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Ultra-light led whooping cranes depart White River Marsh
by Pam Rotella
29 September 2012

Operation Migration is reporting that its ultra-light trained whooping cranes departed Wisconsin's White River Marsh State Wildlife Area yesterday:

"The 2012 Cohort launched with OM's lead pilot for today, Richard van Heuvelen, at 7:38am. CraneCam watchers got a great view of the flight as all six of the young cranes kept Richard company.

"It wasn't long before the pilots were able to make the decision that all conditions were a go to skip the first Stopover site and fly on to Stopover #2. Stop #1 is just 5 miles from the White River Marsh pensite; a distance that works well in the case of nervous cranes as they hit unfamiliar territory and want to turn back or drop out.

"Stop #2 is 14 air miles from Stop #1, so in completing today's migration leg, the six young cranes will have flown 19 miles. Touchdown was at 8:16am - Richard with five while Brooke is still about 8 or 9 miles out with #5. Quite a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2012!"

Over the summer, crane-costumed pilots trained the endangered birds to follow ultra-light aircraft. Operation Migration's pilots will now lead the cranes via ultra-light through a migration route to Florida, where the birds will be left to winter and find their way north, without human assistance, next spring.

All original content including photographs © 2012 by Pam Rotella.