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November 30, 2002
Day 49

Whoop it Up! Migration Complete

Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge

crane02WCEP_162

Photo OM for WCEP

It's a history-making day! At 7:33 this morning, team leader Joe Duff led the young birds out of their Levy County stopover as fellow pilots Bill Lishman, Richard van Heuvelen and Brooke Pennypacker moved into position, ready to help if any of the birds decided to break away from the lead ultralight. One bird got out of the pen late and Brooke Pennypacker moved in to lend uplift from his trike's wing to this tardy flyer. Just 29 miles to go! Shortly after 8 a.m. the four tiny ultralights came into view over the Crystal River Mall, where people from far and wide had gathered to welcome this gleaming squadron of rare, endangered birds. Silence fell over the crowd as the cranes and planes passed overhead. These people are among the very few who are lucky enough to see wild Whooping cranes. The hush lasted until the cranes and planes disappeared from view, flying southwest toward Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge--and then cheers and tears of joy filled the air!

At 8:39 a.m. all sixteen cranes descended into the newly-enlarged release pen on an isolated island about 5 miles off Florida's central Gulf coast. In their billowy white outfits, Brian Clauss and Kelly Maguire called the birds down by playing the familiar brood call. Mission accomplished! After After 49 days--only 21 with flying weather--it's time to whoop it up in celebration of the new Eastern flock's successful migration. It is awesome to realize that these 16 birds add up to ONE more Whooping crane than existed in the early 1940s! Will all of them survive the winter? Will they know when and where to return in the spring? Now we watch and wait.

Celebrate arrival day with a wonderful story, told many years in the future by one of the "pioneer" adult cranes to the young colts:

Link to My Great Story: Whooping Cranes Year 2200, by Kathy Miner

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This Fall

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Try This! Journaling Questions
  • Joe Duff's flight log says, "Whooping cranes are solitary birds and migrate in small groups of 2 to 4 individuals. Nowhere else in hisrory have 16 juveniles been assembled into one free-flying cohort and nowhere else in time have they been guided b such an unorthodox parent. It is a humbling spectacle and we are grateful for their trust in us as well as yours." What message would you send today to the flight team and ground crew?
  • Write or tell a summary of the migration to another friend or family member. Think carefully about the main idea, and choose a title to capture interest. Use your Comparing Migrations chart for the details, or look at our completed chart.

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

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