Headwinds ground whooping cranes
Article courtesy of the ASSOCIATED PRESS
November 28, 2001
Headwinds in northern Florida on Wednesday stopped a
small flock of endangered whooping cranes and its ultralight
aircraft escort from Wisconsin from continuing their migration
The flock attempted to fly but turned back in Suwannee
County, south of the Georgia line, said Joan Guilfoyle,
a spokeswoman for Operation Migration, which is conducting
the experimental migration.
Weather permitting, the seven young cranes could still
reach their final destination at the Chassahowitzka National
Wildlife Refuge on central Florida's Gulf Coast
They have traveled 1,120 miles since departing the Necedah
National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin 43 days
They have not been in the air each day. The journey
has been delayed by fog, rain, hail, snow and a perpetual
headwind, according to members of the group on the journey
with the cranes.
Group leaders eventually reached a point where they
no longer thought in terms of 60- or 70-mile legs, but
half that amount.
Last week, over Thanksgiving, they were grounded in
Georgia for three days by inclement weather, then on Saturday,
took advantage of a small window of light winds and made
it into northern Florida's Hamilton County.
Remnants of a storm that pummeled the Southeast kept
them in Hamilton County on Sunday.
They flew Monday and Tuesday, averaging 20 miles each
By Wednesday, they had fewer than 100 miles to go.
"The weather's the one thing you can't count
on,'' said Heather Ray, administrative director
for Operation Migration. "Ultimately, it's mother
nature who's being the director of this journey.''
The cranes were hatched and raised at the Patuxent Wildlife
Research Center in Maryland before researchers transported
them to Necedah.
The goal of the project is to create a second migratory
flock of whooping cranes, with the birds finding their
own way back to Wisconsin in the spring.