While still in his egg, number 4-14 heard his first airplane at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Once he was old enough, he learned to follow it in the circle pen.
After he got to know his team mates (all girls) he took his first real airplane ride. This time it was a turboprop Cessna to Wisconsin, although he didn’t get to see much because of the crate he was in.
Over the summer and into the fall he dutifully followed the little yellow aircraft up and down the runway and then on his first migration to Florida. He had a little break while he wore a hinged hock brace and missed a bunch of training but he never lost his spirit.
During his recovery, he had his first car ride but again, it was in a crate after he dropped out of the flight. He got to ride in lots of vehicles on his way south. In fact he covered more of it in a crate than he did flying.
In the spring he finally got a chance to test his own wings when he and a few of the girls covered 700 miles following 5-12 to southern Illinois. Thereafter 4-14 decided to have a little alone time. He found the perfect spot in a flooded ag field in the middle of his own island.
The next airplane he saw did a low pass yesterday as he fluffed his feathers and threatened the intruder. Then today he heard a familiar call and flew over to investigate. He ventured too close for that last grape and ended up in the crate again. Thereafter he had his first boat ride, then into the van and finally the pen he had lived in every night of the migration south.
Hopefully tomorrow night he will have his last ride in a vehicle. He has traveled in planes, boats and automobiles but for him, they are all the same. He is familiar with the inside of the crate and the only difference is the volume of noise outside and the frequency of the vibration.
If we are lucky, all of those conveyances will be part of his history, never to reoccur. But as artificial as they were, it was all done as a means to an end. From now on the only way he will move will be under his own steam and that was the goal from the beginning. It just took a little longer for him.