Young whooping cranes aren’t known for speed but 14 whoopers led on their first migration from Wisconsin by ultralight aircraft breezed through southwest Georgia in slightly more than a day last week.
After crossing the Alabama/Georgia line Jan. 13, the Operation Migration flight flew past a scheduled stopover in Clay County and landed in Decatur County, the next scheduled stop. The chicks flapped into Florida the next day. Seven reached St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 17. The other seven are bound farther south for Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, the end of a 1,285-mile migration.
The Operation Migration route skipped most of Georgia this year, as leaders avoided mountains and some weather delays by flying through Alabama, clipping only Georgia’s southwestern corner. The flights are part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership’s efforts to restore the endangered birds to their historic range. Some older whooping cranes migrating through Georgia have been spotted in other counties. Details at www.bringbackthecranes.org.