Like many of our seasonal residents, a group of endangered Whooping Cranes is headed this way. But these aren’t just any migratory birds. These cranes are flying as a part of Operation Migration, a program aimed at helping this fragile birds species, which was once near extinction, recover and thrive.
For those of you who are not familiar with the program, Operation Migration is a unique program that, among other things, teaches young Whooping Cranes the migratory path from Wisconsin to Florida using ultralight aircraft.
This year’s journey began in October. Overall migration speed depends on weather conditions and other factors. In previous years, migrations have ended between late November and January.
Here in Florida, six whooping cranes were seen this past Tuesday at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The birds moved on before any photo evidence could be taken, so officials don’t know which individual birds these were. But it’s exciting news and evidence that conservation efforts are working.
Whooping Crane fans, sometimes called “Craniacs,” have been watching the migrating flock’s progress online since the migration began. According to the Operation Migration website, high winds and rain grounded the pilot and birds Friday in Carroll County, Tenn., where they are waiting for better weather before continuing on their journey. Keep watching their progress to see when their flight will end at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, located just 25 miles south of Tallahassee.
Learn more about Operation Migration at www.operationmigration.org. You can follow along on their journey to Florida with regular updates posted at http://operationmigration.org/InTheField/ and see them live at http://www.ustream.tv/migratingcranes.
Want to see the cranes fly over in person? The arrival flyover is at San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park in St. Marks. For directions, go to http://operationmigration.org/FLYOVERS2013.pdf and check the Operation Migration website often to see where the cranes are in their journey.