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to Gordon County, Georgia
ago today marked the END of the migration for the 2002 whoopers and ultralights,
but this year's birds haven't been so lucky. Still, we've got some great
news: the cranes and planes got airborne after 4 days stalled at stop
#15. Today's flight brought them 68.3 miles closer to their winter home!
They're in Gordon County, Georgia, 754.1 miles into the journey.
Total flight time this morning was 2 hours and 50 minutes, but what a
struggle. Most of the young cranes kept breaking away and turning back
toward their enclosure. After several overhead north/south passes, Richard
van Heuvelen finally gathered 13 reluctant-to-leave cranes. He proceeded
on course behind Joe, who was about two miles ahead with the 3 others.
Brooke anticipate the birds might turn around again, so he flew close
behind Richard. Sure enough, Brooke soon intercepted 5 cranes that broke
from Richard's aircraft. A minute later, 4 more turned back! Richard continued
on course with his remaining 4 cranes, while
Paula radioed back to Mark Nipper that 4 cranes were inbound to the pen
and they would need to be crated and delivered to the next site in Georgia.
Brooke and Richard had their hands full. Crane #303 kept challenging Richard's
aircraft for the lead. This meant each time Richard increased his speed
to overtake his lead position, his other 4 cranes would drop off the wake
of air made by the large wing and lose their flight order.
Meanwhile, Brooke had
his own ongoing battle with #301, one of three birds he was still guiding.
Every pond or lake they passed over beckoned to this bird. No sooner had
Brooke chased after #301 when another small lake would appear in a valley
below. This obstinate, water-loving crane would peel off again, each time
forcing Brooke to lose precious altitude as he also tried to keep his
other 2 birds with him.
Because of the wooded
terrain under today's flight path, two possible stopover sites
had been planned. The first was 50
miles to the south in Walker County. After
hearing the frustrated snippets of radio talk, Heather expected the planes
and cranes to land there. She was waiting when Richard came into view
with 5 birds. Seconds later, Joe appeared with 4. They were quite high,
approximately 2200 ft. and they began discussing the possibility of making
it the remaining 20 miles to the second stopover. A tall ridge loomed
directly south, but they had plenty of altitude. They felt confident they
could nurse the young cranes over it. On the other hand, if they were
to land in the field here, they worried about a repeat performance like
when they had to climb over the Walden Ridge in Cumberland County, TN.
They chose to keep flying. Brooke followed behind by about 5 miles—fighting
all the way with the flock's oldest crane. After Brooke passed, Heather
left to catch up with them all in Gordon County, Georgia. What a day!
This! Journaling Question
Journey North is pleased to feature this educational
adventure made possible by the
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).
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