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The 2014 Guided Whooping Crane Migration Begins
by Pam Rotella
15 October 2014

ST. MARIE, WISCONSIN - Two young whooping cranes from a previous year flew past the small crowd, gathered to watch the 2014 guided whooping crane migration begin Friday at White River Marsh, Wisconsin. The pair had been a regular feature during daily flying exercises this year, often calling to the ultra-light aircraft as it approached the marsh.

Finally, five young whooping cranes were led via ultra-light aircraft to their first migration stop by Operation Migration Joe Duff. Pilot Richard van Heuvelen returned to guide the sixth, now willing to follow. Duff returned to guide the seventh, a young male with a previous leg injury, but the bird returned to its summer pen. The young crane was later boxed and transported to the first migration pen.

Operation Migration Pilot Joe Duff begins the 2014 guided whooping crane migration.  Photo by Pam Rotella.
Operation Migration Pilot Joe Duff begins the guided migration with five young whooping cranes, White River Marsh, Wisconsin, 10 October 2014. Photo by Pam Rotella.

The final destination for this year's flock is St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Seven whooping crane chicks were provided to Operation Migration's guided ultra-light program at White River Marsh this year.

In contrast, the unguided Direct Autumn Release (DAR) program at Horicon Marsh did not receive any whooping crane chicks for the 2014 season. According to Bryant Tarr of the International Crane Foundation, this was not due to the high mortality at Horicon in 2013, where seven of the nine birds died in 2013. Rather the cutoff for proceeding with the program is six cranes, and only four or five were available for Horicon's 2014 DAR program. The five cranes not allocated to DAR will be released to the Louisiana non-migratory flock,Tarr said.

Richard Van Heuvelen leads one additional whooping crane at White River Marsh.  Photo by Pam Rotella.
Richard Van Heuvelen returns to lead one additional crane willing to follow, White River Marsh, Wisconsin, 10 October 2014. Photo by Pam Rotella.

Earlier this summer, the annual Whooping Crane Festival was moved to a school in Princeton. Its previous location was the conservation club in Berlin.

Young whooping cranes from the 2013 migration year, White River Marsh, Wisconsin.  Photo by Pam Rotella.
Young whooping cranes from the 2013 migration year appeared earlier in the morning, 10 October 2014. Photo by Pam Rotella.

All original content including photographs © 2014 by Pam Rotella.