#618 Has a Hard Day:
October 10, 2006

Chris Gullikson,
Ultralight Pilot

Flying as lead pilot on the take off, Joe got 15 birds on his ultalight's wing, with one straggler who could not catch up. Pilot Chris flew in to fly chase with Joe and keep an eye on the straggler: #618. Chris tells the story.

"I allowed this bird to fall back a ways before moving in and offering my wing to the tired dropout. It turned out to be #618, and I struggled for the rest of the trip to get him to climb. He just refused to get ‘on the wing.’ Instead, he insisted to fly right below and beside me for most of the trip. In this position he had no choice but to flap-fly continuously. We were not able to gain altitude to climb over the interstate.

"As we neared the big road, just over the treetops, #618 began to pant heavily and to fall farther back. Having flown over forest for the past 15 miles, we now found ourselves over farmland. I decided to land him in a harvested soybean field for a brief rest. So
#618 landed with me and we sat on the ground for a 10-minute rest before again taking off together. Again he would not climb. Because we had to cross a busy interstate and tall power lines, I decided it was better to just box this bird for the last 5 miles. I turned back to the north before we got to the power lines, and #618 must have gotten the message that, for him, the trip was over. He spied a small prairie behind a farmhouse and landed.

"At this point, Charlie was just coming down the road in the tracking van. Calling on the radio, I gave him directions to pull into the farmhouse driveway while I found a place to land in a small soybean field. I was able to taxi my trike fairly close to #618 and lead him over to the trike. Leaving the vocalizer running on the trike, I then slipped away to help Charlie carry over the crate from the van. (He had hidden it a few hundred yards away on a field road so #618 would not see it.) It was quick and easy work to box #618 and we had him safely at the pen with all the other birds within 15 minutes."

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure presented in cooperation with the
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).