Over the years we have had many friends of Operation Migration who volunteered their time and expertise to become members of our Board of Directors.

Like volunteers for all nonprofits, there are those who help out a little when it’s convenient, and those who give selflessly. Some attend the monthly meetings and must be reminded of what was decided at the last gathering, while others show up with new ideas and the willingness to make them happen.

Over the years we have had our share of both but our current list of Directors fit soundly into the second category. They have followed the organization for years, contribute time, talent and tenacity and have stood by us, literally to the end.

Doug Annes is one of those Directors. His wife, Christy Smith got Doug involved when she took on the responsibility of coordinating the first Berlin/Princeton Whooping Crane Festival in 2012. The more Doug learned, the more interested he became and he joined the Board that same year.

Doug took the time to share a parting message and we are grateful for his hard work, his friendship and his eloquence…

For a little more than twenty years Operation Migration has performed miracles. Teaching wild birds to migrate using small sport aircraft was an act of visionary boldness. I hesitate to call these aircraft “planes” but fly they did. Cranes would not usually follow such aircraft but OM did the hands-on work of imprinting, training, and practicing until the birds could both follow the aircraft and remain wild.

As we face immanent and accelerating climate change, habitat destruction, and species extinction, it is sometimes hard to have faith in mankind. The image of the cranes flying behind the ultralight aircraft is powerfully romantic, suggesting a partnership between Man and Nature. It communicated a faith that we can work with Nature to find a Harmony that does not poison and destroy. OM offered a poetry of hope.

Having worked a bit with OM, I am aware of the days and hours devoted by the OM staff to executing this vision. The devil is in the details and the OM project was chock full of details. The OM staff never failed to impress with their attention to these endless details. Awakening before dawn, attending to the birds regardless of the weather, adapting to the vagaries of individual animal behavior, waiting, the endless waiting for the requisite weather conditions to fly, it was always something and the OM staff never hesitated.

I engaged with OM as I left my middle years, and faced my own unforeseen need to migrate to my older years. Little did I understand at the time, but the entire OM project provided metaphors for my own life journey. Leaving the “homeland” of a younger body and a lifelong career, required a migration of a sort to a new place, perhaps vaguely familiar but full of uncharted spaces.

Most of all, I will treasure the friendships of the OM staff and supporters some of whom I may never see again. Looking back, it was a vibrant time of life infused with purpose, intoxicating relationships, and sometimes wildly and improbably beautiful.

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  1. Grandma December 16, 2018 12:31 pm

    I, also would like to add my thanks to you Doug as well as all giving their time to make Operation Migration a success. It is sorrowful that it had to come to a halt. A lot was proved though by the dedication of all involved in this important venture. Thanks again for all you have done.

  2. John December 9, 2018 8:31 am

    Thanks Doug, for all you have done for OM and the Whoopers.

  3. Patti December 8, 2018 2:41 pm

    Thanks, Heather for posting. I daily check the Journal hoping for news and today happy to find another letter of beauty surrounding those associated with Operation Migration. Such dedication to cause, by so many! The ripples of Operation Migration will “go on, and on and on.”

  4. Kay F Huey December 8, 2018 10:55 am

    What a beautiful expression of the feelings that have held me enthralled with the hard work of Operation Migration: “OM offered a poetry of hope.”

  5. Cheryl Murphy December 8, 2018 10:32 am

    Your words are strong and heartfelt. The words “thank you” seem insufficient but I will say them nonetheless, I sincerely “thank you” for your leadership to Operation Migration.

  6. Elsie Sealander December 8, 2018 7:54 am

    Thank you Doug for this wonderful summary.

  7. Susan December 7, 2018 2:17 pm

    What a beautiful sentiment and one that expresses the thoughts of many of us. We will miss all of you and thank you for your love and devotion to nature and whoopers. Susan

  8. Patricia December 7, 2018 1:41 pm

    What a wonderful contrasting
    posting on this particular Day of Infamy. Thanks too all the volunteers who made this organization so great. You will all be missed

  9. Agneta Sand December 7, 2018 11:57 am

    You are one of the lucky ones that have been able not just to read about the wild whooping cranes, but also have had a chance to see them slowly trying to return in the wild. I hope that I will once see them myself !