Personality, Early Training
Chick #5-11 was moved to an ICU around noon on his hatching day. He was barely awake a total of 45 minutes as hour after hour went by. Geoff introduce him to the puppet during his waking moments. Geoff also tried to help him. "He lost interest however, and fell asleep in about three minutes flat. But since this was the first time he’d seen the unfamiliar puppet, and he didn’t really know where on earth he was, I wasn’t expecting any miracles. The second time I came in, I got him to weakly acknowledge the puppet and eat a few nibbles before he zonked out. Again, for a chick who was just hatched just you can’t expect much, but for the rest of the afternoon, he would spend a few minutes drinking and eating off my puppet before falling asleep again. He did eat more each time I worked him, so he at least warmed up to the puppet."
He made progress and by June 13 Caleb's notes called him a pretty level-headed bird. "He’s not as prone to panic attacks as 3-11. However, he also seems quite attached to the costume since he was the one who visited me the most when I was in the pen with him. A couple times I didn’t know he was there until I turned around and saw him looking straight up at me. Unfortunately, if 3-11 starts getting jittery, 5-11 is usually one of the first to panic along with him. Strange! Chick #5 appears to have enough guts to challenge 1-11’s supremacy every now and then. Granted, he hasn’t come out on top yet, but his optimism is a welcome sight."
from "Flight School" at White River Marsh in Wisconsin:
During taxi training (running along behind the trike) he often wanted togo off and do something more interesting. He spent more than one training session wading in the marsh. While he didn’t do that on July 11, Geoff watched him lag behind the trike, making no real effort to catch up. "I could tell he wanted to jump in that marsh if that plastic fence wasn’t in his way. But no worries; all it takes is a little discipline, regular training, and some grape bribes to straighten him out."
Good news! During the August 11 training, both #5-11 and #6-11 were confirmed to fly with the plane. They followed the trike off the runway and "completed something resembling a large J-shaped flight path."
By the end of August all ten took off with the ultralight, even though some of them turned back or dropped out. On August 27, all birds flew with the trike again after some treats and bribes, but #5 was one of the four who still turned back after a second takeoff. Does he need more treats and bribes? On August 22, he took off after swamp monster scared the birds into following on the pilot's third try, but then dropped out and returned to the runway.
By September, he had made progress and is flying pretty consistently. You can see this if you watch Operation Migration's CraneCam during morning training. Go, five!
On Sep. 20, nine cranes took off and flew about 10 minutes with the ultralight — but eager cranes #5 and #7 flew another ten minutes longer!
As migration nears, Caleb note: "#5-11 is quite the 'go-getter’. He is always one of the first to the front of the pen when us costumes enter. He is also usually the first to get a grape. I’ve seen 5-11 magically grow a foot in height reaching for a grape as I try to pass it to another bird. If he’s not pecking away at me indicating he wants a grape or snatching it right from another bird's mouth, he’s trying to seize it right out of my puppet's beak. It’s as if he’s saying 'GRAPE! GRAPE! GIMME, GIMME, GIMME!' Perhaps eager is a good way to describe him, if only we could transfer that ‘go-getter’ attitude from food to following the trike."
Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #5-11:
"To me, this chick always seemed to need more guidance than
some of the others. Back in Patuxent, he took a little longer to
eat and drink than some of the other birds did. I'm not sure how he did
training with the trike in the circle-pen back then, but today, that
trend seems to hold true. After 1-11, he's probably one of our least
reliable fliers. Make no mistake, he's had good flying days here and
there. But if there's a bird turning back after take-off, it's probably
him. I'm not sure if not all his neurons are firing, or if he can be
bothered to go that extra mile or what.
First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane:
Crane #5-11 did not make it to the first stopover on Day 1 or Day 2. Instead, he (and the other 4 males in the class of 2011) had to be crated and driven when they didn't stay with the ultralight plane on Day 3. Find day-by-day news about the flock's migration and read more about #5-11 below.
Oct. 10, Day 2: Crane #5 was one of seven that took off all together, but turned back. The good news is that he flew quite a distance out over the marsh before tiring and turning back. He's going to make it yet! (He failed to fly again the next day, so was crated and driven to Stopover #1.) Caleb said the young cranes, including #5, seemed anxious in their unfamiliar pensite at Stopver #1: "Some of the more friendly birds (I’ve taken a new liking to 5-11) even pace up against the fence in our direction as we walk toward the pen." They were stalled by weather at this stop until Day 14.
Oct. 22, Day 14: Crane #5 was one of five birds that had to be crated and driven to the next stopover because they wouldn't fly and follow the ultralight.
Oct. 28, Day 20: Around 12 miles from the starting point, Crane #5 made an abrupt turn, leaving Brooke’s wing and heading north. Brooke turned his remaining two birds and chased him back. But #5 was low, and so far ahead, that Brooke gave up the chase and called for help. Luckily, the team had a volunteer pilot flying top cover today. The pilot and his helper worked hard to keep the young whooping crane in sight as he kept changing directions in flight. The pilot radioed#5's locations to trackers Geoff and Caleb as the lost bird wandered. Something kept spooking Crane #5. He was in the air and flapping his wings for over two hours! Finally he landed in a field next to two Sandhill cranes. Geoff and Caleb now had a chance to retrieve him. Crane #5 hadn't yet made friends with the two sandhill cranes. The pilot and helper watched from above as the interns, their vehicle parked out of sight and the crate tucked into the trees, walked around the treeline and came into view. At last #5 and the two interns could see each other. Finally the bird made its move, rushing to Geoff and Caleb. The pilot and helper Linda circled the happy scene until they could see that the bird was in its crate. Soon it was safely in the van to Green County!
Oct. 29, Day 21: Crane #5—and all nine other birds in the Class of 2011—flew the distance today! It's the first day of the migration for the whole group to go the whole way. (The class is down to nine because missing crane #2-11 turned up with abig flock of wild sandhills.)
Nov. 20, Day 43: After 15 down days, the birds and trikes finally got to fly again! Crane #5 blasted out of the pen and flew the 59 miles to Piatt County, IL.
February 4, 2012: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 became the first to finish their migration in a road vehicle. They were crated at the travel pen in Winston County, Alabama and driven to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to finish the winter and learn to be independent. Banding took place February 8. Brooke will watch over them as they slowly become wild and free. Check this bio page for further news in the life of of crane #5-11!
Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North:
By April 19 tracker Eva confirmed: The 9 ultra-light birds eventually split into at least two groups. Whooping cranes 3, 4, 5 and 6-11 traveled together. The group of four arrived in southern Columbia County, WI., approximately 40 miles south of the White River Marsh SWA on April 20, eight days after departing the Wheeler NWR where they wintered. WELL DONE! By May 14 (photo below) they had not moved much and were still together. Hardly any sign remains of their rust-colored chick feathers. On May 31 a citizen scientist sent a photo of the four of them, still together, in Green Lake County, WI. This location is less than 3 miles from where they took their first flights with Operation Migration's aircraft last summer.
Fall 2012: Migrated south to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.
Spring 2013: Completed migration back to Wisconsin on March 29 together with #3, #4 and #6 from his 2011 cohort.
Fall 2013: Migrated south after 8 November and was reported in Barren County, KY, on 7 Dec. He had arrived at the Wheeler NWR in Alabama by 12 December. He wintered at Wheeler with several other birds including #12-11, and likely paired up with her during the winter.
Spring 2014: Completed migration to Juneau County, Wisconsin in late March, and nested with with female #12-11. The nest was still active as of April 30 but failed in May.
Last updated: 5/29/14
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