by James C. Lewis
Book Review by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers
One Chosen is an interesting book of fiction about the first experimental project involving a flock of juvenile Whooping Cranes that learned to migrate by following an ultra-light plane. The young Whooping Cranes learned to fly and followed the ultra-light for 800 miles on their first migration from Montana to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.
To write his book, Jim Lewis appears to have transformed himself into a juvenile Whooping Crane to tell their story from their perspective. Notably, while the book is fictional, it is based on scientific facts.
The book begins with Firstborn, the main character, telling the story about himself and other cranes being hatched. Twenty-one additional chicks hatched into Firstborn’s family. From the time they were hatched, the young Whooping Cranes faced numerous problems and lots of happy times. Fortunately, “The Spirit of Living Creatures” guided Firstborn who, in turn, became the wise leader of the flock.
The author describes numerous details about the crane chicks from what they ate, attacks by predators and learning to fly following an ultralight plane called a Dragonfly. Learning to fly following the ultralight was a huge, dangerous challenge for the young birds. Life was not boring for the Whoopers. They learned something new every day. One of the most interesting and complex experiences was how and when the young Whoopers learned that their “Mom” (trainer) was not a Whooping Crane and instead was a man in a costume.
On their 800 mile migration, the young birds faced many challenges that are common to wild migrating Whooping Cranes as well as to the men who lead them. Occasional stormy weather, bitter cold and snow caused some serious problems. And flying over mountains with strong downdrafts was extremely dangerous. While flying behind the ultralight plane the Whooping Cranes faced aerial attacks by eagles and hawks. And when they landed each night they had to be aware of bobcats, coyotes and other predators. Several of the young Whoopers were killed while others became separated from the flock. The men who led the cranes on their migration likewise faced many challenges and dangers and hard work attempting to protect the young birds.
Finally the migrating Whoopers reached their Bosque del Apache Refuge destination. There they had to learn many more things. The refuge had an abundance and variety of new foods. They had to learn to roost in water near sandbars in the Rio Grande and in ponds and marshes within the refuge. Importantly they had to learn to live with many thousands of other birds like sandhill cranes, ducks and geese. The young Whoopers learned well for the most part. Even so, three more were killed. One by a bobcat and two by human hunters in a peanut field adjacent to the refuge.
Finally spring arrived and the remaining whooping cranes began their migration back north to Montana. One major difference was that they migrated on their own, in small groups and stopped to rest at various places. Firstborn and his new mate Raham returned to the Montana valley where their migration began and here the story ends.
Those humans who first conducted the migration experiment were pleased to know that their techniques were successful. Their hope is that what they learned would help assist in keeping whooping cranes from becoming extinct. To purchase a copy of the book, click on the following link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1518708242?ref_=cm_rdp_product_img
Reviewers view: The book is based on the first experimental project, where Kent Clegg, uses an ultralight plane to teach pen-reared Whooping Cranes how to migrate. Jim’s book is family oriented and without the violence, sex, monsters, witchcraft and similar trash written for youth today.