The whooping cranes that arrived here in January after an arduous three-month trek are on their way back to Wisconsin.
But not all of the birds that made it to the wildlife refuge here are making the return trip with their buddies. One was found dead on Sunday in Georgia, apparently killed by a predator; another is taking an airplane.
The fact that any of the birds are heading home makes this year's effort a success. Last year, the entire flock died after a freak winter storm at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.
The 17 endangered whooping cranes led this year to Chassahowitzka by humans in ultralight aircraft began their spring migration north several days ago.
On Friday, crane No. 735 was collected from the pen at Chassahowitzka and boarded a plane to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. The young bird has muscle bruising and has not flown since it arrived in Chassahowitzka, according to Joe Duff of Operation Migration.
Duff was already looking forward to the upcoming flock and reported that some of the older birds are already displaying mating behaviors.
"We're hoping for 24" cranes, he said. "Keep your fingers crossed."