Off on a Tangent: Whooping Crane Migration

Whooping cranes in New Mexico?  Alice Lindsay Price’s mention of  seeing a “solitary Whooper among the snow geese at Bosque ” in her book Cranes: The Noblest Flyers  piqued my interest.    A Google search answered the question:  There haven’t been any whoopers at Bosque del Apache in the last ten or so years, but that’s a story for another day.

While browsing the web trying to learn more about whooping cranes I happened onto a field journal detailing this year’s migration of the birds from Wisconsin to the Florida panhandle.  The chicks, born and raised in captivity, must be taught the migration route.

They’re led with an ultra-light aircraft on a trip that starts in early autumn in Wisconsin, crosses Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, before reaching their ultimate destination, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.   To see photos of this amazing journey check out Operation Migration.

Each morning I read the progress report (daily email updates are available).  This week they were grounded for several days in Tennessee because of bad weather.  Yesterday they got off of the ground, but It was a slow go with lots of stops.  The lead pilot posted this report.  It sounds something like that old saying about herding cats.

The trip is a long one, lots of starts and stops, over a thousand miles.  Last year the birds arrived at their winter home in early January.  But they only have to do it once.  The whoopers never forget and will return on their own each year.

Today’s field notes entry:  Day 42.  Carroll County, TN.  It’s just too darn windy to fly – we’re grounded.





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