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July 31, 2003

Training in Full Swing
"Between now and the start of migration we will fly as often as possible to exercise the birds. We will increase their endurance until the season changes and it is time to head south," says Pilot and Project Leader Joe Duff.
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Cohort 2, middle group in age. They are being led to a wetland so the crew can mow the grass training strip
Youngest cohort, July 21
Cohort 3, youngest group. With handlers July 31.

Photos Heather Ray, WCEP

Sometimes two big, white subadults (211 and 212) from the 2002 ultra-whoopers appear at the training strip. After all, it was THEIR territory first! They may call to the handlers and aircraft, or stand in the middle of the runway, preventing a take-off but they rarely cause problems. If the young chicks don't drive them off, the costumed handlers will. Why don't the pilots want the older ultralight whoopers mixing with the newest ones? Joe answers: "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 and we could lose our chance to teach them the migration." A white (older) Whooping crane will sometimes fly with the ultralight and chicks for a short distance, too. What a sight!

Try This! Journaling Question
  • If you were Joe Duff flying the ultralight when a yearling joined the birds, how would you feel as you looked over your shoulder to see a full-grown whooper you had trained the year before along with young chicks just learning to follow you?

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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