Well it finally happened. On Thursday morning at 9:40, the chicks of the Class of 2011 took to the air and headed northwest to Wisconsin. There was some serious doubt as to whether these confused little birds would actually migrate after the stalled trip to Florida last fall. But those migratory genes kicked in as pilot Brooke Pennypacker, who has been crane sitting for the last several weeks, watched the whoopers fly into the clouds, catch a thermal, and leave Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama. That first day, they flew 231 miles and roosted in Gallatin County, Illinois.
Heather Ray, OM team member, posted a great summary on April 13 on OM’s website of an article in Birdwatching Magazine by Matt Mendenhall on bird navigation. The recent, and most accepted, theory was that iron-rich nerve cells in bird beaks helped them navigate by following the Earth's magnetic fields. New studies have shown that is not the case. Whatever the reason, it’s working and the chicks should be home in a few days.
|Four members of the Class of 2011. |
Photo taken by OM crew member, Bev Paulan,
March 5 and posted on OM website.
As of today, 60 cranics have commented, wishing the cranes safe flight, and more than 220 “likes,” have been posted on the cranes' Facebook page.
And here’s the last Facebook comment from the chick who has been penning updates for his flock mates. “We is tezting da wind . . . itz FUN FUN FUN up high!!!!”
We hope to hear from him on the road. And while he’s spending a leisurely summer in Wisconsin, maybe he’ll have time to focus on his spelling.