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Date:November 25, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:DOWN DAY #2Location:Main Office
Flown Today:0 milesTotal Miles462.9

Winds at ground level of 15 to 20 mph this morning will prevent us and the young cranes from getting airborne this morning. The temperature is currently a balmy 64 degrees and rain will continue throughout the day, which has prompted a flood watch in our area.

Any precipitation on the ground is likely to freeze later, however as temperatures are expected to fall from the current 64 - down to a low of 25 degrees. It'll be a blustery Thanksgiving day here in Union County, KY. The enclosure has been reinforced with additional tie-downs and the cranes are on high ground so not to worry.  They're all doing just great and are having fun probing in the muck in their enclosure and poking holes in fresh pumpkins.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

California Condor

Genus/Species Name

Gymnogyps californianus

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat loss. Death from shooting, illegal egg collection; ingestion of poison, lead..

Description

Largest bird in North America. 3.5-4.5 ft long. Weight 18-31 pounds. Black with white wing-linings, silvery panel on upper secondaries. Head bare, orange/red.  Juvenile Condors have black head and under wings mottled dark.  Wingspan nearly 10 ft. Sacred to Native Americans of the West.

Behavior

Soars as high as 15,000 ft on horizontal wings with primaries curled. Scavengers of large mammal carcasses, such as cattle, deer, horses. Sexually mature at 6-8 years old. Do not build nests, but lay a single egg directly on the floor of caves or among boulders on a cliff or hillside. One egg every two years. Incubation 54-58 days. Chicks fledge at about 6 months of age, staying with parents for several more months.

Where found

Arizona, California.

Habitat

Mountains, gorges, and hillsides that create updrafts.

Recovery Plan

Captive breeding program. Non-essential Experimental Population has been established in Arizona, Nevada, Utah.

 

Don't forget to cast your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the RefreshEverything Project! We've moved  UP to our current ranking of 11! All because of your DAILY VOTES and for alerting your friends and family to begin voting.

 

 

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Date:November 24, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Liz Condie
Subject:PREDICTINGLocation:Union Co., KY
Flown Today:0 milesTotal Miles462.9

The total accumulation of miles flown will almost certainly not change tomorrow. The weatherman is delivering thunderstorms in the morning that will be riding in on 15mph SW surface winds. Aloft it is going to be horrid - 50 to 60mph also out of the southwest.

What seems strange is that the predicted temperature for 6am is 63F and by 6pm they are calling for ice pellets. There is no doubt that we will spend Thanksgiving Day on the ground.

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Date:November 24, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:ST. MARKS NWR PREPARESLocation:Main Office

On Sunday I received a wonderful email with images from Lou Kellenberger telling me about the day he and others had just spent preparing the winter pensite at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. I asked Lou to provide a few more details and the next day, his lovely wife Betsy Kellenberger submitted the following report:

Volunteers and staff of the St. Marks NWR recently held a workday to prepare the pen for the visiting whooping cranes which are expected to arrive, led by ultralight planes, sometime in late December. Terry Peacock, Refuge manager, directed the group in various cleanup activities including clearing the trail, attaching electric fence wire, putting more oyster shells on the reef, making repairs to the blind, and putting up the camo screen. St. Marks Photo Club members, as well as other Refuge volunteers and staff mucked about in the water and mud to get ready for the important and well-anticipated flock.

A group of students from the Wakulla High School Advanced Placement Science class joined in by stringing electric wire as their part of the project. Holly Peacock brought friends Danni Hutto, Autumn Porter, Kara Smith and Kristie Hodges to learn about this special effort to protect the cranes while they are wintering at the Refuge. “It was a lot of hard work, but the effort was worth it to protect an endangered species," said Holly Peacock, after a day in the sun getting wet and dirty. All the students agreed it was fun and they’d like to do it again.

The reintroduction is conducted by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), whose mission is to introduce and build a self-sustaining population of Whooping cranes to the Eastern Flyway. This will be the third year that half of the ultralight flock has spent the winter at St. Marks NWR. A flyover when the public can see the birds will be announced when the flock is ready to move into their newly refurbished pen.

CLICK to view larger images, captured and contributed by Lou Kellenberger.  Thank you Betsy, Lou and everyone else that helped out on Sunday!
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Date:November 24, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:DOWN DAY 1 IN UNION CO., KYLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles462.9

It’s raining sideways in Union Co., KY – Big fat drops of rain are saturating the ground and winds are blowing directly from the east at 14+ mph. Aloft they’re much stronger so the team will be standing down and trying to stay dry today.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Indiana Bat

Genus/Species Name

 

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Cave disturbance. Loss of summer habitat, pesticides and other contaminants, disease - white nose syndrome.

Description

Fur is a dull grayish chestnut, with the basal portion of the hairs on the back a dull-lead color. Under parts are pinkish to cinnamon. Often have a pinkish colored nose. Weighs about one q Fur quarter of an ounce. Body 2" long; wingspan of 9-11".

Behavior

Diet is night-flying insects found along rivers or lakes, and in uplands. Mate in August or early September before hibernation. Late June, a single young is born, capable of flight within a month. Life span average: 5-10 years.

Where found

Almost half of population in southern Indiana. Also Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.

Habitat

Winter: caves, occasionally abandoned mines. Summer: roost under the peeling bark of dead and dying trees.

Recovery Plan

Some caves and mines have been designated as critical habitat

Don't forget to cast your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the RefreshEverything Project! We've moved  UP to our current ranking of 12!!! All because of your DAILY VOTES and for alerting your friends and family to begin voting.
 

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Date:November 23, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:MY LUCKY DAYLocation: Union Co., IL
Flown Today:45 MilesTotal Miles 462.9

Where to begin... We decided not to go a down day as it were!

Suddenly the wind drops off and we are scrambling to get the crew together and trying to get a trike in the air to test the turbulence. At first the air seems, well not bad? not bad being a relative term depending on how long you've been sitting around waiting for good weather that seems never to come. I land near the pen and after some confusion we take off great! all 11 birds have joined. their was number two off my right wing following along quite well as the others tried to catch up.

We circled around to let all of the birds get up on the wing. This seemed to work well in spite of the rough air, but then one bird peeled off then another then more until I was left with number two, who eventually wanted to go back with the others as he peeled off I circled around to intercept the birds. They readily rejoined the wing, but number two who was now behind the rest struggling to catch up with no avail landed in a field below.

All the while the air seemed to get rougher “ is it smoother up there” I pleaded, no answer. When no one responds never assume its a go. As we circled again to let stragglers catch up number two got air borne and attempted to follow, but landed in another field close by. The other ten birds seemed to disagree about conditions as they uncooperatively peeled off again. So yet again we circled to intercept the unruly bunch at back, as number two attempted to fly up. As the ten birds lined up on my wing number two again landed back in another field. Ten birds in the air is better than eleven on the ground so we continued on fighting the rough air at every toss and turn.

I had to keep a fast pace to stay ahead of the birds in order to not collide with them. As we climbed on course for our next stop the air seemed to get rougher but faster, but the bouncing around in the air seemed to be to much of a risk. Time to call this off, still no response from the other pilots, the background noise in my head set seemed quite and my heated grips were cold, I looked down my radio was dead. Ah, they can’t hear me! I seemed to have lost power from my battery every thing was dead.

We usually discuss situations before calling it a day, but today I was on my own with no way to communicate with the other pilots or ground crew. By this time we were seven or eight miles out, with the last GPS estimate of 45 minutes to the next stop. With ten birds nicely trailed off my wing and my indecision still rampant we kept on and soon it was to late to go back. The whole flight was a challenge to keep in front of the birds, as we were tossed around like a cup full of dice at the local bar.

Once we left, the birds seemed fixated on the wing, they would wind up and down and side to side as if on a roller coaster ride but they still followed loyally. At first the stomach ailment from a few days before began to resurface, but stubbornly we kept on. In the excitement of the ride we were on it was quickly forgotten, however seeing the field in Union County brought great relief and we descended rapidly eager to be on the ground. Yes we certainly pulled that one out of our butts.

After setting up the pen and putting the birds away it was airborne again to the local airport where a hangar awaited our trikes. Some breakfast across the road from the airport things were looking up. A quick test of my trike battery revealed the problem was that a new one was in order. As all of the available vehicles were gone to rescue John whose truck would not start, I hopped on my motorcycle to head into town to buy a couple of springs to repair the RV door which would not stay shut. While there I enquired about a battery for my trike which they were able get for 4:30 pm. After doing some repairs to the RVs I headed back to retrieve my new battery, which I'm off to replace now, then I'm off to buy a lottery ticket.

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Date:November 23, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:THIS PROJECT IS FUELED BY GENEROSITYLocation:Union Co., KY
Flown Today:45 MilesTotal Miles462.9

Our airplanes run on high octane auto fuel, preferably without ethanol. Some of our vehicles use regular gas and others burn diesel. Our trailers can go through a lot of propane especially when it’s cold. Then, of course, we have to fuel the birds with crane chow and the crew needs to be fed regularly. This project runs on a lot of different fuels but the most impressive is generosity.

The support for this project comes from hundreds of people on many levels. We have volunteers that accompany the migration like Walter Sturgeon who has so much experience with this team that he is now in charge of the migration. David and Linda Boyd have also been with us since the start. David helps with the birds, Linda assists with the outreach and they both drive migration vehicles.

John Cooper met us a few years ago as a top cover pilot but became so enamored that he is back to help in any capacity. He uses his talent as a retired airline captain to drive one of trucks pulling one of the big trailers.

Jack Wrighter will join us soon along with Gerald Murphy to provide top cover through the congested airspace south of here. We also can’t forget Lou Cambier who used his aircraft to guide us around the Chicago control zones.

Apart from the volunteers who have the time and sense of adventure to run away with the circus, there are others who also make this project possible. We can’t begin to thank our stopover hosts. We descend upon them like a locust and take over their property with motorhomes and airplanes. We tap into every electrical plug we can find and restrict them from where the birds are, even though it’s their own property. Our hosts at the stopover we just left this morning are outstanding examples of the kind of generosity we experience.

When this route was laid out 3 years ago, John and Jane of Wayne Co, Illinois (names changed so as not to release location) agreed to let us stop there but we didn’t for the first 2 years. After all the anticipation, we flew directly overhead and we would have done that again this year except for the fog. We arrived over thier landing site with three thousand feet of altitude and strong birds locked onto the wing. But just ahead, a bank of ground fog extended as far as we could see and obscured everything except the spot where we planned to land.

Once on the ground we met this amazing couple and had the pleasure of getting to know them. They pushed their tractors out of the drive shed to make room for our aircraft and opened the doors of their home. And Jane is such a good cook that our aircraft had to fly faster just to hold us up.

For those who monitor the trike camera, you will recall that we have been trying to bring you audio from the aircraft radio. On the first attempt, the additional hardware seemed to interfere with the communications and my transmissions were unreadable.

I know enough about electronics to get me in trouble so I had no idea of how to fix it. Instead, I drove down to the local airport in hopes of meeting someone who knew about such things. I didn’t really expect that to happen because it is a small town and aviation radios are a specialized field, but I did get a promising phone number. That led to meeting Ray and his wife. Ray gave me some advice over the phone but then decided he better come and see for himself. After several hours of repair work and a great education for me, Ray refused to accept any money for his time and talent.

During a failed attempt to leave there, I tested the radio and found that not only has the signal improved but he also fixed the static and the intercom.

As I said, this project runs on generosity.

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Date:November 23, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 44 - WE MOVED!!Location: Union Co., KY
Flown Today:45 MilesTotal Miles 462.9

Earlier this morning... much earlier...I was going to start this Field Journal entry off by saying that “Illinois is proving to be tenacious. It seems it just won't let go.” Now I have a different story to tell however.

Last evening, areas to the north of us had tornado warnings and we had straight line wind warnings for our location. There was lot's of rocking and rolling happening through the night, as well as rain, and flashes of lightening from the thunderstorms. It all began easing off after 1:00am, and by 3:30am all that was left was the high winds.

What the weather sites showed differed for the most part from the reality of what we had this morning. While telling us we'd have NW winds aloft, they were still moving briskly out of the SW. The windsock on the building showed the wind out of the NE - and the finger-nipping temperature confirmed it. The call was made… we were down for the day.

It wasn’t too long after that decision, that conditions started to improve. The sky cleared as most of the clouds scuttled away, and the winds on the ground dropped off. The pilots decided that although it was late, they’d put up a test trike. Richard, then Joe launched. We stood watching as they scooted out and back, circling and testing the wind at different altitudes. The word came over the radio, “It’s doable. Let’s go.”

Talk about a fast departure! Well metaphorically I mean. All 11 came out of the pen and all 11 latched on to today’s lead pilot, Richard’s wing. Then the circling began again – this time with birds on the wing. They separated; they caught up. Richard circled and gathered them up gain. Then they broke and Richard did his thing again. Finally – plane and cranes, with Brooke in chase position, disappeared from sight. Joe stayed on station looping back and forth to located the downed bird. Geoff and Trish trudged – and I do mean trudged through the harvested corn fields trying to reach the birds’ suspected location. Suffice to say they won’t need any more exercise today.

Hopefully Trish and Richard will have a report for posting here later today. In the meantime, I’ll just let you know that 10 birds made the flight to Union County, KY, and one by road in a crate.

We had one casualty today, a disabled vehicle – our white diesel truck. This is the vehicle (currently driven by John Cooper) that pulls the Sierra trailer. Some of the crew is now headed back north to ‘the rescue’. Ironically, this was to be John's last day with us for a while. He was to head home to Georgia to enjoy Thanksgiving with his family as soon as he made the drive to Union County. His departure will be somewhat delayed as will Gerald Murphy's arrival from Milton, Florida. John and Gerald were to meet up in Evansville, IN to make a vehicle hand-off.

Some reminders while you are waiting for ‘the rest of today’s story’…

Don't forget to vote today and everyday for OM in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge

Check out the latest challenge from Colorado Craniac, Suzanne Hall Johnson.

Got a Birthday coming up? Why not celebrate yours with ours?

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Date:November 23, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:AN UNEXPECTED FLIGHT!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:? miles: Wayne Co., IL to ? Co., KENTUCKYTotal Miles?

At 7:55 am Liz sent out the EarlyBird email to members stating that we wouldn't be going anywhere today... at 8:41am she called to let me know that they ARE AIRBORNE after all. Apparently conditions on the surface improved right after she hit the send button on the EarlyBird notice.

A test trike was sent up and found a 20 knot tailwind, directly out of the north! The other two pilots hustled and got airborne as well - SO quickly in fact that there was no time to get the camera up and streaming the action live.

Last word had Richard van Heuvelen in the lead with 10 birds trailing off his wingtips. Brooke Pennypacker was flying in the chase position; ready to pick up any birds that may drop off. Joe had stayed back to attempt to get one dropout to follow him and did manage to guide the bird a bit closer to the pen but it just wouldn't stay airborne. No word as yet about which bird this was but given the history of #2-10, I'd bet money it was him.

Stay tuned for more details a bit later.

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Date:November 22, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: UP FOR A CHALLENGE?Location: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

In a email sent to me late last night, Colorado native, Suzanne Hall Johnson said, “Hi Liz, Okay, enough with the bad weather days! I had an idea and I hope lots of other people will join in. Please let all your Field Journal readers know that I am pledging a $10 ‘Go Whoopers Go’ donation for every Down Day Operation Migration has between now and December 31st , and that I challenge them to do the same. My hope is that together, we can buoy the spirits of the migration crew on non-fly days.”

We thank Suzanne for her creative and spirit-lifting idea. If you’d like to join Suzanne’s Go Whoopers Go challenge, whether at $10, or $1, or $5, or any amount per Down Day that tickles your fancy, call Barbara in our office toll free at 1-800-675-2618 OR, email your name/address/phone # and pledge amount to downdaypledge@operationmigration.org. Barb will record your pledge and track the Down Days. She will contact you to collect your pledged contribution on Tuesday, January 4th. (For which your tax deductible receipt will be dated December 31st.)

Neat idea Suzanne – thanks again!! And thanks in advance to all those Craniacs who take Suzanne up on her challenge.

P.S. Did you vote today? If not, click the Pepsi graphic to the right of this entry and help OM move up in the ranks to receive a $25K award.

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Date:November 22, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 44 - DOWN DAY #5Location: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

For the first time in a long while, we didn't need any heat in the motorhome last night. When I stepped outside this morning at 4:00am - clad only in my jammies - to check the temperature, it already stood at 68F! This is Illinois, and it is late November....isn't it?!?!

The whoosh-whoosh of the wind was last night's lullaby and its monotonous song continues today. Standing gazing up, the breaks in the scudding clouds that allowed the stars to twinkle through, made them appear to be shooting stars zipping across the black sky. That was the effect of the 50-60mph winds that were blowing, and still are, at altitude.

At the moment, it looks like tomorrow may present us with a light at the end of our Down Day tunnel however. Too early to tell just yet. Stay tuned.

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Date:November 21, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

You know what they say about a snowball's chance...? With southwest winds aloft forecast to be in the neighborhood of 40 to 60 mph around take-off time, that's about what we rate our chances being for a flight tomorrow.

While you're here... can we remind you to vote for OM in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge? Click the link to the right and increase OM's chances of being awarded $25,000. We sure would appreciate your help today - and please keep voting every day right up to December 31st. THANKS!!

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Date:November 21, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Linda Boyd
Subject:SO WE'RE DOWN...Location: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

We've been grounded for the fourth day and counting. On a fly day, the whole migration team is a swarm of activity. The ultralights fly, the birds fly too, and the pen they flew from is taken down, cleaned, restocked with food and water, and moved to the next migration stop (beyond the one they just flew to).

The human pens—that is, the RVs that house all of us human migrants get moved, their holding tanks get emptied and their water tanks get filled. They arrive at the next stop, get hooked up to electricity, the coffee pots etc, etc, get put back on the counters, and all the things that were battened down get un-battened down until our RVs are ready to live in again.

Ultralights get stored in hangers or get tied down and have their wings covered if they're kept outside. All vehicles get a once over, filled with gas, air in tires etc. There’s almost always something that needs tweaked or repaired, from water heaters/pumps to our CB radios. Eventually, all is made as ready as it can be for the next leg of the migration - hopefully the following day.

The next day comes and the winds are still unfavorable. Not to worry, there's still lots to do. Food for our communal meals, and private treats -everything from mozzarella sticks to chocolate covered Kashi bars- get purchased, laundry gets done, mailings get posted, and everyone sets to work on their personal to-do work lists. To-do lists can involve fixing glitches on computers, phones, cameras, air cards, you name it. Keeping this operation in touch with its website, home office, business associates, supporters, and fans is hard enough in a brick and mortar location, but when you are on the road and seek out remote wild places to shelter the birds from humanity, it is challenging.

Then there are the more mundane things--batteries to change or charge, plumbing joints to fix, vehicles (both land and air) that need an oil change or servicing, not to mention fixing road-rattled RVs. Then there is the ongoing job of straightening out the inevitable clutter of life as lived in an RV, and the writing of field journal entries. It's still a busy day.

What does everyone do when all of the above is done, and we're still down? For many of the team, they still have what amounts to a desk job to do. Joe Duff, who is the face (albeit covered in a sheet and helmet) of Operation Migration, spends lots of down days sitting at his desk (actually he sits on his bed and works on his computer mounted on a little shelf next to it) doing the reports, correspondence, and other tasks necessary to keep OM going. He doesn't do this all the time though. He can often be found in the hangar or ultralight trailer fixing or creating something—a new camera mount, a microphone for the trikecam. He always has an invention, or modification in the back of his mind waiting for enough time to create it. He also can be found checking on the birds, or the trikecam. What better way to recharge your personal batteries, than by visiting the magnificent creatures that this project is all about.

Ultralight pilot and ground crew chief, Brook Pennypacker, is often away from the rest of the human camp. He stays close to the bird pen as befits our chief bird handler. When he's not flying or watching over Whoopers, he is busy with his WCEP (Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership) duties as leader of the Rearing and Release Team. What does this entail? Computer work again. If he has a moment, he has been known to open a book. Legend has it that he frequents garage sales and buys things like bikes and kayaks for the leisure time that he never has. I have personally never seen him either frequent a garage sale or buy anything from one. However, when we arrived at Necedah last October for the begin of this year's migration, there was a Hobie Cat sailboat parked next to the hangar that OM uses, so I think there is the possibility that the legend is real. For the record, the Hobie Cat is not on the migration.

Pilot and bird handler, Richard van Heuvelen claims that when there's nothing to do, he does just that—nothing. This I know to be untrue. You can walk by the RV he lives in and hear a guitar being played or walk around the back of the rig and see that his motorcycle is not there—a sure sign he is off on an adventure. He has lately taken a real interest in zoos too. A noted metal sculptor, Richard has examples of his work gracing the entrances of the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo and at the Froedtert Cancer Center in Wauwautosa. Having a metal sculptor around on migration is a real plus because if there is ever a need for any metal work--a new step on an RV, a bracket here, a brace there, he's the man to do it.

Liz Condie is OM's COO/CFO, personnel manager, web wizard, fund development director, communications director, and several other things which I can't remember. The woman doesn't know the meaning of leisure time. We know that she does take a break to eat and bathe, and occasionally, when communication technology is particularly obstinate, she will take up a book to calm herself down. Other than that, you can find her at her computer pretty much from about 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Interns Trish Gallagher and Geoff Tarbox have their days on migration regulated by the rhythm of the birds. They do bird checks morning and night and anytime in between as needed. When they aren't walking around in white helmets and costumes, sporting crane head puppets on their arm, they can be found doing very different things. Trish can usually be found working on her other job as Dr. Gallagher, Professor of Environmental Engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Even on the migration Trish is doing everything except teaching for her 'real' job. This puts her on conference calls with colleagues, in the library at any town we happen to be near working on papers to present at upcoming meetings, counseling graduate students and all the things that professors do. If she's not doing that, she is probably out biking either to or from the library, or just out biking for the fun of it.

Geoff likes to disappear into a fantasy world in his free time. He can do RPGs (roll playing games) on gaming devices, fight off zombie attacks on computers, and in general, electronically multitask at a level that the rest of us can't even imagine. We kind of hope that the wars he is waging with the zombies are to keep them away from Operation Migration, but for all we know, he may be working with them to take it over. I really think in the end, he will have the zombies doing his bidding for a successful migration of our Whoopers to Florida. When he is not electronic multi-tasking, he has been seen stalking the real, outside wilderness looking for invasive species—the flora kind, another specialty of his.

On a migration day, Walter Sturgeon, OM Board member and migration volunteer extraordinaire can be found tracking the birds, moving RVs, taking down and putting up pens, and anything else that needs to be done. He Migration Crew Chief and is OM's liaison to WCEP. This requires lots of reporting, journaling, record keeping, and, in general, speaking on our behalf at a variety of levels. When he's not doing all this, he can be found trying to consolidate food in the refrigerator of the trailer that is our main mess and meeting hall in such a way that it will all fit in. He also lobbies OM team members to eat leftovers in the fridge to make room for more leftovers. He makes a mean batch of biscuits, but resists having anything to do with collard greens.

Volunteer driver and top cover observer/spotter, John Cooper of Georgia recently flew in to join us. He knows what it is like to go through down time having survived last year's stretch of bad weather at Necedah before we could get the '09 migration underway. Now settled into his bunk space in the Sierra trailer, he’s as anxious as the rest of us to keep moving to our next stopover location.

Barb Clauss is our current U.S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center assistant. She is one of several people from Patuxent who rotate in and out of our migration to help with bird handling and tracking the cranes on fly days. If one of the birds drops out of the flight, tracking signals from that bird's radio transmitter is an invaluable help in locating him or her. When Barb isn't doing all of that, she can usually be found in the RV she stays in, keeping up with the other part of her job—the part that is back in Patuxent – and with husband Brian whose been left at home in charge of their 3 beagles.

My husband Dave and I are also volunteers on the migration. When there are no more things that we can do to help out the team, it's time to get out the maps and hiking shoes or bikes and find out what there is to see in the local area. We always find more to do than we have time for, and have discovered wonderful bike rides and hikes in every area along the migration. We have it made whether OM migrates or not. If the wind is from the north and the weather is cold, it's a perfect day for Whooping Cranes to fly. If the wind is from the south, it is not a good day for Whoopers to migrate, but it probably is a great day for a bike ride or a hike.

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Date:November 21, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 43 - DOWN DAY #4Location: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

Strong wrong-way winds continue to stall the progress of the migration and prevents us from slipping over the state line from Illinois into Kentucky. Outside the motorhome this morning leaves rustle loudly, tree branches creak, and a band of misty fog clings to the ground.

As our stay here in Wayne County lengthens, Brooke expressed all our thoughts to our gracious first-time stopover hosts who have been terrifically generous. (I think we've all put on five pounds since we've been here.) Brooke commented that we had been feeling badly about skipping them for the past two years. Now, with our stay stretching out, we're feeling badly for them because we didn't.

IMPERILLED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Genus/Species

Picoides borealis

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat loss due to logging and agriculture. In 1989 many nests destroyed by Hurricane Hugo.

Description

Rather small woodpecker, 8.7" long. Wingspan 13.8". Black cap. Black and white, with white bars on back. Underside white to gray, with black spots along sides of breast. Males have red spots on both sides of nape, but rarely exposed. 

Behavior

Diet mainly insects: beetles, ants, roaches, and caterpillars.  Also eggs, larvae, spiders. Forage by ripping bark loose with their bills.  Very social, living in small family groups, or clans, of 6-10 birds. Nest from April to June. 3-4 eggs. All members of the clan incubate.

Where found

Southeastern US, from Florida to Virginia, and west to southeastern Oklahoma and Texas.

Habitat

Mature pine forests, trees at least 80 years old. Prefers only live trees.

Recovery Plan

Reintroduction of females into the wild; restoration and management of natural habitat.

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Date:November 20, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

About the only thing more discouraging than the weather forecast for tomorrow is the outlook for Monday and Tuesday. As it stands, we don't like our chances for any of those three days.

For tomorrow, southeast ground winds and southwest winds aloft are likely to dash any hope of our making it into Kentucky. We think the likelihood of flying in the morning is so low it's too depressing to give odds.

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Date:November 20, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 41 - DOWN DAY #3Location: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

On the face of things, today should have been a fly-day. Light SW surface winds and moderate WNW winds aloft - both looking manageable given our hoped for flight path.

Exiting the motorhome this morning was like getting hit in the face by a heavy, wet, grey blanket. While a host of stars were visible in the black sky, our aircraft/equipment trailer parked just 200 feet away was as totally invisible. On checking, we saw that the weatherman had posted dense fog advisories for about a 50 mile radius. Still we hoped.

As it approached 8:30am and all hope faded, the ground crew left camp to trudge out to the pensite to do the morning checks. They weren't far out of camp before they too disappeared from view into the now rising ground fog.

The 'wait and see' period for today is over. Today will be Down Day #3 in Wayne County, IL.

ALL HOPPED UP: Town Unites for Toad Revival
This story came to us via former OM’er and now Wisconsin DNR pilot, Bev Paulan. Bev thought it was a great article. We thought so too and so we decided to share it with you..

It’s all about a toad that appeared to be headed for extinction. The lead in to the article says, “A small environmental miracle has occurred in Beatty, Nev., a former mining town that sits on the eastern edge of Death Valley between Jackass Flats and Sober Up Gulch. The people of Beatty have helped revive the Amargosa toad, a warty, speckled, palm-sized creature that's unique to the area and, just a few years ago, seemed headed for extinction. But this is not your typical story of environmental action — the toad owes its comeback to an unlikely coalition that includes ranchers, miners, off-road racers, opponents of big government…

To read all about this ‘comeback tale’, click here.

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Date:November 19, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

We're not predicting 0 miles flown for tomorrow. The winds forecast aloft have changed dramatically since we look this morning - dropping 10 - 12mph in fact. They will likely be out of the south but light on the surface and around 10mph our of the west aloft - not idea certainly, but probably doable.

If this projection holds (or improves) between now and sunrise tomorrow, we're going to call our chances for a flight as being 75-25%.

If you've never seen one of North America's tallest and most endangered birds - and the unique sight of them being led south by ultralight aircraft, c'mon out and join us at the departure Flyover Viewing Location. The viewing site is directly east of Barnhill, IL, just south (0.2 miles) of the junction of County Road 200N and County Road 2400E on the top of a small rise.

As we fly as soon as possible after official sunrise we suggest viewers be on site no later than 7:00am Weather permitting tomorrow morning - we'll see you there!

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Date:November 19, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:HELP US CELEBRATE!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles417.9

This year, we are celebrating 10 years of work to introduce the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping cranes! The number 10 seems to be a special number for us in 2010 – it’s the 10th birthday for the reintroduction AND the southward migration began on 10-10-10!

We’re asking YOU to help us celebrate!

Would you help us celebrate and commemorate our 10 years of work safeguarding Whooping cranes by sending the Class of 2010 a congratulatory note with $10.00 in it? Would you ask your family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances to celebrate with us by doing the same?

AND… WE HAVE SOME Give A WHOOP T-shirts LEFT FROM LAST YEAR’S CAMPAIGN, SO… as an added bonus, until our supply runs out, for every twenty people who send congratulatory messages and a $10 contribution to the Birthday Campaign, we’ll draw one name to receive an “I Give A WHOOP” T-shirt and will publish the winner’s name in the Field Journal. So what are you waiting for? Help us and the Whooping cranes celebrate 10 fantastic years for the Eastern Migratory Population!

The latest winner of an I Give A WHOOP T-shirt is Linda Connelly! Congratulations Linda and thanks so much for your continued support!

If you would like to read the congratulatory messages from everyone - just CLICK.

Don't forget to cast your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the RefreshEverything Project! In just the past week, we've moved from the 20th position UP to our current ranking of 15!!! All because of your DAILY VOTES and for alerting your friends and family to begin voting.

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Date:November 19, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Trish Gallagher
Subject: The Scariest Swamp Monster of AllLocation: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

Wednesday morning, after sitting around waiting for 9 days, we finally got a chance to fly and those chicks were acting like they had never followed a trike before!

They left the pen just fine, but they just wouldn’t follow! They circled around the pen for what seemed like hours and kept breaking into splinter groups. I wondered if they were hung over from too much pumpkin last night. Geoff and I were running our butts off trying to keep them from landing. While I’m running around, I’m thinking, “Guys, you have to fly! It’s not optional! I have to start teaching January 3rd and you have to be in Florida before then!”

I tried to blast my air horn, only to discover that it had cooled off in my coat pocket and now wouldn’t work. Grrr. It only works when it’s warm. I ran and ran and those darn chicks just wouldn’t go away! But desperate times call for desperate measures, so Joe called in the scariest swamp monster of all.

David Boyd was standing by in the van, waiting for the all clear to come in and take down the pen, when Joe asked him to drive the van down the runway to scare those recalcitrant chicks off. David came over the rise a few moments later, horn blaring! Well, you should have seen those chicks boogie on out of there! They flapped their wings with added vigor and a few moments later Richard was off with seven and Joe was close behind with four others.

And what was #2 doing at this point? He was flying! He came out of the pen towards the back of the pack, but it was under his own power and without any special encouragement from us. He took off with the rest of the birds and didn’t land out in the field. In fact, he was one of the four with Joe and as they flew past the trees at the end of the field, we heard over the radio that #2 hit a tree! Oh no! (Don’t worry, he’s okay).

Brooke took a few loops around the vicinity of the pen looking for #2 with no luck. Meanwhile, Joe was having trouble keeping his three on course, so Brooke flew over to help him. You heard about that in Joe’s report. But now Geoff and I were faced with the task of locating #2. Fortunately, we keep a tracking radio with a handheld antenna in the van for occasions like this. When Jess Thompson was volunteering with us, I asked her to teach me how to use it. And since I didn’t want to forget what she taught me, the very next day I gave her a lesson on the other tracking radio. But that was six weeks ago and I haven’t used it since. Well, the knowledge was a little rusty, but it was still tucked up there in my brain. I placed a slightly panicked call to Jess and got her voicemail. “Jess, how loud do I turn up the volume and the gain when I don’t have any idea where the bird is?”

Geoff and I walked in the direction that #2 had been going when we last saw him. I couldn’t hear a darn thing on the radio and worried that I hadn’t hooked it up properly, but I just kept going, looking like Mary Poppins with my antenna up in the air. Vocalizers on high, we crossed a stream and climbed over a dike into the next field. No #2. We crossed that field and climbed over another dike into the adjacent field. No #2.

The dikes had trees and brush on them, which made it difficult to walk along them while holding the antenna. However, I figured I’d be able to see on both sides of the dike if I walked along the top. I climbed the next dike and started walking along the top and all of a sudden, there was #2 at the other end of the dike, walking towards us. Hooray! I think he heard the vocalizer and came out of the woods toward us. It was then that I finally heard the beeping from his radio on the receiver – so at least I hooked it up right. Another hooray!

The rest of the day was uneventful. Geoff and I walked #2 back to the pen and crated him. At one point, he flew halfway across a field (#2 that is, not Geoff), so I figured he wasn’t injured from his encounter with the tree. David drove him to the next stop while Geoff, John Cooper and I took down the pen. I made a mental note to store my air horn in my bra in the morning so it will stay warm. And bravo to the scariest swamp monster of all! I hope the chicks didn't have nightmares that night.

Geoff and Trish head out to the pensite for the morning's release in anticipation of departing Piatt County. Poised and ready to go!

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Date:November 19, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 41 - DOWN DAY #2Location: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

We traded yesterday's great wind conditions and rain, for this morning's no rain but unfavorable winds. The initial assessment was that the SSW winds aloft would keep us grounded. Then it was decided that we couldn't just write the day off without trying.

All of a sudden the debate ended and the wandering around became purposeful as the entire team prepared themselves and their various equipment and headed out to get in position for at least an attempt at a flight. Linda and I too quickly dropped everything, packed up, unplugged and hit the road in a mad dash for the flyover viewing location.

As we listened on the aviation radio, we could hear Joe and Richard in the two trikes that launched to test the winds. Disappointingly, the best speed they could get at any altitude was ~17mph over the ground. With the 100% humidity this morning the birds would have had to work awfully hard, and flown what would have been a long time to go a short distance. The leg to our next stop is one of the shortest of all on the whole migration - just 45 air miles.

Cranes, planes and people will spend Down Day #2 in Wayne County, IL. Check back here later this morning for an update from Intern Trish Gallagher.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Attwater's Greater prairie-chicken

Genus/Species

Tympanuchus cupido attwateri

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Loss of habitat due to agriculture and urbanization. Variety of predators.

Description

About 17 " long with 28 " wingspan. Weight 1.5-2 lbs. Short, rounded, dark tail. Strong vertical bars of dark brown, buff-white in a zebra-like pattern over the mantle, flanks, and under parts. Males have large orange air sacs on sides of their necks.

Behavior

Diet of insects, leaves, flowers and seeds. Gather to choose a mate in an area of bare ground or short grass, called a "booming ground" or "lek," where males can be easily seen by females. Males dance, make a booming noise by inflating air sacs. Some traditional dances of North American plains Indians are based on this booming display. Nests in slight, grass lined hollows in soil sheltered by grass tufts. Clutch of 12 eggs hatch in April or May. Life span 2-3 years.

Where found

Four counties in Texas.

Habitat

Coastal prairie grasslands, favoring a variety of tall and short grasses.

Recovery Plan

The Attwater National Wildlife Refuge in Texas was established for their protection. Houston Zoo manages a program that raises captive-bred birds for reintroduction into the wild.

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Date:November 18, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTING Location: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

It is not good news. We expect very strong south west winds to make it all but impossible to launch with the Class of 2010 tomorrow morning. The odds we've arrived at for a flight tomorrow are 10-90%, which as you can tell shows almost no confidence while still holding out a little hope.

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Date:November 18, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:UPDATE WOOD BUFFALO-ARANSAS POPULATIONLocation: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

According to the latest report from Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, the migration of the western population of Whooping cranes is well underway.

“The first two Whooping Cranes were sighted at Aransas on October 21,” Stehn reported, “and numerous other cranes arrived near the end of October and the first week in November.” Tom said, “So far, ground reports from numerous parties have helped me record that 59 white-plumaged and 11 juveniles for a total of 70 Whooping Cranes at Aransas.” No aerial surveys have been done as yet this season to get a total count.

“Six of the ten radioed Whooping cranes completed the migration to Aransas, thus, one can estimate that 60% of the flock has reached Aransas,” he said. “With 290 whooping cranes expected to reach Aransas, that means an estimated 174 could be here already (60% x 290).” The four radioed cranes still in migration are located in Saskatchewan, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Tom told us that the most exciting news is that a pair that winters on Lamar has brought two chicks with them and a second family group with two chicks is currently in South Dakota. “I'm hoping that this is a sign that the flock will meet my optimistic hope for a record size that should include 45+ juveniles, said Stehn. “The habitat looks great for the returning cranes with blue crabs abundant, wolfberries available, and marsh salinities relatively low.”

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Date:November 18, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 40 - DOWN DAY #1Location: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 417.9

Winds are grrrrreat on the surface and aloft. The fly in the ointment is the rain which began to fall overnight. It eased off to a light sprinkle by 6:00am CST, and the team was on stand-by to see if it would move off in time for a flight. The radar showed the north western edge of the band of rain leaving our area by 7am, but to the southeast it was still hanging over our flight path.

As of 8:15am, we are still on the ground in Wayne County under a blanket of heavy mist/fog. It’s frustrating to have such good wind conditions and not be able to fly, however, there’s nothing for it as that’s the nature of the weather beast.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Bone Cave Harvestman

Genus/Species

Texella reyesi

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat loss or degradation due to urban development

Description

Long-legged, blind, pale orange "daddy-long-legs" type of invertebrate. 1.4-2.7mm (less than one-eighth inch) long.

Behavior

Lives inside caves during day, feeds at night on other invertebrates, animal droppings, leaf litter washing in from the cave entrance. Predated by fire ants.

Where found

Texas Hill Country

Habitat

Karst caves (irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, sinks, caves, cracks, etc.) High humidity and relatively constant temperature required.

Recovery Plan

Habitat Conservation Plans include gating significant cave entrances, routine inspections, and restrictions on recreational use. Also vegetation management and quick response to emergencies, such as storm damage, vandalism, wildfires.

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Date:November 17, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:LAUGHTERLocation: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:63 Miles - Cumberland to Wayne CountyTotal Miles 417.9

They say that it’s love that makes the world go round. No argument there. But I think it’s laughter that prevents it from wobbling off its axis and rolling aimlessly about the universe like an idiot’s eyeball. The very sound of the stuff, especially children’s laughter, is by far the sweetest music there is.

And so I ask myself the question, “Do our dear little whooper chicks ever laugh?” And my answer is always the same, “How could they not?” I mean, think about it. Every morning we two legged crane mama wannabees go schlepping out into the pen dressed up like Casper the Friendly Ghost on his way to a Halloween party in rubber boots that never look like they fit just right, and holding a puppet head that looks like a left over hippie crane that went to Woodstock and never ate another healthy thing in his life, and, they hold it out like it was some kind of magic wand or something, and we think they haven’t the slightest clue who we really are.

The chicks look at each other and laugh. You can actually hear them, and the thought balloons rise above their heads in unison. “People, of course. Who else in the entire universe would behave like this?”

Perhaps it’s the laughter I so enjoyed during dinner with our hosts last night that brings this subject to mind. And as I sat in my trike this morning, engine revving, as the frost covers cascaded down from my wings carrying away the night's load of frost while the morning’s migration drama stood patiently in the wings waiting for the curtain to rise, I thought about laughter and how precious a cargo it is.

The beginning had it’s challenges. The rising sun filled the eastern half of the sky with a sparkling haze that made a game of “Squint and Identity” out of everything that needed to be seen. Special attention must be paid at such times to avoid the payment of special prices. But off we went and the expected rodeo ensued. Seven birds conformed to the order of the day while three turned back, and of course #2 did his, “I’m number 2 and you’re not,” routine and landed in an adjacent field to await later capture and his ride in the box.

The haze robbed the country below much of its shape and color. The familiar geometries were there, punctuated by the occasional town which looked from above like a child’s pile of spilled leggos. But clear or not, we pass over it with equal determination and purpose as the seven faithfuls string out from my wing tip. I try and point the webcam at them but my gloved hand on the control bar blocks the camera’s view. Richard passes beneath and to the side of me with his three birds and the haze works hard to disguise his presence.

As we approached our stop, we begin our familiar banter about “skipping,” but with the horizon just beyond hidden in thick fog the decision is made for us. Besides, we have over flown this stop the last two years and it just somehow seems fair that it is here we will finally land.

Joe and Barb tended the birds down in a nearby field while Walt, Richard, and I set up the pen. Soon Dave arrives with the boxed but not bowed #2, and after his release into the pen, the rest follow.

Then the arrival chores started and plans for tomorrow began in earnest. Fly days are not rest days. They’re just not designed that way, and soon it is almost dusk and the interns are costumed up and heading out to the pen check the birds. Soon after that I hear it. The sound I mean. That special sound you only hear now and then, but the sound that when you hear it you know way down deep in your inerds what it is…..and all you can do is laugh along with them.

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Date:November 17, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:63 Miles - Cumberland to Wayne CountyTotal Miles 417.9

The consensus in camp is that if the rain forecast to come in tonight moves through before morning we should have a great shot at a third consecutive fly-day. If you're the odds-making type, we're giving it a 90-10% rating that we'll 'go'.

See the entry below for the Flyover Viewing Location here in Wayne County, and watch this space for today's lead pilot report by Brooke Pennypacker (which should be in our hands around 5:00pm for posting shortly thereafter).

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Date:November 17, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WAYNE COUNTY FLYOVER VIEWING LOCATIONLocation: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:63 Miles - Cumberland to Wayne CountyTotal Miles 417.9

Because this is the first time in the three years flying this more westerly route that we haven't skipped our Wayne County stopover, this was our first opportunity for first hand research for a departure flyover viewing location.

We found what we believe is an appropriate viewing spot. It is directly east of Barnhill, IL, just south (0.2 miles) of the junction of County Road 200N and County Road 2400E on the top of a small rise. As we fly as soon as possible after official sunrise we suggest viewers be on site by 6:45am. Weather permitting tomorrow morning - we'll see you there!

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Date:November 17, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 39Location: Wayne Co., IL
Flown Today:63 Miles - Cumberland to Wayne CountyTotal Miles 417.9

After nine days stuck on the ground we scored two flight days in a row. How great is that?!? Today's lead pilot, Brooke Pennypacker had to make a few attempts to put an end to the crane rodeo this morning, but finally got away with seven on the wing. Joe and Richard worked to round up the last three (one bird landed out - we suspect it was #2 but not confirmed).

As Linda and I stood with a big crowd at the flyover viewing location we saw Brooke with his charges pass by us far off to the east - his flight path being the result of where the rodeo wound up. Richard eventually gave the crowd the super view they had come for as he flew directly overhead with his trio.

For the first time since we changed to the more westerly migration route we are stopped in Wayne County and have just met our hosts here - also for the first time. They are lovely people - looks like a great spot for both humans and birds - the sun is shining - and it is warm enough to be out in a turtleneck and a sweatshirt.

What a great day in all respects! I love my job!

Now how about REALLY making my day? Go vote for OM in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge. (link is above and to the right)

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Date:November 16, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:AFTER 9 DAYS DOWN...Location: Cumberland Co., IL
Flown Today:56 Miles - Piatt to Cumberland CountyTotal Miles 354.9

When you have been grounded by south winds for as long as we were, a number of things begin to change. The local postman adds you to his daily route, the garbage man begins to make an extra stop, and the cashier at the grocery store starts calling you by name. Also, the gremlins move in.

Two of those little trouble makers infested our aircraft as they sat idle for nine days. One of them crawled into my radio and garbled everything that anyone said to me. It seems that my transmissions were loud and clear but everything I received sounded like it came from a mouth full of dry potato chips and sand.

The other gremlin refused to let Brooke’s aircraft start. We use a rope and handle to pull start our engines, much like a lawn mower, except they produce about ten times the power. It doesn’t take many pulls before that method gets tired. Something in the combination of choke and throttle just would not cooperate. Richard and I circled overhead as Brooke and a number of eager helpers changed the plugs and pulled the air filter. Our stay in Piatt County was too long and the weather too good to wait so we decided to launch anyway.

Just because we decided that one of us was going to lead the flock on the next leg of the migration does not mean that the birds had any intention of following. In another attempt to get number 2 to follow, we let him out with the rest of the flock. Surprisingly, he did circle around with us a few times slowly gaining altitude, but it wasn’t long before he broke off and began his descent. He turned many of the birds back with him, and as we passed over the pen one more time the swamp monsters discouraged any of them from landing.

From a hundred feet above I collected 10 birds that were generally following him and watched as he approached a tall leafless tree line. I was shocked when he didn’t turn away, but instead made a desperate and foolish attempt to climb. Then he hit the top branches and tumbled through like a white paper bag full of rocks. He hit the ground spread eagle as I passed over, but by the time we turned around, he was already out of sight. We found out later that he miraculously escaped injury but once again had to make the trip in a crate.

Maybe that bird set the trend, but from then on, one or two birds kept turning back and taking the rest of the flock with them. We circled around ten or more times until the ground crew were exhausted from swamp monstering around the pen. We even called one of the trucks onto the field to honk its horn.

Richard moved in to help corner them and we managed to get them a mile or two south. But every time they formed on the wing, one, then two, then the rest would break and head back. Eventually three broke and Richard turned on course with seven. I circled back to chase the three. As long as I was moving towards the pen, all three would follow but every time we headed on course, they would break away. After a while, it became obvious that one of them was the culprit and interested in a pond next to a farm house.

By this time, Brooke was able to get airborne and he came over to help. I was hoping to break them up, and separated the one determined to go back. That almost happened two or three times but they would regroup in the air on their way back. Brooke collected them one more time and headed west and after 58 minutes, we finally left the pen area.

Number 2 was still missing however and it was hard to explain over the radio where he was last seen. I climbed high and turned back to conduct an aerial search, but even from 500 feet over them the birds following Brooke took that as an invitation to turn back.

After another few miles on course, Brooke had them lined up and I managed to escape from behind and headed back to help find number 2. Half was back I heard over the radio that the ground crew had found him safe and sound so I turned on course yet again. It’s almost impossible to find a white winged trike and three white birds in a hazy overcast environment with five miles visibility. It took me most of the trip to re-catch them. We rendezvoused five miles from the destination and began a slow descent.

It didn’t work out the way I planned, but they all made it eventually and that is all that counts. Personally, I think number 2 is appropriately named.

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Date:November 16, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Cumberland Co., IL
Flown Today:56 Miles - Piatt to Cumberland CountyTotal Miles 354.9

Perhaps these entries might be better entitled, "For What It's Worth." The basis for the predictions is about as scientific as using a crystal ball, or turning over Tarot cards. Nonetheless, here's our best guess for a flight tomorrow - 60-40%, although it was very tempting to push that to 70-30.

The flyover viewing location for Cumberland county can be found by clicking the link to the right of this entry. Hope we're flying and that we'll get to see a nice turnout of Craniacs there.

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Date:November 16, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:PROGRESSLocation: Cumberland Co., IL
Flown Today:56 Miles - Piatt to Cumberland CountyTotal Miles 354.9

Finally... sigh... progress. Today, November 16th is Migration Day 38 and here we are in Cumberland County, IL, the second last stop in this state. Comparatively speaking, on Migration Day 38 last year we were on our first Down Day in Livingston County (2 stops back from where we are), and that fell on November 22nd. As we left six days earlier this year, date-wise we are on a par. Last year we took until November 30th to reach where we are today and it was on Migration Day 46.

Progress regardless of its rate is great. We moved 56 miles today - and we'll take it!

By the way... Did you vote yet today? If not please click the 'Pepsi link' to the right, and thanks for helping!!

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Date:November 16, 2010 Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:SUCCESS! Location:Main Office
Flown Today:56: PIATT CO. TO CUMBERLAND CO. Total Miles354.9

After NINE days spent grounded in Piatt County, IL, patience finally paid off this morning and rewarded the team with a 56 mile flight to Cumberland County, IL!

From watching the CraneCam, I believe 10 cranes made the trip behind two trikes. Although Joe was today's lead pilot, his aircraft wing kept stalling at the required 38 mph that the cranes need to catch up so Richard van Heuvelen moved in to pick up the birds.

Richard managed to get 7 to form up on his wing and Brooke nabbed the other 3 while Joe circled for a time, trying to locate #2-10, who again dropped out of the flight after a short time. Once he located him, he radioed the coordinates to the ground team and they retrieved him and are chauffeuring him to the new stop.

Tune in a bit later on to read the lead pilot's report and don't forget to cast your daily vote in the Pepsi RefreshEverything Project! We moved up overnight to the 18th position in the rankings thanks to YOUR votes!

From the "Just had to share" category come some more photographic gems from Craniac Doug Pellerin.

  CLICK to view larger images.
Doug was out at one of his favorite places yesterday, which we will not be divulging to protect these ELEVEN Whooping cranes and captured the above images and two others. He has allowed us to share them with you here and on our Flickr page.

 

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Date:November 15, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

First off - did you vote today for OM in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge? If not please click the link to the right and help us move up in the ranks to receive a $25K grant.

Secondly - If you have never before been a MileMaker sponsor, now is the perfect time to change that. See the entry below to learn how becoming a sponsor now will double your support.

Lastly comes the answer to the question, "Will be able to fly tomorrow?" Richard and I crawled the weather sites after they updated at 4pm. After putting our completely non-meteorological, non-scientific minds together we came up with a prediction for tomorrow morning. Based almost as much on wishing as what the forecasts are calling for, we settled on a 90 to 10% chance we will take to the air in the morning - providing the chance of rain shown remains just that - a chance.

Click the link to the right to see the flyover viewing location for our departure from Piatt County. After 9 days here there is nothing we'd like better than to say hello to a great big crowd at the flyover.....and then wave goodbye as we hit the road for our next stop.

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Date:November 15, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MILEMAKER CAMPAIGNLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles298.9

On November 10th, longtime Craniacs Jeff and Julie Weingarz issued an Illinois MileMaker challenge and gave YOU only 48 hours to meet their challenge! The Weingarz’ family had pledged to match; dollar-for-dollar each and every contribution (to a total of 5 miles, or one thousand dollars) that came in for Illinois miles in the MileMaker campaign – BUT – only until 5pm on Friday, November 12th.

Today, on National Philanthropy Day, we’re thrilled to report that you not only met their challenge but exceeded it by three miles! So thank you to everyone for helping to fund the state of Illinois – our longest migration state at 338 miles.

Also fitting on this day when we recognize the supporters who make our work possible, is that another longtime supporter and Craniac from Canada has issued another challenge!

Annelise Jorgensen has agreed to DOUBLE each and every portion, or full mile sponsored in the 2010 MileMaker Campaign to a total of 8 miles – from NEW MileMakers supporters!

So, if you’re a new fan of Whooping cranes, here’s how the MileMaker campaign works. Each year we take the cost of the southward ultralight-guided migration and divide it by the number of miles (1285) that separate the training grounds in central Wisconsin and the final destination in Florida. This year each mile of the journey is valued at $200 – we feel, a very small price, considering there were only 15 Whooping cranes in the 1940s and still today; only 407 in the wild.

To take advantage of Annelise’ generous offer – simple click here to select your full mile, or sponsor a ¼ or ½ mile and make your contribution count as double the value.

Thank you Annelise Jorgensen and Jeff and Julie Weingarz for your continued commitment to safeguard Whooping cranes.

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Date:November 15, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NOT YET MIGRATING...Location: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

As we lead the newest generation of Whooping cranes south, we are very often asked, “What about the older cranes, when do they migrate?”

The adults in the Eastern Migratory Population start their migration south considerably later than we do with the young of the year. And, similar to their departure back north in the spring, they don’t leave all at one time. It is usually well into November before the older birds make a serious move.

In fact, some may stay in Wisconsin quite late into fall or early winter; witness the photo to the right taken in 2006 (by Dr. Richard Urbanek) of 11-02 and his mate 17-02 (now deceased) and their chick Wild 601 not at all bothered by the snow.

OM supporter and Craniac Doug Pellerin of Fond du Lac, WI visited Necedah this past weekend and luckily for us he was able to snap some photos from the Observation Tower of the family 3-04 and 9-03*with their wild hatched chick 1-10.

Doug kindly shared his photographic bounty with us and so we are sharing them with you. Doug said to us, “Hope you enjoy them.” We sure did and no doubt you will too.
 

Male Whooping crane 3-04 and mate 9-03 wander and forage within site of the Observation Tower on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge much to the delight of on site viewers and our Craniac friend, Doug Pellerin.

Click each image for larger view on our Flickr page

Don't forget to register your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the Pepsi RefreshEverything Project! We've moved up to the 19th position in the rankings and have held it for the past 48 hours with YOUR help! Lets see if we can get our rank position up into the teens!

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Date:November 15, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 37 - DOWN DAY #9Location: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

Crisp, cold temp, but this morning it was a frustrating case of favorable winds aloft, ~8mph out of the NW, but such strong southerly winds on the ground that it would be impossible to get the birds to altitude to take advantage of the northerly flow. In this case, two out of three just didn't cut it. I hope our trailers and motorhomes don't start putting down roots!

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Tidewater Goby

Genus/Species

Eucyclogobius newberryi

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat modification, destruction. Predation.

Description

Up to 2" long. Large pectoral fins. Ventral fins are joined below the chest and belly from below the gill cover back to just ahead of the anus, forming an abdominal disc. Males nearly transparent, with a mottled brownish upper surface. Females darker.

Behavior

Occur in loose aggregations up to several hundreds or thousands. Life span about 1 year. Diet mainly insect larvae and small crustaceans. Reproduction occurs nearly year-round, with peak breeding late April through early May. Male digs a vertical nesting burrow in substrate. Females lay 300-500 eggs that adhere to the walls of the burrow. Male remain in or near the burrows for approximately 9-11 days to guard the eggs until they hatch. May use dense patches of vegetation, to escape predation.

Where found

California coast

Habitat

Waters of coastal lagoons, estuaries and marshes, but not where coastline is steep and streams do not form lagoons or estuaries.

Recovery Plan

Critical Habitat is designated for the species, and a new protection proposal is undergoing review. Populations have been successfully restored to protected habitat.

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Date:November 14, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Trish Gallagher
Subject:WAITING AND WAITING AND WAITINGLocation: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

In the past year, I have been practicing mindfulness. For me, mindfulness means to live in the present moment and accept things as they are rather than wishing for something different. You can probably guess that migration gives me endless opportunities for practice since it’s largely a time for wishing (and hoping and praying) for good flying weather.

I suppose the most audacious migration wish would be to fly every day. If we could, our journey would take less than a month and we would have our charges safely in Florida before Thanksgiving. That would give them four months to explore their newfound freedom before heading back north. A less daring wish would be to fly more than we stand down. So far during this migration, we have had 28 down days with only 7 days of flying, so our ratio of down days to flying days is 4:1. We really wish the ratio were the opposite. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision a migration in which every moment could be spent wishing we were somewhere else instead of accepting what is actually happening.

Now please don’t take this the wrong way – we’re so grateful for our stopover hosts! They are warm and generous and thoughtful and friendly – the list of their positive attributes could go on for a long time. Some cook us meals, some drop off yummy treats, and some take us out for wonderful dinners. We camp in their yards for (unfortunately) many days at a time. They never know when we’ll show up or, more importantly, when we’ll leave. We couldn’t do this without them. And yet, we’d much rather be leaving than staying.

So how do you live in the moment while wishing you were somewhere else?

You wake up hopeful and go through the morning drill. I gather my gear: costume (to be around the chicks), puppet, grapes, vocalizer (in case a bird lands out and I need to lead it back), air horn (the swamp monster’s voice), gloves (for taking down the pen). I put my backpack and sneakers in the cab of the Arctic Fox and check to make sure the map is there so I can get to the next stop. I study the map and directions the night before. As Geoff and I walk to the pen, I enjoy the morning and say my goodbyes – after all, we may be leaving in just a moment and things will be so hectic I’ll forget to say goodbye later. And truly, at that moment, anything could happen. The chicks could take off and the pilots could decide to skip a stop. Heck, even #2 could end up flying and skipping a stop. But we have to see how the moment unfolds…

We prepare the pen for release. We take down the guy wires so we can open the release panels. We pull the top net back so the chicks won’t get caught on it when they’re coming out of the pen. We take down the electric fence so they won’t trip on it in their rush to take off. The chicks are peeping their welcomes. They know the difference between a potential fly day and a down day because Geoff and I don’t go inside the pen right away. Now we stand and wait. What will the next moment bring?

We hear the trike engine start. The chicks hear it too and start hollering for us to let them out of the pen. But we wait. We listen to the radio – still with no idea what the next moment will bring. Even after the pilot lands, we still don’t know what will happen. Will they stay or will they go? Well, you’ve read lots about when we go, and what happens when we do. But the more likely scenario is that it’s too windy and the pilots decide to stand down.

What are those days like? It would be very easy to spend them waiting for the next day, all wrapped up in wanting to be somewhere else. But as I am learning, this moment is the perfect teacher and these days are great practice at accepting things as they are.

As the pilot flies off, the chicks holler their disappointment. Peep! Peep! Peep! “We want to go with you! There’s nothing right about it! Come back here!” Geoff and I put the pen back together. We replace the electric fence and guy wires and secure the top net. Then we step inside the pen and check the food, change the water, and toss a few more pumpkins into the pen. By this time, the pilot is gone and the chicks can’t hear the engine anymore. Adept at accepting things as they are, the chicks follow us around the pen, pecking at our sleeves. They seem to have forgotten their disappointment of a few minutes ago. We toss a few grapes as a consolation prize and they seem quite content.

By now it might be 7:30 or after and the day is unfolding. I settle in to my present moment and accept it as it is. Maybe we’ll fly tomorrow and maybe we won’t, but, we’ll eventually get to Florida. It has happened every year so far. And now there’s a day ahead that might as well be appreciated for what it can hold. We often camp near lovely places that I may never have the chance to visit again. So I get on my bike and ride over to the park for a hike. Or I go into town to find the library. And every third day, we rent a hotel room for a shower. If you’re used to showering every day, you might not appreciate it as much as I do these days. What a lovely experience to be clean!

Below is a video shot by Trish with her camera up her sleeve at our Livingston County, IL pensite on a morning when a take-off was aborted. Watch and listen to the chicks peep in anticipation when they here the trike engine. The video will also give you up an up close view of how quickly they are losing their gorgeous juvenile cinnamon coloring in favor of the brilliant white plumage of sub-adult/adulthood.

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Date:November 14, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 36 - DOWN DAY #8Location: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

Frustration this morning replaced last evening's encouraged thoughts on seeing that the winds would swing around to come out of the northwest aloft today. The reality of the morning slapped us in the face when we saw the windsock standing straight out with the force of the southwest wind on the ground. While the local weather called it a 5mph wind, we had more like 10 to 15mph on site, and those much wished for northwest winds aloft were honking a powerful 20 to 25mph.

Even as the crew wandered around commiserating with one another, some were already into the chores of the day. Brooke and Trish set off to do the morning pen check; Walt and John pulled the hose to refill our vehicles' on board water supplies; and I tucked into the Jamboree to began to respond to the accumulation of overnight emails before turning to preparing video to post here later today for you to watch.

There has been only six occasions over the past nine years of migrations where we have been stuck on the ground for more than the length of time (8 days) we've been here in Piatt County - once in 2006 and 2009, and twice in 2007 and 2008. So far this year we have added a seventh time when we were on the ground in excess of eight days. That was for 11 days back in Winnebago County.

Oh how we hope we are able to take flight soon.

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Date:November 13, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Geoff Tarbox
Subject:THEY ALL CAME BACKLocation: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

Even before we sent a test trike up yesterday morning, I didn’t think our chances of leaving Piatt County were looking good. I felt a strong breeze blow across my face, and the dancing windsock atop of the hanger wasn’t painting a pretty picture. So I wasn’t surprised when Brooke radioed the crew back saying that we were down for the day.

What did surprise me, was when Walt poked his head in the trailer and told me we were letting the birds out for exercise. This would be the first time we let the birds out of their pen for some exercise since the come of the Class of 2009 took migration into their own hands last year in LaSalle County, IL.

In case you missed it last year, the last time we let the birds out to stretch their wings, they almost got away from us. One afternoon when Sharon, Bev, Brooke and I let the birds out of the pen for exercise, they took off without a second thought. After five minutes, I was a little nervous when only four came back to the pen. But Bev and I remained guardedly optimistic that they’d come back - since the birds always came back when we let ‘em out for exercise. And besides, this flock sometimes took longer than usual to come back.

But some of us weren’t whistling that tune when after ten minutes the birds still hadn’t come back. Somewhere along the way, Sharon whispered to Bev, "I don’t think they’re coming back." To which Bev replied, "They always come back." Another five minutes later, Brooke also pointed out that the kids probably weren’t coming back. After fifteen minutes of waiting we all agreed it was time to start to worry. Turns out that the birds had caught a good thermal and were riding it their own way (as it turned out, toward Indiana).

Brooke and Sharon took off in the tracking van hoping to get a bead on them somewhere, anywhere. Richard did his part tracking them from his trike. Bev and I stayed back at the pensite on the off chance they would return. No such luck. We were frantically trying to rig a tracking receiver on one of our host’s aircraft when we got word that Richard had finally caught up with them. And with a little coaxing and a little luck, he got them to our next stop in Livingston County, IL. Chris and I showed up to put up the pen while Richard hid the birds. The next day we led the last four cranes to join the 'escapees' in Livingston County. Not a single bird was unaccounted for when it was all over. All and all, a dramatic afternoon.

With that almost heart-stopping memory still fresh in my mind, you can imagine my enthusiasm for letting the Class of 2010 out for exercise. And even having Richard on stand-by with his trike fitted with tracking equipment wasn’t making me feel much better. About the only assurance I had was that I could at least count on 2-10 not to take off on his own. Patuxent’s Sharon Marroulis (‘Good Luck Sharon’ as she was being called) was a little nervous about letting the birds out too; insisting that she wouldn’t even touch the gate to let them out. Everyone else seemed more optimistic, jokingly parroting Sharon’s immortal words from last year back and forth to each other.

Then came the big moment. Joe and Walt hung back a little, hiding to get pictures and footage of the whole thing. Trish and I had the honor of opening the pen door. I braced myself for the worst as I saw the first of them jog through the door and take off.

When I saw the birds flying only ten, fifteen feet off the ground and looping back towards the pen, I breathed a sigh of relief. In fact, not all the birds came out all at once. There were a few of them, namely, 2-10, 8-10 and 10-10, I had to coax out.

As I slowly began to realize that we wouldn’t have to chase down any birds, I took the time to actually watch them fly. Seeing their big white and black wings flapping in the wind, it was easily the most gorgeous, most uplifting thing I saw that morning. One, that I was watching them fly; I hadn’t really seen them do that since Necedah since I am always too busy trying to hide in the trailer. And for another, it’s not often I get to see them fly that up close. So I was delighted to gaze at my kiddies, who I watched grow from little hatchlings I could stuff in my pocket, fly around the pen just a hundred feet away.

Well, almost all of them that is. Take a wild guess who didn’t. As the birds looped around the pen, I could see a lone bird landing off in a nearby mowed bean field, wandering around aimlessly. Walt sent me over to check who it was, but we already knew. 2-10 of course. He had flown with the rest of the other birds for no more than a minute or two before he either got tired or lost interest. I had no trouble leading him back over toward the runway. I think he was happy to see his ‘daddy’ come get him. But I was silently wondering what happened to the 2-10 who, with 3-10, left LaSalle County in the dust.

I had made a mental note to watch him as we let the birds out of the pen. When we let the birds out, they all took off with a running start, flapping their wings, just before they took off, gliding five or six feet off the ground. 2-10 followed those initial two steps, but never actually got off the ground that first time. He did the same thing again once I retrieved him from the bean field; he ran and flapped his wings, but no lift off. Sure, he flew again with the rest of birds one more time before we put them all away. But I ended up having to walk him back to the pen after he once again lost interest and landed.

This bird’s outlook keeps getting bleaker every time we let him out of the pen. He won’t fly with the rest of the flock. Once, he got so spooked, he wouldn’t even take comfort in the costume. When we tried holding him back and flying him on his own at the last stop, he wouldn’t fly. Don’t get me wrong, no one wants to give up on him, including me. But he is quickly running through his options. So far, his migration route looks like the four corners on his wooden crate.

But despite everyone singing the 2-10 blues, all were relieved to see all 11 birds back in the pen at the end of the morning.
They came back.

Now if you'll excuse me, I got a video game to get back to. An evil force is threatening to take over the mystical land of Hyrule by destroying all its railroad tracks - - unless I can do something about it. Trust me….you have to be there.

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Date:November 13, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 35 - DOWN DAY #7Location: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

When we passed through Illinois on the last migration it looked very different. There had been so much rain that the farmers couldn’t get their equipment onto the fields to harvest their crops. The corn stood high in water-saturated muddy fields, in some cases in several inches of standing water. Everywhere, huge propane-fuelled corn dryers ran incessantly.

This year the dryers are silent as the farmers experience the other extreme. They haven’t had rain in many areas for a couple of months. That could change today as a long north-south line of precipitation moving in a SSW to NNE direction marches toward us.

By 5:15am it was raining 30 miles to the southwest of us, and the plink-a-plink sound of it dancing on the roof of our motorhomes began 25 minutes later. By 6am however, it got quiet and turned into a sprinkle - you know the kind - one where you could stand out in it and not really get wet. Then we went back to the plink-a-plink. The forecast calls for thunderstorms as the morning wears on, and as the wind has us grounded anyway, we are cheering for the arrival of the much needed rain the farmers are hoping for.

We are almost directly under the center of a low pressure system and are feeling the effects of 15mph ground wind. Aloft the winds are showing 30-40mph, and just to the south of us near the Illinois-Kentucky border, they are blowing 40-50mph.

On previous migrations when the wind had us stuck in place we nicknamed some states. When we still flew the old, more easterly route, Indiana became Windiana. A slow start to the migration in 2008 prompted us to dub Wisconsin, Windconsin. This being our 8th day grounded at this stopover we figured it was time to re-name Illinois. We decided on Illwindinois, and that appellation has been giving our hosts and folks we share it with quite a chuckle.

Appearing here soon will be a Field Journal entry from OM Intern, Geoff Tarbox. Stay tuned.

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Date:November 12, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:HELP US CELEBRATE! Location:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles298.9

This year, we are celebrating 10 years of work to introduce the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping cranes! The number 10 seems to be a special number for us in 2010 – it’s the 10th birthday for the reintroduction AND the southward migration began on 10-10-10!

We’re asking YOU to help us celebrate!

Would you help us celebrate and commemorate our 10 years of work safeguarding Whooping cranes by sending the Class of 2010 a congratulatory note with $10.00 in it? Would you ask your family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances to celebrate with us by doing the same?

AND… WE HAVE SOME Give A WHOOP T-shirts LEFT FROM LAST YEAR’S CAMPAIGN, SO… as an added bonus, until our supply runs out, for every twenty people who send congratulatory messages and a $10 contribution to the Birthday Campaign, we’ll draw one name to receive an “I Give A WHOOP” T-shirt and will publish the winner’s name in the Field Journal.

So what are you waiting for? Help us and the Whooping cranes celebrate 10 fantastic years for teh Eastern Migratory Population!

 

Don't forget to register your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the Pepsi RefreshEverything Project! We've moved up to the 20th position in the rankings and have held it for the past 24 hours with YOUR help! Lets see if we can get our rank position up into the teens!

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Date:November 12, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 34 - DOWN DAY #6Location: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

Dead calm when I stepped out of the motorhome this morning. What breath of air there was on the ground was surprisingly coming out of the north. The windsock at 30 feet in the air was indicating SE wind though, but it was hanging almost straight down.

With a little burst of hope I scurried back inside to check the weather sites. Hopefulness didn't last long. All the models were showing 15mph at minimum aloft and straight out of the south. Still, hopefulness won out and Joe launched to test the actual conditions.

Although the weather models showed conditions were an improvement over yesterday, in reality that was not the case. The best air speed Joe could get flying right into the wind would have made a flight today to Cumberland County 3 hours and 16 minutes long at the minimum. With trikes carrying about 3 hours and 30 minutes of fuel that would have pushed things too close to the safety window, and given the birds a tiring flight.

While we hope tomorrow's (Saturday) forecast of 40mph plus will change, we're not holding our breath.

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Date:November 11, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:ECLECTICLocation: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

If you write the word eclectic in a word document and right click on it, you get to choose from several options. One of them is a list of synonyms, and the first three suggestions are; assorted, diverse, and free. That seems to me like a perfect description of the Operation Migration team.

In our band of homeless but dedicated gypsies, we have a collection of people so diverse it is almost humorous. We have a nuclear engineer who once refueled atomic submarines, and a photographer who specialized in glossy automobile advertising. We have a deep sea diver who breathed helium for a week at a time while living in a bell and working at hundreds of feet below the surface. Among us is a retired veterinarian, and a marketing strategist, along with a volunteer who digs for dinosaurs, and a retired airline captain.

We also have a talented metal sculptor who can bend and shape steel into incredible likenesses of Whooping cranes or wild horses. Richard Van Heuvelen can create whimsical railings and circular staircases of wood and iron, or a delicate lily of stainless steel as a gift for his mother’s birthday. He has fashioned huge dragons that coil around a gatepost, and a larger than life dragon fly. Richard also uses his talents to custom build the guards we use to protect the birds from our propellers and the trailers that transport their pens.

Finally, after years of urging, Richard created a website to showcase his art and we thought you might want to see the kind of talent that makes up this team. Check out his home page at the Wooden Anvil.

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Date:November 11, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:DOWN DAY IN PIATT CO. ILLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles298.9

A brief period of excitement this morning when Liz texted to let me know that they were hoping to send up a test trike to check conditions aloft. Brief because 5 minutes later, Joe text to advise they were standing down - winds were just too strong, not to mention out of the south.

So today is down day #5 in Piatt County, IL

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Bachman's Sparrow

Genus/Species Name

Aimophila aestivalis

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat destruction

Description

Large sparrow, 6 inches long, large bill, fairly flat forehead, long rounded tail. Gray above, heavily streaked with chestnut or dark brown; sides of head buffy gray; thin dark line extends back from eye. Breast and sides buff or gray; belly whitish.

Behavior

Secretive and shy. Moves on ground, walking and in short hops. Runs, rather than flies, when pursued. Gleans food from ground surface, mostly beetles, weevils, grass and sedge seeds. Feeding concentrated in first 5 hrs AM and 2 hours before sunset. Song is long complex series of notes used for mate attraction and territory defense. Briefer calls are social signals.  Nests in April and May. Nest built on ground, at base of overhanging grass clump, small shrub, and pine seedlings. Cup nest, sometimes domed, built mainly of grasses. 3-5 eggs in a clutch. Incubation 12-14 days by female. At least 2 clutches per season.

Where found

Southeastern United States: North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas

Habitat

Mature pinewoods and open habitats.

Recovery Plan

Restoration of pinelands, managed for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, benefits sparrow since both birds' territories overlap.

Don't forget to register your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the Pepsi RefreshEverything Project! We've been hovering back and forth between 20th and 21st in the ranking for the past few days. Lets see if we can get our rank position up into the teens!

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Date:November 10, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject: MILEMAKER CHALLENGE ISSUED!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles298.9

This one has been issued by longtime supporters and Craniacs Jeff, Julie and Amelia Weingarz from Illinois and it’s an URGENT challenge!

Until this FRIDAY, November 12th: the Weingarz family will match up to 5 miles in our longest, and their home-State of Illinois! The way is works is that every ¼, ½ or full mile sponsored between NOW and FRIDAY at 5pm will be counted as DOUBLE thanks to their generosity and commitment to Whooping cranes.

There are a total of 338 miles that we cover in Illinois and to date, we only have sponsorship for 209 – leaving 129 miles available. Let’s see if this challenge encourages support and results in at least 10 of these being sponsored by Friday!

To have your contribution DOUBLED simply visit this link and select your Illinois ¼, ½ or full mile! And thank you so much to the Weingarz family for your continued support to Whooping cranes and to Operation Migration!

And while you're in the mouse-clicking mood, don't forget to register your DAILY vote for Operation Migration in the Pepsi RefreshEverything Project! We've been hovering back and forth between 20th and 21st in the ranking for the past few days. Lets see if we can get our rank position up into the teens!

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Date:NOVEMBER 10, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 32 - DOWN DAY #4Location: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

Oh dear me. It is really embarrassing being made a liar of - especially when you do it to yourself. When we were at our last stop in Livingston County and we were stamping our feet to keep warm at the departure flyover, someone wished us a speedy journey so we’d enjoy some warmer weather. Linda and I told them that it doesn’t happen – that the cold seems to follow us south.

(The worst frost we’ve encountered on the migration occurred in northern Florida on the old route. On the new route, Florida was also the site for one of the coldest temperatures for a flyover event (our first year at St. Marks). The only snow I can recall running into on migration wasn't in the north, but in Alabama of all places!)

Then, yesterday, here in Illinois the sneaky weather played a trick on us and set record high temps for many places in the state; it got well into the 70’s here in Piatt County, and even into the 80’s in some locations. The forecast for the near future though is for a change to more seasonable temps, something we are happy to hear. Within the next 36 to 48 hours the winds are predicted to begin to shift around and bring us colder temps, and hopefully, the wind direction that will give us an opportunity to fly with birds, and dare we hope - - even a favorable push.

There will be no air miles logged again today thanks to SE 10-15mph winds on the ground and SW 20-30mph winds aloft. So here we sit, waiting not so patiently to see what tomorrow will bring.

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Date:NOVEMBER 9, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 31 - DOWN DAY #3Location: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

There is still no let up to the southerly flow that has kept us ground bound since our arrival here three days ago. We check the weather sites multiple times a day in hope that we'll miraculously see a change. As things stand at the moment when we look forward, no change is in sight until the weekend. That is not, however, stopping us from being hopeful - or from continually checking for better news.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Ocelot

Genus/Species

Leopardus pardalis

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat destruction. Hunted for fur and pet trade.

Description

Range in color from light yellow to reddish gray, dark spots and stripes. Underside of body, tail, and insides of limbs is whitish. Have dark stripes on cheeks, and tails have rings of dark fur. 20-40" long, tails an additional 10-15". Weigh 20-25 pounds.

Behavior

Hunt rodents, rabbits, young deer, birds, snakes and fish. Strongly nocturnal, traveling from 1-5 miles/night. Capture an average of one prey item for every 3.1 hours of travel. Rest in trees or dense brush during the day. After 79-85 days gestation, 1-3 young are born. Kittens are independent after about one year, but may stay with mother for an additional year. Lifespan 7/10 years.

Where found

Southern Arizona and southeast Texas, but found in every country south of the United States except Chile.

Habitat

Mangrove forests, coastal marshes, savannah grasslands, pastures, thorn scrub and tropical forests.

Recovery Plan

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages ocelot habitat.

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Date:November 8, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DANCING CRANES IN THE LAND OF THE RISING SUNLocation: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 Miles Total Miles 298.9

OM’s Walter Sturgeon invites you to join him on an incredible bird watching journey in Japan.

This is your opportunity to explore the fantastic birdlife, natural wonders, cultural sites and the magic that is Japan along with Walter and tour co-leader, Dave Davenport, Zoologist and President of EcoQuest Travel, Inc.

The trip is scheduled for February 12 to 26th, 2011 to take advantage of the abundance and diversity of cranes and waterfowl at that time. (A portion of the receipts go to benefit Operation Migration.)

“When the cranes have fed, they move away a little and, joined by the immatures, begin to leap and bow, using the cold twilight wind to pick them up, legs dangling, four or five feet into the air. As the sun sets behind the wooded ridge and faint stars appear in the fading blue above, the white birds dance forward and lift off the snow into the north wind.
To observe red-crowned cranes dancing in Hokkaido’s snows is the ultimate pilgrimage for ornithologists.”

Peter Matthiessen, “The Birds of Heaven,” 2001

For more information and/or a detailed itinerary, contact Walt Sturgeon. But do it soon. Group size is limited to a maximum of 14 participants.

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Date:November 8, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 30 - DOWN DAY #2Location: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

We are going nowhere again this morning. Little has changed wind-wise in the last two days, still blowing strongly and out of the south. It is on it's way to a forecast positively summery 67F today, so the crew will take advantage of the balmy temp to do a myriad of outdoor chores and vehicle maintenance tasks.

Disappointingly, we're not seeing much promise for a flight until at least Thursday unless there significant movement/change in the current wind pattern.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Green Sea Turtle

Genus/Species

Chelonia mydas

Status

 

Endangered

Status Cause

Long-term harvest of eggs/adults. Incidental capture in fishing gear, trawls, traps, pots, and dredges hinders species' recovery. Green turtles are also threatened, in some areas of the world, by a disease known as fibropapillomatosis.

Description

Grows to a maximum of 4' and 440 pounds.  Heart-shaped keel less top shell (carapace); small head, light brown with yellow markings; single-clawed flippers. Color of carapace varies from light to dark brown with mottling.  The bottom shell (plastron) is whitish to light yellow. Hatchlings have black carapace, and white plastron and margins on shell and limbs.

Behavior

Adults feed on sea grasses and marine algae. Have strong nesting fidelity, and often migrate long distances between feeding grounds and nesting beaches. Nest on open beaches in the continental U.S. in June - September. Sexual maturity is believed to be 20-50 years. Female may nest an average of 3.3 times per season, at 13-day intervals. Average clutch size 136. Incubation, depending on temperature, ranges from 45-75 days. Hatchlings usually emerge at night and scurry toward the water, unless distracted by lights from dwellings.

Where found

Florida and Pacific coast of Mexico.

Habitat

Fairly shallow waters (except when migrating) inside reefs, bays, and inlets.

Recovery Plan

US Fish and Wildlife Service's plan for important nesting beaches provides long-time protection of habitat; implements effective lighting ordinances; minimizes mortality from commercial fisheries; reduces threat of marine pollution.

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Date:November 7, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

Our trailers and motorhomes were a-rockin’ all day in the near 20mph SSW winds. When the gusts hit we went from rockin’, to rockin’ and rolling. The outlook for the next few days, indeed, for the coming week, is bleak in terms of our being able to fly. The southerly flow bringing highs in the mid to upper 60’s to this area is forecast to continue at least through Saturday and has the potential to drop some rain on us Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

While it appears as if the upcoming week will offer fine fall weather for humans, it’s not at all favorable for avian migration, much less ultralight-led migration. We think it’s a safe bet to say our odds of flying tomorrow are about as close to zip as it can get.

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Date:November 7, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Linda Boyd
Subject: CORN, CORN AND MORE CORNLocation: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

One of the perks of being part of the OM migration crew is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the heartland of this country. The migration starts in the wilds of the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, travels through Wisconsin's bucolic south country, and then on to Illinois.

Once into Illinois, the land flattens out into huge fields stretching almost as far as the eye can see.-- if you don't believe me, just ask the OM members who went back to one of those fields looking for a pair of glasses lost while recovering Whooper #2 who flew almost, but not quite all of the way, to our last stop.

This year the fields are harvested and bare. But last year when we arrived, the crops still stood in the fields, wet after a rainy summer. Standing at the edge of one of these fields, looking eyeball to corn ear, I had an epiphany. It went something like this: Corn has changed dramatically since I was a kid playing night games in corn fields. I remember those fields being easy to enter and run in. The field I was standing before, looked like an impenetrable jungle with stalks so close together that even a slip of a child could not easily run through it. The stalks themselves looked to be twice as tall as I remember as a child.

What has happened to corn in the unmentionable number of years since I was a kid? The answer turned out to be “Plenty.” Not that I did lots of research, mind you, but the chance reading of The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, gave me a picture of corn and its evolution into today's magnificent species.

According to Pollan, in 1920, the average yield of an acre of corn was about twenty bushels. It was planted in a widely spaced checkerboard pattern so farmers could easily cultivate between the stands in either direction. Hybrid corn was introduced in the late 1930s and it increased the yields up to seventy to eighty bushels per acre.

Today fields can yield two hundred bushels of corn per acre. These latest increases have come from hybrids that can be planted closer together—thirty thousand plants to the acre instead of eight thousand in the 1920s. If the 1920s varieties had been planted so close together, the stalks would have grown spindly as they fought each other for sunlight until they would have toppled in the wind. Today's hybrids have thicker stalks and stronger root systems, the better to stand upright in a crowd and withstand the mechanical harvesting.

Where does all this corn go? Pollan wrote that starting in the 1950-60s, feedlots became the mainstay of beef production. Beef cattle, traditionally grass-fed in farm fields, now were corn-fed in feedlots. Corn started appearing in more human food too. Again, Pollen tells us that by the 1980s sodas and fruit drinks were sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. In today's supermarket you can find corn products in coffee whitener, Cheez Whiz, frozen yogurt, TV dinners, canned fruit, ketchup, candies, soups, snacks, cake mixes, gravy, frozen waffles, syrups, hot sauces, mayonnaise, mustard, hot dogs, bologna, margarine, shortening, salad dressings, relishes, and even vitamins.

As long as we are browsing in the supermarket, Pollan invites us to look at non-ood items containing corn include toothpaste, cosmetics, disposable diapers, trash bags, cleaners, charcoal briquettes, matches, batteries, even the vegetable wax on vegetables like cucumbers, the shiny coating on magazine pages, and the supermarket itself—the wallboard and joint compound, the linoleum and fiberglass and adhesives out of which the building has been made. Then there's ethanol...and that's probably not the last of what we will discover to do with this amazing plant.

What do Whoopers think of corn? While we don't know what they think, we do know that Whoopers are omnivores so they will eat most anything they can find, including corn. Plus they like to play with ears of corn as much as they like to play with pumpkins. No menu dilemmas for these feathered omnivores.

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Date:November 7, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 29 - DOWN DAY #1Location: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

As expected, the strong southerly flow sealed our fate this morning. The cranes and planes will spend the day on the ground in Piatt County. Although we're earth bound today, we have some footage from yesterday's launch to share with you thanks to OM Volunteer David Boyd.

BIRD HAZARD SURVEY
Excerpt from the November issue of the Birding Community E-Bulletin:
Researchers at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, are studying the risks and benefits to birds caused by human behavior and technology (e.g., alternative energy efforts, cats, windows, and communications) as they are perceived by Americans with varying interests in birds.

The researchers do not expect those responding to the survey to know the degree of risk associated with each of these behaviors or technologies. Indeed, some consequences remain unknown. The responses on these perceived risks will help more fully understand public opinions and behavior and are expected to provide tools to raise bird conservation awareness.

Click the link to participate in the anonymous online survey (which takes about 25 minutes to complete).

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Date:November 6, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTINGLocation: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:59 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

We feel lucky to have made flight number 7 on the 2010 migration today. Especially because it appears that old man weather is turning on us tomorrow. I'm guessing that if I told you the temperature for the next two days here in Piatt County was forecast to be in the upper 50s to mid 60s you'd be able to figure out the culprit. You got it... south winds.

We are expecting winds on the ground to be in the neighborhood of 10-15mph and gusting higher for the next couple of days. Aloft the wind is likely to be out of the east and ESE at strengths about double that of what's on the ground.

We think it is a safe bet to predict that we won't have much of a chance to fly either tomorrow or the next day.

We have a great Flyover Viewing Location here in Piatt County. Hope you'll come out and join us when the winds turn favorable. Watch this space and we'll do our best to give you a 'heads-up'.

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Date:November 6, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 28 A FLY DAY!Location: Piatt Co., IL
Flown Today:59 MilesTotal Miles 298.9

The morning dawn broke cold and early with frost on the ground and a very slight breeze from the west. As the sun came up, we rolled the trikes out of the barn where our hosts so kindly allowed us to store them. I took off to the east into the orange ball of rising sun, turned on course, and realized we had a good day ahead of us.

Shortly thereafter, Brooke and Joe were airborne. I descended into the valley where the pen was, if you could call it a valley in Illinois. With trees all around I taxied up to the pen, turned around, turned on my vocalizer, gave Trish and Geoff the thumbs up. . . and we were off!

As the ground dropped beneath, we curved around through the trees to the open bean fields west of the pen, all ten birds following - six close to the wing, and four farther back. Then the other birds started to drop back as well, so I turned around to let them all catch up, doing a big 360 degree circle in the sky before heading southwest again. Now with all ten birds on the wing I began to set a course for our next stop in Piatt County.

The birds climbed eagerly in the cold air, one with its left foot tucked under its belly to keep warm. As we climbed higher the air got colder, which also made flight more efficient, so the climb was easy. Leveling off at about 3,000 feet above sea level, the real estate travelled by below us at a reasonable pace - large harvested fields of corn and beans already being plowed, silos with houses gathered around them in the morning dawn.

Then, Don Quixote’s nightmare of 1,000 windmills passed below us, shadows of their blades chopping up the air and making the birds want to hide above the wing. Thankfully my trike’s jousting stick was unneeded as we flew far above the flailing blades. All the while No. 6 was practicing her aerobatic skills in preparation for her competition with Patty Wagstaff for the Oshkosh air show next year. She would fly off the slipstream in front of the wing, sometimes seemingly almost inverted, her flight twisting about, her neck more serpent-like than bird-like. And even though her head seemed to be straight and level the whole time, her body and wings danced around like a Pitt’s Special at an air show.

Finally we began a long slow descent for our destination about 15 miles off. This seemed to energize the birds behind, who got a chance to relax a bit as they descended, so when we got to the Piatt site with their new found energy they began to soar and gain altitude and it was necessary to climb back up after them and seduce them with the wing which they eagerly accepted and began the slow spiraling descent down to the pen site.

But as a gap developed between the trike and the birds they once again became more interested in the thermals and off they soared to new heights. Again I became the seducer and climbed up to intercept them, and again they rallied to the wing. This time I was more patient in my descent and they stayed with me as we flew low over the pen, where they spotted Joe’s trike already on the ground, also trying to seduce them. Fickle as they were, they flew to his trike and landed, that is except for #6, who, in spite of all the aerobatics seemed to be attached to my wing. Curving around a tree at a fairly steep angle then leveling out, we too landed.

59 fewer miles left on this migration.

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Date:November 6, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:WE'RE MIGRATING!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:59 miles: Livingston Co. to Piatt Co., ILTotal Miles298.9

After a quick check on the wind conditions aloft this morning Richard van Heuvelen moved in to launch with the young cranes at 8:05am CDT. (Don't forget to set your clocks back an hour tonight)

All but 1 formed up quickly off his left wingtip and they're currently winging their way south toward Piatt County, IL - some 59 miles to the south. #2-10 dropped off and returned to the pensite so Brooke Pennypacker returned to try to convince him to fly solo with his trike. Last word was the Liz could see Brooke with #2 but the youngster keeps returning to the pen.

Today's lead pilot, Richard, will have an update for you later today so check back later!

P.S. - If you haven't yet visited the Pepsi Refresh Challenge website today to vote for OM ...now's a good time to do it. We're moving up in the rankings and are currently at #23 (a far cry from the 72nd place ranking from earlier in the week)

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Date:November 5, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: PREDICTING...Location: Livingston Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 239.9

More than a few of you have emailed to say that you miss our late afternoon/early evening 'Predicting' Field Journal entries that we often posted last migration. As a result, we thought we'd try our best to - when possible - post our best guess for the next day's flight chances.

At the moment we are very hopeful of being able to advance another migration leg tomorrow morning. WNW winds on the ground and forecast to be out of the north aloft are encouraging as are their projected strengths. With no background in meteorology and zip in flying ultralights, based on what I'm seeing on several weather models I am rating our chances for a flight tomorrow as 80-20.

So there you go - all you folks who were wishing for a prediction now have one - for what it's worth. :<)  Hope to see you at the flyover!! It's on 2000E Road, just south of where it is crossed by 1200N Road – adjacent to a silo location numbered 11689.

P.S. - If you haven't yet visited the Pepsi Refresh Challenge website today to vote for OM ...now's a good time to do it.

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Date:November 5, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:HELP US CELEBRATE! T-shirt Winners!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles239.9

Last year, at about this same time, we celebrated logging 10,000 air miles guiding Whooping cranes along a new migratory flyway from Wisconsin to Florida. In conjunction with the celebration, we carried out the Give A WHOOP! campaign, which succeeded in generating an incredible amount of awareness for Whooping cranes, and helped to fund our 2009 project year.

Craniacs were asked to WHOOP in support of Whooping cranes and each WHOOP brought with it, a $10 contribution. But with every ten WHOOPS we received, one name was drawn as the winner of an I Give A WHOOP T-shirt, which were a big hit.

This year, we are celebrating 10 years of work to reintroduce a migratory population of Whooping cranes! The number 10 seems to be a special number for us in 2010 – it’s the 10th birthday for the reintroduction AND the southward migration began on 10-10-10

We’re asking YOU to help us celebrate! The Whooping crane reintroduction appeals to and attracts folks from every walk of life, ethnic background, and every age group from 8 to 88. And all of us have one other thing in common. Every year we will all celebrate a birthday or an anniversary milestone.

Would you help us celebrate and commemorate our 10 years of work safeguarding Whooping cranes by sending the Class of 2010 a congratulatory note with $10.00 in it? Would you ask your family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances to celebrate with us by doing the same?

AND… WE HAVE SOME Give A WHOOP T-shirts LEFT FROM LAST YEAR’S CAMPAIGN, SO… as an added bonus, until our supply runs out, for every twenty people who send congratulatory messages and a $10 contribution to the Birthday Campaign, we’ll draw one name to receive an “I Give A WHOOP” T-shirt and will publish the winner’s name in the Field Journal.

The first THREE winners of a Give A WHOOP T-shirt are: Nancy Pope, Lisa Tart and Richard Greene! Thanks VERY much for your support! Enjoy your new T-shirts!

What do you say? Will you celebrate with us and ask others to celebrate too? All those who say, “Yes, I’m in,” please click here. Once we've received your congratulatory wish, we'll add your name and message to this list so others can see your commitment to the Class of 2010!

So what are you waiting for? Help us and the Whooping cranes celebrate 10 fantastic reintroduction years!

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Date:November 5, 2010Reporter:Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 27 - DOWN DAY #4Location:Livingston Co., IL
Flown Today:0Total Miles239.9

A similar but scaled back version of yesterday's weather/wind is what we are experiencing this morning. The wind direction is great but strength-wise it is waaaay to much of a good thing. Saturday looks like it could offer us a chance to get into the air so we are spiking this morning's mug of frustration with a shot of optimism for tomorrow.

Remember - we have a new Flyover Viewing Location. It's on 2000E Road, just south of where it is crossed by 1200N Road – adjacent to a silo location numbered 11689. Click for Google Map

DID YOU VOTE FOR OM TODAY? Click the link to help OM receive a $25,000 grant in the Pepsi Refresh Project - and remember, you can vote once a day, every day thru December 31st. OM is currently in 23rd place - so we need a lot more votes in order to be the number one finisher.

IMPERILLED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Key Deer

Genus/Species

Odocoileus virginianus clavium

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Over-hunting; habitat loss and fragmentation by fencing resulting in roadkills; hurricanes

Description

Smallest subspecies of white-tailed deer in North America. Shorter, stockier, with shorter legs, wider skull. Coat is deep reddish brown to gray. May have a dark mask or cross on brow. Bucks (males) develop forked antlers by the second year, normally eight points by four yrs old.

Behavior

Most active late evening, night and early morning. Diet is seasonal. Feed on more that 160 plant species, red mangrove a favorite. Breeding season (rut) September to January, when bucks fight with their antlers.  Antlers are shed February or March; new set starts to grow immediately; velvet is rubbed off by September. Gestation period 7 months fawns born April or May. Male fawns disperse; females stay with mother, forming loose matriarchal groups of several generations.

Where found

Endemic to Florida Keys, including 26 islands from Big Pine Key, with 2/3 of the total population, to Sugarloaf Key.

Habitat

Pine woodlands and rocklands, and some wetlands. Require a permanent source of freshwater, but able to tolerate some levels of salt. Also residential areas.

Recovery Plan

Management in the National Key Deer Refuge and Great White Heron National Wildlife Area. The Deer Protection Alliance works on public education and awareness.

 

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Date:November 4, 2010, Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject: NEW LIVINGSTON COUNTY FLYOVER VIEWING SITELocation: Livingston County., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 239.9

When we select Flyover Viewing Locations we consider several criteria. The first is that the site intersect the hoped for flight path so no deviation is needed to give folks the opportunity to see the cranes and planes. The second is that it be between 2 to 3 miles from the pen site in order to give the pilots an opportunity to get the birds on the wing and to turn on course. This distance also ensures that should a bird or birds be reluctant to fly, or go down, that there will be no human presence near by. Closer than 2 to 3 miles could jeopardize the birds, and further out than 2 to 3 miles could have the cranes and planes so high up that folks wouldn’t have much of a view.

The third criteria is that the viewing location have good sight lines to give folks the best and longest possible viewing opportunity. Fourth, and last but by no means least, the site must be safe for people; that is, have space for vehicles to park out of traffic and for people to stand to watch.

Last year the extreme wet conditions here in Livingston County prevented us from erecting our travel pen in the preferred location. This year we were able to do so, and as a result, the flight path to the next stopover is altered somewhat. For this reason we are moving the Flyover Viewing Location to a spot that will once again put it under the anticipated/hoped for flight path.

The new Livingston County Flyover Viewing Location is on 2000E Road, just south of where it is crossed by 1200N Road – adjacent to a silo location numbered 11689. Click for Google Map

If the current weather model projections hold true, it is highly unlikely that we will be able to fly tomorrow, Friday. However, Saturday appears it may present an opportunity, so please join us that morning at the flyover site just after sunrise (~7:30am). Hope to see you there!

SAD NEWS
We were notified Tuesday of the demise of DAR 18-10. Dr. Richard Urbanek advised in an email that the young Whooping crane was killed on the morning of October 30th near the East Pensite on the Necedah NWR. Dr. Urbanek said, “18-10 and three other Direct Autumn Release juveniles, two adult Whooping Cranes, and Sandhill cranes were near a small wet depression surrounded by reed canary grass. An unknown predator attacked the group, resulting in a bleeding scratch on the head of 20-10 and mortality of #18. The bird was drug into dense grass ~20m away, decapitated, and the pectoralis was partially consumed.”

18-10 and ten other Direct Autumn Release juveniles were released on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge October 25.

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Date:November 4, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 26 - DOWN DAY #3Location: Livingston Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 239.9

There was no uncertainty, no equivocation this morning. If stepping outside the motorhome wasn't answer enough, a look at the aviation weather models sure was.

The system over us has delivered nice cold temps and northwest winds, but at 10mph on the ground and 30 to 35 aloft, they are much too powerful for cranes and planes. Temperature - ü, Wind direction - ü,  but two out of three won't cut it unfortunately so we'll spend another day on the ground here in Livingston County. The forecast calls for the winds to pick up to be even stronger as the morning progresses and they could linger through Friday.

NOTE: Check back here later today for location of NEW Livingston County FLYOVER VIEWING SITE.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Black-Footed ferret

Genus/Species

Mustela nigripes

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat destruction; victims of Prairie Dog extermination.

Description

18-24"long, including 5-6" tail. Weight 1.5-2 lbs. Males slightly larger than females. Short, sleek fur. Body is yellow-buff, lighter on belly, nearly white on forehead, muzzle, and throat. Black facemask, feet and tail tip. Short legs, large front paws and claws. Large ears and eyes.

Behavior

Nocturnal. Principle diet is prairie dogs, may eat about 100/year. Also mice, other small mammals, birds, and insects. Take shelter in prairie dog burrows during day. Spend about 99 percent of time underground. Mating season from March-April. 1-7 kits born in May-June. By October, young are independent and will disperse to their own territories.

Where found

Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Utah, Wyoming

Habitat

Prairie Dog "towns" in prairie grasslands.

Recovery Plan

Black-footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team calls for establishment of ten or more separate, self-sustaining wild populations of 1,500 Ferrets by 2010, with at least 30 breeding adults in each population.

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Date:November 4, 2010 - Entry 1Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WOOD BUFFALO-ARANSAS POPULATION NEWSLocation: Livingston Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 239.9

Quoted in an article by Matthew Tresaugue in the Houston Chronicle, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Whooping Crane Coordinator, Tom Stehn, predicts a record number of Whooping Cranes will arrive to winter in Texas this fall. Tom's estimate is based on this year's production of the second highest number of chicks ever recorded for this population; 46.

Click the link to read the entire Tresaugue article in the Houston Chronicle.

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Date:November 3, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Trish Gallagher
Subject: Yay #2-10 and Yay #3-10 too!Location:Livingston Co., IL
Flown Today:0Total Miles239.9

Finally, #2-10 flew! What a wonderful event! Sunday I was all worried because he finally had a chance to fly and he didn’t show any interest in the trike at all. Maybe it was the terrible morning he had – when we got out to the pen to prepare for takeoff, #2 was getting bullied by that hoodlum #8-10. This was a shock to me because the chicks usually get along pretty well. But #8 was chasing #2 around the pen and pecking at the back of his neck. #2 didn’t seem like he was able to get away from him. Ali went in the pen and broke it up while Geoff and I prepared the pen for takeoff (and I scowled at that little booger #8), but #2 was still pretty upset and running around the perimeter of the pen. Ali got him out of the pen and put him in a crate in case he was injured. Once the other birds flew off, we let him out of the crate and Brooke held him while Ali checked him over. Brooke decided to give him a chance to fly, but #2 didn’t want any part of it. He headed up the road adjacent to the runway and then headed for the woods. I can’t say that I blame him after getting bullied, but I was concerned that he was never going to fly.

Monday morning we decided to let #2 out with the rest of the birds and put him in the crate afterwards if he wouldn’t fly with his flock mates. The pen was at the end of the runway and down a small slope and there was lots of waist high brush everywhere – it wasn’t an ideal pen site due to the brush, but ultimately this may have worked to our advantage. When we opened the doors, the chicks were somewhat reluctant to walk through the brush up to the runway, but eventually the allure of flying won out over the fear of the brush and they walked/ran/flew over to the trike. In the meantime, #2 was hanging back in the pen, so I went in and walked around behind him to encourage him to leave. He didn’t want to, but I put up my arms and made myself big as I was walking toward him. That was persuasive enough and he walked out of the pen. As soon as he was out, Geoff and I hightailed it into the pen trailer while Brooke took off. After he left, we could still hear the peeps of at least one chick, but Geoff thought he could hear two. We sat in the pen trailer, with me dressed as swamp monster and Geoff in his costume so we would be ready for whatever the situation might dictate.

We heard over the radio that Brooke had 9 birds and there was a 10th bird that was trying to catch up to him and that #2 was in the woods. Richard landed to give #2 a chance to fly solo. Then we heard that the single bird had turned back and was headed for the pen. Joe tried to intercept her, but the lure of Richard on the runway was too much. It was #3. Geoff and I sat tight, waiting for instructions. We waited for a while and then Richard radioed that he had #2 and #3 on the runway. He wanted me and Geoff to quietly become swamp monsters, with one of us walking around the back of the pen and the other waiting by the trailer. We did this (although it’s awfully hard to be quiet with a crinkly tarp over your head and waist high brush that needs to be walked through!) and stood by waiting for the signal from Richard. When he asked us to come up on the runway, we walked up slowly through the brush and it was unsettling enough that both #2 and #3 started flying down the runway! Hooray! As Richard revved the engine and took off, Geoff and I ran after them as fast as we could. They circled just enough to get on course and then they were gone! Hooray! I cheered #2 on and #3 on and Richard on too! We stood there with bated breath until we heard Richard say that he was too far away to turn back to the pen! Then we gave each other a high five and I did a little happy dance on the way over to take down the pen. Hooray! Fly #2, Fly!

As we took down the pen, I decided that maybe I wasn’t so mad at that hoodlum #8 after all. I decided that when he was beating up #2, he was telling him that there was nothing right about riding down to Florida in a crate and that he’d better start flying. I guess #2 listened. Yay #2! And yay #3 for coming back to get #2!

I was so happy I had Geoff take my picture in my swamp monster disguise. I may look fetching in my costume, but I think I might be even more attractive as the swamp monster. (click thumbnail for larger image)

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Date:November 3, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:PUMPKIN ARTLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles239.9

This morning after our foiled attempt, Joe took the camera to the crane enclosure and while there did some routine maintenance in the pen. We watched him enter the pen and place a couple of fresh pumpkins out for the chicks who just love pecking at them. Pumpkins keep them entertained for hours and out of trouble.

It seems they've really been honing their carving skills! Here's what one pumpkin now looks after spending 12 hours in the pen with the Class of 2010: (click for larger view)

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Date:November 3, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:FOILED AGAINLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles239.9

Conditions on the surface appeared calm early this morning and aloft, although a slight headwind was present, it seemed a flight was still possible. However, shortly after all three trikes were airborne, and on course to the next destination, it became quickly apparent that the it would take more than 2 1/2 hours to reach the next site, which is almost 60 miles away.

The decision was made to stand down and wait for more favorable conditions.

We hope you enjoy this clip, captured on Oct. 8th as the cranes go on a training flight with one of the ultralights over the Necedah NWR. 


 

Lastly....Did you VOTE today?

Did you vote for Operation Migration in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge? Click the 'HELP OM' link to read about the Challenge and how you can HELP OM to receive a $25,000 grant.

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Date:November 2, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 24 - DOWN DAY #1Location: Livingston Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 239.9
Brisk easterly winds on the ground and strong ESE winds aloft will keep the cranes and planes on the ground today ending our hopes for an ‘three-fer’ – three consecutive fly days.

Interestingly, despite the 11 days Down Days in Winnebago County, we are still ahead of the pace of the last migration, and still on track for (dare I say it) a pre-Christmas finish. That last occurred in 2006. That year the migration ended when Class of 2006 were short-stopped at Halpata-Tastenaki Preserve until the white birds had all moved through. OM’s Pilots returned in January to lead them the final leg from Marion to Citrus County and the Chassahowitzka refuge.

Here’s our arrival history at the LaSalle County stopover
2010 Arrived 10/31 on Day 22
2009 Arrived 11/15 on Day 31
2008 Arrived 11/18 on Day 33
2007 Arrived 11/03 on Day 22
2006 Arrived 10/29 on Day 25

Livingston County is the first new stopover location on the more westerly migration route adopted in 2008. That year we overflew Livingston County, making it 114 air miles from LaSalle to Piatt County. Last year, 2009, we met our new hosts here for the first time when we arrived on November 21st. Actually, if you remember ‘the great escape’ of 2009, Richard van Heuvelen and 16 of the Class of 2009 arrived one day earlier than did the rest of us with the four cranes that chose not to make a break for it during an exercise session out of their LaSalle pensite.

Thanks to Veronica Anderton, we have some photos to share with you of the flyover yesterday morning as the pilots led the Class of 2010 from LaSalle here to Livingston County.

We're grateful to Veronica Anderton for sending her excellent photos to us so that we could share them with you.

Top Left: Brooke Pennypacker leading 9 of the 11 juvenile Whooping Cranes in the Class of 2010 from LaSalle to Livingston County, IL

Top Right: Richard van Heuvelen brings up the rear with two recalcitrant flyers, 02-10 and 03-10. This was #2's first opportunity to fly a complete migration leg. Unfortunately the headwind and rough air tired him out and he landed about 10 miles from the Livingston pensite. Hopefully the flying experience will stick with him for the next leg.

Bottom Left: A cool photo of Brooke and his cohort and they passed overhead of the folks gathered at the Flyover Viewing Location.

Lastly....Did you VOTE today?

No, not the US elections - although we hope you do that too - we mean did you vote for Operation Migration in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge? Click the 'HELP OM' link to read about the Challenge and how you can HELP OM to receive a $25,000 grant.

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Date:November 1, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject: Two fly days in a row? Somebody pinch me!Location: Livingston Co., IL
Flown Today:54.5 miles - LaSalle Co. to Livingston Co.Total Miles 239.9

Sure enough, as the sun ballooned above the horizon, I sat at the end of the runway, engine revving, vocalizer calling, and birds ready to launch. The runway was familiar; long and straight and green and on it rested the memories of similar moments from migrations past. Like the time years ago, before the hanger was built, that we had our wings dropped flat on the runway and staked down in anticipation of possible storms. We left our intern Mark Nipper in a nearby motorhome to “mind the store” while we went off to enjoy the warm hospitality of our host. Then a storm rolled in followed by Mark’s call relating that single word which says it all, “Help!”

We arrived in a sudden gale to find the ever courageous Mark lying atop one of the wings, holding on with all the determination of a rodeo bull rider to save the wing from the cold hands of the winds as they parted the lashings and fought him to lift it up to the heavens and destruction. We jumped into the fray, and soon our precious wings were again secured and our small group made its way, soaked and shivering through the dark to the motorhome to shake off the chill of yet another close call. There have been so many over the years.

This morning’s air was crisp and thick as nine birds streamed off my left wing while Richard returned to the pen to encourage #3 and his old reluctant flying buddy, #2 into the air. It was in their adventure that the real drama of the day rested, while I simply sat on my throne in the above and watched Illinois roll out beneath me.

But the land was different this time. It was a checkerboard without the checkers, Victoria Secret minus the Secrets . The entire state had undergone a really clean shave since my last visit. Which is the way it is when the weather gods bless the land with a surprisingly early harvest. Free of her crops, Illinois had become a giant welcome mat to the sky wanderer, an unending landing strip that joined the horizons, where even a blind airline passenger seated next to a badly hung over seeing eye dog could respond to a pilot’s incapacitation by rushing to the cockpit, seizing the controls and bringing the plane and its passengers in for a safe landing.

Another difference was the proliferation of wind farms whose pinwheel armies seemed to march across the landscape while marching in place. Like a modern day version of “War of the Worlds” these alien-like beings stood threateningly above all other earth connected things causing even the most shy and reserved of men to run out into the countryside and warn of their advance. But alas , they too are farmers. They harvest the wind of its bounty of kilowatts….collective currents of positives and negatives which give us light and heat and make the machinery of our society purr, all natural and renewable and pollution free. Still, I’d feel a lot more comfortable about them if they were painted John Deere Green.

As I sat in the wind tunnel which is a trike on such a cold morning‘s flight, I listened to the drama unfold miles behind. Richard had used his magic along with some of Geoff’s and Trish’s to coax #2 and #3 into the air, onto his wing and on course to the first stop in the kind of effort which stands above those of our “normal” migration. He fought the battle to keep #2 airborne for over two hours when the mornings awakening thermals rose to rough up the air and all in it.

Discouraged, #2 and #3 landed and Richard landed nearby as Walt and Ali in the tracking van pulled into view to lend assistance. Richard got #3 airborne but #2 had had enough of flying for one day, so Walt and Ali retrieved the little fellow and returned him to his box while Richard continued the journey.

Joe and I meanwhile landed at the beautiful runway our very generous host had cut out of his cornfield for us. This was after suffering our own little thrashing as we neared Mother Earth, an exercise which chased every bit of cold out of every last nook and cranny of our bodies and replaced it with sweat. Then the far off drone of an ultralight engine grew into the sight of Richard and a single bird as we called #3 down to rejoin his buddies in the security of the pen. The adventure was over for Richard, #3, and soon, for the rest of us.

And so we geocache yet another memory at another stopover, one born of chance, of will, of challenge. If the wise man is right when he says one’s true wealth lies at least in part in the richness of one’s own experience, then today was a payday. Besides, like the bumper sticker says, “I stop for flashbacks!”

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Date: November 1, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:PEPSI REFRESH EVERYTHING CHALLENGELocation:Main Office
Flown Today:54.5: LaSalle Co. to Livingston Co.Total Miles 239.9

Earlier this year Pepsi launched the Pepsi Refresh Project. People were asked to submit an “idea” so the public could vote on the idea(s) they feel is worthy of Pepsi’s support. Each cycle Pepsi gives away $200,000 to deserving charities in Canada and we’ve been trying each month to get into the approved projects and were finally notified last Thursday that we made the cut!

Now YOU can help!  We need you to VOTE and spread the word to all your friends… Once you register you have 10 votes per day, however, only one vote per idea. Naturally, we’d like you to vote everyday for Operation Migration. Should you decide to use your remaining nine votes, please vote for other ideas that aren’t competing with ours. So, any other ideas you feel are worthy of your vote, except those in the “planet” category, or in the running for the same $25k that we are.

This current voting cycle began today at noon and continues to December 31st so we have sixty-one days to collect votes for Operation Migration. But we need to vote every day, and we need you to help spread the news. Use Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, blog about it, email blasts, heck, shout it from the rooftops – we need your help!

Here's the link to visit us on the Pepsi Refresh Everything site - or why not copy and paste it everywhere you can!?

http://pep.si/d0GVKa

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Date:November 1, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:INTERIM REPORTLocation: Livingston Co., IL
Flown Today:54.5: LaSalle Co. to Livingston Co.Total Miles239.9

With Joe flying in chase position, Brooke led 9 of the Class of 2010 all the way. When they were overhead at the Flyover Viewing Location, 8 were off his left wing and one lone bird had the benefit of the wing lift all to himself. We all held in place as we waited for Richard, who we heard over the aviation radio, was bringing up the rear with number 3 and (hooray!) number 2.

Not long after, the orange leading trike wing edge appeared above the tree tops and we watched as the front bird was getting a free ride and little number 2, who it seems hasn't yet cottoned on, was a little below and flapping like mad. Richard told us he hit some thermals about 10 miles out from the stopover and down went #2 - followed by #3. Richard managed to get #3 back in the air, but after two and half hours in the air, #2 had to make the last few miles in a crate in the back of the Tracking van.

All 11 are now safely in the pen here in Livingston County. More on today's progress from today's lead pilot Brooke Pennypacker a little later today. 

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Date:November 1, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MORE PROGRESS UNDERWAY!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:54.5: LaSalle Co. to Livingston Co.Total Miles239.9

The pilots launched this morning at 7:53 CDT to test the winds aloft and about 3 minutes later, despite finding their ground speed registering at 30mph decided to give it a go! They're currently en route to Livingston County, IL.

We've lost the feed to the camera due to poor cellular signal but the last word from Liz at the public flyover location said that Brooke flew past with 9 cranes, followed by Richard with 2 - YES! that's right! #2-10 is flying! Joe is following behind in the chase position ready to lend a wing to any tired cranes.

Stay tuned for more details a bit later today.

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Date:October 31, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:GOOD DAYS - BAD DAYSLocation: LaSalle Co., IL
Flown Today:55 miles: Winnebago to LaSalleTotal Miles 185.4

Maybe birds are like people and have good days and bad ones. The conditions last Friday were not that much different from today. The air was a bit smoother and it wasn’t quite as cold, but other than that there seemed to be no reason why the last time we flew things fell apart while this time they fell into place.

Our plan this morning was to leave with the birds except for 2-10. (It’s amazing how simple that sounds.) I would lead, or at least start that way, and Richard would fly chase. Once we were underway, Brooke would turn back and try to encourage number 2 to fly with him. We guessed that with all his buddies gone, he would be willing to follow and we could finally determine if his problem was physical or psychological. That part of the plan didn’t work so well.

It seems that overnight, or more likely, early this morning, number 2 became the target of aggression. When the ground crew showed up at the pen, he was being chased by two other birds. He was pacing to get out and abrading his wings on the fence. As any high school student will tell you, running away is a submissive behavior and will only provoke your adversaries, and that is the price he was paying. He had a bit of blood on him and in the bird world, that makes you a target.

So after an eventful morning avoiding his enemies, then being examined by handlers and subsequently pushed into a crate, number 2 wasn’t in the mood to going flying with the trike. That effort doesn’t tell us much, so for now we will wait and see if we can find another opportunity to test his willingness or ability to migrate.

In the meantime, the other 10 birds and me began a slow climb in smooth cold air. We flew directly over the flyover site and headed on course. Richard fell in behind and we watched our stopover host, fly wide circles around us in his role as volunteer top cover pilot.

We flew perpendicular to the wind, and although it was blowing at 25 or so miles per hour, it only reduced our speed by 10. When you fly directly across the wind you must crab into it to hold your position or you drift off course. It’s like walking down the hall with someone constantly pushing you to the right. Each time your attention is diverted to the birds you subconsciously reduce the pressure on the controls and move further off course. Then, when you turn back, the speed drops off dramatically as you head more into the wind.

We climbed slowly to almost 3000 feet to clear the wind farms that stretch as far as you can see. They are still impressive from that altitude, but the birds only glanced down. Several times the birds changed wings, and at last they divided perfectly with five on each wing. This way they all get benefit from the wing but the pilot must swivel his neck, checking over both shoulders to ensure they are still there. In a moment, I lost one, and thought he might be above the wing. At that point, Richard could only count nine. Then far below, we saw one straggler trying to catch up. Instead of giving up all the altitude we worked so hard to get, Richard moved in to pick up his old friend, number 6.

From then on the rest of the flight was text book. We started a slow descent about five miles out and only made one circle to come down. At one point, the birds were off to the right and slightly above. I turned up the volume on the vocalizer and watched as they moved back in. One came in too fast and at the last minute pulled up to go over the wing just as turbulences pushed it up. He hit his chest right on the wingtip and I saw a feather fly as he skimmed over the top. I turned my head quickly expecting to see him falling but he simply tucked up behind the left wing and continued down. It felt like a killing blow but he must have hit the soft fabric and avoided the hard tubes. Once on the ground we checked them all but couldn’t find a mark. We spent the afternoon watching for signs of aggression in the pen but everything was calm.

It’s hard to explain why today worked and Friday didn’t. Maybe it is as simple as good days and bad. Let’s hope they have another good one soon.

PS To all those watching in the trike cam, I want to apologize for dropping the camera. It is suction-cupped to the windscreen and kept popping off when I tried to show you the Chicago skyline in the distance or the wind farms below us. All it needed was a little spit but that’s hard to accomplish in full costume at 40 miles per hour.

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Date:October 31, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 21 - STOPOVER #7Location: LaSalle Co., IL
Flown Today:55 miles: Winnebago to LaSalleTotal Miles 185.4

After 11 days on the ground in Winnebago County it sure was good to get moving again. It was a gorgeous sunny day and the folks at this morning's flyover were treated to the best view of the cranes and planes so far on this migration.

In testimony to what a super sight these loyal and hardy Craniacs got to experience this morning, (many appearing morning after morning to catch a glimpse) we have some images to share with you. The photos below are compliments of Mark Blassage - also a great fan of Whooping cranes and a recent guest author to OM's INformation magazine. Thanks for sharing Mark!

Today's lead pilot, Joe Duff leading all 10 of the juvenile Whooping Cranes that flew today. (2-10 wasn't able to fly)

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Date:October 31, 2010 - Entry 1Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:WE'RE MIGRATING!!!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:55 miles: Winnebago to LaSalleTotal Miles185.4

Once the danger of frost passed this morning, Joe went up to test conditions and we those of us watching the trikecam were thrilled to watch as he landed next to the pen, turned on his vocalizer and launched with the birds!

10 birds are currently still locked onto his wingtips as he advances toward our LaSalle County, IL stopover site. #2 is again traveling via crate.

And here's an entry from one of our amazing volunteers David Boyd:

As a second year volunteer with OM I am still learning how the whole enterprise works. It all starts about an hour before sunrise. Everyone wakes up and gets ready to get into position. The pilots get their layers of warm clothes and white costumes on and prepare their ultralights for flight.

At or near sunrise, either a trike or a cover plane (a Cessna 182 or other fixed wing non-ultralight aircraft) goes up to test the winds. It may be perfectly still on the ground, but 1,000 or 2,000 feet above ground the wind could be howling.

Meanwhile, OM interns who handle the birds on the ground get in position at the pen, ready to release the birds if and when the ultralights come for them. They need to be in costume, have their vocalizers, food for the cranes, swamp monster gear, and everything else they need to deal with any situation that happens at the pen when the birds take off - or need to be persuaded to take off.

The bird trackers (who have their costumes with them) move out in the tracking van a ways down the route to be ready to track any birds that go astray and/or land rather than fly with the ultralights. All the birds are fitted with radios on bands around their legs so the antennas of the tracking van can follow and locate them.

Liz Condie of OM and Linda Boyd OM volunteer are often the first to leave the human camp so they can join OM enthusiasts at the designated flyover sites. They keep everyone there up to the minute on whether the day’s flight is a go or not through text messages from the pen and over the aviation radio listening to the pilots.

Last year, my first migration, there were twenty Whooper juveniles, and they flew pretty much as a unit. In fact, they often all flew off one wing of one ultralight making for a spectacular sight. There were very few times when one of them needed to be crated and transported by vehicle. This year is a more typical year with one bird not flying. This year it is #2-10, and he has needed to be crated and transported on several legs of the migration. For the last two legs I have been the person that has driven with him crated in the back of the van.

So, this is what I have learned so far about the special requirements for transporting a Whooper. I can't talk, or play the radio. This makes sense, of course, because you can't have the bird hearing human voices. Luckily this year I brought an mp3 player loaded with books, so I have been listening to these.

Secondly I need to carry my cell phone in case of a vehicle breakdown. This is not so much to help me out as it is to rescue the Whooper if there is a automotive breakdown. And thirdly, even in moderately cool weather I need to blast the back of the van with the air conditioner. This is because Whooping cranes have a normal body temperature of between 104 and 106 degrees Fahrenheit and they can overheat easily in the crate.

Since the van really does not have a good way to separate front and rear air flow, this also means blasting the front of the van (and me) with conditioned air. So, I have learned to drive the van while wearing my most comfortable set of wool long underwear.

There is a lot I have learned, i.e. how to dismantle the travel pens, how to shroud the aircraft, and much more, but I'll save that for another time.

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Date:October 30, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:HELP US CELEBRATE!Location:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles130.4

Last year, at about this same time, we celebrated logging 10,000 airmiles guiding Whooping cranes along a new migratory flyway from Wisconsin to Florida. In conjunction with the celebration, we carried out the Give A WHOOP! campaign, which succeeded in generating an incredible amount of awareness for Whooping cranes, and helped to fund our 2009 project year.

Craniacs were asked to WHOOP in support of Whooping cranes and each WHOOP brought with it, a $10 contribution. But with every ten WHOOPS we received, one name was drawn as the winner of an I Give A WHOOP T-shirt, which were a big hit.

This year, we are celebrating 10 years of work to reintroduce a migratory population of Whooping cranes! The number 10 seems to be a special number for us in 2010 – it’s the 10th birthday for the reintroduction AND the southward migration began on 10-10-10

We’re asking YOU to help us celebrate! The Whooping crane reintroduction appeals to and attracts folks from every walk of life, ethnic background, and every age group from 8 to 88. And all of us have one other thing in common. Every year we will all celebrate a birthday or an anniversary milestone.

Would you help us celebrate and commemorate our 10 years of work safeguarding Whooping cranes by sending the Class of 2010 a congratulatory note with $10.00 in it? Would you ask your family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances to celebrate with us by doing the same?

AND… WE HAVE SOME Give A WHOOP T-shirts LEFT FROM LAST YEAR’S CAMPAIGN, SO… as an added bonus, until our supply runs out, for every twenty people who send congratulatory messages and a $10 contribution to the Birthday Campaign, we’ll draw one name to receive an “I Give A WHOOP” T-shirt and will publish the winner’s name in the Field Journal.

What do you say? Will you celebrate with us and ask others to celebrate too? All those who say, “Yes, I’m in,” please click here. Once we've received your congratulatory wish, we'll add your name and message to this list so others can see your commitment to the Class of 2010!

So what are you waiting for? Help us and the Whooping cranes celebrate 10 fantastic reintroduction years!

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Date:October 30, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject: Pecatonica, ILLocation: Winnebago Co., IL
Flown Today:0Total Miles 130.4

The countryside is so beautiful this time of year that it encourages spontaneous drives in the country. If you are like me, a quick run to the hardware store on Saturday afternoon often means you take the long way home.

If you live around the Chicago / Rockford area, those impromptu wanderings may bring you through Pecatonica. It is a quaint little hamlet with a name the rolls off your tongue and it is worth slowing down to see. If you have some time, stop at the Stone Wall Café on Main St for the best breakfast or lunch you could imagine.

In the time we have been here we have eaten there several times and become friends with the owners George and Deann Anderson. The Stone Wall is one of those friendly places where one conversation may include all of the occupied tables. It wasn’t long before our story spread and with successive visits Deann began to collect information so she could answer all the questions asked by her customers later.

There was so much interest in fact that they asked us to do a PowerPoint presentation. With only a day’s advance notice, they drew an audience of more than 75 people. As we told our story, they passed the hat and we soon made some great new friends and a whole jar filled with dollars.

We are very grateful to George and Deann. They are kind and generous people. They spread the word all over town, provided the space for the presentation, plus kicked in the biggest donation in the hat. We can’t thank them enough.

We are very pleased to be able to tell you about Pecatonica and the Stone Wall Café. We can do that because the birds are not there or even close by. We can’t however identify our stopover hosts. Part of our protocol is to only tell you the location of the birds down to county level. That is to protect the privacy of the owners and the isolation of the birds.

We can say however, that our hosts have been generous beyond all expectations. We have been here for 10 days, plugged into their power, using their shower and generally running down the neighborhood with our collection of motor homes and trailers. We have filled up their driveway with vehicles, their back field with birds, and their hangar with aircraft - and we still have no idea of when we are leaving. On top of that they invite us to dinner, organized another presentation at the Rock Valley College and our host uses his Cessna to fly top-cover for us around the Rockford Airport.

If our Winnebago hosts are a standard by which to measure generosity and kindness, they have set the bar very high.

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Date:October 30, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 21 - DOWN DAY #11Location: Winnebago Co., IL
Flown Today:0Total Miles 130.4

The temperature difference when we stepped outside was marked - from a frosty 25F yesterday to an almost balmy 45F this morning. The warmth, of course, comes to us courtesy of winds out of the south. Starting in the wee hours the wind gradually swung around as the morning progressed - initially out of the SSW, then from the S, and then from the WSW and averaged between 9 and 12 mph.

The wind was and is blowing progressively stronger at altitude: 35mph at 500', 50mph at 1000', and between 60 and 75mph at 1500'. If you drew a line from the middle of Oklahoma to the middle of Michigan you'd have a rough picture of the band of strong winds at altitude affecting us. A good day for planes and cranes to stay planted on terra firma.

Check back here later today for our prediction re the possibility for a flight to LaSalle County tomorrow and a potential Flyover viewing opportunity. (Sunday).

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Date:October 29, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Joe Duff
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #20 - 25F° & FROSTYLocation: Winnebago Co., IL
Flown Today0Total Miles 130.4

Just before the sun cracked the horizon, the temperature bottomed out at 25 degrees and frost formed on everything that wasn’t moving. Like the spoiled prodigy of a generous stopover host, we waited in a heated hangar until it was safe to push out our aircraft. Our hope was that the residual heat in the wings would keep the frost from forming until we could start up and take off. After that, the moving air would keep the wings clean.

For the last few legs of the migration, I have been running the trike camera from my aircraft. I try to swing it around to give the audience a better view but I can tell from the comments Heather gets that it is hard to understand what’s going on. When it is all done, and if we still have a signal, I try to summarize the morning’s events, but that doesn’t help much during the flight.

As an added feature I tried to connect the computer microphone into the radio intercom. That way, viewers could hear the conversation between the pilots and the ground crew and maybe even a commentary from me while it is all taking place. I even wired in a kill switch in case the frustration level became too evident.

It was all wired in along with a new instrument panel but it was hard to test from inside the hangar. It wasn’t until I pushed out this morning that I realized it didn’t work. With the engine running and in full cold weather gear and costume I lifted the seat and circumvented the intercom to bypass the problem. Those two or three minutes were enough to leave me sweating and put a layer of frost on the wing.

Our wings can generate enough lift to keep us airborne even if we slow down to 35 miles per hour. Any slower than that and they stop being wings and turn instantly into bricks. Frost on the wing surface interrupts the airflow and increases that speed when they give up flying. Our slowest speed is around 35mph. The birds fly at 38 when they first take off so there isn’t much room for error. The more I circled the pen trying to get the birds to follow, the faster I needed to fly to stay airborne. Several times, it broke over the trees and I had to add power and speed up to 40 or better to keep from falling.

With the recent rain, part of their pen has flooded and the birds are happy to be in water for the first time since we left the refuge. Maybe that attraction and the extra speed were enough to turn them back but a twenty minute rodeo ensued. One bird stayed on my wing and another formed on Brooke while Richard tried to get the others on their way.

The ground crew ran up and down the runway in swamp monster tarps but nothing seemed to work. The Pecatonica River winds just to the north and the birds picked an open field and landed on the wrong side . Both Brooke and I had to land back at the pen to shake off the only two birds that understood the concept of following, while Richard did a head count.

We took off again and all the birds were soon spotted very near some power lines less than a mile from the pen but separated by the river. Brooke found a field he could land in and walked through the woods to them. I landed in another area to see if we could find an easier access. The idea was to walk them to the aircraft and take off for the short flight back to the pen, but a double locked gate and barbed wire separated the field they picked, and the one Brooke could land in.

Walter and Jess, who were manning the tracking van, joined us and we walked the birds to the gate. Walter scaled the fence and encouraged them from the other side while I tossed them over the fence. That sounds worst than it is. We have learned over the years that a good way to get birds over a fence is to gently grab them from behind holding their wings closed with your thumbs while you fingers support them from underneath. You throw them up and they fly back down on the other side. None of them seemed too bothered by this affront, in fact, Walter commented later that they all seemed to line up waiting for their turn. Once Brooke was ready the rest of us hid while he took off and led them back to the pen.

Not sure what we are going to do next. Wait for the next good day and maybe they will decide for us.

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Date:October 29, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: OM Pilots
Subject: REQUESTING VIEWERS' COOPERATIONLocation: Winnebago Co., IL
Flown Today0Total Miles 130.4

We are very grateful for the interest and support we receive here in Winnebago County. We are also appreciative of the fact that many people are anxious for an opportunity to see the young Whooping cranes as we lead them south.

HOWEVER... What is happening is that rather than going to the designated Flyover Viewing Site, a goodly number of folks are choosing to park along the road adjacent to our stopover site.

We choose our Flyover Viewing Sites with great care. We look for a location along the flight path that has good sight lines and that allows vehicles to be parked safely off the road. We ensure that they are sufficiently distant (usually 2 to 3 miles) from the site to not have vehicles and people scaring the birds at departure.

This morning many cars and people lined the busy road just a field away from the pen and directly on our flight line. In that short distance, the pilots can barely get the birds to a hundred feet and despite all the good intentions, they could see flashes going off as they approached. That little distraction is sometimes all it takes to make the birds turn back. Additionally if one of the birds went down in that harvested bean field, it would be their first up close encounter with vehicles and people - something we have worked so hard for all of their lives to avoid.

Their safety and well-being after release depends a great deal on them being as wild as possible. Many will remember that we have already had a bird that had to be removed from the wild population because it became too acclimated to humans.

Our other concern is for you. Cars parked on both sides of a busy road with everyone looking up is an accident waiting to happen and we would never forgive ourselves if someone were hurt because of us. 

We know everyone just wants to share the excitement and thrill of seeing these magnificent birds, but we are also confident you don't want to jeopardize them, or impede our ability to lead them to their next stop. We ask everyone to abandon the practice of parking on the road adjacent to our pensite. PLEASE use the designated Flyover Viewing Site.

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Date:October 29, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:NOT FOR LACK OF TRYINGLocation: Winnebago Co., IL
Flown Today0Total Miles 130.4

Despite attempt after attempt, the cranes ended up back in the pen and the trikes back on the ground. A bit of a 'crane rodeo' was not unexpected after so long in one place, not to mention the recent rains caused water to flood a portion of the pen much to the chicks' delight.

Joe, today's lead pilot, will provide us with the tale of today's non-flight for posting here later today, but in the meantime we can tell you that we are not optimistic about our chances for a flight Saturday. Projections are for SSW winds on the ground and worse conditions aloft - 30 to 50 mph winds out of the WSW - virtually guaranteeing we'll be held in place again tomorrow.

With no departure today we broke the record for the most number of Down Days ever spent at this stopover site. Today will be Down Day #10 here, and as of the moment we expect to grow that to #11 unless there's a weather miracle overnight.

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Date:October 29, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WOOD BUFFALO-ARANSAS POPULATION MIGRATIONLocation: Winnebago Co., IL
Flown Today???Total Miles 130.4

Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge sent us an update on the migration of the western population - those in the world's only naturally occurring flock of migratory Whooping Cranes. Click this link to read his full report.

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Date:October 28, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #19 - DOWN DAY #9Location: Winnebago Co., IL
Flown Today:0Total Miles 130.4

Some records we'd rather not tie much less beat. Today, the ninth consecutive day on the ground in Winnebago County, ties the record for the longest stretch we've ever been held up at this stopover location. And it was just last year that we set that record, beating 2008's record number of days here (7).

The forecast is calling for the recent raging winds to ease up overnight. Projections range from W 5mph to WNW 7mph on the ground, but there is still some muscle flexing happening aloft. With wind strength is showing a possible 20 - 30 mph up top in the morning, so it remains to be seen if we can escape without breaking the days grounded record in Winnebago.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Wood Stork

Genus/Species

Nycteria americana

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Loss of habitat, changes in land use and water levels. Predation of nests by raccoons.

Description

Only stork in North America. Large, long-legged. 45 inches tall, wingspan 60+".  Males slightly larger than females. Plumage white with black flight and tail feathers. Bare dark head.  Bill dark, large at base, down-curved, up to 9" long.

Behavior

Primary diet small fish. Also crayfish, amphibians, young alligators, snakes.  Feeds in water 6-10" deep, probing with bill partly open. When a food item is touched, bill snaps shut with reflex time of 25 milliseconds, one of the fastest known in vertebrates. Use thermals in flying from nesting to feeding grounds. Begin to lay eggs at 4 years old. Nest in large rookeries, building nests in upper branches of cypress or mangrove trees. 2-5 eggs.

Where found

Florida primarily, from Alabama to South Carolina.

Habitat

Wet meadows, swamps, ponds, and coastal shallows.

Recovery Plan

Protected under US migratory Bird Treaty Act.

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Date:October 28, 2010Reporter:Walt Sturgeon
Subject:SMALL WETLAND PRESERVES ARE IMPORTANTLocation:Winnebago Co., IL
Flown Today:0Total Miles130.4

Last Saturday evening I was invited to attend the 10th Anniversary of the NYGREN WETLAND RESERVE near Rockton, IL. This preserve was one of many projects undertaken by the Natural Land Institute whose stated mission “is to create an enduring legacy of natural land in northern Illinois for people, plants and animals.”

On the way to the banquet my hosts Sue Merchant and Sally Hoff stopped at the reserve just before night fall so I could get a peek at what they were celebrating. We walked to a viewing platform and stretched out before us was a beautiful restored wetland with hundreds of migrating Canada geese, a few snow geese, a sprinkling of ducks, and various herons and other birds. During the migration season, which is just beginning, it also plays host to white pelicans and lots of sandhill cranes. The main reason they were so anxious to show it to me was that it was the temporary home for 5 whooping cranes for 24 days during last year’s fall migration. For those of you receive the Operation Migration Magazine, INformation, there was a wonderful article in the last edition by photographer Mark Blassage about this visit by 5 of the WCEP birds.

When we got to the banquet they had a revolving slide show running during the social hour. It seemed that every third picture was of the whooping cranes standing, or flying in or out of their marsh. It was obvious that the five whooping cranes had attracted a lot of interest to their project and hopefully some additional contributions to this non-profit conservation organization. I was introduced and asked to say a few words about OM since many of the 150 people in the room were OM supporters and knew that we were camped nearby.

The program for the evening event had the following description of the Preserve which I am sure they wouldn’t mind me sharing with you:
“For thousands of years, people have been drawn to the rich land and abundant wildlife along three waterways- Rock River, Pecatonica River and Raccoon Creek – that flow through the Carl and Myrna Nygren Wetland Preserve. The Natural Land Institute purchased the 721 acre Nygren Wetland Preserve in 2000 as a result of Carl Nygren’s generous gift, left to NLI in his will. When the NLI purchased it, very little of the original vegetation remained. Hundreds of volunteers have helped restore 100 acres of Prairie, 450 acres of wetland and 150 acres of woodland by using century-old records left by surveyors and by looking at soil types.

In 2007, Raccoon Creek was returned to its original channel; as a result, river otters have returned to the creek. In the summer, blossoms of wild bergamot, sunflowers and black-eyed Susan create a purple and yellow ocean of color, stretching from the scenic bluff in the north to the Pecatonica River in the south. Migrating pelicans and whooping cranes have made Nygren Wetland Preserve a stopover on their long journeys north and south.”

This Preserve is only one example of how an individual or a small number of individuals can inspire others to pick up a cause to preserve habitat for the many creatures we all enjoy. Time is running out as we see more and more development encroaching on these special wild places. It does little good for us to work so hard to restore a species, like the whooping crane, if there is no habitat left to sustain it.

I would hope that our readers will think about how they might get involved in a habitat preservation or restoration project to benefit not only the whooping crane but the many other species that use it as well. The people who worked so hard to preserve the Nygren Wetland are to be congratulated for an outstanding effort.

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Date:October 27, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 18 - DOWN DAY #8Location: Winnebago Co., IL
Flown Today:0Total Miles 130.4

Today marks the 8th day on the ground in Winnebago County, Illinois for the Class of 2010. The news has been full of the impact of the weather on the Midwest as well as the Chicago area, bringing some remarkable records, barometric and otherwise.

The weather system has yet to move entirely through the area of our current stopover, or at least the effects, namely high winds, still linger. Due to a power outage, camp has been without power since early yesterday afternoon. The problem was caused by a downed tree nearby and the power company expects all to be back to normal before this morning is out.

The winds also tested the travel pen with one panel being damaged - but all's well with the birds. All the anchor ropes were doubled and everything held just fine during 60mph winds yesterday. Similar wind velocity is predicted for today.

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Date:October 27, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:REPORT YOUR WHOOPING CRANE SIGHTINGSLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles130.4

A reminder to all birders, biologists, anglers, hunters, etc - Please use our Partnership web reporting site

This link provides an observation form to complete, on a website maintained by USFWS, and when anyone uses it to report sightings, the information is immediately sent to members of the WCEP monitoring team. It's efficient and easy to use, so you really help partners keep track of whooping cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population.

Each time you report sightings, you'll receive an automatic 'thank you' message. which directs you to a webpage containing the latest project update and map of recent whooping crane locations.

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Date:October 27, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:GREAT NEWS FOR WESTERN POPULATIONLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles130.4

Published Oct. 26, 2010 - National Post - By Randy Boswell

North America’s imperiled whooping crane population — which had experts in a panic just 18 months ago after nearly 10% of the giant birds died in their wintering grounds in Texas — has rebounded after a banner summer season in Northern Canada where a near-record number of chicks were born.

The unexpected resurgence of the last surviving natural flock of the continent’s tallest bird — one of Canada’s most endangered species — has wildlife officials on the Gulf Coast in Texas excitedly awaiting this fall’s arrival of the cranes after their epic, annual flight south from Wood Buffalo National Park along the Alberta-Northwest Territories border.

Read more

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Date:October 26, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:STANDING DOWN...STILLLocation:Main Office
Flown Today:0Total Miles130.4

A high wind warning was issued late last evening and will continue for the northern Illinois/southern Wisconsin area until 8pm this evening. This of course will mean that we'll be planted as firmly as possible on the ground today. This is down day #7 for the team and cranes in Winnebago County, Illinois.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Topeka Shiner

Genus/Species

Notropis topeka

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat degradation caused by impact of road and bridge construction and maintenance on streams; gravel-removal operations; dams; water pollution from livestock; land-use changes.

Description

Small minnow, less than 3" long. Silvery color with well-defined dark stripe on side, and dark wedged-shaped spot at base of tail fin. Males more reddish in all fins in breeding season.

Behavior

May move downstream to areas of permanent water in dry summer months when flows are reduced. When spawning, may share the breeding nests of larger and more aggressive sunfish, using them to better guard eggs and young from predators.

Where found

Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota

Habitat

Small to mid-size prairie streams with relatively high water quality, cool to moderate temperatures; stable stream channels; off-channel oxbows with bottoms of clean gravel, rock or sand.

Recovery Plan

Restoration of stream channels, limiting new dam construction and removing existing dams, implementing upland management.

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Date:October 25, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Trish Gallagher
Subject:PICKING UP CRANESLocation: Winnebago Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 130.4

As a rule, we don’t handle cranes. They are both very strong and very fragile - they’re meant to fly, so they have powerful wings and light bones. There’s always a risk of injury when handling cranes even if you have tons of experience. At the same time, there are some situations when it’s necessary.

During migration, if a chick goes down somewhere, I might have to pick it up (hopefully not!) or, I might need to put a chick in a crate. This has been at the back of my mind all summer and I have procrastinated learning. By learning how to pick up an adult, I risk injuring it, but if I don’t, I could put a chick at risk during migration. And now that migration is underway, and I’ve already had to walk a chick out of a swamp, I couldn’t procrastinate any longer.

On Tuesday the 12th, just after the chicks left Necedah for South Juneau County, Geoff and I went to the International Crane Foundation (ICF) with Marianne Wellington (ICF) and Robert Doyle (Patuxent) for some practice handling cranes. It was another adventure in my year of adventures – and it has a happy ending, so don’t be afraid to read on.

Marianne and Robert both have lots of experience handling cranes, so I felt safe under their tutelage and I was able to soak up lots of knowledge about cranes during our session. (But please remember I’m an engineer who has never had an anatomy or physiology class.) First of all, did you know that handling will change a crane’s blood chemistry? If I understand correctly, since it’s stressful to be picked up, there will be different levels of stress hormones in a crane’s blood after handling. This is important because ICF is doing annual crane health checks this week, so we had to handle cranes that don’t need to have blood drawn for their annual checkup.

Marianne chose three cranes for us to practice on – a Siberian (Elpis), a Brolga (Razzmatazz), and a hybrid sandhill-red crowned crane (Cryophil). She started our session by describing how we would confine the crane to a corner of the pen, and then described how to pick up the adult. If your right hand is dominant, you will probably want that hand to be the one that holds the legs, so you’ll want to pick up the body of the crane with your left hand/side. You want it facing you, so that once you have picked it up, its head will be behind you and your right hand will be free to hold its legs.

A good analogy for a crane’s torso is a football. You want to tuck that football under your left arm and hold it snugly so the crane stays in place. You want to be firm but gentle – it’s better to be assertive than timid, but you don’t want to be too forceful either. When you start to pick up the crane, you put your left hand under its sternum and feel for its center of gravity so you have a stable grip. Once you have it stabilized and ready to pick up, you take the legs with your right hand and hold them near the hock. You want to keep a finger between the legs so the hocks don’t rub together.

If it sounds intimidating, it is, but it’s better to get over your nerves with an expert there to help you. Marianne demonstrated, and then I did it. I breathed first, then put my arm around Cryo’s torso, slipping my hand under her to feel her sternum, putting my right fingers around her legs, and then, up she went. I was holding a crane! Wow! Just like that, Cryo was up in my arms and I was holding her legs and I could feel her body snugly under my arm. Next, Marianne took her from me so I could see how to hand her off to someone.

Cryo was a good sport, but then she tired of this attention, so Marianne set her down. So now you’re imagining holding a crane and you want to know how to let it down, right? Make sure the crane has an escape route. Make sure it has a stable footing so it doesn’t fall down. Let go. But don’t do this at home, unless you have Derrick the plush crane to practice on.

When we moved on to handling wings, Marianne explained that the long bone (humerus) is like the scaffolding that supports the powerful muscle that provide the lift. The lower portions of the wing are used for steering and finesse. We’re not so different in that our shoulders are much stronger than our fingers. The point is, if you need to handle a crane’s wing, it’s better to hold the strong part of the wing rather than the delicate part. I got to practice holding Razz, who was not interested in going into the crate. He dragged me around the pen for a while, having some fun with the intern, before I shepherded him to the front of the crate. There he balked, so Marianne helped me with the final hurdle of getting him across the threshold into the crate. She put her hand under his bustle and lifted a little, just enough to unbalance him a tiny bit. Then he wanted to step forward, even though that was into the crate. It was very impressive and I was so grateful for the lesson.

As we left, I breathed a sigh of relief – at least now I know the basics and we all got out of it without a major mishap. I thanked Marianne and Robert and Cryo and Razz for helping me out. Don’t worry, though – I won’t go out and arbitrarily handle the birds with my new skills. I’ll save them for an emergency.

And now I can hardly wait to learn more about bird anatomy. If you’re a lifelong learner like me and interested in bird anatomy and structure, Marianne recommends Manual of Ornithology by Noble S. Proctor. I ordered mine from Amazon and it’s on the way.

Are you wondering about Geoff? Well that’s his story to tell.

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Date:October 25, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WE'RE BACK....Location: Winnebago Co., IL
Flown Today:0 MilesTotal Miles 130.4

Programming, server, and connection issues have kept us off the website for more than a day. We're back on track now however. The issues appear to be rectified and we hope those fixes stay fixed.

Those of you who are members and receive our daily EarlyBird e-bulletins are already aware that rain and wind continues to keep us pinned to the ground in Winnebago County. The unfortunate part is that according to the long range weather projections it is going to get worse before it gets better.

Very high SSW and SW winds both on the ground and aloft are forecast for the next few days - 20 to 30mph and higher on the ground and as much as 50 to 60 mph aloft. At the moment, it doesn't appear we'd be able to get in the air until at least Thursday/Friday, if not after that. Doesn't mean we're not hoping for that to change though.....

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Pallid Sturgeon

Genus/Species

Scaphirhynchus albus

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Critical habitat reduced by navigation and flood control on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

Description

Grayish-white color. May live 40 years, reach 5 - 6 ft long, weigh 65 pounds. Pointed snout. Sucker-like mouth on underside of head with four barbels in a crescent forward of mouth. Barbel bases weakly fringed, with bases of center barbels less than half width of outer barbels.   Belly without scale-like plates. Large pectoral fins, long streamlined bodies.  Species Scaphirhynchus walterii is unrelated.

Behavior

Does not reproduce until 7 - 12 years old or more.  Feeds by sucking in worms, leeches, crayfish, fish, snails, small clams at bottom of rivers, lakes.

Where found

Missouri and Mississippi Rivers downstream from the Illinois River. Arkansas, Illinois Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee

Habitat

Big rivers with braided channels, sand and gravel bars, sand shoals, wetlands.

Recovery Plan

Pallid Sturgeon to be protected by treating the similar Shovelnose Sturgeon as endangered where their ranges overlap.  Missouri Department of Conservation has acquired conservation land to support recovery goals.

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Date:October 23, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Liz Condie
Subject:EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION UPDATELocation:Winnebago Co., IL
Distance:0Total Miles130.4

The WCEP Monitoring team reports that as of October 16 (or last record) the maximum size of the Eastern Migratory Population was 96 birds; 52 males, 42 females, and 2 wild-hatched young-of-year chicks. At the end of this report period, the majority of the population was located in Wisconsin. (*=female; D=Direct Autumn Release; NFT=Non Functional Transmitter)

OF NOTE:
-  Wild 3-10, the chick of parents 12-02 and mate 19-04*, was captured and banded on October 7. 
-  Wild 1-10, chick of parents 3-04 and 9-03*, was captured and banded September 14.
-  Two unidentified Whooping Cranes were reported in Rock County on October 2 and 14. A ground search of the area   October 15 yielded no results.
-  27-07* was reported in Kosciusko County, IN on September 25, 26, 29, and on October 10.

No Recent Record
-  Nos. 7-07 and D39-07* were reported in Goodhue County, MN September 13. No subsequent reports.
-  D37-07 (last reported in Jackson County, MI April12 was probably the Whooping crane spotted near Haenhle Sanctuary in Jackson County October 3)

Long Term Missing (more than 90 days)
-  5-08 - Columbia County, WI -Dec. 10, 2009
-  12-08 - Columbia County, WI -Dec. 10, 2009
-  D36-08 - Lawrence County, TN - Dec. 11, 2009
-  D33-05* - Jackson County, IN - Mar. 6, 2010
-  7-09 - Waukesha County, WI - Apr. 10, 2010
-  7-01* - Fond du Lac County, WI, May 2
-  16-03NFT - last observed on NNWR May 6
-  14-05 NFT - last observed on NNWR May 18
-  20-05*NFT - may have been the unidentified whooping crane reported in Jackson County May 24
-  13-09 and 19-09 - Ransom County, ND May 25

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Date:October 23, 2010Reporter:Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 14 - DOWN DAY 4Location:Winnebago Co., IL
Distance:0Total Miles130.4

Rain and south winds eliminated any chance of advancement along the migration route this morning. A balmy temperature already in the 60's before 5:00am made it apparent from which direction our weather was coming. Aloft, those south winds have an almost 30mph head of steam.

We've almost come to expect getting stalled here in Winnebago. Unfavorable weather/winds the last two years kept us lingering here day after day after day: 7 down days in 2008 and 9 down days in 2009. If the current long range forecasts prove accurate, our 2010 stay could tie if not surpass those numbers. Here's hoping not...

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Piping Plover

Genus/Species

Charadrius melodus

Status

Great Lakes population Endangered. Other US populations threatened.

Status Cause

Habitat loss or degradation; human disturbance.

Description

Small, stocky shorebird 7.3" long. Sand-colored upper body, white underside, orange legs. In breeding season, black forehead, black breast band, orange bill.

Behavior

Eat insects, spiders, and crustaceans. Nest is small shallow scrape in sand lined with pebbles or broken shells.  Both parents incubate eggs, usually 4, for 27 days. Chicks can walk several hours after hatching, tended by both parents. Fly at 30 to 35 days.

Where found

Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, North Dakota, Saskatchewan, Manitoba. Along Gulf Coast or other southern locations in winter.

Habitat

Wide, flat, open, sandy beaches with very little vegetation. May include small creeks or wetlands

Recovery Plan

US Fish and Wildlife Service determined actions required for survival.

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Date:October 22, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter:Liz condie
Subject:SPECIAL PRESENTATIONLocation:Winnebago Co., IL
Distance:0Total Miles130.4

For folks within driving distance of Pecatonica, IL we offer a special opportunity to attend a presentation by Joe Duff.

IF we are unable to fly again tomorrow (Saturday) Joe will be giving a PowerPoint presentation at 6:30pm at the Stone Wall Cafe in downtown Pecatonica. Please come join us and our generous hosts, George and Deanne Anderson, for an image and video filled presentation about 'Flying with Birds'.

We will also have some 'OM Gear' on hand, so if you'd like a new t-shirt or a sweatshirt, or some other item - from jewelry to note cards - this will a chance for you to shop first hand.

Hope to see you there!! (Unless we're lucky enough to fly that is.)

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Date:October 22, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Liz Condie
Subject:PHOTOS OF OUR 'NO GO'Location:Winnebago Co., IL
Distance:0Total Miles130.4

OM volunteer David Boyd managed to capture a few shots of today's aborted attempt of a flight to LaSalle County.

Richard van Heuvelen takes off with two of the Class of 2010 on an exercise flight. And here they are on the return to the pen.
Richard watches over his shoulder as one crane floats along behind. Richard and Joe head away from the pensite.
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Date:October 22, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Liz condie
Subject:WOOD BUFFALO - ARANSAS POPULATION UPDATELocation:Winnebago Co., IL
Distance:0Total Miles130.4

This report just in from Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Recovery Team Chair and Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

"Whooping cranes are currently spread all the way from the nesting grounds to the wintering grounds. The first two whooping cranes have arrived at Aransas in Texas, with a pair sighted October 21st by Dr. Felipe Chavez-Ramirez and Walter Wehtje of The Crane Trust who are currently at Aransas.

Crane Trust data from the 10 radioed cranes have them in North Dakota or Canada (including some still in Wood Buffalo National Park), except for one sub-adult bird that is in Oklahoma. Retired CWS biologist Brian Johns spotted 63 whooping cranes at 3 different locations in Saskatchewan on October 21st, so that tells you where the majority of the flock is located. With so many cranes still in Canada, and the first 2 cranes spotted at Aransas five days past the average first arrival date of October 16th, the migration appears to be about one week later than average this year.

Observational data compiled by Jeanine Lackey of the Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracking Project in Grand Island, Nebraska has numerous reports coming from North Dakota with nothing from other Flyway States (SD, NE, KS) except a radioed crane in Oklahoma and one white-plumaged bird in eastern Colorado outside of the usual migration corridor that was apparently influenced by Sandhill cranes.

Tom indicated he will start the census flights at Aransas in early November.

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Date:October 22, 2010Reporter:Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY 13 - DOWN DAY 3Location:Winnebago Co., IL

At 4am it was completely calm with what breath of wind that existed coming from the SSW. The key to progress however lay up top - and the models showed winds out of the NE at 500, 1000, and 1500 feet gradually swinging around to come out of the east by sunrise.

The trikes went up and the trikes came down. The headwind was stiff and would have made it ~3 hours or so to the next stopover. Not feasible for the Class of 2010 at this stage of the game.

The team took advantage of the opportunity however to let the cranes out for a short exercise flight. After that, Brooke tried to coax #2 into a solo flight but he was having none of it. He kept getting distracted by his penmates and after a few flaps would turn back to walk toward the pen.

Check back here later today for more news - more Field Journal entries.

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Date:October 21, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MILEMAKER CHALLENGE ISSUED!Location:Main Office

Hot on the heels of our arrival in Illinois – the longest state in the seven state journey at 338 miles – came a challenge for the MileMaker Campaign. Jim Pinson from Havana, FL sent us the following note:

This matching miles challenge is in memory of my mother, Emmie Cato Pinson, who lost her 3 year battle with cancer this past summer in Springfield, IL where she moved to so that she could be near her daughter. To gently lift Emmies’ mind away from her troubles, we would call daily and read her excerpts from the OM Field Journal, and she specifically asked for news of “uncle 9-05” and his antics with the colts at the Canfield training site, as well as progress of the adults who winter in her native South Carolina. Emmie was thrilled to hear of all the egg-action in the marshes of Necedah this spring, and was pleased to be honored each of the last 3 years of her life with mile #1177. The last time we saw Emmie, in hospice care in June, she had her favorite plush toys cuddled around her on the pillow – Derrick the Crane, a calling Loon and a puppy.

The MileMaker challenge works like this: Jim Pinson will match a total of 5 Illinois miles in memory of Emmie Cato Pinson. So if you’ve been waiting to sponsor a mile, or even a portion of a mile, here’s a chance to DOUBLE your contribution and help fund the Illinois portion of the journey!

We think Emmie Cato Pinson would be very proud of her son – and the Class of 2010. To select your mile, ¼, or ½ mile, please click here.

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Date:October 21, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Geoffrey Tarbox
Subject:FOCUSED ON #2-10Location: Winnebago Co., IL

Yesterday, I had high hopes for little old 2-10. It was going to be the first time he would’ve been given a chance to fly this whole migration. We’d hoped the wing he scraped up back in Necedah had healed. He had to be crated and shuttled down the ninety odd miles we had travelled thus far, and I was not looking forward to having to shuttle him another forty. It’s not exactly first-class travel, he can’t learn the migration route cooped up in a little plywood box, and I think the only soul who hates it more than I do is 2-10.

After three straight days of being boxed, I thought he would’ve stuck to the trike like glue. Trish and I figured he would’ve realized that, “Hey, if I’m up here, those blobby white jerkwads can’t stuff me in that box! Hahaha!”

But then the trike took off, and #2 was still in the pen. Nobody likes a pessimist, but I was already getting that sinking feeling. But then again, 8-10 and 17-10 were still in the pen with him, so I was thinking maybe they hadn’t gotten used to the on site pen at our stopover.

Still hoping for the best, I shooed the remaining three birds out the door just as Joe flew by. And as I’d hoped, they all took off so Trish and I piled into the nearby pen trailer to let the pilots do their thing. But not two minutes after we’d gotten in, we heard via radio that a bird was breaking away from the pack. A minute or so later, we heard that it was coming in for a landing. Trish and I emerged as swamp monsters, hoping a pair of goofy humans with tarps wrapped around them would give the bird the motivation he needed. But as I came out, I could see #2 on the other side of a valley about a half mile away. Apparently, the only thing he’d learned was, “Hey, if I’m on the other side of this valley, those tarp people can’t do tarp-y things to me! Hahahaha!”

Since swamp monsters can’t chase a bird on the other side of a valley, Trish and I ruefully retreated back into the pen trailer so that the pilots could get going with the remaining ten birds. Once the pilots were away, we slipped back into our costumes and hiked across the valley to where the returned bird was. Since we were going up and down a valley, we had a fun little hike ahead of us. Between the steep drops, and hummocks that kept catching my boots, it was a somewhat treacherous hike. The fact my visor kept getting fogged up every few seconds didn’t make things easier. By the time I made it up the other crest of the valley, my glasses were fogged up as well.

But trivial frustrations aside Trish and I pressed on. Brooke was hovering overhead, marking where the bird was. Sadly, he had taken refuge in some high grass 50 or so feet ahead, heading down another valley. The problem is, when you go after a bird through high grass you make rustling noises, no matter how quiet you are. And the rustling scares the bird since he doesn’t know what’s coming up behind him. By the time you get to him he’s too scared to follow you. I learned this from the last time Trish and I had to chase after #2 when he landed outside the pen at Necedah.

Number 2 was already strolling away from us down the hill, totally ignoring the cranberries we were tossing him and the brood calls we where playing. Taking a more proactive approach, I moved out ahead of him and cut off his escape. I walked toward him with my arms out, sort of passively directing him back toward Trish without having to grab onto him. Reluctantly, he turned around and followed after a costumed Trish as she waved her puppet at him. Every now and then he tried to veer off to the left or right and get around me, but I managed to stay ahead of him. Or rather behind him.

Once we got him back up to the top, he was more willing to let us lead/shepherd him. For one, there was less tall grass to shove through and rattle his nerves. But we still had to walk him another half mile back to his pen. However, Trish (wisely) opted to take a grass path. At first, I just wanted him back in his pen as soon as possible. But as she pointed out, it would’ve meant leading him through tall grass, which he obviously didn’t like. It also meant navigating him around fairly steep drop-offs. And the last thing we needed was to give him a busted leg to go along with his busted wing.

It was a longer hike but much smoother, and #2 was more willing to follow. We got him back in the pen just in time for a volunteer to show up with a crate to carry him down in. Working together, Trish and I successfully corralled him in his box (on our own for the first time no less!).

Still, I couldn’t help but worry about #2 as we dismantled the pen. He had now travelled a lot of miles by road. Even with a healed-up wing he showed little interest in following the trike. Everyone including myself now suspects there may be a behavioral problem afoot. Before we left Necedah he was always low bird on the totem pole while they were in the air. It wasn’t uncommon to see him drop out and land on the runway after five or ten minutes of training. Brooke suspects he might be uneasy with flying with the trike. Considering this is the same, no-nonsense, take-crap-from-nobody bird who used to knock sense back into #11 and #16, I can’t help but be a little puzzled by that. Perhaps throwing your weight around with ten other birds isn’t so easy when you don’t have both feet on the ground.

But I’m not giving up on number 2 yet. He has flown before, and we can surely make him fly again. Brooke hopes that if we can fly him by himself next time we fly, he might be more interested in staying airborne. I think that’s a swell idea, since that’s how we got him to Lasky Field back in Necedah. Maybe if he doesn’t have to worry about fighting with 10 other birds for a spot next to the trike he’ll hit his groove. If nothing else, I just hope he learned not to run and flap around the pen like a wild thing. Not unless he wants to bang that wing up again.

Now if you'll excuse me, I’m off to play a video game where I’m all that stands between a mad scientist and world domination. He thinks he’s hot stuff now, but wait ‘til I trash his army of eight super robots and take their weapons. We’ll see who’s still laughing then.

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Date:October 21, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:MIGRATION DAY #12 - DOWN DAY #2Location: Winnebago Co., IL

For the first time on this migration we felt the wind chill. At 4:00am the temperature was 40F but 35F with the wind chill and you could really feel it. Any warmth on fingers gripping the coffee cup was negated by the cold wind. On the ground the wind ranged ~5 mph out of the west but there were gusts of +10 mph.

By 6:30am the pilots were walking around, coffees in hand, trying to figure out our chances for a flight. It soon became apparent that today would be one of those many mornings that we wouldn't know if it was a go or not right up until take-off time.....that is, minutes after sunrise, which this morning was at 7:20CST.

As the morning progressed, we witnessed the winds swinging around to come out of the NW - a good thing. The downside was that aloft they were blowing a powerful 25 plus mph. Ergo, we'll be spending at least one more day here in Winnebago County.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of  Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Least Tern -Interior population

Genus/Species

Sterna antiglare

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat modification; human disturbance

Description

The smallest tern with relatively long bill, forked tail.  8"- 9" long, wingspan 19" - 21". Black primary wing feathers. White breast, smoky-gray rump and tail. Black cap in breeding season. Yellow legs and bill with black tip.

Behavior

Flight is fast, direct, with fairly deep hurried wing beats. Frequently hovers, then plunge-dives for fish. Voice is high reedy chippering. Nest is a shallow hole scraped in an open sandy area, gravelly patch, or exposed flat. 2 or 3 eggs. Will abandon nest if disturbed by recreational activities on rivers, or beach-walkers. Chicks leave nest 2 to 3 days after hatching. Adults continue care, leading them to shelter in nearby grasses and bringing them food. Migrate in the fall to Central America and south.

Where found

Isolated areas along Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Red, and Rio Grande Rivers. Winter in Central America, northern South America.

Habitat

Sparsely vegetated sandbars along rivers, sand and gravel pits, shorelines of lakes or reservoirs.

Recovery Plan

 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined actions required for survival.

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Date:October 20, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Walter Sturgeon
Subject:THE POWER OF THE COSTUMELocation: Winnebago Co., IL

Every once in a while a bird just decides that he doesn’t want to fly that day, or he decides that he will drop out of line and turn back once underway. One such bird dropped out early just south of the first ridge after leaving our stop in South Juneau County.

On every fight the tracking team in a van with communication to both the air and ground crews follows as closely as the road network will allow under the pilots to pick up a bird that drops out. Richard reported a bird down near a pond so the tracking team went into action. This particular day Robert Doyle, from Patuxent, was tracking with Jess Thompson, who had volunteered for the day and who has lots of tracking experience. They started looking for the bird.

They were close by and picked up a signal near where Richard said it dropped out. They found the property owner to get permission to go on the land, but by the time they got close, the bird took off again and headed back over the ridge toward the pensite. This often happens because after being held in a particular place for even as little as one day they have the ability to home in on that location.

Geoff and I were probably taking down the pen when the bird got back and flew on by. We didn’t see it. Trish had gone ahead to our next stop in Sauk County with #2-10 while Geoff and I finished disassembling the pen. We were pulling the pen out of the field when we spotted Robert and Jess with a crate walking toward us. They said they were getting a strong signal from bird 10-10, identified from its unique radio signal, and said they thought it was at the other end of the pensite field.

After clearing the field with the truck and trailer I got in costume and walked back to help. They were walking back by the time I got to the old pensite. They hadn’t found the bird and were going to drive around the nearby roads to try and get a better signal.

I decided to walk further into the field in a different direction and into nearby woods with the brood call of the adult whooping crane blasting on my MP3 player to see if I could find it. I got a couple of hundred yards into the woods when the bird come flying to me. The combination of the costume and the brood call offered obvious comfort to the now frighten and lost chick.

The immediate problem was how to let the tracking team know I had the chick and to summon help. A timely call from Joe to my cell phone to find out whether we were having any luck solved the problem. I was able to get far enough away from the bird to tell him that I had the bird, and to get Robert and Jess to return to the pensite area with a crate.

I started walking out of the woods and along the edge of the open field with the bird in hot pursuit. By the time Robert and Jess got back I had a good start and was in a position to give them hand signals on where to meet me with the crate. The chick didn’t let me get more than ten feet away before he would run to catch up. However, just as we neared the costumed tracking crew the bird looked like it was going to fly. I got around it and walked it toward them while they headed toward me with the crate. We got it in the crate, loaded it in to the tracking van and they headed off to Sauk County.

While these events are usually scary from the standpoint of the welfare of the bird, when it is all over you realize how lucky you are to have the opportunity to have this rather intimate relationship with such a fascinating and rare creature. Usually they don’t like being boxed and stay with the flock on the next flight. I am happy to say that was the case on the next two legs of the journey for #10, and he has his place back in line as we head on south.

Photos by Walter Sturgeon

All the chicks go on alert at the sound of the approaching trike The chicks zoom out of the pen to catch up to the trike.
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Date:October 20, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:PRESENTATION TONIGHTLocation:Main Office

It has just been brought to my attention that Joe will be given a presentation TONIGHT in Rockford, IL and it is open to the public!

The event starts at 7pm and will be held in the Student Center Atrium of the Rock Valley College. Click here for a map and directions. So if you're in the Rockford, Illinois area why not drop by?

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Date:October 20, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DOWN DAY #1 IN WINNEBAGOLocation: Winnebago Co., IL

Too strong WSW winds on the ground and stronger winds aloft will prevent the cranes and planes from advancing another migration leg this morning.

After three flight days in a row it is hard not to want more - to keep up the momentum. But considering just how rare it is to have three consecutive flyable days, the disappointment lessens. Over the previous nine migrations there have only been six occasions where this has happened, and they all occurred in the early years: twice in each of 2001, 2002, and 2004.

However, giving us a positive feeling is the fact that the last time we were as far as Winnebago County, Illinois on Migration Day #10 was way back in 2005 - and that year we arrived on October 23rd, four days later than this year. That migration ended December 13th, 61 days after departing Wisconsin. (The Class of 2005 was short-stopped at Halpata to give the White Birds time to clear the Chassahowitzka refuge. OM's crew returned to Florida in January to fly the cranes the last leg from Marion to Citrus County.)

With the last three migrations being the longest, taking 97 (2007), 89 (2008), and 88 (2009) days and spilling over into the new year, we are sure hoping for a speedier journey and earlier finish this season. So far that prospect still looks possible.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of  Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name Kirtland's Warbler

Genus/Species

Dendroica kirtlandii

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Loss and fragmentation of breeding habitat, and brood parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater).

Description

The male's summer plumage is a bright yellow colored breast, sides streaked in black, bluish-gray back feathers, dark lores (area from beak to eye), faint whitish wing bars, thin broken white eye ring. The female's coloration is duller. Less than six inches long.

Behavior

Constantly pumps the longish tail. Song is loud and distinctive, often broadcast from top of a jack pine tree (Pinus banksiana). Primarily insect eaters, foraging for them and larvae near the ground and in lower parts of pines and oaks. Nesting territories average about 8 acres. Nests are cup-shaped made of grass, on the ground among grass or other plants. Females incubate four to five eggs about 14 days. Chicks fledge at nine or ten days.

Where found

Mainly limited to one small area in north-central lower Michigan. Also found occasionally in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, northern Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada. Winter in the Bahamas.

Habitat

Specifically, young jack pine forests in large stands on sandy soil. These stands must be dense with interconnected lower branches. Stands are occupied when trees are 3 to 6 feet tall until 10 to 15 feet tall.  

Recovery Plan

Intensive programs designed to regenerate large stands of  jack pine trees by controlled burns; trapping and removal of cowbirds from nesting areas.

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Date:October 19, 2010 - Entry 5Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:4TH CONSECUTIVE FLIGHT DAY UNLIKELYLocation: Winnebago Co., IL

With ground winds forecast to be 7mph out of the southwest, and considerably stronger aloft, tomorrow is shaping up to be a Down Day. We'll see what the morning brings of course, but as much as we would love to chalk up a fourth consecutive flight day, we're certainly not counting on that happening.

There is a great flyover viewing spot here to watch the departure from Winnebago County. To learn that location click the link "Migration Flyover Locations" to the right of this Field Journal Entry. 

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Date:October 19, 2010 - Entry 4Reporter: Richard van Heuvelen
Subject:GREAT FLIGHTLocation: Winnebago Co., IL

Yesterday we had a good flight with the birds split between three trikes. I was left with number six who had my wing all to her self. With her wings seemingly locked in place she glided along, sometime over taking the trike. So I decided that maybe faster was better. Pulling the bar in, soon we were flying about forty-five miles per hour air speed. At times we reached a ground speed of fifty-five miles per hour.

As we approached our stop in Green County we began to descend and she stayed right there on the wingtip, gliding along, the wind slipping by her feathers. When we landed, her head feathers - more hair like at her age, were arranged as if combed to a peak along the center line of her head, pushed there by the wind.

Today as we took off from the ridge six birds came eagerly out of the pen, followed my trike off the brink of the ridge and were soon airborne over the valley below. We turned left over the valley to begin our journey on course for Winnebago County. All six birds were strung out off my right wing.

The other five birds were late coming out of the pen. Joe flew in to pick them up only to have four follow him while number two turned away and landed in the prairie away from the pen.

As the miles ticked rapidly by, number six all jazzed up from yesterdays flight, began to experiment with the wing. She would get in front of the wing and glide on the air pushed in front, which would then push her up then down to the side and back again. This comical maneuvering would continue until she lost total control and fell down below the trike. She would then go back and retake her lead position.

At first I thought she had learned her lesson, but soon she would do it again porpoising about her neck and wings dodging about at weird angles. It soon became evident that she was having fun with her new found confidence in the wing. This crazy wonderful behavior would continue for the remainder of the flight, while the other five birds flew solidly along on the right wing hardly missing a beat, obediently following, with a loyalty to the trike we have begun to take for granted.

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Date:October 19, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:LATE ENTRIESLocation:Winnebago Co., IL

Both Heather and Liz have a hard and fast rule about website entries. The lead pilot for the day must submit his update of the day’s flight for posting by 5 PM.

Although all pilots live by the rules of gravity, most of them have a propensity for breaking all the rest. It’s not that we don’t agree with this rule or that we don’t think updates are important. In fact, we all understand that it is the supporters of this project that keep it going and we owe everything to our website audience. It is just that there is always so much else to do and that is never more true than on our first big move.

It is not until we lead the birds to the second stop that we actually leave the refuge. It simply doesn’t make sense to give up the hangar and camp until we are too far south to make the daily trip. After a grueling flight and a two hour struggle to round up all the birds, we have to drive back to Necedah and face another whole day’s work.

We have three motorhomes and two trailers, not to mention the travel pens that all need to be rooted up from their summer homes and hooked to their respective tow vehicles. Now that the hangar is not occupied with aircraft, we can move all the pen material like top nets and water trays inside that we will need next year. By 6 PM, we said goodbye one last time and the caravan was on the road. After an hour drive, we still had to set it all up again and cover the aircraft in case of frost. I am not complaining about the work load mind you. All of this is simply my excuse for being 48+ hours late on my update.

On Sunday morning, we flew the 23 miles from Necedah and after brief discussions over the radio, we launched the birds and climbed out to the west. Several tight circles were needed to let the birds catch up but it wasn’t enough to keep them all attached. Their loyalties seemed torn between following the aircraft and heading back to the pen they had just left.

The only way we have of indentifying the birds is to look at their leg bands. Unfortunately, when they fly those bands are tuck up into the tail feathers and are unreadable. When we have trouble getting them to follow us it is usually one bird among them that is determined to turn back but reluctant to do it alone. You can see their beaks open, calling as they turn back, and one by one the others make the break until they are spread over the sky.

Sometimes you are left with a couple of loyal followers and that’s what happened to me. Numbers 1 and 17 locked onto my wing and the farther we went, the more faithful they became. Brooke and Richard struggled with the rest. Over the radio, we discussed the merits of leaving with only two birds and growing doubt that the others would make it but we decided to follow the old “two in the bush” adage.

I listened to the chaos of multiple attempts to get them corralled and one lost bird until radio silence meant they were under control and no one wanted to say a thing until it settled down. Brooke was never able to gain much altitude. The birds kept dropping and he would have to retrieve them while worrying he would not be able to clear the ridges ahead of them. Richard climbed high with his three birds, while Brooke crawled over the landscape with four.

Our landing site is a narrow grass strip in a forest and not much fun in a crosswind but we managed to land safely. Richard flew low and dropped off his birds, then headed back to help find the lost one. The headwinds were so strong on the return trip that he didn’t make it far.

Eventually, a signal was picked up back at our starting point and number 10 was found in the woods near the pen. She must have dropped out unnoticed and made her way back. She likely saw the dismantling of the pen and decided to hide. She and number 2 were crated and moved to the new site while we all headed back to Necedah to begin our second days work.

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Date:October 19, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:Migration Day #10 Location: Winnebago Co., IL

Our journey of 1,285 air miles was shorted by 34 miles this morning when the cranes and planes successfully flew the migration leg from our last stop in Wisconsin to our first stop in Illinois.

We will have Richard van Heuvelen's lead pilot update for you later today, but in the meantime we can tell you that 10 of the 11 young cranes in the Class of 2010 made the entire flight today - six led by Richard and 4 following Joe. Number 02-10 wasn't up to the flight and ended up being crated for transport by road. David Boyd is enroute with #2 as 'cargo' in our van as I type this.

We are grateful to Mark Blassage for the photos below which he captured at the flyover viewing site.

Pilot Richard van Heuvelen thrills viewers with a flyby leading six of the Class of 2010.

Not long afterwards, viewers got a second chance when Joe Duff appeared leading the other four young birds.

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Date:October 19, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:A 3-PEAT!!!Location:Main Office

Craniacs hoping to see the Class of 2010 should head to the Green County, WI flyover location now. While conditions at this time (6:38am Central) look good for a flight this morning, please keep in mind that weather could (and does) change at the last moment so you may make the trip and be disappointed.

Here are the directions to the flyover location: Viewing site is at the top of a hill on County Road N, just north (~1/2 mile) of the intersection of County Roads N and C. Coming along CR N from the north, the apex of the hill is just past Ron-Hill Lane (on your right). Coming from the south, if you pass Ron-Hill Lane (on your left) you've gone a bit too far. Click here for Google Map.

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Date:October 18, 2010 - Entry 2 Reporter:Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:ABOVE WISCONSIN Location:Green Co., WI

Lying in darkness never does much for one’s eyesight, but I am always amazed how it enhances all the other senses. And so this morning when the little hand hit 4 and the big one 30 on my watch and my ears heard the trees chorus the passage of winds as my back felt the camper dance beneath it, the feeling of frustration stalled my enthusiasm for morning and my absolute, feel it in my gut, bet it all on one hand certainty that we would fly another migration leg today, and tomorrow, and be in Illinois by close of business Tuesday began to crash and burn.

But things change. The forest wind chime began to quiet and soon I was walking to total blackness up the runway turning my head antenna – so I could feel the wind direction and speed against my face. Right down the runway… and dropping. As I made my way back down the hill to camp I came upon another shadowy pilgrim heading up to where I had just been to do what I had just done. “It’s dropping, Joe.” “That’s what I was thinking Brooke.” The day now belonged to us… and the birds.

Our world shifted gears as the predawn migration day commenced. Aircraft were fueled; campers were made road ready; pilots layered up. Then Geoff and #2 headed up to the pen to put Trish in the box since her arm (the one she is going to use to punch me with when she reads this) has yet to heal, rendering her what we refer to back in Jersey as a “flight risk.”

And soon thereafter, trikes, birds and hopes are once again airborne and the morning drama begins again, above the awakening landscape. The birds begin the game by following as obediently as their individual capacity would allow; some high, others lower but all following. Then one bird, I don’t know which one because he would never fly straight and level long enough for me to get a good shot, would break back toward the pen. Perhaps it was some fear of the wide valley lying before us or maybe he just heard Trish peeping loudly in the box. Again and again I rounded them up and got them back on course only to have the scene repeat itself.

A new strategy was clearly required, so I resumed course with the four birds still on the wing and left the others behind to experience the gut wrenching feeling of loss and panic felt by every child ever abandoned by their parents at Wal-Mart, as Joe and Richard hovered close by to console and redirect.

Comfortably on course, the wonder that is Wisconsin in fall passed beneath us in shapes of shadow and colors yet to be ignited because of the sun’s indifferent tardiness.

The landscape of Wisconsin defies clear geometry. Its agriculture is free form; a collage of swirls and eddies bathed in an infinite variety of color and texture, all openly contemptuous of precise angle and clear line. It is to Wisconsin that the aliens come to learn the art of crop circles. It is here that the teaching of Plane Geometry in the schools is strictly forbidden. There is simply nothing ‘plane’ about a Wisconsinite or about the land upon which he lives. But the politics of geometry aside, the land is a virtual feast to the aerial eye and for the briefest of moments this morning, it was all ours.

All too soon, it was over; birds in their new pen, aircraft tied down for the night, campers unhitched, leveled, plugged in and the work of arrival complete. We sat in the warmth of our dear friends and generous host’s dining room spooning down warm homemade soup and luxuriating in the afterglow of the successful morning’s effort.

It was then that Geoff put down his spoon, looked up at the rest of us from across the table and with a quizzical look asked, “Did anyone remember to let Trish out of the box?”

Silence.

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Several Craniacs on Ferry Bluff waiting for a glimpse of the Class of 2010 cranes. A beautiful sunrise over the Wisconsin River. Brooke Pennypacker glides by with four young cranes.
CLICK each image to view larger version. Many thanks to Sharon Swiggum and Kurt Eakle for sharing.

Date:October 18, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:A TWO-FER!!!Location:Main Office

When I spoke with the crew before sunrise this morning, they were doubtful that they'd be able to fly today and it was quite breezy at their Sauk County location. According to my weather tools, winds were predicted to drop off and thankfully, that's exactly what happened. The lead pilot report from Brooke will come later today, as will Joe's report from yesterday but in the meantime...

Ten cranes flew the 47 mile distance today from Sauk County to Green County, WI. The only youngster that was crated was #2-10, who as you may recall, was discovered to have an abrasion on his wing last week. The team will attempt to fly him on the next possible fly day, which will take the team from Wisconsin into Illinois.

They departed our Sauk Co., location at 7:38am and had approximately 19 minutes of crane rodeo to deal with. Brooke arrived first with his four birds, followed by Richard with one and Joe brought up the rear with five - touching down at 9:06am.

Here's a quick video clip from this morning which shows Joe give chase to 6 cranes.

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Date:October 17, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:SUCCESS!Location:Main Office

The team's patience finally paid off this morning! Joe was this morning's lead pilot and I'm sure he'll have the lead pilot report ready to post later today but because they actually migrated this morning and made it to our Sauk County location, that means that they've been spending the day breaking down camp at Necedah NWR and relocating the RV's and trailers to the new location.

Nine cranes flew the distance this morning. Number 2-10 was crated due to a still-healing abrasion on his wing and apparently #10-10 dropped out shortly into the flight and was also crated to the new stopover. Nine is certainly better than the four that flew the entire first migration leg... We'll take it!

The public is invited to visit the Ferry Bluff flyover location on the next possible fly day, which we hope will be tomorrow, however, please keep in mind that you may make the trip and be disappointed should the weather decide not to play nice. Check this link for details and a map.

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Date:October 17, 2010Reporter:Trish Gallagher
Subject:TO BOX OR NOT TO BOXLocation:S. Juneau Co., WI

If you read Joe’s entry from October 13th, you might recall that #2-10 has a wing abrasion. Until it heals, he needs to migrate in a crate. What this means is that Geoff and I need to go out to the pen early enough to put him in the crate before the pilots arrive. Last Monday, in anticipation of flying, Geoff and I headed out to the pen to prepare it for the release and to crate #2. We arrived around 6:45 and hustled out to the pen. We unhooked the top net and took down the electric fence. Then I turned the volume on the radio way down so #2 wouldn’t be scared if the pilots talked while we were walking him to the crate. We separated #2 from his flock mates and walked him out of the pen. I held onto him while we walked around the pen to the back, where we had a crate waiting out of sight of the other chicks. Geoff was standing by to assist with the door.

On the one hand, putting a chick in a crate is not so different from putting a cat in a crate to go to the vet. The cat doesn’t want to go into a confined space, even though it’s usually perfectly content once it’s in there. And if the cat doesn’t see the crate until the very last minute, you can often crate it without too much fuss. I usually accomplish the task by scooping up my cats up and putting them into the crate tail first. But have you ever tried to push a cat into a carrier face first? That can be a feat. They stick their legs straight out and balk at going forward. Now imagine if the cat were almost 5 feet tall and had a 7-foot wingspan and a 6-inch beak! That’s where any similarity ends.

Well #2 didn’t want to go in the crate. He hesitated at the threshold – after all, it’s dark and small in there. I pushed him gently, but he balked and took a step back. I tried again. He balked. The third time was the charm, and he went into the crate and Geoff shut the door. During this adventure, the pilots were flying and hitting strong headwinds. As it happened, about two minutes after we got #2 in the crate, the pilots decided to stand down for the day.

At dinner that night, we were reviewing the events of the morning. We speculated that we could wait until the pilots were sure they were flying before we put #2 in the crate. After all, there’s no sense unnecessarily putting a bird in a crate, right? Pilot #1 thought we would have plenty of time to crate #2 while they were flying over from the airport. Pilot #2 didn’t want to worry about us messing around with crating #2 while they were landing. Well, on our next fly day, we decided to wait until we were sure the pilots were flying to box #2. I don’t think I’ll do that again anytime soon…

Geoff and I went down to the pen and prepped it for release. Then we waited to make sure the pilots were coming, and went into the pen to separate #2 from the group of excited, peeping chicks. Peep, Peep, Peep! “Let’s go, we’re tired of standing around in this pen all day!!” #2 has always been a little standoffish, so it wasn’t too hard to separate him from his classmates. We got him over to the door, and just as he walked outside, he got away from me! Oh no!!!!! I walked out after him and he waited until I got close and then flew halfway down the runway. Good grief! Now I see what Pilot #2 was worried about!

I stayed calm and walked over towards #2 with a grape, but with his newfound freedom, he kept just ahead of me. Geoff came over to help, to no avail. If we got too close, #2 would run, flapping those beautiful wings, and cruise across the runway. With the pilots approaching, I radioed, despair in my voice, “Ground crew to Air Crew. #2 got away from me. He is not in the crate.”

The pilots radioed back to let him be, so we went to the pen doors to wait for the landing. As they came in for the approach, Brooke and Richard both agreed that it was very bumpy at 400 feet. They circled a few times, testing the air. Meanwhile, the chicks were peeping with excitement, craning (sorry, they were!) their necks to look at the trikes. “C’mon let’s go! Enough standing around! Let’s fly!” But the pilots were concerned about crossing some ridges close to the next stop. They also concurred that after 4 down days, the chicks wouldn’t come back if we released them, even if the pilots thought the ride was too bumpy. It was very disappointing when the decision came to stand down.

Fortunately, it wasn’t too difficult to coax #2 back in the pen after the pilots left. Geoff and I stopped on the way back to Necedah to buy some pumpkins for the chicks to alleviate some of their boredom. I certainly wanted to feel like I was doing something to ease their (our?) disappointment.

So what about that discussion about crating birds after the pilots take off? Well, I have to agree with Pilot #2. The one advantage to waiting is that it gives the crew, especially Brooke, plenty of opportunity to tease me…

“Trish, have you seen #2? Maybe you could get one of those guns that shoots out the net so you can capture him and get him in the crate next time…”

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Date:October 16, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:DOWN TODAYLocation:Main Office

A steady south-southwesterly flow of air will keep the team and the cranes planted firmly on the ground today. Here's hoping that tomorrow's predicted northwesterly breeze is not too strong and they'll be able to advance to Sauk County, WI.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of  Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Florida Manatee

Genus/Species Name

Trichechus manatus latirostrus

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Destruction and degradation of habitat; boat strikes

Description

Large seal-shaped body averages 9 ft long, weight about 1,000 lbs. Lifespan 50-60 years. Skin thick, wrinkled grayish brown, often with an algae growth. Have powerful flat tails, small eyes, lack outer ears. Closest relatives are elephant and hyrax.

Behavior

Are known for their gentle, slow-moving nature. May barrel roll or body surf when playing. Communicate under water by squealing to demonstrate fear, stress or excitement. Breathe though their nostrils only. Lungs are 2/3 the length of the body. Graze on marine and freshwater plants at depth of 3-7 ft.  Have only molars to eat. Teeth are replaced as they wear down and fall out. Steer with front flippers that sometimes help them crawl through shallow water. Mate any time with gestation about 1 year. One calf is born, weighing between 60-70 pounds, about 3-4 ft long.  They nurse underwater.

Where found

Coastal waters of Florida, ranging as far as Louisiana to the Carolinas.

Habitat

Warm waters of shallow rivers, bays, estuaries and coastal waters. Water temperature 68 degrees or warmer.

Recovery Plan

USFWS Florida Manatee Recovery Plan

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Date:October 16, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:ANOTHER BACKWARDS STEPLocation:S. Juneau Co., WI

In my last report, I complained that leading a migration is like walking in sand. On further reflection, I think it is more like walking up the down escalator.

The birds are safely in their pen at our first stopover 23 miles to the south of the refuge but we have not moved our camp yet. We have the benefit of our hangar here and there is little point in tying the aircraft down outside when we can avoid the wind and frost.

We gather in the morning well before sunrise, each with our fill of favorite website weather reports, and compare notes. None of the projections are very valid. Our requirements are so specific that no one else would be interested in the information we need.

A forest, for instance, stays warmer overnight than the surrounding grass lands. Even though the ambient air is calm, the dissipating heat from the forest will rise, creating a bumpy region fifty feet up and a couple of hundred feet thick. We jostle around so much in that area that the birds can’t follow the wing and they drop down to tree top level. We descend to pick them up but before we can coax them into higher, smoother air, they drop back down again. We can spend 30 minutes trying to convince reluctant birds that smoother skies await, if only they would follow us.

Yesterday morning we left our hangar at the Necedah airport at sunrise and flew the 23 miles to our first stop with a wind pushing us along at 50 miles per hour. En route, we left the flat land behind and entered the hills of central Wisconsin. Down low the wind had picked up and in the lee of the hills the conditions were far more violent than you would expect for what seemed like a light breeze. We flew back and forth getting kicked around with increasing severity until we made the inevitable decision to stand down.

The winds that pushed us down there now held us back on the return trip to the hangar. It took almost an hour to cover 23 miles in temperature that hovered just above freezing. Cold to the bone and already tired at 9 am we accepted another discouraging backwards step.

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Date:October 15, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Brooke Pennypacker
Subject:MAGIC 8 BALLLocation: S. Juneau Co., WI

Uncle Dean used to always say, “The longest part of a journey of a thousand miles is the second step … because the first step is used for checking for land mines!” His point was that all journeys, especially long ones, are best approached with caution.

And so it was this morning as we once again flung ourselves hopefully into the dawn skies above Necedah and pointed our toes towards the bird pen 23 miles south in hopes of bagging another leg of migration. We were soon aboard a Polar Express screaming south, GPS’ing a ground speed of over 60 mph with an indicated airspeed of around 38. Too much of a good thing? Perhaps, but an exhilarating push to be sure while all below us was cranking up for another day. With the next leg of only 23.4 miles, we could be there in no time. Or not! Sometimes, too much of a good thing is a bad thing and if the Genie granted all our wishes, we’d be in big trouble for sure.

Such were the thoughts that grew larger in my mind as we neared the pen. Just beyond, the flat autumn landscape bunches up in tall folds, blessing the horizon with great brush strokes of fall color while concealing a sinister invisible danger.

To appreciate their threat, one has only to stroll down a river bank to a set of rapids in a fast moving river, pull pencil and paper from one’s pocket protector, write the words “Have a nice trip, Mr. Smartypants!” on it and glue it with chewing gum to the bottom of a Styrofoam cup, then throw it into the river and let the show begin. As the water takes it captive, torturing it in violent convulsions of turbulent malevolence, imagine yourself seated inside the cup hanging on for dear life while fighting to wrestle at least some degree of control from the maelstrom.

In the distance, you could almost hear the ridges beckon, “Come closer, migrators. Make Our Day!”
I stared momentarily at my instruments and my favorite instrument stared back. It’s called the “Magic 8 Ball” and it is standard equipment on the space shuttle. About the size of an altimeter and more reliable than a fortune cookie, it read, “It is far better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground.”

About then the first bumps of turbulence began as the three trikes circled the pen area like mice sniffing cheese in a trap. Richard and Joe flew to different altitudes and locations to test the air as I set up to land at the pen. But as the ground neared, my control bar began to dance as if someone had just begun playing their favorite rap tune. I had just enough time to pet my Magic 8 Ball before going full power, climbing out of the trash and aborting the attempt.

Disappointment, frustration, even a flash of anger followed by a bad word or two, added an invisible weight to the trike and retarded my rate of climb, but soon we were all three pointed back once again to Necedah and making our way upstream. The Yin of the tailwind became the Yang of a headwind as the ground speed settled at about 20, and the earth passed beneath us at a rate equal to a man standing completely still on a picture of Wisconsin. The trip back took so long that I wondered just how much it would cost me to have Pizza Hut make a delivery.

At some point in the long return flight I looked over to see Richard flying right next to me, smiling a smile that broke right through his costumed helmet and mine and pulled a smile right out of my head. Two painted trikes on a painted sky. You laugh or cry. There’s no in between. And eventually…and I do mean EVENTUALLY, we gave up our aerial simulation of two salmon swimming upstream to spawn and let our tires kiss the tarmac of Necedah Airport.

As I drove into the hanger, I could swear I saw him standing there. Uncle Dean…, his arms folded proudly across his chest grinning from ear to ear. And as I shut the engine off and began to unfold from the seat, he leaned over to me and whispered through my helmet, “Don’t forget to put fresh batteries in your Magic 8 Ball!” Makes me wish everyone was lucky enough to have an Uncle Dean.

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Date:October 15, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:THE 10TH YEARLocation:Main Office

If there is one thing we’ve learned throughout the years we have been working on the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Project, it is that it appeals to and attracts folks from every walk of life, every social and financial strata, every ethnic background, and every age group from 8 to 88. But in addition to the primary ‘tie that binds’ – Whooping Cranes – all of us, every single one, have one other thing in common. Every year we will all celebrate a birthday or an anniversary milestone. Like the song says, “It’s celebration time…..C’mon!”

Ironically, we began this southward migration; our 10th on the 10th day, of the 10th month, in 2010!

Would you help us celebrate and commemorate our 10 years of work safeguarding Whooping cranes by sending the Class of 2010 a congratulatory note with $10.00 in it? Would you ask your family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances to celebrate with us by doing the same? What a perfect, eco-friendly, altruistic, non-consumeristic, and affordable way to recognize this achievement!

What do you say? Will you celebrate with us and ask others to celebrate too? All those who say, “Yes, I’m in,” please click here. Once we've received your congratulatory wish, we'll add your name and message to this list so others can see your commitment to the Class of 2010!

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Date:October 15, 2010Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DOWN DAY #5Location: S. Juneau Co., WI

So near yet so far. The pilots took off in the early morning's crisp, cold air with favorable NNW winds. As they flew from the hanger in Necedah to the pensite in South Juneau County conditions changed.

By the time they reached the pensite the winds were out of the west and trashy. Hoping against hope they circled for a time to see if there wasn't a way to make the flight. After much debate, and considering the topography and pen position at the next stopover in Sauk County and the beating they and the birds would take trying to land there in the prevailing conditions, they agreed the prudent thing to do was call it a day and turn back.

The forecast is calling for a wind shift before morning. If it is accurate it appears we will have winds out of the south - not at all encouraging for the possibility of a flight tomorrow.

Photos below taken by Trish Gallagher prior to the start of migration.

The Ground Crew's view: Peeking through the peephole of the sight barrier watching flight training at North site. 9-10 in the foreground while her cohort mates stroll around and forage in the pen.

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Date:October 14, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:FLORIDA NON-MIGRATORY POPULATIONLocation: S. Juneau Co., WI

This Field Journal entry consists of an update about the Florida Non-Migratory Population (FNMP). We have Marty Folk from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to thank for the report – which makes for very interesting reading. Marty is the principal investigator, and he along with six others are participating in the study of the FNMP through the Avian Research Subsection of the Wildlife Research Section of the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Below is the forward to the 10 page document the investigators produced. We encourage you to use the following link to read the entire report.

Abstract: This quarter we documented the mortality of a 10-year-old male and 17-year-old female whooping crane (Grus americana). Results from necropsy suggest at least one, and maybe both, were victims of lightning strike. A 7-year-old female went missing. One of 4 chicks that hatched in the wild this spring survived to achieve flight on 6 July at 78 days of age. At quarter’s end we monitored 22 birds (9 males, 12 females, 1 undetermined) including 8 pairs. Especially of interest are the pairings within this flock, because the research questions that still need to be addressed have to do with nesting.

The transcribing of nesting behavioral data (collected from years 2000 to 2009) from video tape to computer is nearly complete. We will begin the analyses of these data. We also are analyzing data on the gender of individual birds that lead flocks. Males of this population are not surviving as well as females and we hypothesize that it is associated with the males leading the groups and therefore encountering the problems first (like power lines, predators, etc). To our knowledge this aspect of social behavior in cranes has not been described.

We began preparations for another breeding season of nesting studies of whooping and sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis pratensis). This was prompted by last season’s pilot study using artificial eggs to measure incubation temperature. A different tool will be employed at nests this year to document why whooping cranes sometime leave their nests unattended at night. Camera traps capable of capturing images at night via infrared flash will be deployed near nests to determine not only the reasons for the incubation absences, but also to determine how common it is for crane pairs to switch incubation duties at night. This basic biology has not yet been described for North American cranes (or for any other crane species that we are aware of). In addition, these cameras may assist in determination of cause of nest failure (e.g. predators approaching the nest, etc).”

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Date:October 14, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DOWN DAY #4Location: S. Juneau Co., WI

After an auspicious start– we departed the Necedah refuge on our 10th migration on the 10th day of the 10th month – we have not been able to advance.

While the temperature, weather, and winds in camp this morning had us all thinking it would be a fly day, it was another story at the site of our travel pen at the stopover location in South Juneau County. Gusting and swirling winds there meant we could not launch today. By 6:30am CST all the scurrying around in preparation of a flight had ceased in favor of putting the coffee pot on.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of  Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Hine's Emerald Dragonfly

Genus/Species

Somatochlora hineana

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat destruction or degradation because of agricultural, urban or industrial development. Contamination of wetlands by pesticides .

Description

Bright emerald green eyes. Body metallic green with yellow side stripes. Length 2.5", wingspan 3.3".

Behavior

Adult males defend small breeding territories, pursuing and mating with females who enter. Female lays eggs in shallow water.  Nymphs hatch from eggs, live in water 2 to 4 years, eating smaller aquatic insects. Sheds skin many times. Final time, crawls out of water and sheds, emerging as adult. May live only 4 to 5 weeks. Adults consume mosquitos, biting flies, gnats, midges, or deer flies as they do acrobatics on the wing.

Where found

Found only in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin.  Extirpated from Alabama, Indiana, Ohio.  One of the largest populations is found in the Mink River Preserve in Door County, WI

Habitat

Spring-fed marshes high in calcium carbonate (calcareous), and sedge meadows overlaying dolomite bedrock

Recovery Plan

Federal Recovery Actions have implemented a study to determine the current status at sites where it has been observed, and to gather information on new sites that will contribute to the long-term viability and recovery of the species.

 

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Date:October 14, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:MIGRATION MILE-A-THONLocation:Main Office

Here are the current leaders in the Migration Mile-a-thon Challenge we issued on Sept. 8th. In the lead and well ahead of the Class of 2010 Whooping cranes is New Providence Elementary School with 26 students, whom have already completed 221 miles of the 1285 mile trek!

School State Miles Walked # of Students
New Providence Elementary School South Carolina 221 26
Mobile Jr. Academy Alabama 160 21
Dewey Elementary School Illinois 77 21

The cranes began their migration last Sunday, 10-10-10 and have only travelled 23 miles, so there is a still lot of time to catch up and pass them!

Why not register your class or school to participate and see how many miles you can log? Think you can beat the cranes and the migration team and complete 1285 miles before they do!? Each class or school completing the 1,285 miles will receive a Wildlife Hero Certificate, and each student participant will receive a special memento autographed by OM’s migration team members!

What are you waiting for? It’s a great way to get some exercise, get outside and enjoy the fall season AND learn about migration!

Here are some of the participants from the Mobile Jr. Academy in Alabama:

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Date:October 13, 2010 - Entry 3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:WHOOPING CRANE POPULATION ACTIVITY UPDATELocation: S. Juneau Co., WI

An update on Whooping Crane Recovery Activities for the period October 2009 to September 2010 has been released. The 22 page report by author Tom Stehn, USFWS Whooping Crane Coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and Chair of the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team, is accessible from our Site Map webpage. The highlights are shown below but if you’d like to read the full report click this link.

HIGHLIGHTS
The Aransas-Wood Buffalo population (AWBP) of whooping cranes rebounded from 247 present in the spring of 2009, to 263 in the spring, 2010. With 46 chicks fledging from a record 74 nests in August, 2010 the flock size should reach record levels this fall expected somewhere around 290. Threats to the flock including land and water development in Texas, the spread of black mangrove on the wintering grounds, the long-term decline of blue crab populations in Texas, sea level rise / land subsidence, and wind farm and power line construction in the migration corridor all continued to be important issues.

Two whooping cranes captured at Aransas and nine in Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) were fitted with GPS transmitters and tracked by satellite. Crews visited migration stopover sites after the birds were present to gather habitat use data. This project is being carried out by The Crane Trust headed up by Dr. Felipe Chavez-Ramirez. It is funded by the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, The Crane Trust, and the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center.

The tracking is the first done on the AWBP in 25 years and is a top research priority of the Whooping Crane Recovery Team! Since the 1950s, 474 AWBP whooping cranes have died, with 37 carcasses recovered, and cause of death determined in only 17 instances. With the loss of 21.4% of the flock in the 12 months following April 2008, it is imperative that we learn more about whooping crane mortality.

Based on opportunistic sightings, the Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracking Project documented 103 confirmed sightings of whooping cranes in the U.S. Central Flyway during fall, 2009 and 52 sightings in spring, 2010.

A study by Dr. Ken Jones at the University of Georgia genomics lab to better describe the genetic composition of the captive flock got underway in September, 2010. The new genomics technology will derive genetic information from 454 single nucleotide polymorphisms, a substantial increase from the 12 loci used in the past on which most of our genetic decisions involving whooping crane pairings are currently based.

Planning efforts continued for the proposed reintroduction of a non-migratory flock of whooping cranes at White Lake, Louisiana. White Lake is where the last whooping crane nest in Louisiana had been found in 1939.

Production in the wild from reintroduced flocks in 2010 was somewhat disappointing, though better than last year. In Florida with improved water conditions, 8 of the 9 remaining pairs nested and hatched 4 chicks, but only 1 chick survived to fledge. In Wisconsin, 12 pairs nested, with 3 first nests and 3 re-nests incubated full term and hatching 7 chicks. Two chicks fledged. Nest abandonment consistent with the presence of black flies continued to be a major hurdle for the reintroduction at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).

The captive flocks had a very good production season in 2010. Twenty-four chicks entered the migratory reintroduction program in Wisconsin, and 11 chicks are being formed into a cohort for a possible non-migratory release in Louisiana in February, 2011. Three chicks of high genetic value were held back for the captive flocks.

Flock sizes are estimated at 263 for the AWBP, 119 for the WI to FL flock [includes UL and DAR 2010 cranes to be released] and 25 non-migratory birds in Florida. With 167 cranes in captivity, the world total of whooping cranes (all located in North America) is 574, up 38 from one year ago.

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Date:October 13, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:DOWN DAY #3 - Location: S. Juneau Co., WI

Close but no cigar... Two and a half of three wishes came true this morning. One, the morning temperature dropped about 10 degrees compared to yesterday. Two, there was no fog. The third wish was for favorable northwest winds - which we had, but only half of that wish materialized as they were gusty and swirling making flying with birds an impossibility. As a result, we will spend a third day on the ground in South Juneau County.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of  Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Jaguar

Genus/Species Name

Panthera onca

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat loss, fur trade, killing by farmers to protect their cattle.

Description

Largest cat in the Americas. Up to 3 ft high and 4 ft long. Tail up to 30 inches. Males weigh up to 250, females 200. Spotted tan fur is marked with spots, a.k.a. rosettes (rings with a central dot).  Completely black jaguars are not uncommon. Massive and powerfully built with comparatively larger head.

Behavior

Hunts on the ground for deer, peccaries, otters, fish, marine reptiles, and amphibians.  May also take livestock. Excellent swimmers.  Mating is year-round. After a gestation of 95-105 days gives birth to 1-4 cubs. Cubs stay with mother about 2 yrs.

Where found

Currently Arizona, New Mexico. Historically also California, Louisiana, Texas, Mexico and South America.

Habitat

Lowland rain forest, but can thrive in dry woodland and grassland.  Rarely above 8,000 ft.

Recovery Plan

USFWS determination: Designation of Critical Habitat is prudent for the Jaguar.

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Date: October 13, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:LIKE WALKING ON SANDLocation:S. Juneau Co., WI

With packing, bird work and attempting to fly every day, life has been busy for the last week or so. There has hardly been time to take notes let alone properly record all the events or to produce Field Journal updates. In an effort to kill two birds with one stone, if you will pardon the expression, I thought I would write this recap of what has happened recently before the details all run together.

Leading birds on a migration is a little like walking on sand. For every positive step you take forward, there is a little backward slippage.

Last week we moved the birds from the North site to an interim location on the Refuge called Laskey Field. It is slightly closer to our first stopover but more importantly, it was new to them. It was also their first stay in the travel pen and the first time they have been deprived of a pond in which to forage all day.

Our hope was that the new environment would make them more attentive to the aircraft but when it comes to Whooping cranes, hope is only the first ingredient. When we launched from Laskey Field, the birds turned north as the trike turned south and after a minor aerial rodeo they all landed back at the North site.

For the initial three years of this project, our first stopover was 23 miles to the south. In other words, it took us three years to figure out that we were doing something wrong and to find a solution. The cure, we discovered, was to find a stopover only a few miles off the Refuge so just when the birds are thinking of turning back, we would land and they follow us in. Unfortunately, that interim stopover site was flooded this year so their first venture away from the familiarity of home - was a long one. We expected a fiasco and we were not wrong.

On Sunday, Richard led them all out but they broke up shortly after takeoff. Seven stuck to him like glue while the rest headed back to the pen. I fell in behind Richard to fly chase as we headed south and Brooke circled back to deal with the other four.

Trying to balance your speed so the lead birds don’t pass you, yet the trailing birds can keep up is not easy and often we have to pick one or the other. Number 15 kept falling behind so eventually, I moved in to pick him up. Like the others, he was getting overheated and he flew with his mouth open wide and his tongue sticking out. He rested at the wingtip of the trike until he caught his breath but then he would drop down underneath, where it takes twice as much energy to keep up. I did tight turns to get him back on the wingtip but he would only stay there a few minutes before dropping down again. The more maneuvering we did, the lower we got until I had to circle to get him over power lines. Eventually we came across a harvested soybean field and we both landed. The field had a perfect alcove that worked well to hide both the bird and the aircraft -- so we sat, undisturbed for a 20 minute rest.

Richard, in the meantime, had arrived at the new stopover and hustled four birds into the pen. Then he took-off to find the two that had dropped out just short of our destination. He found them in a cornfield and landed next to them just as number 15 and I passed overhead. The temptation was too great and number 15 landed beside them.

After another break, they took-off and turned south but all three birds were too frightened to cross the Interstate that separated us from the stopover. After three attempts, the birds picked another field and landed. Both Richard and I landed with them and he kept them secluded while I contacted the ground crew and helped carry in the crates.

At the same time, Brooke had managed to get number 10 about halfway along the journey. The other three birds had returned to the refuge on their own. The heat and confusion took its toll on number 10 as well and she landed in a marsh thirteen miles short of the destination. Brooke was circling overhead and directing the ground crew to the exact location in the tall reeds. Jess Thompson, former tracking intern, had volunteered to help us that day and she and Trish Gallagher had to slug a crate deep into the marsh to retrieve number 10.

Meanwhile Geoff Tarbox was back at the Canfield site where #17 had landed. The pen there has been winterized and the topnet has been removed. Geoff had to stay because #9-05 was harassing #17 and it seemed like he needed protection. Geoff was trying to move 17 into the open-topped pen when he finally had enough and flew off. In a moment of inspiration, Geoff headed for the North site where he suspected number 17 would go. His hunch was right and now #17 was with the other two dropouts, all waiting to be crated. The only difference was the other two were inside the enclosure and #17 was standing above them - on the topnet. Eventually, the bird was coaxed down and all three were moved to the first stopover.

The following day we made an attempt to lead the birds on their second leg of migration. Seeing as we are only 23 miles to the south, we kept our camp in place on the refuge and we returned our aircraft to the hangar. During the predawn flight to the first stopover, we assessed the conditions and decided that, despite the low level breeze, we would at least make an attempt.

It was my turn to lead but the birds came out of the pen in groups. The first ones out took-off, while others were still looking for the exit. Trish and Geoff had opened two panels to produce a 20 foot wide gap but somehow that was too small. The expression 'bird-brained' comes to mind. By the time they had expertly hustled the rest of the birds out of the pen, the flight was already disjointed. Once airborne, several birds broke off and #2 seemed to disappear.

There is a large hill near the pen which we have to fly around before heading south. The breeze from the east rolls over the top of that obstacle and tumbles down the lee side to the west, directly into our flight path. We rounded the corner of the hill, fighting for control of the aircraft, facing an increasing headwind with only half the birds in tow. It only took a few minutes of that chaos before we realized we were fighting an unwinnable battle.

We counted the birds as we gathered them and came up short by one. Brooke speculated that it was #2. He began a slow approach to the pen with most of the birds behind him and I spotted #2 in a field just below them. He took-off and could have easily flown over an open field to land with the trike and his flockmates but instead he climbed over the trees and landed on the railway tracks. Then he walked onto a road.

Bev Paulan had volunteered to help us that day and was driving the tracking van. In an attempt to get the bird out of there quickly, she tried flushing it with the vehicle while Richard attempted to fly low overhead and lead it back to the pen.

They say that a wild creature’s respond to any crisis is either “Fight or Flight” but I think “Freeze” should be added as a third possible reaction. Number 2 froze and would not fly away even though the van was very close. Bev backed up and parked then followed the bird into a harvested cornfield and out of sight. She stayed with it until Brooke arrived with a crate and the crisis was over, along with our attempt at the second leg of the migration.

Later that morning, #2 was found to have a fairly serious abrasion on his wing. It seemed not to be fresh enough to have happened that morning. Luckily there is no structural damage and we expect him to make a full physical recovery. It remains to be seen if that recovery will include the psychological trauma.

Yesterday morning Richard and I took-off to meet with Brooke who left his aircraft at the first stop for the night. As we left the ground, our speed dropped off as we faced a strong headwind. It wasn’t long before the decision was made to stand down one more time.

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Date:October 12, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:DAY 3 - STANDING DOWNLocation:Main Office

With calm winds and a 7am temp of 47F the migration team thought they might have a chance to fly today despite the high humidity and likely fog. However, soon after getting airborne the pilots quickly encountered 10 to 12 mph headwinds aloft making today a definite no-go.

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Date:October 12, 2010Reporter:Trish Gallagher
Subject:TRIAL BY MIGRATION - A START DAY WRAP-UPLocation:Necedah, WI

I feel like I’ve been practicing for migration for days and days and days. Brooke and I keep going over the checklist. Costume, puppet, vocalizer, radio, tarp (aka swamp monster), air horn (in case the swamp monster isn’t enough). When the pilot takes off, grab the decoy and jump into the shed. Take off costume and get dressed as swamp monster. Listen for instructions from the pilots. If a bird returns to the runway, run out and be swamp monster. Take separate vehicles out to the pen so if the birds split into groups, Geoff can follow one group and I can follow another. And we had days of dress rehearsals too. The first day, I forgot my radio and Joe drove off in the vehicle I was supposed to use. The second day I didn’t have an air horn. The third day, # 2 landed in the oak savannah, and while we were tracking him down, I realized that my speakers on my cell phone weren’t quite the same after the trip into the marsh a few weeks back, so I needed a louder vocalizer. The fourth day, when we were back at the North Site, I had to grab a tarp out of the travel pen to make sure I could be a swamp monster.

I felt sure that we would fly on the fifth day, since I had some work to submit and I couldn’t get an internet connection the night before. And then it was here. Geoff and I went out to the North Site in separate vehicles and waited at the end of the runway for the fog to lift. We must have waited at least 30 minutes before we saw the tree line across the marsh emerge from the mist. As we started to walk to the pen, I heard Brooke say “air horn” and I realized mine was back at the van! Ohmigosh!!! All that practice and I forgot something! I ran flat out back to the van, grabbed my bag and pulled out my air horn while running back towards the pen. I made it back to the pen just as Richard appeared and landed. Gasping for air, I opened the door and counted as all 11 birds ran out of the pen. Still panting, I ran over to the shed and pulled off my costume, and as the tarp rustled in my ears, drowning out the radio, I transformed myself into the swamp monster.

If you think it’s wonderful being an intern, well, mostly, you’re right. But takeoff on fly days isn’t one of the best parts. If you want to know what I see when the pilots take off, close your eyes. And if you wonder what I hear, grab a tarpaulin, the really loud, crinkly kind, and put it over your head. Interns sit in the shed with tarps over their heads. So we see no evil and we hear no evil…hmm, I’ll let you speculate on the third…

Once the crinkling subsided, I could hear Brooke tell Richard that he had 8 birds and to keep going, that one of the 8 was falling back an Brooke would pick him up and come back to the North site to get the others. And Geoff could see 2 chicks on the runway when he peered out of the door – or maybe it was 3. Brooke came in and landed, let the birds rest for a few minutes. By now I had caught my breath too, so I was ready to be swamp monster. I had my radio in one hand and my air horn in my pocket and the tarp over my head. As Brooke took off past the shed, Geoff and I ran out, rattling those tarps as if our lives depended on it. There were 3 birds behind Brooke and as they circled around looking for a hospitable place to land, I ran along beside, rattling that tarp! Ohmigosh! I almost ran off the runway into the marsh! When they were gone, we went back to the shed and I realized my air horn wasn’t in my pocket anymore (after all that! ). A few minutes later, Brooke radioed to say two birds broke off and were headed back our way, so we should stop being swamp monsters and revert to crane handlers. We changed back into our costumes, found #9, and as we started to lead her back to the pen, she found that bright yellow air horn on the runway. I scooped it up and thanked her with a grape. When she was safely inside, I jumped in the van to go help track birds and Geoff headed out to the Canfield site to see if he could locate the other chick.

Are you doing the math? Where was the 11th bird? I speculated that he headed out into the marsh to wait till the dust settled, but it would be hours before I knew for sure. I headed out – only to realize there wasn’t enough fuel in the vehicle. I dashed into Kwik Trip and fueled up and headed down the highway towards New Lisbon. A bird was down in a field there and I headed out to help Jess track her down. Just before we arrived, the bird decided to take off from the lovely grass where she was and she flew about a mile into a swamp – perfect for her and not so perfect for us humans. Jess and I waded out, with Brooke overhead. Brooke kept telling me to hurry up. Anytime I slowed down, he would say “Don’t stop, you’ve got a long way to get there. You’ve got to hurry up!” I kept falling as I tried to hurry. At one point my boot got stuck in the mud and as I stopped to unstuck it, Brooke told me to hurry up again. At that moment, I realized that I wouldn’t do that bird any good if I had a broken ankle or just one boot, so I calmed down and ignored the “hurry ups” and just did the best I could. Several face plants later, I got to the area with the chick, but the grass was so tall that we couldn’t see her. Brooke led us over and we were relieved to see her unharmed, comfortably preening her radio antenna.

It was #10, my Zoey “Flower Child” Woodstock. She seemed happy to see us, but more interested in preening her antenna than walking out of the swamp. It’s a good thing there weren’t any flowers out there!! We were about half a mile out, and it took us a long while not just to find her, but also to walk her back out. The grass was really tall and there were lots of hummocks, which made walking difficult, and not just for humans. I walked ahead of Jess, stamping down the grass to create a path for Zoey, just like her real mama might if she were out in the wild. Jess stayed behind Zoey, marshalling her towards the edge of the marsh.

When we got closer to the road, I ran ahead and got a crate, brought it about 50 feet into the marsh, and went back to get Jess. Just then I heard a man exclaim, “This is private property!” Ohmigosh! Ohmigosh! Zoey will hear!!!! I hope he doesn’t have a gun!!! I ran back, stammering my apologies, explaining that we would be out of there as soon as possible. Once he understood our predicament, the landowner wished us well and left, and I ran back again to help Jess. Soon after, Zoey was in the crate and Jess and I were on the way to where there were other downed birds. We weren’t sure if there were 5 down or 7 down, but as it turned out, there were 3 down. Flying over the highway was too much of a new experience, I guess. I left Jess with Joe and Richard to deal with those chicks and headed over to the pen with my little Zoey. Brooke met me there and we let her out of the crate and walked her over to greet her flockmates – the four that got there under their own power - #1, #3, #6, and #8.

Meanwhile, what about Geoff? He went over to the Canfield Site, where #17 had landed. Geoff waited with 17 until 9-05 flew over to defend his territory and chased 17 away. Then Geoff headed back to the North Site, where he encountered #2, and led him back into the pen. When 17 flew over and saw his friends, he wanted to join them. In his excitement, he landed on the top net. Ohmigosh! Try as he might, Geoff couldn’t convince 17 to get down. Brooke headed over to help Geoff with the acrobat and I stayed at the pensite to help Jess with the new arrivals. We led these three - #5, #15, and #16 - over to their temporary home. On the way back, we stopped to thank the landowner again (and thanks again from here too!).

Back at the North Site, Brooke arrived to assist Geoff with #17. After fruitlessly trying to convince 17 to get off the topnet, Brooke finally took it down. Hot and tired and thirsty, 17 gratefully headed for a drink. When Jess and I arrived, we went out to the North Site with Richard, and helped to crate the birds for transport to the stopover pen. Then Jess and Richard headed off with the chicks while Brooke and I said goodbye to the North Site.

Wow. I guess all the dress rehearsals in the world don’t prepare you for the first day of migration. What a relief that we’re all (including birds) safe and sound.

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Date:October 11, 2010 #3Reporter: Liz Condie
Subject:SWITCHING THINGS UPLocation: South Juneau Co. WI

In previous years we adopted the practice of providing Field Journal visitors with interesting tidbits about the States that our annual migration travelled through. Migration Trivia, compiled by Craniacs and intrepid researchers Vi White and Steve Cohen, was developed with a view to giving our readership, which includes many school children, a flavor for the geography and history of the seven migration States, as well as offering some little known facts about each State’s famous (or infamous) people.

For the 2010 migration the tidbits we offer will be ‘less trivial’. That is to say, we will be featuring many of North America’s threatened or endangered species. Hopefully our readership will enjoy this switch as we attempt to raise awareness and emphasize the plight of many of our other imperilled creatures.

Today, on our first ‘down day’ of the 2010 migration, we feature the initial InfoBit of our 2010 Migration series on Imperilled Creatures.

IMPERILED CREATURES – InfoBits compliments of  Vi White and Steve Cohen

Common Name

Karner Blue Butterfly

Genus/Species Name

Lycaeides melissa samuelis

Status

Endangered

Status Cause

Habitat loss or degradation

Description

Small; wingspan about 1 inch. Male topside silvery or dark blue with narrow black margins.  Female topside is grayish brown to blue with irregular bands of orange crescents inside narrow black border. Underside of both is gray with continuous band of orange crescent along edges, scattered black spots circled with white

Behavior

Usually has two hatches of eggs each year. Spring hatch is from eggs laid previous year. About mid-May the caterpillars pupate, with adults emerging from chrysalis end of May or early June. These adults mate, laying eggs on or near wild lupine plants, the leaves being the exclusive food of caterpillars. These second-generation caterpillars feed about three weeks, pupate and lay eggs that will hatch the following spring. Adult butterflies feed on nectar of flowering plants.

Where found

Historically in a 12-state band from Minnesota to Maine. Now most widespread in Wisconsin, Michigan. Rarely Minnesota, New York, Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio

Habitat

Pine and oak savanna/barrens supporting wild lupine and nectar plants.

Recovery Plan

Wisconsin has implemented a statewide Habitat Conservation Plan. Reintroduction programs are being conducted in Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire and Ohio in areas where it had been extirpated

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Date:October 11, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:AN ATTEMPTLocation:Main Office

It appears that Joe was today's lead pilot as those of us watching the camera saw Trish and Geoff release the birds. Up we went with him - bank left - bank right - head back to the pen... Wait! What?

They tried another launch and as they gained altitude, it appeared to get very bumpy so again we headed back to the field containing the travel pen but apparently somewhere along the way #2-10 dropped out and refused to fly so the decision was to return the cranes to the safety of their enclosure and to direct today's tracker, none other than Beverly Paulan in to crate up the recalcitrant #2 - welcome back Bev!

We'll try again tomorrow.

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Date:October 11, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:RESULTS: MIGRATION & MARATHONLocation:Main Office

Like most migration starts, yesterday could be described as 'controlled confusion.' Due to recent heavy rains in central Wisconsin, we were unable to use the first migration stop location only 5 miles from the refuge as the ground was so soggy that we couldn't get the mowing equipment in to cut a landing strip. Plan B involved flying them to our former first stopover, located 23 miles south of Necedah, and one we haven't used since 2004.

Richard van Heuvelen moved into position at the North site and gave Trish and Geoff the okay to release the young cranes; most followed him into the air but a few turned back and as Joe flew in the chase position, TrikeCam viewers could see that below and ahead, Richard had 7 birds and there were headed SOUTH and away from their home at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge for the first time.

The Swamp Monster was called into action to convince the 4 that had turned back that they weren't welcome here until next Spring and that they really should consider following Brooke's aircraft. In the end, number 10-10, who had sustained an abrasion to her leg a couple days ago, did follow Brooke as he began leading her south to the first stop.

A few miles into the flight, we watched as one lone bird broke away from Richard's aircraft and Joe maneuvered into position and picked it up. It was number 15-10. Joe positioned the camera so that viewers could watch the bird, which was struggling to stay in the sweetspot behind the wing where he would get the benefit of the vortices rolling off the wingtip. Time and again, he would drop down low and have to flap fly, so eventually Joe landed with him in an isolated, and recently harvested soybean field to allow him to rest.

This left Richard with 6 cranes and he continued on his way, but shortly after, 2 others dropped out, leaving him with only 4 that made the entire 23 mile flight. As the 3 dropped out, Richard noted the coordinates and as soon as he had the 4 safely in the travel pen, he returned to the spot where the 2 had dropped out and landed nearby.

Meanwhile Joe was airborne again and attempted to get #15-10 to climb but they were cruising along barely above treetop level when the came upon Richard's trike below so Joe decided to again land with his bird to join Richard.

Brooke was a distance back with #10-10 who was also having difficulties getting any altitude and eventually she landed in a marsh. Brooke noted the coordinates and passed them along to Trish so that they could retrieve her and transport her the remaining 12 miles by crate.

This left three youngsters back at the refuge: Number's 2-10, 9-10 & 17-10 were also eventually crated, as were the three dropouts that landed with only 2 miles left to go to reach the first stopover. These birds were 5-10, 15-10 and 16-10. The four cranes that made the entire 23 mile migration leg were: 1-10, 3-10, 6-10 and 8-10.

As the OM team was actually migrating, Craniac Lisa Saunders was participating in the Chicago Marathon and running to raise awareness of the migration, and also as a tribute to Whooping cranes 4-10 and 11-10; two very special cranes, which we recently lost.

I'm honored to let you know that Lisa competed in the 60-64 year old age group and completed the marathon in a record time for her, beating last year's time by at least 5 minutes! Lisa said "I did really well for the first 8 miles, but then it got very hot & humid, which caused me a lot of problems & I admit I was ready to quit more than a few times, but (true story) I convinced myself to stick it out because what if OM folks got tired in KY and quit, leaving the chicks to get to FL themselves. Well, of course you would never do that, so I wasn't going to quit, either!"

What a star you are Lisa - We're so very thankful and proud of you!

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Date:October 10, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:IT'S OFFICIALLY UNDERWAY!Location:On the edge of my seat

After a brief fog delay this morning the 2010 southward migration finally began! Richard van Heuvelen was today's lead pilot, so will hopefully have time to write a full report a bit later but for now, here's what I know.

Richard made it to the first stopover in South Juneau County, WI with 4 cranes. Joe picked up one of his dropouts and those of us watching on the trikecam could clearly see it was #15-10. He was open-mouth breathing so Joe landed with him to allow him to rest for several minutes before launching again.

At this point there are 4 in the travel pen, 3 on the ground about two miles from their destination. These will make the remaining two miles in crates. There is 1 at the Canfield training site on the refuge. 1 at the North site, and another missing in action but somewhere on the refuge. Brooke managed to get #10-10 to follow him, however she dropped out into the flight and is being retrieved by trackers from a marsh. She'll ride the rest of the way in a crate as well.

More information to come... stay tuned.

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Date:October 9, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:STAYING PUTLocation:Main Office

Today, for the third day in a row calm conditions on the surface teased the pilots into the air. Once aloft, however, and at 600ft altitude they encountered a steady easterly breeze, which when coupled with the moist, almost humid air, convinced them that it wouldn't be wise to attempt a departure. Standing down again.

Some of you may recall back on August 14th we told you about craniac Lisa Saunders and her plans to again compete in the Chicago Marathon. This year the marathon is being held tomorrow 10/10/10 and Lisa has been training hard. She finished the race last year with a personal best time and this year she is raising funds, and awareness for the Class of 2010 and is dedicating her race tomorrow to two very special Whooping cranes, which we recently lost: Numbers 11-10 and 4-10.

She shared photos of her race jersey and I'm thrilled to be able to share them with you! Lisa has pledged to match 6 miles in our MileMaker Campaign and is hoping that you'll step up to show your support for her as she competes tomorrow, but also for the Class of 2010 by sponsoring a 1/4, 1/2 or full mile and designate it as a "Marathon Mile" in honor of number 11-10 and 4-10. Visit the MileMaker page to help out!

The front of Lisa's race Jersey

 

 

 

The back of her jersey with cranes #11-10 & 4-10

 

GO LISA GO!!!

 
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Date:October 8, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:UPDATELocation:Main Office

As soon as the dust settled this morning, Joe transported #10-10 down to the International Crane Foundation just north of Baraboo where Dr. Barry Hartup, suited up and examined her leg. A short while ago Joe called to report that she's just fine, but does have a bad abrasion. He went on to say that she's very calm and is starting to put weight on the foot.

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Date:October 8, 2010Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:CONFUSIONLocation:Main Office

And again the weather looked ideal this morning - from the ground – so good that all three pilots were airborne by 7:10am. Two adult Whooping cranes were stationed near the travel pen, no doubt curious, and perhaps remembering when they too, set off on their first southward migration with the aircraft.

Today’s lead pilot, Brooke, landed adjacent the enclosure and attempted to persuade the older, and much whiter birds to leave, but they stood their ground. Brooke taxied into position and gave and Geoff and Trish the thumbs-up to open the two panels of the travel pen.

All 11 young cranes exited the pen at 7:26am and the first migration leg was underway! or so we thought.

Brooke flew toward the west and did a sweeping turn toward the south to allow those birds trailing back a bit to catch up, and 10 of them did before they flew over the DU observation area on Headquarters Rd. One youngster, #2-10, dropped out and returned to the travel pen at Laskey Field, only to be encouraged by the Swamp Monster to get airborne again.

By this time, Brooke’s birds began to break up, and as we could see on the trike cam, Joe picked up some off his wing. I’m not really sure what happened after that as I’ve not had a chance to speak with the pilots but here’s what we do know:

Number 2-10 dropped out somewhere not very far from Laskey field.
Brooke led the remaining 10 birds – or perhaps they led him back over to the North Training site.
At some point, either on take-off, or landing, #10-10 sustained an abrasion to her leg and is on her way to ICF to get checked out.
Number 2-10 was located and crated and has joined his flockmates at the North Site.

So that’s it for now… will update more as news arrives.

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Date:October 7, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:STILL STALLEDLocation:Main Office

The weather looked ideal this morning - from the ground... As soon as the pilots were airborne, however, things quickly changed. At sufficient altitude and on course they encountered a headwind, which slowed their speed to only 19 miles per hour.

The longest flight that these four and five month old chicks have ever been on was just over 30 minutes and with 23 miles separating them from the Necedah NWR and the first stopover in South Juneau County, it would have been well over an hour with the headwind.

The decision was made to stand down again today.

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Date: October 7, 2010Reporter:Joe Duff
Subject:NUMBER 4-10Location:Necedah, WI

They say that bad things happen to good people but that same rule also applies to birds. Tonight we lost number 4. She was found during the evening roost check with no obvious signs to tell us what happened.

There was no mass of lost feathers that you might expect if aggression was the problem and certainly no predator had made it past the steel wire or the electric fencer. All we know is that one of our best birds is gone on the eve of the migration, and to paraphrase my daughter, that sucks.

You may remember that number 4 was held back at Patuxent earlier this summer. She had a leg injury that would be very obvious and then disappear, only to reappear a short time later. Number 11 was also held back at the same time because of a respiratory issue. Each of them received lots of extra attention and they both made the trip to Necedah by road but not until the end of July.

As you know, number 11 lost his battle for breath and was removed from the project on September 30th, but number 4 was the star of the flock in every way. The only artifact of her earlier injury was a leg that dangled a few inches lower than the other one when she flew. In fact she was always easy to spot and if you wanted to locate her in flight, you only had to look for the first bird in the line.

We will know more about what happened later this week after a necropsy is performed. The weather looks promising for today and we may finally make our departure. All of us will be thinking of number 4 and wishing we could see her dangling leg off the wing tip one more time. Many of us will fly a fine migration in honor of her.

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Date: October 6, 2010 - Entry 2Reporter:Heather Ray
Subject:STANDING DOWNLocation:Main Office

Due to recent heavy rains in central Wisconsin, many areas adjacent rivers and creeks are inaccessible. Such is the case with our first migration stop, located only a few miles from the Necedah NWR.

Since we can't get mowers into the field to cut a strip to land the aircraft on, we'll revert back to using our original first stopover, located in southern Juneau County, which we used from 2001 to 2006. This stop is located approximately 23 miles from the refuge and requires the pilots to guide the young cranes over heavily forested areas.

Because of the distance and this morning's 7 to 8 mph headwinds, the pilots made the call this morning to stand down and see what tomorrow has to offer.

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Date:October 6, 2010Reporter: Heather Ray
Subject:PROGRESS AND WAITING TO HEAR NEWSLocation: Main Office

Yesterday morning Brooke Pennypacker and Joe Duff managed to eventually get all 12 young cranes that comprise the Class of 2010 over to the travel pen, which has been erected 2 miles away from the North Training site where they've spent the past 3 weeks.

It wasn't picture perfect, however, nobirdy needed to be crated and transported so I'm calling it a success! It took four attempts to get all of the cranes over to the new location, and the Swamp Monster got a great workout but hopefully, now that they're in unfamiliar surroundings, they'll be more attentive to their leader.

At one point during yesterday's flight, Brooke had a banded Sandhill crane join him and his Whooping crane colts so it had to have been one of the Sandhill's from the 2000 project year!

As of this writing I'm still awaiting word from the team to find out whether they'll actually begin migrating today or not. The second travel pen is already set up further south in Juneau County, so now all they need is some cooperation from Mother Nature. Stay tuned...

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