Day 26 – Looks Possible for a Flight

Winds are currently light and from the northwest, both on the surface and aloft.

We’ll be attempting to leave our last Wisconsin migration stopover and head to Winnebago County, Illinois today!

CraneCam chatter Lonewolf1313 in Washington state has issued a MileMaker challenge titled “I support OM.”

Lonewolf1313 will DOUBLE every MileMaker donation up to a total of 10 miles!


If conditions tomorrow morning materialize as the weather forecasts are predicting, we’ll be on our way to Illinois shortly after sunrise.

For those in the area that would like to attend the public flyover, please note the location is barely south of New Glarus of hwy 69 on County Hwy NN – .25 miles east of of County Hwy N and west of New Glarus Woods State Park. Please see the map at the bottom of the public flyover page.

USFWS ‘Vision’ Recommends Ending Aircraft-Guided Migration

Picture perfect launch. Photo: Doug Pellerin

On October 15th the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) posted a document outlining their vision for the next 5 year strategic plan for the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) and the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP).

In their Vision Document, they proposed radical changes to the release methods used for the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) including ending the use of the ultralight-guided migration technique (UL) in favor of the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) and other, as yet, untested methods. According to the Service, the document carries no regulatory authority but is to be considered at an upcoming meeting of all WCEP partners scheduled for mid-January. However, it was posted publicly on the FWS Midwest Region website shortly after it was shared with the WCEP Guidance Team and well before any final decisions have been made.

In making public their Vision Document even before it was discussed by WCEP, FWS breached the WCEP protocol and gave no consideration to the effect it would have on Operation Migration and its dedicated supporters who may now question their future donations. That has forced OM into a very awkward position of having to publically point out the shortcomings of these ill-conceived recommendations.

In making these proposals, the FWS used information presented at a WCEP Structured Decision Making (SDM) process that was conducted in 2013. At that time, only information from 2001 to 2010 was considered. 2010 was the same year that the Whooping Crane Recovery Team ended releases at Necedah because of low reproduction, which is generally accepted to be caused by a large population of parasitic blackflies resulting in nest abandonment. It is important to note that the results of the 2013 SDM were to approve both DAR and UL releases within the Wisconsin Rectangle for the next five years.

Since the 2011 move to White River and Horicon Marsh, almost five years of work has been done by the Non-Government Organization (NGO) WCEP partners.

In using only data from the first ten years of this project to justify their Vision Document, FWS has painted the entire Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) with a Necedah brush. They have ignored almost one third of the available data and discounted all that has been invested in the Wisconsin Rectangle so far. The timing of their recommendation to end UL releases is even more short-sighted when one considers that Whooping cranes don’t typically breed until five years of age and, even then, don’t generally produce more than one offspring per season. We are now on the cusp of determining if these cranes can successfully breed in the blackfly-free habitat of the Wisconsin Rectangle.

In order to evaluate the ability of a wildlife species to survive into the future, researchers use a method called Population Viability Analysis (PVA). It involves a complex set of algorithms that consider a variety of milestones along the path to self-sustainability. No published PVA has been conducted for either the UL or the DAR methods that have been used to release birds into the Wisconsin Rectangle.

In their Vision Document, the FWS states “Ultralight-led rearing and release is more artificial and costly than any other currently used release method and does not appear to yield substantially better results”. There are three important points made in that single sentence that need to be addressed.


The term artificial is used several times in the Vision Document but is not supported with scientific data and appears to be opinion only. In fact, it could be argued that the UL method is less artificial than other methods. It more closely replicates the natural life history of Whooping cranes by releasing birds after they have been taught to migrate and protecting them until they would naturally separate from their parents as young adults.

Conversely, the DAR method releases immature birds prior to when they would naturally become independent. They must then quickly learn to survive on their own and to migrate just at a time when the conditions in Wisconsin are rapidly changing and food becomes more difficult to find.

Originally the DAR cranes were to be released in proximity to older, experienced Whooping cranes but unfortunately only two adults have returned to the Horicon Marsh and they reportedly show no interest in the DAR chicks. Instead, DAR birds have been released in the company of Sandhill cranes. This can result in cross-species imprinting as evidenced by the two adult DAR birds presently at Horicon that are known to copulate with Sandhills and recently produced the first Whoophill hybrid in the EMP.

Further evidence of the risk of releasing immature birds is the plight of the 2013 DAR cohort when most failed to migrate appropriately and perished in the cold.


To date Operation Migration has invested more than ten million dollars to help establish the EMP and fulfill the mandate of the FWS. That is more than any other WCEP partner. These are privately sourced funds that are not transferable to other projects and do not impinge on the fundraising efforts of other partners. To complain about the cost of that gift is ungrateful. Not  using it to its fullest potential is short-sighted.

Does not appear to yield substantially better results

“Does not appearsuggests speculation when, in fact, the numbers prove otherwise. Even in the blackfly environment of Necedah, nine chicks have survived to fledge since 2006. All nine are the result of UL/UL pairs. After ten years of release, no DAR or even half-DAR pair has fledged a chick in the EMP with the exception of the recent Whoophill hybrid.

Using the WCEP database and other records, OM has employed PVA techniques to evaluate the birds released in the Wisconsin Rectangle since 2011. We looked at standard milestones such as first year survivorship (UL 75% vs. DAR 59%) and annual adult survival (UL 92% vs. DAR 84%). Not a marked difference until projected over 10 years when 35% of the UL birds will survive and 12% of the DAR birds will still be around (see graph below).

Additionally, as of spring 2015, 67% of the surviving UL birds are members of a pair, while only 44% of surviving DAR cranes are paired.

Philopatry is a term used to describe an animal’s propensity to return to its natal area. Currently there are two DAR cranes using the Horicon Marsh where they were released and ten UL cranes using the White River Marsh area where the UL cranes are reintroduced.

WCEP must take into consideration the real data and science to ensure it is using the best possible method. The Vision Document posted by Region 3 of the FWS is not such an evaluation. It only uses a portion of the available data (2001- 2010) and proposes drastic changes and untested methods based on what appears to be speculation.

FWS ultimately holds the keys to the kingdom of Whooping crane conservation: the Service controls both the allocation of captive eggs and the collection of wild eggs.

Recently the Recovery Team recommended that WCEP should be responsible for producing its own eggs. In other words, the Louisiana non-migratory reintroduction would receive all captive produced eggs and WCEP would collect abandoned and second eggs from all the wild nests. However, a large percentage of those eggs are produced at Necedah which is federal land.

Still, as they point out, the Necedah cranes could produce up to 37 eggs annually and still be able to reproduce if the black fly issue can be resolved. A few of those eggs could be used to test the FWS-proposed ‘adoptive release’ idea, while the rest could be introduced into the Wisconsin Rectangle using the most appropriate method and allowing WCEP to finish what it started in that area five years ago.


Figure 1: Survivorship to one year of age and annual adult survival thereafter for birds released via the UL program (blue bars with 95% CIs) and DAR program (orange bars with 95% CIs). Estimates were generated using a multi-state model with live and dead encounters. Note that breeding and non-breeding birds were combined for these analyses. Annual adult survival of UL birds from 2011 to 2015 is thus comparable to previously reported estimates for UL birds in the EMP (93% to 94% for unpaired adult birds; Servanty et al. 2014) and wild birds from Wood Buffalo National Park population (89% to 94%; Link et al. 2003), the latter of which has exhibited long-term growth of approximately 4% per year. Conversely, birds released into the EMP by the DAR project have exhibited 59% survivorship to one year of age (9% S.E.; n=23; Fig. 1) and 84% annual adult survival (5% S.E.; n=12; Fig. 1). Too little time has passed to qualify analyses or inferences on reproduction for either DAR or UL in the Wisconsin Rectangle. However, 28% of the cumulative UL and DAR cohort released in 2011 (18) were confirmed nesting as early as three years of age (3 nests) and 44% were found nesting the following year (5 nests).

Figure 1: Survivorship to one year of age and annual adult survival thereafter for birds released via the UL program (blue bars with 95% CIs) and DAR program (orange bars with 95% CIs). Estimates were generated using a multi-state model with live and dead encounters. Note that breeding and non-breeding birds were combined for these analyses.

Annual adult survival of UL birds from 2011 to 2015 is thus comparable to previously reported estimates for UL birds in the EMP (93% to 94% for unpaired adult birds; Servanty et al. 2014) and wild birds from Wood Buffalo National Park population (89% to 94%; Link et al. 2003), the latter of which has exhibited long-term growth of approximately 4% per year.

Conversely, birds released into the EMP by the DAR project have exhibited 59% survivorship to one year of age (9% S.E.; n=23; Fig. 1) and 84% annual adult survival (5% S.E.; n=12; Fig. 1). Too little time has passed to qualify analyses or inferences on reproduction for either DAR or UL in the Wisconsin Rectangle. However, 28% of the cumulative UL and DAR cohort released in 2011 (18) were confirmed nesting as early as three years of age (3 nests) and 44% were found nesting the following year (5 nests).


Based on these data, the probability of birds released via the UL program surviving to the earliest confirmed breeding age (three years old) is 63%. In contrast, the probability of birds released via the DAR program surviving to earliest confirmed breeding age is 42%.

Why Would FWS Want to Kill the Goose that Lays Golden Eggs?

In the past 15 years Operation Migration has provided over $10 million in private funding to establish the EMP. We provided the manpower and the expertise and in doing so we developed the most effective method to date in terms of survivability, philopatry, pairing with conspecifics and reproduction.

The UL method more closely replicates the natural process by teaching cranes to migrate and protecting them until they would normally become independent from their parents. Along the way our method focused worldwide attention on Whooping crane conservation and helped to elevate awareness of the species and the wetlands they require.

FWS has authority over all endangered species so they effectively hold the purse strings, which may be their motivation for publishing their Vision Document. We are confident that the real numbers paint an accurate picture and time will tell the story.

We are fully aware of the challenges these cranes face, and we are ready, willing and quite able to continue working resolutely to help Whooping cranes thrive in Wisconsin.

Want to help? Please read the online petition and if you agree sign and share: 


Link, W.A., Royle, J.A., Hatfield, J.S. 2003. Demographic Analysis from Summaries of an Age-Structured Population. Biometrics 59:  778-785.

Servanty, S., Converse, S.J., Bailey, L.L 2014. Demography of a reintroduced population:  moving toward management models for an endangered species, the Whooping Crane. Ecological Applications 24(5):  927-937.

Aerial Survey Results

Wisconsin DNR pilot Michael Callahan flew over the Wisconsin Rectangle reintroduction area yesterday, which includes Horicon and White River Marsh areas.

During his flight he located DAR 18-11 at the Horicon Marsh and a group of SIX Whooping cranes just north of our camp at White River Marsh SWA.

The group of six consisted of three males: 4-12, 5-12 and 4-14 (Peanut) and three females: 3-14, 9-14 and 10-14.

Six whooping cranes, along with dozens of sandhill cranes in Green Lake County, WI. Photo: Michael Callahan

Six whooping cranes, along with several sandhill cranes in Green Lake County, WI. Photo: Michael Callahan

A bit to the west, in Marquette County and near the Germania Marsh SWA, Michael located males 4-13 and 9-13 along with female 7-14.

Another female (8-14) was located in Dane County, WI where she has been for the past several weeks.

Day 23 – Lead Pilot Report

Everyone here at the circus thanks you for coming. You just can’t believe how hard it is to find a substitute lion tamer on such short notice, especially after all that just happened. A real tragedy. One minute Henry was in there with them doing his usual act, the next minute he was gone.

The only thing left of him was his whip and his chair. But listen. It wasn’t the cat’s fault. They’re good cats. Cuddly cats. Cats that would rather purr than roar. Trouble was, yesterday, Henry went to his new girlfriend Catnip’s graduation from the Twelve Step Academy of Mixology…. ya see, she always dreamed of a career in bartending… and he forgot to feed the lions. He was so late for the show that he forgot to brush his teeth and floss after those three Big Macs he ate on the way back to the circus and well…. you know the rest. But trust me. That won’t happen to you. You’re a vegetarian, ain’t ya?”

All my thoughts suddenly became second ones as the stress of a career of poor decision making pressed upon me when all six lions suddenly began to roar so loudly the legs of the chairs they were sitting on splintered and turned to dust and the band members began hitting notes that previously didn’t exist and the calliope screamed to life in a cacophony of chaotic rhythm. I fell to my knees, hands over my ears and screamed to the Ring Master in words I feared would be my last, “What is that sound!!!!”  to which he replied in surprise, “That’s your alarm clock ringing. This is a dream and it’s time for you to get your lazy butt out of bed, you silly Twit!”

It was a perfect migration morning… finally… and soon I was watching that all too familiar gloved “Flying Fickle Finger of Fate” waving the open-the-pen-gate signal to Colleen and Heather as I raced the birds to the top of the hill and up into the beyond.

Would there be boxes in their immediate future and frustration in our’s or would the birds live up to our expectation and perform as we know they can. The co-pilot/observer in back of my head sat watching them like a sculptor staring at the block of marble seeing so clearly the beautiful sculpture lying within just waiting to be released.
Soon the birds lined up off the left wing as if they were really going to take today’s performance seriously as we flew over the flyover site and all those wonderful folks who rose at a mercilessly early hour in hopes of a brief glimpse at the magic of these birds. Then, with Lou circling above… always the Good Shepheard, and Joe just behind flying chase, while below Jeff and Walt in one tracking van, Colleen and Heather in another, and Joanne and Dave in yet another layed the safety net for our high wire act.

Ahead, the ground rose, pushing periodic ridge line up even higher, so the first order of the day was to climb… something our little group seemed reluctant to do lately… like they were afraid of heights or something.  But like the “Little Engines That Could”, they slowly inched their way up just enough to satisfy the day’s absolute minimum altitude requirements but not enough to stop the ever growing flow of sweat.
People ask all the time, “What’s it like to fly with birds?”  In fact, I find myself asking the question periodically in a futile attempt to get my bearings. Like all answers to questions to which there are no answers, it varies.  But the whole process most closely resembles a dance, except instead of” Dancing with the Stars”  it’s called “Dancing with the Birds” and for someone with two left feet and who cheated at hop scotch as a kid, it can be a challenge.

I’ll save the details for another update, but for now the point is that it’s a cooperative effort with the leads changing and the choreographies very often unrehearsed and free form. And so when #1-15 begins her now familiar “drop from the wing and fly in that no man’s land just below and to the side of the prop guard, where there is no lift other than her own and where the demons of fatigue await to pounce, the sweat valve ratchets open a few notches.

Each bird, as you might imagine, is an individual on the ground but even more so in the air and it is in the air that the differences often magnified.

Again, I’ll save the story of #1-15 for another time with Dr. Phil as co-author.   But for today, it’s enough to say she eventually dropped down and fell behind far enough for Joe to skillfully move in just enough to pick her up without disrupting the other birds.  She later surprised us by flying quite a little distance back join her friends as if she just didn’t want to land without them as we neared our destination.

Soon, the day’s drama ended, Joe and I landed and were leading the birds to the pen.  As I looked into the pen, my heart stopped and my sweat froze as those two foreign objects starred up at me menacingly from the ground.  A whip and a chair!  I immediately slammed the pen doors shut, cleared the fog from my visor, and scanned the tree line for the sight of Rod Serling.

And that’s when I heard my alarm clock go off and I woke up.

Day 23 – Chase Pilot Report

The coldest part of the night is just before sunrise. That sounded a bit like a life proverb but I was talking about frost. It seemed warm but just as we were ready to pull off the wing covers, the moisture on the upper surface began to freeze. We waited another few minutes and took off just before Lou Cambier followed in his Cessna 185.

It was Brooke’s lead. He landed next to the pen and called for the release at 7:42 am CST. 

Brooke and his six young Whooping cranes flying over the crowd gathered in Dane County. Photo: Karla Ritter

Brooke and his six young Whooping cranes flying over the crowd gathered in Dane County. Photo: Karla Ritter

All of the cranes took off and turned on course without hesitation and they flew directly over the crowd that had gathered at the public flyover sight.

The air was not perfectly smooth below 200 feet and I could see from my chase position that they were flapping a lot but still strong and eager. After five miles Brooke had them up into smooth air and they locked on. I was another 200 feet higher and behind and had to fly S-turns to stay behind him. We were flying the same speed but the tailwind was stronger with the extra altitude.

Lou flew slow circles around us and we watched. Periodically, Brooke would have to circle back to let them catch up even though he was flying at stall speed. Eventually, number 1-15 started to show her foibles again. She would drop below the wing in the dirty air, sometimes encouraging the others to join her. Brooke gave up a few hundred feet collecting them all but 1-15 dropped behind again.

We decided to let her drop and continue on with the others rather than descend back into the turbulent surface air with all the birds. I moved in behind and below and number 1-15 moved over and accepted my wing. The others started to drop too so Brooke circled left and I took Number 1 right. She was now flying on the wing properly and i managed to climb her up to 1000 feet. But once we leveled out, she dropped back into her defiant spot.

I tried turning, climbing and dropping quickly but she paced every move – staying just under and behind the wing.

I planned to turn hard to the left and fool her back up but Brooke was also circling. That put the two of us close enough together that number 1-15 could clearly see her flockmates and headed over. I climbed to reduce the confusion and all the birds once again formed on Brooke’s wing.

By this time we were only 2 miles out so we began a slow descent and landed next to the waiting pen. All together we covered 39 miles in 49 minutes. And best of all, no one got put into a box — not even me.

Day 23 – Looking Good!

A quick look at a variety of weather sites reveal light, northerly winds on the surface and aloft, which means we’ll be attempting a flight from Dane County to Green County very soon after sunrise at 7:19 am CST.

Tune into the FlightCam at sunrise to watch the flight in real time!


Two very generous Wisconsonites have asked us to issue a MileMaker challenge – they will match up to 6 miles (one mile for each Whooping crane) if we can raise an additional 6 miles today!

Every quarter mile becomes a half mile. Every half mile becomes a full mile. Each mile automatically gets DOUBLED! To help fulfill this challenge, simply visit the MileMaker page.

Don’t forget – with each MileMaker sponsorship, you’re automatically entered into a drawing at the end of the year for a two week trip to two to a private home in beautiful Costa Rica!


At this point all weather sites are predicting great weather for a flight tomorrow morning from Dane County to Green County, Wisconsin.

As Jo-Anne mentioned earlier, there is a public flyover at this departure. The site is located approximately 2.7 miles south of the town of Lodi, just west of hwy 113 on Lee Rd.

Please be on site by 7:30 am CST and bring your camera!

Let the Flyovers Begin!

We have now reached the point on migration where there are flyover viewing sites designated for most locations. This means if you live near the migration route and don’t mind getting out of bed at o’dark thirty you can catch an exciting view of the six young whooping cranes in flight with the ultralight aircraft.

Right now the birds are safely tucked away in Dane County, and, on the next good fly day, we will leave there and guide them to Green County, our last stop in Wisconsin. From there we begin turning slightly eastward and land in Winnebago County, Illinois. If you live in or around these areas, check out our list of Public Flyover Locations to see where to meet me at sunrise to view a migration flight. I’ll be there with an aircraft radio so we’ll know what’s going on in the air as well as a few merchandise items in case you want to do some holiday shopping.

As always, check the Field Journal to see if a flight is possible, and subscribe to the EarlyBird Migration News (on the left of the Field Journal page) so you’ll receive an email early each morning with our best assessment of the “to fly or not to fly” decision at that moment.

If you can’t make a Flyover or just want to stay warm and snuggly at home, you can view the flights on our FlightCam – when we fly, the Lead Pilot has a camera attached to his aircraft so you can actually see the birds flying with him! You can also tune into the CraneCam that is a live view of the young cranes poking around and exploring their pen at each stop.

The cameras are great, but it’s spectacular to see the aircraft-guided migration live, so why not join me at a Flyover near you!

Click here for the Migration Map, and here for the list of Public Flyover Locations.

Lead Pilot Report – Day 19

Date: October 18, 2015 Migration Day: 19
Dist. Traveled: 31 miles
Total Dist. 50 miles
Location: Dane County, WI


Meanwhile, back at the camp…

This is going to be a long story with lots of “meanwhile, back at the camp” and “while all this was happening…”

It was cold and calm for the first time in what seems like months and it was my turn to lead.

The trikes were tucked way and covered in their brand new frost covers courtesy of Terry Kohler, owner of NorthSail. The temperature when we started at 5am was 26 degrees so there was a thick layer of that white stuff that normally delays our departure for an hour while we wait for it to melt. Instead we pulled them out, started them up, then dropped the covers and took off.

When the birds came out of the pen they were strung out in a long line so I waited until the last one emerged. Two of them flew right above me so I did a high speed taxi under them until it was safe to lift off. By that time they had all clustered up and I climbed into their midst.

Picture perfect launch. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Picture perfect launch. Photo: Doug Pellerin

They formed on the wing in perfect order and we turned on course with no indication that any of them wanted to turn back.

Brooke flew behind in the chase position and volunteer, Lou Cambier circled overhead in his Cessna 185 as top cover. Everything looked good, except the birds would not climb. As we flew south the landscape began to rise gently so all the altitude we had gained was used up just clearing the trees. In fact, during the entire trip we never got higher 300 feet.

We crossed the Wisconsin river and a layer of thick fog. We turned to the west in hopes of flying around it but there as no end in sight. Eventually, we turned south and crossed over 4 miles of it. The sun was shining on the top surface and the sky above was crystal blue but we could not see the ground even from 200 feet.

On the otherside things began to deteriorate.

Some of the birds have a tendency to fly under the wing in all the dirty air while their flockmates soar on the wing tip just above. Many birds have done this over the years and we are at a loss to explain why. Whooping cranes are designed to soar and have long narrow wings. They don’t have heavy pectoral muscles like a goose or a swan so flap flying below the wing drains their energy quickly.

When one of those birds is leading the flock, they will all drop down and work harder. If you have altitude to spare, you can spend some of it by descending quickly to get them back on the wing. I tried that a few times, which kept us close to the ground, but even when I broke them up to change who was leading, one would drop back into that laborious position again.

It wasn’t long before that bird started to drop behind. I slowed and lost a little more precious altitude but it didn’t help.

Eventually, I had to leave it behind while Brooke moved in the collect her on his wing. Before he could get to it however, it landed vertically in a corn field. Brooke circled repeatedly but could not see it. He landed in the nearest open field 3/4 of a mile away and tried to contact the ground crew.

Meanwhile, another bird began to drop from my flock of five. We cleared a ridge and flew over a harvested bean field and the bird landed. I could see the fatigue in all of them so I circled once and landed with it. I cleared the trees and dropped down quickly to get into the short field on the side of a hill. As I set up for the touchdown I was going far faster than I should been and realized my throttle was stuck open, likely from frozen moisture in the cable. I quickly shut the engine off and landed.

I was going to give them a few minutes rest and take off again but we were approaching interstate 94 and I knew we would need altitude. So I waited for Brooke to finish up with number 11. Lou, in the top cover aircraft told me Brooke was going to be a while so we launched once more and headed on course.

We had only gone a few miles when number 8-15 fell behind. She dropped down almost to the surface but was following as best she could. We were over an open area covered in unharvested corn but there were power lines in every direction. I was afraid that if we kept going I would  lead her into one of them so we did tight circles, hoping she would climb. After one turn she landed but there was no place for us to land beside her. Lou relayed her location coordinates to the ground crew and I continued south with four birds.

Within a few miles another bird dropped down, this time over a vast area of harvested soy beans. We landed once again. A quarter mile away a combine was harvesting corn and each time he came to the end of a row, he stopped to look at us but luckily he never came over.

Meanwhile, Brooke took off to see if he could find the ground crew and talk them in. As he circled, number 11-15 came up to join him so he headed on course.

Back in my soy field I texted Heather, Colleen, Jo-Anne and volunteer David Nadel. I told them to stop preparing the camp for the move south, grab some crates and head to me. We were no more than a half mile from the interstate and a quarter mile from some cross country transmission lines.

By this time Brooke and number 11-15 had crossed that highway so I thought we would try it. We took off and circled the field which must have been about 500 acres. One bird, however, followed diligently but from 3 feet off the ground. I knew that would not work so I turned back, flying right over our obliging farmer in his combine. Meanwhile, Brooke reported he was about to land at the Dane County pen.

Lou was back over the second bird to drop out and talking the ground crew into its location. I took off one more time but that attempt was even shorter than the first one.

Once number 8-15 was safely in a crate, Lou talked Heather, Colleen, Jo-Anne and David to the closest road to me. Luckily there was a steep berm between the birds and the road. That allowed us to carry crates in fairly close. One at a time I grabbed each bird by the bustle. If you gently clasp a hand on each side of their tail, you can hold their wings closed and walk them forward. Naturally, the birds don’t like the crates so Heather and Jo-Anne used their costumes to hide them. At the last minute they would step aside, making it easy for me to slip them in. We carried the birds to the truck, tied down the crates and they all headed to the pen while I flew to the Lodi airport.

I was never so happy to be on the ground and finally strip off some of the layers of clothes in the now 65 degree temperatures. In the end, the first bird to drop out was the only one to make it.

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