THE TIMING OF A TAKE-OFF Aug.27,2012 It seems like months since I last flew with the birds, but part of that misconception is the change that has taken place in the few weeks I was away. Our birds are larger now, and although they still have the fawn color of youth, they’re beginning to acquire that adult arrogance that is inherited along with the title of sovereign of the wetlands. Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in the avian community; in fact they are arguably the tallest creature out there … except maybe us. Their stark white feathers, like the red robes of royalty, stand in contrast to everything around them. As they get older they acquire a strut that conveys a message that they are no ordinary bird. They are still innocent and insecure, but you can see it coming. So much of their communication is conveyed by body posture and it is surprising how much of it is shared by humans. I spent all last week attending meetings, so Saturday was my first flight with the birds since they were able to fly past the end of the runway. I underestimated their enthusiasm and waited too long at the gate. The trike needs more speed than they do go get airborne, so if they get out in front, you risk running into them if you take off too close behind. So I had to wait until some of them made a circuit or two before we could reform and try it again. It was cool on the surface, but less than a hundred feet up it was ten degrees warmer. I headed out over the marsh as slow as I could, hoping they would form on the wing. Instead, they stayed low and had to flap fly the entire time. They were still excited by the game of follow-the-leader and didn’t seem to mind the extra work, but it wasn’t long before the warm air and extra effort took its toll and they began to pant. I circled back, but two birds were standing in the center of the runway blocking any attempt to land. Eventually I found a spot and landed with the rest of the flock. We waited for them to catch their breath and tried it again. Although still eager to follow, it was clear that the first flight used up most of their resources. I ended it after six more minutes and landed back at the pen. It wasn’t the best training day because I messed up the takeoff, but there was no harm done. They had some exercise and I got to see them fly. Message from the OM Team… Don’t forget to Give a WHOOP! This year’s Give a WHOOP! campaign is segmented into three milestone events. Milestone 1 – 2012 chick hatches Milestone 2 – Summer flight Training Milestone 3 – Release on the wintering grounds At the conclusion of each milestone, the name of one supporter who WHOOP’d! during that period is drawn to receive a Thank You Gift. The recipient of Milestone 1 Thank You Gift was Claire Deland of Georgia. The next draw will be at the conclusion of Summer flight training. Details Be sure to WHOOP! often – from now and until the draw is made on March 31, 2013 and your name could be drawn to receive a fabulous pair of Ranger 8 x 42 binoculars from Eagle Optics. Every WHOOP! made throughout the entire campaign equals one entry!