Whooping Crane Whooping Crane

Ups and Downs
Photo OM

By Dan Sprague

Since my first human-led crane migration project in 1996, I have learned there is only one thing that is entirely predictable: there will be ups and there will be downs. I've spent sleepless nights in the bird trailer bunk being knocked silly by raging windstorms and deafening hail in southern Wisconsin--the cost of which was one very special flock mate and a champion among birds. I've seen our first hate mail in the form of a letter to the editor of a newspaper that covered our story--the author of which felt that money for whooping cranes could be better spent on other things. I've been ensconced in fire ants underneath my costume, unable to get relief until escaping the presence of the flock into a dense stand of Georgia conifers. I miss my wife, my dog, my cat, my parrot, my fish and the house I left early in July--unfinished repairs and all.

Last Saturday, thanks to a visit by a most enthusiastic supporter, I found perspective and realized all these things for what they were; nothing but small bumps in a big road on a very important journey. All my life, I have been inspired by great humanitarians and conservationists, and before me stood the epitome of selfless idealism: former President and First Lady, Jimmy and Roslyn Carter. Project partner Chuck Underwood, USFWS, and I had about 30 minutes to kill before the pilots, with whoopers in tow, were slated to arrive on site. We talked a little about birding and travel but mostly about cranes and planes. One might have thought the former leader of the free world was about to experience his first Christmas by the level of his excitement. He had so many questions that it was with sheer relief that I discovered I had just enough answers and delight that he seemed to hang on my every word. As if being the center of attention in such a discussion was not the greatest compliment that I have ever received for our work, he went even further. The most charitable and inspirational person that I have ever had the pleasure to meet, thanked me for my important work with the most gracious praise that I have ever heard. I want to humbly thank you, Mr.President. Our spirits our soaring high above the Georgia skies this week.


Dan Sprague

Try This! Journaling Question
  • If you were a member of the flight team, what would you describe as the highlights? The lowlights?

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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