Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Phantom Pepper Jack

Where is PJ? Seriously.

He showed up on November 21st at the refuge. Where was he for 20 days? I don’t know. Around.
After arriving at the refuge he hung out with various groups of whooping cranes: first a young couple that fly back and forth from the refuge to cornfields nearby. After that, he was with an older couple that hangs out only on the Refuge. That couple had a nest this year, but no chicks hatched. Next we saw him with the other DAR chicks! I was happy that he had reunited with the others. I hoped he’d stay with them and finally migrate with the rest of the group.

No such luck. On the morning of migration (the day all the birds poured out of the refuge like water out of a leaky bucket) PJ and Roquefort were nowhere to be seen. We thought they left together, but they didn’t. Roquefort showed up in Indiana 2 days later (Thanksgiving morning) with 4 adult birds (I’ll write more about this quintet later) with no sign nor peep from PJ.

I was driving down back roads west of Indianapolis the day after thanksgiving, and who do I hear? Yup, PJ. I was shocked. We hadn’t heard from him in 3 days! He was to the north west of me, but there was no good way to get there. While I was trying to get closer, his signal faded away into radio silence.

We even sent out a plane. Anne, my boss at ICF, went out with a receiver and flew over the entirety of Indiana. Not a blip.

It’s funny how he only shows up now and again. It’s as though he’s showing off his independence by not following other cranes; by avoiding even the trackers. I think we need a PTT on this bird. He’s probably in Ohio, or even worse… West Virginia. (That is only worse because the migration route runs from Florida to Wisconsin, and West Virginia is NOT on the way.)

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