Calling it Quits
January 29, 2012: Migration Day 91*

The Class of 2011 in their travel enclosure in Alabama in January 2012.

Image: Operation Migration

A Never-Before Event: The nine young cranes have clearly decided they are done following the pilots' flight plan. Yesterday's crane rodeo lasted two hours in the air with zero progress. Cranes #7 and #5 were ringleaders in challenging the aircraft for leadership. Time after time, they got the others to peel away from the tiny yellow airplanes that have led them a total of 746 miles southward. Project Leader Joe Duff wrote: "Whatever the cause, it is obvious we will not get these birds to Florida this year in time to acclimate them to the wetlands of St. Marks and Chassahowitzka. We have to admit that it is time to concede to the greater influence of nature, and for this year, stop trying to engineer a behavior we don’t really understand."

What's Next? The annual Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) meetings take place this week. Together with the Operation Migration team, they will decide what to do with these birds. They normally undergo a gentle release into the wild, getting used to their winter home, the night sky, the foraging and landscape. The team still hopes that is possible. The WCEP team will decide where, and Journey North will bring you news and photos of the Class of 2011's winter.

* The team at Operation Migration marked the end of an unexpectedly long stand-down period of the 2011-2012 migration and re-started the "migration clock" on January 13, with Migration Day 75.

In the Classroom: Journal or Discussion

  • "Migration is triggered by stimuli that are still not understood, but at some point it ends," wrote Joe Duff. "A period of sedentary behavior follows while they spend time foraging at their wintering grounds until that urge hits again for the return trip. Maybe we have stayed too long in Alabama and for them migration is over. Or, maybe they were just too long in one place. Maybe if we had a few flying days in a row to gain back their confidence, or maybe we just have a few too many aggressive birds with minds of their own." What are YOUR thoughts?


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