Tag Archive: operation migration

One Photo Each Month – 2012

I may have failed miserably in taking one photo a day, but I do at least have one for each month. This really does capsulize my year…:

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1. January: A pretty little downy woodpecker in the Whooping Crane Pond Conservancy on Hilton Head Island
2. February: A great blue heron up in the tree in our back yard in Hilton Head – calling to his mate. He built a nest there, and I got to watch it throughout the spring
3. March: Before the bluebirds found the bluebird box, the nuthatches were checking it out…!

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1. April: The bluebirds ultimately tried to raise their babies in the bluebird box. Unfortunately they did not make it…
2. May: The HMS Bounty — at the Tall Ships Celebration in Savannah, GA. The Bounty ultimately sunk in Hurricane Sandy off of North Carolina
3. June: A cardinal at a tree near our feeders – on Long Island

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1. July: Kezar Lake — view from the dock out to the islands
2. August: An amazing sunset and crescent moon off Wickapogue Road
3. September: At Operation Migration Crane Fest. The whooping crane chicklets after training behind an ultralight aircraft – taken from the blind in White River Marsh Wildlife Refuge in Berlin Wisconsin, where the birds had their training this summer. They are being fed grapes by their handlers. they have since migrated behind the ultralights and are now at St. Marks Wildlife Refuge in Florida.

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1. October: Storm Sandy wreaks havoc in our back yard. Our cedar tree is gone
2. November: a short hike to Valley Green over Thanksgiving week – this is the covered bridge
3. December: Christmas in Hilton Head – with Misty kitty looking on.


Once home from Maine we’ve had an extended period with no travel and more mundane life. It was a relief to enjoy the comfort of our home, do a few projects, and have the suitcases in storage for a bit! However, before I get to that, let me show a few photos from our ferry ride home from Maine on the New London to Orient Point ferry. It was pouring rain for the entire ride – not conducive to much photography. But, sometimes the fog and gray conditions create their own beauty:

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1. Another ferry in the distance
2. Orient Point Lighthouse

So – this entry will be devoted to a few photos from our daily life here over the last month or so. I’ve given up on the 365 project, so the photos haven’t been taken daily, but it is a snapshot of August and September…

Thistle is a weed. It’s invasive, grows very quickly, and has the potential to choke other plants which are growing around it. Prior to our trip to Maine, I noticed some thistle growing right in the middle of our front yard hedge. The flowers had not yet bloomed, so I asked Ray to allow it to stay there – just until the flowers bloomed so I could get photos. Days after we returned from Maine – the pink flowers appeared…. It’s such and interesting plant in that the leaves are so full of prickers and sharp as a tack, as you can see in the second photo below! But – the softness of the pink bloom is like a kitten’s fur! What a dichotomy! It is a wonderful place for bees, butterflies, and the goldfinch!

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Only hours after these were taken, Ray chopped down the thistle. It was kind of weird looking growing high above the hedge! It was sad to see it go, knowing that wildlife thrives on it.

The next grouping of photos is from an unusually stunning sunset. Ray and I were on our way home from having dinner out, and the entire earth was engulfed in these pink and orange tones. I didn’t have my camera with me – so I begged Ray to “drive fast” to get me home so I could grab my camera – hopefully in time. These kinds of sunsets don’t usually last all that long. He did – and I ran back to a place up the street where the vision is the best for viewing the sunset. I made it in time, and got the tail end of it:

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In photo #2, you can see the small crescent moon off to the left side…

The sunset light reflects on my car

Ray and I took a ride in his ’57 t-bird on Dune Road, which is a road that abuts the ocean. There are lots of summer “cottages” (uh – more like mansions!) along the way. Normally I don’t bother with my camera, as Ray is never able to stop for me to get a photo or two. But – this time I did, and took a few from the car as we were riding. Often these don’t turn out very well due to blur, but here are a few from that ride:

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1. The Dunes Church. This building was painted this year, and it’s so bright. At first I didn’t like it, but each time I pass by, the color is growing on me
2. One of those “summer cottages” ~

We’re renovating our computer room in our house — removing the 35 year old lime green shag rug, and replacing computer furniture, removing an old single bed, and replacing that with a futon, and we will be redoing the hardwood floor and repainting this winter (when we’re gone). It will be so good to get rid of that terribly bright yellow paint….! Here’s the room in the midst of the chaos of the task!

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Photo #2 is the new computer nook set up…

Blue Moon – August 31, 2012!

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…with a little help from photoshop…! 🙂

And, last but not least, I never tire of taking photos of the kitties! 🙂

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Felix – silly kitty loves to lie on his back!

Mundane life is about to end, however. In 2 days I’ll be headed to Claire’s – and then she, her husband and I will be driving to “Crane Fest” in Wisconsin. This is Operation Migration’s annual gathering where events are scheduled like a dinner, wildlife refuge tour, auction, and annual meeting for Operation Migration, and I don’t know what all else.  I’ve never been before, so I’ll find out!  I have decided to go – but didn’t want to go alone, so am tagging along with my good friend Claire, and her husband. I have spoken about this organization here in previous entries (here and here) during their crisis with the FAA and flying the ultralights.

So – – stay tuned for an entirely different set of photos from my next adventure. If I can post while gone, I will, but otherwise, I’ll be back in early October to update!

It’s been a busy week of travel and good old fashioned “girlfriend” time, so it’s been over a week since I’ve posted here. I was in north GA – visiting my friend, Claire, and husband, Terry, at their new house, both to help paint her living room a fabulous “lemon butter” yellow, as well as to simply visit. Internet and phone communication is great, but nothing can replace hanging out together … face to face!

The painting ended up to be a “painting PARTY”. Two other friends came to help – friends Claire and I met on Facebook from our interest in and support of Operation Migration. “Craniacs” – they call us because we’re “crazy about whooping cranes” and Operation Migration’s work to save this magnificent endangered bird. This bond turned into a good friendship, as we painted – talked – and laughed together.

Sadly, in all the excitement of the trip, I managed to miss taking a photo on the day I arrived. The travel and excitement of arriving took precedence in my mind and I forgot. But – I have a photo for all the other days. Claire’s house and yard is full of wonderful photo ops, too! She runs a “Golden Corral Buffet” for birds, and the neighborhood birds congregate – allowing perfect shots for camera buffs!

The photos will be small sized to save space, but you can click on any of them to see them larger in my flickr account.

365 photo #59 … EPIC FAIL. Photo was not taken… 🙂

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1. 365 photo #60 – Male cardinal in the tree that is used by birds as a staging area for the bird feeders Claire has out for her birds. It was a foggy day, and in order to make the cardinal stand out, I added some contrast to the photo. But – you can still tell that it’s a bit “misty”.
2. 365 photo #61 – “The early bird catches the worm” – a robin in the “staging tree” — taken first thing in the morning before we started painting

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1. 365 photo #62 – Our friends gave Claire this lovely bouquet of flowers when they arrived, and here is a macro of one bloom. What beauty! What texture! And – it’s “sort of” like the color of the paint we used!
2. 365 photo #63 – Claire and her kitty, Hannabelle. The night before this photo was taken it was very stormy in the southeast, with violent storm cells – one after the other – marching eastward, seemingly aimed at “us”. Claire and I were up lots of the night tracking these storms, so we’d know if we needed to find a “safe place in the house” to protect ourselves should a random tornado from one of these cells decide to drop down out of the sky. (We lucked out – and were just fine) The difficult thing was that it was not just us we were worried about. Claire’s kitty – Hannabelle – was not with us, but was still in their “other house”, the house from which they’re moving over the course of this winter and spring. So — during the storm, not only were we worried about our own safety, but the safety of the cat, as well as the safety of so many friends of Claire’s in the north Georgia area. So … the next day we went over to the other house to check on little Hannabelle and it was a wonderful reunion. She was was just fine. However, as Claire held Hannabelle, as you see in this photo – she told us – in a very meow-y string of “kitty obscenities” just how much she missed her family! (The bottom line is that they’ll be moving Hannabelle over to their new house very soon!)

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1. 365 photo #64 – As we came home from doing some errands – there were 4 deer walking through Claire’s yard. Here’s one as he crossed the the driveway of the neighbor’s house.
2. 365 photo #65 – It was time to leave and return to Hilton Head, and on my way out, I took this photo of a lone flower in one of their front beds. I don’t know what it is…

Home again … home again! I’m back in Hilton Head now. Yesterday was a bright clear day, but I had so many photos to go through, I ended up staying inside to work on them and not enjoying the outside as much as I would have liked. But – – I took a break to find my daily photo. It was then that I discovered that our blue bird box is inhabited – but not by bluebirds. There is a brown headed nut hatch couple who have set up “housekeeping” inside. Here he (or she?) is guarding the home front. Not only was I really shocked at how close they allowed me to get to them, but they are the cutest little “contortionists”! They can twist around into such odd positions – often upside down!

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Now … it’s time to find today’s photo….

In my last entry I talked about how Operation Migration works. Up until a few minutes ago, I was going to write about a crisis they have been enduring, but thankfully has been rectified – for the moment.

To explain.

Up until about 2008 ultralight aircraft, which is used for these migrations, was unregulated by the FAA. However with the popularity of piloting them, the FAA has seen fit to regulate them as “sport / recreational” aircraft, and does not permit pilots to use them for profit or salary. The reason is logical – safety. They don’t want people opening up little businesses, for example, and taking people out on ultralight “joy rides” – which is clearly an unsafe use of these planes. Operation Migration pays it’s staff — including pilots, but doesn’t really fit into this category. So — from my view point, we’re talking about “spirit of the law” / “letter of the law” issues. Add to that, their safety record has been stellar during the over 10 years of doing migrations. Because pilots do so much else towards the care of the cranes, other than piloting, the FAA agreed with Operation Migration’s explanation that the pilots are donating their time, and their salary is based purely on the other tasks they do. And — with so many weather restrictions (flying conditions must be perfect on any flight training or migration day), actual flying time is a lot less than you’d think.

The chain of events are still sketchy for me, but around October a complaint was filed by a disgruntled former pilot of Operation Migration with the local Milwaukee office of the FAA, but they told Operation Migration it was ok to begin migration. However, in mid December a second complaint was filed, again by this same disgruntled employee, this time with the regional office. With that, all three pilots were sent a letter of investigation, and after some discussion, Operation Migration voluntarily shut themselves down so as not to be in non-compliance with the ruling. This came about during the Christmas break and they had hopes that it could be rectified before that was over, but it was not to be.

The motivations of this disgruntled employee are not worth getting into. Personally I do not want any more undue attention paid to him, and, instead, focus on the work of Operation Migration and especially the whooping cranes.

So — this left the 9 migrating whooping cranes stranded only a little more than 1/2 way through their migration in a pen in Alabama. They are being well taken care of, but the birds are the real victims of this mess! Time is of the essence for this migration. Operation Migration was working on some contingency plans for the birds in case this could not be resolved quickly which, thankfully do not have to be used.

I have been astounded at the outpouring of support for this organization – and for the cranes. And, it was not just lip service. It’s amazing what can get done when two or more are gathered together for a good cause! Facebook and communication via the internet took on a life of it’s own!

Throughout this week, things looked cautiously optimistic, yet I still worried because of some things that were said about how SLOWLY the wheels of governmental agencies work. There was talk that a ruling would not happen for 120 days or more? This would not be in time to save this year’s migration. Could a temporary waiver be issued just to get us through this migration?

So – – only a few hours ago – when I least expected it – the temporary waiver was granted and was finally posted on the FAA Facebook page. It lasts until March, giving ample time to finish this year’s migration.

“The FAA has granted an exemption to Operation Migration that will allow pilots to continue to aid the whooping crane migration. Normally, the FAA limits light sport aircraft and pilots to personal flights without compensation. Because the operation is in “mid-migration,” the FAA is granting a one-time exemption so the migration can be completed. The FAA will work with Operation Migration to develop a more comprehensive, long-term solution.”

I have faith that the FAA and Operation Migration can work out the details for a more permanent solution for future migrations.

For more information about Operation Migration, see their website:  www.operationmigration.org

And … to end, I think it fitting to include my favorite video of the whooping cranes. Listen to the words … they are compelling:

I’d like to take a brief break from my 365 project to post something that is very near to my heart. Over the past year, I have gotten interested – then involved – in a fascinating organization – Operation Migration – whose purpose is to lead orphaned juvenile whooping cranes on their first migration. Whooping cranes are seriously endangered with only about 500 of them left in the wild. They are shy, but magnificent birds – standing about 5 feet tall. I try to imagine standing face to face with one, and it boggles the mind!

How they became so few in numbers is a direct result of habitat encroachment, as well as over zealous hunting. Humans caused this decline – so now – in my opinion – it is our responsibility to rectify this mistake. Organizations like Operation Migration are doing just that, and I’m proud to be supporting such a dedicated group of people. These people are working to save a species from what would most probably be extinction if left on it’s own. It’s my opinion that we “lose” when even one species is gone, and especially when it has been our doing that caused the demise in the first place.

Operation Migration is teaching them to migrate via ultralight aircraft, which originated in the movie, Fly Away Home, which is based upon a true story.

This video shows the evolution from the movie “Fly Away Home” to Operation Migration. They started with Canada geese, then sandhill cranes, then whooping cranes.

Whooping Cranes will not migrate unless first taught the route from their parents, so the ultralights have become – in essence — parental imprinting, and referred to, sometimes, as “yellow mama”! Once “the way” has been imprinted on them, they will return on their own, and be able to live in the wild as whooping cranes were meant to do. This “miracle” of imprinting is amazing and it has to be awe inspiring for members of Operation Migration, who have become a part of this phenomenon. Operation Migration is trying to reintroduce an eastern migratory route (Wisconsin to Florida) – one that ended many years ago. Should there be a catastrophe (such as disease or drought) in the more westerly migration (Canada to Texas), which is still in place, there will be a back up easterly migration flock of cranes.

Operation Migration does lots more than simply flying them south. Whooping cranes see no human face so their imprinting will not include humans. All who work with them – including interns, medical personnel, and pilots alike – are dressed in “costume” which are all white, shapeless “gown” – with a “helmet” like thing to cover the face, and a beak which is in one arm so that the crane chicklet will interact with that – thinking it’s mama crane. The handlers also wear black pants and boots to look like “crane legs” and to help them as they often must be wandering around in the muck along with the cranes! During the summer, prior to migration, all staff and interns takes part in the care and feeding of the growing chicklets as they take the role of their surrogate parents.

“Flight training” begins when the chick is still inside the egg, as they play recordings of the ultralight motor and their “brood call” for the unborn chicks. This allows the sound to be familiar and something they are drawn to hearing – and following! Then, as they grow over the summer, prior to migration, they are let out of the pen to follow the aircraft, first on foot, and then in the air as their wings strengthen. then in early October, they are ready to begin migration – following these ultralight aircraft south to their winter home.

This video shows – in short – a bit about Operation Migration, maybe better than all my words combined!

For more information about Operation Migration, go to their website:  www.operationmigration.org

In my next entry I’ll be talking about a crisis which Operation Migration has just now averted!

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