November 2, 2002
Still On the Ground in Windy "Indy"
Strong cross winds would have blown the cranes and planes off course today, so they wisely stayed put in Benton County, Indiana. Heather says, "The birds are safe in their travel enclosure but they get excited by the winds blowing through the open panels and are as anxious to get airborne as the pilots are."
Progress has been slow due to the weather, but even so, good things are happening. The crew sees that their hard work in training the chicks since hatching has paid off. Says pilot Joe Duff, "These birds are better prepared for this long and arduous trip than any we have raised in the past."
The team is happy to see that the birds are getting used to the routine of migration. Practice makes perfect, and the team is learning how to get all the birds out of the pen at one time. Why is this so important? Joe explains, "This is no easy feat, as many of the more eager birds will charge out and take flight almost immediately, leaving the others behind. The handlers must try to contain the more aggressive, while encouraging the more reluctant. The pilot must judge the take-off roll so the leaders do not get ahead of him, yet delay it long enough for the slower birds to have a chance. The start is critical, and if the last birds out are too far from the aircraft they are often discouraged and turn back."
The people at the landing stopovers are another good thing. They provide isolation for the birds and power for our trailers, dinners for the crew or just a place to hang out on rainy, windy days." Joe reminds us that such generosity is not for the crew, but for the cause. "They are kind because they support the work we are doing. It is their way of helping the cause; of contributing to the survival of a creature older than mankind."
You can help the cause, too. Tell other people about this remarkable journey to help restore whooping cranes to a part of the continent where they were wiped out over a century ago. You may wish to do a fundraiser or send your own contributions to help the cause. Every little bit helps. For example, $15.00 buys a 50-pound bag of crane chow. $32.00 pays for 5000 mealworms for Robo-crane to give out. $20.00 fills the fuel tank of one ultralight airplane, buying about three hours of flight time. Contributions can be mailed to:
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