This is the day we've been waiting and working for ALL summer. It's going to be an exciting day.
We planned 3 releases:
Gouda, Roquefort, Ricotta, and Saganaki (20, 21, 23, & 28) will be released WAY up in the North half of the refuge [See Map Below]. We planned this out because the North half is a little more dangerous, being mostly mud flats. The predators like bobcats and wolves can run over the flats and pick off a bird more easily than they can run through a marsh. These 4 birds are very strong flyers. We know Gouda and Roquefort tend to stick together. They can also keep Saga in line (he still likes to act up every once in a while trying to get higher on the totem pole). Ricotta was also chosen because she and Roquefort are seen together much of the time. We figure if the group splits up, there's 2 satellite transmitters in the group: also a very good thing.
Nacho, Pepper Jack, Havarti, and Goat (18, 19, 22, 26) will be released in the West side of the refuge. Nacho and Havarti have been seen together a LOT. Pepper Jack and Nacho have always seemed to get along, hanging out together. Goat was a little questionable, because he always seemed to stay near the costume rather than near the chicks, but we didn't know for sure. Mostly, we wanted to send him away from site 3 because of the seeming preference for the costume. We wanted him to see the greater world and experience something outside of site 3 with the other chicks.
The remaining 3: Fontina, Queso, and Feta (24, 25, 27) include a good mix of birds. They will have a "soft release," which means that instead of being transported to a different area for release, they will just be locked out of the night pen. Effectively, they will be freed to continue the rest of their lives without but without all the hullabaloo with handlers, crates, and a road trip. Queso and Feta seem to be together a lot, and Fontina is the strongest flyer. Hopefully they will stick together. Even more hopefully: they will leave Site 3 on their own when they discover food is no longer available from the pen and the costume is never coming back.
I've heard it takes about a week for the birds at site 3 to figure out that there's nothing left for them there, so they fly on. I've also heard that eventually all the chicks, no matter where they were released, will find their way back to Site 3. I think we're all hoping that the chicks all meet up again soon.