Monday, November 29, 2010

Whooping Cranes' progress in Operation Migration

Weather in Hardin County, Tenn., has grounded the 10 young Whooping Cranes migrating from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin to Chassahowitzka NWR in Florida. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

With guidance from three ultralight aircraft, the birds will fly more than 1,280 miles to reach their wintering grounds. This year's flock began their journey on October 10, and as of today, migration day 51, they've flown about 646 miles. You can compare their progress to previous years' timelines.

Why do ultralight pilots help these captive-bred cranes travel south? Look here for details about Grus americana, North America's tallest bird, and its struggle to return to a healthy population from an all-time low of 15 birds in 1941. You can learn more about Whooping Cranes and hear their calls here.

If you want to increase your odds of seeing the big birds along their migration route, look at this list of flyover locations. The OM crew stresses that their movements depend on the weather, so watchers need to remain flexible and understand that the birds might have to sit tight for a day or more if winds and other factors prove inhospitable.

Those of us who can't see the flock in person have another option: CraneCam. The site says:
Please note the camera will be broadcasting a LIVE feed while airborne with the young Whooping cranes. Best viewing time is (weather permitting) each day beginning at 7am Central and ending at approximately 9am. On days when weather is favorable, we will also set up the camera near the travel enclosure at each of our stopovers.

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