Key Timeline Events
Hatch Year 2006

Make your own Timeline as you follow the exciting journey!

May 5 First chick for the 2006 ultralight flock hatches at Maryland's Patuxent WRC. Chicks start Ground School training with the ultralight at a few days of age.
June 26 Cohort 1 (the oldest group) leaves Patuxent WRC aboard a private plane and a few hours later arrives at Wisconsin's Necedah National Wildlife Refuge for "flight school." Cohort 1 includes #601, 602, 604, 605, 606, 607, 608, and 610.
July 3 Seven whooping crane chicks, 17-39 days of age, were brought from the International Crane Foundation to Necedah NWR. These special chicks are being costume/isolation-reared for direct autumn release (DAR) These chicks will fly south by joining older whooping cranes in October if they do as expected.
July 3 Cohort 1 trains for the first time with the wing added to the ultralight. (Sometimes the wing and its shadow are scary for the little chicks. Soon they get used to it.)
July 6 Cohort 2 chicks (#611, 612, 613, 614 and 615) arrive safely in Wisconsin aboard a small private plane. They will live at a pen site apart from the cohort 1 birds for about two months.
July 8 Taxi training for Cohort 2 begins today in "flight school." This group includes birds #611-615.
July 11 Shipment of Cohort three (chicks #618, 619, 620, 622 and 623) is postponed from July 13 until July 20th. These five youngest chicks, in ground school in Maryland, simply can't get along with each other yet. This will be the latest ever shipment date from Maryland to Wisconsin flight school with chicks for the ultralight-led group.
July 18 Cohort 1 birds (the oldest eight) can now flap and fly low behind the ultralight in ground effect, and chick #602 rose about 15 feet in the air.
July 20

Cohort 3 (chicks #618, 619, 620, 622 and 623) arrives safely on a private plane from Maryland to Wisconsin! They are getting along with each other much better. They will live at their own pen site, apart from the other two cohorts, for several weeks while they learn to fly.

The oldest group of birds (cohort 1) is starting to fly! All of the birds became airborne for at least a moment, with the stronger chicks flying the length of the runway.

August 17 All chicks are now flying! Even the last ones in the youngest group are flying the length of the runway.
August 25 The 8 birds in the oldest group (cohort 1) can fly about 20 minutes.
August 27 It's time to start mixing the 3 groups of chicks into a single flock! The middle group (cohort 2 birds) are all able to fly well enough to follow the ultralight plane over the pond to the pen site of the youngest birds (cohort 1). Today the two cohorts were joined. The Cohort 2 birds are penned next to the youngest birds. The pilots will give these two cohorts several days to work out their pecking order (dominance structure). Then they will introduce the oldest birds and all the chicks will be together in one flock to prepare for migration.
Sept. 1 The First Family brought their two chicks to visit the training strip! The chicks are now able to fly a good distance in ground effect.
Sept. 5 The largest of the flock's two wild-hatched chicks was reported fledged (the chick cleared 100 m without touching the ground) on 5 September, 75 days after hatching. No confirmed report yet of the smaller chick fledging.
Sept. 6

The 8 oldest birds (cohort 1) flew for 32 minutes with the trike today, their longest flight yet! The middle and youngest birds are now flying together. "We headed south and across Highway 21 just as three trucks, several cars, and a train were going by," said pilot Joe Duff. "They all looked down, but instead of scattering (as has happened in the past), they closed ranks and we crossed the highway in tight formation." Way to go, birds!

Sept. 7 Pre-migration health checks began yesterday and finished today. Birds were weighed and banded with temporary radio bands. This will help keep track of any birds that may stray during the migration. (Permanent bands will be attached after they reach Florida.)
Sept. 16 On the first good flying day in 7 days, only 5 of the oldest 8 followed the ultralight plane today when the team wanted to fly them over to join cohorts 2 and 3. The birds weren't in the mood for flying with the trike after so many days off. The pilots will try again when weather permits.
Sept. 18 Six of the 8 chicks from Cohort one followed the ultralight to the site where the other two cohorts have been living together. The target departure date has been changed from Oct. 1 to Oct. 5 at the soonest to give more training time after many bad weather, no-training days.
Sept. 20 All 18 chicks are now together at one site! A fence separates the oldest 8 from the rest of the group so they can get used to seeing each other before they mix together.
Sept. 23 The first flight of the combined cohorts, with pilot Chris leading a long string of birds. The mixed group has not yet established their dominance structure, so some turned back and pilot Brooke picked up the stragglers.
Oct. 1 DAR chick #30-06 has a broken wing.
Oct. 5 MIGRATION BEGINS for 18 chicks and their ultralight aircraft leaders!
Dec. 19 The migration is complete! They landed safely at their layover stop, with #615 missing since yesterday.
Dec. 20

#615 is found and reunited with his flock mates. All chicks got health checks and permanent color-coded leg bands at the holding site on Halpata Tastanaki Preserve, Marion County.


Try This! Journaling Question
  • How do this year's events compare with the same events for last year's chicks in the new Eastern flock? For comparison, see: 2005 Timeline Events.

A costumed pilot drives the trike around the outside of the circle pen with the little chick safely inside."Robo-crane" drops mealworms to encourage the little chick to follow the plane as it drives around the fence in a circle.

Photo H. Ray, WCEP


Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).