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October 20, 2002
Day 8

Airborne Drop-outs Galore

crane02WCEP_092

Taking off!
Photo OM for WCEP


All 16 cranes ended the day safely in the pen at the Green County stopover --but not until covering 47.2 miles in unexpected ways! Today's flight was longer than the combined total of other two legs flown by the young flock; it's not surprising that many got too tired to go the distance. A few others just didn't want to fly at all. Here's what happened:

Dan and Kelly released 16 cranes from their overnight pen at 7:31. After 3 days grounded, they were eager to fly. In fact, Heather said it looked as if they were not planning to wait for the aircraft! The birds flew a long and slow pass over the site before finally returning to join the slower-to-take-off aircraft, still idling on the grass strip by the pen.

Watching from the ground, Heather said, "Joe radioed to Brooke and Richard and within seconds the three trikes were airborne amid 16 eager whooping cranes as we watched enviously from below." Brooke flew the lead plane with Richard and Joe flying chase. They began a slow climb, gaining the necessary altitude to make it over the ridge just to the south. As Brooke turned to make another pass to gain more altitude, three cranes decided to head back to the pen site! Joe gave chase in hopes the birds would join off his wing, but the birds were faster and quickly landed back on the ground next to Dan in his costume. They decided to transport these reluctant flyers to the next location in the "crane taxi," a truck in which the cranes would ride inside special crane crates.

But these were not the only drop-outs today. As Brooke was almost cresting the ridge, two other birds decided they didn't want to fly. These dropped out next to a lake on top of a large hill. The two wayward birds were safely rounded up by International Crane Foundation (ICF) intern, Lara Fondow.

Are you counting? How many cranes are still flying? Brooke and Richard carried on with them as Joe and Bill flew close behind. When some of the group lagged behind, Joe moved in to pick them up so they could fly off his wing. At 38-miles into the flight, one of Joe's birds dropped out. From her top cover Cessna plane, Paula radioed the coordinates of the bird to Heather on the ground. Heather in turn reported the location to Lara and the pickup team and gave road directions to reach the tired bird. (Migration is a team effort!) After another two miles, Joe was forced to land with his remaining birds to let them rest.

Brooke and Richard made it to the planned Green County site with six cranes. They left them in the care of Brian Clauss, who was already at the landing site with the portable pen ready to house the birds. Once the six were in the pen, Brooke and Richard went back to see about Joe and his birds. Thanks to directions from top cover pilot Paula, they had no trouble finding Joe's exact location. After letting his cranes rest for about 40 minutes, Joe took off again to fly the birds the last 8 milesto the Green County landing site. Compare the progress for Day 8 last year and this year:

Last Fall

This Fall

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Try This! Journaling Questions

  • What's the total distance flown so far?
  • Some of the younger birds did not have as much endurance of their older flockmates and dropped out. Have you ever been too tired to continue while doing something difficult? What were your choices? What happened when you tried again? What's your prediction for the younger birds making a successful migration?


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

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