By Joe Duff, Operation Migration Team Leader
For the banding and health exams that took place in late August, handlers entered the pen and corralled one bird at a time, out the door. Each bird's eyes were covered with a hood to prevent them from seeing the un-costumed staff and they were picked up and carried to the examination area. Since they arrived at Necedah the handlers have cajoled, charmed and coaxed the birds to get them to do what we want. To
Although the handlers are very experienced, the restrained birds often struggle and the resulting sore muscles contribute to their general post-exam/banding depression. Additionally they are now encumbered with coloured leg bands and a radio-tracking device that makes them walk much like a puppy wearing slippers. The health check and banding procedure is a necessary but unavoidably disruptive period for the birds, leaving them wary of us and reluctant to fly. The field team takes a step back and spends many hours luring them with smelt to re-win their confidence. Rather than resume their flying schedule, we go back to taxi-training until they have had a chance to recover.
Before long the soreness abates; the leg bands become familiar and they begin to relax their guard. As they resume their normal schedule, we begin to amalgamate the three cohorts into one flock. When their endurance allows, we lead one group across Rynearson Pond and move them in with the other. Eventually all three will be housed at one site. After a few days of confrontations as they establish a new dominance structure, a new hierarchy will evolve and become the basis of a migrating flock.
Weather, crew readiness, endurance and social compatibility will all dictate the date we can begin migration. Based on all these factors and consulting the records from last year, we have estimated a tentative departure date of October 7th. In the meantime, we go back to coaxing, cajoling and coddling and keep all our primaries crossed.
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