They're up and over the Cumberland Ridge and safely at Hiwassee Refuge! It was hard for the ground crew and pilots to convince the cranes that today wasn't another day off. Sure enough, they faced another sky rodeo. Joe seemed to have the most reluctant birds. He repeatedly gained almost enough altitude to make the crossing, then lost it again to collect a lagging crane. With all that, it took 51 minutes to travel 12 miles to the ridge and gain 1200 feet. Here's Chris's photo:
"Once up over the plateau, the air smoothed," wrote Joe, "and the birds fell into line like they knew the danger was behind them. I headed on course with 28 miles to go." Then Joe counted: Only 6 birds! He circled back and 500 feet below was his missing bird. Miraculously, Charlie and the tracking van weren't far away. The radio signal of #612 showed he'd landed on the ridge. Meanwhile, Richard and his birds had already landed at Hiwassee. He called Brooke's birds down and finally Chris's 5. Richard was calling Joe's 5 birds down when one peeled off to land with a flock of sandhill cranes. ARGH! The sandhills might take off with the whooper chick following, so Joe circled low in hopes of luring it back. Then the entire flock took off — with one white bird at the end. Joe zoomed in, gave him a wingtip, and the wayward whooper flew with Joe over to the pen. Seeing them coming, Richard turned on his vocalizer and the last bird landed next to him. And Charlie? He was on top of the ridge collecting #612 for a drive to Hiwassee Refuge — and a well-earned rest in crane paradise.
In the Classroom
North is pleased to feature this educational adventure presented in
cooperation with the Whooping
Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP). Copyright
2006 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.