Why is an air pickup such a challenge?
Adapted from Field Journal of Pilot Joe Duff

Oct. 25, 2009 In the last month we have flown only a few times. The rain and the wind and the cold came after an extended period of perfect flying conditions. The rain and wind came just as we were joining the last cohort with the middle-and-youngest birds. These 20 birds barely got to practice flying together. But that's not the only hurdle.

After the three groups of chicks have learned to fly we bring them together to form one flock. They must then organize a new governing body within their ranks. They peck, push, and bully each other with more bluster than menace, like high school boys vying for top position in their peer group. It doesn’t take long for each bird to find its place and for order to be enforced under a new hierarchy.
It does, however, take decent weather and lots of practice flights before unity is restored in the air. And that’s the problem we faced this year. Just at a critical time, the skies opened with rain, the temperature dropped, the winds picked up, and nothing flew for what seemed like weeks. Even the mornings when we could get airborne were not perfect flying conditions.

Journal Question

• What are two reasons why it will be difficult to perform an air pickup so early in the migration with the Class of 2009?

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