Let’s Do the Math

Yesterday I wrote that, with northerly winds predicted for the next few days, “at the risk of jinxing things, we MAY just be able to wrap up this migration by next weekend.” Apparently that statement caused enough phone calls to travel agents that Verizon’s trunk lines were brought to their knees, and enough flight bookings to Tallahassee that Southwest Airlines has made arrangements to borrow ten 747′s from Air France.

Hold your horses (if you have any)! We can’t predict weather 5 days ahead any better than the meteorologists!

Perhaps the statement-in-question should have been punctuated with one of those semi-colon-hyphen-open-parenthesis emoticons ;-) or better yet, someone needs to invent a thingie to represent pie-in-the-sky-hopefulness, and maybe even a tongue-in-cheek-smiley-face :-P Instead, it simply ended with an old-fashioned-period.

For the statisticians out there, do the math. If the probability of flying on any given day is 50% then the probability of flying on two consecutive days is 25%, three consecutive days 12.5%, and four consecutive days is even lower, a mere 6.25%. Translated that’s a 1 in 16 chance that we could fly four days in a row. Maybe good odds for a lottery ticket, but not probable! Though we HAVE done 7 days in a row previously.

And a 50-50 chance of flying on an given day is way high (pun intended)… Today is migration day 67 and we’ve flown a mere 12 of those. Using THOSE numbers, the probability of flying “tomorrow” is 18% and flying four days in a row is less than 1 in 100. Southwest Airlines, send those 747′s back pronto!

If you haven’t fallen asleep in math class by now, you get the point. We can’t even predict if we will fly tomorrow, and certainly cannot state with any certainty, or even uncertainty, that we will fly enough legs in one week to finish migration next weekend. We are at the mercy of the wind and we have to just take it one-day-at-a-time.



  1. Shepherd December 8, 2013 4:35 am

    Today, Sonday, is rain but the rest of the week looks – uh (coughs) – promising – er – hopeful. Of course we know how dependable forecasts are.
    I voted for Joe! I put that on my blog too.

  2. Bob1603 December 7, 2013 10:06 pm

    Just remember that 5 out of 4 people have trouble with math.

  3. Gay Spencer December 7, 2013 6:50 pm

    The ability to look at the optimistic side of things (rather than seeing only the cold, cruel statistics of it) surely must be a fundamental requirement for doing the job you’re doing. What you’re doing is for the long run. You’re making an investment in a species that will make an impact on the earth for thousands of years. So what if your arrival on this particular migration is a few days (or weeks) optimistic?

    I looked at airline fares myself today. :>

  4. Ruth Mitchell December 7, 2013 5:54 pm

    SO Melissa Jacoby…where CAN we stay nearby??? lol
    I am so excited that our Chicks are going to arrive soon!! I can hardly wait!!

  5. Melissa Jacoby December 7, 2013 3:54 pm

    I volunteer at St. Marks NWR. This explains the call I took yesterday from a person who needed information about local hotels as she heard the cranes would definitely arrive next weekend. I will be delighted to see you whenever you arrive–the sooner the better.

  6. Richard P. Chase December 7, 2013 2:03 pm

    Good Grief Heather, you could be a statistician with the current political party of any nation. You Go, Girl!

  7. Patti December 7, 2013 2:03 pm

    All I can say is…”AMEN” to this! :)