September 15, 2003

Back in the Air


Clip: A bird drops out
Watch It Now


The weather kept getting warmer and more humid during the past week. It affected the endurance of the flock, and the birds didn't have as much energy. They showed signs of fatigue in the air, so the pilots shortened the training flights to 17 minutes. . .then 14. . .and eventually, just 10 minutes. Then they didn't train at all for three days in a row. Finally, today all sixteen birds were back in the air and the ultralight led them on a 24-minute flight! There was no interference from wild white birds (the ultralight-led cranes from 2001 and 2003) and no dropouts. They're back in training again, and better than ever!

The pilots are very watchful of any birds that might be getting too tired because the birds will want to drop out and land to rest. Watch the video (click "Watch It Now" under the photo at right). You'll see and hear the ultralight coming at you over the trees, with its vocalizer playing the contact call. You'll see 3 birds, then one tires and drops away but rejoins later. Do you see the three birds switch positions at the end of the clip?

How do the pilots know a bird is getting tired? Pilot Joe Duff has that answer:

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