Migration Day 48
to GEORGIA—and Searching for a Runaway
haw! Thirteen cranes landed in Walker County,
GEORGIA after crossing another state
border and flying 49.2 statute miles in one hour and 51 minutes.
What about the 14th crane? That would be runaway crane #412. The runaway
bird covered half of Georgia before turning back to TN and the Hiwassee
Refuge. He wasn't located until 6:30 p.m., after flying another 160
miles and ending up about where he started. Here's what happened:
A Slow Start
the pilots waited until almost 10 a.m. for the fog to go away. Then
the pen area
for almost 30 minutes before finally convincing the 14
crane-kids that it was high time
to leave Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. (We said it was great crane
habitat, right?) About ten miles out, #412 from Richard's group of
seven began to drop back. Joe and Brooke and their birds were flying
Richard's group. In order to try to get the tired #412 to fly with
them, they would
noisy Interstate Highway 75 coming up, they decided it was best to
keep going. Mark and Tatiana then tracked #412 from below, while
pilots Bill and
watch on the bird from their plane above. Richard (with six cranes),
Joe (with five), and Brooke
(with two) continued. The pilots were forced to stay between the north/south
mountain ridges as they made their way south into Georgia. With 13
crane-kids, they landed at 11:40 a.m. in Walker County, Georgia.
Heather was watching from the ground at the new stopover site. Richard
had landed, and soon Joe and his birds came into view. Joe
began spiraling downward with the birds intent on landing near
to Richard's trike. Heather noticed what, at first, appeared
to be a Sandhill crane circling just above the whoopers. She also noticed
that the whoopers seemed reluctant to land. Apparently, Joe had noticed
the extra circling bird too--and then he gave chase. The bird was
a Golden eagle! Golden eagles are natural predators of Whooping cranes.
They have been known to take whoopers down while in flight. Heather
watched our spiraling
cranes descend as Joe went after the eagle, trying to chase it away.
The huge bird didn't give up easily. After about two minutes of Joe's
flight maneuvers, the eagle
finally fled. Not a moment too soon, as Brooke appeared in sight with
his two cranes. While Brooke and Richard gathered the remaining birds
into the pen, Mike and Bill
were still trying to keep an eye on the runaway crane. The bird was
a little white speck far below their plane, and they soon lost
sight of him entirely. Mark and Tatiana in the tracking van had a weak
signal on him; they were driving back and forth across I-75, trying
to get a stronger signal.
took off, hoping he could locate the rebel
bird and guide it to the pen site. But time
and gas ran out. Joe was forced to give up and land shortly before
1 p.m. Mark and Tatiana followed
the bird south as far as Adairsville, GA. Then they lost the signal.
Richard and Patuxent's Charlie Shafer
went out in another tracking vehicle to try locating the bird.
after 5 p.m. and #412 was STILL airborne. Finally the bird was
located at at 6:30 p.m.—back at Hiwassee State Wildlife Refuge!
Cousins Reach a Milestone: Over 200 in the Flock!
Crane Coordinator Tom Stehn, who made the historic count when the world's
whooper population broke 100 cranes
of 1986 at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, reports fantastic
news: "The number of cranes present at Aransas is estimated at 213
adults, 52 subadults, and 32 chicks. The record total exceeds the previous
high of 194 reached by the population last winter (2003). The
population of whooping cranes has doubled in the last 18 years. The results
flight [Nov. 24, 2004] are
the most satisfying experience I have ever had in my career with U.S.
Fish and Wildlife."
15 Whooping Cranes were alive in 1942. Journey
North shouts CONGRATULATIONS TO
ALL WHO ARE HELPING BRING WHOOPING CRANES BACK FROM THE BRINK
This! Journaling Questions
didn't Brooke and Joe want to drop low enough to try to retrieve
#412? For a clue, read
what happened on the 2001 migration.
want to update
Chart with today's progress—and other notes
from this eventful day.
stop should have been Gordon County, Georgia, 20 miles farther
south. But the team found out yesterday that the traveling
pen set up
a week ago started sinking
the mud after all the rain. They quickly changed their plan
(and the pen) to Walker County.
Heather said, "The Walker County area had also been drenched;
setting up the pen in the dark while
slipping around in cow poop meant that the guys didn't return to
camp until well after dark last night." Of all the difficulties
they've run into so far on this migration, which would YOU
find the most frustrating to deal with? Why?
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