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2001 Fall
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It took some time but I finally convinced Joe to hand over the reports that he promised me once I arrived. In order from most recent events:

Nov. 9, 2001: Adair Co., KY to Cumberland Co. TN
We are now in the hills of Kentucky and even though most of the leaves and colour is gone their beauty remains. Our landing site is a private strip 3000 feet long and at the bottom of a valley. On both sides; forested ridges keep the field in shadow long after sunrise. Our first take-off was aborted when I missed the timing and the birds flew in front of the aircraft. They all landed when I stopped and walked back to the end of the runway with me to begin again. Unfortunately, as I turned around to start my run they all stood ahead of the aircraft blocking our departure. After a few minutes Dan came out of the pen to lead them to one side. Once airborne we had a long hard climb to clear the ridge, so to give us more space, I turned down another valley. We followed its meandering until we had enough altitude to pass over top. 

Right from the start one bird fell behind and as we climbed hard, the distance between us increased. Deke moved in to pick him us as the rest of us cleared the ridge and headed on course. His lone bird turned back and Deke gave chase. Bill directed him and he maneuvered in and out of the valleys first picking the bird up on his wing and them losing him again as he tried to cross yet another hill. I listened to their radio conversation as five birds and I began a slow climb on course. The air was rough and bumpy and I had sympathy for Deke and Bill as they worked the bird down low. Paula circled overhead and as we flew I began to lose radio contact with them. Through the static I could hear the insistent "make a 360 to the left now" and knew they were have little luck. By this time I was too far south for Deke to catch me and I began to feel alone. Paula circling overhead boosted my confidence but the air was rough and warm and we had 70 miles to go. Without Deke flying chase a bird that dropped out would be on its own. I could not even wait to get a GPS fix on its landing site. 

The terrain below began to change and the fields between the ridges disappeared, replaced by more trees. We covered miles of thick forest with no place to land let alone hide birds. The tailwind that was predicted, failed to materialize and we plodded along at under 40 miles per hour. Occasionally, I could hear a snippet of radio chatter between Deke and Bill and knew they were still at it. Paula radioed to tell me she had smooth air and a slight tailwind at her altitude but working the birds up at 75 feet per minute took forever. We began to smell burning wood and flew into a layer of smoke from a nearby forest fire. After what seemed like hours, our destination appeared on the horizon and Paula circled the field before landing. I stayed high to avoid the turbulence that we had finally cleared and started a long descent over the field. We circled twice before landing at the east end of the property; isolated from the hangar and all evidence of people. I walked the birds to a pond and they spend an hour foraging in the muck before it was time to hide them from the arriving ground crew. Another hour passed and I realized the crew would be late. 

We had passed from Kentucky to Tennessee in hilly country; what I could cover in 2 hours would take them 3 or more by road. I walked the birds back to the pond and waited until I saw the approaching truck, then moved them back to the hiding place until the pen was up. It was not until the birds were secured that I learned that Deke and Bill had lost #6 in the hills and ridges and they had returned to our last stop. Sara Zimorski from ICF and Dr. Glenn Olsen of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center took up the search and Bill and Deke were on their way in air that was now even rougher. When they finally landed the look on their faces told the story of the longest morning of their lives and it was mirrored by the look on mine.

Nov. 6, 2001: Morgan Co. IN to Jennings Co. IN
Heightened concerns about terrorists have prompted the FAA to tighten controls. Paula Lounsbury who flies top cover in her Cessna 182 has had her hands full keeping Air Traffic Control appraised of our location. Approval to fly close to a control zone is usually followed by many questions about the migration even though most ATC personnel are all business. We have had to modify our course several times to avoid flying within ten miles of nuclear power plants but it is a small price to pay to help the powers that be fight such cowards.

Nov. 5, 2001: Clinton Co. IN to Morgan Co. IN
The birds are penned in an isolated field surrounded by forest. Although we landed there yesterday and were able to fly out to a nearby airstrip, our take-off required full power and we were not encumbered by the weight of a full fuel load. Taking off with the birds requires that once airborne we slow as much as possible to let the birds build up speed and catch us. With full fuel we were all worried about clearing the trees so we opted to use a technique we call an air pick-up. We circled downwind from the pen and tried to time our approach with the release of the birds. Deke was to lead, so he made the first pass and all the birds jumped into the air and followed him out of the field except one that could not clear the trees and turned back. I came up behind and followed him around within the perimeter of the trees. As he passed over the pen, I caught up and he began to surf on the wake created by the wing. We made one more circuit before we were high enough to clear the forest. Without help to spot the birds, Deke had lost them and they flew by me headed back to the pen. We began to coordinate our efforts and before long the flock settled down, soaring off Deke's right wing as we headed on course.

By now the birds have learned the routine and once we have them up to altitude they normally stay in a consistent order. Leadership in birds is the result of aggression. More dominant individuals will push their way into the front position but they only maintain the lead until someone successfully challenges them. The aircraft is just another bird and occasionally one of the more assertive will defy our leadership role. This usually happens just when we think everything will work out. The low level turbulence is below us, the temperature has dropped enough to keep the birds cool and the ground speed has picked up to the point that our destination seems almost attainable. Without warning, a bird will move from a perfectly comfortable spot only inches from the wing-tip. He may have occupied this position for over an hour, effortlessly riding the wake but he will drop down under the wing in the worst possible location. You can almost see the determination in his eye as he pumps past and moves in front of the aircraft. 

Each bird follows the one ahead and soon the space around the aircraft is an obstacle course of white feathers on seven foot wings. They fly above and perilously close to the wires that support the wing and can trap a bird in a second; they fly below, so that any descent is blocked and on both sides, until the pilot is boxed in. All you can do is hold your breath and you flex your muscles until none of your weight is left in the seat. You hold the aircraft as steady as you can and wait for an out, hoping that no one is hit or entangled. Sometimes if you are careful you can slow the aircraft and back out. Once clear we climb and power ahead over the flock; then we drop back into the lead again with the birds safely behind. If they have worked hard enough to discourage another attempt they will acquiesce and are content to rest on the wing again but cockiness lives in excess energy. The birds soared on Deke's wing for the rest of the flight and only challenged him a few times. We landed after two hours and 8 minutes, on a cornfield that had been harvested but was still rough. We held the birds for a long time before the ground crew erected the pen and then flew the aircraft to a nearby airstrip. On take-off, Deke's engine would not develop full power so we left it in the field. Later examination found contaminates in the fuel tank so we took the opportunity to change filters, lines and plugs. (if it's not one thing, its another)

Nov. 4, 2001: Kankakee Co. IL
Although the day seemed almost perfect, we have a persistent wind out of the southwest. I took-off just after sunrise to check the conditions. The air was smooth above 200 feet but the higher I climbed the more westerly the aircraft weather-cocked into the wind. At 500 feet the current was so strong that when I turned upwind the aircraft began to slow. I watched the GPS ground speed indicator drop off to 10 mph then 5. As it passed through zero and began to build again I saw the heading flip flop 180 degrees and realized I was moving backward at over 10 miles per hour. Not a good day to head south.

On the surface there was a light breeze blowing and the hot sun was creating thermals, making conditions perfect for the spiders to migrate. They spin out yards of web and when the wind catches it, they soar off to new territory carried by their gossamer craft. Sometimes the web collects together to form cotton candy that floats by the aircraft even at a thousand feet. If the sun backlights it, you can see the streams of web that collect on the flying wires like delicate tinsel. When we landed I walked across a harvested Soya bean field and there was so much web caught on the stubble that the field had a silvery sheen. 

Nov. 3, 2001: Kankakee Co. IL to Boone Co. IN
We rose an hour before dawn and were immediately aware of the lack of wind. The air was warm and quiet and the moon still hung above the western horizon. This calm had been forecast for a long time and many people had gathered, hoping for the chance to see the birds fly. The north-south runway dipped at the south end where our pen was set up so it could not be seen from the house or the hangar. Deke took-off first and circled, while I taxied down over the hill and gave the thumbs up to Dan and Kelly. The timing of a take-off is critical, we have to wait long enough for all the birds to come out of the pen so we don't leave any behind, yet not too long to allow the birds to get ahead of us or the take-off run must be aborted for fear of running into them. 

I applied power but my run was uphill. The birds took-off with their usual two steps and were soon cutting in front of me. I backed off and came on again after we topped the crest. The result was that the birds and I flew past our audience in a formation tight enough to impress the crowd and scare the hell out of me. It was not long before we resumed our normal order and turned on course. Within a few miles #7 rolled into a descending turn and headed back. His departure was so abrupt and definite that we knew there was no point in chasing him. Deke made one attempt before leaving him for Bill to monitor. It was only a few minutes before it landed and Bill passed the information on to the pick up crew of Kelly MacGuire and Dr. Julie Langenburg, then he hurried to rejoin us. We battled the turbulence and headwind for another hour before we gained enough altitude to find smooth air. Our ground speed dropped to 22 mph but with only five birds left in the formation there was plenty of room to fly on the wake created by the aircraft and all of the birds settled into a pattern of shallow wing beats. 

By the time we arrived they all had their beaks open and they were eager to get on the ground. There was a small pond at this landing site they all bathed (Real Player required) in the afternoon light. Before long, all of the signs of fatigue disappeared and when the ground crew arrived they were reunited with #7 who made the rest of the trip, boxed in the back of Kelly's van. The entire migration crew worked hard and did not get a break all day but we are now a little closer. We measure our success in miles.

Nov. 2, 2001: Stuck in Kankakee Co, IL.
The wind has been blowing out of the south for so long its hard to believe that people aren't suffocating down there from lack of air. We have been on the ground since Monday buffeted by a constant wind that harasses us from east or west but always with a southerly component that keeps us locked down. Luckily our hosts have a hangar and the generosity to let us wedge our ultralights under the wings of a large yellow crop duster that normally lives alone. The birds are secure, although it would be nice to let them fly even if we can't but the town is nearby and there are too many houses and too much that is human. In these high winds we are afraid they may wander farther than we are comfortable with and without the aircraft to lead them home, our only option would be to box them three at a time and truck them back. The risk is too great so they will have to suffer like the rest of us, depressed by our lack of progress, frustrated by our lack of luck and feeling guilty that we have imposed on our hosts for almost a week.

Oct. 29, 2001: Lasalle Co. IL to Kankakee Co. IL.
The wind at dawn was blowing out of the south strong enough to remove any question about our imminent departure but by noon it had dropped to a whisper. The crew had dispersed and were running errands and taking care of personal business when we noticed the still air. Dan, Richard and I were just discussing the situation as we left Wal-Mart when Paula called with a weather briefing and the same idea in mind. We called the crew together using the satellite phones on the way back to the site and shortly after 2:00 pm we were airborne. 

Wind is not the only thing that can be troublesome in the air. As the sun heats the earth it does so unevenly; darker areas such as ploughed fields attract more heat and the air above them warms faster. This differential heating, forms columns of raising air called thermals. As the warm air rises, cooler air rushes in to fill the void left behind so just about every thermal is surrounded by descending cooler air. As our 360 lb aircraft fly through this instability, they are first bounced down, then up, then down again. In these conditions the birds have difficulty following closely enough to receive any benefit from the aircraft wing. Instead they must flap fly and after the first twenty-minutes of today's flight they began to show signs of fatigue. 

We struggled for every foot of altitude in large areas of descending air only to give it away again as the birds dropped down and we had to retrieve them. Finally, we managed to claw our way to 500 feet and the air smoothed out enough for them to surf on the wing and rest a little. Unfortunately, the afternoon was warm and heat erodes their endurance. Before long they were all flying with feet splayed, trying to cool their bodies, and their beaks open gasping for oxygen. Several times they broke from my aircraft and moved to Deke's, desperately looking for some relief from the punishing pace. Halfway through the flight we managed to inch them up to 1000 feet were the air was smooth and cooler but we paid the price in a slight headwind. Deke also lost his radio to dead batteries and could not convey the message that #10 had weakened and was falling behind. He circled back once and encouraged him along but lost him below his wing. Bill radioed me to turn around and the entire flock followed me through a 360 degree turn to let number 10 catch up. 

It is hard to relate the frustration of a headwind. It varies constantly with the terrain and other factors. This information is presented to us by the GPS under the heading of ETE or Estimated Time Enroute. Shortly after take-off it told us we were 1 hour 40 minutes from our destination; twenty-minutes later, it indicated 1 hour 44 minutes. Several times during the trip we thought we would have to turn back or look for an alternate landing site but the dedication of our birds kept them following. 

From five miles out we began a slow descent to let them rest and when we landed they made only one circuit before setting down beside us. With the delays we have experienced, we need to take advantage of every opportunity presented. It is interesting to note that all the pilots noticed the calm at the same time and converged on the camp with the same idea. We pull it all together on short notice and managed to steal a base.

Date:Sat. Nov. 10, 2001
Topic:Safe & Sound
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Sunny & Breezy
Flight length/duration:NA
Current Location:Cumberland Co. TN

Notes: Crane #6 was found safe and sound early this morning standing in the middle of the grass air-strip at the previous stopover. The tracking crew was already enroute to begin the search so it didn't take too long for them to arrive and capture this crane. Great job everyone!

Addendum: I later learned that by the time Dan and Sarah had arrived at the previous location to capture #6, it had already flown away. They were receiving radio signals from about 5 miles south of the location so they set out in this direction. The signal strength increased as they crested a tall ridge and with a river below them they thought the bird might be near the river. Once close to the river they began broadcasting the vocalizer in the hopes of getting the crane to respond, which is exactly what happened. However, they were in a wooded area and when they saw #6 flying overhead they knew there wasn't a suitable landing spot for him. Dan sprinted to the nearest clearing at the top of a hill, all the while broadcasting the crane call and as soon as he reached the small clearing the wayward crane landed beside him, crying a mournful peep. I think after a night of solitude with nothing familiar he was quite relieved to both hear the call and see the costumed handler come to the rescue. Dan was his knight in muddy-white armour.


Date:Sat. Nov. 10, 2001
Topic:Standing Down
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Sunny & Cool
Flight length/duration:NA
Current Location:Cumberland Co. TN

Notes: The ground search for #6 was called off temporarily early yesterday evening due to the fact the #4 needed to be released from his travel crate. Glen Olsen, the veterinarian from Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and Sarah Zimorski of the International Crane Foundation had been tracking the wayward bird since early yesterday when he dropped out of the flight. Since they were also transporting #4 to the next location they had to consider his well-being and decided he had spent enough time in his crate. They arrived here at approximately 9pm last evening after delivering #4 to join his flock mates in the travel pen.

Early this morning Paula Lounsbury and Richard Van Heuvelen departed in the Cessna 182, which is fitted with a tracking antenna and Glen, Dan, Sarah and Dan Hicks of the TN State Wildlife Agency all left in two ground vehicles to resume the search for #6. 

Glen reports that they had been picking up good strong from #6 yesterday but never actually got a visual on the bird. They will begin searching in the area they had received the signals from last night. The addition of the 182 with the antenna should make the job of locating him much easier.

Deke attempts to convince #6 to join up on the wing of his trike

We believe the reason he dropped out of the flight is the area we departed from yesterday in Adair Co. KY is surrounded many tall ridges and valleys and during the take-off this bird had a bit of a slow start, which may have made it difficult for him to gain enough altitude to make it over the ridge. 

We will update as soon as we hear any news.

Special thanks to all the wonderful people that have taken the time to post an entry in the OM Guest book! Your messages are inspiring and much appreciated by the team. Also, huge thanks to everyone that has mailed to our office, newspaper and magazine articles, often accompanied by donations. We'll have a full press scrapbook and a better head start to next year's migration budget because of your support for the Whooping crane. Thank you!


Date:Fri. Nov. 9, 2001
Topic:Tennessee!
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Sunny & Cool
Flight length/duration:75.3 miles/ 1hr. and 59 min.
Current Location:Cumberland Co. TN

Notes: Whew! After driving for over an hour this morning, much in the fashion a yo-yo would if they were able to drive, things were finally sorted out. Joe, Deke & Bill departed Adair Co. KY at 6:40am. 5 cranes formed up on Joe's aircraft and the sixth crane, #6 had other plans for Deke & Bill. This bird broke off from the main flock shortly after take-off and headed East. Deke was immediately in pursuit and was able to catch up with the bird in short order and he attempted to lead it back for a pass off to Joe. Bill was watching over Deke in case he needed assistance. We jumped into our rental and began driving to the next location. We were about 30 miles south when we received word that they had turned back to the previous location, so we did an about-face and backtracked, intent on visiting with our wonderful hosts of last evening. However something didn't make sense so as soon as we were back in an area about 15 miles north where there was a good cell phone signal I called the homeowners to find out what was going on. She said that the one crane, along with Bill and Deke had returned but that Joe had continued south with the other 5 birds. So, around we turned, again facing south and began to drive. Been there, done that! 

Eventually, after another 2 hr. drive we arrived at the next location, just behind the ground crew. Joe had a 3-hour wait, in full costume over his warm flight suit, for the crew to arrive because of the twisting and turning roads between the two locations. #6 is still on the lamb but the tracking crew has a signal on him and are in pursuit. #4 is also enroute via his crane crate. 

Total accumulated miles 665.4 - Officially past the halfway point!


Date:Thur. Nov. 8, 2001
Topic:Continued Success
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Sunny & calm
Flight length/duration:54.5 miles/ 1hr. and 37 min.
Current Location:Adair Co. KY

Notes: (Sorry for the delay) While "we" were flying this morning from Toronto enroute to Nashville, TN at 31,000 feet altitude, the migration team flew from Washington Co. KY to Adair Co. KY at 1,800 feet. "We" consists of myself and Diana, Joe's wife, who completely surprised him with her arrival. In any event the crew and cranes arrived in Adair Co. at 9:19 am. Diana and I arrived at 1pm. More later...

Cumulative miles migrated: 590.1



Please note that tomorrow, Nov. 8th, the update will probably not appear until late afternoon. The reason for this is I will be traveling to Nashville, TN to join up with the migration team, wherever they may be? My flight doesn't get in until noon, so I won't even know their location until then. IF my wireless connection works I'll try to provide a quick update as soon as I can. If it doesn't cooperate, it may have to wait till I find a land-line. The good news is that Joe swears he has a few days worth of field journal entries waiting for my arrival, so once I do connect, you will have some of his much more eloquent writings, which should make up for tomorrow's delay. Thank you for your patience.

I should also, at this time, introduce Chris Danilko. Chris joined our little flock at the beginning of Sept. and she is still coming to work each day - even during the mayhem of the past three weeks. I feel confident that she possesses the necessary level of insanity required to look after things in my absence, so if you call the office to place an order or to make a donation, please extend a hearty "welcome" (or your condolences) to Chris!

Onward & UPward...
Heather ;-)
P.S. Thanks Chris!


Date:Wed. Nov. 7, 2001
Topic:This is more like it!
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Cool, Sunny & calm
Flight length/duration:91.2 miles/2 hr. and 2 min.
Current Location:Washington Co. KENTUCKY

Notes: Joe, Bill and birds were airborne this morning at 8:10am after again having to remove heavy frost from the wings of the trikes. Deke was delayed about a further 10 minutes while he dealt with frost. Once airborne, it was clear sailing and they managed to skip a stop near Louisville, KY, which is also where Deke managed to catch up with them. After leading 6 cranes for 2:02 they are currently waiting for the ground crew to arrive in Washington, Co. Kentucky. A great day!

I can't tell you how good it feels to finally be able to bring everyone good news for 3 consecutive days! and I'm fairly certain the migration team is even happier to be finally heading south at a steadier pace.

It seems now that they are south of the Great Lakes region, the weather is cooperating. Fall weather can be unpredictable at times, especially in this region. We don't feel this will be as much of an issue next year for a couple of reasons: This year we took late eggs to allow more time for the Experimental, Non-essential Federal Rule to pass, which means our chicks didn't hatch until the middle of May. The Sandhill cranes of last year hatched out in April, giving us a months head start. When we repeat this project next year, the Federal ruling will already be in place, allowing us to use earlier eggs and get off to an earlier start of field-training and ultimately an earlier start to the southward journey.  This is a multi-year project that will see us leading a new flock of Whooping cranes south each year until the introduced flock reaches a "self-sustaining" level. The Whooping Crane Recovery Team has set the self-sustaining number at 125 individuals and a minimum of 25 breeding pairs. Eventually, the cranes being led south this year will reach breeding age (4-5 yrs.) and begin to teach their offspring the route that we are currently teaching them.

Date:Tue. Nov. 6, 2001
Topic:More progress
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Cool & Sunny
Flight length/duration:43 miles  1hr. & 40 min.
Current Location:Jennings Co. IN

Notes: The team found the wings of the aircraft with a heavy coating of frost this morning and each time they would defrost them, it would quickly form again. Instead of fighting the frost, they chose to wait till the sun came up to assist them in melting it. For this reason they got a late start, departing Morgan Co. at 8am. Once airborne they proceeded to the next location, slowed somewhat by a headwind. The 6 birds that flew this leg are doing great. #4 arrived with his driver. The team is now in Jennings Co. IN. Total distance traveled: 444.4 miles. Only 782 left to go!

Date:Mon. Nov. 5, 2001
Topic:Progress Made
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Cool & Sunny
Flight length/duration:57 miles   2hr. & 8 min.
Current Location:Morgan Co. IN

Notes: Once the team defrosted the wings of the aircraft they were airborne at 7:34am under sunny skies and minimal winds. They flew south until they were clear of Indianapolis controlled airspace then headed east and were greeted with a headwind. Deke led the birds this morning, allowing Joe to capture some video footage as well as a couple rolls of still shots. Ever wonder how difficult it is to change rolls of film while flying at 1400 ft. altitude, in an open cockpit airplane? Not to mention the obstructed view courtesy of the helmet and the headpiece of the costume. And just for fun, lets toss in cold fingertips and a constant vibration. Let's just say it's not easy ;-)

Date:Sun. Nov. 4, 2001
Topic:Standing Down
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Warm
Flight length/duration:NA
Current Location:Boone Co. INDIANA

Notes: After a test flight this morning the team has decided to stand down and hope for more calm conditions tomorrow. Today's winds, while light and variable, are out of the SW and after yesterday's 91 mile flight they would rather not push the young birds with another flight today. Instead, they will allow the birds to rest a day.

Date:Sat. Nov. 3, 2001
Topic:Yeah!
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Calm & very warm
Flight length/duration:91.4 miles/2 hrs. & 09 min.
Current Location:Boone Co. INDIANA

Notes: Well, it's about time! Finally the weather cooperated allowing the crew to get airborne at 6:32 am out of Kankakee Co. IL. With a very slight tailwind and flying in very warm conditions, they arrived in Boone Co. IN at 8:32am - 2 hours and 9 minutes after departure. A long flight at 74F/24C, Joe says that the birds began panting with approx. 10 miles remaining until their destination.

One crane, #7 dropped out of the flight shortly after take-off and Joe feels it was because of poor timing. He said that seconds before take-off when the birds are released from the pen, they sometimes get tangled in the excitement. As a result this bird was behind right from the start and couldn't quite catch up to the others so it simply dropped out. The tracking crew was aware of this and immediately set out to locate the bird, which they did successfully - Yeah tracking crew! 

The flight team and the other 5 birds are currently waiting for both the ground team and the crane-trackers to arrive to set-up the travel pen and to deliver #7 and #4. A great day!

Date:Fri. Nov. 2, 2001
Topic:Still down
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Wind, Rain, Fog, etc.
Flight length/duration:None
Current Location:Kankakee Co. IL

Notes: Joe reports strong westerly winds are blowing the ground fog out of the area. It rained all night making the ground quite soggy. Temperature is approx. 45F. He did say that it looked like it was clearing to the north of their location so if the wind continues to shift around to the northwest there is a slight chance that they may make an afternoon flight into Indiana.

Mike Robertson, a hang gliding instructor and a good friend of OM's emailed a great suggestion for the crew to pass the time: "Something you can do with little or no "survival kit" is learn to juggle. I used to teach all my HG students to do this and there are always some items around with which to practice. Pine cones, socks, bits of hard wood...be careful to keep your mouth closed if you use stones. Once you master the basics you can do juggling in groups where you pass between the jugglers." Thanks Mike! I can't help but laugh as I try to  picture everyone learning how to juggle. Joe was on his way to the Laundromat this morning, at least he'll have clean socks to learn with.

Date:Thurs. Nov. 1, 2001
Topic:Stand Still
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Strong South Wind.
Flight length/duration:None
Current Location:Kankakee Co. IL

Notes: The wind that has prevented the team from making any progress not only continues but this morning, has even gained strength; blowing at 18mph out of the south. I spoke briefly yesterday with Rebecca, Deke's better half and she admitted it was getting a bit boring. Normally, Rebecca would take advantage of any poor-weather days by venturing out with her camera to capture the surrounding scenery but she recently hurt her foot so cannot even do that. Last year, I had assembled a "migration survival" kit, which consisted of various items, including a deck of playing cards, crayons and colouring books, a classic car magazine and various other items to help pass any down- time. The kit had hardly been opened. Yesterday, Rebecca asked me where I'd hidden the survival kit so she could crack it open - I didn't have time to make one this year.... it figures. Sorry "Recca" ;-(

Date:Wed. Oct. 31, 2001
Topic:No flight today...
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Wind, with rain moving in.
Flight length/duration:None
Current Location:Kankakee Co. IL

Notes: This morning a test flight was not required to tell the story. As soon as the team awoke and before stepping outside of the trailers, they could tell it was simply too windy to attempt a flight. The winds are out of the south today at 10-15 mph and just to provide a bit of variety, it appears as if there may be rain moving in to the area.

I suppose if boredom begins to set in today with the crew, they could always use the costumes and go trick or treating?

The weather during this migration has really not been in our favour. In comparison, during last years Sandhill migration, the 40-day trip was held up for a total of 7 days: 2 for mechanical reasons and only 5 because of poor weather. This is day-15 of the Whooping crane migration and already the team has been delayed by 10-days because of weather.

Date:Tues. Oct. 30, 2001
Topic:No flight today...
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Wind
Flight length/duration:None
Current Location:Kankakee Co. IL

Notes: Joe took-off briefly this morning to determine whether they would fly with the birds today or not. Once airborne and aligned in the right direction, his GPS indicated a ground speed of only 18mph. With the next location more than 40 miles away, it would have taken almost 3 hours to get there. They will wait for better conditions.

Total miles traveled: 255

Date:Mon. Oct. 29, 2001
Topic:Outa there!
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:A shift
Flight length/duration:61.6 miles & 1 hr,44 min.
Current Location:Kankakee Co. IL

Notes: Remember last week when I mentioned that we must remain flexible? Well, the weather provided a small opportunity this afternoon and not wanting to let it slip by, the team made a hasty exit from stop #4 at 1:08pm and landed at the next location 1 hour and 44 minutes later at 2:54pm. 

Bill reports winds were light and variable and that 6 birds made the trip without incident. #4 arrived via his chauffeured vehicle.

Total miles traveled: 255

Date:Mon. Oct. 29, 2001
Topic:Grounded again
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Sunny & Windy
Flight length/duration:NA
Current Location:LaSalle Co. IL

Notes: Wind continues to be our enemy. No flight today. Be sure to check out the new Photo Journal.

Date:Sun. Oct. 28, 2001
Topic:Staying Put
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Sunny but Windy
Flight length/duration:NA
Current Location:LaSalle Co. IL

Notes: After a brief test-flight this morning, indicating a ground speed of only 10mph, the crew will stand down for today. Winds out of the SSW at 5-10mph mean that they and the birds would have to fight to make any progress. Much safer to wait it out. 

Date:Sat. Oct. 27, 2001
Topic:Heading South!
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Fly-able, very fly-able
Flight length/duration:94.7 miles/1 hr. 55 min.
Current Location:LaSalle Co. ILLINOIS

Notes: Finally! The weather has cooperated, providing a window of opportunity and the team was able to progress south. Two trikes, followed by 6 Whooping cranes departed Green Co. WI, at 7:55am today. Crane #4 was transported in his crane crate as the pilots would prefer to wait until they are flying over more open terrain in case he decides to drop out of the flight. This would make tracking him slightly easier. 

The window they have been given allowed them to even skip a location and fly 94.7 miles! This is almost the same distance that they had covered in the three previous flights. Joe reports that it was very cold, with the highest temperature reached being only 1.4 Celsius, (sorry we're Canuck's) which if I remember correctly is approximately 34 Fahrenheit or darned cccccold! Top speed was 62mph but averaged 59mph. All in all, a successful, much needed flight today! Accumulated migration distance = 193.4 miles.

I found the following field report, dated Oct. 25 in my email box early this morning:

Today marks the first week since our departure from the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and we have only covered 100 miles. Since beginning, we have faced many foes - from early morning frost that coats our wings to early morning fog that dampens our spirit. We have come upon interstate highways that the birds would not cross, and headwinds that they refused to battle. We have seen rain and lightening, hale and snow but last evening, as the twilight dwindled; a wind began to blow from the northwest. It gathered speed as it rolled over the hills and channeled down the valley where we had set our bird pen and by 10pm, it had torn it apart. As the wind increased and began to rock our trailer, Deke and Dan set out to check on the birds. After an hour, Richard and I started to worry and headed out to check on them.
 
When they had first arrived at the pen site, they discovered only three birds being buffeted by the strong wind as they hunkered outside a twisted and distorted pen. They first checked for injuries then placed these cranes inside the sturdy pen trailer to protect them from the wind. Dan took out his phone list to call in the troops to assist in the search for the others and it was instantly blown away. They were heading back to camp to get help when Richard V. and I met them on the road. Together, we raced back and called in Richard Urbanek to help track them, Kelly Maguire to lend a hand and Julie Langenberg DVM in case we needed a Veterinarian. We gathered costumes, vocalizers, dry boots, radios, tracking receivers and night-vision scopes before heading back out into the dark. We trekked through briers and brambles and forests of burdock until we were wet, cold and covered in burs. We walked through the thickets, playing the brood call and then we would stop and listen for a distress call, over the howl of the wind. By 2:30am, we had all but one bird back in a makeshift pen. We only used 5 panels to create this new shelter and we staked it down like Gulliver; still it shook with the force of the wind. Not one of the three trackers could get a signal on #3 and Richard Urbanek informed us that it's solar-assisted radio transmitter would not work at night. 

We walked the area one more time, while Dan prepared to spend the night in the trailer next to the bird pen. By first light, we were back to continue searching and sent Dan to the base camp to get warmed up. Kelly and Julie drove the perimeter roads and two miles to the south; they picked up a signal on the radio receiver. They worked their way north from a side road, while I headed south from the pen. We met at the top of the ridge and after an hour's search; Kelly stumbled upon the body of #3. It was found under a power line that it obviously hit in the dark. Power lines are the major cause of death for wild Whooping cranes and now they have taken one of ours. It gives us an indication of the obstacles that wild birds face - without the advantage of motor homes with central heating. 

Date:Fri. Oct. 26, 2001
Topic:Still Grounded
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Strong Gusty Winds Continue
Flight length/duration:NA
Current Location:Green Co. WI

Notes: The weather just in not cooperating. Strong winds continue out of the west. On a brighter note, the forecast for tomorrow is looking better.

Date:Oct. 21 - 24, 2001
Topic:Field Reports
Reporter:Joe Duff

Notes: During the journey south, a reliable internet connection is a luxury that is simply not available due to the remote locations. For this reason, I will post updates from the migration team, whenever they do manage to find a connection and I'll do my best to keep you updated on a daily basis. 
Onward, Heather ;-)

From Joe...

October 24th:
Last night we had rain, wind and hail the size of mothballs. Today we have thunderstorms, lightning and colder temperatures. Tomorrow we are told to expect high winds and tornado warnings. All we are missing is an earthquake, a tidal wave and anything that remotely resembles luck.

October 23rd: Whooping cranes are spiritual birds and their rarity has made them an icon for endangered species. They represent longevity, peace and tranquility. These white ghosts of the wetland whose bugling call, the "blast of silver horns" can be heard for miles. So strong is their mystique that many people feel a kinship and want only to see them up close. 

We take great pains to ensure that the birds we lead south will eventually become wild but for now, they are dependant on us and their wildness thus far is only tentative. Our hope is to teach this same migration route to a new generation of birds, each fall for the next five years. In order to protect them from the over-enthusiastic, we are publishing only the counties in which we land. This makes it difficult to give public thanks to the private landowners who so richly deserve it. We have met so many people who have helped to make this reintroduction possible. All are hospitable; most are generous; some have become supporters; and a few, we now call friends. 

The owners of our last stopover top the list of the last category and without mentioning names, we want to thank them for their conservation ethic, not to mention the party they hosted in honour of the Whooping cranes. Sequestered in a travel pen a half-mile away, our birds missed most of the celebration, but we did our best to hold up their end. The next morning, I suffered the slings and arrows of too much food, too much worry and too little sleep. As the sun rose and my stomach rebelled, I asked Richard Van Heuvelen to fly my aircraft, in the chase position for Deke.

Paula Lounsbury circled overhead in her Cessna 182 for an extra half hour as we waited for the ice to melt on the ultralight wings. Just south of the landing strip is a high ridge that runs east and west. The slight tailwind helped to push them up as they approached the obstacle but Deke, Bill and Richard had to turn right to give the birds more time to climb high enough to clear it. Once south of the ridge, the air became smooth and all of the birds formed on Deke's right wing except #2, who dropped back, as usual to fly alone off the wing of the chase plane. 

What started out as a slight tailwind, shifted around to slow their progress until five miles from their destination they were only making 17 mph over the ground. It is not always possible to find a runway or grass strip that is isolated enough to hide the birds and often, we have to rely on landowners to build us a smooth, makeshift landing field. This site is one such location and the strip is only 500 feet in length, at the bottom of a valley. When they began their descent from 1500 feet, #2 moved back to the lead aircraft. The wind rolling over the hills made the approach tricky but they all landed safely and once the ground crew arrived the birds were secured for the day. The next morning the cloud cover was too low to fly but later in the day it cleared enough for us to move the aircraft out. This made it easier to deal with the inevitable frost problem without us working in plane view of the birds. In trashy air, we headed west and landed at a private strip where we could secure the planes for the approaching storm that the forecasters have warned us is coming our way.

October 21st: Finally - a morning without frost. Our benefactor is a thick layer of cloud that has insulated the area and held in just enough heat to keep the moisture from freezing. Today is Sunday and the first thing we notice is the lack of noise from the interstate, 5 miles to the west. 

This will be our third attempt to cross this barrier that is so unnatural to birds raised in isolation. The first day, we climbed to 800 feet and did manage to cross the highway but the birds turned back in the severe headwinds at that altitude. On day two, we stayed low but at 300 feet the roar was too much for them and they turned back again. Today we have a slight tailwind assisting us so we will again go high. Also, our point of crossing is near a town and to minimize the experience we plan to stay north and cross in a less congested area. Better one devil at a time. 

After we took off we noticed that the wind at our backs was rolling over a large hill and causing an area of sink. This is air mass that has a downward drift and it makes climbing difficult for the birds. By the time we reached the highway we were only at 400 feet. Once more they broke away and headed back and we took turns picking them up and steering them west. Finally, they formed on Deke's wing as he paralleled the highway. He turned sharply to the west and before they knew it they were over. With that hurdle behind them they fell into place and we began a slow climb, reaching 900 feet and smooth air. The tailwind increased and the GPS indicated 58mph. 

Bird #2 has a damaged beak whereas the upper and lower mandibles do not meet at the tip. It is a deformity that has little effect on the bird but makes him recognizable, even in the air. #2 dropped back from the rest of the flock to fly off Deke's right wing for the remainder of the flight. I circled once before landing but the birds continued, flying off to the west. Deke moved in and they all followed him down. We found the pre-arranged path that led to a corn field where we could hold the birds until the ground crew arrived but after 40 minutes the birds seemed restless and before we could react, they took off for one more go-round. We stood helplessly, waving our arms as we watched them set up for a landing next to the familiarity of the aircraft. This took the ground crew by surprise as they finished setting up the pen. Dan jumped in the truck and honked the horn while the others dove for cover. This was enough to discourage the birds and they aborted their landing, choosing instead to land next to us. The total flight time was only 41 minutes, which in itself, is not cause for celebration but crossing the interstate was. It was an obstacle that held us up for three days and makes you wonder what other inhibitors we have unknowingly placed in the path of wild migratory birds. 

Date:Thur. Oct. 25, 2001
Topic:A Loss...
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Strong Gusty Winds
Flight length/duration:NA
Current Location:Green Co. WI

Notes: High Winds Result in Loss of a Crane
The eight Whooping cranes taking part in the study using ultralight aircraft to reintroduce a migratory flock into eastern North America, escaped last night following the partial collapse (due to high winds) of the overnight pen which houses the birds. All of the birds have since been located and accounted for.

At approximately 10pm, last evening, Deke Clark & Dan Sprague, concerned over the extremely high winds at the isolated sight, went to check on the birds and discovered the partially toppled pen structure. As a result, the birds had dispersed into the surrounding area. An immediate search of the surrounding area was initiated with Joe & Richard joining in the costumed search using the recorded crane calls.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership members, Kelly Maguire (International Crane Foundation), Julie Langenberg (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources) and Richard Urbanek (WCEP), responded to assist the on-site team in locating the wandering cranes using radio tracking equipment. Shortly after 2am this morning, all but one bird had been located and returned to the restored holding pen.

The eighth bird, #3 was located by Langenberg and Maguire at approximately 10am this morning. Unfortunately, the crane was found dead beneath a power line it had likely collided with. The exact cause of death will not be known until a necropsy is performed.

The local weather service last evening reported winds in the area to be at 30-35mph with gusts to 45-50mph from the west. Joe believes that the location of the birds in a valley probably created a funneling effect, which resulted in winds that likely exceeded 50mph. He also stressed that while the loss of a bird, although unfortunate, is always a possibility but it does not jeopardize continuing south with the remaining cranes.

Date:Thur. Oct. 25, 2001
Topic:No Flight Today
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Strong Gusty Winds
Flight length/duration:NA
Current Location:Green Co. WI

Notes: 
I am sorry to report that poor weather continues to halt the team's progress south. Strong, gusty winds persist keeping the crew and the birds firmly on the ground. Looking at the weather maps, it appears as if it may not break until Saturday at the earliest. Let's hope I'm wrong...

Date:Wed. Oct. 24, 2001
Topic:No Flight Today
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Poor
Flight length/duration:NA
Current Location:Green Co. WI

Notes: 
A storm system was slow in moving through the area overnight, leaving behind a cloud ceiling of 300-400ft. along with intermittent lightning as of 6am. The current weather system is expected to move completely out of the area later this morning, only to be replaced by another, which is expected to last into Thursday. 

Date:Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2001
Topic:Standing Down
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Cloud cover
Flight length/duration:NA
Current Location:Green Co. WI

Notes:
With a cloud ceiling of only 700ft. and a slight wind out of the SW the team has decided to stay put and wait for better weather.

With very little news to report, this is an ideal opportunity for me to ask/beg everyone that is visiting this site to please send us any newspaper or magazine articles they may come across. Over the years, we have been collecting those stories and have found them to be a great help when approaching businesses and potential supporters.  If at all possible please include the stories intact (not clipped) along with the banner of the newspaper from the front page so that they can see which paper the stories ran in. These can be sent to our headquarters at: Operation Migration Inc. P.O. Box 280, Blackstock, Ontario L0B 1B0. 
Thanks to everyone!

Date:Monday, Oct. 22, 2001
Topic:More Progress
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Perfect
Flight length/duration:48 miles &  1 hr. 52 min.
Current Location:Green Co. WI

Notes: With Joe feeling under the weather, Richard Van Heuvelen stepped forward to fill the pilot seat during this morning's flight. Flying with a slight tailwind on departure from Sauk Co. the team managed to skip an intended stop, flying a total of 48 miles. Bill Lishman reports that upon nearing the destination the wind had shifted and during the last few miles they struggled with a headwind.

Congratulations Richard V! & way to go birds! 

Date:Sunday, Oct. 21, 2001
Topic:Success!
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Overcast and wet
Flight length/duration:21.4 miles &  41 min.
Current Location:Sauk Co. WI

Notes: Finally the winds shifted in our favor - allowing the flight team to cover some ground. Departing at 7:27am the birds followed the trikes, climbing to 400ft. Deke was able to lead them across the interstate, which they were wary of yesterday by turning sharply. Before they realized it, they were across.

Joe reports that a ridge in the terrain southwest of the interstate assisted them in gaining altitude and one they reached 780ft the air was very smooth. GPS reading indicated a ground speed of 56mph! 

Cumulative distance thus far: Trip-50.7 miles. Birds have flown-80.7 miles (takes into account the two flight attempts to reach stop #2).

Date:Saturday, Oct. 20, 2001
Topic:From the Field
Reporter:Joe Duff
Weather:Continued Headwind
Flight length/duration:12 miles & 22 min.
Current Location:Adams Co. WI (again)

Notes: From the ground, the air appeared calm so after we fought to battle the frost on our wings, we took off to check the conditions aloft, firsthand. When we turned on course the GPS indicated 35 mph but as we climbed we watched it drop off to 25. We landed and taxied back into camp. Sitting in our aircraft in full costume only a few feet apart we discussed the pros and cons over the radio.

The Outreach team and media that had gathered to watch our departure could not hear the conversation over the sound of the engines and must have wondered what was going on. We decided to make an attempt but to keep the birds low and out of the headwind. By 7:41am we launched and shortly after take off all seven birds formed on the wing in a tighter grouping than we have seen so far. Number 4's absence has allowed the rest of the flock to figure out their dominance/flight order and they appeared content to follow the aircraft as a cohesive flock. (Ed note: It is suspected the #4 was having a negative influence on #6 as each time 4 would break off, 6 would follow. For this reason #4 will be crated and transported to the next stopover. This will allow #6 to experience a successful flight with the aircraft and allow the pilots to observe it's behaviour without the negative influence). We crossed the Wisconsin River at 300 feet in smooth air and began to think that this time we would make it. 

Interstate 94 in the main shipping route between Chicago and Minnesota and is constantly busy with traffic. It creates a drone that can be hear for five miles but from 300 feet above, the roar of the passing trucks was too much for our inexperienced birds and they immediately exploded upwards and scattered in every direction. They regrouped quickly and were very willing to follow either aircraft as long as it did not attempt cross that noisy river of perceived danger. 

Deke tried leading them south and they followed in perfect order until he turned west. When they broke I intercepted and led them north until I tried again to guide them across the busy interstate. After several attempts, we conceded and headed back to the takeoff point. The ground crew had anticipated our return and had left the pen in place. Deke led the birds back and they followed in a long tight line as the GPS indicated 45 mph ground speed.

We are under the thump of a headwind; too high and our progress in impeded so much that the birds will not continue; too low and they will not cross the noisy highway. The birds have learned to fly in a tighter formation and we have learned that we can't fight a headwind.

Date:Oct. 20, 2001
Topic:Another attempt
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Continued Headwind
Flight length/duration:12 miles & 22 min.
Current Location:Adams Co. WI (again)

Notes: Because of heavy frost the crew was not able to get airborne until 7:41am. Joe reports that once up, they were again facing a steady headwind coming from the southwest. At higher altitudes, ground speed was reading 24mph so they dropped down to about 300 ft and found a slightly faster reading of 27-28mph.  They continued SW for approximately 5 miles at this low level with the birds flying beautifully as one unit until it came time to cross I-90/94. The birds appeared wary of the highway and the large noisy trucks that were using it. They refused to cross the busy interstate at this low level. They'll try again tomorrow and in the meantime pray for the winds to shift in their favour.

Date:Oct. 19, 2001
Topic:Tricked...
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Clear & Calm - Sort of...
Flight length/duration:18 miles & 31 min.
Current Location:Adams Co. WI (still)

Notes: If the above information is confusing, here's why: The crew awoke to calm conditions before sunrise. At 7:23 am they departed with 7 cranes, heading SW. Not long after departure they encountered a strong headwind. Partly in an attempt to find smoother air and mostly to avoid flying directly over a busy highway, Joe & Deke began climbing, eventually reaching 400 ft. and for a short time the air was slightly smoother. However, it didn't last very long and once again they and the birds were getting bounced around and making very little progress.

Not wanting to fight the headwind, 3 of the birds turned back and the pilots thought it was an excellent idea and followed suit. To give you an idea of the wind they were facing: it took a total of 20 min. to make it 9 miles SW. Once turned around and heading NE, the return trip lasted only 11 min.

So, looking at the bright side, while they did not make any progress south, at least the cranes managed to get in a good workout, which will further strengthen their flight muscles for when the conditions do improve. The conditions will improve... right?

Date:Oct. 18, 2001
Topic:Hurry up and wait
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Wind
Flight length/duration: 0 miles & 0 min.
Current Location: Adams Co. WI

Notes: A steady wind out of the south has prevented the crew from making a flight today. Instead they will spend the day deciding what to do with crane #4.
The crew spent most of yesterday attempting to locate the infamous #4 crane who once again decided to create his own flight plan - and neglected to file the plan with the pilots.

During yesterday's departure, 6 cranes formed perfectly off Joe's left wing tip. Two lagging cranes were picked up by Deke Clark in the Chase plane. Bill Lishman watched over from a safe distance above in his trike. As they continued south to the first stopover site, #4 had plans of his own. He slowly descended, breaking away from Deke's aircraft and landed in an area unfamiliar to him. Deke, not wanting to lose the remaining bird continued on, knowing that Bill had recorded the coordinates for the drop-out bird into his GPS unit and that the ground team would be notified by radio to begin tracking him with the telemetry equipment.

After a day of eluding the tracking team, the bird eventually was located near the refuge. And at 7pm last evening he was escorted back to his flockmates via a crane crate and is currently in the pen at the first stopover location. At this time the jury is still out on what to do about him. Do they try him one more time and hope now that he is away from his "home" that he will be more eager to follow the trike? Stay tuned.....

Date: Oct. 17, 2001
Topic:LIFT-OFF!
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Perfect
Flight length/duration:29.3 miles & 44 min.
Current Location:Adams Co. WI
Notes: FINALLY, the weather cooperated this morning allowing the flight and ground crew, along with the Whooping cranes of course, to begin the journey south. So, at 7:15am, under clear sunny skies and the refuge coated in a heavy frost,  three ultralight airplanes followed by a very special flock of young cranes departed their summer home and are now one leg into their new migration route, having landed at 7:59am and 29.3 miles to the south.

Mike Belsky of the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge has been very helpful to the OM field team again this year. After departure Mike will be responsible for removing the top net from the pens at sites 1 & 2 and preparing them for winter. 

Date:Oct. 16, 2001
Topic:Field Report
Reporter:Joe Duff
Weather:Wind
Flight duration:NA
Current Location:Necedah NWR
Notes: Two days have passed since our proposed departure date and we are still here. There is a strong wind blowing out of the west that keeps us firmly on the ground and feels a lot like winter. Although the days are overcast, we rise every morning before daybreak to starry skies that trick us into thinking we might be leaving soon. At that hour itís still too dark to see the treetops moving from our base camp but it isnít long before we know we are trapped for another day.

This morning the signs were harder to read and we stood around sipping coffee and looking up. Barry Hartup, the Veterinarian from the International Crane Foundation, called on his way to join us and reported a strong wind ten miles to the south. This news was balanced against the fact that it was at least blowing in the right direction and would speed our trip. Still we postponed our decision, torn between an ambition to be on our way and the knowledge that in rough, windy conditions we increase the chances of hitting a bird and causing injury. So far they have only flown for a total of 27 minutes and our first leg will take us 45. If they begin to get tired halfway there and start to break away from the lead aircraft, the chase plane can move in and pick up the stragglers. This gives more birds better access to the vortices off the wing tips and allows them to soar and rest. But this option would not be available in choppy, rough air and they would have to stretch their endurance and flap their wings almost the entire way. 

Before sunrise we headed to the airport to assess the conditions from another perspective, finally deciding to get airborne to see firsthand. We all flew for a mile in unstable air, toward site 2 before prudence won over ambition and we turned back. 

The season has reached its second stage and the colours of autumn no longer scream but have matured into myriad shades of brown and gold. Before too long the wind and rain will cut the leafs from the trees and lay bare the skeletons of winter. These indicators are signs of the coming snow and a warning that we may have overstayed our welcome.

Date:Oct. 16, 2001
Topic:Non-progress Report
Reporter:Heather
Weather:fog & wind
Flight duration:NA
Current Location:Necedah NWR
Notes: Bill reports a 10mph wind and although it is coming out of the NW, which would provide a nice tailwind, it is simply too choppy to fly. The pilots did a quick test-flight just to be sure and once they reached 400-500 ft. altitude it became clear that the birds would have a rough flight - not something they would enjoy on the first leg of the journey south. Possibly tomorrow?

Date:Oct. 15, 2001
Topic:Non-progress Report
Reporter:Heather
Weather:Hazy, windy
Flight duration:NA
Current Location:Necedah NWR
Notes: Joe reports wind out of the south at 10-15 mph, which of course would mean they would be fighting a head-wind the entire flight. It was decided to stand down and hope for better weather tomorrow.

Date:Oct. 14, 2001
Topic:Progress Report
Reporter:Joe Duff
Weather:Clear & Cold
Flight duration:NA
Current Location:Necedah NWR
Notes: The day before our migration is scheduled to begin dawned clear, calm and cold but despite the perfect flying conditions, we decided to stand down. We spent most of last evening searching for our birds and finally quit after dark - with one still missing. At first light, we headed to site 2 where the rest of the flock were secured in the night pen. On rare occasions in past studies, we have had to leave birds out overnight and without exception they returned the following morning but these are Whooping cranes and we are learning that they donít always obey the rules. In silence, we scanned the horizon as we approached the pen and were quite relieved to find #6 waiting to be let inside.

Today is a busy day and we have yet to finish packing all the gear required to move a small flock of birds from Wisconsin to Florida without human contact. This feat is accomplished regularly by millions of wild birds, but substituting ultralight's and humans for wild parents, complicates the issue. 

To date, the longest time our birds have spent airborne is 27-minutes and the first leg should take us approximately 45. The excitement of covering new ground should keep them attentive but that thing about Whooping cranes and rules has us worried. We have assembled a group of dedicated volunteers, biologists, behaviourists, and pilots. Combined, we represent the worlds leading experts in crane ecology and we take consolation in the fact that if we canít accomplish this - it canít be done. 
Funny how that thought doesn't help much...

Date:Oct. 12, 2001
Topic:Progress Report
Reporter:Heather Ray
Weather:Fair & Fly-able
Flight duration:27 min.
Current Location:Necedah NWR
Notes: Joe reports that the flight this morning lasted 27 minutes with 7 of the whoopers. #4 did not care to join his flockmates in preparation for Monday morning's lift-off. I asked Joe if he was getting nervous yet. His reply? "I'd be fine if I could just get the butterflies in my stomach to fly in formation."

The countdown is on!

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