Personality and History
Migration Training: "Chick #618 is a little momma's boy," said Barb, one of the caretakers at Patuxent. "He wants to be the only bird near the costume and is obsessed with the puppet. He hatched with very crooked toes. His toes were taped to help them grow straight. Even though he cries when he sees Momma, he is aggressive to other birds. He would like to be the top dog (top crane) of Cohort 3, but #622 is keeping him from reaching that goal."
He came to Wisconsin on July 20 with the cohort three birds. On August 5, Bev watched #618's great bounding leaps and felt sure he would lift off in flight in the next few days. "The best part for me this morning was when 5 of last year's white birds came onto the runway to see what was up. Our darling little chicks wanted nothing of this and became quite aggressive towards the larger birds. Fiesty# 618 chased, showed displays aggression, and even managed to drive off one of the big white whoopers."
By August 15 #618 was flying the length of the runway in ground effect. By August 17 he was able to fly the length of the runway, and all the other chicks were flying too.
Sept. 1: Pilot Chris reported what happened when the two adults in the First Family showed up on the training strip and began to unison call. "This must have infuriated #618, for he rushed over to one of the adults (Mama, I think) and they began to jump-rake each other without making any real contact. While Brooke ran over to save #618 from becoming squashed like a grape, I ran interference for the other chicks who were now racing over to join in the fray." (See photo.) Luckily, no birds were hurt and the ultralight chicks followed costumed trainers (with treats) back into their pen.
By mid-September, #618 was still among the three most aggressive chicks. When the three cohorts were finally together, his style had become a calm leadership.
Day 1: Chick #618 left Wisconsin on his first migration on October 5th, 2006. He was one of the 17 birds who flew the whole first leg of the journey without pause and landed safely at Stopover #1!
Oct. 10: After 4 days stuck at the first stopover, did #618 need to get back in practice? He got tired and dropped out when the birds flew again on Day 6. Chris and his ultralight plane moved in to offer #618 some help. The tired bird made it to within 4.6 miles of Stopover #2. Then he dropped out again.The bird was captured, crated, and trucked the rest of the way to Stopover 2, for a total move of 18 miles. Read more.
Oct. 15: All the birds took off today, but the ground crew always stays put for at least 10 minutes to be sure that none of the birds turn and head back to the pen. Today 606 and 618 turned back. Thanks to the Swamp Monster (aka Bev) to keep them from landing, Chris was able to pick up the two that returned. But they circled back again. Finally, Charlie caught them and drove these two all the way to Stopover #3 in special boxes in the van.
Oct. 23: The trackers were put to the test soon after takeoff today! News about 606, 608, 615 and 618 landing in the field came through the radio shortly after departure from Stopover #3. With the exact location of these chicks provided bytop cover pilots Don and Paula, trackers Bev and Sara went to the the birds right away to secure their safety. They were crated and driven to Stopover #4.
Oct. 24: Hooray! In the best day so far for all the birds, #618 finally decided to fly alongside the lead pilot all the way. This migration leg from the 4th to the 5th Stopover was the best so far. No birds dropped out, or returned, or got crated!
Dec. 3: He made it over the Cumberland Ridge on Dec. 2 but the next day he wasn't a willing flyer. He was one of the three birds that were boxed and driven from Hiwassee Refuge to Gordon County, Georgia on Dec. 3.
Jan. 12, Moving Day: #618 made it almost half way on the first moving day before he (and several others) had a rest stop and still dropped out short of the final stop by 10 miles. They were too tired to try again, so they spent the night in a travel pen with the others that had been crated and brought to the same site. The next morning in calm air and clear skies, all 12 birds who hadn''t cooperated yesterday took off with Joe's plane. Their final flight with the ultralight lasted 18 minutes. They landed at their final winter home at "Chass," where six flockmates had arrived the day before. Migration finally complete!
Feb. 2, 2006: Crane 618 died when violent storms moved through central Florida during the night, killing all 17 chicks in the pen at Chass. Only #615 somehow managed to escape.
Last updated: 2/4/07
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