Editor’s Note: Just in case you’re missing the ‘excitement’ of migration, here’s an article telling the tale of one crew member’s experiences on Migration Day 49.
THERE IS NO NORMAL! by Julia Anthony
Early on in the 2012 migration I made a silly statement. I said, “I wish we could have just one normal migration move.” I was told in no uncertain terms, “There is no normal!” That proved to be the most accurate statement of the entire journey.
I imagined a rollout of gleaming vehicles traveling onward, all synchronized and controlled, from location to location. The reality is that part of the crew fly to the next stopover, part is chasing/following underneath them, and part is packing up and bringing up the rear. The vehicles are an assortment of types and sizes, each with a specific job. No two are the same except for the Operation Migration logos on the side….and not even all those match.
November 15th was no exception. It should have been a model day, a little fog to burn off in the morning, but good temperature and wind. The ground crew left the campsite on time and got to the pensite for the release well before the pilots left the airport. Geoff and Colleen went to do the release. My job was to wait (out of sight of the birds) until the pilots gave the all clear to pull down the pen and then drive the pickup truck up to the pen for the tear down.
I was ready! I had my fully charged aviation radio so I could hear the pilots and Geoff. I had my phone streaming the TrikeCam on UStream so I would know when the trikes were getting close, and I had my camera with me to capture a few memories. I was ready, but….
First, after a beautiful take off, the TrikeCam went dead. I figured I had lost my cell coverage and set it aside. (Later I found out that a cable got damaged and we lost the live feed.) I listened on the radio but heard nothing. I scanned the sky and finally saw the trikes in the distance.
I watched as Brooke approached the pensite I could tell that he was going to do an aerial pickup, meaning that he would just fly by and the birds would be released without him landing. I snapped pictures until the trike disappeared over the hill and behinds some trees.
I lined up my camera to get a shot as the trike and the birds got back up above the trees. I saw the trike, snapped the picture, but no birds. I still couldn’t hear anything on the radio so I had no idea what had gone wrong.
Brooke came around again and this time he was really low. So low it looked like he was landing. Then he was out of sight and just as quickly he appeared again. This time he had three birds. Of course by now I’m so distracted that my camera’s not ready. I counted again. Only three birds! Meanwhile Richard finally appeared from behind the trees with the other two birds. Whew!
After the fliers were off Joe drove up in the white van. He asked me what was going on and I told him that I didn’t know that my radio wasn’t working. I handed it to him and as soon as he touched it we could hear the pilots! I asked him what he done to fix it. He said nothing. I heard the Twilight Zone theme in my head.
The next fly day we again had a shot at having a “normal fly day”. The birds flew well, we had the pen down in record time and all the vehicles on the road. The pilots did not skip that day so we only had to drive one stop. But a perfect run wasn’t to be. Part way to our next location one of the tires on our large mobilehome trailer blew. We spend some tense moments on the side of the highway while Geoff and Joe put the spare tire on.
It was about then I realized that we had just had two “normal” fly days. Because no two days are the same on migration, chaos and surprises are the norm!