Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Operation Migration

Operation Migration is a group of people that are trying to re-introduce migrating Whooping Cranes back into the eastern states.  They have been working on this project since 2001. They incubate and hatch the eggs at this summer quarters in Wisconsin. When they are old enough and strong enough, they use ultra light airplanes to lead the group from their summer hatching area to their winter quarters in Florida. The birds have to be taught to migrate and where to fly. There are currently  40 migrating Whooping Cranes that are regularly migrating thanks to the work of Operation Migration. Birds raised in captivity do not learn how to migrate from their parents so it is up to the people who raised them to teach them what they need to know. There are also non-migrating birds but they raise their babies to also stay around.  I guess it’s important for them to migrate.
They believe that these birds imprint on the first thing they see after they are hatched.  In the wild, that first thing would be their parents.  Birds that are hatched out in an incubator would not be able to imprint with a parent, so they use a puppet that looks like a Whooping Crane adult around the youngsters.  Before they hatch, they play a recording of an ultra light airplane engine while they are still in the egg.
As soon as the eggs hatch, the birds are shown the puppet right away and they keep playing the engine sounds so that they become used to the sound of an ultra light airplane engine.  Once they reach a point where they can fly, they are taught to fly along with an ultra light aircraft and then the group of several pilots and 10-12 birds head south.
This years  birds and crew left Necedah, Wisconsin on October 11th and were  hoping to be at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge today.
We got up this morning at 4:30.  It was 25 degrees and very dark here in the country.  We HATE to drive in the dark out in the boondocks but made the sacrifice this morning in hopes of watching the birds and aircraft flyover.  Al watched them one year and it’s quite an experience.
Anyway, we got to the wildlife refuge on time and NO ONE was there.  We finally talked to a lady who had been in the TOWN of St Marks where the birds were SUPPOSED to have done the flyover.  They were delayed today due to unfavorable flight conditions. 
Bottom line, Karen screwed up and had us at the wrong place.  I had looked at the Operation Migration website but never really looked at where they were going to flyover.  I had it in my head St Marks National Wildlife Refuge and not the city of St Marks.  It’s a good thing they didn’t come in today or Al might have killed me!
Anyway, we spent the day at the refuge and then went over to Wakulla Springs State Park and watched the manatees.
Of course I took a lot of pictures, so I will get them posted later.  It was a beautiful day once it got past the morning low of 25 degrees. 
The plan for the Whooping Cranes and crew is to make another attempt to fly tomorrow.  It depends on the winds aloft and they never know until that morning.  We may make another attempt to see them tomorrow, but we are also heading to Tampa tomorrow, so we’ll have to see if we can get everything ready.

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