Saturday, November 3, 2012

Marion County (X35), Dunnellon, Florida: No whooping crane fly-by at airport this year

Two of Operation Migration's Ultralight aircraft are currently leading six endangered whooping crane chicks from Wisconsin to Florida to teach them to migrate, but there will be no flyover at the Marion County/Dunnellon Airport as in previous years.

This year's migration will end with all the birds at the St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge in Florida's Big Bend.

This is the 12th year Operation Migration pilots are leading a new flock of juvenile whoopers south. In earlier years, they would fly the birds over Dunnellon to give the public a glimpse of the rare and endangered birds before finally settling them down at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Crystal River for the winter. In spring, the young birds fly north on their own.

This is the second year the birds will be missed at Dunnellon. Last year's migration ended in Alabama. Although it is not known exactly why, it is believed the bad weather that caused many no-fly days and the time needed to resolve a Federal Aviation Administration complaint, or even possibly the abundance of food, may have resulted in the birds' unwillingness to fly further than Alabama.

But this year there is another reason the birds will not be shepherded to Chassahowitzka. There are just too few of them.

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, a consortium of government and private agencies from Canada and the United States, is working to create a second, eastern, migrating flock of the endangered cranes to ensure the survival of the species in the event the only existing wild migrating flock, which flies from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, should become diseased or die off.

Read more here:  http://www.gainesville.com

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