On Wednesday, Oct. 5, 18 whooping cranes left the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin, taking the first step of a long trip to wintering grounds in Florida. While the endangered species typically breeds in northern Alberta and winters on the gulf coast of Texas, this migration led by an ultralight airplane is part of a high-profile effort to reintroduce the birds east of the Mississippi River.
Over the last seven weeks, this year's migration has made its way so far to Kentucky, about halfway between central Wisconsin and the gulf coast of Florida north of Tampa. One observer at the start of the migration captured a brief video of the flight.
This short video clip follows below.
The videographer describes the flight program:
Since 2001, a unique partnership of organizations, state and federal agencies, and volunteers have been taking on an attempt to bring back an endangered species. Serving as surrogate parents, ultralight aircrafts guide young whooping cranes from Wisconsin to Florida at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. This ultralight-led migration technique? serves as the main reintroduction method.
The ultralight-led flight program is organized by Operation Migration. A separate video report focuses upon the arrival in 2005 of 13 whopping cranes at the Chassahowitzka refuge, located near the Crystal River in Florida. More information about the birds and their habitat is available from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service profile for the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and from the whooping crane Wikipedia entry.
There's much more information available from the International Crane Foundation based in Baraboo, including travel journals for this autumn's eastern whooping crane migration from Wisconsin to Florida. These entries focus on everything from the first day of the migration featured in the video clip, to a report from last Friday (Nov. 17), when the birds and their ultralight guide flew to the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Seymour, Indiana. The Operation Migration In the Field Journal is also tracking the birds. Pending good weather, the migration is preparing to fly from Adair County, Kentucky to Cumberland County, Tennessee as soon as possible.