A Memorable Sight
"As we circled around the backside of the pen, the two yearlings moved in to sail off my right wing while the seven fledglings followed slightly behind. The episode lasted only a few seconds but left a lasting visual memory -- no more than 20 feet away, two magnificent birds in full adult plumage, black wingtips over stark white bodies maneuvered with gentle grace. Behind them flew seven chicks, white patches just beginning to show through fledgling feathers the colour of caramel corn. As I turned to land at the north end of the field the two older birds dropped into the marsh behind the pen and the youngsters landed with me on the training strip." WOW!!
While Sara coaxed the chicks, Joe chased off the other two as best he could, slipping in the muck that the cranes easily danced over, staying just out of reach. Then, back on the training strip, two of the younger birds began to challenge one of the older birds. Surprisingly, the larger bird backed off. Joe chased him away from the pen. Both yearlings finally took off north. They did not show up again for the rest of the day--but tomorrow it may all change again.
Are you wondering why the pilots don't want the yearling birds to mingle with
the chicks? Joe explains: "We are worried they may form an attachment. We know
from earlier studies that second-year birds will sometimes let us fly with them but
we no longer control the flight. If we let the two age groups mix, the younger birds
may prefer to follow the more experienced we could lose our chance to teach them
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