So… Thought you’d seen the last of me, did you?  You Craniacs aren’t getting rid of me that easily!  I could do this job for a thousand years and each year it always feels like a new adventure.  This is my fourth year and no two flocks are alike and no two migrations are alike.

Each flock always leads us on new and unusual escapades that give us new stories to tell.  For 2009, we had the flock that started off as a bunch of head-strong delinquents who had no loyalty to the trike but dramatically turned around to gel into a cohesive flock.

2010 saw the flock that found their stride and whizzed into Florida with time to spare (okay it wasn’t the fastest migration on record – But it was for me).  For 2011, it was breaking new ground and making fresh start at White River Marsh.  I can only imagine what chapters of our lives these 2012 cranes will come to represent.

As of right now, there are five whoopers at Patuxent getting ready to embark on the journey our whole year revolves around.  The oldest, number 4-12 impressed me by starting to eat on his own after two days in his pen, a new record in my tenure.

Chick number 5-12 impressed many as a goofy little guy barely able to walk or focus long enough to grab a bite to eat.  Now he’s all but eating on his own.  The other three are trying to catch up, with varying degrees of success.  6-12 was at first a silly little guy who could barely stay awake long enough to take a drink.  Proving they change and develop so quickly – when I last worked him, he kept taking hits off that water jug like there was a prize in it.

Little number 7-12 got startled by his own reflection in the Plexiglas just after we moved him into his new pen.  Poor guy needed a carpet taped to his window to mask the reflection to calm him down.

Number 8-12 is still sequestered in the ICU.  We can only hope he doesn’t follow in 8-11’s footsteps from last year. That little demon was such a bully that he couldn’t be trained with any other chicks and had to be held back at Patuxent for additional socialization. That’s an adventure that doesn’t need repeating.

Where will they go from there?  Will they leave us in awe and wonder as they latch onto the aircraft and never look back?  Or will the trek be filled with perils and hurdles that will only make our migration that much more riveting and memorable when we finish?  Personally, I think this year could shape up into something magical. As usual, we have a long road of us but I always look forward to walking it with these amazing birds.

Whooping Crane #4-12: The oldest in this year’s Class hatched early on April 30th

#5-12: Also hatched on April 30th but in the afternoon.

#6-12: Hatched on May 3rd. The tape on his/her left foot holds a small stick on the toe to convince it to grow straight.

#7-12 hatched May 4th and has a LOT of taped toes.

#8-12 hatched out on May 5th, however, we have just learned that this chick is considered genetically significant and will be held back to augment the captive population.

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