chick for the 2005
ultralight flock hatches
||Chicks #501, #502 and #503 begin walking by the trike in the circle
chick in this year's training group hatches
oldest chicks (#501-#507, except for #504, who recently died) leave
Patuxent aboard a plane for Wisconsin's Necedah National Wildlife
1 has first taxi training of "flight school." Perfect!
1 chicks are still in the hop-skip-flop stage of learning to fly.)
of the six chick in chohort 1 get briefly off the ground for the
2 chicks (#509, #510, #511, #512, #515, #516) leave
Patuxent aboard a plane for Wisconsin's Necedah National Wildlife
Refuge. Sadly, #513 did
not leave with the group. Today he was removed
from the ultralight flock because of health concerns.
oldest chicks, #501 and #502, fly the length of the runway behind
plane for the first time!
||As usual, "ultra-crane" adults #101 and #202, who have their territory
next to the north training site, show up when the chicks are on the
runway. But today three more experienced ultra-cranes also show up.
They are harrassed and driven off by 101 and #202, who clebrated
their victory with triumph displays and ear-splitting unison
calls. The young chicks see territorial behavior in action.
3 (#519, 520, 521, 522, 523,
524, and 526), the last shipment of chicks from Patuxent, arrive
at Necedah NWR. Also shipped
with them were Cohort 2 birds #408 and #514, who had been held back
due to broken toes that needed healing.
kicks up a notch as cohort 1 takes off straight out of the pen
as a group behing the ultralight. #501, 502 and 503 were
airborne for a small circle trip, while #505, 506 and 507 are younger
and can't get airborne for too long at a time.
whooper chicks aged 29-39 days of ages were brought from ICF to
Necedah NWR. These will become the
Direct Autumn Release
(DAR) chicks of the eastern flock. In October,
they'll be set free to learn migration from older whooping cranes
that originally were guided on their first WI to FL migration by
separate training sessions, all chicks in all 3 cohorts followed
the plane today--some hopping or walking on
the ground, and the oldest flapping or flying in the air!
3 (the youngest chicks) introduced to the full "winged" trike
for the first time. "They were only a little nervous," said
trainer Mark Nipper. "It
went much better than expected."
youngest birds (Cohort 3) are still very little and cute and clingy.
They follow slowly, and prefer the dry pen and muddy corridor to
the actual wet pen. The middle group (Cohort 2) has the most aggressive,
the most independent birds, aand also the most submissive birds.
The oldest birds (Cohort 1) still is well behaved, but there aren't
many strong personalities in this group.
of Cohort 1 are all flying very well for twenty minutes at a time.The
youngest birds (Cohort 3) have now begun flying, too. The 8 birds
in Cohort 2 are training in two separate groups because some
can fly much better than others.
15, Cohort 3
careful process of blending all 3 cohorts began! Cohort #2 followed
the ultralight from their west site home over to move in with their
future Cohort #3
flock mates at their east site home. Normally the "new
arrivals" would spend a few days in a pen adjacent
to their new flock mates. It's helpful to see one another for a
while before they mix. But #512
broke through a gap in the fence the first day and joined the younger
birds in Cohort 2! Later the same day, the team decided to let
out onto the runway for ten minutes of social time. Some bullying
took place, but the birds were safely sorted out and put back into
the neighoring pens with their normal group. As soon as Cohort
#3 catches up to the flying ability of the older birds in Cohort
the barrier between the two
pens will be taken down. Then they will become one bigger
group. After that, the oldest birds (Cohort 1) will finally join
them and all 21 will be united in one big traveling group.
health checks given to all chicks who will follow the ultralights
south. each bird with a shiny new radio transmitter and ID band
to their left legs. This allows the birds to be tracked during
migration if the pilots lose sight of one between migration stops. The
crane chick they're examining is hooded to prevent it from seeing
humans, and to reduce stress. The
humans keep silent. >
days of struggling, dropping out or turning back, Cohort 2 finally
trained perfectly. All 8 birds took off from the runway on the
first try and never looked back. They flew for 15 minutes and stayed
with the pilot for the entire flight! (Cohort 3 still struggles
in staying airborne and following well.) Cohorts 2 and 3 are still
in separate pens at the same site, but socialize for a few minutes
#515 died in a training accident.
|| Cohorts 2 and 3 were blended into one pen. After several more days,
Cohort 1 will come to the adjacent pen as the next step in making
one big group of chicks before migration.
2 and 3 flew together for the first time! It was a short but
good flight. Chick #514 is in charge of the combined group, and
#524 and #526 are grappling for second place.
Cohort One is generally flying well for as
much as twenty minutes when things go well. Still not any really
strong personalities, but dominance has developed.
One followed the ultralight over to "move in" with the
blended Cohorts Two and Three! (They'll stay in an adjacent
pen for several
days before they mix with the 14 younger birds.)
tried to fly all 20 birds together for the first time. Sixteen
flew with the trike for about ten minutes,
but #520, 511, 519, and 524 were stragglers that
came back to the runway.
20 birds are now together in one pen--and all 20 flew together
behind one ultralight. This is an historic first!
target date, but departure rescheduled for Oct. 14. After a 26-minute
flight on Oct. 9, five birds dropped out. Others
were breathing hard. These are signs that some do
not yet have the endurance to begin migration. On Oct. 10 the pilots
flew all birds over to
the travel pen that will be used on migration so the birds could
see it and go inside.
BEGINS for 20 chicks and their ultralight aircraft "parents."
of the 4 surviving DAR chicks--#527 and #533--were
released on Necedah NWR. Experts hope these chicks will join up
with the adult whooping cranes to learn their migration route
to Florida. They are all done with being pen
other two DAR chicks--#528 and #532--are
free on Necedah NWR, never again to spend the night in a pen. All
eyes are watching in hopes they'll join with adult whooping cranes
20 birds flew the distance for the first time on this migration!
found dead in the pen at Morgan County. Now the flock numbers
finally entered Kentucky after a LONG 20 days to clear Indiana.
four DAR birds began migration today from Necedah NWR! The young
whooper chicks are migrating with Sandhill Cranes. One femaile
flew 435 miles on day 1 of her migration, and 3 DAR chicks made
it to Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge on day 2 of flying!
Day 43, the
ultralights and birds got over the mountains and landed at Hiwassee
NWR in Meigs County, TN. That's halfway home!
takes his first turn as lead pilot, with all 19 birds on his wing.
Joe Duff describes today as a Perfect Day.
day of struggle, with 12 birds being taken back and making no progress,
and 7 birds flying to the next site.
at Halpata Holding Site. Chicks will stay until perhaps mid-January,
and then be trucked to the Chassahowitzka first-winter pen site.