Ultralight-led Migration Ends: Will a New Role Begin for OM?

So. Joe Duff had this to say this morning

                                                             “That’s All She Wrote”

Yes, it IS the bad news that every craniac fervently hoped not to hear this week:  the end of the ultralight flights – and Operation Migration leading a new class of young whooping cranes from Wisconsin to Florida each year.

The Fly-Over of the Class of 2009, on arrival at St. Marks NWR, January 13, 2010. Among the group are the future Cow Pond Whoopers. The Class of 2009 was one of the very biggest of UL classes. One of the females of this class did raise a chick to fledge in 2015. (Photo by Karen Willes; used with permissioin)

The Fly-Over of the Class of 2009, on arrival at St. Marks NWR, January 13, 2010. This was one of the very biggest of UL classes, and includes some well-known birds.  Among the group are the future Cow Pond Whoopers. This past year one of the females of this class did raise a wild chick to fledge, #10-15. (Photo by Karen Willes; used with permission)

Joe Duff wrote a spectacularly detailed, clear summary of the week’s events leading to this decision, and he dispatched it swiftly so we wouldn’t be left waiting; and wondering. He described the science being looked at as possible answers to the EMP’s slow progress – or as some think, no progress –  in becoming a self-sustaining population.

(What would a self- sustaining population be? One that reproduces itself.  Why can’t the EMP reproduce itself?  That’s where the scientific theories that Joe wrote about, are needed; the theories that are being developed; and will need to be studied and tested.)

Joe also said this: “. . . (during the meetings last week)  we focused on ways to keep released birds with adult role models for as early, and as long as possible “

Somewhere in this Decision is a New Role for OM

And he said:  “There are many ways that Operation Migration can serve within WCEP, including developing a new, less invasive release technique at White River. Those options need to be explored, and expanded.  He mentioned “moving forward” and “clearing hurdles.”      

This WCEP decision, and Joe’s response to it, trigger a number of questions waiting to be asked, and I did get one answer earlier today when OM responded to question/comment I posted on their Facebook page.  

Me:  I hope this means you aren’t all going away!? And OM responded:  “Definitely not going away!” That’s an answer that is definitely going to console some disappointed followers of OM through the Field Jounral, Crane Cam and more.

Others Comment on the End of Ultralight Migration

Here is just a very small sample of comments left on Joe’s post today:

From Mindy:   “You have made such a contribution to the Eastern population and the whole species.  No one can ever take that away.”

Willie said:  “It is rare to see such a level of commitment by humans to save another species . . . I will continue to support Operation Migration any way that I can.”

And Mike:  “A sad result for such a well-coordinated effort. I live in Hardin County, TN and twice during the last three years I have witnessed a flock of the birds migrating north on their own. I thought how lucky I was to see something so rare.”

Here’s Denise:  “Heartbroken. But how can we help support OM? Please let us know.”

“Making a Huge Mistake,” says Wildlife Biologist

And finally, this lengthy quote is from comments left by Robert, a wildlife biologist, retired from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

“For years I have been tracking the efforts to introduce a second, self-sustaining population of whoopers,” said Robert, and his words, the ones that follow here, form a pretty good summary of what The Badger and the Whooping Crane has been thinking. “It is obvious,” he continued, “that the Eastern flock is having issues with raising recruits to fledgling stage. However, to just give up on the aircraft-led migration seems at this stage  to be rather short-sighted . . . I have heard of no other methods that comes close to the OM record of successfully getting birds into a second migrating population.

“So the Eastern flock will just be abandoned to wither away like the Florida non-migrating population while birds are pumped into Louisiana with the same or worse problems.  . . . I just think the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership is making a HUGE mistake in canceling OM without a better answer in place.”


3 thoughts on “Ultralight-led Migration Ends: Will a New Role Begin for OM?

  1. All I know about this issue is what I’ve learned here. Thank you for your coverage. We were awed to see Whoopers in Texas last winter, and I’ll never forget that sight. Keep up the fight.

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