CHASSAHOWITZKA — The 20 whooping cranes that make up the Class of 2009 have finally made it to Florida.
The ultralight-led migration of rare cranes flew the 43 miles from Decatur County, Ga., to Jefferson County early Monday morning, completing 1,085 miles of the 1,285-mile trek. At that stop, the flock was divided in two so that half the birds can be led to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in the Panhandle and the remainder to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.
The timing of the arrivals depends on the weather. "I hope it stays cold because that means a north wind,'' said Liz Condie, spokeswoman for Operation Migration.
This is the ninth group of whooping cranes to be reintroduced to the eastern United States and taught the migration route behind ultralight aircraft.
For more information on the reintroduction and the flyover viewing event at the Dunnellon airport as the birds reach Marion County, visit www.operationmigration.org.