With a New Plan (+86
Surprise! In a change of plans, the five birds destined for Chass took to the air and the St. Marks five did NOT. It's the final weekend of hunting season at St. Marks NWR, so the arrival of those five will be postponed until after the hunt. Instead, Joe and Richard took off the other direction today. Their plan was to fly the Chass five to the Gilchrist County stopover — but when they encountered a low cloud bank part way to Gilchrist they diverted to Madison County. They have always managed to skip this stop in previous years. Unfortunately, they couldn't land there for complex reasons. They turned back on course for Gilchrist County, trying to stay under the clouds. Meanwhile, getting top cover pilots, tracking crew and pen crew all coordinated amid all these changes was a huge challenge. The pilots fought headwinds, low clouds, distracted birds, and more. Richard performed a miracle when he won back the birds when they only wanted to land in a marsh far from their final goal. Finally came the welcome news: The five landed safely at the Gilchrist County stopover site after flying 86 miles closer to their winter home. Joe estimated only about two gallons of fuel left in the gas tanks of their aircraft The whole team faced tough challenges. Joe paid them tribute, saying of today's team efforts: "Whooping cranes have never had greater champions." See today's map!
route to Chassahowitzka
NWR with two more flights to go: Cranes 3, 9, 15, 16
Whether the next good fly day is for Gilchrist to Marion County, or from Jefferson to St. Marks —there will be an Arrival Flyover Event for the public to see!