Migration Delay’s Come in Many Forms

Central Wisconsin has had a fairly wet summer. We had a dry spell in July but is has rained regularly since then. Normally, we pump water from a well into the wet pen to maintain the level all season but this year it is up past the outer perimeter where it normally is in the spring. Even the trees, which usually begin to show signs of color by early September are, for the most part, still green.

That rain has delayed the crops and most are still in the field while the farmers wait for them to dry out before harvesting begins. We rely of open fields at our stopovers. Our hosts generously create a landing area for us by running their tractors over the corn stubble making it flat enough to negotiate with the small wheels on our aircraft. All of this means that with 7 foot corn or knee deep soy beans still in the fields, we have no place to set up the pens at the first few stops.

A hundred things need to come together each year to make this human-led migration thing work. This season the birds are perfect, the weather is cooperating, the aircraft are ready and our team is assembled, but we will still be delayed by a late harvest. All dressed up and nowhere to go.

We picked September 20th as our target departure date. It is an arbitrary assignment based on when the birds hatch, when they fledge and how the training progresses. Usually it has to be adjusted somewhat and it is rare that we leave on the day we select. Last year we delayed a week waiting for number 4-14 to recover from his leg injury and build his endurance. The year before we were stuck in high winds for two weeks. Looks like this year is no different.  Last fall we didn’t leave until October 10th. In fact, our average departure date is October 11th. Our hosts are telling us that a few more days could make all the difference, so we are still way ahead of normal.

We will stay in touch with our migration stop hosts and start the departure process again as soon as they give us the all clear. They have all been extremely cooperative and are willing to help as best they can, but we can’t ask them to ruin a good portion of their crops just so we can stay for a day or so. Lately it has been blowing every day, which is not good for flying but will help dry out the corn. We will cross our fingers and keep you posted.

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  1. Lisa Harrison September 20, 2015 7:30 am

    I have an eager new group of 24 second graders who can’t wait for the migration to start. Hopefully, we can catch a training session before then. So far, they are full of questions and excitement. Wishing you the best!

  2. Pete Weber September 17, 2015 10:19 pm

    Harvest is in high gear down here in Cumberland and Wayne Counties in Illinois. Most beans and corn should be cut and shelled over the next week. Look forward to seeing the class of 2015.

  3. Catherine Wohlfeil September 17, 2015 8:52 pm

    If the migration must be delayed, bountiful crops are certainly a positive reason. Wish the hosts the best on their crops and give them all the thanks they deserve for their generous and heartfelt contribution to the cause. Without their support none of us would have the gift of seeing this miracle of man and nature working in unison to give hope.

  4. Margie Tomlinson September 17, 2015 6:01 pm

    Dear Joe, Thank you so much for keeping us updated on the pending migration. It seems like there is always something to make life more interesting. Sure wish you the best with all your preparations and journey. You have a wonderful team back there, and there will still be some of us rooting for you from the West, too.
    God speed. Can’t wait to see you flying with our Whoopers again.

  5. Maryann Stork September 17, 2015 5:14 pm

    Any guesses at to what the darlings from last year that had to be crated will do this year? Do you expect that they will head all the way south?

  6. Mollie Cook September 17, 2015 1:07 pm

    And quick question for Joe or others………
    Colts seem unusually restless this week……..doing a lot of pacing in the wet pen. Is it boredom, restlessness of somehow knowing they need to migrate soon or maybe a little of both? Thanks!

    • Heather Ray September 17, 2015 1:29 pm

      Very likely that because they flew 3 days in a row, they’re anxious to get airborne again. Unfortunately, the south winds continue to blow and it’s very warm here this week.

  7. Mollie Cook September 17, 2015 12:52 pm

    Thanks Joe. It’s hard to coordinate with Mother Nature!

  8. Mindy September 17, 2015 12:41 pm

    Understood Joe, thanks for the update!

  9. Kay Huey September 17, 2015 11:40 am

    Ah, so many factors to consider! And all I have to do is make it to my laptop every morning and cheer a sunrise and some folks strangely dressed in white.

    Well, migration in the past has often been an exercise in patience. Looks like I’d better rummage around and find those skills again! If baby birds can learn to fly over a thousand miles after a few months of training, maybe I can learn to sit back and let Mother Nature do her thing.

    Thanks for the heads-up. I’ve been avidly watching the weather reports for Princeton and predicted a perfect fly-day for the 20th.