County to Cumberland County
Migration Field Journal entry
|Ultralight Pilot Joe Duff
you have been grounded by south winds for as long as we were, a number
of things begin to change. The local postman adds you to his daily
route, the garbage man begins to make an extra stop, and the cashier
at the grocery store starts calling you by name. Also, the gremlins move
Two of those little trouble makers infested our aircraft as they sat
idle for nine days. One of them crawled into my radio and garbled everything
that anyone said to me. It seems that my transmissions were loud and
clear but everything I received sounded like it came from a mouth full
of dry potato chips and sand.
The other gremlin refused to let Brooke’s aircraft start. We use
a rope and handle to pull start our engines, much like a lawn mower,
except they produce about ten times the power. It doesn’t take
many pulls before that method gets tired. Something in the combination
of choke and throttle just would not cooperate. Richard and I circled
overhead as Brooke and a number of eager helpers changed the plugs and
pulled the air filter. Our stay in Piatt County was too long and the
weather too good to wait so we decided to launch anyway.
A Wayward Bird Brings Trouble
Just because we decided that one of us was going to lead the flock on
the next leg of the migration does not mean that the birds had any intention
of following. In another attempt to get #2-10 to follow, we let him
out with the rest of the flock. Surprisingly, he did circle around with
us a few times slowly gaining altitude. But it wasn’t long before
he broke off and began his descent. He turned many of the birds back
with him. As we passed over the pen one more time, the swamp monsters
discouraged any of them from landing.
Like a "White Paper Bag Full of Rocks"
From a hundred feet above I collected 10 birds that were generally
following him and watched as he approached a tall leafless tree
line. I was shocked
when he didn’t turn away, but instead made a desperate and foolish
attempt to climb. Then he hit the top branches and tumbled through like
a white paper bag full of rocks. He hit the ground spread eagle as I
passed over, but by the time we turned around, he was already out of
sight. We found out later that he miraculously escaped injury but once
again had to make the trip in a crate.
Maybe that bird set the trend, but from then on, one or two birds
kept turning back and taking the rest of the flock with them.
around ten or more times until the ground crew were exhausted from
around the pen. We even called one of the trucks onto the field to
honk its horn!
Richard moved in to help corner them and we managed to get them a
mile or two south. But every time they formed on the wing, one,
then the rest would break and head back. Eventually three broke
and Richard turned on course with seven. I circled back to chase
three. As long
as I was moving towards the pen, all three would follow but every
time we headed on course, they would break away. After a while,
obvious that one of them was the culprit and interested in a pond
next to a farm house.
Finally On the Way
By this time, Brooke was able to get airborne and he came over
to help. I was hoping to break them up and separate the bird that
was determined to
go back. That almost happened two or three times but the birds
in the air on their way back. Brooke collected them one more time
and headed west and after 58 minutes, we finally left the pen area.
Pilot In Search of #2
Crane #2-10 was still missing. It was hard to explain over
the radio where he was last seen. I climbed high and turned
back to conduct
an aerial search. The birds saw my aircraft turn and even from
500 feet over them, the birds following Brooke took that as an
invitation to turn
back. After another few miles on course, Brooke had them lined
up again and I managed to escape from behind and headed back to
back I heard over the radio that the ground crew had found #2
and sound. So I turned on course yet again. It’s almost
impossible to find a white-winged trike and three white birds
in a hazy overcast
with five miles visibility. It took me most of the trip to catch
up to them. We rendezvoused five miles from the destination and
began a slow descent.
A Good Ending
It didn’t work out the way I planned, but they all made
it eventually and that is all that counts. Personally, I think
2 is appropriately
or Discussion Questions
- Which of today's difficulties described by Joe do you think is the
worst? How do you think he felt when he finally landed?
- Would you rather be a pilot, or one of the ground crew for this migration?
- Teamwork was important for the pilots and ground crew to face today's
challenges. Think about teams you have been part
good team experience? A not-so-good team experience?