When 918 looks up and sees a butterfly flitting overhead, he takes off at full run trying to catch the butterfly. He jumps up and tries to grab it just as the butterfly darts off.
On May 30 Bev took 918 out to the trike for the first time just to let him wander around it and under it: "We turned the vocalizer on, trying to give him the whole sensory experience. We fed him meal worms and let him get comfortable just seeing the trike. On June 1 Brooke started the engine for the little guy. After the initial engine start, lots of meal worms, and even some revving of the engine, we got him to follow for two circuits. I like to keep the first training session short. This way, we leave the circle pen with the chick happily trilling and actually looking for more meal worms." Off to a great start!
As the days passed, 918 was a slow learner about not messing with 914, the "queen" of his group! Luckily he was also smart enough to know when to back down. Bev calls 918 (and 919) little stinkers!
of Flight School in Wisconsin:
Safely in his new home, it didn't take long for 918 to prove that he loved the water of the marsh. Chris said, "918 is going to be a challenge as he has a history of exploring the marsh in search of water."
July 10 was Bev's first day to taxi the trike during flight school. She said, "918 is our little water rat, and just as he does every morning, he wandered into the marsh. This morning, though, he didn’t go far, and after leaving him for one pass with the other chicks, he came out as soon as we taxied back to the spot where he stood."
By the end of July the cohort #2 birds were all flying in ground effect, a few feet off the grassy strip, and close to gaining good altitude. However, on many days #918 liked to lollygag and hang back inside the pen instead of rushing out to training. He LOVES the marsh and tries to spend the entire training session running along the fence that separates it from the runway. One day near the end of July, he and the other 8 chicks in Cohort 2 followed the ultralight well on a lap down the runway. But on the return lap, naughty 918 once again escaped to the swamp and two chicks went with him. Meeting up with the swamp monster (which Richard deployed from the trike by yanking on a string attached to a broom out in the swamp) scared the other two back onto the grass runway — but NOT 918! An adult pair of whoopers took charge of 918 and Richard and Erin had their hands full. Richard said: "At long last, after much jump-raking and many back-and-forth threats we managed to get 918 away from the adults and back into the pen. With boots full of water I flew back to the hangar pondering life without the superhero/monster tarp and — maybe without 918!"
This is a very independent group of birds, but none more than 918. But he seems to be a favorite of the two adult Whoopers (#213 and #218) who who lost their baby chick this summer and then claimed this training site as their territory. The team discussed releasing #918 to go join the wild adults. Would they raise 918 and teach him the migration route? The team decided to keep 918 with his cohort because of all the training already invested. They hoped he will become a better follower of the ultralight plane. Sure enough, he did! Hear crane handler Bev on this brief audio clip: >>
Later, 918’s attitude/attentiveness to the adults cooled off. Now that he’s flying, he visits the marsh much less, and he excitedly follows the training trike along with his cohort mates. Still, #918 is a bird who likes to do his own thing — which means hanging out in the marsh or staying in the wet pen.
Oct. 11: The team hoped to combine training with a flight to a remote part of the refuge where a travel pen was set up. The birds would be closer to their first migration stopover. But several wayward birds had other plans! Male 918 was one of them. He had flown back to his familiar pen all on his own, so he was put inside the pen along with the other 10 birds who had also come back or didn't want to leave. The other 9 flockmates were at the travel pen at the farther site on the refuge. What a day!
Spring 2010, First Journey North: Eight of the St. Marks juveniles left at mid-day March 24 on their first journey north! According to a PTT reading from #908, she (and probably #915 #910, #911, #914, #918, #925 and #926) reached Shelby County, Alabama— about 260 miles from the pen! Their next flight took them an additional 380 miles to Monroe County, IN, where an observer photo confirmed that they were all still together. As of March 29 they had flown another 73 miles to the Fountain County, IN, roughly 70 miles due east of the Piatt Co., IL stopover used during their ultralight-guided journey south last fall. Tracker Eva said a PTT reading for #915 on March 31 put them in Monroe County, Wisconsin. On April 1 Sara picked up their signals in the Necedah area. They successfully completed migration!"
Fall 2010: Remained on Horicon NWR in Dodge County, Wisconsin at least through October 15 along with the cranes he had been with all summer and a few others. He and #908, 911, 915, 925, and 929 returned to the St. Marks NWR release site from an undetermined location on the morning of December 29 when the five chicks in the Class of 2010 had already been there for several days. They continued to return to the pen site periodically but the "costumes" always drove them away. The group (except for 925 and 929) were found in Leon County, FL during a survey flight on January 13. They were not found in a search of the area by ground on February 9.
Spring 2011: Crane #918 (#18-09) and #908 (8-09) had completed migration from Florida by April 2, when they were detected on the Necedah NWR. They had last been detected SE of Tallahassee, FL, during a survey flight on March. 11. They were then with #911, #915 and male #829.
Fall 2011: Crane #18-09, with #25-09, spent winter in Green County, Indiana.
Spring 2012: Crane #18-09 was reported back on Necedah NWR March 11, migration complete! ICF tracker Eva saw #18-09 and #25-09 with an egg May 2, but the pair never incubated the egg.
Spring 2013: Crane #918 (18-09) was reported back on Necedah NWR March 29 withh mate #925 (#25-09).
Fall 2013: Male #18-09 was likely among seven Whooping Cranes reported in Rutherford County, Tennessee, on January 24 and in a group of seven reported in Franklin County, Tennessee, on January 29. "We assume these are the same birds," said ICF tracker Eva Szyszkoski. "Based on band reports they are likely birds 12-09, 12-03/29-09, 18-09/35-09 and 10-09/17-07, although not all have been confirmed yet."
Spring 2014: Crane #18-09 was confirmed back on Necedah NWR on March 27 when he was observed trying to steal female #26-09 from male #27-06.
Last updated: 4/11/14
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