An Honor and Privilege

By definition, a privilege is an honor granted or bestowed upon someone deserving. I’m not sure about the deserving part, but being allowed to work with birds for a good part of my life has been a privilege.

We started with common Canada geese and worked our way up the species list to less abundant Trumpeter swans, then Sandhill cranes and finally the icon of endangered avian species. The only thing we could aspire to now would be to soar with California condors or find the elusive Ivory billed woodpecker.

Whooping cranes have such celebrity that those lucky enough to fly with them are dragged along for the ride. As Robert Porter Allen said, “If we succeed in preserving the wild remnant that still survives, it will be no credit to us; the glory will rest on this bird whose stubborn vigor has kept it alive in the face of increasing and seemingly hopeless odds.”

The reward for hard work and long absence from home has always been to fly with the birds, but there are other benefits. Recently, Heather and I were privileged to spend an hour or so chatting with Dr. Jane Goodall. She was passing through Toronto on one of the 320 days a year that she travels to promote conservation. She spoke to 3500 people, two days in a row and was off to Washington DC before heading to Hawaii and then Africa. She told us that in the last 4 years she has flown on 385 airlines.


At 82, her stamina is incredible but it is her character that is most appealing. Since she flew with us in the back seat while we led Whooping cranes around Necedah, she has been a supporter of this project and a friend to the birds. She has helped us in so many ways but the most important is difficult to define. There is something in her kindness, her experience, her commitment and the generosity of her friendship that lifts you above the difficult times.

When things get tough you need a little Jane Goodall to help you though. Knowing her, at least a little, is like flying with birds.

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  1. Margie Tomlinson April 21, 2016 8:37 am

    Oh what a wonderful picture! So glad you all got together for the photo & MORE! Absolutely love that women–my generation, too! Thank you so much for sharing it with us, too! ((<3)) 🙂 ~^~

  2. Marsha Lynn Walsh April 21, 2016 6:18 am

    3 blessings right here <3 🙂 Thank the Lord for all three

  3. Dorothy N April 20, 2016 11:31 pm

    Joe and Heather, this photo represents one of the great rewards for all of the wonderful work you have done over the years! You so deserve the encouragement and praise from Jane Goodall, icon of the conservation world. Beautiful picture! Treasure it always.

  4. Ruth April 20, 2016 8:45 pm

    Thank you for all you have done, and will continue to do, for all creatures great and small. The world is a far better place because you three gentle souls walk amongst us.

  5. thunder April 20, 2016 8:28 pm

    I am so proud and honored to be here and to know all three of you in some small way. Your special people with hearts of Gold!

    Thank you ~ Thank you ~ For what you do.

    What an amazing picture. You can see that bond you all have.

    “When things get tough you need a little Jane Goodall to help you though. Knowing her, at least a little, is like flying with birds.”
    Just perfectly said Joe.

  6. Lu Duncan Frank April 20, 2016 7:44 pm

    In my eyes you are all to be admired for what you do for wildlife! Thanks to you for dedicating your lives to our planet!

  7. Riona April 20, 2016 5:30 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you ! For helping these magnificent creatures. God Bless you all.

  8. Mindy April 20, 2016 1:33 pm

    Wow, what a tribute to Jane Goodall. For someone to describe knowing me “a little is like flying with birds” would be such an honor. She is a most incredible person. Just knowing about her is an honor and a priviledge. And Joe Duff, I feel the same knowing about you. Thanks for everything you do for birds, especially Whoopers.

    • Mollie Cook April 20, 2016 4:25 pm

      Agree Joe……..what an honor to know about you & follow your work with the Whoopers. I respect & admire your dedication so much!

  9. Glenda May April 20, 2016 12:48 pm

    What truly loving spirits you all are…and thanks too for the photo!

  10. Grandma April 20, 2016 11:22 am

    All three of you are wonderful people for trying to save our wildlife, especially the Whooping Cranes. Future generations will benefit from your dedication.

  11. Madeline April 20, 2016 11:18 am

    “I’m not sure about the deserving part … ”

    Joe and Heather, Yes, you’ve earned that. I am so glad that people like Jane Goodall and Joe Duff and Heather and all of the OM crew are here, making this world a better place for cranes and other wildlife. Whoopee for all of you!
    (reaching yet again for another box of tissues)

  12. Judith Purcell April 20, 2016 10:46 am

    * RESPECT *

    for each of you and your deeds.


  13. Sue McCurdy April 20, 2016 10:31 am

    What a beautiful tribute to Jane Goodall Joe. Beautiful picture. Thank you also for your work with the Whoopers all these years. I’m going to miss following them in the fall.

  14. Kathy April 20, 2016 9:20 am

    Because of your work we saw two whooping cranes fly over our property in Princeton,WI yesterday. Thank you.
    Terry and Kathy Kohlman

  15. Maggie Turk April 20, 2016 9:14 am

    That is such an outstanding photo of all three of you. So much talent , knowledge and determination in one group. Thank you all for your hard work at preserving those beautiful WHOOPERS. I am glad to have been able to be entertained the last 15 years and look forward to seeing the “EasternFlock” grow in numbers . Thank you.

  16. P. Doms April 20, 2016 8:38 am

    P.S. The stamina Ms. Jane has must be incredible! The miles she travels yearly at her age is remarkable . May the God i believe in, continue to bless her abundantly…. And Great photo Heather and Joe!

    • Terry Johnson April 20, 2016 8:27 pm

      You expressed my feelings exactly. God has blessed this group and will reward them in Heaven, whether they believe in Him or not.

  17. Vivienne Rimoldi April 20, 2016 8:35 am

    Huge honor and very well deserved! Congratulations, Joe and Heather.

  18. P. Doms April 20, 2016 8:33 am

    Wonderful to have her blessings on the work you have done and do to preserve , within human abilities, those flying creatures that are slowly diminishing in numbers. God bless her and those in your ranks to do what is feasible to help creatures. And, the charter school my grand daughter attends, is named after her!

  19. Kay Huey April 20, 2016 8:26 am

    May everyone who works so many long and hard hours to conserve the vanishing animals of our fragile earth be equally honored.

    I am in total awe of all of you!

  20. Patti Hakanson April 20, 2016 8:18 am

    What an Honor, indeed! What a wonderful woman she is,and this photo is just amazing. Congrats!!