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December 7, 2003
Day 53

Gilchrist County: Under 80 Miles To Go!

Photo OM

The finish line is close! At 7:53 a.m. the cranes were airborne for the second day in a row, finally closing in on the end of the journey. When they landed in Gilchrist County 2 hours and 3 minutes later, they had knocked off another 60.6 miles. Excitement is mounting! They've come a total of 113.2 miles, and they're under 78 miles from their Florida winter home.

All sixteen cranes made this leg of the migration, taking off with Richard van Heuvelen. By the end of the flight, eleven followed Brooke and five lined up off Joe's right wingtip. A special event today was the presence of 2001 pilot Deke Clark and Rebecca. They saw the birds' departure from Hamilton County, as well as their arrival in Gilchrist County. Before this morning, Deke had only seen take-offs and arrivals from the seat of his ultralight (prior to his suffering a stroke in January 2002).

The cranes are now 77.8 miles out from the release pen and winter site at Chassahowitzka NWR in Citrus County, FL. When will they cross the finish line? Tomorrow (Dec. 8) looks promising! If the winds are in the team's favor, Brooke Pennypacker, Joe Duff and Richard van Heuvelen will lift off from here shortly after sunrise and guide these young birds for the final time with their ultralights. The public is invited to watch! OM's Heather Ray shares the invitation:

Watch the Arrival!
"Approximately 60 miles into the final leg of the journey, at around 8:30 am, the pilots will lead the cranes over the Crystal River Mall, located on US Highway 19 in Crystal River, FL for a rare public appearance as our way of thanking the public for the steadfast and ongoing financial and emotional support they have provided this reintroduction. Public and media are invited to attend the grassy area at the north end of the shopping mall to watch the Class of '03 pass overhead with their mechanical leaders for the last time. Members of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership agencies will be on hand to answer questions, and once the birds have been delivered to their pen, the migration team will assemble and return to the mall to talk with the public and the media. For anyone planning to attend, please check the OM Web site early tomorrow morning for the final decision. The entire migration team hopes to see you there!"

Map the Migration
Make your own map using the latest migration data

Try This! Journaling Questions
  • What fraction or percent of the trip have the birds completed in the three (so far) December days of flying? (Use 1225 miles for the estimated trip total distance.)
Dec. 1 200 miles
Dec. 6 98.5 miles
Dec. 7 60.6 miles
  • Check past Highlights (or your Migration Comparison chart) to see if you can answer: How many days did they take off but have to turn back? How many actual flight days with progress? How many no-fly days? Where was the longest stretch of weather delays? How many days did it take to reach the halfway point at Hiwassee? How many days to finish the second half of the trip? How long was their longest flight? Shortest flight?


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

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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