November 23, 2002
Day 42

Crew and Cranes Divided Again


Frost on the wings

This was finally departure day from Meigs County, but only four cranes decided to stay with the ultralight! Those four made it to Gordon County, Georgia in a 67.7-mile flight. They flew 1 hour and 59 minutes with tailwinds of 10 MPH, trustingly following the only "parent" they have ever known.

What happened to the other 12? They turned back to the Meigs County site shortly after takeoff, unwilling to fly. Today was the first-ever air pick-up for these young cranes. Dan released the colts from their pen as Joe flew near the pen, dropping down low over the pen site while his loudpeaker played the brood call that means "follow me!" The departure looked good, but the birds may have been spooked by their own reflections as they took over over the wide pond by their pen. For whatever reason, they would not form up on Joe's or Brooke's plane. They would not stay in formation. With things going so poorly, the pilots turned back with these 12 wayward birds to avoid having them drop out and get lost. These 12 will stay in Meigs County one more night. (That makes six nights!) Joe and Brooke will try to fly them tomorrow to rejoin their flockmates across another state line--at last, in Georgia!

Something to Celebrate!
Today also brings more history-making news about last year's cranes and their first unassisted migration south. Last year's Cranes #1 and #2 left Wisconsin on their first solo migration south, flew over the huge city of Chicago, and made it all the way to Indiana in one day! That was a long flight for birds that haven't moved far from their Wisconsin home in months.

In even BIGGER news, we also added a late news flash: Solitary female yearling Crane #7 astonished everyone by showing up in her pen in FLORIDA! She left Wisconsin November 15, unwatched by anyone, and flew all the way down the flyway. It is likely she arrived on the Refuge the night of Nov. 20, as she was spotted November 21 by Chassahowitzka Refuge staff as they put the finishing touches on the now-enlarged winter pen. (We hope they were wearing the white costumes to conceal their human forms, just in case.) Her presence on the Refuge was confirmed by radio signals on Nov. 22. You can imagine the thrills, chills, and cheers! THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY THAT AN ULTRALIGHT-LED WHOOPING CRANE HAS MADE A FULL CYCLE MIGRATION WITHOUT ASSISTANCE. It proves that the careful methods of Operation Migration and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) work. We congratulate WCEP and this dedicated team of pilots and professionals on this historic achievement!

Last Fall

This Fall

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Try This! Journaling Question 
  • Of the five yearling whoopers that summered in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge where they were raised, Cranes #1 and #1 are curently in Jasper Pulaski State Wildlife Area in northern Indiana. Crane #5 is still in Marquette County, Wisconsin. Crane #6 is in Meigs County Tennessee, where tracker Lara led Heather to a lookout to view him through her binoculars yesterday. Crane #7 has already arrived on the new wintering grounds in Florida. Based on the progress of the HY 2002 chicks learning the route with the ultralights, do you think last year's five will beat them to Florida? If so, how do you think the HY 2001 cranes will act when the HY2002 chicks reach the wintering grounds?
  • Are you keeping up your migration comparison chart with special notes, mileages, and no-fly days?

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).