Whooping cranes stop off in Walker County before long journey to Florida
by Elane Jones
Nov 16, 2012 | 2797 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Operation Migration’s ultralight-led migration Class of 2012 Whooping Cranes left Walker County just after sunrise Thursday morning on the next leg of their journey from their summer home in Wisconsin to their winter home in Florida. Five Cranes made up this year’s migration class. Photo by: Elane Jones
The Operation Migration’s ultralight-led migration Class of 2012 Whooping Cranes left Walker County just after sunrise Thursday morning on the next leg of their journey from their summer home in Wisconsin to their winter home in Florida. Five Cranes made up this year’s migration class. Photo by: Elane Jones
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Just after sunrise Thursday morning at an undisclosed location in Walker County, five young Whooping Cranes stepped from a temporary pen enclosure, paused for a moment, and then spread their wings and flew off into the sun on the next leg of their journey south for the winter.

The Operation Migration ultralight-led migration Class of 2012 Whooping Cranes arrived in Walker County late Tuesday afternoon and were supposed to continue on their journey south on Wednesday, but burbling winds kept them grounded until Thursday morning.

Operation Migration Inc. CEO Joe Duff said compared to the last few years, this year’s migration is making good time.

“Other than one stretch of bad weather in northern Illinois, we’ve made good progress, so perhaps the earlier start date this year has paid off,” Duff said. “We’re encouraged that at the current pace we will return to the pre-Christmas finish time of earlier migrations.”

Seven states separate the Class of 2012 Whooping Cranes from their summer home in Wisconsin and their winter home at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in north Florida. They departed the White River Marsh in Wisconsin on September 28 and are currently winging their way south — following two small ultra-light aircraft.

Whooping Cranes look much like an ultra-light themselves when they encounter favorable wind conditions, which allow them to fly non-stop for great distances. By the time the five birds that left Walker County on Thursday morning reach their destination, they will have flown a total of 1,285 miles.

The Whooping Crane is the most famous endangered bird in North America. By the 1940s this species of birds had been reduced to just 15. But today their numbers are steadily increasing thanks to the dedication of those who support Operation Migration, the non-profit organization which has played a leading role in reintroducing these birds back into eastern North America since 2001.

Operation Migration is also a founding partner of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, the coalition of non-profit organizations and government agencies behind the project to safeguard these endangered birds from extinction. You can help ensure the Whooping Crane survives for future generations by calling 800-675-2618 or visiting www.operationmigration.org to make a donation.