Class of 2008 in Florida
March 27, 2009
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Chassahowitzka NWR— and on the Road!
Whoopee! On March 24, Eva announced: "Four cranes (804, 814, 818 and 819) started migration from the Chass pen today! I lost the signals of the 4 juveniles in Alabama, but I can tell you that they are taking a much more westerly route north than older cranes do, most likely because of the new ultralight migration route on their journey south with the ultralights.

"Although I may miss most of the higher mountainous terrain as I get farther north, twice today I've come to a river with only a few places to cross, where I have to pretty much predict which way the birds will go so I can cross in the appropriate place! Thankfully I did alright with that today, but I was constantly underestimating how far west they were actually headed. Anyway, I'm hoping to hear their signals tomorrow morning [March 25] when they get back in the air — if they continue migrating."

As of March 25, the 3 remaining ultralight chicks at Chass, the St. Marks 7, and four others (706, 712, 713, 733, 512, and DAR 37-08 ) were the only flock members still in Florida!



ICF Tracker Eva took off to follow the four Chass juveniles. Rivers slowed her and she lost them—for now.

ICF aviculturalist Sara and tracker Eva will bring migration news.

The young cranes played in the wind!
Photo Eva Syzszkoski

St. Marks NWR
None of the St. Marks birds had left at this writing, but Bev said they are flying in and out of the pen and staying out longer. They will likely stay in place until weather and wind conditions become favorable.

On March 24 Bev watched from the blind as the chicks peacefully foraged, preened, and ate. "Suddenly all the chicks gathered together and stared skyward. Soon, a shape appeared and grew larger, circling over the pen. The shape morphed into a juvenile Bald eagle. All the chicks kept a keen watch on the airborne predator.

"A Golden eagle definitely is a threat to the chicks, but a Bald usually not. A Bald eagle can take a Sandhill crane, but even at less than a year old, our Whooper babies are much larger. It would be unusual for a Bald to take one.
After the eagle flew by, peace returned to the pen only to be interrupted about half an hour later. This time, two juvenile eagles circled over the pen, descending as they circled. I could hardly believe my eyes when both of them actually landed in the pen! I watched breathlessly, not sure what to expect. I should have had more confidence in the young cranes, though. In the blink of an eye they were chasing first one, then the other eagle out of the pen. The second bird circled back and dive bombed the pond, in what I came to realize was nothing more than a fishing expedition. This was not acceptable to the chicks and they all took wing chasing after the eagle. This time, the eagle flew off not to be seen again.

"Once again peace returned and the chicks resumed preening and foraging. Another half hour passed and again, a shape appeared in the sky. The chicks once again gathered together (safety in numbers). This time an adult eagle flew over and kept going. The chicks again settled into their routine and soon were hock sitting, or standing on one leg, exhibiting a relaxed posture. I am now a little bit more confident that they will be okay on their northward migration!"
— Adapted from Bev's March 25 entry in the Operation Migration Field Journal.

Photo Mark Chenoweth,
Whooper Happenings

Operation Migration's Brooke and Bev are winter monitors for the 7 young cranes still at St. Marks NWR in Florida.


Looking up! Even though this juvenile is at Chass and not St. Marks, do you think it sees an eage overhead?
Photo Eva Syzszkoski