After extended weather delays getting out of Wisconsin, the eighth ultralight-led migration of young whooping cranes crossed into Illinois on Monday, Nov. 10.
This year the whoopers will fly the length of Illinois, instead of circling the Chicago area.
On Monday, the 14 endangered whoopers and their surrogate parents--four ultralight aircraft--reached Winnebago County on their 1,285 mile-migration from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin to Chassahowitzka and St. Marks NWR along Florida's Gulf Coast.
For teachers and parents who are keeping kids interested in outdoor stuff like this (and those who like lively outdoor writing), I think the best way to follow the whoopers is by reading the daily field journal entries at http://operationmigration.org/Field_Journal.html.
The IDNR release is posted below.
Endangered Crane is Making a Comeback Whooping Crane Migration Making Its Way Through Illinois
SPRINGFIELD - Fourteen endangered whooping crane chicks and their surrogate parents--four ultralight aircraft--are headed through Illinois on their 1285 mile migration from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in central Wisconsin to Chassahowitzka and St. Marks NWR along Florida's Gulf Coast.
These majestic birds, the tallest in North America, began their migration from Necedah on Oct. 17. Illinois is one of the many pre-arranged stopovers the ultralight migration crew will use along its journey. The cranes and crew arrived in Winnebago County today and will move to their stopover in LaSalle County when the weather allows. Other stopovers are scheduled in Livingston, Piatt, Cumberland, Wayne and Union counties.
There are now 68 migratory whooping cranes in the wild in eastern North America thanks to the efforts of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), an international coalition of public and private groups that is reintroducing whooping cranes in their historic range. The ultralight-led flock from Necedah NWR will pass through Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia to reach the final destinations in Florida. For the first time the birds will be led through southern Illinois and eventually the state of Alabama before turning east into Florida. Increased weather delays and the safety risk associated with crossing the mountains prompted the ultralight migration team--project partner Operation Migration to develop a new, more westerly route that will take them around the Appalachian Mountains instead of over them.
In addition to the 14 birds being led south by the ultralights, six other birds were released in the company of older cranes in the hope that they can learn the migration route from the more experienced birds. This is part of WCEP's "Direct Autumn Release" program and is conducted by the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The International Whooping Crane Recovery Team has set the target for this reintroduction at 125 individuals including 25 breeding pairs. Once these numbers are reached, the population could be considered self sustaining. With 68 birds now in the wild and another 21 soon to be released, we are past the half way point and whooping cranes are once again migrating over eastern North America after a 100 year absence.
Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there are only about 350 in the wild. WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need. Do not approach birds on foot; try to remain in your vehicle; and do not approach in a vehicle within 100 yards. Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you. Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view whooping cranes.
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International Crane Foundation; Operation Migration Inc.; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center; the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin; and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.
Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals and conservation groups have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources, funding and personnel. More than 60 percent of the project's budget comes from private sources in the form of grants, public donations and corporate sponsorship.
For more information about WCEP, go to http://www.bringbackthecranes.org.