ALABAMA Bound! (+57 Miles)
December 17, 2009: Migration Day 63

Photo Heather Ray, Operation Migration

The morning's calm in Hardin County was a good sign, but a test trike went up at official sunrise to see if headwinds aloft would permit progress to the next stop in Franklin County, Alabama (about 57 miles). YESSSSS! Our cranes and planes were finally Alabama bound! But it was slow going. Lead pilot Richard later wrote: "Slowly the miles ticked by. Normally on a good day it's about a mile every minute or minute-and-a- half. But today it was about three to four minutes per mile; agonizingly slow. . .but fortunately the birds didn’t seem to notice or care, which was unusual.

"At times the ground speed slowed down to below 15mph. I would anxiously look back at the birds, expecting them to turn back. . .
Determined, we kept on despite the dismal ground speed crossing the Tennessee river where we found more headwind and rougher air. Some birds were beginning to tire, flying with their mouths open, which made me more aware of potential landing spots. But as we crossed over the mountainous terrain we came upon a stretch of flat land that seemed to give us lift, and even though I was trying to descend to allow the birds some rest, we continued to climb — sometimes as much as 500 feet per minute. This gave the birds some much needed rest and soon their mouths closed and we continued to climb. This worked out to be very advantageous and we were able to fly a little faster. But it didn’t last . We were about 15 miles out when the changing terrain brought rougher air again and the birds began to struggle with the wing. Easing them along, we began a slow decent at about seven miles out and were at tree top level by the time we reached our destination in Franklin County.

"After circling the site a few times we landed near a small marshy pond where we held the birds while the pen was set up. With the long slow flight it felt like we had stolen 2nd and 3rd base only to hit a home run. Woo Hoo!" Miles gone: 702.

CraneCam is live each day from about 6:30 to 10:00 a.m. and again from 3:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon. TrikeCam is live during migration flights.


In the Classroom

(a) What was the weather like when they landed in Franklin County, Alabama last December? What else was interesting about last year's arrival in Franklin County? Click here to find out. (b-for-bonus) What role did pilot Richard play in last year's flight to Franklin County? Read Joe's entry, The Hero in Richard Pulls Us Through. What title would YOU give Joe's journal entry? What challenges faced by ultralight pilots have you read about this season?

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