Day 15 – Lead Pilot Report

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

It’s like Mrs. Gump used to tell little Forest, “Life’s a box of chocolates. You just never know what you’re going to get.” Each leg of migration is like that. We plan and train and email and fundraise and think great thoughts, but on those twenty something migration mornings when the referee blows that whistle and yells “Play Ball” and those pen doors swing open wide and that exuberant cloud of white and tan comes blasting out towards the trike, you’re never really sure how It’s all going to turn out. Is this the day you eat the bear… or is this the day the bear eats you? I’m still sore from my last encounter with that bear.

But this morning, as I landed at the pen and watched the “Royal Wave” wiggle off the end of my arm signaling Colleen and Heather to release the birds, the familiar choreography began again. They pulled open the pen gates while yelling, “Run, Forest. Run!” and it was “Point your toe and off you go” as my foot slammed the gas pedal to the floor and the sky rushed down to greet us.


Initially, all six young cranes formed up behind the left wingtip. Photo: Doug Pellerin

The birds quickly lined up off the left wing like they really meant it this time, but the couple of hundred feet of gate keeper layer of turbulent air pin-balled us around just enough to discourage #8 and #11 and they turned back towards the security of the pen. We continued, the faithful four and I, as Joe worked to round up the stragglers.

Joe tries to round up cranes 8 & 11-15. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Joe tries to round up cranes 8 & 11-15. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Unfortunately, they chose the security of a nearby field and were led back to the pen by Colleen and Heather to watch the rest of the flight on the CraneCam.

Meanwhile, we pressed on and played out our little children’s playground game of “Now I will….Now I won’t” which when translated into English means that one minute you’re herding the cats, the next minute they’re herding you. If nothing else, this little game prompts more than just enough sweat to flow from one’s pours to thwart the chill of the morning air. It seems our Velcro-like birds of summer had lost some of their stickum. But then what can we expect after their long hiatus from flight.

Below, the earth exploded in a kaleidoscope of fall color so magical and mesmerizing it made me want to donate my lava lamp to Goodwill and join the Fraternal Order of Leaf People. But how indifferent it was to the petty drama playing out above it.  Wish I’d remembered to bring my crying towel!  I actually cried through the first half of my last flight physical.  “Dehydration” the flight surgeon pronounced emphatically.  “Now go ahead and read the bottom line of letters… if you can see ‘em through those tears, Junior Birdman.”

Anyway, it’s like Confucius use to say, “If you hold your breath long enough, you’re bound to pass out eventually”.  Soon our destination rolled into view and soon after that the birds, Joe and most importantly ME, were on the ground and safely in the pen. Later, we returned to our point of departure, boxed up #8 and #11, and reunited them with their buddies with all the pomp and circumstance of a UPS driver dropping off two boxes of three day old smelt. They were none the worse for wear, however, so it was decided to renew their subscriptions to “Flying Magazine”.

This morning put a win on our score board and we anxiously await our next fly day for another turn at bat. “All’s well that ends well” and all of that.  Guess it’s like Mrs. Gump said to little Forest. “If someone gives you a bucket of chocolates, be sure the handles are not on the inside of the bucket. You never know what you’re going to get.”

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  1. Dominique Elliott October 16, 2015 7:07 am

    Marvelous report as always. Safe flying!

  2. Charly Makray-Rice October 15, 2015 11:41 am

    That was the shortest layover in Marquette County. I didn’t even get a chance to drive over. Still waiting for the Book by Brooke.

  3. birdlady9 October 15, 2015 11:22 am

    Brooke, thank you for your delightful report! You never disappoint.

  4. Carol Giancola October 15, 2015 8:57 am

    What a beautiful report! Am “with” you every wing beat of the way…

  5. Jeanne Huie October 15, 2015 7:25 am

    Sorry for the rodeo but sure enjoyed the journaling! Rest up for the next round!

  6. Warrenwesternpa October 15, 2015 7:11 am

    The Box of Chocolates Brooke Pennypacker

    Aw, the box of chocolates are another 14 miles south. # 8 & 11 have gained a little wisdom. The fall colors are beautiful and all is as it should be. A Great Day! Thank-you all! ??

  7. Linda Spyhalski October 15, 2015 6:53 am

    Fantastic update! Please sign me up for the early release of your book!

  8. Margie Tomlinson October 15, 2015 6:51 am

    Dear Brooke, Should have recognized it was you writing sooner than I did. Such a beautiful report! And Doug’s photos are absolutely gorgeous! See you had a “Sandie” following off to the right, too. Cute. Thank you so much, “Crane Daddy”, for getting the season started off in great fashion! <3 🙂

  9. Doug Pellerin October 15, 2015 6:50 am

    Thank you Brooke,for a great Field Journal report.

  10. Kay Huey October 15, 2015 6:36 am

    Oh, Brooke, you really do need to compile all your postings and send them off to a publisher. You put delightful words into what I so vividly recall seeing yesterday — and fill in a few blanks, too!