Here We Go!

Sunrise occurs at 7:25 now that we’re in Eastern timezone. Shortly thereafter, Joe and Brooke will be airborne from our camp and will make the short hop to the pensite field where the young cranes are enclosed.

Today, we have a short 33 mile hop to Leon County, our second to last stop.

If you’re nearby and would like to watch the viewing site is outside town of Climax, GA on Bell Dixon Road, just east of Fewell Road intersection. Google Map

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Lead Pilot Report

Date: December 9, 2014 Migration Day: 61
Dist. Traveled: 117 miles
Total Dist. 1039 miles
Location: Decatur County, Georgia


Nothing in life is free. Today we had tail winds but they came at a cost. The first payment was frost. We haven’t had freezing temperatures in a week but this morning there was a thick layer on everything. That meant we had to scrape and then spray the wings with glycol then wait for the sun to rise. I took off first but there must have been some residue on my wings because it stalled just after liftoff. The field we were using was very rough and full of fire ant hills. I launched off one, which threw me into the air but the wing wasn’t ready to fly so it came back down – hard and hit another bump. That shattered the left wheel pant and I left it behind as I climbed to clear the trees.

Normally that wing will slow to 35 miles per hour but this morning I could not get it below 39. So I flew around for a while to dry it off. Eventually it would slow to 36.

While I was doing this, Brooke was trying to get his radio to work. We could hear him transmit but he could not hear our response. For ten minutes we listened to him say “radio check” while various crew members answered “check 5 by 5″

Finally Brooke landed again and manged to get it working but it failed as soon as he tookoff.

At only 200 feet we had a strong tailwind and with the sun fully up it would not take long for the low level turbulence begin. We had to stand down or leave now, radio or not.

I launched with the five birds, numbers 2, 3, 7, 8 and 9. We did one circuit of the pen to let them catch up and headed on course. Because of the moisture on my wing, I was flying slightly too fast and number 9 turned back. By that time Brooke had landed to collect 4 and 10. I couldn’t talk to him but he figured out what was happening and took off to get out of the way. Number 9 came back to join his flockmates and we started out again.

At 500 feet we were moving over the ground at 50 miles an hour and at 1000 feet we were up to 60.

By the time Brooke landed, collected the birds and launched again, he was 10 miles back. We soon out-paced Richard and volunteer David Boyd in the tracking van. We kept climbing and eventually reached 5000 feet. We were heading for our stop in Clay County, Georgia but things were looking good for a skip.

I turned further south for our next stop in Decatur County, Georgia and picked up more tailwind and my ground speed jumped to 75.

Of course I could not tell Brooke what I was doing. Occasionally, he would broadcast his location to anyone listening but he had no idea where we were so he had to fly all the way to the first stopover to make sure we were not there.

When I started my descent he was still 20 miles out. As the birds and I passed through 1800 feet the last payment was sdue. The turbulence that had been cooking all morning hit us like a brick. We did three approaches before getting on the ground safely. We covered 117 miles in 2 hours and 20 minutes.


We’ll have a lead pilot report as soon as one of them sends it to me but in the meantime…. We’re in GEORGIA!

And not at the first of our two Georgia stops – we’re at the last of our two stops! Yes, we SKIPPED!

All seven cranes flew again this morning, covering 117 miles. We’re currently in Decatur County, GA. At this point, tomorrow is looking promising for a flight, which would take us to within 30 miles of our final destination at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

If you’d like to head out bright and early tomorrow to watch the lift off, the viewing site is outside town of Climax, GA on Bell Dixon Road, just east of Fewell Road intersection. Google Map

Here are some images from this morning, which I hope will tide you over until I get the lead pilot report ;-)

IMG_7019 IMG_7021 IMG_7115 IMG_7162

Looking GOOD

Pre-sunrise conditions in Pike County, Alabama seem good. Surface winds are from the northwest and light. Aloft they’re from the same direction and should be between 15 – 20 knots, which if smooth, would provide a nice push as we attempt to head into Georgia (and back into Eastern timezone).

Sunrise occurs at 6:32 am and it’s a brisk 30 degrees.

Be sure to tune into our CraneCam or FlightCam to watch the action!

P.S. IF we do reach Georgia – we have a 5 mile MileMaker challenge issued by Brenda Kerr from Ontario, Canada! Brenda has agreed to MATCH up to 5 miles in any increment that comes in while we’re in the fine state of Georgia. We’re hoping it’s a brief stay, as much as we love Georgia. Christmas is fast approaching!

CLICK here if you’d like to DOUBLE your MileMaker contribution!


Last evening we selected a number from the 428 Chips which have been registered thus far and the winning chip is number 835 – Registered to: Mollie Cook of Arkansas! Mollie will receive an OM prize pack in the mail shortly (pictured below). Congratulations Mollie!

Have you purchased your chip yet? It’s a FUN way to support whooping cranes!

Purchase a 2014 Whooping crane Chip from our Marketplace for $20. Each Chip is individually numbered and contains an alpha/numeric code.

As soon as you receive your Chip in the mail, visit to register your name and email, along with your Chip number and code.

We’ll be holding random draws for some fun items so keep an eye on your inbox.

Once all the Chips are gone, we’ll hold FOUR additional draws:

  • Two for CITGO gas cards, valued at $100 each.
  • $500 CASH
  • A flight back seat with our CEO, Joe Duff as pilot, while he flies in the chase position with the Class of 2014/15 Whooping cranes!

There are only 1000 Chips available, so be sure to order yours soon so you don’t miss out!


Get YOUR Chip Now!

Fred Wasti will receive the OM prize pack pictured below…



Whooping Crane Update, 6 November – 4 December 2014

The map below indicates the last known location of the Whooping Cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population. This map does not include birds that have not been reported for over one month, are known to have moved from a previous location or that are long term missing.


Maximum size of the eastern migratory population at the end of the report period was 97 birds (54 males, 43 females). Estimated distribution at the end of the report period included  40 whooping cranes in Indiana, 10 in Illinois, 8 in Kentucky, 6 in Tennessee, 11 in Alabama, 3 in Georgia, 6 in Florida, 10 at unknown locations, 1 not recently reported, 1 long term missing, and 1 suspected mortality.

Suspected Mortality

Male no. 5-13 apparently disappeared on or near the St. Marks NWR, Wakulla County, Florida, on Thanksgiving night. He is suspected dead but is still included in the population totals above. Efforts are currently underway to locate him.

Captures for transmitter replacements

7 November: no. 29-09

A total of 16 free-flying cranes were captured this fall.

2012 Cohort

Nos. 4-12 and 5-12 were reported at the St. Marks NWR, Wakulla County, Florida, on 30 November.

No. 7-12 remained with nos. 3-11, 24-13 and 38-09 in Knox County, Indiana, except for a brief trip north into Greene County on at least 23-25 November. Pair nos. 29-08 and W3-10 joined this group by 18 November and no. 18-09 joined by 23 November.

No. 14-12 remained in LaPorte County, Indiana, until beginning migration on the evening of 30 November or early morning 1 December. He was found in Jackson County, Indiana, on 1 December.

No. 16-12 began migration from Monroe County, Wisconsin, on 17 November. He was found in Jackson County, Indiana, on 19 November where he remained through at least last check on 2 December.

2013 Cohort

Nos. 2, 4, 5, 7, and 8-13 began migration from Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin on 13 November. Satellite readings indicted roost locations in Iroquois County, Indiana, on 13 November; Wabash County, Illinois, on 14 November; northern Alabama on 17 November and Decatur County, Georgia, on 18 November where they remained until arriving at the St. Marks NWR, Wakulla County, Florida by roost on 21 November. No. 5-13 disappeared from this location on the night of 27 November (see above).

No. 9-13 began migration from Dodge County, Wisconsin, on 13/14 November. Satellite readings placed in him Newton County, Indiana, on 14-20 November; Clinton County, Indiana, on 25-29 November and Lawrence County, Indiana, by roost on 1 December. He was observed at this location with two sandhill cranes on 2 December and continued south to Barren County, Kentucky, the next day.

No. 22-13 began migration from Vermilion/Champaign Counties, Illinois, on 14 November. Satellite reading indicated a roost location in DeKalb County, Tennessee, on 15 and 16 November. He arrived at his previous wintering territory at the Hiwassee WR, Meigs County, Tennessee, on 17/18 November.

No. 24-13 remained with nos. 3-11, 7-12 and 38-09 in Knox County, Indiana. Pair nos. 29-08 and W3-10 joined this group by 18 November and no. 18-09 joined by 23 November. No. 7-12 briefly left this location (see above).

No. 57-13 remained in Dodge County, Wisconsin, through at least 9 November. He was not detected in the area on 13 November and was reported in Jackson County, Indiana, on 19 November.

No. 59-13 was reported at the Wheeler NWR, Morgan County, Alabama, on 21 November where she remains.

2014 Cohort

Wild-hatched – No. W3-14 remained with her father in Greene County, Indiana, throughout the report period.

Ultralight – Seven juveniles in the ultralight-led cohort departed from the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake County, Wisconsin on 10 October. On 13 November they were boxed and driven from Dane County, Wisconsin, to the 13th stopover location in Carroll County, Tennessee, where they resumed migration. They are currently located at their 19th stopover in Pike County, Alabama.

Parent-reared – No. 19-14 began migration from near the Necedah NWR, Wisconsin, with adult pair nos. 7-07 and 39-07 on 12 November. They were reported in Winnebago County, Illinois, that night and remained at least through roost on 16 November, apparently continuing migration on 17 November. Low precision satellite readings from no. 19-14 indicated a roost location in Grayson County, Kentucky, on the night of 18 November. They were photographed on a game camera in Logan County, Kentucky, on the morning of 19 November and continued south on 20 November, arriving on the adults wintering ground in Lowndes County, Georgia, by 22 November. They remain at this location.

No. 20-14 remained with pair nos. 9-05 and 13-03 in Greene County, Indiana. These three birds have been seen associating with pair nos. 8-04 and 19-05 at this location.

No. 27-14 remained with pair nos. 2-04 and 25-09 in Hopkins County, Kentucky, throughout the report period. Pair nos. 24-09 and 42-09 joined this group by 21 November. An additional two Whooping Cranes were observed at this location on 4 December.

No recent reports 

Female no. 27-10 was last detected on the Necedah NWR, Juneau County, Wisconsin on 22 April. Her transmitter is likely nonfunctional.

Long term missing 

Female no. 2-11 was last reported at her wintering location in Marion County, Florida, on 9 April 2013. She has a nonfunctional transmitter and cannot be tracked.

This update is a product of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.  To access our previous project updates and additional information on the project visit our web site at

We thank Windway Aviation Corp and pilots Bev Paulan and Michael Callahan (Wisconsin DNR) for aerial tracking assistance. We also thank staff from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Dan Kaiser, Dan Troglin, Rick Houlk, Charles Murray, Mary Emanuel, and John Pohl for tracking assistance.


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Lead Pilot Report

Date: December 3, 2014 Migration Day: 55
Dist. Traveled: 64 miles
Total Dist. 922 miles
Location: Pike County, Alabama



Battling a headwind is like watching paint dry while waiting for water to boil. The GPS ticks off the miles at the same rate you tear pages from a calendar.

Today we repeated yesterday, including the 25 mile per hour ground speed and boxing numbers 4 and 10.

We knew the progress would be slow and we knew it would be warm. Both of these factors take their toll on the birds.  We debated releasing them all together but it was likely that 4 and 10 would loose the battle for the lead to the five that have now found an order they are comfortable with in the air. That would put them at the back of the line where they would have to work the hardest.

I landed first and launched with the five and Brooke took off with the two after we cleared the pen area.

Joe departs Lowndes County, Alabama

Joe departs Lowndes County, Alabama

Within five miles we passed over Richard and volunteer David Boyd in the tracking van. Richard radioed that one of the birds had a large gap in its primary feathers. I looked down the line and sure enough, number 8 was missing two or three feathers on her left side and one was still attached but sticking up like a rudder.

Already she was panting. She moved to my left wing so she was getting lots of benefit from my wake but it was not long until I remembered why I don’t like number 7-14.

She is the lead bird in the group of five. She coasts along, taking all of her lift from my wing and barely flapping her wings while the rest struggle in her wake. Then she starts to mess around, using up the energy she saved. She leads the other birds below the wing or out in front and tires them out even more.

She moved over and stole my left wing from number 8-14 – just for fun. Whenever she was bored she would challenge me and take off out front. I would then have to balance her speed with the slowness of the others so I would let her go but I had to fight the turbulence her wing beads created, making my wing less stable for the back birds.

I know she was doing what nature intended and looking after herself but I couldn’t help putting human values to her intent and being annoyed at her selfishness.

Despite being at the back and doing all the extra work caused by our

Brooke leaves Lowndes County with numbers 4 & 10-14

Brooke leaves Lowndes County with numbers 4 & 10-14.

Despite being at the back and doing all the extra work caused by our Prima Donna bird, still number 8 kept up for the 1 hour and 55 minutes it took us to cover 64 miles. It’s a good thing birds don’t hold grudges like people.

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An anonymous Craniac from Wisconsin was so tickled to see Peanut (#4-14) and Marsha (#10-14) flying the entire migration leg yesterday that she contacted us and would like to issue a “Hooray for Peanut and Marsha” MileMaker Challenge!!!

In honor of them finally getting with the program, she has offered to DOUBLE the next 5 MileMaker miles in any increment. Contribute $50 for a 1/4 mile and it becomes a $100 1/2 mile; Contribute $100 for a 1/2 mile and she will DOUBLE it and make it a FULL mile.

CLICK here to take advantage of this challenge in honor of Peanut & Marsha!