Still Too Windy Aloft (+ 0 Miles)
January 8, 2009: Migration Day 73

The birds haven't had much flying exercise the past nine days because of fog, rain, and wind. On the next fly day, the team hopes the birds will be as eager to get going as the humans are!
Photo Heather Ray, Operation Migration

West winds at 40 to 50 mph aloft stall the migration in Chilton County again today. Are you counting? After 813 miles, this is the ninth day they haven't been able to depart this stopover. Don't give up! Liz reports from camp: "If the current forecast holds, we should have a decent chance of flying tomorrow."

Meanwhile, the long migration means team member Walt can't stay to the finish. Now the team welcomes another long-time volunteer, Gerald Murphy, to help. Gerald was thrilled to be invited to fly as spotter in top cover pilot Jack Wrighter's Cessna 172 aircraft. Gerald said, "We take off very shortly after the ultralights launch. We hang back until the birds are released, and then we fly circles over the ultralights and cranes at an altitude of around 1,000 to 1,200 feet above them. In the top cover aircraft we often make 25-30 circles before getting to the next stop. Our purpose is to keep an eye on the birds, ultralights, and upcoming potential hazards. We also stay in touch with various control agencies to clear all of us through restricted airspace if necessary."

Is this a job you'd like? ( You may remember lucky Taylor, who got to fly in the top cover plane one day.)

In the Classroom:

  • Today's Journal Questions:
    (a) Walt said goodbye to the team after 12 weeks on the road with them in this, his fifth migration. He recalled, "The year I was born there were only 15 Whooping cranes on earth. In 2008, some 68 years later, we have exceeded 500. Sustaining this success story demands that we continue to work as hard as we can until the Whooping crane’s survival is assured." Walt does not get paid to help the Team. What do you do in your own life for "free" because you care deeply about getting it done?
  • (b-for-bonus) Top cover spotter Gerald tells us: "Flying top cover is the long way to get to the next stop. In the top cover aircraft we often make 25-30 circles before getting to the next stop. It's 3.14 times further around a circle than a straight line across it." How far did the birds fly on the day they reached Chilton County? How far do you estimate the top cover pilots flew?

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure presented in cooperation with the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).