When John O'Reilly first reported on the whooping crane for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (Sept. 20, 1954), the best that could be said about the search for the nesting grounds of America's tallest bird was that U.S. and Canadian ornithologists were still looking. The pursuit of the birds' migratory trail, part of an international effort to preserve the species from extinction, had led unsuccessfully to Canada's far north, where the two dozen or so cranes annually vanished into trackless primeval wilderness.
In July, however, final success—discovery of the nesting grounds—was the subject of an item in EVENTS & DISCOVERIES (SI, July 18) when the word came from O'Reilly in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, where he had been sent jointly by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and the New York Herald Tribune to report on Project Whooping Crane. In this week's issue, as the cranes, whose progress southward has been followed by the hopes of thousands, move into their government-protected winter quarters near Corpus Christi, Texas, O'Reilly tells the story in detail (page 38). Apart from the interest which surrounds almost all rare things, this story is especially satisfying as a reflection of the responsibility for the protection of wildlife which governments now more than ever share with millions of citizens who recognize the problem as one for personal concern and action.
It is satisfying also to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for another reason. At a dinner last Monday night the Society of the Silurians, whose members, to be eligible, must have worked on New York newspapers at least 25 years ago, presented their annual award for outstanding editorial achievement to John O'Reilly for his series on the whooping crane which appeared in the Herald Tribune earlier this year.
The Silurian award to John O'Reilly has an additional importance, as it comes at the end of his 28-year career on the staff of the Herald Tribune. It is a mark of honor from newspapermen who in close association with him over the years have had the best chance to know and respect his talents.
November 21, 1955
O'Reilly's departure from daily newspaper work is SI's gain; for it will allow him to devote in the future a much larger part of those talents to reporting the world of nature to the readers of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.