Migrating Again! (+ 53 Miles)
December 29, 2008: Migration Day 63

Richard captured this shot of five birds along his wing. Click on photo above to see birds in the Walker County, Alabama, pen after they arrived there today.
Photo Richard van Heuvelen, Operation Migration

Hooray! The pilots' return and good flying weather meant departing Franklin County Alabama a day earlier than expected! Today's lead pilot was Brooke, who hoped the birds would be eager to fly and keen to follow after long holiday break. Watching with many other craniacs, Liz reported: "At first reluctant, breaking off the trike and turning, they rejoined the wing as Brooke zoomed past to re-take the lead. After a few moments they reappeared, and with Brooke's red leading edge gleaming in the early morning sun, headed straight for us. Three times Brooke circled past us, one of the turns right overhead, giving those watching below a display we won't soon forget." A few miles out, 7 broke off and joined Richard's wing, and for a time the leader of that pack was the flock's youngest bird (see photo)! These gallant birds and pilots knocked off another 53 miles today, for a total of 755 miles gone.

Looking Ahead
Five stopover locations now remain between Walker County, AL and the staging area in Jefferson County, FL. At the staging area (gathering area) the team will split the Class of 2008 into two groups of seven birds each for the first time in the project's history. They will lead seven to their new wintering grounds on the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (more facts and photos soon).

After those 7 birds land at St. Marks, the team will return to the Jefferson County staging area. They will depart on the next flyable day with the other 7 crane-kids. This group stops in Florida's Madison and Gilchrist Counties before reaching Marion County and the Arrival Flyover event at the Dunnellon Airport. That just leaves the final leg of the migration to land them at Chassahowitzka NWR in Citrus County. The suspense continues in this history-making year of the reintroduction of Whooping cranes to Eastern North America.

In the Classroom:

  • Today's Journal Questions:
    (a) In splitting the birds into two groups for two wintering areas, the team is doing something they've never done before. With 74 adults in the flock now, they believe it will be safer for the crane-kids to have more space and privacy from the territorial older birds, who often return to the winter pen site for free food or to pick on the youngsters. Write about a time when you did something for the first time. How did you feel about the results?
  • (b-for-bonus) In years 2001-2007 the team completed the second half of the migration in as few as 11 days and as many as 42, but this year takes them on a new route. Based on the list of remaining stopovers, how many days of perfect flying weather would it take for the St. Marks group could arrive if they covered one stopover a day?

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