Staying Down in Wind (+ 0 Miles)
December 11, 2008: Migration Day 56

Photo Study: Find the cranes in the lead and third positions. What do you notice about their beaks? What are two possible explanations? On a day when the birds had to do a lot of flapping to gain altitude, which reason do you think is most likely?
Photo Operation Migration

Arrival in Alabama will have to wait one more day. The powerful north winds are rocking the RV's on the ground, and racing aloft at more than 40 miles per hour. But tomorrow's forecast looks promising for a flight!

For the first time this year, the cranes and planes will not need to cross the biggest obstacle of the migration path: the mountains of Tennessee. Last year, after 11 down-days of waiting and two tries to cross the mountains, the team took a break on Dec. 18. Some went home for the holidays. Finally, Dec. 29, brought the right weather and they conquered the 2,500-foot Walden Ridge. You can guess why they call it "The Beast." This year the route will go through Alabama instead. No mountains! Open, flat areas with fewer trees are safer for cranes and planes. Alabamians are excited to have four stopovers in their state, and to see the cranes and planes for the first time. Will it be tomorrow?

In the Classroom:

  • Today's Journal Questions:
    (a) With full power the ultralights can climb in altitude at 750 to 1,000 feet per minute (fpm). The birds can climb at about 100 fpm. Last year they had to get to 3,000 feet to cross "The Beast." How many minutes of flying would it take the cranes to get to this altitude?
  • (b-for-bonus) Why do you think the young cranes can't climb as fast as the ultralight planes? Write your thoughts. Then compare them with Joe Duff's words. Did Joe mention any reasons you didn't think of? (You may wish to edit your answer.)
Migration History: On December 11, 2007, the six off-course direct autumn release (DAR) crane-kids were captured and moved to Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee. Richard and Eva made the capture and 7-hour drive to Hiwassee, where thousands of Sandhill cranes and nine other older Whooping cranes were on a migration "rest stop." Did those 2007 DAR chicks make it to Florida after all? Find out on their bio pages; click on "The Chicks" in the navigation bar at the bottom of this page. Then scroll to the very bottom of that page and click on "2007" to find the Class of 2007 photos and bio pages. Scroll down to the Group 2 (the DAR chicks) and click on their photos for their stories.

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