Day Nine

Tuesday, October 21

Mission accomplished! It was a short night for me. I stayed up taking selective pieces of our video and putting them on tapes for the major news networks.  I picked out a good takeoff, some aerial footage, a landing, and the eagle attack. It's interesting working the the press. Having tried to get information as an editor I can see how difficult it is to get what you need.  On the other hand, after working with some of them here I think Kent can identify with Lady Diana.  Anyway, we got the networks tapes and from what I hear pieces of it appeared on NBC Nightly News, CNN and several local channels in Idaho, Utah and New Mexico.  That's good coverage for the project and really helps raise awareness for the plight of the whoopers.

When we woke up this morning, the sky was completely clear and still.  The orange and yellow trees along the Rio Grande river held a white fog captive over the water.  The valley is so beautiful with the lush vegetation around the river and the stark desolation of the rimming mountains.  

The planes were warmed and the pens partially disassembled in prep for take off.  Most of the sandhills spread their wings and jump the gates in anticipation. They circled twice and Kent roared to the air to join them with Errol right behind them.  

It was a smooth leisurely flight down the center of the valley and took a little less than an hour.  No eagles, no jets, and only a little tail wind to speed things up.  As they approached the Bosque Del Apache Refuge Kent radioed that there were lots of cars on the tour loop.  As we pulled into the area a throng of people was intently watching the horizon to the north. The small plane with a string of flapping birds off one wing slowly crossed over the river, circled the crowd and settled down on to the cut hay field.  The adventure had ended. 800 miles in nine days from the cold and snow of Idaho the warmth of New Mexico.

In the fields nearby were hundreds of sandhills which you could hear warbling.  The newly arrived cranes were penned and the net put over the top so that they wouldn't fly when the planes were flown away.  The press were then allowed to come close to the pens to see the birds, take pictures and ask questions. We then took down the pens and watched while Kent led the cranes across the hay fields and into the corn to join the wild birds.  We drove away all the vehicles and picked him up thirty minutes later after he had gradually slipped away and walked out.

The major challenge over the next couple of weeks will be to get the cranes to feed and roost with the wild ones.  Kent will be watching them every day and making sure they adapt and learn how to avoid the danger of coyotes.

This ends the 1997 migration.  It has been amazing to see the response from people interested in these beautiful birds and their continued existence.  We have had feedback from schools, government agencies, press, and many interested individuals who have been tracking this trip.  Thank you for your concern, prayers and encouragement.  

Kent is working on getting someone to track and monitor the cranes through the winter.  If any new developments occur, we'll post them on the website to keep you updated. 

Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge - winter home of thousands of cranes

Whooper injured in eagle attack is prepared to release to the wild.

Birds are kept in pens while planes are removed.

by Peter Clegg