My Time at OM

I have always loved nature and wildlife from the time I was little. As I grew older, I also became interested in conservation and the environment. 

As a child, one of my idols was Doris Day and I loved to hear her sing Que será, será (Whatever will be, will be). Maybe that was the influence to my life-long conviction to just sit back and let the universe bring whatever it will my way. Which is how I ended up working with Operation Migration.

At the same time that I had my hours significantly reduced, the Board gave permission for Heather to hire some help as Operation Migration was really starting to take off; no pun intended. At the right time and the right place the universe had brought to me something very special and rewarding.

Operation Migration had already finished their year of ‘practicing’ with Sandhills and were officially working with Whooping cranes when I came along in 2001. Having moved to the area 18 years previously, I was familiar with Bill Lishman, Joe Duff and the movie Fly Away Home. In fact my son was in the same class as Bill’s daughter. As I was volunteering in their class one day, helping with an art project, making fridge magnets, I remember Carmen sighing, “I’ll make one but I don’t have a fridge to put it on!” By this time, Bill had built his underground house and had an unusual fridge that, with the push of a button, rose up out of the counter top. Certainly NOT a traditional fridge.

I’d witness either Joe or Bill flying over my house with geese trailing behind. Joe commented once, that he wondered if those of us on the ground could hear him swearing at the geese as they played out their antics. Joe, no we couldn’t hear you, just the sound of engine and the honking was all we could hear. But it would have been funny if we could have. 

That first year with Operation Migration was a whirl wind for me and a learn-by-doing experience.  After a short training period, Heather was off with the migration and I was on my own for the next couple of months. Somehow, I managed to survive and kept things running while the team was gone. The work OM does is very cyclical and it wasn’t until one full year later that I felt like I understood the rhythm of OM and could confidently speak about our work. As the years rolled along, OM became bigger and more well-known; technology changed as well as various rules and regulations. People within the organization and partnership came and went; we moved our office twice. As the migrations started to become longer I began to feel like the lonely “Maytag repairman”. However, throughout it all, I was very proud to be working for an organization that was doing trail blazing work and saving an endangered species. How exciting is that! 

Over the years I have had many lovely conversations with “Craniacs” and through Facebook have made some life-long friends that otherwise I would never have had the opportunity to know. Twice, I was fortunate to travel to Necedah and got to witness what everyone was getting so teary eyed over. Watching the birds fly with the ultralight on a cold, crisp morning is a memory that is forever etched in my mind’s eye. Meeting another childhood idol, Jane Goodall, was icing on the cake. To say that I have been blessed is an understatement.

I cannot think of another group of people who have been as dedicated to a cause as this one.  What I can tell you for a fact, is that for Operation Migration, every decision or problem that needed to be overcome always boiled down to ‘what’s best for the birds’. And secondly, our responsibility to our generous donors.

I hope, with all my heart and soul that these birds will continue to flourish and spread across the landscape of eastern North America. May the universe be kind to them!

As for me? I don’t know yet. Que Sera, Sera…Whatever will be, will be.

I send all of you tons of hugs and love,


Share Button


  1. Kerry Brookman September 10, 2018 1:26 pm

    All my best to you Chris – you’ve been an extraordinary face for Operation Migration. How lucky we’ve been to have such terrific staff as contacts. Must say I’ve absolutely enjoyed your wildlife posts this year. You’ll be so much missed.

  2. Babs – Seattle September 4, 2018 6:46 pm

    Hi, Chris …

    I send back to you ‘tons of hugs and love!’ I have always enjoyed your writings .. and they’ve led me to expand my interest in even the smallest birds in the back yard. And .. I’ve totally enjoyed the times we’ve had a bit of time to talk on the phone about what the world had dropped at our respective doorsteps .. ‘little surprises!’

    You and the family take the best of care .. I’m gonna miss you!

    cheers … Babs

  3. Catherine Wohlfeil September 3, 2018 9:21 pm

    May God Bless…

  4. Doug Pellerin September 3, 2018 4:05 pm

    Thank you Chris for all your hard work with OM and our beloved Whooping cranes. I had the privilege to meet you up at Necedah at cranefest. I’ve also enjoyed talking to you on the phone when ever I would call OM. You were always so friendly. GOOD LUCK.

  5. Doug September 3, 2018 2:09 pm

    Chris, thanks for your work through the years. I, too, hope the eastern flock continues to grow and thrive.

  6. Cheryl Murphy September 3, 2018 1:32 pm

    Thank you for your hard work and dedication. Very much appreciated by people like me and lots and lots of others.

  7. Jane Maher September 3, 2018 1:06 pm

    Chris, you have been an anchor for this inspired effort. Be proud of your work and continue to enjoy your family and friends. The miracle may still be in the plan!

  8. rolando acosta September 3, 2018 12:28 pm

    Trust in God. He will find a place where He or the Whooping Cranes need you. Thank you for a great job. Not happy with what is happening the trip was cut short. .

  9. Chris Linnell September 3, 2018 11:12 am

    Thanks, Chris, for all you’ve done for OM. We knew you were there if we had a question or concern and were pleased to receive your reply in response. Best to you.

  10. Sue Merchant September 3, 2018 11:08 am

    Thank you, Chris, for all you’ve done. I treasure the conversations we’ve had over the years.

  11. Sue September 3, 2018 9:57 am

    Thank you. We will miss following all of you and the Whoopers.

  12. Cheryl N. September 3, 2018 9:35 am

    Chris, I have always enjoyed my contacts with you, whether it was over the phone, via email, or on Facebook. Thank you for your dedication to the cause and for being such a steady rock at the office. I loved reading about your personal experiences with OM. What a gift to have been a part of everything whooper related, and to have seen the birds and met such wonderful people. Blessings to you and your family as you begin a new journey in your life.

  13. Libby Blankenhorn September 3, 2018 8:01 am

    Wonderful memories! It has been a pleasure and an honor to be part of this. You made all that easy and fun, Chris! Best wishes…

  14. Elsie Sealander September 3, 2018 7:35 am

    Thank you !