The past eight months have been quite the ride. I’ve met all sorts of new people, made countless new friends and seen beautiful areas of the US I otherwise never would have known about.

I could elaborate on those experiences, but I’ve chosen to reflect on other experiences. I want to talk a little about the ‘big kahuna’ of my time with Operation Migration. I want to talk about my experience raising the chicks.

I have certainly developed sympathy for any caregiver who has ever raised a child. Knowing how stressful caring about another creature’s wellbeing can be, has filled me with remorse over all the stress and heartache I have given my parents over the years. But at the same time, it makes me swell with love knowing they dedicated their lives to making sure I was always happy, healthy and cared for.

As for the birds, no one knows how they will reflect, if at all, on their surrogate parents. All I can do is be proud of the fact that I always did everything I could to ensure the birds were as healthy and happy as I could make them.

I have seen the chicks almost everyday for these past eight months. I am blessed to have watched them grow and develop. The cohort has gone from tiny little puffs of downy feathers barely able to hold themselves up, to near-adults. From peeps to growls and alarm calls the birds have turned into a picturesque group of Whooping Cranes.

I am a little upset about having to leave them to the big wild world. I always knew that was the ultimate goal and that the birds would one day be on their own to survive – but I guess kids will always be kids to parents. I’m sure when my parents look at me they still see the little boy – – just like I still see the goofy little chicks when I look at our cranes. THEY GROW UP SO FAST!

After spending so much time with these birds it is amazing how much you learn about them as individuals. They have so many minor but individual traits that seem insignificant at first, but gradually become glaringly obvious.

Parents and friends of twins I’m sure feel the same way when strangers comment on how impossible it is to tell the two apart. “What are you talking about? They don’t look anything alike. Maria has one freckle on her left cheek and Susan has two on her right cheek…it’s so obvious!”

I can pick out every bird from a quick look at their face, a quirky behavior, heck, even the way they peck at things can be a giveaway to their identity.

I don’t really know where I intended to go with this posting, or how to wrap it up. I guess I just felt some desire to and throw out any thoughts I had about saying farewell to the Class of 2011.

I suppose I can hope for a few things. I can hope for their survival in the future. I can hope for their successful reproduction. I can hope for a successful reintroduction. And, if I’m really lucky…I can hope to maybe one day catch a glimpse of ‘my children’ foraging in a field or flying overhead.

If you ever see one of ‘my kids’…don’t be shy about letting me know.

“Hey Caleb, saw your Baby Girl 12-11 today. Don’t get too jealous and overprotective but…I saw her hanging out with some boy Whoopers from the wrong side of the flyway. Remember, you can’t always be daddy and guard her. She looked great… so don’t worry – be happy.”

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