THE GHOST WRITTEN LEAD PILOT’S REPORT Oct.1,2012 Location: Columbia Co., WI Brooke Pennypacker was lead pilot today but is currently away setting up the pen at our next Stopover site in hope we will be flying again tomorrow. I was in the tracking vehicle this morning, so I will give you my version and Brooke will owe me big time for filling in for him. The winds were buffeting from all directions this morning, but that was likely due to the large forested hill overlooking our stopover location. It is hard to get a fix on just what is happening above until you actually take off and have a look for yourself, so that’s what Brooke did. We call it taking your turn as the ‘wind dummy’. You get airborne, fly on course, and slow the aircraft to bird speed. First you check the GPS which tells you how fast you are travelling over the ground. That lets us know whether we have a head wind and are in for a long ride, or if the wind gods are in our favor and push us along. Then you check the smoothness of the air to see how much benefit the birds will derive from the wing. When it is smooth they can tuck in behind the wingtip and get pulled along in the slip stream. When it is rough, they must make so many corrections in their speed and position that they hardly get any assistance at all. That means they work harder and can’t fly as far. Brooke found a strong headwind but smooth air, so the plan was to launch the birds and see how far they got. If they couldn’t make it, they could always turn around and let the wind push them back at twice the speed. All the birds took off in perfect order and began a slow climb. Slow is the operative word because throughout the flight, they were only making 18 to 20 miles per hour. David Boyd, Colleen Chase and I tracked them from below, but had to stop several times to let them catch up. We pulled into a rest stop on the highway and the sight of all three of us staring skyward was too much for a trucker who asked what we were doing. We gave him a hurried explanation before hitting the road again leaving behind another enthusiast. All six birds stayed on Brooke’s wing throughout the flight, and eventually they began a descent towards the harvested corn field where the pen was waiting. Richard flew ahead and landed to give the birds a target, just as #5, always the contrary one, left Brooke and climbed above him heading in the general direction of Richard. Brooke circled a few times and then and landed, while #5 took his own sweet time coming down. It was almost like he wasn’t ready to quit and wanted to check out the new neighborhood before accepting the new stopover site. With new stuff to poke and prod, it took Brooke and Richard twenty minutes to coax them into the pen, but by 9AM it was all over. It was the perfect morning, short but effective, without the headaches of last season. Thanks to an early migration launch and two great flights, not only are we ahead of last year in terms of behavior of the birds, we are now 26 days ahead last year’s timeline. Knock on wood.