MileMaker Challenge UPdate!

Last week, an anonymous supporter from Illinois very generously offered to DOUBLE each and every contribution to the MileMaker campaign up to a total of 20 miles. What this means is that if we can generate 20 miles (before the start of the Crane Festival on Sept. 12th) – this person will DOUBLE it to 40 miles!

The current status is that YOU have contributed 16 miles so we have a mere 4 miles to go!

Keep em coming – We’re almost there!

The cranes are certainly ready to start their southward journey. Have a look at yesterday’s training session!


Visit the CraneCam to watch LIVE!

Crane Training Recap

Yesterday was the first time Brooke has been able to fly with the young Whooping cranes since Friday. It’s that time of year, unfortunately, when fog on the marsh is prevalent as evidenced by yesterday’s late start at 7:43 am central time.

Once out of the enclosure Brooke immediately took off so that the eager flyers couldn’t get ahead of him and off they flew into the slight haze still lingering on the north end of the training area over the marsh.

All six are doing incredibly well, which is a stark contrast to last year’s cohort at this time.

Have a look at the video highlight of yesterday’s flight by clicking on the image below!

Check out the LIVE CraneCam


CAB CoverAttention Teachers!

Our “Craniac Kids Whooping Crane Activity Book” is the perfect tool for educators to use in their classrooms; one that entertains and educates at  the same time. Artfully designed to stretch imaginations about the science and story behind saving Whooping cranes from extinction, the Craniac Kids Whooping Crane Activity Book was produced with the hope of getting young people interested not just in Whooping cranes, but also in wildlife conservation.

We’re hoping to increase the number of school children we make aware of the importance of conservation, and particularly, the safeguarding of Whooping cranes. With your help we can achieve this goal.

Teachers can order a set of 30 Whooping crane activity books for their classroom and pay just $10 for shipping!  

Use this link to order your set of 30 Activity Books today!

Let the (Bidding) Games Begin!

No, we’re not announcing the start of the Olympics, but it’s exciting nonetheless – it’s time for Operation Migration’s annual Online FUNdraising Auction!

Tomorrow – Tuesday, 9/1, the first batch of items will appear on OM’s Facebook page and you will be able to start bidding.

We know you have lots of questions so, hopefully, here’s what you want to know.

How do I place a bid, you ask? It’s easy-peasy – simply post a comment under the item with your bid amount.

But what if I don’t have a Facebook account, you further query? Well, in this case you have a couple of options. First, you can create an account using an alias (assuming you don’t want to use your real name). Then, after the auction you can remove the account. Alternatively, you can place bids through a trusted friend who has a Facebook account. In either case, send us an email (jbellemer@operationmigration(dot)org) letting us know what name you are using to place bids.

When will the Online Auction close? Bidding will close at midnight (central time) on Friday, 9/25.

Do I have to go to Wisconsin to pick up my winnings? Nope! We’ll contact each winner and ship the items to the appropriate address after 9/25.

Will more items be posted after 9/1? Yes! Once the OM team arrives in Princeton, WI, the final packages will be opened, photographed, and posted on Facebook. So check back often to see what’s new and to check your bids.

Happy bidding!

20 Mile Challenge Issued by Illinois Craniac!

On August 14th, OM Volunteer extraordinaire and Wisconsinite, Mary O’Brien issued a matching challenge to everyone for our MileMaker campaign. IF supporters contributed 30 miles, Mary agreed to contribute an additional 20 miles, making the total 50 (!!!) miles!

We’re thrilled to report that Mary’s challenge was met – thanks to you!

It seems Mary’s altruism has spurred a NEW MileMaker challenge – an anonymous Craniac from Illinois has very generously offered to MATCH up to 20 miles with a deadline of September 13th, the final day of the Whooping Crane Festival.

Looks like we have a bit of State rivalry going on!

Here’s how this challenge will work: For every mile you contribute, it becomes TWO miles. Each 1/2 mile becomes a full mile and every 1/4 mile automatically is turned into a 1/2 mile!

Here’s a direct link if you prefer to contribute via PayPal

Don’t forget that each and every MileMaker sponsor is automatically entered into a drawing for a two week trip for two to beautiful Costa Rica.

In addition, you will also receive EarlyBird Migration emails each morning of the aircraft-guided Whooping crane migration so you’ll be first to know what is (or isn’t) happening each day.

Whooping Crane Aerial Survey

Wisconsin DNR Pilot Bev Paulan flew a survey over Juneau and Adams County, WI yesterday and reports the three wild hatched chicks are still doing well. Two have been confirmed as fledged and the third very likely has as well but we’ve not been able to visually confirm.

The first photo below was taken by Jana Lood approximately a week ago from the public observation tower at Necedah NWR. Pictured are parents 9-03 & 3-04 with the youngest colt, W18-15.

Photo: Jana Lood

This is a wonderful opportunity for the public to visit the refuge to see this youngster! Photo: Jana Lood

Bev Paulan graciously provided the following images of the young Whooping crane colts captured during Wednesday’s flight. (Thanks Bev!)

Youngest hatch year wild Whooping crane colt W18-15 with parents 9-03 & 3-04. Photo: Bev Paulan

Youngest hatch year wild Whooping crane colt W18-15 with parents 9-03 & 3-04. Photo: Bev Paulan

The oldest Whooping crane colt this year, W3-15 hatched May 11 to parents 17-07 & 10-09. Here the chick is pictured with Dad 10-09 while Mom forages nearby. Photo: Bev Paulan

The oldest Whooping crane colt this year, W3-15 hatched May 11 to parents 17-07 & 10-09. Here the chick is pictured with Dad 10-09 while Mom forages nearby. Photo: Bev Paulan


Watchful parents 25-09 & 2-04 with their offspring W10-15. Photo: Bev Paulan

In addition to the above cranes and colts, Bev noted fifty-three additional Whooping cranes in the core reintroduction area during her survey.

#TBT – 2009 Whooping Crane Migration Flight

This week’s Throw Back Thursday takes us back to December of 2009 when all twenty young Whooping cranes lined up perfectly off the wingtip of one ultralight over Tennessee.

This was the largest cohort of cranes we had the honor of working with and despite the class size, they often flew with only one aircraft.

Training Re-cap

This morning was the first time our young Whooping cranes took to the skies with their aircraft leader since last Friday and they were very eager to go!

Watch the following clip to see how they didn’t bother to wait for Brooke to lead them – they decided to launch into flight on their own.

August 26 – Training Flight


Registration for the September 10 – 13 Whooping Crane Festival in Green Lake County, Wisconsin is filling up quickly. Reserve your spot soon!

Check out all the activities we have lined up this year! 

Join us for the Whooper Welcome bash at Reilly’s Bar & Pub on beautiful Green Lake on September 10th. (SOLD OUT)

On Friday, visit Horicon Marsh and participate in a guided bus tour following brunch (10 spots left). There are even pontoon boat tours of the marsh scheduled for Sunday!

Meet old friends and make new ones at the Festival kick-off dinner, which will be held in the Arboretum Room at Royal Ridges Banquet Facility in Ripon, Wisconsin on Friday, September 11th.

Here we’ll celebrate cranes and other birds with featured speaker Stan Tekiela, naturalist, wildlife photographer and author. Stan is the originator of the popular state-specific field guides such as Birds of Wisconsin, Illinois, etc. Field Guide, Wildflowers of Wisconsin, Illinois, etc., and Trees of Wisconsin, Illinois, etc. Over the past three decades Stan has authored more than 130 field guides, nature appreciation books and wildlife audio CDs for nearly every state in the nation, presenting many species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, trees, wildflowers and cacti.

Stan’s talk will present ‘Uncommon Facts about Common Birds’

Royal Ridges is located across from Comfort Suites – Blocks of rooms have been reserved at the discounted rate of $83/night. To take advantage of the discount, mention ‘Crane Festival’ when making your reservations. Phone: (920) 748-5500

In addition to Comfort Suite, the Acorn Ridge Motel (Craniac Central) has four rooms available. First come – first served. Call Eric at 920-295-6533.

Take in one of the early morning training sessions with the Class of 2015 cranes (weather permitting of course). Don’t forget your camera!

Saturday’s festival will take place at the Princeton High School, located at Hwy 73 and Old Green Lake Rd. Browse the many silent auction items, attend one or all of the speaker sessions, visit the vendor and artisan booths and bring the kids to see children’s entertainer David Stokes as he introduces his collection of critters that share the wild with cranes!

Saturday evening after the festival, we’ll meet at Princeton’s VFW Hall to swap stories and laughs at a pizza party catered by Christiano’s – be sure to brush up on your crane trivia for the chance to win prizes!

Sunday, paddle down the Fox River in a replica voyageur canoe while learning about the history of the river and seeing the wildlife it attracts. Or join OM volunteer Tom ‘Tume’ Schultz on a guided bird walk in beautiful White River Marsh, home to much more than Whooping cranes (as if that isn’t enough!).

See you at the Festival! WHOOP!


The New Aircraft

When you use an aircraft to lead Whooping cranes on their first migration there is a lot to worry about. As you drift off to sleep for the night, the list starts with concern for the bird’s safety and exactly what lessons we are teaching. As you toss and turn, thoughts of another delayed migration race through your mind with a speed of a September south wind. While punching your pillow, frets about team dynamics and WCEP matters pin your eyes open like toothpicks and fundraising issues pick off the sheep you just counted with deadly accuracy. Nothing however, ruins my four hours of sleep like thoughts of the new aircraft.

Delving into the manufacturing of LSA trikes and the FAA regulations becomes complex very quickly.

For many years, people who took to the sky for the simple joy of flying could do it in what was loosely called an ultralight. Mostly, they were open cockpit, made of tubes and fabric and were powered by small engines, often repurposed from snowmobiles or motorcycles.

When the FAA instituted the Light Sport Aircraft category in 2006, they required manufacturers to comply with construction standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Aircraft that were already flying, like our old Cosmos Phase II fleet, were grandfathered into the new rule.

That’s not to say that the old trikes aren’t safe but they don’t meet the new standards, so when the FAA gave us an exemption to fly them for a commercial purpose, they asked us to upgrade. To further ensure our safety they required us to use Special Light Sport Aircraft (S-LSA) which are maintained by a certified mechanic rather than by the pilot. Knowing this might not be easy and that it would add to our financial burden, the FAA generously gave us some time to comply.  And we have needed every minute of it.

(Special) –  Light Sport Aircraft are designed for flight instruction so the students have some assurance that the aircraft they are learning to fly is looked after by a qualified professional. They are also built to withstand the rigors of student flying including hard landings. That extra durability means more weight and that equates to more speed. The heavier an aircraft is, the faster it must fly to stay airborne. Alternatively, it can be slowed down by using a bigger wing to generate more lift. And that is what we have been struggling with for the last year.

Kamron Blevin, the designer and owner of North Wing Aviation built us a wing with 20 square meters of lifting surface. It did slow the aircraft down but it still had its abrupt stall characteristics. At the very slowest end of its flight envelope it would cease flying and begin to fall with little warning. And it required a lot of additional speed to recover. That means that just when the birds are starting to catch us, we had to blast ahead to remain airborne and that was discouraging for them. They would often turn back for the pen in frustration.

Armed with that new understanding of the problems we faced, Kamron returned to his factory in Washington State and redesigned that wing. It was shipped to Wisconsin the day before the birds arrived from Patuxent so there was little time for testing. Fortunately, the birds were not yet flying at that stage so we were able to use it for ground work.

In the interim, I kept the FAA informed of our efforts and worked with Kamron to further adjust and tune the wing. After a hundred texts back and forth and many short flights to test the changes, he got it to fly slow and straight.

As the birds began to increase their flight endurance, we made incremental changes to the wing until the stall recovery was vastly improved. Recently, the birds have been flying for 20 minutes or more at a time and managing to keep up with us. As they mature, their speed increases and we are now past that critical period when we need to fly as slowly as possible.

So — after a big investment by our supporters, a year of hard work by North Wing Aviation and lots of cooperation from the FAA, we are finally able to fly our new trikes.

Now that our wing is working, Kamron is busy building two more for our other aircraft. If you have been watching the news, you know that most of the west coast is on fire. North Wing is based in Chelan Washington. It‘s a beautiful little town on the Columbia River that almost burned to the ground earlier this week. Many houses and businesses were lost and the fires came to within a block of their office and sail loft. It also burned right up to their hangar. Luckily, North Wing and all of their employees are safe — for now. But the heavy smoke has resulted in flight restrictions so he can’t do his final testing before shipping them to us. They are exact replicas of the one we have so all should be fine, but I might be in for another hundred texts.

I feel like a huge burden has been lifted from me and maybe how I can get my four hours sleep.

Crane Festival MileMaker Challenge UPdate!

Last week, OM’s costume maker extraordinaire Mary O’Brien issued a very generous matching challenge for our 2015 MileMaker campaign.

Mary publicly stated that she would, at minimum, match up to 10 miles. This means that we’ve been keeping tabs on the MileMaker donations which have come in since Mary issued her challenge and currently, 16.675 miles have been generated as a result of her generosity! Wow!

But it doesn’t stop there. You see, Mary went on to say that IF we could generate 20 miles – she would add another 5 miles to her contribution AND, if the generated miles equaled 30, she would contribute a total of 20 miles!

So, we need slightly more than 13 miles before the Crane Festival begins in order for Mary to contribute the additional 20 miles.

Here is the original posting from this incredibly lady…

From: Mary O’Brien, Madison, WI

P1010317MOWith the Whooping crane festival only a month away, I’m throwing caution to the wind and sticking my neck way out with a three part MileMaker challenge: At a minimum, I’ll match up to 10 miles contributed between now and crane fest (starts on September 12).

If donated miles are doubled to 20, I’ll add another 5 miles to my contribution. And if the miles are tripled to 30, I’ll donate a total of 20 miles.

My reason for this challenge is simple – all summer this line from John Denver’s “Today” has been going through my mind… “A million tomorrow shall all pass away, ‘ere I forget all the joy that is mine, today.”

There has been so much to be joyful about this summer such as being part of the first class Princeton crane fest committee that has a huge positive attitude and ability to get things done, watching the 2015 dream team soar with their yellow mamma, seeing the grins on Doug Pellerin’s and Tom Schultz’s faces as they escort visitors to the viewing blind and help with pen duties. It’s also a joy to have so many old and new friends contribute items and labors of love to the crane fest silent auction.

The joy of starting the day with the awesome CraneCam chat group and sharing stories with Facebook craniacs from near and far is contagious. Most of all, there’s tremendous joy in simply being part of this once-in-a-lifetime legacy.

As this reintroduction effort continues to unfold, there will be many cherished memories to share with generations to come.

So please take me up on this challenge, go for tripling the miles and making me pay up.

Heather will let me know at crane fest whether I’ll need to get a part time job to meet this challenge!

Thank you!

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