A Perfect Day
Joe Duff's Operation
Migration Log Entry: Dec. 6, 2005
Joe Duff, team Leader, Operation Migration
seems this entire migration has been one long weather delay punctuated
by single days of great progress. Today [Dec.
6, 2005] we
covered 97 miles in only 1 hour and 46 minutes. That equates to a speed
over the ground of just under 60 miles per hour despite the fact that
the birds were still flying at their normal 38 miles per hour through
the air. At times my GPS told me we were traveling over 70 mph. Now
why couldn’t we have more days like that!
First Day in the Lead!
Each day we designate one of the pilots to take the lead position.
In truth it only means they make the first attempt at leading. They
land next to the pen and give the handlers the signal to open the
gate. Thereafter it’s anyone’s guess who the birds will
fly with. Sometimes a few are slow to come out of the pen and they
get left behind
by the main flock. Or sometimes they will turn back to the pen and
one or all of the chase pilots will intercept them. We can have all
the birds on one trike or some birds on each. Chris Gullikson, our
new pilot, was elected to fly lead this morning for the first time.
It’s kind of daunting for someone who has
never experienced it before. You raise your thumb to the handlers
and try desperately to stay ahead of the 19 five-foot tall birds
charging toward you. So Chris has been understandably reluctant to
take his turn.
remains of the early morning frost still coated the wings making
slow flight a challenge, and as he took off Chris had to fly faster
than he would have liked. As he turned on course the birds were
yards behind. He flew some tight “S” turns and they
slowly caught up. Below 900 feet the air was bumpy and it took
to coax them above that level. In that forced climb some of the
birds broke and the flock began to separate. If we can break the
up into two groups, each will receive more benefit from the wing
endurance will increase, so Richard moved in to pick up the stragglers.
I flew chase for Richard while Brooke fell in behind Chris, and
we continued a long slow climb up into a smooth clean tailwind.
We skipped one of our sites and headed for Terrell County, Georgia,
97 miles to the south. The rest of the flight was uneventful.
A few times Richard had to fight with birds that had enough
him for the lead. He had to muscle the wing to get enough speed
to keep ahead of them, but for the most part it was one of those
perfect days. As we approached the stopover we debated going
to the next one. We were cruising at almost 70 miles per hour,
sun heats the earth it generates thermals that mix the air and
bring the wind down to the surface. The longer we waited, the
landing would be, so we accepted the double leg and began our
descent. As predicted, the approach was rough and we had to
work hard to
get the aircraft down safely. All the birds landed and we led
to wait for Mark Nipper to arrive with the pen. Brooke and I
found a stream flowing through the field and the birds spent
of bliss probing in the mud. In fact, when the pen was ready,
time convincing them to follow us out of the marsh. Each pilot
carries a bag of grapes with them. One at a time we clutch the
fruit in the
break of our puppets. Once a bird spots this treat, they will
eagerly follow you anywhere including into the pen. By noon
we had the
birds in the pen and the aircraft delivered to the local airport
tucked away in hangars for the night.
like this are perfect. There just aren’t enough of them!
North is pleased to feature this educational adventure presented
in cooperation with the Whooping
CraneEastern Partnership (WCEP).