Sara's Report: Fond Family Memories
Feb. 16, 2007

Dear Journey North,

It is with great sadness that I write this note, instead of the usual excitement and happiness I normally feel when I talk about the birds and this project. As you all know by now 17 of the 18 year 2006 ultralight chicks died during the terrible storms that hit FL earlier this month. Everyone has been very sad about the death of the birds, both those of us who work with them and tons of folks like you who support the project and learn to love the birds along with us. The news was shocking and difficult to believe and many of us have cried over the loss of these birds. They were a great group of birds, genetically diverse and special in their own individual ways. We will miss them as I'm sure you all will.

Memories: Nicknames and Aggression!
I've been thinking about the birds a lot recently and remembering specific things about each of them. For example when I was painting the temporary radio transmitters for #613 and 614, both were both supposed to be white. I thought we needed to be able to easily tell them apart, so I painted black spots on #613's radio. We called her the Holstein bird since her transmitter looked like a black and white Holstein cow, though some disagreed and said it looked more like a Dalmatian.

Can you find the spotted transmitter? Click to enarge.
Photo Operation Migration

Another memory was from a day after the birds arrived in FL and we took them out of the holding pen so they could fly around and get some exercise. Chick #607 kept challenging me, but the rule is we always need to be dominant so I didn't back down. Unfortunately he wouldn't back down either; he jump-raked me, hitting his feet on my helmet. He didn't hurt me — just surprised me — but I sure was glad to be wearing a helmet and not a soft baseball hat style hood.

Chick #602 was of course special since she was the first chick to come from parents we released in previous years. Unfortunately, her parents were inexperienced and abandoned their eggs, but we collected them and sent them to Patuxentwhere she hatched and became part of the ultralight flock.

Chick #611 was the first bird to come from the Audubon Species Survival Center in New Orleans and also for the first time the Calgary Zoo produced 6 chicks in the flock.


Chick #620 chats through the fence with #105.
Photo Photo Bev Paulan for Operation Migration

Looking Ahead with Hope!
All of the birds were special and we'll never forget any of them. Their deaths are a setback for our project, but we will continue and we need your support to move forward. We are grateful and thrilled that #615 managed to escape from the pen and survive the storm. We're equally thrilled that there are still 3 DAR chicks plus our first ever-wild hatched chick still alive and representing the year 2006. The breeding season will soon be starting at Patuxent and the other captive facilities and we're all looking forward to a great year with lots of chicks hatching and being released in 2007.

Take care and stay tuned!

We'll be tracking #615 on his first journey north!
Photo Sara Zimorski, ICF