Timing is Everything

Joan asks – “Does all these no-training days become a problem for the cranes flight schedule”?

If only we could hatch the cranes earlier so they would fledge in July. That way they would be ready to leave on the migration in August when the weather is still cooperating.

In July the calm mornings allow us to train almost every day, but toward the end of August the fall weather system sets in and training days become as rare as Whooping cranes. It is bad timing because that is just when we need good flying conditions to increase their endurance and keep them following.

This is the season when bad habits are dangerous. If we get another episode of behavior like number 10 displayed earlier in the summer, we don’t have the flying days to correct it. The problem just gets worse as time goes on and the start of migration turns into a fiasco and we have all seen that one act play.

There is nothing we can do about good weather withdrawal. We go through the 12 steps from denial to anger and finally acceptance.  Then, when Indian Summer finally arrives, we start over and somewhere in central Illinois it all comes together. The birds finally get the message.

We get a few flyable days in a row and the reward is a long string of pearls off the wing tip of the lead aircraft and a light at the end of the migration tunnel.

All we can do now is cross our fingers and know that we will see you on the other side.

Tweets for Whoopers

One of the ways we’re going to keep everyone updated during the fall season, which of course, includes the upcoming festival and our southward migration is Twitter! You can use Twitter on your phone or your PC or laptop/tablet and it’s a great way to get news/updates fast.

If you don’t yet have a Twitter account, you can very easily create one using your mobile phone or your PC or laptop. These instructions outline how to create an account and get our updates, using your pc or laptop. Visit Twitter.com and follow the instructions to create your new Twitter account. Once you’ve created your account, be sure to search for Operation Migration (@opermigration) – click on our profile, then select:Twitter_follow

So, now that you are a Twitter user, how do you get up to the minute updates on your phone?

  1. Log in to twitter.com and click on the gear icon located at the top right of your screen.
  2. Select Settings from the drop-down menu.
  3. Click on the Mobile tab.
  4. Choose your country from the first drop-down menu.
  5. Enter your mobile number. No need to include your country code or leading zero.
  6. Click Activate phone to begin verifying your phone.
  7. You will be directed to send the word ‘GO’ via text message to Twitter (using the appropriate country-specific short code). If you’re in the U.S. your shortcode is: 40404 
  8. Text the verification code from your phone to that short code.
  9. After we receive the verification code from you, your mobile device will be added to your Twitter account!

Next, navigate back to http://twitter.com/OperMigration Click on the gear icon, located beside the blue Following button. From the dropdown, select Turn on mobile notifications.


It’s that easy! Now, each time we send out a tweet, you’ll instantly receive a text message letting you know what’s happening!

What will we tweet about? Well, during the festival, we’ll be tweeting whether or not there will be training each morning, so that you’ll have time to get to the flyover viewing locations, or stay in bed in the case of poor weather. We’ll be tweeting raffle ticket winning numbers during Saturday’s festival. If we spot an adult Whooping crane in the area, we’ll send out a tweet. If there are any changes in plans, we’ll tweet it. Here’s a sample tweet: Flying this morning! Make your way to http://goo.gl/maps/vPWUc @6:30CT to watch #whoopingcranes fly with aircraft!

During the southward migration, we’ll tweet each morning whether that day will be a ‘go’ or a ‘no-go’ and the appropriate flyover location along with a google map, so you can find your way to the viewing spot. We’ll tweet each time we arrive at a new stopover and we’ll tweet photos. Be sure to get your Twitter account so you don’t miss any of the action!


A Rare Life Indeed…

Operation Migration’s Brooke Pennypacker has been nominated for the 2014 Eagle Rare Life Award, which could earn $50,000 for Whooping crane recovery. YOU can HELP – It’s super easy. All you have to do is CLICK HERE then CLICK Vote for this story.

Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey will be awarding $50,000 to one nominee’s charity and $5,000 awards to six others in their 2015 Eagle Rare Life Awards. The voting period began on May 27th and runs until January 6, 2015. You can vote once every 24-hour period, and you can vote on each device you own. Your laptop, desktop PC, phone, tablet.

Last year, your votes helped OM earn $5000 in Citgo fuel cards so we know you can do this!

Check out Brooke’s Rare Life story by visiting the Eagle Rare site and to learn more about the awards, be sure to watch the video following the photo of our dashing pilot below. And share it! Don’t forget to share!

While you’re on the page, why not add a bookmark in your browser so you can find it daily?

Please vote EVERY day until January 6, 2015 to help Brooke (and OM) earn $50,000

Rain, Fog or Wind…

Take your pick because since last Friday, any one, or all, have prevented aircraft training with our young Whooping cranes. On Monday evening the skies opened up and dumped a LOT of rain over the entire area, which filled the wetpen back to it’s original state. The cranes have been having a great time wading in the deeper water but I’m sure they’re eager to be airborne again.

The pilots are eager to fly also (trust me, there is nothing sadder than a grounded pilot). Hopefully this morning they’ll get their chance.

Tom Schultz captured some photos for us from inside the enclosure on Tuesday.

whooping crane wingspan

Our youngest colt, number 10-14 shows off her glorious wings.

This time she shows the front view of her wings while her sister, number 9-14 looks on. Note the still blue/gray eyes on number 7-14 in the forefront? Soon they will change to a bright yellow.

This time she shows the front view of her wings while her sister, number 9-14 looks on. Note the still blue/gray eyes on number 7-14 in the forefront? Soon they will change to a bright yellow.

The POWER of The Grape

If you were born with any luck at all, your family had an “Uncle Jimmy” lurching about in the periphery of your life. You know… that old childhood friend of one of your parents who, somewhere in the deep dark past, zigged when the rest of the world zagged. Who never quite got his head around life but served well as a “do as I say, not as I do” role model in reverse. He was the guy who staggered and stumbled at life’s edges just long enough that they gave him the honorary designation “Uncle.”

Uncle Jimmy used to magically appear with cicada-like regularity from his place in obscurity, hang out long enough to tell a few stories which we referred to as “Whoppers” after he left, then disappear with such regularity that it all seemed quite normal. But in point of fact, there was nothing quite normal about Uncle Jimmy.

The Uncle Jimmy story I remember best was the time he was an Army private with the post WW2 Occupational Forces in France. One morning while on patrol, he happened upon a bombed out village.  On further investigation, he discovered deep in the rubble the entrance to a wine cellar and spent the next four days attending the “First Annual Uncle Jimmy Wine Tasting Festival.”  He summed up the entire experience with three letters… FUN!  The Army summed it up later in four… AWOL!

At the Court Marshal hearing, Uncle Jimmy’s lawyer began his defense by describing the important role wine had played throughout history. He pointed out that it wasn’t the broad sword or the military phalanx or even the seductively addictive 16”pizza pie with everything on it that fueled the expansion of the Roman Empire, although the very first wheel was in fact a stale pizza. (In the words of Julius Caesar: Gallia est omnis divisa in slicea tres” or “All Gaul is divided into three slices”)

No. It was wine!  “Hey! Take a sip of this, you Carthaginian elephant jockey. You’ll like it!” and “Que passa, you Egyptian serial pyramid constructor. A little cup of this and you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself” Then before you could say “Twelve Step Program” those poor barbarians were drunk and passed out and when they woke up, they found themselves conquered.  “Hail Caesar and pass the parmesan cheese” the Romans screamed.  “The Nectar of the Gods strikes again. This invasion was brought to you by the vineyards of Ernest and Julio Gallo!” The lawyer concluded his defense by asking the court a single question, “If most of the world succumbed to the power of the grape, then what chance did our poor, pitiful, soon to be Brooke’s Uncle Jimmy have?”

They kicked Uncle Jimmy out of the Army and transported him back to the States where he got a job as a milk man and that was fine until he hurt his back opening up an envelope full of milk money and got on permanent disability, after which he spent his days doing heavy construction work while getting paid under the table, playing Little League Baseball with kids half his size and bungee jumping off of bar stools.

“What does any of this have to do with crane chicks?” you ask. “Patience!  I’m getting to that!”

So like I was saying, the grape has been a tool used to shape the destiny of the human race for centuries. Like the Golden Rule says in the Bible, “Shape the behaviors of others as you would have them shape the behaviors of you.  So drink up, everybody.” In the end, it’s all about control.  Like Uncle Jimmy used to say, “Control a guy’s oxygen and you got a friend for life.”

Establishing control of the whooper’s oxygen would be problematic. But carrot and sticking them into following us isn’t all that hard.  For our part, this project is really just one big exercise in following.  If the chicks follow the trike and the costume sitting in it, the trip to Florida is a done deal.  If they don’t?  Well, there’s always the crane box.  Many years and millions of research dollars  have been spent studying the subject and it was finally proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you put a bird into a box, then put that box into the back of a van, the box will follow the front of the van anywhere you drive it. It is referred to as the “Crate Away Home” study. But I digress…

Whooper chicks aren’t much for carrots but they sure do love those grapes. They’re the glue that binds crane to costume.  And the chicks down them with such delight that it would make a carnival sword swallower blush with envy. You can actually watch the bulging grape slowly make its way down their necks while they’re giving you that “Stop laughing!  I’m passing a kidney stone” look. Then no more do they swallow one and they’re fighting for another. You can call it “Crane Candy” or “Whooper Crack” or whatever you want, but it’s an essential tool in shaping their behaviors. In fact, next year we are going to feature the ”Grape Cam” a grape with a little camera inside of it so you can watch the grape’s migration from beginning to end.  We’re going to call it “Mr. Grape’s Wild Ride” or perhaps the “Colonoscopy Express” to tread where no man has tread before. But truth is, grapes are just the beginning.  By the end of migration, we’re giving them watermelons!  Really! In truth, a watermelon may not do much for shaping their behaviors but it sure does shape their anatomy! Besides, you haven’t lived until you’ve watched a crane chick spitting out those seeds! “Incoming!”

So the next time someone asks you if you want wine with dinner, beware.  You’re behavior is about to be shaped or you’re about to be conquered.  But don’t fight it. Instead, just kick back and enjoy the ride. And remember; if it’s good enough for the chicks and Ernest and Julio and Roman Empire and Uncle Jimmy, it’s good enough for you.


On a more serious note;   A Toast… to Robin Williams – who for so many years guided us to that special place within all things… where there is laughter.

MileMaker Challenge for Marlene

Upon reading the news that our friend and Craniac Marlene Meyer had passed away, another longtime Craniac from Washington state contacted us with a MileMaker challenge.

Marlene loved to help Whooping cranes and Operation Migration. She contributed financially, educated many and helped spread the Whooper message.

This anonymous Craniac from Washington would like to honor Marlene with a 5 mile challenge – this means that for every 1/4, 1/2 or full mile contributed by you, she will DOUBLE your donation as a tribute to Marlene.

Becoming a MileMaker is easy. Just click this link to learn more.

Farewell to a Special Craniac…

I wrote the following on July 7th – Just six short weeks ago. During my last conversation with Marlene Meyer she shared that she didn’t know how much time she had left but could probably count the number of months on one hand. She was right. Again. Marlene was always right.

I’m saddened to let you know that this gutsy lady passed away peacefully on Sunday. A service to celebrate her life will be held this Saturday at noon at the Concordia United Methodist Church in Prairie du Sac. You can view Marlene’s obituary at this link

Our sincerest condolences to Marlene’s family…

Special Request From a Long Time Craniac…

Marlene Meyer of Wisconsin has been a Craniac for as long as I can recall. As such, she’s always ready with an accurate response to CraneCam chatters’ questions about this project and her quick wit makes her a welcome addition to the ustream chat room.

Marlene has opened her home to the migration team, preparing wonderful meals and has delivered home baked goodies to us at our migration stops over the years, when we’re missing the comforts of home.

Now, Marlene has a special request. This gutsy lady recently shared with us that she has been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

When most in her condition (with good reason) would be feeling sorry for themselves – Marlene continues to demonstrate a selfless attitude and has asked that supporters and friends each Give A WHOOP! Both in celebration of her life and in support of the Class of 2014 whooping cranes.

Marlene says “I would appreciate having them each give a WHOOP for me – as a way of raising my spirits and lifting prayers for me. Sort of like lighting a candle for me. I want all my CraneCam chat and Facebook friends to know how much their friendship has meant over the years and love you all so much. I hope to be able to continue watching the fall training online and meeting up with some of you now and then. I’m sure going to try but you know the drill… THY WILL BE DONE. God bless each of you and the Class of 2014. ”

With each WHOOP, please leave a message for Marlene in the Donor Note field. Your tributes will be listed on the Give A WHOOP! Recognition page, unless you choose that it be kept anonymous.

Let’s celebrate Marlene’s life and her wishes for the Class of 2014 cranes…  Marlene, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you go through this journey. We’re grateful for your support for so many years and how much you have contributed to educating others about Operation Migration and whooping cranes.

Give a WHOOP! For Marlene Meyer

NEW Sweatshirts!

Have you seen these yet? Our NEW Wild For WHOOPERS Sweatshirt is available in indigo blue or sand and is c o m f o r t a b l e…

Available in sizes ranging from Small to XX large, these GILDAN brand lightweight sweatshirts are perfect for layering or on their own. Features an adult whooping crane with outstretched wings and the words ‘WILD FOR WHOOPERS’ – Perfect for Craniacs!

Visit our store today to get yours! 

Orders yours today!

Orders yours today! 

Training UPdate

It’s hard to believe that we’re halfway through August already. Migration is (tentatively) slated to start a little more than a month from now and our young Whooping cranes are doing better each day. As I hoped, getting 8-14 and 10-14 out of the gate is no longer the Sisyphean ordeal it was two weeks ago. You open the door, they just come straight out to the trike, no foot dragging.  

whooping cranes fly with ultralight aircraft.

Captured by Deb Johnson in the viewing blind. The young Whooping cranes come spilling out of their enclosure, eager to fly with the small aircraft.

Not only that, they’re all flying with the trike. They started off flying a half turn around the pen before landing on the runway.  Before we knew it, they were flying half a circuit around the pen. And now, less than a week later, they’re flying laps and laps around the pen. They certainly were last Friday!

Whooping cranes in flight with ultralight aircraft.

Five of the seven Whooping cranes in flight behind Brooke Pennypacker. Photo: Deb Johnson.

As an added bonus, they’re locking straight on the wingtip.  I’ve seen birds fly for weeks before realizing they can coast just as easily off those beautiful, beautiful wind vortices. Even when they get tired, they fly that extra mile and land right on the runway.  No need to beat through the brush to look for them. 

These birds have nowhere to go but up.  Who knows?  They could easily be flying out to Mile Road by the end of next week! Just keep watching that Cranecam every morning because these are some of the best cranes I’ve seen in years.
Juvenile Whooping crane in flight.

Whooping crane no. 10-14 was our problem child until a week ago. Now she comes out of the pen with ease and even flies with the trike. Photo: Deb Johnson

We Have a WINNER!

Here’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 www.coinlogin.org to register your name and email, along with your Chip number and code.

Over the next few months, 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 Whooping cranes!
There are only 1000 Chips available, so be sure to order yours soon so you don’t miss out!


When we launched the campaign, we mentioned we would hold random prize draws throughout the campaign, until all of the Chips are sold.

Yesterday, we selected a number from the 249 Chips, which have been registered thus far and the winning chip is number 647 – Registered to: Amy Allen! Amy will receive an OM prize pack in the mail shortly. The prize pack includes all of the items pictured below. Congratulations Amy and keep an eye on your mailbox!


Minimum Take-off Speed

There are a million variations in modern aviation ranging from Piper Cubs to the Space Shuttle. With that kind of diversity and the adventurous nature of most pilots, it is not surprising that competition has flourished.

From the first powered flights of the Wright brothers, aviators and aircraft designers have been obsessed with breaking records. Currently the 640 ton Russian Antonov is the largest aircraft that has ever flown and at more than 2500 miles per hour, the Lockheed SR71 is the fastest (at least that the military will admit too). But the records are not all reserved for those heavyweights. More and more electric powered aircraft are now moving past the prototype phase and the recent EAA AirVenture show at Oshkosh just hosted a competition for STOL or Short Takeoff and Landing aircraft. Modified bush planes were using less than 50 feet of runway to practically jump into the air.

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, FAI is the world’s governing body for sports aviation and record keeping. They have categories for fastest and highest and time-to-climb, which is a race to gain altitude. There is one category they don’t have, however, and one at which we are becoming experts. Unlike the STOL aircraft that apply lots of horsepower to use up as little runway as they can, our job is to get into the air with as little speed as possible.

Our birds learn to fly in increments. They evolve from running behind us, flapping inutile wings, to flying the length of the runway with only one or two footfalls needed.


When they are strong enough to make abbreviated circuits around the pen, we attempt to stay as close to them as we can. It reinforces their instinct to follow us and gives them a chance to find the free lift our wingtips can provide.

Once our birds are mature and experienced flyers, they will cruise at around 38 miles per hour. But when they are young and climbing, they can fly much slower. We can slow our aircraft down to about 30 miles per hour before they stop flying. Below that it’s no longer fun, especially if we are low over the trees. Our birds can take two steps to get airborne but we use up a hundred feet of runway before we lift off. That puts us 50 feet ahead of them, while hoping they can catch up before they get discouraged and turn back. So the trick is to get into the air with as little speed as possible, and to hold the aircraft on the critical line between flying and falling.

There isn’t much call for a minimum take-off speed competition. It isn’t as exciting as a short take-off contest but the prize is better. They get a trophy and bragging rights, while we get surrounded by eager young Whooping cranes. It’s a spectacle beyond the reach of words and an honor more auspicious than the record book.

In Case You Missed it!

Have a look at the 3-minute clip of yesterday’s first flight with the Class of 2014. All seven Whooping cranes took off, following Brooke as he did a complete circuit around the training site.

On the second and third flights all seven continued to follow for longer flights. The third flight lasted more than 4 minutes!

Come on by and watch the action LIVE on our CraneCam each morning at approximately 7am CDT.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

REGISTER Now For the 2014 Whooping Crane Festival!


And make plans to join us for the 2014 Whooping Crane Festival in Green Lake County on September 12 – 14th. An entire weekend dedicated to Whooping cranes!

Join us Friday evening at the Mascoutin Golf Club just south of Berlin, WI for a fun evening of good food and a live and silent auction. Our after dinner speaker will be Mr. Stanley Temple, Senior Fellow and Science Advisor with the Aldo Leopold Foundation. His talk marks the centennial of the extinction of the passenger pigeon in 1914. Temple uses the case of the passenger pigeon to call attention to the world’s ongoing extinction crisis and our relationship with other species.

Whooping crane festival

2014 marks the 4th year for this festival, which started small but has grown steadily. In fact, we have outgrown the former location and this year, Saturday’s Festival will be held at the Princeton Public School, in nearby Princeton, Wisconsin. Saturday morning kicks off bright and early and everyone is invited to watch the Class of 2014 go through their paces as they fly behind our aircraft, in preparation for their first ever southward migration. (weather permitting).

A pancake breakfast begins at 8am Saturday following flight training so be sure to head to the Princeton School grounds for a hearty breakfast. Afterwards, browse the vendor booths, bid on the great silent auction items available, attend one or all of the speaker sessions and get a close-up look at the small aircraft, which will guide the Class of 2014 to Florida.

Kids can take part in whooping crane related arts and crafts, listen to live music throughout the day, and visit the education tent. There is something for everyone and it’s all in support of Operation Migration’s efforts to safeguard this incredible crane. Admission to Saturday’s day-long festival is free. There are many other events taking place over the weekend so be sure to register early for those as space for some, is limited.

To learn more visit the festival page.  We hope to see you there!

Vendors & Exhibitors! If you would like to participate in the 2014 Whooping Crane Festival Sept. 13th, please contact Jana Lood: jlood(AT)sbcglobal.net

Make a Reservation in the Viewing Blind!

We would like to invite everyone to come out to the viewing blind at the White River Marsh training site. Plan your visit to the Operation Migration Whooping Crane Blind to witness flight training of the young Whooping Cranes, to hear the sounds and to see them fly with the aircraft.

It’s an awesome experience to see them grow from these young colts to beautiful young Whooping cranes. And you might just see one (or TWO) adult Whoopers while you’re there!

To arrange to participate in a blind tour, please contact Doug Pellerin at pelican0711(AT)gmail.com or call 920-923-0016.

Craniac Ruth Peterson visited the blind last weekend and sent us the following photos to share with you. Thanks Ruth!

(Click each image to enlarge)

Ruth was one of the very lucky ones that got to see the Class of 2014 follow Joe Duff for any distance.

Ruth was one of the very lucky ones that got to see the Class of 2014 follow Joe Duff for any distance.

whooping crane and Sandhill crane

And during training look who showed up… Adult Whooping crane number 5-12 and two Sandhill cranes.

profile flyby

The Rules of Nature

I am too old to recall the details of my first bicycle ride but I do remember a new sense of adventure as my horizons suddenly expanded beyond the limits of our yard. I do remember what it was like when I bought my first car and the memory of my first solo flight is still vivid. Yet I am certain that excitement can’t even be close to what it must be like when our birds finally realize what their wings are for. They have reached that fleeting stage in their short lives when they are on the cusp of learning to fly. They grow stronger each day and for a brief time Saturday one was surfing on the wing of the aircraft.

The problem is that the endurance is limited to a minute or two of sustained flight. We take off and immediately reduce our speed so the aircraft is barely hanging in the air. We made a steady turn, heading back to the runway in hopes they can catch us and pick up some free lift before they land back on the grass.

Lately that turn had been interrupted by a few trees that force us to climb higher and faster than the birds can manage. So on Sunday, I pulled on my costume, grabbed a saw and headed out to the pen site.

I hate to cut down trees. They took an epoch to evolve and years to grow and I cut them down in only a few minutes. It hardly seems fair, like sacrificing one species for another; still there are lots of trees here and only a few Whooping cranes. To be honest the trees don’t threaten the Whooping cranes but they are a real danger to the aircraft and its occupant; especially when you are too low and too slow and spending most of your time looking backward.

Maybe I can justify it by saying that we are simply playing by one of the rules of nature. Kill or be killed.

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