MIGRATION DAY 65 – DOWN DAY 1

At 43, it was exactly 20 degrees warmer in Franklin County, AL this morning than it was at the same time yesterday in Hardin County, TN. That alone should have been a good indication of the wind direction. However…

While the weather sites were reporting 5mph ESE winds on the surface, the flag here in camp was hanging straight down in dead calm air. That was the situation on the surface. At altitude on the other hand, the weather sites were reporting 15 to 20mph winds out of the WSW. The question was – if they were wrong on the surface were they wrong aloft.

Only one way to find out; send up a test trike. In fact all three trikes went up to check conditions. What they found was strong headwinds no matter the altitude.

This means we will not have a fifth consecutive fly day, rather, it will be Down Day 1 in Franklin County, AL.

For those of you interested in ‘stats’, there were three years in which we flew on five or more consecutive days. In 2001 we had two long stretches of flights, one was a five day stretch and the other seven consecutive days. In 2002 we had one occurrence of seven consecutive flights, and in 2004 we flew on six consecutive days. Matching this migration’s four straight days of flying were the years 2002 and 2004.

ABSURD ATTACKS

Have you ever said a word over and over to yourself so many times it loses meaning, abstracts, and stretches into the absurd? For some reason the repetition results in a mental disconnect between the sounds being produced, the mental image, and the link between the two. All sense and logic is lost for those brief moments before collapsing back into reality.

“Car, car, car, car…car….” What does that even mean? What really is a car? Pistons firing in a cylinder igniting compressed carbon from ancient bogs resulting in the turning of a crankshaft that ultimately rotates two tires – all steered by an advanced hominid.

I am all to often overcome by these moments of sheer absurdity. I’ve noticed I am prone to what I will dub in this prose, “absurd attacks” especially when I’m spending time with the birds. It would be all too easy to accept what it is I do as normal and forget how absolutely unique and uncommon it actually is. I wear a large white suit to act as a surrogate parent to an endangered crane.

Wait, I don’t think you heard what I said. I WEAR A BIG WHITE SUIT AND ACT AS A SURROGATE PARENT FOR ENDANGERED CRANES!!!

Are you starting to follow me? How many people through out the expanse of human history can say they have shared a similar experience? On a daily basis I dress up in a large white costume, complete with helmet and crane-puppet and go spend time with a group of young Whooping Cranes. This opportunity which I have been given by Operation Migration has allowed me to experience things unimaginable to many, and because of this, has permitted me to think about how lucky I am to be here. I am lucky to be here, now, alive, breathing and sharing this life with such amazing animals.

I felt the desire to express my experience with these ‘absurd attacks’ after having one in the pen the other evening during roost checks. I was crouched down tossing around a cornhusk as my cohort of nine crowded around pecking away at the earth and me.

I felt the need to try and express how absurdly wonderful my situation was. And, all the while, deal with trying to rationalize the dissociated state in to which I fall, into another understanding – the appreciation that there is something real, so very real, in my situation.

While in the pen all fear about the future melts away, regret for the past…gone. All worries about paying my bills evaporate. All stress and turmoil of the daily grind we as people have created for ourselves is obliterated. When I am in there it is just ten creatures experiencing each other. Ten creatures exploring what the universe has to offer. We are all complex organic machines; complex arrangements of molecules combating entropy.

Yet, there is something more there, even if we as creatures can be broken down to strictly the mechanical and chemical level we still share something ethereal and intangible. We share the beautiful, magnificent, and absurd experience of life. We all share the ability to explore new things, see new things, smell new things, hear new things, and interact with new other unique creatures.

Every time I leave the pen I leave with a renewed sense of awe and wonder at my experience in life. I want to grab everyone I see when I get back to camp, shaking them and screaming, “Don’t you see how beautiful and amazing it all is? Be kind to each other! Care about our fellow creatures! Think outside yourself! We’re all in this together!”

Everyone wants to leave a legacy for him or herself. It’s hard to cope with the idea of disappearing from this earth. It’s even harder to come to terms with the idea that 100 years from now we’ll all be gone and we might not have left something to be remembered by.

This leads into the point I may or may not have been trying to make when I started writing this. It is the experiences, the indefinable experiences I am attempting to capture here. They are truly what matters for all individuals. – past, present and future.

In this case, it’s the experiences of the future I want to protect and make possible. Even though none of us will truly know what life is like from within a young Whooper’s head, by protecting their species we will continue to make their exploration of life a possibility. By protecting this species we will be protecting future generations exploration and wonder of the world. By protecting this species we are ensuring future humans and cranes may get to experience the awe and wonder of simply interacting with each other.

Whoa…Sorry, that might be a little intense. But, the feelings that rush over someone during an absurd attack can certainly surge with intensity and wonderful peculiarity. This may or may not make sense, but I felt the need to share. Thanks for listening!

PREDICTING

It is not looking particularly promising for a flight tomorrow. Winds are forecast to be light but easterly on the surface at both at our departure and arrival points, and from 5 to 10mph from the WSW aloft. Between now and then we could see a change either way but maybe we’re just being overly optimistic.

Folks in the area who are interested in coming out to watch the flyover departure should note that the viewing site is new this year. It is at the junction of Hwy 243 and County Road 75 which is about 4.25 miles south of Russellville. That viewing opportunity may not turn out to be tomorrow, but it WILL be on a morning soon after…. we hope.