Endangered Whooping Cranes Make It To Florida Following Ultralights

Good Chance For St. Marks Flyover On New Year’s Day

Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Operation Migration Lead pilot Richard van Heuvelen performs a perfect air pick-up on Nov. 19 in Union County, Ky. to lead the eight endangered whooping cranes into Tennessee.
Operation Migration Lead pilot Richard van Heuvelen performs a perfect air pick-up on Nov. 19 in Union County, Ky. to lead the eight endangered whooping cranes into Tennessee.
- photo by Heather Ray, Operation Migration

Eight young whooping cranes that began their aircraft-led migration on Oct. 2, from the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake County, Wisconsin, Tuesday made it to Leon County, Fl., their last layover before reaching their new winter home at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

Terry Peacock, refuge manager for St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, says it is 70-80 percent likely that there will be a flyover at the City of St. Marks field Wednesday.

“We hope to see all our "craniacs" at the flyover tomorrow,” said Ms. Peacock. "We would like our biggest crowd ever in the five years of crane arrivals."

Weather depending, she expects the birds and ultralights should be over the city of St. Marks field by the water treatment plant by 8:15-8:30 a.m.

“We are hoping for good weather on New Year’s Day to complete this, our 13th migration,” said Operation Migration spokesperson Liz Condie. “I can’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year.”

The field is located at the terminus of Florida State Highway 363, next to the St. Marks River. 

“These birds are in the mode of flying now,” said Ms. Condie. “They took off like a shot this morning as soon as the ultralights revved up.”

They now have flown a total of about 1,070 miles, flying about 30 miles Tuesday morning.

The public should check out the Operation Migration website for the final confirmation at www.operationmigration.org

The public is also invited to follow the aircraft-guided Whooping cranes on Operation Migration’s live CraneCam, which broadcasts daily during flights and while the cranes are at each stopover location along the route to Florida. Visit: http://www.ustream.tv/migratingcranes to watch the video stream or http://operationmigration.org/InTheField for daily website postings.

This is the 13th group of birds to take part in a project led by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, an international coalition of public and private groups that is reintroducing this highly imperilled species in eastern North America, part of its historic range. 

WCEP partner Operation Migration is using two ultralight aircraft to lead the juvenile cranes through Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia to reach the birds’ wintering habitat at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge along Florida's Gulf Coast.

Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there are only about 600 birds in existence, about 445 of those in the wild. Aside from the WCEP birds, the only other migratory population of whooping cranes nests at Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta, Canada and winters at Aransas NWR on the Texas Gulf Coast. A non-migratory flock of approximately 20 birds lives year-round in the central Florida Kissimmee region, and an additional 33 non-migratory cranes live in southern Louisiana. 

WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need. Do not attempt to feed them, or approach birds on foot within 200 yards; remain in your vehicle.  Do not approach in a vehicle any closer than 100 yards.  Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you.  Finally, please do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph 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 sponsors.

To report whooping crane sightings, visit the WCEP whooping crane observation webpage at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/whoopingcrane/sightings/sightingform.cfm.

Lookout Mountain Conservancy And The Howard School Continue Environmental Connections On Thursday

Fifty students from The Howard School will continue “Environmental Connections,” for 2014 on Thursday. “Environmental Connections” is an environmental education and outdoor classroom project engaging The Howard School in Chattanooga and staff and volunteers from Lookout Mountain Conservancy. The Tennessee American Water Company provided funding for the pilot project last fall, ... (click for more)

2014 Spring Boat Show Is This Weekend

Erwin Marine Sales will offer its Spring Boat Show on Saturday, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Chickamauga Marina. Organizers said, "We have the largest selection of new and pre-owned boats by brands you know and trust like Bayliner and Sea Ray sport boats, cruisers, yachts and Cypress Cay pontoons." New and pre-owned boats will be in the water ... (click for more)

Catoosa Man Convicted Of Sexual Abuse Of 5 Young Girls Gets Life Plus 250 Years

A Catoosa County man convicted of the sexual abuse of five young girls and possession of child pornography has been sentenced to life plus 250 years. James Martin Ferris, 34, was found guilty after a recent trial. The day after his conviction, Judge Ralph Van Pelt set the sentence. Ferris on June 5, 2013, was indicted by the Catoosa County Grand Jury on 46 counts.   ... (click for more)

Rev. Jesse Jackson To Be Guest Speaker At City-Wide Peace And Love Rally On Friday

Rev. Jesse Jackson will be the speaker at the City Wide Peace and Love Rally at Olivet Baptist Church, 740 East ML King Blvd.,  on Friday, from 5:15-7 p.m. Rev. Jackson is the founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Cedric Pendleton, actor and humanitarian with Have and Have Nots/House of Payne/Fantasia Story, will be the special guest. (click for more)

Use The Current Rail System Already In Place - And Response

Why spend $20 million or more on an unproven system to run from the Southside of Chattanooga when we already have the beginnings of a system?  The question apparently has surfaced of why the Choo Choo City doesn't have a rail line. We do have a rail line with the Tennessee Valley RR Museum and their hardware. And they already make runs from the Southside to close to Enterprise ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: UAW Voices In Detroit

Today we are going to eavesdrop on somewhat of an open conversation that was held far to the north after the United Auto Workers surprisingly dropped a legal challenge with the National Labor Relations Board in Chattanooga the first thing on Monday morning. The NLRB judge certified the VW workers’ February vote to turn away the UAW at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen manufacturing plant ... (click for more)