In case you haven’t figured it out, I have a strong passion for whooping cranes. Operation Migration is an organization working diligently to establish another wild migratory flock of whoopers in the eastern United States. Remember the movie Fly Away Home
? Well, these are the guys who started it all. Every year whooping-crane eggs are hatched in a lab. The chicks are raised and trained to follow Ultralight pilots from Wisconsin to Florida every fall.
The Class of 2010 will always hold a special place in my heart. One foggy morning in August of that year, while visiting the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, I had the opportunity to watch the chicks during an early morning training flight. I had been reading the daily field notes since the chicks were hatched and was delighted to learned that 10-10, one of my favorite birds, was one of the five running along the runway, flapping her wings, and doing her thing.
The scientists and handlers raising and training the chicks avoid refers to their wards by anything but their assigned number. This year however, several 2010 chicks earned nicknames. Number 10-10 earned three. Her favorite food on the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge where she was hatched was the purple cover. She couldn’t resist gulping down as many blossoms as she could get her beak on. An intern reported seeing the flower buds traveling down the chick’s esophagus after she swallowed, named her Flower Child. On mornings when 10-10 refused to leave her pen for training, pilot Brooke Pennypacker picked wild flowers and used them to lure her out. His name for her became Woodstock. And another intern named her Zoey after a spacey character in a video game. Whether there was something in the clover, 10-10 was content to settle down among the flowers and gaze off into space. Zoey “Flower Child” Woodstock performed well during migration to Florida. Incidentally, the marshes of her winter home are abundant with wildflowers.
Read about the whoopers of the Eastern Migratory Flock at www.operationmigraiton.org
. This year's chick are hatching, and updates are provided on this web page.