Good Things Come to Those Who Wait…

At least we hope our patience will pay off. It’s been raining for over 36 hours and things are really soggy.

We’re now on the backside of the low pressure system bringing the rain and we’re hopeful it will continue to move out overnight and leave us with a light, northerly breeze for Thursday morning.

We’re down for today but hopeful to be able to continue tomorrow.

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IF you can believe the weather forecasts, we may have a chance to fly Thursday. Richard van Heuvelen will lead; Joe Duff will be in the new trike, flying chase.

We are all packed up and ready to move camp tomorrow, so this will be our last day near Berlin, Wisconsin.

Everyone is very anxious wondering how the birds are going to do now that they are a bit farther away from White River Marsh AKA ‘home’ in their minds.

We had a meeting this morning and we all know our roles and our duties. Now, someone send a memo to the chicks and let them know ‘flying south’ is the name of the game, not ‘boxing south.’

Keep those primaries crossed that our next fly day is a total opposite of last Saturday!

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Wind & Rain…

Will keep us planted firmly on the ground for today, Day 5 of the 2014 Whooping Crane migration.

Winds are from a favorable direction, however at 14 mph, they’re simply too strong. And as if we needed more convincing to stay put, there is still a lot of rain moving through the area.


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Somebody’s Gotta Do It!

Click the link to watch USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center’s Sharon Peregoy with Mike Rowe in the episode preview of Mike’s new show, “Sombody’s Gotta Do It.”

And be sure to tune into CNN Wednesday night to catch the full episode!

Mike Rowe helps teach survival skills to whooping crane chicks on an all-new Somebody's Gotta Do It. Wed 10/15 at 9pm ET (8pm Central)

Mike Rowe helps teach survival skills to whooping crane chicks on an all-new Somebody’s Gotta Do It. Wed 10/15 at 9pm ET (8pm Central)


Message From a Costumed Handler…

Well another training season has come and gone at the White River Marsh training site. All the hard work by the pilots, the costumes, and the staff members is done here. I should say it’s been a fun year.

It seems every day is different and full of challenges. This year, trying to keep Peanut (#4-14) in the pen while letting the others out to train was interesting to say the least. Being with “Peanut” in the pen as the trikes and the other birds would fly by, he was making loud peeping noise as though to let us know I want to fly with them. Poor Peanut probably wondering why the tumes wouldn’t let him out. It was heartbreaking and It was difficult but he had to rest that leg. He is doing better now and will soon be flying high with his class mates.

Doug spends time with the young Whooping cranes in their White River Marsh enclosure and gets photobombed by a bird.

Doug spends time with the young Whooping cranes in their White River Marsh enclosure and gets photo bombed by a bird.


I think we all love little Peanut, I know us handlers sure do. Here’s a video clip of him attacking the first pumpkin he encountered.

Another interesting time is when Geoff and I were waiting for the trike to come down and out comes #4-12 and #5-12 (the boys) from the grass at the end of the runway, proceeded to walk down the runway and came very close to us. I was so excited I almost peed my pants!

Sub-adults 4-12 & 5-12 drop by for a visit.

Sub-adults 4-12 & 5-12 drop by for a visit.

People often ask me what it’s like to be a costume and if I have a favorite bird. Well, being a “tume” is a fun job and very exciting and rewarding. How can you pick a favorite when they’re all so special and beautiful. I usually answer them by saying that they’re all my favorites.

Well my time is done for the year with this class and I’m already looking forward to next year. What a year it has been for all of us. Thank you so much to all of you for a wonderful season.

Fly high and be free beautiful birds, hope to see you next spring…


Doug Pellerin

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South Winds…

Date: Oct. 12 Migration Day: 3
Dist. Traveled: 0 miles
Total Dist. 19 miles
Location: Marquette County, Wisconsin


Winds from the south-southeast will halt the migration for today.

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Very Likely Down Tomorrow

After today’s cra-zazyness it looks like we’ll get some downtime tomorrow. Typically, once the cranes are at the second migration stop (Marquette County), we pick up and move our camp. That didn’t get done today because with everything else going on and poor weather moving in, our first priority was to get the birds settled. Brooke will move his house on wheels to be near the cranes in a little while.

Winds for the next few days will be from the south and rain is moving into the area.

I promise I’ll get the ground CraneCam up in the morning! The usb extension cable, needed to connect the camera to the computer inside the pen trailer, and which had been chewed by mice (surprise!) has been replaced.

UPDATED: 2nd Day Not as Pretty as the 1st!

UPDATED – to correct typos/stop number and to add a few details and photos. Note – today is (still) very busy so there will be no lead pilot report.

Date: Oct. 11, 2014 Migration Day: 2
Dist. Traveled: 14 miles
Total Distance: 19 miles
Location: Marquette Co., WI


In a nutshell, here’s what happened this morning.

Whooping cranes 2, 7, 9 & 10-14 returned to the White River Marsh pensite! *Note: This has never happened in the past 13 seasons. Typically, once we get them away from ‘home’ they don’t head back – especially flying into a headwind as they had to this morning.

Doug and Heather convinced them to go inside the pen (no small feat considering we had no grapes or cranberries AND there was no topnet on the pen) while Joe and Walter prepared crates in the parking lot. This group of four was delivered to the second migration stop in Marquette County, Wisconsin. (While Doug and I were walking briskly to the pensite, I whispered to Doug that we had removed the topnet yesterday. After a few more steps he tapped me on the shoulder and whispered “maybe they won’t notice” – I still laugh whenever I think of this).

4-14 landed at our stop 1 site and may have banged his right leg, perhaps on barbed wire fencing as he has an abrasion and some bleeding in addition to a limp.

After about an hour Colleen reported he was no longer limping and the bleeding had stopped. (Turns out it is just a small abrasion).

Cranes 3-14 and 8-14 were flown back to the 1st stop to await crating, along with 4-14.

ALL seven cranes are now at our second migration stop – in Marquette County, Wisconsin.

Now some images from this morning:

Richard flies past with six of our seven Whooping cranes.

Richard flies past with six of our seven Whooping cranes. (with two Sandhill cranes in the distance) Photo: Heather Ray


Another flyby with the six flyers. Photo: Heather Ray

Peanut (4-14) landed after a couple of circuits. This was the first time he was released to fly with the other six cranes.

Peanut (4-14) landed after a couple of circuits. This was the first time he was released to fly with the other six cranes.

Looks Like Another Decent Day

Winds aloft are light and from a northerly direction. On the surface, it seems there is no breeze at all.

This means we’ll be making an attempt to fly the Whooping cranes to Marquette County, WI – our 2nd of 23 migration stops along the way to Wakulla County, FL.

Today’s flight is a planned 14 miles.

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Clark Schultz…

Is a special guy. On Monday, we told you how he wanted to help us raise funds for the MileMaker campaign by offering to shave his noggin IF we could generate 20 miles by Friday at 9am.

Well, you went above and beyond (as usual) for cranes and for Clark and raised 35 miles! True to his word, here’s a video of Clark having his head shaved.

Thanks to everyone who contributed and special thanks to Clark! Today is his last day with us before he returns home to Ontario in time to celebrate the Canadian Thanksgiving with his family. We’ll miss you!

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream


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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Is Today THE Day?

Conditions appear to be ideal to begin the 2014 southward Whooping crane migration this morning!

On the surface there is no wind. Aloft at 3,000 ft. weather sites are reporting 10 knots and from the north. Today’s pilots, Joe Duff and Richard van Heuvelen should have a nice tailwind once they get the young cranes on the wing.

There may be a bit of ground fog with only a 3 degree difference in the air temperature of 34F and the dewpoint at 31F but we’ll have to wait till sunrise at 7:04am to find out. The sky is clear so the sun should quickly burn off any fog that forms.

The pilots must also wait for sunrise before they push the aircraft out of the hangar as frost can form quickly on the wings.

Our first migration stop is a short, 5-mile hop to get the cranes into unfamiliar territory, which usually makes them more dedicated to the aircraft.

Tune in to watch what happens LIVE on our CraneCam and TrikeCam channels!

If you can make it to the departure flyover location, we’d love to see you!

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It’s Not Just About Whooping Cranes

On Wednesday, Colleen, Heather, and I headed down to Whitewater, WI to attend the memorial service for our good friend Charlie Moyes, who left us just a couple of days after the Whooping Crane Festival. Charlie was there at the Festival with his beloved wife Ella, Beatle’s fan from way back.

I doubt he would have missed that weekend for the world! Charlie would step out of his room at the Acorn Ridge Motel, and, with a huge smile, say “THIS is FAMILY”!

And it really is! Craniacs are a close-knit group of people dedicated to safeguarding Whooping Cranes, but we’re much, much more than that. We are family… For some reason this common interest has caused us to form a bond that’s hard to imagine between people who are spread all over North America, and even in Australia, Norway, Great Britain, The Netherlands, and probably places I’m forgetting. We care so much for one another despite sometimes knowing one another for only a short time. It doesn’t take long to become one of the family called Craniacs!

And so, as many Craniacs as could make it (21 in total, I think) showed up in Whitewater, WI to celebrate the life of Charlie and support Ella and the rest of their “real” family. Long-distance honors go to Claire and Terry Deland who drove up from Georgia. “Pastor Terry” officiated the service and Claire played the beautiful accompaniment on the piano. Everyone I spoke to afterwards agreed that it was one of, if not THE, most beautiful and touching service they had ever attended.

Charlie (and apparently his whole family) loved trains and Terry dubbed them “Trainiacs.” In fact, another “Craniac-Trainiac couple” we know and love, Sheba and Huw, made a special stop on their way home to Canada from Crane Festival to visit the Illinois Railway Museum. Sheba posted a photo of Huw in front of the sign with the caption “this one is for Charlie, thanks buddy we had a great afternoon.”

It really amazes me that I can feel so close to a bunch of nuts, OOPS, people who I’ve known for less than 4 years, but that’s the truth. It not JUST about Whooping Cranes anymore – it’s more than that – it’s about family!

R.I.P Charlie...

R.I.P Charlie…