At 8:11am CDT Joe Duff launched with six of our seven young Whooping cranes from White River Marsh SWA in Green Lake County, Wisconsin. The plan was to fly the six girls then return for #4-14, our lone male crane and fly him on his own, which would give him a better opportunity to ride the vortices that spill off the trailing edge of the aircraft wing.

After a couple of circuits, one crane dropped off and landed in front of the pensite. Colleen let me know via text message that it was #9-14. Joe continue on to the first stop, with Richard flying in the chase position, while Brooke and Walter rode below them in the tracking van.

About 2 miles out, another crane fell back so Richard moved in to pick up this one, which turned out to be #8-14, while Joe continued on. The two pilots managed to get these five into the pen, which was already setup and waiting for them, before returning to the White River Marsh site to try to fly numbers 4-14 & 9-14.

Richard arrived first in the new aircraft and with assistance from Swamp Monster (aka Jo-Anne Bellemer in a tarp), convinced #9-14 that it was time to leave. He flew over our heads at the public flyover site, with about 20 people silently cheering him on.

Next Joe flew in and launched with number 4-14 (aka Peanut). By this time it was starting to get a bit trashy over the treetops and the young crane was having a hard time keeping up to the aircraft. He did manage to fly for 7 minutes, which is the longest he’s flown in more than a month, but he was unable to continue to the first stopover. Peanut will begin his first-ever migration in a crate unfortunately.

Here are some photos I was able to capture from the flyover location.

The two sub-adult whoopers from 2012 passed by just before the trikes arrived this morning.

The two sub-adult whoopers from 2012 passed overhead just before the trikes arrived this morning.

whooping cranes will ultralight aircraft

Joe appears over the treeline with his five young Whooping cranes.


Perfect formation. Joe with cranes: 2-14, 3-14, 7-14, 8-14 & 10-14


Richard van Heuvelen passes by with #9-14

Richard van Heuvelen passes by with #9-14


Joe tries in vain to convince Peanut to follow him to the first migration stopover.

Joe tries in vain to convince Peanut to follow him to the first migration stopover.

Today’s migration launch is dedicated to three very special Craniacs we’ve lost recently – Marlene Meyer, Charlie Moyes and Gary Masemore. May your spirits soar with the cranes…

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  1. Nancy Kozlowski October 12, 2014 7:11 pm

    What a wonderful service you are providing for these beautiful birds using your time,caring for what Mother Nature has provided us,your aircraft and patience…..may God speed and bless you !!!
    Nancy K.

  2. Jean Hall October 12, 2014 3:21 pm

    God’s speed for all!!! Thank you all for loving these birds.

  3. Amy Tran October 12, 2014 12:12 pm

    Amazing. Thank you so much for everyone’s care, dedication, time, and love.

  4. Donna Silva October 11, 2014 5:48 pm

    So happy to hear you are on your way wish you a safe trip looking forward to seeing you flying over St Marks ,God bless you and all the things you do to get these baby’s here.

  5. Kim Miller October 11, 2014 4:13 pm

    Greetings from Luxembourg and safe journey! Wishing all of you all the best.

  6. Marge Woods October 11, 2014 11:26 am

    We visited Wisconsin a year or so ago. The highlight of our trip was the visit to the center. What an amazing place. We keep track of you and wish you all the success in the world. So sorry to hear of your losses.

  7. M-Sue Walsh October 11, 2014 12:37 am

    aka MSWcrane… lovely tribute to our 3 Craniac’s lost this year… we miss them all and will be aware of their Spirits flying with the Migrating Cranes this year!

  8. Kathleen Kaska October 10, 2014 10:34 pm

    Migration day #1 is always like Christmas; so exciting after a long anticipation. Peanut gave it his best shot. I’m proud of the little guy. It takes courage to keep up with those girls.

  9. Ruth Mitchell October 10, 2014 8:52 pm

    And so the adventure begins again!!! Thank you for the detailed update, since I was on the road and missed the whole exciting adventure!!! I will be home tomorrow so I will be cheering you on “in person” from now on!!
    God speed at ALL of you….and bless you for what you are doing for these magnificent creatures!

  10. Margie Tomlinson October 10, 2014 2:59 pm

    Sooooo glad to see the photos at last, & get your report, Heather!!!
    There was no real “rodeo” to it either – a very good thing indeed. And, the chicks must all be talking to each other about their ‘Big Day’. Thank you all at OM for all your had work in bringing this event to us!
    Bless you all, and may our Whoopers be blessed to make it all the rest of the way to FL. WHOOP, WHOOP, WHOOP, WHOORAY!!!

  11. Fran (Luvmolly) October 10, 2014 1:36 pm

    I thought this was a great start to the migration… and I am sure peanut will get stronger (hopefully).. and the 6 girls will all follow together too.. Best of luck.. and I loved being introduced to the swamp Monster…. LOL… Best of luck on this journey…<3


  12. wendy chapman October 10, 2014 1:14 pm

    Thank you for mentioning Gary. It is so sad and your words touch my heart. I am sure he is out there with them.

  13. RACHEL PARENT October 10, 2014 12:28 pm

    Good luck guys!

  14. Joan Sullivan October 10, 2014 11:56 am

    Thanks so much for the photos. It’s thrilling to see them and know that these cranes are making a comeback thanks to your efforts.

  15. Warrenwesternpa October 10, 2014 11:03 am

    Congratulations to everyone for our first migration day. Thank you for the fitting tribute to Marlene, Charlie and Gary. October 10, 2014

  16. Meg Lunnum October 10, 2014 11:03 am

    I’m sure Peanut will get up to speed when he realizes that he is getting left behind.

  17. Nancy Freeman October 10, 2014 10:57 am

    sweet news to read today….wishing the entire OM crew and the colts, a successful migration in the days ahead…….you ALL are kept close in daily prayer for God’s travel mercies for each and every day of this wonderful journey ahead…..

  18. JoAnn Early Macken October 10, 2014 10:50 am

    Oh, hooray! Happy (and safe) travels!

  19. Shirley Munz October 10, 2014 10:49 am

    I like your dedication to our 3 special Cranias, who fly with you in spirit. It has been a hard sad year for those of us who knew them.

  20. Dave Sapko October 10, 2014 10:46 am

    Happy to read the 2014 Migration class is off and flying! Be safe everyone.

  21. Jo October 10, 2014 10:31 am

    As always thx for update- so awesome for the 2 WB’s to show the way!! RIP to the special people who went before us … you are loved and forever missed.

  22. Patti October 10, 2014 10:31 am

    <3 Today , WAS THe day! What a beautiful sight to see the 6 take flight from their home base this morning. We had awesome views from both you heather, and Jo Anne, in the blind, congratulations on the start of this year's migration, and May the Spirits of our lost 3 felloow "Craniacs" soar high and free with every flight the colts make this year.

  23. Cathy (Clydesfan) October 10, 2014 10:28 am

    Thank you so much Heather. Best wishes to the colts and all of you at OM on a safe and successful migration!

  24. Jayne Gulbrand October 10, 2014 10:27 am

    So wonderful! Congrats to you all.

  25. birdlady9 October 10, 2014 10:24 am

    Thank you, Heather. Crane bumps and tears here.

  26. Sally Swanson October 10, 2014 10:22 am

    Tears of joy this morning! Thanks OM! You are the best!