In France, ornithologist Christian Moullec pilots his microlight, flying with a flock of birds. He has spent years training them to follow him in order to show them migratory routes which avoid hunters with guns.
His idea is to substitute himself for their parents by getting the young birds used to him and his microlight from the day they hatch.
Christian Moullec explained: “I am these birds’ adoptive father, but if I want them to follow me, I have to bring them up right from the beginning. They are in the house, I sleep with them right from day one. It’s quite a tie but then afterwards, we can go on long journeys.”
Canadian Bill Lishman was the first person to lead migrating geese with a microlight, in 1986.
His experience was fictionalised in the 1996 film ‘Fly Away Home’ starring Jeff Daniels.
In 1990 Christian Moullec completed a flight of 2,000 kilometres from Sweden to Germany followed by 30 geese.
He explained: “That first journey proved that the technique worked. The birds flying with is memorised a new migration path which they now teach to their offspring every year. We did it with 30 birds, but we have to be able to do it with groups of 500 birds and hope that then they’ll survive and continue to use the new safer route on their own.”
But funding for these projects is, as always, hard to find. So to raise money, Christian has set up a company offering microlight flights to the public.