October 20, 2002
Airborne Drop-outs Galore
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
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
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:
Map the Migration
Make your own map using the latest migration data
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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