No Go: Pinned by Wind (+0 Miles)
October 17, 2011: Migration Day 9

This pumpkin got pecked plenty when the young cranes played with it.

Photo: Operation Migration

The winds pin them down for the 6th day at Stopover #1 in Green Lake County, Wisconsin. It's not only windy, but also sunny. That means lots of thermals. Today those rising columns of warm air are moving fast to the east. In the wild, it would be a good migration day for birds like Whooping cranes that have evolved to ride those thermals and get the free lift. They could rise effortlessly without much flapping, get pushed along by the strong winds, and cover great distances — as long as they wanted to go east. But the captive-born crane-kids have never been exposed to thermals to discover their benefits. Until they learn the route south from their parents (the ultralight planes), the only flight advantage they will have is the "wake" created by the aircraft wings.

"Under normal circumstances we would release the birds for a little exercise every third or fourth down-day, but even for that, it is too windy," explains pilot Joe Duff. "For them, riding the air currents is instinctive. If we released them today, and they discovered the rising thermals on their own, they might end up a hundred miles away — probably in the wrong direction. On top of that, they are only five miles from their summer home and if we gave them the opportunity, they just might head back. So as much as we would like to see them flying free, they are stuck in the pen at least for another day."

In the Classroom: Journal or Discussion

  • (a) Pilot Joe wrote: "When we checked on them this morning, you could tell they were anxious for a little activity. They normally greet us "costumes" at the gate and then go about their business, but on days like this, they follow us around while we tend to the water and feed." Look at the photo above and tell how you think the team tries to keep the young cranes from getting bored.
  • (b-for-bonus) Dig into our lesson, Up, Up and Away: Thermals and Updrafts. Then match the right species with graphs of these four migration flight plans (showing a crane following an ultralight, an eagle, a hummingbird, and a monarch butterfly) in an area with lots of thermals:

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