CHASSAHOWITZKA — The 10th annual ultralight-led whooping crane migration got off the ground on 10/10/10 as 11 young birds followed three ultralight aircraft south off the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin at dawn Sunday.
Only four of the birds flew all the way to the first stopover 23 miles away. The rest dropped out along the way and were crated and taken to be with other members of the Class of 2010. An attempt to fly again Monday was unsuccessful because of weather.
Operation Migration staffers will lead the birds on the 1,200-mile flight to their winter homes in Florida over the next couple of months. The flock then will be divided: Half will go to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in the Panhandle and half to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles Citrus and Hernando counties.
The ultralight-led migration is a key part of the ongoing effort to re-establish an eastern migratory flock of whooping cranes, an endangered species and the nation's tallest bird.