“Well, #4, it looks like Deja-vous all over again!”
“Sure does, #6. I’m starting to feel like a Jack in the Box… only my name’s not Jack! But this box looks awfully familiar.”
“That’s because these are the same two boxes they used to transport #3 and #7 to the Wisconsin River last Wednesday. And… they’re the very same boxes we rode in on the trip from Patuxent to White River Marsh way back in June. And… still no peanuts or in-flight movie. Cheeeeeap!”
“Yea, but it’s just as well. If there was a movie, they’d probably title it, “Box Away Home”! It seems like no matter who you are or what you do with your life, you always wind up in a box. It kind of makes me wonder if the Man Upstairs used to load trucks for UPS!”
“I don’t know about that, but I do know that the costumed handler that put us in these boxes did. Didn’t you hear Colleen calling him when we landed in that harvested corn field this morning? “Loader!”
“Quiet, you guys.” Colleen scolded over her shoulder from the front seat.“No talking! We don’t want to disturb the birds!”
“We ARE the birds!” #4 shot back in disgust, as our tracking van continued west through the morning light towards our rendezvous with ICF interns Sabine and Sara and a large flock of Sandhill cranes near the Wisconsin River. “You’re just sore at us for not migrating south with Henry and Johnny when they left a few weeks ago. Then, we went and made you even madder when we didn’t migrate with the Royal Couple, 4-12 and 3-14. Those guys sure did their best to talk us into following them, but they just didn’t understand that the seven of us chicks are a team…”Team Whooper”… “All for one and one for all”… the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s… you know….. Tribal. We’re just not followers. We’ve been telling you guys that for years!”
“Divide and Conquer,” #6 added. “That’s what this is all about! But just because most of those Parent Reared chicks you released this fall followed the Sandhill cranes south, what makes you think we’re going to? Maybe we don’t want to go to south Florida like #72-17 or to Louisiana like #30-17. You released them just east of here. If you had just talked to us about all of this earlier, maybe we could have worked something out. But no. Just because you wear that costume, you think you have all the answers.”
“Yea”, #4 added. “And remember – You were the ones who spent all those years teaching our parents and big brothers and sisters how to fly south by following those ultralights. Now, you expect us to figure it out all by ourselves. Seems a little schizophrenic if you ask me.”
“OK”, Colleen scolded. “That’s enough! Just remember: #3 and #7 are already in south-central Illinois and it’s only been a week since we re-released them with Sandhills. And you two are going to leave on migration next Thursday morning and fly more than 370 miles in 24 hours to somewhere south of Effingham, Illinois.”
“But… but… how do you know that,” #4 asked? “Are you psychic or something?”
“Nope. It’s all in the Field Journal entry Brooke is writing for next week. You might want to give it a read. And besides, when we purchased your GSM transmitter, #6, we paid a little extra and got the one that not only tells us where you are and where you’ve been, but it also tells us where you’re going to be in the future.”
“Then you know we flew more than 24 miles directly back towards the White River Marsh pen a few days after you released us later today. But it was too far. We got discouraged, turned around and returned to where we started.”
“Yep, #6,” Colleen replied. “We saw the whole thing. Nice try, guys.”
“Whooo!” #4 sighed, shaking his head. “I think I’m ready for that Dramamine now!”
“Well, let’s get this show on the road! What’s the hold up, anyway?” #6 demanded.
“We’re waiting for Brooke. He’s in the “Jambo” finishing up this Field Journal entry. He should be finished by now. I’ll call him.
If our remaining whooper chicks, #1, #2 and #8 do not migrate today, Colleen and I will attempt to capture them. If successful, they will be given a health exam by a veterinarian, and then we will transport them down to Goose Pond in Indiana for re-release. There are 18 adult whoopers reported there as well as large groups of Sandhill cranes and our hope is that the chicks will follow them south on migration.