October 13, 2002
Take Off--and a Big Mixup
The lift-off from the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin at 7:55 a.m. (Central) went beautifully but halfway into this morning's anticipated 39-minute flight, winds shifted to the west, providing a challenge for the young whooping cranes and the ultralight pilots.
One of the other cranes returned to the training site at the refuge shortly after take-off. The remaining 9 broke up into 3 smaller groups landing at a variety of locations.
One of them had come into contact with the wing of the lead aircraft. Operation Migration pilot, Joe Duff, fearing the bird may have sustained injuries, landed at the first available opportunity.
Heather writes, "Crane #10 was transported to the International Crane Foundation where it is receiving treatment from ICF veterinarian Dr. Barry Hartup. Hartup says while the injuries do not appear to be life threatening, they will require more treatment than can reasonably be provided during the migration, thus project team leaders have decided to withdraw the bird from the reintroduction. It will be several days before a decision on this bird's future placement is made."
With the injured bird and the one bird at the training site, Heather and others had to scramble to locate the remaining 8 birds that had landed away from the ultralight. Various project members used radio telemetry to gather them, and they've been reunited with their flock mates at Stop #1.
While today's departure flight proved challenging, the team will regroup and prepare for the next migration leg.
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