Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane

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December 13, 2005
Migration Day 61

Whooopee! Migration Complete!
+67 Miles
(Total: 1183.4 miles)

It's time to celebrate! Migration 2005 is over! The cranes and planes arrived at their Halpata drop-off site at 9:30 AM, completing the 7-state journey south begun 61 days ago. All birds took off, and 18 followed right to the new temporary holding site at Halpata Preserve. Chick #516, however, landed in a field near the lucky people who came to see the historic event. The crowd waited in hushed excitement as the other 18 birds flew over in descent for the landing. (#516 was caught and trucked to the chicks' new home; see photo below.)
After the airborne heroes passed, the fans saluted them with joyous clapping and cheering. Moments later, the birds were called down with crane recordings played by the "costumes" who waited at the new pen site in Halpata Preserve.

Rounding up #516.
Here they come!
Pilot Chris speaks.
Photos: Operation Migration.
"Whooper Happenings" with Mark Chenowith was on the scene at today's flyover. Join Mark and hear actual voices of the crowd, plus inteviews after the landing with Operation Migration ultralight pilots!

Amazingly, these 19 young crane-kids now become "graduates" like the other 41 whoopers who completed the 7-state journey south behind ultralight planes, all now migrating back and forth on their own. A few graduate whoopers have chosen wintering areas other than the refuge in Florida, but 21 are in Florida at this writing. Four whooping cranes were present at a wintering area in south-central Tennessee. DAR chicks 527, 528, and 533 remain at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee. DAR #532 left the area in the previous week and has not been located. And we are thrilled to report that wayward #309 has finally found her way south!

Why Halpata Preserve?
Birds from the four previous ultralight-led migrations were delivered to Chassahowitzka ("Chass") NWR; see location on the map. But that changed this year. The 19 HY2005 chicks were delivered to Halpata Preserve, not too far from Chass. They're unlikely to meet up with older whooping cranes at this carefully chosen new site. The returning "graduates" like to claim the chicks' winter pen at Chass as their own. That's where they spent their first winter. That's where they find free crane chow. With more than 40 adult "graduates," their fondness for the pen site is becoming a problem. The older birds often pick on and chase away the younger ones. This endangers the youngsters' chances of survival. The team will leave the chicks at this temporary holding site until mid-January, or until all of the older birds have stopped at the Chass site, found no food or younger cranes to harass, and moved to their inland wintering areas. In mid-January the birds will be moved--by flying behind ultarlights, or perhaps in crates in a van. We'll bring you all the decisions and details when we cover their Journey North in the spring.

Watch for our final wrap-up report with news about the cranes' health checks/banding, their first days in Florida, and what's next.

Track the Migration

Use our map or make your own with this migration data.

(Click map to enlarge.)

Keep a Migration Journal

Today's Questions:
The goal of this reintroduction project is to build a flock of 125 birds by 2020. How old will you be then? Write a letter to the children you may someday have. In your letter, What were 3 highlights (or lowlights) for you? Why did you choose those events? Save your letter in a special place. Read it way in the future, or give it someday to a young person to share your memories of history-in-the-making. (For help in choosing highlights, see 2005 Timeline of Events, daily reports, your Comparing Migrations Chart. (How does our completed chart compare with yours?)

2. What would you say to convince someone else that the crane reintroduction project is important? Listen to Joe Duff talk about the importance of this migration.

3. How do you think the team feels today?


Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure presented in cooperation with the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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