January 11 was moving day! For three weeks the cranes were penned at the layover site at Halpata Tastanaki Preserve — a good place to wait until the previous years’ Whooping cranes cleared the winter pen site at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge ("Chass"). The plan was for the chicks to follow the ultralight planes the final 20 miles to the winter pen at Chass. All four pilots and planes reported for duty. How did it go?
After a nice vacation from following the trikes, the chicks weren't interested! Just six birds (#605, 607, 611, 612, 613, and 619) made it all the way to "Chass" today. As the trikes flew over the winter pen, the pilots turned off their recorded crane calls and Sara played calls over a loudspeaker to call them down. The other 12 birds were more stubborn. Three (#604, 606 and 623) wouldn't leave! Nine followed behind the other two ultralights. Chick #622 dropped out in the woods south of Halpata. The remaining eight cranes decided they were DONE flying for one day and dropped out. They landed in a private wetland area in Citrus County, about 10 miles from Chass. Joe and Chris landed with those eight to give them a rest. Then they resumed flight, but what a struggle! Chicks 602 and 608 flew a mile before dropping out. Joe and Chris stayed with the others (now 601, 610, 614, 615, 618 and 620) while Brooke arrived to watch over the two that had dropped out. The day's six dropouts were crated and driven to join their flockmates, now in the travel pen at the Citrus County site. The pilots tried again the next day. Seeing the trikes yesterday and spending the night in a strange location did the trick. On January 12, all 12 "late" cranes flew behind Joe's ultralight to a safe landing and a reunion with their 6 flockmates at the "Chass" pen. HOME!
When will the Class of 2006 leave Florida?
Will they find their way home?
In the Classroom
North is pleased to feature this educational adventure presented in
cooperation with the Whooping
Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).