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Chick 615 Has Been Found!

This is the field note in which Operation Migration announced that chick 615, who dropped out and then disappeared on December 18th, during the second-last flight of the migration, had finally been located:


Date: December 20, 2006 - Entry 3 Reporter:

Liz Condie


All's well that ends well


Marion County, Florida


Top cover pilots Don and Paula Lounsbury have been flying circles around us for years. They use their Cessna 182 to provide top cover for every migration we have ever undertaken. In fact the top cover position, that is now so vital to us, was developed by Don and Paula. They figured out the spacing needed to keep track of us yet not disturb the birds, and laid the ground work for the network of air traffic controllers who now know our story and clear us through each season.

Don and Paula winter in Florida and so were able to join us yesterday for the Arrival Event. Then, all of a sudden they disappeared. When I asked where they had gotten to, I found out that they had left to drive the two hours back home to get their airplane so they could help search for our missing chick, 615. Unfortunately Tuesday’s air and ground search was unsuccessful.

After dinner last evening they asked me if I could give them a lift from Ocala to the Dunnellon Airport this morning so they could pick up their aircraft and fly home. We agreed to meet at 8AM - and we did, but once we were in the car and on the way to the airport they said they had decided that before they flew home, they wanted to have one more try at finding 615.

While OM supporter Barbara and I unloaded a jumble of boxes from our cars that had to be re-packed in the aircraft trailer, behind us on the tarmac Don and Paula did their pre-flight check. Then we watched as they got airborne and headed northwest to do some searching before an unfavorable front scheduled to move after lunchtime chased them from the sky.

Thinking the bird may have back-tracked, they thought that they would fly a 30 mile wide swathe between the last two stopover sites in hopes of picking up a signal. They were just 5 miles south of our second last stopover site (Hamilton County) when they picked up a strong signal. Looking around, they saw several small lakes and started checking them out. Sure enough, there was 615 tucked away in an isolated area at the end of one of the lakes. He had indeed tracked back north. They zeroed in on the bird and circled.

They contacted Richard (who was tracking on the ground about an hour behind them) and reported that the bird had picked a remote area and seemed to be waiting patiently for someone to show up. Richard followed the directions they relayed, and without any problem found the spot within an hour. He put on his costume and when he was out of sight of the van he turned on his vocalizer. 615 flew over and landed next to him like it was about time someone showed up.

This chick was crated once in Wisconsin and probably thinks that pick up service has deteriorated since then. 615 is now on his way to join his flock mates near Dunnellon - thanks to Richard and Don and Paula. See, we told you they were invaluable.

We were thinking of entitling this year's interminable trek south, 'The migration that the wheels fell off.' However it is remembered in the future, with today’s happy turn of events it will surely be a story that in the telling, will be capped off with – 'all’s well that ends well'.


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