time we have arrived at St Marks before Christmas so it has not been an issue in the past and in fact, it is not an issue now. We are very supportive of hunters. Through fees, taxes and the Duck Stamp program they fund much of the conservation work being done. Organizations like Ducks Unlimited and others provide important research and critical habitat protection.

But Saturday promises to be a good flying day and we are reluctant to sit still and ignore it, especially after 62 days on the road. A team meeting was held and all the options were weighed. If tomorrow is as good as predicted, we will head east with the five birds destined for Chassahowitzka and leave the other five at the staging area. What we do next will depend on the weather. Possibly one pilot, along with the top cover crew will lead a group to St Marks while the other two continue the journey to Chassahowitzka. Or we could come back and finish this leg before continuing with the other. Either way we will take advantage of every flyable day.

In preparation for whatever happens, we divided the flock into two groups and penned them separately. Numbers 3, 9, 15, 16 and 17 will winter in Chassahowitzka while 1, 5, 6, 8, and 10 will be led to St Marks.

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Date:December 10, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:THE YEAR OF 'TENS' - ST MARKS ARRIVAL INFOLocation: Jefferson Co., FL
Flown Today:104 MilesTotal Miles 1085.9

There is always a big sigh that goes up when we cross into Florida. It's like we all finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and truly feel like we're on the homestretch.

It was especially neat that we arrived at our first stopover here in Florida on this date. We launched on this our 10th migration on 10/10/10. We arrived in Florida with 10 birds (although we'd give anything for that to have been 11), and here it is the 10th of December.

A skipped stop always means a late arrival and set up for camp. Chores that are usually accomplished by mid afternoon get pushed back to later in the day. With the dinner hour approaching, the crew is out at the pensite setting up our second travel pen. You'll remember that this is the site where the Class of 2010 is divided into two cohorts; one destined to winter at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge just to the south of us; the other we will lead further south to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge near Crystal River. (In a future Field Journal entry we'll let you know which of the young cranes will winter at each of the refuges.)

Under normal circumstances, if we had flying weather tomorrow morning, we'd be launching with the five young cranes designated for St. Marks and leading them the final 28 air miles to their wintering ground. However - good flying weather or not, that will not happen tomorrow. The refuge is open for hunting this weekend, and with safety issues in the forefront of their minds, the folks at the refuge wisely asked that we postpone our arrival until the hunt is finished.

Never fear all you folks anxious to attend the St. Marks Arrival Flyover Event ... the cranes ARE coming. It will just be postponed until the first good fly day after Sunday. Stay tuned to the Field Journal and we'll do our best to give a heads up as to when we think that might be.

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Date:December 10, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MOVING SOUTH! AND SKIPPING!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:104 miles: Clay Co., GA to Jefferson Co., FLORIDA!Total Miles 1082.9

We ARE in the air and we are SKIPPING A STOP!

Today's lead pilot Joe did an air pick-up this morning from our Clay County, GA location at 7:59 and it appeared that all the birds followed him directly out of the location as there was very little circling.

The next planned stop was in Decatur County, Georgia and as I just heard from Liz that we're skipping the Decatur County, GA stopover.

Tune in a bit later to learn the outcome, or c'mon by and watch LIVE: CraneCam

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Date:December 9, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter:Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:COLD NIGHTSLocation: Clay Co., GA
Flown Today:55 MilesTotal Miles978.9

Oh those cold Alabama nights! Even a Canadian needs heat... Charlie and I have spent the last three days trying to fix the RV furnace which decided to quit intermittently over a few days before dying completely three days ago.

Charlie, Jack and I share sleeping quarters and would huddle next to a small box heater each night before going to bed. Curled up in our sleeping bags we blissfully went to sleep. But as the night wore on the cold slowly crept in as the heater slowly lost ground and by morning we were reluctant to get out of our sleeping bags. This morning I just jumped out of bed, thrust my cold clothes on, had a coffee then was off to test flying conditions.

The air was smooth but came with a head wind and as we rose up the wind became more and more of a head wind until finally, at about 1500 feet, it began to turn more in our favor. After a couple of turns over the lake we were on our way.

The young birds followed well as we slowly climbed to the relatively faster air. As our journey slowly crept along we began to lose what ground speed we had and the birds reluctantly followed. When we were about twenty miles out from our destination, with a burst of energy they flew ahead of me and began a descent and could not be caught.

Then they turned to the south and I was able to head them off and as I slowly descended they were enticed to once again follow the trike. With a slower rate of descent they were more cooperative and we slowly crept along to our next stop in Clay County GA.

The lower we got – the rougher the air became so I had to fly faster to stay ahead of the birds. With the bar tucked under my arms we made wide circles around the new pensite, keeping the birds near the trike to prevent them from wanting to thermal and take off. They landed without incident and Walt and Charlie were already there waiting for us so we soon had the pen up and the birds safely inside.

Now - its off to find a circuit board for the RV furnace, for there will be no cold nights in Georgia.

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Date:December 9, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:PREDICTING & A TARDY REPORTLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:55 MilesTotal Miles978.9

With today's successful flight into Georgia, we're now 334 miles ahead of where we were on Day 61 of the 2009 southward migration. And at the moment conditions for tomorrow look hopeful for another flight! Our next stop is in Decatur County, GA - 61 miles from our current location.

Both surface winds, and aloft will be out of the east but should be light enough that they won't pose any problems, and the temperature will be a chilly 25 degrees at sunrise, making it easier for the young cranes to breathe. I'm going to give an optimistic set of odds at 70-30%

Those of you keeping track of lead pilot reports are probably wondering where Joe's lead pilot report from the December 3rd flight went to. Well Liz and I were wondering too so we asked Joe. Turns out he did write one but forgot to attach it to the email he sent us. Here it is, with his apologies for being late:

HARD WORK FOR 58 MILES

There were two life lessons to be learned during this morning’s flight. The first is that you can always trust your friends and the second is never to trust electronics.

Each member of the migration team plays a critical role and one depends on the other. Without everyone pulling his or her weight, the others are left on their own. On this team, no one gets left alone.

Our team is broken down into multiple parts and often members perform more than one duty. We have the top cover pilots flying circles over head and the ultralight pilots leading the birds. There is a tracking team trying to stay under us to lend a hand if a birds drops out and our Outreach team who man the fly over sites where the public can gather to see the birds flying with the aircraft. Next is the team that transports Number 2 in his crate and the crew who disassemble the pen and finally the people who move the motorhomes, campers and trailers. Each of these groups sees the day’s journey from a different perspective and each of their stories is important to tell because without any of these team members, we would not be leading birds. The problem when telling those stories, is trying to find different ways of saying “meanwhile back at the ranch.”

A thick layer of frost covered everything that was exposed to the night air but our aircraft were safe and warm thanks to the generosity of Saunders Aviation who allowed us to tuck them in beside their much larger and faster hardware.

We had to wait until the sun broke the horizon before we pushed out or frost would from on our wings before we could get them started and take off. It was during that process that I noticed my GPS was cycling between screens and not acquiring its position. We took off anyway and headed towards the pen hoping it would find itself but it never did. We worked out a plan for Richard to fly out in front and let me follow him while Brooke flew chase.

The pen was set up in an old excavation site. There are rolling hills and a deep valley with gravel roads leading to a small stream in the bottom. There are three communication tower surrounding the area and forest on all sides. It is very secluded and not as bad as it sounds. Rather than land, I flew in slowly from the south while Geoff Tarbox and David Boyd released the birds. Once out, I was surprised to see them all cluster there as if unsure which way to go. As I passed by they all launched and we circled once in the tight valley.

One of these days, we are going to identify which bird it is that seems reluctant to leave. He consistently turns back and calls the others to join him. When they fly, their ID bands are tucked up into their feathers and it is impossible to tell one from the other. It seems like there is always one who turns them back and causes an aerial rodeo that can last a few minutes or an hour. In this case, we circled several times and with each pass, they dropped lower. We called for the swamp monsters and Gerald Murphy drove the truck close to the pen and honked the horn. After one or two more passes, they started circling the stream. It was too tight to circle with them and after a minute they landed by the water.

Mucking in the water is one of their favorite pastimes and we expected it would take a lot of convincing to get them out, so we all landed. On Brooke’s advice, Geoff and David stuffed swamp monster tarps under their costumes so that if we got them airborne again, they would be discouraged from heading back to the stream. Surprisingly it took very little coaxing to get them to follow us back up the hill. Richard Van Heuvelen took off again and Brooke hid in the pen trailer so he wouldn’t distract them. I found a smooth section of road and they all followed me up and out of the valley, however they hadn’t finished playing turn-back.

Eventually, we got them far enough away that they fell into a line and settled in for the long trip. By this time, we had been trying for a little more than an hour and the sun was beginning to create some thermals and the wind on the surface picked up. We bumped and bounced along, gaining only a few feet of altitude every minute. Above a thousand feet things smoothed out and we started to pick up some speed.

Jane Chandler, from Patuxent and Walter Sturgeon were in the tracking van and they tried to stay reasonably close in case we needed help. They were also pulling the travel pen trailer so it could be set up at whatever stopover we made. In the hills of Alabama, they began to fall behind and that is when the second piece of electronic equipment failed. The radio they use to communicate with us quit and they were forced to use a much lower powered handheld radio. It wasn’t long before they were out of range.

Once we were within 20 miles of our destination, Brooke and Richard programmed their GPS units to the next site to evaluate our chances of skipping one. It was 85 miles further but with the delayed take off, it was beyond our fuel range so we began a slow descent, satisfied to have covered 58 miles.

As the sun got higher, it began to heat the earth’s surface. The resulting warm air started to rise, creating thermals and very rough air that was getting higher every minute. Once we started to land in very bumpy conditions, we knew we had made the right decision.

Meanwhile Walter and Jane were stuck in a long line of traffic that resulted from a serious car accident. They would be at least an hour behind. This information was relayed to us by the top cover pilots Jack Wrighter and John Cooper.

The temperature on the surface was approaching the 60’s so we took turns discarding some layers before leading the birds off to their hiding place to wait for the pen.

Meanwhile, David Boyd arrived with number 2 in his crate. He had been contained for several hours and it would be for another one or more before the pen was ready. We decided to let him out and lead him to the other birds while we waited. Brooke was with the main group and I planned to lead number 2 out to their hiding place. After coming out of his crate, he followed fairly well until we reached the entrance to a large fallow field. Despite his diagnosed wing injury, he took off and flew two or three hundred yards. He ran out of steam in the center of the field and landed in a collection of every thorny vine and sticky bramble that grows in the southern US. I waded into the five foot tall briar, thankful for the costume that attached to every plant but protected my skin. It took 20 minutes of plowing through nature’s version of Velcro to find number 2 and another 15 to lead him out. We found a stream bed but never did see Brooke and the others birds.

Jane Chandler came to get us when the pen was done. On the walk back, the 10 birds with Brooke took off and flew. They had to be retrieved from two different fields but by mid afternoon, they were all secure.

By now David and the top cover pilot had headed back to the starting point to collect the two vehicles we had left behind.

In the end it was this team the pulled it off. Each member played their role over and above what is expected so that every other member could depend on them – despite the electronic failures. Still it is a hard way to earn 58 miles.

#2-10 relaxing in the stream Joe lead him to.   

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Date:December 9, 2010 - Entry 2 Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:WHOOPING CRANES AT ST. MARKS NWR! Location:Main Office
Just a few moments ago we were monitoring the pen cam at the St. Marks NWR in Wakulla County and captured the following screen grabs. 6 Whooping cranes are foraging inside the release pen at St. Marks.

We don't know their identity as yet but will let you know once we find out. Check out the camera for yourself!

Please note that the camera feed is not streaming but rather refreshes the image every couple of seconds. Many thanks to the St. Marks Refuge Association for making this possible!

 

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Date: December 9, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:GEORGIA BOUND!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:55 Miles: Pike Co., AL to Clay Co., GATotal Miles978.9

The deep south is still under a deep freeze and temps this morning were a bone-chilling 20 degrees Fahrenheit. I hope the pilots put and extra pair of long johns on this morning because it will be much colder aloft!

Today's lead pilot Richard launched with the Class of 2010 Whooping cranes at 7:14 and began on their southeast heading toward Georgia. At last word, we will NOT be skipping a stop today so the flight will be 55 miles and will take them to Clay County. This will be the first time the crew gets to land at this location as for the past two years, we've skipped this stopover.

HUGE thanks to Duke Energy for making the CraneCam possible for allowing us to watch the action unfold LIVE.

While we did lose our signal about 30 minutes into this morning's flight, the imagery we were able to watch was breathtaking while it lasted.

Our green line which indicates mile funded in the MileMaker campaign is getting longer, but we're still a wee bit behind the migration team. Mary O'Brien very generously issued a 10-mile challenge on Tuesday and offered to DOUBLE all MileMaker donations. We're thrilled to let you know that Mary's challenge has been met - and even more thrilled that this seems to have initiated a bit of competition! Toronto Craniac Annelise Jorgensen has issued her second challenge of the 2010 journey, and is again offering to MATCH every 1/4, 1/2 or full mile up to a total of 10 miles. This should help that green miles funded line catch up and maybe even get ahead of the team. Thank you to Mary and Annelise - and everyone that sponsored miles!

To select YOUR mile (or portion thereof) visit this link - and don't forget that we'll enter your name into the draw to win a copy of Klauss Nigge's hardcover book: Whooping Crane - Images from the Wild. This absolutely gorgeous hardcover book features 156 color photographs captured at Wood Buffalo National Park, where the only naturally occurring migratory population summers, and at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge where they spend the winter.

As soon as the migration team delivers half of this year's flock to St. Marks NWR, we'll draw one winner and another winning name will be drawn when the remaining half of the flock arrives at the Chassahowitzka NWR. Visit the Marketplace to see a preview of this beautiful book.

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Date:December 8, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Pike Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 923.9

This predicting business is getting way beyond funny. When we check the forecasts before we went to bed in Chilton County on Monday night we were as close to dead certain as we could be that we wouldn't be able to fly on Tuesday morning. And - what did we end up doing? Not just flying but skipping!

Last night before we turned in it looked like we'd have a good chance of not just flying but skipping again. What did we find when we got outside this morning? Not even a chance of flying much less skipping.

It is hard to believe that what is forecast can change so drastically over an 8 hour period, but, I guess that's why they say there is nothing more unpredictable than the weather. Which leads me to wonder what the heck we are doing here trying to predict our odds of flying the next morning.

At any rate, here goes nothing for tomorrow. Winds are supposed to be out of the northeast and our flight path is to the southeast... leading us to give odds of 30-70. Really, it is too funny.

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Date:December 8, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Walter Sturgeon
Subject:ADVENTURE TO JAPANLocation: Pike Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 923.9
OM supporters and others are invited to join me on an incredible bird watching journey to the extraordinary country of Japan. Made possible by EcoQuest Travel, the trip encompasses a variety of experiences, from the crowded bustle of Tokyo and the glitter of skyscrapers, to the still forests of Hokkaido and the quiet reverence of ancient temples.

Japan's birdlife is rich and varied, and the time of travel (February 12 to 26th, 2011)  was chosen in order to take advantage of the abundance and diversity of cranes and waterfowl in particular.

The trip includes a visit to three of Japan’s main islands: Honshu, Hokkaido and Kyushu. The sight of Red Crowned Cranes dancing against a backdrop of snow and green conifers is startlingly beautiful and breathtaking. No less spectacular are the the huge gatherings of Steller’s sea-eagles, eiders, and alcids; large rafts of harlequin ducks, and a chance to observe the rarely seen Blakiston’s fish-owl hunting. From the cold expanses of Hokkaido we will travel far to the south to the rice paddies and wetlands of Kyushu. The marshes of Arasaki are famous for their flocks of wintering cranes.

Thousands of hooded and White-naped cranes are often joined by Eurasian, Sandhill and sometimes even Demoiselle and Siberian cranes. Ducks, geese, cormorants, gulls and other water birds are also abundant, and along with bugling cranes, add to cacophony. From the south we'll return to Honshu and travel up into the Japanese Alps to witness snow monkeys soaking away the winter’s chill in the hot springs. The opportunity for dramatic photographs of the monkeys with snow and ice upon their fur is not to be missed.

Come join me and co-leader and zoologist, Dave Davenport as we explore the fantastic birdlife, natural wonders, cultural sites and magic that is Japan.

We have room for just a few more participants so you'll have to act quickly. You can contact me at: sturgeon2ATembarqmail.com. (replace AT with @ in your email).

Remember too, a portion of all receipts from this trip go to benefit Operation Migration.

Date:December 8, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: Costumes de rigor for more than Whooping cranesLocation: Pike Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 923.9

We are far from alone in wearing costumes to work with wildlife. Tom Stehn brought the photos below to our attention and they can’t help but make you smile, if not chuckle. While the costumes we use are merely designed to disguise the human form – not to make us look like Whooping Cranes, the costume developed for a Panda reintroduction in China takes human disguise one step further.

Wolong Giant Panda Reserve Center in Wolong, China: A four-month-old panda cub is picked up to be released into the wild by a panda researcher who dressed up as a giant panda to prevent the panda cub seeing his human shape. Panda researchers in southwestern Sichuan province are working to reintroduce giant pandas into the wild within 15 years, after successfully breeding them in captivity. A researcher puts a panda cub into a box before its physical examination at the Hetaoping Research & Conservation Center for the Giant Panda. The cub, the first in the centre to be trained for reintroduction into the wild, is monitored by hidden cameras. Researchers performing physical examinations on the cub wear panda costumes to ensure that the cub's environment is devoid of human influence.

Read the online article here

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Date:December 8, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 60 -DOWN DAY #1Location:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles923.9

Richard van Heuvelen was this morning's test-trike pilot and unfortunately, as our heading for the next migration leg is toward the east, the winds aloft, which are out of the northeast, presented too much of a headwind. Today will be down day #1 in Pike County, AL.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Gray Wolf

Genus/Species

Canis Lupis

Status

Endangered. Threatened in Minnesota

Status Cause

Targeted by predator-control programs; habitat destruction; loss of prey.

Description

Size varies with larger sizes in the north. Males 5 - 6.5 feet long, 26 - 32 inches shoulder height; 70 - 115 lbs. Females smaller. Tend to be buff-colored tan grizzled with gray and black; relatively short rounded ears; muzzle large and blocky; tail black-tipped, 18" long. Footprints are 4.5" long, 3.5" wide. Places the hind foot in the track left by the front.

Behavior

Live in packs, extended family unit including alpha pair, young pups born that year, perhaps last year's pups and a few older wolves that may or may not be related. Pack size ranges from 4 to 16. Hunt in packs in a specific territory that can be a large as 50 square miles. Trot at about 5 mph, can attain speed to 40 mph. Prey mainly is white-tailed deer, but also moose, beaver, snowshoe hare, elk, bison. Communicate with a distinctive howl. Only the alpha pair breeds, giving birth to 4 to 6 pups March to May.

Where found

Once found in all 48 states. Now mostly in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming

Habitat

Historically many habitat types, presently mostly in areas of forest and agriculture with abundant prey and human tolerance.

Recovery Plan

Recovery so successful, were delisted to threatened April 2, 2009. Withdrawn July 1, 2009 to provide for public comment.

Don't forget to cast your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the RefreshEverything Project! We seem to be stuck in our current ranking of 10 and could use your help to advance. 

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Date:December 7, 2010Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:WHERE'S MY CHECK?Location: Pike Co., AL
Flown Today:110 MilesTotal Miles 923.9

On April 30, 1957 the New Jersey State Legislature went into session. The guest speaker that day was none other than the State Poet Lauriat, Joe Bachagaloup. When it came his time to deliver his address, Joe ascended the stage, placed himself firmly in front of the podium, and adjusted the speaker with a fist as big as a grocery store ham. Then he looked out into the dark auditorium and said, “It is a whole lot better to be lucky than it is to be smart.” Then he thanked the legislature, took a deep bow and left the stage. As an obligatory trickle of applause rose from the stunned and confused audience, he walked over to the State Comptroller who just happened to be his cousin and said, “I gave you pearls, now you give me my check.”

There wasn’t even a suggestion of morning in the early darkness as Liz and I stared into the computer glow at the winds aloft forecast. 30 mph from the northwest at a thousand feet. In the endeavor of flight, as in everything else in life, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, despite the fact I spent most of my college years trying my hardest to disprove this. So despite the almost too calm to be true conditions outside, the chances of morning flight were not good, while above, the fates awaited our decision knowing our growing impatience to finish the migration was casting an ever greater spell on our ability to discern wishful thinking from reality and set their trap.

And so as the sun lifted itself above the horizon, so did the trike. And when he landed, Richard said, “Calm right up through a thousand feet .” The all too familiar morning scramble began. Trikes readied, top cover headed to the airport, campers disconnected, closed up and made road ready. Geoff and Dave headed out to the pen for the release, and in a just in case move, we fitted Gerald with a one size fits all swamp monster tarp and he started his trek out to the pond in case the birds decided a swim was preferable to a flight. Soon the birds were off and the day’s drama begun.

Sure enough, the birds had some Olympic swimmer hopefuls among them as they circled the pond, but Gerald displayed his swamp monster talents and discouraged them. So round and round we went, finally rounding up the birds and heading on course. But the “trashy” conditions revealed themselves, and as the trike bounced around the birds began to get discouraged.,

On we went, trying to coax climb and follow out of this increasingly disgruntled flock. “Where is the smooth air you promised?" they peeped from behind and to the side of me. Finally five broke off and flew to Richard a hundred yards behind me and we all continued to claw our way out of the trash. At a thousand feet we got our 30 mph push and at 1500 feet it got smooth and the flight became an effort of peace and harmony.

Skipping the next stop with this tailwind was a no brainer although it carried with it the regret that all skips carry. The wonderful folks below who so generously offered to host this migration circus, who had bush hogged a runway for us out of a pasture and planned a wonderful dinner for us would be disappointed as would we. A skip is always bittersweet that way. But we know they always understand and wish us godspeed. Without these people there would be no migration, and our effort would be nothing more than a little bag full of empty hopes. So with a couple of touches on our GPS’s and a slight turn a few degrees to the left we flew on.

“Watch out for that Learjet! “ Joe calls from behind. I shift around in my seat almost 360 degrees in an urgent effort to spot it as it suddenly slides silently into view from below and shoots directly ahead. I’m strangely calmed by its incredible beauty; this man made creation of form and function which is nothing less than art itself. Then into the morning haze it is gone as I hear the always comforting voice of Jack, our top cover pilot, informing air control of our presence and clearing our path through the sky ahead.

At 8 miles out we begin our decent into what we know will be an awaiting interface of turbulence and chaos; where the fates lie waiting to taunt us, push and shove us, wrestle us for control of the ultralight as we battle them on the slow return to earth. This is where we pay the price for the great tail wind and the too much of a good thing exacts its fare.

The birds, no lovers of chaos, follow but only tentatively. As our control of the ultralights wavers so does our control of the birds. As we drop, the trees grow in wind driven animation and the gnomes try to wrest the control bar from our steely grip. At such times, one envies the rodeo bull rider for he only has to stay on the bull for 8 seconds. We’re not so lucky.

Richard is just ahead and below and in the chaos his birds catch a thermal as I fight to maneuver over to collect them. Joe radios his throttle cable is frozen and he may have to cut power and “dead stick” it in to land….a less than desirable choice in these conditions. Then as I line up to land, the birds leave me, catch another thermal and soon are above at Joe’s altitude. If they chose the thermal over the trike, they will soon be gone and in these conditions we will be unable to pursue them. It would be to Jack and John in the cover plane to shadow them probably until late in the day when the thermals cease and release their grip on our little flock. Then ground crew would have to carry the day and hopefully retrieve them and we would have to…………

Just then a helicopter appeared low and behind us, or it may have been two…too much happening to tell, but its affect was that it so frightened the birds that they rejoined Joe’s wing, glomming onto it like velcro just as the warmer temperatures of near earth thawed his throttle cable and he could set up for a controlled landing.

In they came, trike and birds and made a perfect landing on the violently pitching deck of earth. We had dodged a bullet, but we were down and safe, and in those moments lay more than a little emotion. It’s like Confucius used to say, “It is better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground.” And, it’s also like Joe Bochagaloup used to say, “Where’s my check!”

Photo above is of Brooke as he departed Chilton County with the Class of 2010.

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Date:December 7, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:PREDICTINGLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:110 MilesTotal Miles923.9

The current forecast is calling for chilly flight time temps of only 22 degrees and surface winds out of the west-northwest at 4mph. Winds aloft are predicted to 15 knots and out of the same desired direction. There's a slight (10%) chance of snow flurries in the morning.

Given this information, I'm going to say that our odds are 60-40 that we'll be able to advance into Georgia tomorrow!

Addendum: I can't resist adding this footnote to Heather's Predicting entry. I was doing my usual evening scoping out of all the weather websites and discovered that there is a hard freeze warning out from 10pm tonight to 9am tomorrow morning for EVERY stopover site ahead of us, right through to the last one near Chassahowtizka NWR - which even has a hard freeze 'watch' for the subsequent 24 hours.

Here we are in the 'south' - I even passed some palm trees today - and we are about to be in the coldest temperatures that we have seen so far on the whole migration. In fact, the morning temperature for us here in Pike County is predicted to be 21°, one degree colder than what is forecast for our office in Port Perry, Ontario in Canada. Oh the irony..  Liz

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Date: December 7, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MILEMAKER CHALLENGE!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:110 MilesTotal Miles923.9

Many faithful readers will recognize the name Mary O'Brien. For those that don't Mary has supported our efforts and Whooping cranes since at least 2003 and perhaps longer. And if that's not enough, for the past few years, she has contributed countless hours to cut and assemble the costumes worn by our field team, which mask our humanness and prevent the young cranes from imprinting on people.

In response to the message this morning that the migration team has just surpassed the funded miles, Mary has issued a 10 mile challenge! For each and every mile, or portion of a mile, Mary will DOUBLE YOUR DONATION to a total of 10 miles!

So, if you've been waiting for the perfect time to become a MileMaker here's a great opportunity to make you contribution count twice as much. Click here to select your mile or portion of a mile and we'll add you to this list along with all the other MileMakers, which are making this migration possible with their generosity.

And don't forget we’re going to give away TWO copies of the GORGEOUS NEW hardcover book by wildlife photographer Klaus Nigge, titled Whooping Crane – Images from the Wild.

Once the 2010 Migration reaches the final destinations at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Wakulla County, FL and the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Citrus County, FL, we’ll draw TWO names from the list of MileMaker Supporters.

Each of these folks will win a copy of Klaus Nigge’s new book! Visit the Marketplace to see a preview of this beautiful book, which features 156 color photos taken at Wood Buffalo National Park, where the only naturally occurring migratory population summers, and at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge where they spend the winter.

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Date:December 7, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:NEVER SAY NEVER!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:110 Miles: Chilton Co., to Pike Co., ALTotal Miles 923.9

Those that checked the Field Journal last night would have read Liz' Predicting entry, which basically stated there wasn't a chance at all that we'd be advancing this morning. In fact during a Skype session at 6am today that's the message that she gave me again.

Then Joe sent a text message that read "Winds aloft are 30 @ 1000 feet and 40 @ 3000. Toooooo strong. Pity cause it's dead calm on the surface."

Then, at 7am, I received another Skype from Liz that said Richard was going to go up to test conditions... He reported that he thought it was doable, so everyone scrambled to get ready. Currently, all 10 cranes are with today's lead pilot, Brooke Pennypacker and they ARE SKIPPING A STOP!!!

While this progress is incredible, it's also worrisome as the team has just surpassed the point for which we have MileMaker sponsors. Currently we have 871 miles of the 1285 mile journey funded. Once they land this morning they will be 52.9 miles ahead of where the migration is funded. We need your help to get the word out so that we can fund the rest of this trip! Please visit the MileMaker page to learn more and select YOUR mile, or portion thereof. Thank you!

Tune in later to learn how the flight went!

Don't forget to cast your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the RefreshEverything Project! We've moved  UP to our current ranking of 10! All because of your DAILY VOTES and for alerting your friends and family to begin voting.

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Date:December 6, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Chilton Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 813.9

If I didn't have to get up and get working in the morning I'd pick tomorrow as a good day to roll over and stay in bed.

Winds aloft are forecast to be 30 to 40mph at flight time with no prediction for much change until well into the afternoon. We think our chances for a flight in the morning are sitting around nil.

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Date:December 6, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHOOPING CRANE 2-10Location: Chilton Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 813.9

The diagnosis of a torn tendon in his wing by Nashville, TN avian vet, Dr. Lutz ended Whooping Crane #2-10’s chances of being released into the wild. Following this determination, WCEP officials decided that he would be returned to U.S.G.S. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center where he would become a research bird.

Since departing Necedah on the 2010 migration, #2 has travelled all but ~40 miles of the more than 800 air miles logged so far by his classmates, in a crate in the back of a van. Yesterday, he left on his last road trip.

Robert Doyle and Charlie Shafer arrived mid Sunday morning from Patuxent with a special crate for #2’s journey. Brooke and Richard went out to the pen to separate #2 from his classmates. They walked him away from the pen and into the crate they had placed out of sight of the rest of the Class of 2010.

When they arrived back from the pen with the crate, most of the crew had quietly gathered at the top of the lane in a sort of farewell gesture. Within minutes, Robert and Jane Chandler pulled out with #2 in the back of the U.S.G.S. Patuxent van. They had a 13 hour trip ahead of them, and in #2’s best interests, planned to drive straight through to Laurel, Maryland.

Jane’s migration rotation is finished and Charlie stayed behind to take her place.

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Date:December 6, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:Subject:MIGRATION DAY 58 - DOWN DAY #3Location: Chilton Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 813.9

Today did shape up to be an improvement over Monday - - just not improvement enough. On the surface it seemed like we had a possible fly day, but that notion was quickly shot down on investigation of what was waiting for us aloft. Not long after the decision was made to stand down, hope got the better of us and Richard launched in his trike just to be sure we couldn't eke out a migration leg somehow. Everyone gathered at the edge of the field to watch and listen to his findings.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Smalltooth Sawfish

Genus/Species

Pristis pectinata

Status">Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Entanglement in commercial fishing nets; loss of juvenile habitat; low rate of population growth.

Description

Closely related to shark and ray. Body color blue-gray to brown; ventral surface white. Can reach 24' in length. Skeleton is cartilage. Flattened shark-like body. Long flattened rostrum (saw) is about 1/4 of overall length; contains 21-34 pairs of teeth. The rostrum is covered with motion sensitive pores that allow sawfish to detect the movement and even heartbeats of prey that may bury themselves on the ocean floor. Gill slits on ventral side. Mouth located on underside. Pectoral fins broadly rounded with pointed tips.

Behavior

Life span 25-30 yrs, maturing at 10 yrs. Ovoviviparous, meaning female holds the eggs internally until young are ready to be born. Litters of 15-20 pups. Diet mostly fish, some crustaceans. Swims into schools of fish, thrashes saw from side to side, wounding and killing fish. Uses rostrum to dig for crabs and mussels from sediment.

Where found

Gulf of Mexico, Texas through Florida, and Atlantic Florida through North Carolina.

Habitat

Fresh or brackish water in lakes and rivers. Shallow sand and mud bottoms close to shore in estuaries, bays and lagoons.

Recovery Plan

Recovery efforts in progress, but no implementation information as yet.

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Date:December 5, 2010 - Entry 3 Liz Condie
Subject:Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Chilton Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 813.9

Tomorrow is shaping up to be a better day than today. If the forecast holds, we should have almost identical temperatures at both our departure site and the next stopover site in Lowndes County. The humidity will have dropped even further, and surface NNW winds will have slackened off somewhat.

At altitude however, it still looks like we could be on the receiving end of a little too much power; as much as 20–30mph. All things being equal we’re going to predict flying odds of 60-40% in the morning, a marginal improvement over yesterday's 50-50%.

Click here to go to the directions to the Chilton County departure flyover viewing location. IF we’re able to fly, we’ll see you there.

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Date: December 5, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Jane Chandler
Subject: REMEMBERING....Location: Chilton Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 813.9
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Date:December 5, 2010 Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 57 - DOWN DAY #2Location: Chilton Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 813.9

My personal roosting spot on the migration is four steps up a ladder to the cab-over of the Jamboree motorhome. Because I sleep 'upstairs', I get a different sense of the wind than the rest of the crew whose beds and bunks are 'downstairs'. Being at the long end of the pendulum so to speak, when the wind gives us those rock 'n roll nights I get more sway. More than once on this migration I found myself digging in with my fingernails thinking, 'Over we go..', but in reality, it always feels more tippy than it actually is.

It was just before 3:45 this morning when I blindly stretched one foot out behind me toward the top rung of the ladder. Couldn't have timed it better (worse) if I tried. Just at that moment a gust hit - more like whacked - the motorhome and... well, suffice to say that the ladder rungs never came into play and the most padded part of my anatomy hit the floor before my feet.

Need I say that if I had needed any confirmation that we'd not be able to fly today, I had just had it. The cranes and planes will most definitely be spending a second down day in Chilton County.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Key Largo Cotton Mouse

Genus/Species

Perromyscus gossypinus allapaticola

Status">Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat loss due to urbanization; competition from the Black Rat; predation by domestic animals.

Description

Body 4" long, furry tail 3" long; large ears; protuberant eyes; Fur on back is dark hazel changing to reddish-brown on sides; underside white. Tail is brown above, white below. Feet are white.

Behavior

Nocturnal. Omnivorous. Males' females' home ranges overlap; males' are larger. Communicate by short musical barking sounds. Build leaf-lined nests in logs, tree hollows, and rock crevices. Breed throughout year, producing 2-3 litters annually, average of 4 young/litter. Short-lived, average life expectancy of 5 months; may live to 2-3 years.

Where found

Northern Key Largo.

Habitat

Recovery Plan

Restoration and strict monitoring of tropical hammock. Protected in Key Largo Hammock State Botanical Site.

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Date:December 4, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Chilton Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 813.9

465.1 air miles to go and we would sure like to reduce that number tomorrow morning. We will have nice cold temps and the humidity won't be as high as today's. Winds both on the surface and aloft are favorable; out of the NW and the N respectively.

Assuming what is forecast is what we wake up to, all that remains to be seen is how strong those NW and N winds will be. At the moment they are predicted to be manageable on the ground, but almost double in strength to what we'd prefer to see at altitude.

This means it will undoubtedly be test trike time come morning to check things out. The 'wind dummy' will be looking for some smooth air both to climb through and at which to fly at altitude. Keep in mind that while the wind direction is just great, the pilots will have to make absolutely sure they can get the birds up and going, and without fail. With a 30mph tailwind if a crane rodeo took them any distance to the south at all, it would be next to impossible to get them all back to the pen if that call had to be made.

So, with all those thoughts we're going to call our odds for a flight tomorrow as being 50-50.

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Date:December 4, 2010 - Entry 3 Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATIONLocation: Chilton Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 813.9

WCEP’s Tracking & Monitoring team’s update (for the period ended Nov. 27) came in last evening. Although beyond the end of the report period, the update contained news of a recent mortality.

1-09* was found dead in Adams Co., WI on Dec. 1st. The crane’s body was spotted by WI DNR pilot Bev Paulan, who was doing an aerial wolf survey at the time. The scavenged carcass was recovered, but the cause or date of death has yet to be determined. The death of 1-09* reduces the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) to a maximum of 105 cranes; 58 males, 47 females.

As of Dec. 1st most if not all Whooping cranes in central WI had begun their fall migration with some already having arrived on their wintering grounds. grounds.
ON OR COMPLETED MIGRATION
13-09
and 19-09 were in Madison Co., IL, by Nov. 2. They resumed migration Nov. 23. No subsequent reports.

12-02 & 19-04* and W3-10 began migration on Nov. 4. They were reported in Greene Co., IN the following day and have remained there.

3-07 and D38-08* began migration after Nov 8. They were next reported on the wintering territory of 3-07 in Lowndes Co., GA Nov. 28.

5-05 & 15-04* began migration on or after Nov. 10. They were found with 24-05 & D42-07* and D21-10 in Warren Co., IN Nov. 25. They continued migration the next day to Clark Co., IN. The pair, accompanied by D21-10, continued migration Nov. 27, arriving on their wintering grounds in Meigs/Rhea Counties, TN the same day.

24-05 & D42-07*; D42-07* began migration after Nov. 10. They were found with 5-05 & 15-04* and D21-10 in Warren Co., IN Nov. 25. They continued migration the next day to Clark Co., IN. On the morning of Nov. 27 they left, leaving the other 3 cranes behind. The pair was confirmed at their wintering area in Morgan Co., AL Nov. 29.

17-03 & 3-03* began migration Nov. 17. They were reported in Parke Co., IN, with 1-04 and 8-05* Nov. 19 and remained through Nov. 26. There were found Dec. 3 during an aerial survey in Sullivan Co., IN.

1-04 and 8-05* began migration Nov 17. They were reported with nos. 17-03 & 3-03* in Parke Co., IN Nov. 19 where they remain.

12-07, 17-07*, and D31-08 began migration after Nov. 17. A high precision PTT reading for D31-08 indicated a they were in Winnebago Co., IL Nov. 21. Three whooping cranes were reported in the area the following day. A lower precision PTT reading for D31-08 Nov. 29 indicated they were in Shelby Co., IL and all three were seen there during an aerial survey on Dec. 3.

12-05 & 22-07* began migration after Nov. 17. They were next reported in Gibson Co., IN Nov. 22 where they remained.

D27-05* was captured for transmitter replacement Nov. 20 and apparently began migration Nov. 20.

10-03 & W1-06* began migration Nov. 20. They were found in Clay/Vigo Counties, IN Nov 24 where they remain.

18-03 & 13-03 began migration Nov. 20. They were found in Jackson Co., Iowa, with D22-10*, D25-10, and d27-10* Nov. 21. The pair remained there until continuing migration Nov. 23 to Greene Co., IN.

12-04/D27-05* apparently began migration Nov 20. They were found Nov 23 in Lee Co., IL until Nov. 26 when they were detected in flight headed SE. They were reported in Greene Co., IN Nov. 29.

D22-10*, D25-10, and D27-10* began migration Nov. 20. They were found with 18-03 & 13-03* in Jackson Co., Iowa, Nov. 21 and remained with them as migration continued.

8-04/19-05* 4/19-05* apparently began migration Nov. 23 and were reported in Greene Co., IN Nov. 26 where they remain.

5-01 and 14-09* apparently began migration Nov 23. 5-01 was found at Hiwassee, TN Nov. 28, but no radio signal of 14-09* was detected.

11-02 & 30-08* apparently began migration Nov 23. They were found with D19-10 in Vermillion Co., IN, on Dec 2.

13-02 & 18-02* apparently began migration Nov. 23. They were found with 2-04 and D46-07* in Will Co., IL Nov. 26 but were not detected on an aerial survey Dec. 2.

16-02 & 16-07* apparently began migration Nov 23. They were with 4-08 and 10-09 in Knox Co., IN Nov. 28.

D28-05* began migration on Nov23. She was next reported in Jackson Co., IN Nov 27 and apparently departed the next day.

2-04 & D46-07* apparently began migration Nov. 23. They were found with 13-02& 18-02* in Will Co., IL Nov 26 where they remained at least through Dec. 2.

27-08 and 29-08 began migration Nov. 23. They were reported in Winnebago Co., IL that evening and remained in the area until continuing migration Nov 27.

4-08, 10-09, 12-09, 24-09, D34-09* D35-09* and D41-09 apparently began migration Nov. 23. 4-08 and 10-09 were reported with 16-02 & 16-07* in Knox Co., IN Nov. 28. D34-09* and D35-09* were reported in Jackson/Jennings Counties, IN Nov. 26 and remained at this location. No subsequent reports of 12-09, 24-09, or D41-09.

D19-10 and D21-10 began migration Nov. 23. D21-10 was found and remained with older whooping cranes 5-05 & 15-04* Nov. 25. D19-10 was found with 11-02 & 30-08* on Dec. 2.

D20-10, D23-10*, D24-10*, D26-10 and D28-10 began migration with 6-05, 6-09, and D38-09 Nov. 23 and remained with them as migration continued.

6-05, 6-09, D38-09, D20-10, D23-10*, D24-10*, D26-10, and D28-10 began migration Nov. 23. They made small movements the next day then continued migration on Nov 25-26 to Jackson/Jennings Counties, IN, where they remained.

3-04 * 9-03* and W1-10 began migration Nov 25 or 26. They were heard Dec. 3, possibly in flight, in Lawrence Co., IL during an aerial survey.

D27-06 and 26-09* began migration Nov 25-26. They were found in Grundy Co., IL, during an aerial survey Dec. 2.

remained in Dodge Co., WI through the last check on Nov. 5. He was no longer present by the evening of Nov. 25 and was found at his previous wintering location in Meigs/Rhea Counties, TN Nov. 28.

16-04 16-04 and 4-09* began migration on Dec. 1. They were found Dec. 2 during an aerial survey in Salk Co., WI.

8-09*, 11-09, 15-09*, 18-09, 25-09*, 29-09, D32-09* and D37-09* remained on in Dodge Co., WI at least through Nov5. They were no longer present by the evening of Nov. 25. Radio signals of D32-09* and D37-09* were detected in flight Nov 26 in Owen Co., IN. Low precision PTT readings for 15-09* indicated a roost location in White Co., IL Nov26; Monroe Co., MS on Nov. 28, and Lowndes Co., MS Nov 30. Six cranes were reported in Hamilton, Mississippi Dec. 3 and were confirmed during an aerial survey that day as being 8-09*, 11-09, 15-09*, 18-09, 25-09* and 29-09.

33-07, 5-09*, 7-09*, and D42-09 began migration by Nov 26. Their radio signals were detected, possibly in flight, in Rock Co. No subsequent reports.

13-08* was found in Morgan Co., AL Nov. 29.

MIGRATING?
14-08 and 24-08* remained in Dodge Co., WI through at least the last check on Nov 10. Only 14-08 was detected on the evening of Nov. 25 but he was no longer present by Dec. 1. No subsequent reports.

D37-07 remained in Jackson Co., MI at least through the morning of Nov. 25. No subsequent reports.<27-07* was reported in Kosciusko Co., IN through Nov.17 but was no longer there Nov. 24. She was next reported in LaPorte Co., IN Nov. 27 and 28.

33-07, 5-09*, 7-09*, and D42-09* remained mainly in Adams Co at least as of Nov 8. Their radio signals were detected, possibly in flight, in Rock Co., Nov. 26. Nov. 26.

Two possible Eastern Migratory Whooping Cranes were reported in Alachua Co., FL, Nov. 28. Identification pending. Two unidentified Whooping Cranes were also reported flying over the pensite on Chassahowitzka NWR, Citrus Co., FL, Dec. 2 however an aerial survey in these areas on Dec. 3 produced no results.

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
- 5-08 and 12-08 last reported in Columbia County, WI, Dec 10, 2009
- D36-08 last detected in Lawrence County, TN Dec 11, 2009
- D33-05* last reported in Jackson County, IN Mar. 6
- 27-09 last detected in Waukesha County, WI Apr. 10
- 7-01*: last reported in Fond du Lac County, WI May 2.
- 16-03NFT last observed on Necedah NWR May 6.
- 14-05NFT last observed on Necedah NWR May 1- 20-05*NFT believed to have been in Jackson County, WI May 24.

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Date:December 4, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:>Subject:PHOTO ALBUMLocation: Chilton Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 813.9

Before I begin my 'real' work for the day, I spent a little time gathering and processing a few photos of the past days action.

Above photo was taken by Linda Boyd and shows pilot Richard van heuvelen leading the chicks out of the alcove at the end of the valley where the pen was set up in Hardin County.

View from lookout on Watermelon Hill at the Hardin County, TN departure flyover. The circle shows the cranes and planes emerging from the little alcove in the trees in the back of the photo.

The two photos above were also taken by Linda. On the left she captured Richard and his charges as they made 'departure #1' and before the first crane rodeo. Because the Hardin County flyover viewing location is on a high hill (situated on the Horse Creek Wildlife Sanctuary and Animal Rescue property) it affords watchers an almost side on view of the departing cranes.

The top photo was snapped by Linda yesterday morning. A crowd of about 25 to 30 people who had waited patiently, (it was very cold) for the crane round-up to end were rewarded with a super flyover. The bottom left photo and the one above was taken by Shirl Ganey, one of the folks who braved the frosty temperature to witness our departure from Walker County, AL. Thanks for sharing your photos, Shirl!

Joe Duff was lead pilot yesterday when we departed Walker County. You can see he had two off his right wing and the other eight off his left as he approached the flyover. If you look at the next photo you can see the chicks had moved to all be in a long line off Joe's right wing.ght wing. It was a super flyover, firstly because they flew overhead at a low enough altitude for not just a great view, but also a long one. I took the photo above just before they got totally out of sight.
 

click here.

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Date:December 4, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:>Subject:MIGRATION DAY 56 - DOWN DAY #1Location: Chilton Co., AL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 813.9

In the last Field Journal entry yesterday, I said that the prediction regarding our chances of a flight this morning was more based on heart rather than head. Because we just hated to give in, we gave ourselves 10% odds of flying when what we really expected was a zero chance.

Sure enough, stepping outside in this morning’s half dark-half light, what we had was just what we dreaded but expected. The surface wind was out of the south, and at altitude it was also from the wrong direction and blowing strongly. With the humidity topping out in the high 90’s it felt like breathing in moisture – not something that the chicks could handle on the tough, rough, flight today’s wind would produce.

The call was made - we would stand down. Then, around 7:30am, the sky lightened and brightened, the clouds that previously were scuttling by slowed down to a walk. It was so tempting it was decided to launch a ‘wind dummy’, if only to prove for certain that standing down was the right call.

We have now stood down for a second time today; Down Day #1 in Chilton County, AL. Check back here later today for photos from yesterday’s Walker County, AL departure flyover.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Blunt-Nosed Leopard lizard

Genus/Species

Gambelia Silus

Statusf">Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat degradation by farming, urban development, overgrazing, oil wells, and mining.

Description

3.4" to 4.7" long plus long regenerative tail; long powerful hind limbs; short, blunt snout. Weigh 1.3 to 1.5 ounces. Females slightly smaller then males. Vary in color and pattern on their backs from yellowish or light gray-brown to dark brown; rows of dark spots alternate with white, cream-colored or yellow bands. Undersides uniformly white. Color depends on soil color and vegetation.

Behavior

Diurnal. Diet is insects, particularly grasshoppers, crickets, moths; other lizards; plant material. Males highly combative in establishing and maintaining territories. Breed May to June. Female lays and incubates 2-6 eggs, until hatching July or Aug.

Where found

Southwest California

Habitat

Semi-arid grasslands, scrubland, alkali flats, and washes. Prefer flat areas with open space for running. Live in abandoned burrows, but can also dig their own tunnels. Prefer areas under rocks for safety.

Recovery Plan

Calls for study of habitat management and compatible land uses.

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Date:December 3, 2010 - Entry 2 Liz Condie
Subject:>Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Chilton Co., AL
Flown Today:58 MilesTotal Miles 813.9

We're finding it very hard to make a prediction for tomorrow. The forecast is not favorable to say the least; SW surface winds and 20 to 30mph winds almost straight out of the west aloft. Not totally impossible so we’re reluctant to rule out the possibility, but in reality, a flight is not all that probable.

Still, we’re going to give it 10-90% odds – a prediction which, quite frankly, has more heart in it than head.

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Date: December 3, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:SUCCESS!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:58 Miles: Walker Co. to Chilton Co., ALTotal Miles813.9

Another successful day! Today's lead pilot Joe Duff launched with the birds this morning. An air pickup, first at 7:15 CT and after a 5 minutes rodeo, he landed back at the pensite because apparently the birds decided they wanted to frolic in a nearby stream.

We watched on the camera as first one costume, then another, followed by two more wandered off down to the stream to collect the cranes and lead them back to the waiting aircraft. Next Joe launched with them again, this time from the ground, and they seemed to lock onto his wing pretty quickly and follow him out of the valley they were sequestered in.

Some of the ground crew is dealing with a traffic jam in nearby Birmingham, so it may take them a bit longer to arrive. Tune in later to read the lead pilot report.t report.

We're getting many questions regarding #2-10, the still young, but large beautiful Whooping crane who has only been able to fly one partial leg of the southward migration. #2 went for an examination on Wednesday in Nashville, and while we still don't know ALL the details, such as where he will eventually end up, he will, unfortunately, be removed from the ultralight cohort, which we're all very sad to learn.

CLICK here to read the article which ran in yesterday's Tennessean Newspaper.

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Date:December 2, 2010 - Entry 5 Liz Condie
Subject:DEPARTURE FLYOVER PHOTOS FROM HARDIN COUNTY, TNLocation: Walker Co., AL
Flown Today:110 MilesTotal Miles 755.9

Thanks to Patrick and Marion Marsh for sending along photos they snapped at this morning's departure flyover. Was that just this morning....it seems sooooo long ago. Richard, today's lead pilot managed to give us all a terrific view despite his less than cooperative charges.

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Date:December 2, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:FLYING A TWO-FERLocation:Location: Walker Co., AL
Flown Today:110 MilesTotal Miles 755.9

A cold and heavy frost lay over the landscape, as we flew toward the pen site in Hardin County, TN. When I dipped down into the valley the temperature dropped considerably and I didn’t want frost to develop on my wing, so as I approached the pen I quickly gave the ground crew the thumbs up, turned away, and took off as fast as the chicks came out of the pen.

All of them came on to the wing quickly, and soon we were climbing nicely out of the cold valley into the sunshine above.

The birds followed well for a mile down the valley, then, for no particular reason it seemed, they turned away from the trike. Throwing the trike in a steep turn I quickly intercepted them and slowly got us all back on course again.

All seemed to go well when again - for no particular reason - they turned back once more. By pulling in the bar and making another steep turn I intercepted them for the second time. By now we were beginning to gain some altitude, but still they turned back.

This time since we had some altitude we headed west over the ridges before getting on course. This seemed to work, but on occasion they still would veer off. But as I stayed the course, they would come back to the trike. As the miles ticked by we steadily gained more altitude and ground speed.

By the time we were approaching Franklin County, Alabama, we were nearing 3800 feet above sea level. So we punched Walker County into the GPS (and with heavy winter mitts I do mean punched) and found it to be just over an hour's more flying away. With the air so smooth, the sky so bright, the birds so soothed, we led the birds in flight.

And yes.... that meant there would be no Christmas spent in Franklin County as we skipped to Walker County on an uneventful flight limited today by fuel and oil pressure for a change rather than by weather.

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Date:December 2, 2010 - Entry 3 Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Walker Co., AL
Flown Today:110 MilesTotal Miles 755.9

Boy oh boy, are we glad to be in Alabama. Just a couple of days ago it seemed verrrrry far away, and now, here we are at our second stopover site in this state. What a kick it was to get the phone call saying, "We're skipping!"

Skipping is great but it does mean the post migration leg chores get pushed back somewhat. It's already late afternoon and we are just getting settled into our new campsite. Top cover pilot Jack Wrighter and spotter/driver John Cooper flew in this afternoon to join the migration and they're with us now.

Joe and Walter left around 2pm to drive the ~150 miles back to our Hardin County stopover to pick up two vehicles we left behind. (We're short a driver; Trish left on Sunday for a week at home in Philly.) They have about a three hour drive up and then the same number back, plus the time it takes to hook up the aircraft trailer to the van and then go and retrieve the Dodge/Arctic Fox. We're not like to see them until sometime between 8 and 9pm.d 9pm.

When they get back we'll give them the good news about tomorrow's weather outlook that we're going to give you right now. If anything, it appears it will be as favorable, if not more so than was today. Perhaps not quite as big a 'push' as the cranes and planes had this morning, but should be close.

Looking good enough right now to say we're 98% sure we'll be in the air again in the morning. There is a super flyover location from which to watch our Walker County departure. Click the link to the right to read the directions and get a link to the site location on Google Maps.

See you there? You'll want to be on site sometime around 6:45am and certainly no later than 7am. Dress for the cold.

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Date:December 2, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:A DOUBLE MIGRATION LEG!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:110 Miles: Hardin Co, TN to Walker Co, ALTotal Miles755.9

As the team flew a DOUBLE leg this morning I thought I'd provide a brief update as it may be some time before the ground crew arrives at the new location in Alabama.

Today's lead pilot, Richard van Heuvelen launched with the birds in Hardin Co., TN at 7:18 and after a bit of back-and-forth rodeo round-up, he eventually was on course to Franklin County, AL. Apparently he was able to climb with the birds to 4000ft and had them locked onto his trike when they approached the planned stop near Russellville so they decided to take advantage of the tailwind and push on to the next stop in Walker County.

Liz reports the total flight time this morning was 2.5 hours and they covered 110 miles - WHOOP!

Don't forget to cast your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the RefreshEverything Project! We've moved  UP to our current ranking of 10! All because of your DAILY VOTES and for alerting your friends and family to begin voting.

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