June 2, 2001
Dan Sprague has been with the chicks from the egg stage, and will stay with them throughout their training and
their first migration. The chicks attend "ground school class" with Dan and the trike of the ultralight
aircraft whenever weather allows.
The young crane is placed inside a circle-pen about two feet high, and Dan slowly taxies the ultralite trike around
the perimeter. On his arm he wears a puppet head resembling an adult whooping crane to encourage the chicks to
follow the trike, which travels outside of the enclosure.
Do you see the black loudspeaker mounted on the frame of the trike in the photo? Recorded adult crane vocalizations
are played over the speaker to communicate with the little birds. The ultralight engine is loud, but the chicks
are used to the noise. They've been hearing it since still inside the egg! The crew fondly calls the puppet head
"Robo-crane" because it has the ability to drop tasty mealworms for the birds as a reward for following.
Meet Robo-crane and get a closer look
at its parts.
It took Dan some time to get used to this long puppet head, but he steers the aircraft with his feet. That frees
up his hands to operate the trigger that dispenses the meal worm treats.
Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.
Copyright 2001 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.
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