Well, what a day!
Yesterday provided the answer to the question Operation Migration and craniacs everywhere have been asking and posting about for 3 weeks: when will the ultralight-led whooping crane migration begin this year?
Friday, before the sun was up OM posted it this way: “Is today THE day?” The answer came at 8 a.m., with the news that two ultralight aircraft were in the air with six of the seven young whooping cranes following behind them. Their destination was a temporary pen site 5 miles down the road – and that’s 5 miles closer to their ultimate destination, St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf, in Florida.
For the 14th year in a row, young whooping cranes have launched from Wisconsin, on their first migration journey. Surely there’s no way for the cranes to know it now, but they have begun an 1100 mile journey to their winter home.
And at the end of the coming winter, they’ll be back in Wisconsin; somewhere near White River Marsh. They’ll come back on their own, following the route they’ve learned. And for the rest of their natural lives they’ll follow a similar migration path between Wisconsin and points south, from the one being taught to them by the men in costumes flying the ultralights right now.
Here are a few other interesting facts about the migration just begun:
– Six of the seven cranes this year are females.
– Due to an injury earlier this summer – the seventh crane, the only male in the group, was given extra attention yesterday, but was able to fly only 7 minutes, and then was crated and driven to the site.
– Traditionally, the OM-trained cranes are known only by numbers that tell their birth order and birth year, but this year, this male has acquired a nickname – “Peanut,” because he’s small, and maybe because, being the only boy in a cohort of seven, he’s kind of special.
Good weather today, combined with some crane confusion, meant that a second flight was attempted, but ultimately abandoned. Nonetheless, tonight the cranes are all at their second stopover, 19 miles closer to Florida. Learn all of the details at OM’s Field Journal; read “2nd Day Not as Pretty as the First” (Oct. 11) and “TODAY IS THE DAY!!!” (Oct. 10).