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Photo Journals!

Wintering Whoopers

Ultralight-guided Migration



Operation Migration is proud to be a founding member of WCEP



Date: December 22nd, 2005
Reporter: Joe Duff
Location: Head Office Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Activity: Bringing Closure
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes:
The aircraft have been broken down and packed in the trailer for the winter. The responsibility for the birds has been passed to the Winter Monitoring Team. Mark Nipper has taken up residence in Florida , and the rest of us are back in our respective homes. But the memories of this migration linger, along with the symptoms of being on the road for 61 days.Ý

The perpetual search for an email connection has become a habit, and the first thing I do in the morning before opening my eyes is listen for the wind. It is hard not to be preoccupied with weather reports, and fundraising at every opportunity is now part of my nature. Our 2006 season starts in just four months so now that we are done for one year, it's time to start planning for the next.

For over 40 years Whooping crane eggs were collected annually from the nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Canada . That practise was stopped a decade ago in hopes that the lack of disturbance would increase production. Recently there has been renewed interest in egg collections. A good nesting pair of Whooping cranes will generally lay two eggs a season. On average however, they will raise just a single chick, and only successfully lead a chick to the Texas wintering grounds every other year.

It could be argued that eggs are wasted every season, and that they could be used to help the reintroduction efforts. This proposal will be a topic of discussion at the Whooping Crane Recovery Team meeting in Mexico this year. If taking of eggs is approved, there could be more birds for both the ultralight project and the DAR study. Each year we increase the numbers of birds we train, and to our surprise, we had very little difficulty managing the 20 of this past season. In fact, they were better prepared than any flock we have raised so far. Our ambition now is to try 24.

Availability of eggs is not the only limiting factor that has to be addressed. Facilities at the breeding centers must be improved and expanded to accommodate more chicks before we can realize this goal. This had been discussed in the past and options are available. To help out, Operation Migration will again provide additional staff as well as the aircraft, costumes, vocalizers and puppets.

We may also have to deal with nesting birds this coming year. Two pairs laid eggs last spring but neither survived. This it to be expected of newly formed pairs. Without sex education classes or a mother's advice, the process of incubating eggs must be learned through experience. It is not surprising that it takes a year or two to get it right.

The most hopeful prospects are the pair that claimed a territory next to our site four at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Numbers 101 and 202 should be more practised this season, and we have great hopes. If their territory is next to our training site they may get defensive and attempt to evict us. We will have to discuss our options at that point and see if building another training facility is warranted.

Whoa! Enough!! Here I am anticipating/planning for next year when we are barely finished this one! After all, we still need to generate the reports, close off the year, and thank all of our supporters. But first it is time to take a break and enjoy the holidays.

Best wishes to all - and to all a good night.


Date: December 20th, 2005
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Head Office Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Activity: White Bird Update
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

White Bird Report
As of December 17th, 24 of the prior years' 41 Whooping cranes had completed their migration south, and were reported as being in Florida . Ten birds (including 3 of the 4 DAR birds) are still in Tennessee , and there is a single bird in each of the Carolinas . The 6 adults reported as being in Indiana have now departed, but have not been located since. The location of two other cranes and the fourth DAR bird is also currently unknown.

In Florida are:
101, 105
202, 204, 205, 211, 216, 217
303, 309! 312, 313, 316
401, 402, 403, 407, 408, 412, 415, 416, 417, 419, 420

On migration and in locations outside Florida are:
102, 103, 107
201, 203, 208, 209, 212, 213, 218
302, 306, 307, 310, 311, 317, 318
The four DAR birds

Date: December 18th, 2005
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Head Office Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Activity: Home again, home again
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Home Again
Proving we humans are nothing if not creatures of habit, the first thing I did on rising this morning was log on to do the weather checks. Staring at my screen, I was vainly trying to remember which stopover locations I should be checking when the light bulb went on. Duh.

No Whooping crane news to report today, but we wanted to let you know that in addition to updates on how the 2005 cohort is faring, we will continue to post updates on both the white birds and the Wood Buffalo/Aransas flock.

It's In The Details
Many of you have emailed to say you have enjoyed the 'behind the scenes' insights, and the details about the husbandry involved in caring for Whooping cranes.

Broadly defined as the practice of breeding, rearing, and caring for animals, animal husbandry is a vital skill for farmers, zoo keepers, and animal conservationists. As most people involved in the practice will tell you, (particularly those dealing with wild, as opposed to domestic creatures), animal husbandry is in many ways as much an art as it is a science.


Because he spends more time with the Whooping cranes in our project than anyone else, OM aviculturalist Mark Nipper, has become quite expert in the art. Most often it is to him that the team turns for advice when questions arise relating to the physical well-being of the birds. And it is his intimate familiarity with the birds and their individual idiosyncrasies that deserves much of the credit for our ability to accomplish their training so successfully.

Due to their high visibility and the photogenic nature of their job, our ultralight pilots are inevitably seen as the 'stars of the show'. But as everyone knows, the making of any movie requires a whole cast of characters playing an assortment of roles. The fact that Mark gets less 'camera time' is no reflection of the importance and value of the role he plays. So let's hear a cheer for Mark - Hip Hip Hooray!!

Unsung Hero
If this were a movie it would be time to roll the credits. No project of this scope is accomplished successfully without a hard working 'behind the scenes' crew. Christina Danilko, OM 's office manager is one of these individuals. Chris never spends a day in the field, yet she is the mainstay, indeed the glue that holds the OM team together. In many ways, particularly during migration, she has it harder than the field crew as there are times she has to single-handedly hold down the fort at the office.

In addition to her oversized normal workload, during migration Chris is deluged with hundreds of emails and telephone calls each day. Being at a distance, she worries and frets about the crew and the birds, only taking a breath of relief when the early morning update call comes in.

If OM has an unsung hero it is without doubt, Chris. We are sure she knows how much she is appreciated, but feel it appropriate that we both express our gratitude and recognize her work and her dedication publicly. So to you Chris, here's hugs, thanks, and a rousing Hip Hip Hooray!! from the entire OM team.

Note
There will be more photos posted as time becomes available to process them, and if we can, we will give you a heads-up as to when more video will be available at weather.com.


Date: December 17th, 2005
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Dunnellon/Ocala, Florida Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Activity: Reports and Updates
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Note: Because unexpected last minute chores delayed my departure from Florida yesterday, I am presented with an opportunity to post one more journal entry before flight time.

White Bird Update
Tracking team member and ICF aviculturalist, Sara Zimorski, along with OM's Richard vanHeuvelen, traveled from Florida to North Carolina Thursday, in search of 309. She was found and crated, and then flown south to be released in excellent crane habitat in northern Florida. It won't be long before 309 will be mature enough to mate, so here's hoping she's satisfied her 'wanderlust', and remains with other Whooping cranes at least long enough to pair bond.

Wood Buffalo/Aransas Report
A December 14th aerial census of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated there were 214 Whooping cranes present; 186 adults and 28 young. One additional bird, believed to be the 2004 juvenile that wintered with sandhills after separating from its parents last fall, was detected in extreme South Texas.

The number of Whooping cranes completing their migration to date stands at 217, equaling last winter's peak population. One adult male (BwB-YbY-1987), and one juvenile have died however, leaving 215 birds in this flock.

Despite a strong low pressure system with wind chills in the 20's reaching the Texas coast December 8th - which could have enabled any lingering birds to complete their trip, USFWS Whooping Crane Coordinator, Tom Stehn, confirmed there had been no recent reports of any more Whooping cranes on migration.  

In earlier communiques, Tom anticipated the arrival of approximately 235 Whooping cranes at Aransas. This expectation appears to have been lowered, as the number he cites in his latest report is 230. "We presume all the cranes have completed their migration," Tom said, "however, we did not have good enough visibility on either of our two flights this month to be sure we have an accurate count."  

"The loss of cranes at Aransas is sad," commented Stehn, "and the apparent failure of quite a few birds to arrive is very disappointing."

Equipment Repairs
Thanks to Liles Collision Service in Ocala , it appears our damaged trailer will have a new lease on life. These kind folk anticipate completing the job within a week, and their estimate of what the repair will cost is considerably less than we feared. Now, if we can just find some good hearted souls to help us with repairs to our truck.....


Weather.com
Several things on both our, and Weather.com's end, have compounded to delay posting more video to their website. On speaking with them yesterday to sort things out, they confirmed that more film would be available for viewing in the near future. Late is better than never, right?

Special Offer
Being the wildlife stewards of tomorrow, we view young students as one of our most important audiences. Many teachers incorporate the Whooping crane project into their curriculum, and many classes throughout the country diligently follow the migration. With this in mind, we thought perhaps their creative, young minds might think of ways to put the 2005 calendars still sitting on our shelves to good use. The result is a special offer to educators and students on our merchandise page.  

New Pricing
A visit to our merchandise page will also reveal new pricing on several items. Have a look-see and take advantage of the bargains.

Appreciation
If you are ever in the Ocala , Florida area and looking for a place to stay, we can recommend the Courtyard by Marriott. The staff there were terrific. They accommodated our many changes, and we especially owe Front Office Manager, Carol Griffin, a debt of gratitude.

Guestbook
Our sincere thanks for all the heart-warming guestbook entries; both those made along the way and at the conclusion of the migration. On tough days, it was great to have you there for support and encouragement. And on good days, it was wonderful to have you there to celebrate with. OM must have the absolute greatest supporters going!


Date: December 15th, 2005
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Dunnellon/Ocala, Florida Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Activity: News and notes
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Latest on the White Birds

216 and 303 were detected yesterday afternoon as they flew south along the Gulf Coast prior to landing the Chassahowitzka NWR pensite.

Crew departures imminent

What’s left to accomplish: Two team members, Angie and Charlie, will hang on here in Florida pending completion of the health checks. Richard and Mark are in charge of towing our aircraft trailer and one travel pen trailer to Chassahowitzka for storage and then they too are done. As usual, Mark will winter here in Florida to assist with the monitoring and husbandry of the new arrivals and the adult birds.

Chris and Brooke have both finished their obligations, and Joe and Walt will be heading for home too before the day is out. Our two top cover pilots, Dave Mattingly and Jack Wrighter are well on their way home, and Jeff Huxmann, our videographer, will leave for his trek back to Wisconsin as soon as he processes the last of the film.

As for me, all I have left to do is to package and ship back the satellite phones lent us by Globalstar; meet with a fundraising contact; prepare for WCEP Communications and Outreach wrap-up conference call later today, and then I too will be homeward bound – to face what I hear is a fresh foot of snow, and a temperature of about -7C.

I think it is safe for me to report that by the end of today, ‘the fat lady will be singing’ and but for the last leg to Chassahowitzka, we can declare the 2005 migration over.

Something New

Operation Migration supporter, Fred Dietrich, created a cool chart that will allow you to compare the timeline of each of the 5 years' migrations against the average. To download Fred’s chart in an Excel spreadsheet click here.

Here’s Fred’s explanation of how he designed the chart. “After trying several ideas, I calculated the average by looking at the total distance that was traveled each day, beginning on October 10th and dividing that number by 4. For example, The only year in which October 10th was flown, the flight was 24.8 miles, giving an average of 6.2 miles covered on that day for the 4 years. On October 17th, 22.6 miles were flown in 2003 and 29.3 in 2001, for a total of 51.9 miles, or an average of 13 miles for that day/date. The line represents the cumulative total miles by day, beginning on October 10th.
 
The individual years show 0 miles for the days from the 10th until they actually make their first flight. After that the line increments are by the number of miles flown.”

MileMaker Wrap Up

We never did manage the time to update the photo representation of the MileMaker sponsorships. The last time you would have seen the photo, the ‘DA’ of ‘Florida’ was still outstanding. We are delighted to be able to tell you, that is no longer the case.

In fact we received a little over what was needed to cover the expenses of the migration. We are sincerely grateful, and we are indebted to so many that, I have no doubt it will take me weeks to write all the notes of thanks we are going to want send out.

About the Bottom Line

Our quest to secure sufficient financial resources to see us through the balance of this fiscal year (to March 31st) as well as the next fiscal and migration year continues. If you can help, or have ideas or suggestions for foundations or corporations you feel might be open to an approach, we would appreciate hearing from you.

One last note

If you haven’t yet checked off all the names on your holiday gift list, an Operation Migration membership or a subscription to our magazine makes a great and lasting gift.

This will be the last journal entry for at least a few days as we all make our way home and have an opportunity to share some long overdue hugs and quality time with our family and friends.

But...don’t stay away too long. We WILL be back!

Click here to see a few more photos.




Date: December 14th, 2005
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Dunnellon/Ocala, Florida Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Activity: White Bird Update / Wrapping up / Photos from yesterday
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

White Bird Update  

Relatively little happened this past week in terms of migration movement. No additional birds have arrived in Florida beyond the 21 we noted last week. 309, who hadn't been seen since October 27th in Lewis County, New York, was detected in North Carolina a few days ago. The three DAR birds remained at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee , and the location of the one DAR bird that left the area the previous week is unknown.  

Migration Crew Wraps Up  

You know the saying, "It's not over until the fat lady sings?" Well, she's not singing yet. For us, the migration isn't over at the conclusion of the arrival event because there is still lots to do before the team can go home.

Today's chores included relocating two of our living trailers to an RV campsite, and listing and inventorying the remainder of the OM merchandise that accompanied the crew on migration. One big job for our pilots was breaking down the four ultralights so they could be loaded and packed into the aircraft trailer. In order to do this, all our tools, equipment, and mountains of other paraphernalia, ranging from bins with clothes for assorted weather to bicycles, first had to be unloaded out, and then reorganized and repacked in order to make room for our aircraft.  

This morning, Joe and Walt set out to see about having our damaged trailer repaired. This possibility opened up when I was approached at the arrival event by Laurlin Bedwell. She came over to tell me that there was a place on the outskirts of Ocala that had once done repairs to their trailer, and that they did a terrific job for a reasonable price. She kindly emailed me the contact information for the trailer repair shop (many thanks again Laurlin), and as a result of their examination we have hope that the trailer can be fixed and made roadworthy.

The aircraft trailer and one of the traveling pen trailers has to be towed to Chassahowitzka for storing pending a later flight for the last leg. Whether this could be fitted into today's busy schedule was a question mark.  

The ground crew and bird handlers visited the pensite to check the Whooping cranes and resolved a small problem on the beak of one bird. At our team meeting today there was discussion as to how food stations could be put in place without the cranes being able to see the work being done, and this may take another day to resolve and accomplish. Our intern, Angie Maxted, who is incidentally a fully accredited veterinarian, advised she has yet to be notified when the arrival health check for the cohort will be conducted, so that is still outstanding.  

We did have one crew departure today. Kirill Postelnykh, the graduate student from Oka Biosphere Reserve in Russia who has been mentored by the team for the past few months had to get to Tampa in order to be ready to depart for home tomorrow. With most of my jobs for the day already done, and just a few last media and fundraising duties remaining for me to do, the task of driving Kirill from Ocala to Tampa fell to me. Now you know why this entry is being posted so late today.

There were lots of other little things to be done, and when we come together again in the early evening we'll compare notes to see what is left to accomplish.

Everyone is really looking forward to getting everything wrapped up so they can head home to re-join their families and friends in time for the holidays. For us, that's when the 2005 migration will be over.


Yesterday's Photos
- Click here or on an image below to see these images enlarged.






Date: December 14th, 2005
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: FLORIDA Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: n/a

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: n/a

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Wrapping up
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: To twist a phrase, it is the morning after the two months before. Between the flyover and arrival event activity, and the usual work that has to be accomplished once the birds are on the ground, the last of the OM crew finally wound up their day's chores shortly before 5:30pm.

That left time for a quick shower and change of clothes before meeting up for a team dinner to celebrate the successful conclusion of a long migration. As we all relaxed, the relief that the journey was over was palpable. Despite the energy and euphoria thoughts of going home generated, everyone was tired, and happy to call it a night early.

In many ways, small and large, a myriad of people play a vital role in each year's migration. We, our WCEP partners, indeed, everyone who cares about the survival of the Whooping crane, owe many, many people a huge vote of thanks.

As we gradually wind down this project year, and gear up to prepare the annual summary report, we will do our best to ensure our gratitude is appropriately expressed to all those whose work and contributions to OM made everything possible.

To steal a phrase of Bill Lishman's, 'In terms of this project, OM is where the rubber hits the road.' At each year's arrival event we are the stars of the show so to speak, but it is our fondest wish that our huge cast of players could all be there with us to take a well earned and much deserved bow.

There are too many people who play a role in this project's success to name here individually, but you all know who you are. Hats off to each and every one of you - and applause, applause from the entire OM team.

PS: The photos we promised will be posted this afternoon. 

Date: December 13th, 2005 - Day 61
Reporter: Joe Duff
Location: Marion County, FLORIDA!!! Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 67.0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 1183.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Migration completed for 2005...but more may come.
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: The success of this project depends on controlling as many aspects as possible. We manage the experiences of each bird from the time they hatch until we release them into the wild. The aerial rodeo that ensues when our birds decide they don’t want to leave a particular location may look chaotic, but is well choreographed with each pilot knowing intuitively what the others expect. Our ground crew rehearses the route and knows their respective roles if a situation arises, and there is a plan for every occurrence that falls into place with little communication.

At the end of each migration, we arrange to fly over a gathering of our supporters, giving them an opportunity to see the chicks arrive at their winter home. We attempted to coordinate this event with the same attention to detail. Our plan was to over fly the audience at the Dunnellon Airport, and then drop the birds at the pen site a few miles to the south. When they were safely in the pen we would all arrive back at the airport at the same time for introductions and some well deserved credit.  We had handlers by the pen to call the birds down with a loud speaker. We had set our pen up the day before to be ready. We had team members and volunteers at the airport to keep the viewers informed. There were representatives there from Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Jerry and Sandy Ulrikson who accompanied us on last year's migration were there, along with Kim Sams and others from the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund. Everything was set as we took off into clear skies at 7:52 AM and left Gilchrist County.

We elected to let Chris Gullikson, our new pilot, lead the birds on their final leg, and he flew low over the pen as Walter, Angie and Kirill let them out. It is almost impossible to guess how long it will take them to clear the gate and by the time they were all out and flying, Chris was too far ahead. Richard moved in and turned them on course. We climbed to a thousand feet and picked up an 8 mile per hour tail wind.  Brooke, Chris and I fell in behind and above, three abreast and ready to help if needed. The air was smooth and everything seemed to be falling into place as planned. We sat back and watched the GPS tick off the 67 miles to our destination. Twenty miles out, one bird dropped down and we decided not to give away the altitude we had worked so hard to gain. We let it fall behind and waited until it was far enough out of the flock for one of us to move in to pick it up.  If you move in too soon it disturbs the other birds and they may break from the lead aircraft to join the one below. When it was a couple of hundred yards back, Brooke slipped in and collected it on his wing. With only one bird receiving the full benefit of the vortex, Brooke was able to climb much faster than Richard who had to balance the abilities of eighteen.

Ten miles out, number 516 dropped down but he fought hard to keep up with his flockmates. When I was able to move in, he was panting hard and determined to find a place to land. By this time in the morning the sun was in full glory, and the heat it produced grew higher by the minute. At two hundred feet up the air was rough, and it was all I could do to keep that aircraft upright. Number 516 would rest on the wing for a moment but get bumped off in the strong wind, and every time we flew over a pond his attention was diverted. Richard, Brooke and Chris began their descent over the Dunnellon Airport a mile or two ahead while 516 and I struggled to clear the trees. We were over a reforestation area and looking for a place to set down. We cleared one field of scrub and picked the next one that looked smoother. As we cleared the last tree I realized we were on the north end of the airport. I called Dave Mattingly and Jack Wrighter in the top cover aircraft to clear me down but landed short before they could respond. The airport manager was very cooperative and let all the local pilots know we were in the area. I taxied off into the grass as soon as I was down and turned up the volume on the vocalizer to the maximum. This encouraged number 516 to clear the last field and he landed beside me. Top cover cleared Mark Nipper to drive down the runway towards me, but he stopped short so the bird wouldn’t see his van. He carried the crate the last ¼ mile and we moved number 516 into it. Mark drove the van the rest of the way out and we loaded the crate for the short trip to the pen site.

While this was happening I listened on the radio to the other pilots as they fought the rough air to get the rest of the flock to land. They made several passes, taking a beating in the high winds. Brooke’s bird joined the rest of the flock and he headed back to the airport to lessen the confusion. As he taxied in, the crowd began to surround him and I heard his plea for the rest of us to join him quickly. Richard and Chris circled while the final bird landed at the pen site and they too headed back. I taxied the length of the runway for the last mile and joined the event 10 minutes late. It was an informal and disjointed presentation but our supporters seemed impressed despite the chaos. It has been a long and hard fought migration but all the birds made it in good health and that, in the end, is what it's all about.

While we are finished with the migration for 2005, we aren't finished with this year's flock. Next month we may attempt to move our 19 birds to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge after our older birds have dispersed from the refuge for the winter. With this possibility looming we still aren't in the black financially. Operation Migration will need your financial support to help us get through our winter months and into the next fiscal year. Memberships and Donations make great holiday gifts, and we'll need many of these to stay afloat. We'll continue to update you on the progress of our birds through the winter and spring, and be preparing for a new 2006 class of Whooping cranes in the coming months. It's a lot of hard work and this wouldn't be possible without you! If you would like to contribute please click here.

Note: Tomorrow we'll have some photos for you of today's flight!

Date: December 12th, 2005 - Day 60
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Gilchrist County, FLORIDA!!! Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 99.0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 1,116.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Preparing for tomorrow.
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Joe launched with all 19 birds this morning. A short while later 8 birds broke away from his wing, giving Chris and Richard a little bit of a hard time trying to wrangle the birds on course for Gilchrist County, Florida. After about 15 minutes of back-and-forth, the 8 birds decided they would behave and follow the planes properly. Perhaps they remembered what it was like to be crated??

As of 9:37AM, all 19 birds were safe on the ground in Gilchrist County, and that means the pilots and crew will prepare for tomorrow. The current weather forecast looks promising for what we hope will be our last flight for 2005, and we're planning a big fly-over event at the Dunnellon Municipal Airport! If you would like to view the cranes and planes making their way to their final 2005 destination, please click here for directions to the airport. When you are in the vicinity of the airport look for signs that will direct you to a parking spot. Viewers should be in place by 8:00 AM and dress warmly.

As the ability to fly on any given day is completely weather dependant, there is a possibility the event could be postponed.  This cannot be determined until moments before take-off. The Whooping crane hotline at 904-232-2580 extension 124 will be updated the minute a "go"/"no go" decision is made.

Date: December 11th, 2005 - Day 59
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Cook County, Georgia Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 60 Miles and 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 1017.4 Miles and 1017.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Ground transportation of cranes.
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: By 2:45 PM our 12 birds that didn't want to leave Terrell County for a second day in a row were successfully transported to Cook County. After another morning of crane wrangling, the crew built enough boxes to bring all 12 cranes southward in one trip. Angie brought 6 cranes down in an RV and Mark brought the other 6 down in the crew's mini-van. All 12 cranes that made the road trip appear to be doing fine and are reacquainting themselves with the 7 better behaving birds.

Date: December 11th, 2005 - Day 59
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Terrell County, Georgia and Cook County, Georgia Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: TBA

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: TBA

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Up, round and round, and down
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: It seems that wishing and hoping and sleeping with one's fingers crossed doesn't help.

Planes and cranes took to the air this morning, but after circling the stopover pensite in Terrell County for almost an hour, the crew finally had to give up. The birds were reluctant to follow the ultralights, and kept breaking off. Rather than return to the pen, the birds, loving the water as they do, would go back to the pensite, but land in the nearby pond.

With little hope that a third try tomorrow would bring different results, the decision was made to crate all 12 birds and transport them by truck to our next stopover site in Cook County, GA, where they will join the 7 birds that flew there successfully yesterday. The crating and transporting will be done in several trips. It is going to be a trying day for both birds and crew.

On a more upbeat note, we are currently attracting good media coverage in Georgia and Florida, and are working to increase it even more in an effort to broaden awareness for the project.

One Florida based newspaper, the Star Banner in Ocala, which is located just a few miles from the Dunnellon arrival site, has devoted the front page of today's issue to the migration and our arrival. To see a portion of the newspaper content on line, visit http://www.ocala.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=NEWS

Date: December 10th, 2005 - Day 58
Reporter: Mark Nipper
Location: Terrell County, Georgia and Cook County, Georgia Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles and 60 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 957.4 Miles and 1017.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: We're back...sort of.
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Well, we had another rough morning that luckily ended safely for all the birds.  A headwind greeted us this morning as we tried to take off.  There was a tailwind at higher elevation, if we could only make it there.  It was quite a circus for some time just to get the birds out of the pen area. 

Richard ended up with six birds, and Chris, not too far away, with one.  Joe and Brooke were behind with 12 birds in an all-out struggle to get them to follow.  The birds wanted nothing to do with that headwind.  One of Richards’s birds soon began to drop low and behind as they were passing over the south side of Albany, Georgia.  Brooke ended up escorting 11 birds back to the starting point while Joe was able to get one to follow him towards the next stop in Cook County, Georgia. 

Meanwhile, Richard’s straggler had disappeared and the tracking vehicle was starting to scan to find out which bird it was.  Chris was able to drop his one bird off to Richard and come back to assist in tracking.  As Joe approached the area, radio signals suggested he had number 510.  Soon after that was confirmed, the release team was able to say that 501, 502, 503, 506, 507, 509, 511, 512, 514, 519, and 523 were back at the starting point.  This was good because it began to eliminate birds to search for. 

Ten minutes later, signals for 520 began to crop up.  The bird must have been hopping from spot to spot, because the signals were in and out and bouncing all over the place.  The other pilots had also made it to the next stop and confirmed that it was 520 that we were looking for.  The bird was finally located about thirty minutes later.  The bird was in a pond on a sod farm.  As soon as she saw Chris flying low over the field she popped up and followed Chris back to the starting point. However, it wasn't yet over.  Not long after Chris got 520 on the wing, we began wondering if he had enough gas to get there.  Luckily, he was able to make it back and the bird was fine.  Chris was also able to fly the extra few miles to the airport.  Chris, once again, saved the day by putting out the extra effort to get one of our birds home safely.

Tomorrow, or whenever we fly next, we'll bring our 12 birds in Terrell County to meet up with the other seven birds in Cook County, Georgia. Normally, we'd box birds that turned back to the pen and bring them to the next site using ground transportation. Since there are 12 birds that did not make today's leg, too many birds wouldn't know this section of the migration. This gap in the birds' knowledge can cause them to get lost on their unassisted spring migration to Wisconsin. Boxing cranes is a stressful ordeal for both the birds and us crane handlers. We try to keep it to a minimum, and 12 is simply too many! It's much safer to fly the birds south.
Date: December 10th, 2005 - Day 58
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: TBA Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: TBA

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: TBA

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: We're off...
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes:Cranes and planes are in the air as I type this. A small group watched the departure this morning from an isolated location along the departure flight line.

Viewing a flyover is always exciting and never gets old. Today we had some added excitement - President Jimmy Carter joined our small circle of viewers. Always a welcome guest, President Carter is knowledgeable about birds as well as environmental issues. Today was not President Carter's first visit with Operation Migration, having joined us for viewing opportunities in past seasons. On one occasion in the past he also pitched in to help the ground crew put up the pen.

Armed with a long-lensed camera, Mr. Carter snapped photos alongside the rest of us. Well...to be honest, some of us were taking pictures of President Carter taking pictures.

We asked President Carter if he did a lot of bird photography. He said he did - of wild turkeys. "I hunt wild turkeys and the limit is three birds", said the President. "Once I have two, I photograph the rest," he quipped.

The take-off this morning was another crane rodeo. After four nights in the pen, which was located in good crane habitat, the birds were reluctant to leave. This morning's air show was more like a foxtrot than a ballet, with the four ultralights attempting to chase and contain the birds as fast as they took it in their heads to break off. I'm sure it wasn't fun for the pilots, but on the ground listening to the aviation radio it was hard not to smile. As fast as one of the pilots would say how many birds he had, one or more would break off and be picked up by another, or break away altogether.

This afternoon's flight summary should be an interesting read for sure.

Click here or on a thumbnail to view larger images of President Jimmy Carter viewing takeoff.


Date: December 9th, 2005 - Day 57
Reporter: Richard vanHeuvelen
Location: Terrell County, Georgia. Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 957.4

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: The ground crew's experience / Flight photos
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Well, what can we say? The weather still stinks in Terrell County.

One of the things seldom mentioned on our site is the work the ground crew goes through on the days we do fly. They are roused out of bed with a polite knock on the RV door at 6 AM. They stumble about, waking up as the pilots prepare their aircraft for the day’s events. They wait patiently in the dark as we do our thing, waiting for the word to go to the pen when we are ready. They usually try to get to the pen before we fly to undo part of the top net, untie two panels, and when given the signal quickly pull the two panels aside, leaving a twenty-foot wide hole to let the birds out. And off the chicks go, but for the ground crew the day has just begun. They wait with much anticipation listening to the radio, as the pilots do the sky circus getting the birds on track to their next stop. In the resulting confusion the ground crew is usually forgotten, and must ask over the radio if the birds are far enough along to knock down the pen. When given the OK to wrap up, they quickly jump into action, loading the pen onto the trailer. Then they pull the trailer off the site, usually thick with mud and mire, with a 4x4 truck. They tow it back to camp, unhook it, and then rehook the trailer up to the small motor home and send it on its way to the next stop. Then they wrap up camp, and like a well-oiled machine, get on the road and make haste for the next stop as well.

Sometimes on a good day, when we skip stops, the ground crew must change plans while on the road, stopping on the side of a highway to look at maps for a change of course.  Then get back on the road as quickly as possible. This is necessary because the pen awaiting the birds at the site that has been skipped is now in the wrong place, and the pen currently on the road will now be used to hold the birds for the following stopover. At this time we now have birds headed for stop “b,” a pen already at stop “a,” and another pen headed for stop “b.” Meanwhile, Mark in the tracking vehicle must inform the first prospective hosts that we will be over-flying their home, as well as calling up the new hosts and letting them know that we will be decending on their property.

Well, anyway, the pen arrives at the right site and needs to be set up. While a pilot or two hides with the birds, another pilot or two come out to help set up the pen. With the pen set up the birds are coaxed into the pen, and the pilots fly away to tie down their aircraft. Meanwhile the crew stays behind to complete the process, making sure the birds are in good shape, setting up the outer hot-wire, and other details involved in the husbandry of the young birds. As they leave the birds to their own devices, the crew heads to the new camp, contemplating tomorrow’s needs.

But the day is not even half over. A pen must still be set up at tomorrow’s destination. A quick breakfast? Lunch? Who knows, it’s now well past noon. The ground crew packs up the pen that was left behind, pile in the truck and off they head to the next stop. With the long flight in my lawn chair in the sky, I’m well-rested, so I volunteer to go along. Driving through the countryside, marveling at the scenery passing by, I'm all pumped up with lively conversation, making the whole process worthwhile. Usually after a two-hour or more drive we arrive at the new stop. Greeting tomorrow’s hosts with enthusiasm, and promised goodies, after some discussion we set up the pen isolated from human sight and activity. It’s all good as we head back on the two-hour drive back to camp. The ground crew will arrive late, but they try to hurry to be on time for dinner at the host’s house, which is always a good time. One of the perks of the job is meeting all the wonderful people along the route.

The next day we may wake up to rain and there will be no rush. But we always want to be prepared. But hey!! Another wonderful day with our hosts!

Here are some photos Joe took of me with 12 birds on our flight here to Terrell County. Hope you enjoy the view! Click here, or on a thumbnail for more, and larger photos.



Date: December 9th, 2005 - Day 57
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Terrell County, Georgia. Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 957.4

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Grounded again
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Yesterday's all-day rain and the vestiges of overnight fog cleared, giving us hope that we would be able to fly today. The wind direction was favorable, but unfortunately it was too strong and turbulent.  We will post a further entry and also some photos later today.  

Date: December 8th, 2005 - Day 56
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Terrell County, Georgia. Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 957.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Wind and rain / Dunnellon Airport Arrival Event
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Rain and windy conditions have prevented progress, so I thought I'd take a moment to refresh everyone about our fly-over Arrival Event coming up...sometime...soon, we hope!

This year's Arrival Event will be held at the Dunnellon/Marion County Airport in Florida. The explanation for the change from the previous years' location in Crystal River is a bit long and involved, but in reality quite simple.

The pens at the Chassahowitzka Refuge are not top-netted. This allows our young birds freedom to come and go, but it also leaves them vulnerable to potential aggression from older birds who are territorial and may try to steal their food or chase the juveniles off. As we now have 41 birds in the reintroduced flock, migrating on their own, and all heading for Chassahowitzka, (21 having already arrived in Florida) we needed a new site for our current 2005 cohort until the adult birds have had an opportunity to arrive and disperse.

Since the habitat around the release pen at Chassahowitzka is not ideal for Whooping cranes, if the older birds don't find any young chicks to harass, or a free meal, they are likely to wander off to better locations. By stopping 'early' and using Halpata Tastanaki Preserve as a temporary holding site for a few weeks, we will give the older birds some added time to clear the Chassahowitzka pen site.

So, if there are still older birds at the Chassahowitzka pen site, we'll end our migration temporarily at Halpata. By mid-January the Project Direction Team will have to decide whether to leave the birds there or to move them to Chassahowitzka.

This is why the flyover normally held at the Crystal River Mall, will take place at the Dunnellon Airport this year. Since the area around the Dunnellon Airport is not built up, and is close to the Halpata Preserve, attendees will get one of the best-ever flyover viewing opportunities as the cranes and planes descend into Halpata. The location will also allow the pilots and migration crew to join the event within minutes of landing.

As with every day of the migration, the date of the Arrival Event is also weather dependent. We will give you our best 'guesstimate' when we are one stopover away, so please continue to monitor our field journal entries.

[ Yahoo! Maps ]
Click here for directions to the Dunellon Airport at 15070 Sw 111th St in
Dunnellon, FL
Date: December 7th, 2005 - Day 55
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Terrell County, Georgia. Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 957.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Standing down / Aransas flock update.
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Gusty winds have made a flight today too dangerous, so the pilots opted to stay put in Terrell County.

Aransas flock update:

217 Whooping cranes of the Wood Buffalo/Aransas flock, (188 adults and 29 young) have reached Texas and completed their 2005 southward migration. This ties last winter’s record population.

3 more Whooping cranes are reported to be near Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and once they arrive, the flock size will stand at a record 220 birds.

The most surprising find was a “twin” family that was seen with only 1 chick. A lone juvenile was found about 3 miles away which is assumed to be one of the twins. Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Coordinator at Aransas said he had no explanation for why one of the twin juveniles was now on its own.

Later in the day, two cranes believed to be a territorial pair were standing right where the juvenile had been in the morning, so the juvenile presumably got displaced to an unknown location. “This young bird certainly may be okay,” Stehn said, “but it will have a tougher winter than if it had stayed with its parents.”

Date: December 6th, 2005 - Day 54
Reporter: Joe Duff
Location: Terrell County, Georgia. Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 97 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 957.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Skipping a stop
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: It seems this entire migration has been one long weather delay punctuated by single days of great progress. Today we covered 97 miles in only 1 hour and 46 minutes. That equates to a speed over the ground of just under 60 miles per hour despite the fact that the birds were still flying at their normal 38 miles per hour through the air. At times my GPS told me we were traveling over 70 mph. Now why couldn’t we have more days like that!

Each day we designate one of the pilots to take the lead position. In truth it only means they make the first attempt at leading. They land next to the pen and give the handlers the signal to open the gate. Thereafter it’s anyone’s guess who the birds will fly with. Sometimes a few are slow to come out of the pen and they get left behind by the main flock. Or sometimes they will turn back to the pen and one or all of the chase pilots will intercept them. We can have all the birds on one trike or some birds on each.

Chris Gullikson, our new pilot, was elected to fly lead this morning for the first time. It’s kind of daunting for someone who has never experienced it before. You raise your thumb to the handlers and try desperately to stay ahead of the 19 five-foot tall birds that come charging toward you. So Chris has been understandably reluctant to take his turn.

The remains of the early morning frost still coated the wings making slow flight a challenge, and as he took off he had to fly faster than he would have liked. As he turned on course the birds were a hundred yards behind. He flew some tight “S” turns and they slowly caught up. Below 900 feet the air was bumpy and it took 15 minutes to coax them above that level. In that forced climb some of the birds broke and the flock began to separate. If we can break the flock up into two groups, each will receive more benefit from the wing and their endurance will increase, so Richard moved in to pick up the stragglers. I flew chase for Richard while Brooke fell in behind Chris, and we continued a long slow climb up into a smooth clean tailwind.

We skipped one of our sites and headed for Terrell County, Georgia, 97 miles to the south. The rest of the flight was uneventful. A few times Richard had to fight with birds that had enough energy to challenge him for the lead. He had to muscle the wing to get enough speed to keep ahead of them, but for the most part it was one of those rare perfect days. As we approached the stopover we debated going to the next one. We were cruising at almost 70 miles per hour, but as the sun heats the earth it generates thermals that mix the air and bring the wind down to the surface. The longer we waited, the rougher our landing would be, so we accepted the double leg and began our descent. As predicted, the approach was rough and we had to work hard to get the aircraft down safely. All the birds landed and we led them off to wait for Mark Nipper to arrive with the pen. Brooke and I found a stream flowing through the field and the birds spent an hour of bliss probing in the mud. In fact, when the pen was ready, we had a difficult time convincing them to follow us out of the marsh. Each pilot carries a bag of grapes with them. One at a time we clutch the fruit in the break of our puppets. Once a bird spots this treat, they will eagerly follow you anywhere including into the pen. By noon we had the birds in the pen and the aircraft delivered to the local airport to be tucked away in hangars for the night. Days like this are perfect, there just aren’t enough of them!

Date: December 6th, 2005 - Day 54
   
Location: Between Pike County and Terrell County, Georgia. Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: TBA

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: TBA

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Flight!
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: After a bit of a frost delay, Chris took flight with all 19 birds, and headed on course for our Marion County stop. Shortly into the flight 12 cranes had broken away from Chris' aircraft, and Richard had picked-up those birds. As of 9:00 AM the ultralights were 70 miles from our Terrell County stop, and that is where our cranes and planes are headed for now! We'll have more on this morning's flight later in the day.

Date: December 5th, 2005 - Day 53
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Pike County, GA Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 860.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: More rain / Even more crane trivia
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Rain has placed the migration firmly on the ground today and that means more crane trivia.

Cranes as symbols

Switzerland: Proving that heraldry has a sense of humor, the coat of arms of Switzerland’s Gruyere region incorporates a crane. (from the French “grue” for crane)

Africa: One of the few national flags with an image of a bird is Uganda’s which depicts a crowned crane.

Vietnam: Here the crane is thought to live 1,000 years and the tortoise 10,000 years. Given together they symbolize a wish that one will be remembered for 1,000 years, and that your cult will last for 10,000 years.

China: In Chinese mythology cranes were sacred, symbols of justice, and because they paired for life, fidelity. The Chinese saw the crane’s red head as standing for vitality, and its white for purity. They imbued cranes with wisdom and thought they carried messages between heavenly worlds on their backs. Because their young must follow and learn from their wiser elders, the Chinese thought cranes taught humans a valuable lesson.

Japan: The red and white of the crane became important colours in Japanese symbolism and art. While it has been simplified over time, Japan Airlines once used a traditionally colored red and white crane symbol in its logo.

Known in Japan as "the bird of happiness," one Japanese myth tells of a legendary warrior whose soul took the form of a crane on his death. Emblematic of longevity, both Chinese and Japanese cultures also associated cranes with good fortune and prosperity, often depicting them in paintings with the sun. Their spring arrival and fall departure heralded the change of seasons and the time to sow or harvest crops.

One legend says that in the 1100’s, a man named Yorimoto attached labels to the legs of cranes and asked those who captured them to record their location on the label and then let the birds go – a very early reference to bird banding to discover the cranes' movements. It was claimed that some of Yorimoto’s banded birds were still alive hundreds of years later which gave rise to the legend that cranes lived for a thousand years.

An early 17th century artist named Sotatsu used the thousand crane theme in a 50 foot long scroll. His work is the oldest known use of the motif and popularized its use in art on screens, walls, and other objects. Because of the cranes' reputation for prosperity and long life, origami cranes became a symbolic gift.

Today’s association of cranes with peace, and prayers for those killed in war, is rooted in an 11th century Japanese legend. A feudal leader named Kakamura is said to have celebrated his success in battle by attaching a prayer strip – one for each fallen warrior - to the leg of hundreds of cranes, and then freed the birds.

Date: December 4th, 2005 - Day 52
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Pike County, GA Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 860.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Rain / More crane trivia
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Rain predictions and low cloud ceilings have prevented flight today, and so I thought I'd give you more crane tidbits for the trivia buffs among you.

Cranes in myth, legend and tradition

In Greek and Roman myth, the dance of cranes was seen as a celebration of life, love and joy. In those times it was the crane that was considered to be the herald of spring. In mythology, the sun god Apollo disguised himself as a crane when he visited the mortal world.

Ovid (ancient poet born 43 B.C.) wrote about a Greek beauty named Gerana who was so vain that she attracted the wrath of the goddess Hera. In a fit of anger, Hera turned Gerana into a crane. The Greek for crane is "geranion."

Cranes have long been associated with poets and storytellers. According to one legend, a thief attacked a poet and left him for dead by the side of the road. With his dying breath the poet called out his story to a flock of passing cranes who then followed his murderer and hovered over him until he confessed his crime.

In latter times cranes were associated with vigilance and loyalty. In Europe it was said that cranes, who gathered in a circle at night to protect their king, kept awake by standing on one leg. To ensure vigilance, a stone would be held in the raised claw. If a crane fell asleep the stone would drop and wake it.

The crane did not enjoy similar respect and affection in the mythology of India where it represented malice, betrayal and treachery.

The most fascinating crane lore comes from Asia, primarily Japan and China, but that’s for another time. Hopefully it will never get posted because we’ll be too busy reporting on flights.


Date: December 3rd, 2005 - Day 51
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Pike County, GA Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 860.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Headwinds / Crane trivia
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Richard took flight in his ultralight this morning and once he arrived at 1,100 feet above ground level, he simply hovered in the headwind. Had he gone higher, the aircraft would have been going backwards. It's a down day. Here's some crane trivia for you. If you like to play Jeopardy, this may come in handy - you never know!

Did you know Cranes have had an influence on the English language?

"Crane" is a derivative of "cran" from Old English and the Old German word "krano." From the cranes' habit of fully extending their necks in flight came the expression "to crane one’s neck."

The mechanical crane was so named for its resemblance to the birds.

The cranberry was named by 17th century American colonists and was derived from the German "kranbeere" or "crane-berry."

"Pied de grue," meaning "foot of the crane," is from the Old French, and from it came the term "pedigree." This came about because a crane’s footprint resembled the arrow-like symbol used in the 14th century to indicate generations on genealogy charts.

Date: December 2nd, 2005 - Day 50
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Pike County, GA Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 860.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Gusty winds / Aransas and Eastern Flock updates
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Gusty winds have prevented flight today. The crew was expecting calm conditions this morning, but that did not pan out.

Aransas Flock Update:
The hope was that approximately 235 Whooping cranes would complete their migration to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge this season. As of November 30th, 214, an increase of four since our last report, or 91% of those expected had arrived – 185 adults and 29 young.

While flock counts are not usually considered to have peaked until a bit later in December, US Fish and Wildlife Service's Whooping Crane Coordinator, Tom Stehn, says he is getting worried. Tom said that despite severe weather along the flyway which should be pushing the birds south, he has received no recent reports of migrating Whooping cranes.

The cranes are finding good food sources. A crab count done November 29th indicated that while down from last month's level, blue crabs were still plentiful, and the wolfberries are abundant.

Eastern Flock Update
:
Direct Autumn Release (DAR) juvenile 527 has made it to the Hiwassee Refuge. As of November 30th she was roosting with 300 Sandhills in Rhea County. DAR 532 resumed his trek southward, while 528 and 533, the other two DAR females, remain at Hiwassee.

401, 407, and 408 arrived at the Chassahowitzka pensite just after lunchtime on the 30th, and stayed there to roost. Also, on the same day, breeding pair 101 and 202 returned to the Citrus County, Florida area they wintered at last year. Detected in Hernando County, Florida on the 27th, the pair 105 and 204 returned to the "Chass" pen but were tracked to Hernando County again on the 30th

Many thanks to Windway Aviation and pilots Mike Frakes and Charles Koehler.

Date: December 1st, 2005 - Day 49
Reporter: Richard vanHeuvelen
Location: Pike County, GA Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 101.0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 860.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Pulling in the bar
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Woke up, dragged a comb across my head. Looked out the window to make sure the night was dead. Packed my flight bag, and headed for the airport. Things looked good, so off we flew into the morning blue.

Joe landed at the pen, while Angie and Kirill released the birds. Eighteen of the chicks arranged themselves off Joe's left wing, and one on his right. They all made a slow circle to get on course, and everything was going well when a group of the birds dropped back with one of them turning back to the pen area. As I swooped in to pick up the lone chick, Brooke buzzed in and picked up the other six. Meanwhile Chris followed Joe and helped him round up the other twelve, and they were soon on course. However Brooke and I flew with more reluctant birds. With chicks following one aircraft, then the other aircraft, things got a little confusing for both the birds and two pilots. After circling and weaving about the sky, we finally managed to get on course for Coweta county. Brooke ended up with two chicks and I was left with five. At first we were met with a six mile an hour head wind, but as we gained altitude this lessened to the point of no head wind. The chicks on my wing became very eager after the earlier fiasco, and we continued to climb at a good rate. At about thirteen hundred feet above ground level we had a tailwind of about three miles an hour. We continued to climb, and at two thousand feet we managed to attain a six to eight mile per hour tailwind. About ten miles out from Coweta county we were flying along at about twenty five hundred feet with a ten mile an hour tailwind. Things were looking good so the decision was made to skip the Coweta county stop, even though we all new what a good time we were giving up. I think our hosts were planning steak dinner... “aw shucks”. However, when we turned on course for Pike County, we found that our ground speed increased significantly. We were still eighteen minutes out from Coweta County but Pike County was only fifty-eight minutes away with ground speeds reaching seventy-four miles an hour at times. We were required to stay below three thousand feet due to the Atlanta airport control zone. As the chicks continued to challenge the trike we slowly climbed to twenty-eight hundred feet. Not wanting to go any higher in order to give top cover some room to maneuve,r it became very difficult to stay in front of the now overly-enthusiastic chicks. To gain speed it was necessary to suck in my now expanded tummy (thanks to the generosity of all the hosts so far on migration) while rising in the trike seat and tucking the bar as far as possible into my solar plexus. To add to this strenuous exercise, Brooke's two chicks decided they wanted to follow me as well. The two flew off from Brooke and climbed up to get up behind the five. But one of them was not happy behind the others, so it came up and took the lead position. Now with seven eager birds in tow, the struggle for lead continued with the bar in my stomach. We began a slow decent to Pike County, while the air was beginning to stir up and become less friendly. Just how unfriendly we were about to find out. Down low over the trees we were tossed about like rag dolls, and it was necessary to go around to avoid hitting the chicks who were landing beside Joe and the other twelve cranes. On the go-around we were tossed about again, but on final approach the air smoothed out as we descended below tree top level. We tucked the chicks in a secluded spot, tied down our trikes one by one, and waited for Mark to show up with the pen. He showed up just as we were finished with the trikes, and we promptly set up the pen. After the long morning the chicks willingly walked into the pen, where they wait for tomorrow's adventure. As for the ground crew, we look forward to dinner with our very generous hosts. The food is always delicious and there's always a good time. We always remember the skipped hosts and their generosity, and thank them for understanding. But if we didn’t miss some of them my belly would expand to an unacceptable girth!

Date: December 1st, 2005 - Day 49
   
Location: Over Georgia Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: TBA

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: TBA

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Helped by tailwinds
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: The cranes are off to Pike County, Georgia with a nice tailwind! The ultralights were stored in a hangar last night and that prevented our common early-morning frost problem. The birds were out early, and are currently following the ultralights pretty well. Check back later today for more on this morning's flight.

Date: November 30th, 2005 - Day 48
Reporter: Joe Duff
Location: Gordon County, Georgia Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 67.3 miles  

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 759.4 miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: A few headaches
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: And we thought crossing the Cumberland Ridge would be the highlight of this migration, but that was a piece of cake compared to today. After four days stuck at Hiwassee we were more than ready to leave, but our birds had other ideas. Every year we have difficulty convincing the cranes to follow us out of the refuge, but we are at a loss to explain their reluctance. They are, by far, the most dedicated birds we have raised, and with four trikes we should be more capable of collecting them. But there is something at Hiwassee that attracts them, and that appeal is enough to overpower their affinity to our aircraft. The refuge staff, and one of our supporters, built a permanent pen here and it is half in water, which may be part of the attraction, or it could be the call of the thousands of Sandhill cranes that stage here. Whatever the reason, as soon as we attempt to lead them away, they break and return on their own.

This morning Brooke swooped low over the pen as Charlie Shaffer and Angie Maxted opened the gate and let them out. Most took off, eager to follow, but a few stragglers hung back until Richard moved in to collect them. We circled the pen a few times gathering birds until it was time to head on course. That’s when they began to break up. The sky was clear and the sun was up, so every time we turned east we lost sight of the birds in the flare. There are thousands of Sandhill cranes at this important staging area and many were flying when we were performing our aerial rodeo. In silhouette against a blue sky they are hard to tell apart. Richard managed to get 2 birds to follow him, so he headed south while Brooke gathered 14 birds and Chris corralled one. Two more were unaccounted for, but those cranes were soon spotted circling the pen. I was flying chase for Brooke who had a tentative hold on his birds. My plan was to return to the pen to see if I could persuade the last two to follow me but every time I turned back, Brooke’s birds would use my departure as an excuse to break from him. I stayed until we were five miles out and the birds began to settle on his wing. I climbed high to cause less disturbance and was finally able to sneak away. When I was within a mile of the pen Brooke announced that four birds had turned back and he was proceeding with the other ten. Dave Mattingly and Jack Wrighter in the top cover aircraft tracked Brooke, but soon lost sight of the birds heading home.  I was torn between the two back at the pen and the four heading home but I was close to the pen and could see the two on the ground. I flew low over them hoping they would join me but they stood there determined not to leave, so I headed south to find the other four. At three hundred feet, two miles south we intercepted and they fell into position on the left wing. As long as we were flying toward the pen they were willing to stay with the aircraft but as soon as we turned on course they broke and headed home. After four attempts I realized that they had been airborne for 54 minutes already and we could still see the pen. I gave up and led them back to the pen to be crated to the next site. On the trip south alone I heard Richard report he was 10 miles out at 3300 feet with a ground speed of 70 miles per hour. I also heard the anxiety in their voices as they descended through the heavy winds and turbulence down low.

In total 13 birds made the trip and six were crated. Not a good day, but at least we were past it, or so I thought. While waiting for the ground crew to arrive we received a message that there had been an accident. Driving in a caravan, our large pick-up truck pulling our house trailer had to stop short for an inconsiderate motorist and our other large truck pulling the aircraft trailer rear ended him. Operation Migration owns four vehicles, courtesy of many supporters, and in one moment, three of them were damaged. Our Ford 350 received front-end damage including a buckled hood. Both airbags deployed but no one was hurt. The hitch snapped and the trailer drove into the back of the truck causing rear end damage but it is drivable. Richard, Brooke and I drove north in a car borrowed from our hosts and made repairs to get them on the road. Our house trailer is 34 feet long and not really built for the kind of use we give it. It is our home all summer and the main kitchen on the migration. As we drove south we realized that the accident had bent the frame and it tracked sideways on the road. It will likely make the trip to Florida but probably not back. Just when we were beginning to reach a level of funding that would see us through, we now must cover damages of close to $20,000.00

It’s not been a good day.
Date: November 30th, 2005 - Day 48
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Between Meigs County, TN and Georgia. Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: TBA

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Accumulated Distance: TBA

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity:

In the air!

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Notes: Horray! They are off into blue skies, and from all appearances favorable weather/winds. The ground crew is having a hard time figuring out who has how many because it is a bit of a crane rodeo this morning. Some of the birds are being ornery; some breaking off and some wanting to turn back. Sounds like this mornings flight will make for interesting reading when the field journal entry is posted later today - and hopefully all with good outcomes.

Date: November 29th, 2005 - Day 47
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Meigs County, TN Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

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Accumulated Distance: 692.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Waiting for headwinds to disappear / Public viewing opportunity.
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Notes: Today the crew is standing down waiting for headwinds to calm. Tonight the winds are expected to shift around and start blowing from the north. There is a possibility of leaving tomorrow and this will give the public an opportunity to view takeoff. Public viewing is best from the Gazebo located in the Hiwassee State Wildlife Refuge between the towns of Dayton, Tennessee, and Cleveland, Tennessee. To reach the refuge from I-75 take exit number 25 onto Highway 60 and go north on 60, passing through the small town of Birchwood, and towards Dayton. Brown signs will lead you east (right) on to Shadden Road, then right on to Blythe Ferry Lane, and left onto Priddy Road. Priddy Road is a one lane road with two-way traffic, so drive with caution as you go to the parking area and gazebo. Viewers should be in place by sunrise.

Date: November 28th, 2005 - Day 46
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Meigs County, TN Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

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Accumulated Distance: 692.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: A no-fly day
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Notes: Rain, rain go away is today's theme song. The team will spend another day at Hiwassee due to the inclement weather. At one time tomorrow (Tuesday) looked promising, but if the weatherman, who at the moment is calling for more rain, is on target, it could mean another day on the ground.

Date: November 27th, 2005 - Day 45
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Meigs County, TN Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

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Accumulated Distance: 692.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Standing Down / Protection Protocol
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Notes: Today will be a day of rest and a chance to accomplish some long overdue chores as once more the weather is not favorable for flight. At this point, tomorrow's forecast looks marginally more promising, but Tuesday's seems encouraging. As always, on any given day, we don't know until flight time if it is a fly day or not.

Protecting Whooping cranes: We have been receiving reports of enthusiasts seeking out encounters with prior year's birds as they make their way south. As you know, we work very hard at ensuring the Whooping cranes that we raise and train remain as isolated from humans as possible. Not only does this greatly aid their protection and instinct for self-preservation, it helps ensure that they will not become accustomed to humans and our environment, and be tempted to frequent inappropriate locations that could be detrimental to their survival.

We know how exciting the prospect of an opportunity to see the birds can be. But we also are aware of how much is invested in them in terms of time and effort, not to mention the dollars so many of you generously contribute to making this project possible. So we ask everyone to please be conscious of the potential detrimental effect of disturbing the adult birds as they pause to forage or roost on their migration south. Disastrous consequences could result from something seemingly as simple as a human presence startling the birds into flight.

By observing WCEP's standard protection protocol when viewing/encountering Whooping cranes in the wild, you will be helping to safeguard them, and increase their odds of survival. Please give them the respect and distance they need by: 1) Please do not approach on foot to within 600 feet of the birds, and keep your vehicle well beyond this distance. 2) In all cases please remain well concealed and do not speak so loudly that the birds might hear you. 3) Please do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view Whooping cranes.

Because these are "your birds" too, we know you will appreciate and understand our protectiveness and concern.

Date: November 26th, 2005 - Day 44
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Meigs County, TN Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

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Accumulated Distance: 692.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: White bird update.
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Notes: A no-fly day. Headwinds will hold the team on the ground in Hiwassee today.

An Arctic air mass with 20 to 40 mile per hour winds moving in to Wisconsin on Thursday, November 24th prompted 205, 211, 217, and 313 to set out on migration shortly after sunrise. Later in the day a check of Columbia County revealed that 312 and 316 also seemed to have moved on.

Also departing from an area just south of Necedah NWR were the four Direct Autumn Release (DAR) birds numbers 527, 528, 532 and 533. Taking advantage of a strong tailwind, these birds headed south with upwards of 50 Sandhills around 10:30 Thursday, and soon outdistanced the tracking team. The three DAR females carry a transmitter, and 527 was detected northeast of Louisville, KY - meaning she traveled 455 miles on the first day of her migration. 528, 532, and 533 accompanied the Sandhills and carried on and on the second day of their migration reached Hiwassee!!!

401, 407, 408, and 415 were spotted northeast of Hiwassee on the 24th, but have since departed and with the exception of 415, roosted in Sumter County on the 25th. 415 pushed on to roost further south.

Many thanks to Windway Aviation, pilots Mike Frakes and Charles Koehler, trackers Lara Fondow, Sara Zimorski, Stacie Castelda, Arielle Shanahan, Jim Bergens (Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area), and Wally Akins (Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge). Special thanks to Jim and Susan Bergens and family for providing Thanksgiving dinner for three tired, hungry, and unexpectedly arriving trackers!

Date: November 25th, 2005 - Day 43
Reporter: Joe Duff
Location: Meigs County, TN Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 47.7 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 692.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Crossing the biggest hurdle
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Notes:Each migration we undertake leaves a few indelible recollections in the minds of the people who lead these birds south. More often than not they involve crossing the Cumberland Ridge and today it was time to once again tackle the Appalachians and collect a few memories. In years past we landed at a site just below the ridge. This meant we had little choice but to force climb our birds over 2500 feet to clear the ridge before heading south. This year, like last, we stopped the birds at a site 12 miles north of the ridge allowing us that distance to slowly climb with them.

Richard flew low over the pen as the birds were released and as they came out, he did a slow turn to the north. He circled low as the birds caught up and began to form on his wing. Two were late out of the gate and Brooke moved in to pick them up. With Richard on one end of the circle and Brooke on the other, the birds preferred to turn back rather than head on course. They went around twice and slowly gaining altitude and followed as Richard headed south. Only a half mile away they broke once more and I moved between them and the pen. I turned them towards Richard and we boxed them in, heading in the right direction. They flew between us deciding which aircraft to follow and eventually made their choice.

Immediately after take off is a busy time for the pilots. If there is any wind at all it rolls over the trees and creates a chop we must deal with until we can get them to climb above it. Fresh out of the pen the birds are energetic and eager and will take a few minutes before they form properly on the wing. We must check the pen for stragglers, watch for the other aircraft, position ourselves for the intercept, try to get a count and fly the airplane.  Trying to count a long line of birds that are jockeying for position is the most difficult. They will follow both wings of each aircraft and often change sides in the time it takes to look from one to the other. A long row of over-lapped birds, each flapping out of sequence means you get to about six before you start again.

We were a few miles out before we could confirm that we had them all. Brooke had two, I had nine and Richard was between us with eight. We started a slow climb and watched the ridge loom ahead of us.

When we started our aircraft this morning and took off to head north to the site, Chris snapped his throttle linkage and his engine went to full power. He had to shut it off and land to make repairs so the rest of us went without him. He was still working on his aircraft when we passed overhead on our way south. Brooke and I were able to climb and soon topped 2000 feet. Richard had one bird with him that kept dropping and he gave up a lot of altitude trying to get it back. Fearing that he would not clear the ridge, he let the bird go and called Mark to track it. Dave Mattingly and Jack Wrighter were flying top cover for us and they attempted to keep tabs on the one lone bird but lost it in the haze. Once over the initial ridge we must cross a wide plateau and the view from a 1000 feet above it was spectacular. The air was smooth with a 20 mile per hour tailwind and a cool 13 degrees.

In the confusion of trying to add an assortment of numbers to come up with a total of 19, I somehow concluded I had eight birds when in fact I started with nine. Richard was two miles behind me and began to overtake a bird down low over the trees. It could only have dropped from my wing but I remain mystified as to how. We called our top cover aircraft and asked them to track it and to communicate to Mark that he had one more bird to collect. Within 10 miles we began our descent and spiraled down from 3000 feet. I circled slowly hoping against the odds that somehow this lone bird could still see us and keep coming. I landed first and eight birds dropped in around me. Brooke circled and landed with 2 more. Richard arrived and as he descended his birds could see their flock-mates on the ground. They broke from him and circled as they came lower. I counted their silhouettes as they descended and noticed one more up high. Ten on the ground and nine on their way down, I could only conclude that the high one must be one of the white birds that have now reached the Hiwassee Refuge. But once it landed there was no mistake, it was number 506. All nineteen birds were safely on the ground meaning one had followed us at tree-top level for the last 10 miles but the other crossed the ridge and kept us in sight for better than 30 miles joining us as we circled down.

Our fingers were numb and our lips were blue as we flew to the hangar but we took pride in our accomplishment. We had taken our bird to 3000 feet and crossed the biggest obstacle we have to face and arrived with every single one of them.
Date: November 25th, 2005 - Day 43
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Cumberland to Meigs County, TN
Distance Traveled: TBA 
Accumulated Distance: TBA

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Activity: Early Update

Notes: They're off to Hiwassee! Shortly after 8:00am, the team and their 19 young charges left Cumberland County for Meigs County, TN. At the time of this report, 2 birds were with Brooke. He was behind Joe and Richard who were leading the way with the rest of the cohort. Chris Gulikson had trouble with the throttle on his aircraft and had to make an emergency landing. Chris is safe and is trying to make repairs - after which he will catch up with the team. Check back later today for the details of this morning's flight.

Date: November 24th, 2005 - Day 42
Reporter: Jeff Huxmann
Location: Cumberland County, TN Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

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Accumulated Distance: 644.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Thanksgiving
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Today strong winds are creating too much turbulence and would make flight over the Cumberland Ridge very dangerous. The mountains along this ridge-line create mammoth-sized vortices as the air blows over them, creating a serious hazard for a small ultralight aircraft. We're playing it safe today by standing down and we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with fellow crew members. We wish all of our relatives back home a happy Thanksgiving! We'll be home ...well we hope to be home before Christmas! For many of us it is difficult to be away from home for so long. The support and understanding we get from loved ones back home helps us feel a little better for leaving the family to help save a species. Thank-you!

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership understands that to have a successful reintroduction we can't simply breed Whooping cranes and plop them into the wild. These cranes need an education to adopt healthy crane behaviors and to learn how to migrate. The same is true with people and conservation. You can't simply breed a person and plop them into the world with no education, and expect that person to be a good steward. The next generation of conservationists cannot just be bred, it needs to be nurtured. To the hundreds, maybe thousands of teachers who are having their students follow our migration, we want to extend an enthusiastic "Thank-You!" Your efforts give us hope that the Whooping crane, and the Earth, will be in good hands in the years to come!

Some of our most die-hard fans come from Shattuck Middle School and Horace Mann Middle School in Neenah, Wisconsin. Jeff Martis, a 7th grade Life Science teacher at Shattuck Middle has integrated Operation Migration into daily lesson activities. But it's not just Mr. Martis. All five 7th grade life science teachers are doing the same! These guys have about 550 students following us on our web page and on Journey North!

These students kicked off the Migration with "Whooper-palooza" with two guests from the International Crane Foundation. Since then they've been following us on the web. While we were in Green County, Chris Jones, a 7th grade life science teacher at Horace Mann Middle School, visited the migration team and presented us with a huge greeting card made by the 7th-graders at Shattuck. This card was more the size of a billboard, and was covered with encouraging words. (See our photos below) While Mr. Jones was visiting us he also interviewed many of our crew in front of his camcorder, and his interviews have been shared with all of Neenah's 7th grade students. To Mr. Martis, Mr. Treankler, Mrs. Matthews, Mr. Jones, Mrs. Congon and all the other teachers out there following our Whoopers - Thank-you! And to the students out there, poised to become the next generation of conservationists, we thank you as well!


Click here or on an image to see our Photo Journal
Date: November 24th, 2005 - Day 42
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Cumberland County, TN Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 644.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Thanksgiving in Tennessee / Aransas Update
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Strong winds again have stalled the migration from moving south. Crew members will spend their Thanksgiving in Tennessee.

The moderate winds and clear skies that provided excellent migration conditions during the past week helped 16 more Whooping cranes complete their migration to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. 181 adults and 29 young Whooping cranes were counted in an aerial census taken at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on November 23rd. This total of 210 individuals rivals last winter's record population of 217.

One additional Whooping crane, (believed to be the 2004 juvenile that had separated from its parents last fall, and spent the last winter with Sandhills north of Aransas) is in extreme south Texas in Hidalgo County.

By this time last year, 98% of the flock had completed the migration. With an estimated 235 Whooping cranes expected this season, this year's completion rate, which stands at 90% to date, is a little behind.

Although there have been no recent migration reports, it is hoped that about 2 dozen more Whooping cranes are still in migration. Among the still to arrive are a set of juvenile twins. Survival of juveniles has been high, with all but 2 of the 31 chicks estimated to have fledged in Canada's Wood Buffalo National Park, having reached Texas.

Tom Stehn, USFWS's Whooping Crane Coordinator at Aransas, reported that the largest sub-adult flock observed on site consisted of 5 birds. One newly arrived group was comprised of 3 adults and 1 juvenile. Tom said there was no obvious explanation for the unusual grouping, and he didn't know how they would go about establishing a territory.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Date: November 23rd, 2005 - Day 41
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Cumberland County, TN Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

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Accumulated Distance: 644.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Standing down /
Volunteers prepare Hiwassee pen.
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Strong winds have again stalled the migration in Cumberland County, Tennessee. We'll keep our fingers crossed for better weather tomorrow.

We’d be happy to match the dedication of our supporters against any organization’s. The pen area our birds use at the Hiwassee stopover was in need of some work and a clean-up. For the third year, stepping forward to take this on was Ijams Nature Center’s Development Manager, Lyn Bales. Lyn rounded up a group of friends and fellow ‘craniacs’ and set about to fix and clean up the pen, as well as the adjacent area we use as a runway. It is hard, dirty work slogging in the muck, but as you can see from the photo, the crew was all smiles. What a super effort folks – thank you so very much! Click on an image below to see an enlargement.

Many of you have been inquiring about the potential to see a flyover when we depart the Hiwassee Refuge. As you know, this has become a popular viewing spot over the past migration years, and this year will be no different – provided good weather and favorable winds don’t present us with an opportunity to over-fly this stopover. We know skipping over this stop would mean disappointment for some of you, but we also know that everyone will understand that we need to take advantage of any and every break we can.

White Bird Update
105, 204, 310, and 318, who had been foraging southwest of Necedah National Wildlife Refuge have started their migration, and were last detected in Walworth County, Wisconsin.

Numbers 205, 211, 217, 312, 313, 316, and the four DAR birds, 527, 528, 532, and 533 are seemingly not yet motivated to leave, and are the only Whooping cranes remaining in central Wisconsin.

Date: November 22nd, 2005 - Day 40
Reporter: Joe Duff
Location: Cumberland County, TN Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

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Accumulated Distance: 644.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Remembering yesterday's flight.
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Strong winds will keep us grounded today. We'll spend the day recuperating after a long day yesterday.

Considering that we don’t allow talking anywhere near the birds it’s surprising how well we communicate on most occasions.  However yesterday morning we got our wires crossed.

Before we took off to fly to the pen, Walter Sturgeon and I discussed the release procedures. I was to turn on the crane call when I was ready and he and Charlie Shafer would open the gate. When I landed I gave them the thumbs up and out came the birds before I had turned around for my take off run. They flew a circuit around me as I lifted off and soon 18 of them joined my wing. Richard moved in to collect number 523 who was last in line and despite the chaos we were headed on course within minutes. Number 505 dropped back, and also joined Richard’s wing. Our slow rate of climb just about matched the increase in elevation and we were five miles out but still only a hundred feet up. We had a clean, smooth tailwind increasing our ground speed by 10 miles per hour and eventually we reached 600 feet. All the birds lined up on one wing and for a time it made a beautiful sight. We continued our slow climb and over the ridges we reached 2000 feet. One bird began to drop down and after several attempts to get it back Brooke moved in to pick it up.

Lift is created by increasing the air pressure below the wing and decreasing it above. The higher pressure underneath slips off the tip and tries to fill the void above, creating a roll or tube of air that streams behind us like the wake from a boat. Our birds use this vortex to help them fly, and if the air is smooth they get pulled along like a water skier on a good ride. Occasionally a bird will intentionally drop below the wing and insist on flying just above the main landing gear beside the aircraft. Under the wing it must work twice as hard as it would have to if it climbed only a few feet. But for some reason they seem bent on flying in the dirty air and they soon become tired. We have tried to correct this situation by descending quickly to put them back on top, but they dive with the aircraft and remain under the wing, and all we accomplish is to give away some precious altitude. This unexplained behaviour has been a frustrating problem with every group of birds we have led, from Canada geese to Whooping cranes. Once a bird drops into that hole, there is little we can do, and it’s only a matter of time before it tires and drops back.

With higher altitude came higher tailwinds and we cruised along at 50 miles-per-hour with 8 birds off each of my wings. Periodically I could feel a tug on the wing like a bird had bumped into me. This happens regularly and is of little concern but we always look. After it happened several more times I finally found the cause. The lead bird on the right side was moving in with precise control to grab the end of the little string that holds the batten in place. He would move in from the back, grip it with his beak, and pull upward as he passed over the wing. He entertained himself and me for 20 minutes as he cruised effortlessly behind the wing.

The ground crew had our second travel pen set up at a site 42 miles to the south, and in just over an hour we were getting close. The air was still smooth, the birds seemed relaxed and the tailwind was a welcome change, so we decided to skip a spot. The next site was only 55 minutes away, and it seemed easily attainable. We passed over some high ridges and began to cross some inaccessible terrain. There were large areas of tree-covered rolling hills with scarcely a place to land if something happened.

Our sunny skies turned to partly cloudy, then to solid overcast, and the farther we went the darker and lower the clouds became. We picked up a light rain, and asked our top cover pilots to fly ahead and report back. It seemed light all the way, so we kept going. A few of the birds started to show signs of fatigue and I lost altitude collecting them. As we neared our destination, we found ourselves at 200 feet in heavy rain and turbulences. Fifteen birds stayed on the wing while another followed at tree-top level as we covered the last five miles. Brooke arrived first and landed in a cultivated field that looked smooth, and I followed him in. Richard was a few miles back nursing a couple of birds along, when his GPS quit for lack of batteries.  He was on course and picked a spot on the horizon to fly to before the screen went blank. Luckily when he reached that spot, he could see the field where Brooke, Chris and I struggled with our aircraft in the wind.  We tied down the aircraft long enough to walk the birds away and soon realized our mistake. The soil in these fields has a high clay content that turns to glue when you add water. As we walked, our boots became heavier with each step.

We covered 116 miles on this trip, and left our ground crew far behind. They had to pack up the pen, load it onto a trailer, and drive for over 3 hours on winding Kentucky back roads to find us. All this time the rain beat down and we stood with the birds in the muck and the mire. We were concerned that if it kept raining we would never get our aircraft out, so one at a time, we started up and took off while the others watched the birds. The mud was so thick that it packed around the wheels and inside the wheel pants until the tires could not turn. When Chris made his attempt he couldn’t even move with all the mud, and I had to help by pulling on the front. Finally he slowly began to build speed ploughing through the crud. I watched him slip and slide back and forth with his back wheels not turning at all. They acted like skis as he finally lifted off and flew to the other side of the farm, landing on more solid ground.

Bill Lishman is traveling through Tennessee exploring some funding ideas, and stopped in to see us. When he heard we were flying, he drove up to watch our arrival. Sitting in the car in pouring rain he was astonished to see us appear over the horizon. He recruited some friends and together they retrieved the pen we had over-flown, and saved us an afternoon’s work.

When the ground crew arrived with the pen, we started the assembly process. After four hours of standing in pouring rain we finally walked the birds into the pen at 2:30 in the afternoon. We were soaked through and covered in mud. Brooke had cut his finger and the front of his costume was now pink. We had intended to fly our aircraft 12 more miles to store them in a hangar, but with the wind, the mud, and the wet pilots that was out of the question. We tied them down and headed south to the home of one of our supporters in Cumberland County, Tennessee, where we knew hot showers and our first meal of the day waited.

When we first landed in the soon-to-be muddy field, Brooke patted me on the back and said “nice job”. After four hours of rain I asked him if he wanted to retract the comment, but he told me that a little discomfort was a small price to pay for the extra distance. Funny how many members of this team share that attitude.

Date: November 21st, 2005 - Day 39
Reporter: Mark Nipper
Location: Cumberland County, TN Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 116.3 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 644.4 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Squeaking into Tennessee
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Well, we squeaked by in a big way this morning.  We were able to fly about 116 miles from Washington County, Kentucky to Cumberland County, Tennessee. Our skipping a stop was made possible by a nice tailwind that pushed us along during a beautiful morning in the hills of Kentucky.

For most of the flight Joe had seventeen birds and Richard had two.  By the time the pilots and cranes arrived in Cumberland County, Brooke had picked-up one of Joe’s birds.  As they arrived there was rain and high winds.  That is where the squeaking by comes in.  They were able to land all the birds safely at the site despite the inclement weather.  After waiting with the birds in the rain for an hour, the pilots still had 3 more hours to wait before the pen was ready to accommodate cranes. Even though the price of skipping a stop was a lot of hard work, it is nice to have made a big jump.

Here is a huge “thank-you” to our hosts back in Washington County for their continued generosity! Also, a big “thank-you” to the hosts we flew over in Russell County for making their land available and for their encouragement!

Date: November 21st, 2005 - Day 39
   
    Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
   

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Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Skipping a stop!
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: At 7:47 AM eastern time the cranes launched from Washington County, Kentucky with a tailwind that helped push the cranes south. At 8:40 AM Joe was leading 17 cranes and Richard had numbers 523 and 505. At about 9:20 AM the pilots decided to skip our Russell County stop and head for our first stop in Tennessee! We'll have more on this morning's flight later today.

Date: November 20th, 2005 - Day 38
Reporter: Joe Duff
Location: Washington County, KY Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 42 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 528.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Struggling with headwinds
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: From the ground we could see the clouds moving slowly northward, but on the surface the air was dead calm. Temperatures hovered around 40 degrees so frost was not a problem. It’s amazing how easy it is to send up an aircraft to test the air when you don’t have to thaw everything out first. Brooke landed next to the pen and Walter, Kirill and Angie released the birds, and they charged out of the pen so fast that Brooke had to stop his take off to avoid running into them from the back. He gave them a second or two head start, and soon over took them moving into the lead.

Just then we noticed that hunters were back in their blind a hundred yards from the pen. We spoke to them 2 days earlier, but I guess they think hunting is more important. The field they use is not part of the property where the birds were kept and these hunters have a perfect right to do as they please, and I guess that’s the way they want it. At any rate, the birds have now moved on and we won’t have to deal with it again.

At any altitude above the tree tops, all the way to a thousand feet, we had a headwind of 10 miles per hour. Our birds were eager to follow us but reluctant to work that hard. They broke from Brooke less than a mile from the site and turned back. It’s always difficult to remember exactly what happens in these cases. We each pick a group of birds to intercept and do our best to communicate our whereabouts and intentions to the others. Richard did a slow turn through the middle of a bunch of birds flying in several directions, and as he went, more and more dropped in behind him. Brooke collected a few more and I had picked-up five.  All but one of my birds moved toward Richard along with most of Brooke’s. Meanwhile 7 birds headed back to the pen chased by Chris.

I moved up above and behind Brooke and soon my one bird dropped down to join him. Without any birds I was able to turn back and help Chris who was flying circles around the pen with birds going every which way. Walter and Kirill were on the ground in their swamp monster costumes, so the birds wouldn’t land, and eventually Chris picked them all up. We were only a mile or so south when they broke again. One bird would decided to turn back and move out of formation. The others were torn between heading back with him or staying with the aircraft. You could see their indecision as they turned back to the aircraft, then away again. If you turn towards a crane, it sees you coming and it affirms its decision to leave. At that point its mind is made up and off it goes, intent on leading you back. But sometimes if you hold your course and don’t show any intention of giving in,  they acquiesce and form on your wing again. Staying the course was a good decision on Chris’s part and the perfect strategy, but it didn’t work this time. All the birds eventually turned back and were heading home in a long, strung-out line. I was behind Chris and turned right to cut them off. One by one they formed behind me and we started a long slow turn back on course. We were about 4 miles behind Richard and Brooke and climbed slowly to 1000 feet. The headwind stayed around 10 to 12 miles per hour all the way and the 42-mile flight took one hour and 37 minutes. Five miles from our destination Richard started to lose a bird. It dropped down below the wing where it had to work very hard to keep up and nothing Richard could do would get it back up. Eventually he tired and fell behind. Brooke moved in to carry him to the destination but he kept dropping. Brooke eventually had to fly down the valleys just clearing the tree tops to get the birds to the site. The bird landed with its mouth open in a heavy pant not a mile too soon. Chris and I arrived shortly thereafter and circled down from 1000 feet. We landed uphill next to the pen and all the birds walked in eager to get to the food and water. We are getting closer but it was a lot of work for just 42 miles.
Date: November 20th, 2005 - Day 38
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Between Shelby County and Washington County, Kentucky Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
   

Click to compare Past Years

   

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Moving south! /
Another white bird update
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Fighting a bit of a headwind the cranes and planes managed to take flight this morning. As of 8:35 AM eastern time Richard was with 11 birds. Brooke was escorting one bird and Joe had 7 birds. It was a bit of an aerial rodeo to get several of the birds to follow the trikes, but eventually they all got in line. Visit this Field Journal later today for more information on this morning's flight.

White bird update:

Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife Area, in Indiana, consists of about 8,000 acres of marsh and woodland. As the name suggests, it lies partly in the counties of Jasper and Pulaski. It is a major migration stopover for Sandhill cranes, and spotted among the 15,000 Sandhills, on November 17th, were Whooping cranes 107, 201, 306, 307, and 415.

The five birds, 402, 403, 412, 416, and 417 that we last reported as reaching the Chassahowitzka Florida pensite have headed back north a bit to roost in Taylor County. Still lingering in Madison County are the two girls, 419 and 420.

102, 203, 212, 301, 311, and 317 resumed their journey, moving from Will County, Illinois to roost south of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Date: November 19th, 2005 - Day 37
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Shelby County, KY Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 486.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: White bird update
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Winds from the south have prevented flight to our next stop in Kentucky. It's supposed to be a beautiful day here in Shelby County, just not for flying south!

The massive cold front that moved into central Wisconsin on November 16th prompted an exodus of Whooping cranes from the Necedah area. On their way south are 101, 102, 201, 202, 203, 208, 209, 212, 213, 216, 218, 301, 302, 303, 306, 307, 311, and 317.

Still hanging back are 105, 204, 205, 313, 211, 217, 310, 318, and all four Direct Autumn Release (DAR) birds, 527, 528, 532, and 533. Not found in their usual spots on the refuge were 312, 316, and 415.

201 and 306, who were apparently the first departures, were detected in northwestern Indiana late in the day on 17th. Will County, Illinois played host to 102, 212, 203, 317, 301 and 311 as they landed there to roost, while 213 and 218 choose Grundy County, Illinois.

Last to leave of 18 mentioned above were 209 and 302. They eventually joined 101, 202, and 208 to roost in Will County, Illinois. 216 and 303 were also detected in northern Illinois.

At the other end of the migration – Florida that is – the five ’04 boys, 402, 403, 412, 416 and 417 have arrived at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge pensite. They are the first of the white birds in the reintroduced flock to complete the 2005 migration. (Maybe the two ‘girls’ – 419 and 420 - stopped to do some shopping?)

On behalf of Operation Migration, and our supporters, many thanks to Windway Aviation and all the members of the tracking crew.

Date: November 18th, 2005 - Day 36
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Shelby County, KY Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 486.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Facing Headwinds / Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock update
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: This morning looked promising for flight, but strong 15 mile-an-hour headwinds stalled an attempt to fly with our cranes this morning. We'll start the waiting game again.

In his latest update, Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Coordinator for Fish and Wildlife Service at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, reports that 27 of the estimated 31 chicks thought to have fledged on their Canadian nesting grounds have already successfully completed the migration. The first pair of twin chicks to arrive at Aransas was spotted on November 16th and, yet to arrive, is second pair of twins who were confirmed as being in Saskatchewan on November 10th.

As of November 17th, 194 of the expected 235 Whooping cranes had arrived at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This is similar to the number of arrivals by this date last year. North winds up to 30 miles-per-hour were present all day at Aransas on November 16th. The same strong cold front that brought tornadoes to the eastern flock's flyway, stalling our progress, by contrast, aided the Wood Buffalo/Aransas flock's migration.

Date: November 17th, 2005 - Day 35
Reporter: Richard vanHeuvelen
Location: Shelby County, KY Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 47 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 486.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Keeping crane feet warm
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Well, with warm south winds keeping us on the ground for the last two weeks, this morning was a jolt to the system. The temperature was around 16 degrees; Ice in the water buckets and Pumpkincicles in the pen. It was time to bundle up, layer upon layer, gloves and mitts, with heat pads, and we were good to go. The air was trashy down low, but smother up high, so the challenge was to get the birds up to the smooth air before they got frustrated and turned back. All the chicks took off, so it was the trike that was left behind, but I quickly caught up. After circling once, fourteen chicks followed, with Chris flying chase while Joe and Brooke rounded up the other five - and we were on our way with a ten mile-an-hour tailwind. But all was not well, for suddenly for no apparent reason, the chicks scattered. After milling about for several minutes, I was left with ten and Chris had four. Ah! This was good. We were back on track.... Not quite. They all jumbled up again and scattered. When the midway circus was over I found myself with 14 birds again. This time they seemed to get it and we resumed course for Shelby County. Listening in on the radio I could hear Chris in his reassuring voice letting me know how the chicks were doing. I could also hear Joe and Brooke as they struggled to get their five chicks to follow, which eventually worked out as well. With the rough air and fourteen eager chicks climbing to altitude I had no time to reply or talk on the radio. As we rose the air did improve and we eventually crossed the Ohio river at fifteen hundred feet. At this time a lone chick began to fly beside the trike, refusing to take advantage of the wing. Eventually this chick tired and fell back losing altitude, at which time Chris swooped in and picked up this bird and we all continued on.

The lead bird flew the entire distance with its feet tucked up under its chest. This caused it to wobble its behind, and rock back and forth, a little unstable without its feet dragging behind. Other chicks would occasionally tuck one foot up, or another, but not both feet, and not the entire flight. It was a ridiculous sight as they probably had cold feet. As we descended to the pen site in Shelby county the air became very rough and we all got a good workout. It turned out to be a good day with all of the chicks flying the entire distance. Hopefully the folks at Muscatatuck got a good show. Many thanks to the staff at the refuge for putting us up for the week. Also many thanks to our new hosts in Shelby County, Kentucky. May we only be there for one night!

Date: November 17th, 2005 - Day 35
Reporter: Joe Duff
Location: Shelby County, KY Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 47 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 486.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Braving turbulence
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: Richard taxied up to the pen and gave the hand signal to the ground crew to release the birds. Once they were all out, or close to it, he charged down the mowed pasture we use for a runway and climbed into clear air at 15 degrees. At the end of the field one bird turned back not having gained enough altitude to clear the trees. Richard headed southeast while I dropped down to circle with the lone bird. He and I were on opposite sides of the rotation but eventually we caught each other, and then we were joined by Brooke as he moved in to collect a few more that broke from Richard.

During our test flight from the Refuge maintenance facility where we kept our aircraft, we made note of the low level turbulence up to 600 feet and the tailwind that was stronger than predicted. 

Every time we fly with these birds I am amazed at their attraction to the aircraft. We have only flown once in the last 2 weeks and because of high winds and rain, the birds have not been out of the pen in 5 days. That kind of extended stay would normally guarantee that many of them would be reluctant to leave and we would have to perform an aerial rodeo just to convince some to follow us. Despite a few initially turning back, all the birds were locked on to the wings of two aircraft in only a few minutes. Richard was a mile or so ahead with 14 birds while Chris flew chase for him. Brooke fell in behind with one bird and the four others soared off my wing. A few miles out, Brooke’s bird broke from him and made a long, fast glide to join his flockmates on my wing. We climbed slowly up through the rough air trying to find the smooth tailwind we knew was up there somewhere. Sometimes the turbulence was so strong it turned the aircraft sideways while we fought to keep fly straight with all our strength. The radio push-to-talk button is mounted on the bar that we use to control the aircraft. There were long pauses over the airwaves because it was so rough none of us could take out hands off the bar to push the transmit button. Finally after 20 minutes of punishment we found our prize and continued the climb to 2300 feet. The sky was clear and soon the sun began to warm the ground, creating thermals all around us.

Brooke and I climbed with the birds and began to overtake Richard so we veered off course to the east to avoid causing a distraction to his birds. The aircraft are identical and if one passes another it can distract the birds and divide their loyalties. Sometimes they will break from one and head to the other, then change their minds and find themselves far behind. As we passed over the Ohio River we were a mile apart and over 2000 feet up. The thermals were beginning to build and even at that altitude it was starting to get bumpy.

Because of the extreme cold both of my GPS units displayed the low-battery warning even though I put new ones in this morning. One bird broke from Richard and began to drop down so Chris moved in to pick it up. As we began our descent we felt an inkling of the rough air below us and knew that the landing was going to be entertaining. With no navigation I followed Richard to the site and we started to circle down. Richard landed first and before he jumped out of his aircraft to call the other birds down he offered an ominous warning over the radio. Normally when the air is smooth we circle down slowly with the birds right on the wing but when the air is rough we descend faster than the birds to lessen the chance of a mid-air collision. Over the pen my aircraft was pushed up by rising air and I saw one bird descending fast above me. I held my breath for the split second it took for him to adjust his approach and miss the top wires of my wing by inches only. After circling three times, all the birds landed next to Richard and Chris, while Brooke and I flew over the hill to land on the runway next door. As each aircraft made its approach for landing we all stopped to watch the wild gyrations each one made in the ground-level turbulence just before touchdown. After an hour and 12 exciting minutes we were finally on the ground in Kentucky!
Date: November 17th, 2005 - Day 35
Reporter: Don and Paula Lounsbury
Location: Shelby County, KY Click to view video clips of migration at weather.com!
Distance Traveled: 47 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 486.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Bidding farewell
Click here for a QuickTime or here for a Windows Media version of our public service announcement.

Notes: After a 1 hour and 12 minute flight our 19 Whooping cranes are now safe in Shelby County, Kentucky! Joe landed with 6 cranes and Richard landed with 13. One of our ultralight pilots will have more to say on this morning's flight later today.

It is day 35 and Don and I are getting ready to head back home, as we usually do at this time, to fulfill personal obligations. Customarily, we rejoin the crew after a hectic week of tending to family and business affairs, but this year will be different. For the first time in a decade, for business reasons, we will not be returning to finish the migration. We will be back next year, but as we prepare to say goodbye to this extraordinary 2005 migration crew, we think of past migrations and count our participation in each one as a special privilege.

From home, we will be compelled to join the multitude of dedicated craniacs who tune in to the web site every day for the Operation Migration updates. We will be agonizing from afar with the crew over the wind and rain of often unruly fall weather patterns. For the average pilot a bit of headwind or some turbulence, except in extreme weather or with squeamish passengers, is just a nuisance and not a reason to cancel a flight. So, for most general aviation pilots sitting on the ground for day after seemingly perfect day, this is a test of supreme patience. When finally the winds and weather favor our southerly departure, we take off, not knowing if the birds will cooperate that day. Don and I fly above the trikes and birds and watch the drama unfold. Flexibility is key. We don't know if we'll get to our destination with all of the birds, or some of the birds, or none of the birds! How do we best provide support? To which pilot do we give the most attention and who can we safely leave on their own when four trikes inevitably become separated? When do we speak up and when do we remain silent?  The best days are when the whoopers fly like angels and we never say a word. Nothing could be more perfect. It is the reward for the long days of waiting and ever arising uncertainties. It fuels our dedication to the project. To our replacement crew, Dave Mattingly, and his team, we wish you calm winds and clear skies all the way to Florida. We offer the sage advice, to be patient, to be flexible and to be sure to enjoy the adventure!

Bye for now,

-Paula and Don and our dog Breton.

Date: November 17th, 2005 - Day 35
Location: Over northern Kentucky!
Activity: Moving south / new public service announcement

Notes: This morning the pilots and cranes were finally able to takeoff and head south!! At 8:22 AM the migration entered Kentucky! Richard had 14 birds following his aircraft and Joe had 5 birds. There is some possibility of skipping a stop in Kentucky, but that has yet to be decided. We'll have more information on this morning's flight later today.

Operation Migration is excited to present a new public service announcement! Have a look at this video clip by clicking here for QuickTime or here for a Windows Media file. If you have a way to broadcast this public service announcement please e-mail liz@operationmigration.org and we'll get you a broadcast-quality version!

Date: November 16th, 2005 - Day 34
Reporter: Joe Duff
Location: Jennings County, IN
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 439.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Update on 516 and our stay at Muscatatuck

Notes: When you don a costume and work in silence with birds every day you begin to understand them. You get to know their behaviour and can see, first hand, how the techniques we use are working. With this insight you can make adjustments to the training methods and increase the number of birds that are properly prepared to follow us south.

The recovery of number 516 is a good example of this experience. It survived the trauma of entrapment in the flying wires above the wing of one of our aircraft and was only able to be untangled after the pilot landed. Surprisingly it was uninjured and even flew again that day but the sore muscles became apparent in the next few days. After a field examination by Angie Maxted, consultation with Barry Hartup of the health team and observation by the rest of us, we were all convinced that it was only soft tissue damage and rest was in order. The bird was treated with anti-inflammatories, painkillers and was crated to the next few stops. After each leg it was returned to the pen so it could maintain its position in the social order. Once Angie began physiotherapy we saw improvements and we began to release the bird with the others when we headed for the next site. We didn’t expect 516 to fly the leg with us but flying kept it in practise, and attracted to the aircraft. On one take off Chris picked up 516 alone and was able to lead him the entire way to the next stop. After that he was back in the flock and has flown every leg since. This understanding of the situation and proper treatment kept 516 as part of the flock and allowed it to recover properly.

Combined, the members of the Operation Migration team have years of experience and have developed procedures to deal with almost every situation except the weather. So far it has taken us 20 days to cross the state of Indiana and we still have one stop to go. Last night we watched the TV in our trailers and read the warning across the screen telling people to abandon their mobile homes. Susan Knowles of Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge made sure we had the keys to one of their buildings with a basement. They cleaned out their primary maintenance facility and let us squeeze our aircraft in out of the wind. They have invited us to dinner, conducted tours and offered any help they can provide. Their generosity has made our second extended stay in Indiana a little more bearable and we are grateful. Don and Paula’s departure has also been delayed by the weather as well as Dave Mattingly’s arrival, to take over as top cover. Chris Gullikson says we can expect improvements tomorrow, but the break in the weather may be short. We’ll take what we can get. 
Date: November 16th, 2005 - Day 34
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Jennings County, IN
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 439.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Blowing in the wind / Eastern migratory flock update.

Notes: Wind is everywhere here in Indiana. Tornadoes were reported in several locations yesterday in Indiana, and thankfully none came near our birds, but sadly many people in Indiana lost their homes. Our thoughts are with these people who are picking-up and starting anew. The storm system that brought these tornadoes is now far to the east, but the wind continues to blow hard here at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge. With sleet mixed in, we are going nowhere for yet another day.

Yesterday I reported on the naturally occurring Whooping crane flock. Today I have news on the older birds in our eastern migratory flock. Leading the way are two females - 419 and 420, who leaned a little to the east on their way south, but by mid afternoon yesterday had reached Madison County, Florida. Yea! You go girls!!!

An all male group comprised of 402, 403, 412, 416, and 417 were in Columbia and Marquette counties as of November 9th. On November 10th they were roosting at an undetermined location in central Tennessee. No activity has been detected since.

No further Whooping cranes from the reintroduced flock have initiated their fall migration. Neither have any of the 4 Direct Autumn Release (DAR) birds. (527, 528, 532, 533) 32 of the 41 white birds remain in the core reintroduction area. 2 birds, namely 107 and 415 are in Dodge County in south eastern Wisconsin, and 3 birds (401, 407, and 408) were recorded as being in central Minnesota.

This past week Richard Urbanek and his team worked to replace transmitters. As a result, all birds in the eastern flock with the exception of 107 carry functional units. (The status of the transmitter on 309 (last seen October 27 in Lewis County, NY) has not been determined.

Date: November 15th, 2005 - Day 33
Reporter: Liz Condie
Location: Jennings County, IN
Distance Traveled: 0 Miles

Click to compare Past Years

Accumulated Distance: 439.1 Miles

Click for a map of our migration.

Activity: Aransas/Wood Buffalo flock update

Notes: The migration crew is stuck at Muscatatuck today because of rainy weather.

News from Aransas, and the naturally occurring Whooping Crane migration is looking good. Tom Stehn of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge reports that 129 Whooping Cranes have arrived at their coastal Texas wintering grounds. That's about 55% of the 235 cranes expected. During a mid-August count at Wood Buffalo National Park, Brian Johns reported seeing 31 new crane chicks, 14 of which have already arrived at the Aransas Refuge in Texas. Stehn expects 25 or more of these chicks to successfully complete the migration south. A cold front moving across the Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock's migration corridor is expected to give many birds a healthy push south. As a result, Tom is hoping that there will be about 175 birds on the refuge by tomorrow.

Color banding of birds in the Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock began in 1977. A female bird banded that year, the oldest color-banded crane on record, recently passed away in Saskatchewan while on migration. She left her mate and a new chick when she passed on at the remarkable age of 28. Her mate has already found a new partner at Aransas.

The Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock also has a 27-year-old male bird who may soon break the record for the oldest know wild Whooping crane!

With the habitat in the Aransas area loaded with Blue crab and Wolfberry, Tom Stehn notes that the record number of cranes expected to arrive at the refuge will have plenty to feed upon through December.

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