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October 13, 2003
Migration Target Day + 5

Migratory Restlessness But No Go
Have you predicted a starting date for this year's flight? An arrival date?

Last night, for the first time since October 8, there were calm conditions at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. And this morning it's sunny and cool. But those calm evening conditions changed overnight, and west-southwest winds at 7 knots and gusts this morning delayed takeoff yet another day. The WCEP team is disappointed and restless.

The Whooping Cranes are probably feeling restless themselves. Every autumn, migratory birds go through a period of what ornithologists call "migratory restlessness." Changes in daylength, the sun's angle, and the weather cause them to feed and move about more. As the energy builds day after day, they take off and migrate, sometimes long distances.

Cranes that followed the ultralight in 2001 or 2002 will know exactly how to channel this restless energy as they begin their migrations. But in the same way that wild Whooping Cranes follow their parents during their first migration, this year's young WCEP birds are looking to their surrogate parents to lead the way. They're probably disappointed when they can't at least go on a practice flight, but since they haven't been "taught" to migrate yet, they are probably not the least bit disappointed about the delayed departure.

Try This! Journaling Question
  • Do you think we humans are affected by migratory restlessness? Do you feel "a change in the air" in fall? Does it affect your behavior?
  • Look at the migration route map. How many states will the Whooping Cranes pass through? How many of these states have you been in? Look at a detailed map of these states and see if you can guess what cities and landforms the cranes will see from above. Why do you think they migrate south into Illinois and then east across to Indiana, rather than taking a straighter, shorter line to Indiana? (Hint: What is the biggest city in any of these states? How might flying over it be a problem?)

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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