Whooping cranes arrive in Pike County

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Whooping cranes of Operation Migration 2013 arrived in Pike County Thursday.

If weather conditions are favorable, plans are for the ultralight aircraft to take flight at sunup today with the cranes following close behind.

The Whooping cranes reached Pike County earlier than expected.

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Liz Condi, Operation Migration director of communications, said that good flying conditions made it possible to make a few extra miles and skip Stop 18 in Lowndes County.

“Unfortunately, due to our location in Pike County, we aren’t able to offer a public departure flyover site,” Condi said. “There is no good line of sight or parking area in the vicinity.”

Condi said the Operation Migration team is hoping for fair weather and a lift off today.

“We are expecting light winds on the surface but the wind direction aloft could be a problem,” she said. “If conditions are right, we should get in the air at sunup which is just before 7.”

If Operation Migration flight is a go, Condi offered no encouragement for viewing the liftoff.

“We don’t know how the cranes will come out of the pen,” she said. “We have a flight plan but it’s not always the one they have.”

Condi said there are four planned stops before the Whooping cranes reach their destination at St. Mark’s National Wildlife Reserve in the Florida Panhandle.

Once at St. Mark’s, they will be held over in a closed area where they will be kept away from all things human.

“We want to keep them as wild as possible for when they return to their summer home in Wisconsin,” Condi said.

Operation Migration, which has played a lead role in the reintroduction of endangered Whooping cranes into eastern North American since 2001, took flight from The White River Marsh training site in Green Lake County, Wisconsin on Oct. 2, 2013.

When they reach St. Mark’s, their flight will have taken them 1,285 miles over seven states.