The "Day One" That Stretched Into 7
(+5 Miles)

October 16 - Oct. 22, 2009: Migration Day 1—7

Pilots Brooke and Richard successfully led a few of the chicks to Stopover #1 on Oct. 16. But official "Day 1" took several MORE days to accomplish!
Operation Migration

A Most Unusual Beginning
Following a wild rodeo in the sky October 16, part of the Class of 2009 began their first journey south. Five (#906, 908, 915, 924, 926) finally followed Brooke's and Richard's ultralights to the migration's first stopover site, four miles away. The other 15, however, had their own plans! After much wrangling and suspense, the wayward 15 were rounded up and safe at three different pen sites back on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. When the wind calmed in late afternoon, pilots Richard and Chris were able to get 905 and 925 to follow all the way to the first stopover site. October 16 ended with 7 birds at stopover #1 and 13 still on the refuge. Tomorrow the team hopes to finish Migration Day 1— by flying the wayward 13 to Stopover #1!

Richard and 912, 918, 927, 929
Photo: Joe Duff, Operation Migration

Oct. 17: A morning flight was impossible because the air was not calm. But again, pilots took off again shortly after 4 p.m. to try and take advantage of the late afternoon calm. It worked! Four of the 13 chicks that remained on the refugefollowing Richard's plane to Stopover site #1. Now 11 of the Class of 2009 are at the first stopover with Bev and Brooke camped nearby. Nine are still on the refuge at a separate pen site where they landed after yesterday's disorderly flying.

Oct. 18: This morning's attempted flight to move the last nine chicks from the refuge to Stopover #1 ended before it began. The pilots launched their planes to head over to the pen site at the refuge, but found the air aloft too bumpy for safe flying with the young chicks.

Oct. 19: Warmer temps have arrived on south winds, which means the migration won't be moving today. "Day One" stretches into yet another day in the most unual migration start in the project's history.

Eight chicks still "home"
Photo Heather Ray, Operation Migration

Oct. 20: The pilots launched with high hopes of leading the nine chicks remaining at the refuge to Stopover Site #TWO. On the way, they would pick up the 11 birds from Stopover Site #1 to join the flight to Stopover #2. Joe, today’s lead pilot, got eight of the nine into the air. Chick #911wouldn’t come out of the wet pen, and only #907 cooperated and made it to Stopover #1 with Joe. After another Crane Rodeo, it took three pilots to get the other birds rounded up and back into their their old pen on the refuge. Now #907 makes 12 chicks at Stopover Site #1 and 8 still on the refuge. Frustration!

Oct. 21: Rain is falling, dampening any plans to fly today. The longest DAY ONE in history drags on, but the birds are just as happy to have the day to forage and feed. Please check back tomorrow.

Oct. 22: Today's rain has the team grounded, especially disappointing because the winds are favorable (out of the NNW, the direction in which the migration will go). But will that be tomorrow? Cross your fingers for no rain! Meanwhile, should the team give in and box up the eight birds still at Necedah NWR and transport them by ground vehicles to Stopover #1? That's just what they did before this day ended. They got to fly and play before they each went into their own crate for the ride. In other news, it has been decided to give up the idea of the longest day one, and to count this migration as the others: from the day the first birds left Necedah NWR. Get set for Day 8 tomorrow!

See the chicks LIVE on the NEW Operation Migration CraneCam

In the Classroom

  • Today's Journal Question:
    (a) Have you ever had to try two or more times to do something difficult? Were you finally successful? What did you learn from that?
    (b-for-bonus) Why do you think the pilots planned a stopover only four miles away for the first leg (flight) of the migration?
  • (c) Once all the ultralight-led birds are off of the refuge, the DAR birds will be released on the refuge. Why do you think they aren't set free until the ultralight-led birds are gone?
  • Migration History: Now you can start filling in your migration comparison chart. How does this year's departure date compare with past years? Make some predictions for the other categories on the chart and see what happens. Revise your predictions as new information comes in.

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