Overhead history - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Overhead history

November 27, 2002
by photojournalist Thomas Jones

Terrell County-- They are beautiful, they are endangered, and they rely on us to survive. Sixteen whooping cranes are following an ultra light plane to a national wildlife refuge in Florida.

The cranes began their journey in Wisconsin, and made a rest stop in South Georgia on Wednesday. “Some people say we've got the best job in the world,” said Operation Migration’s Heather Ray. “It’s more than a job-- it’s a passion.”

The birds and their human protectors try to make two 60-mile legs per day, along a secret route, dotted by open spaces where private owners allow them to land and spend the night.

The first chick hatched on April 12 th of this year. The last one, 39 days later. ”The age gap presented a challenge,” said Ray. “When the oldest birds are flying, the youngest birds aren't even getting off the ground yet.”

Crane speed is 38 miles per hour. “If we get a tailwind, it gets to 45, but it drops down significantly with a head wind.”

The birds will spend the winter near Kissimmee, Florida, and will head back to Wisconsin about February.

From a low-point of 15 birds in the 1940's, the population has risen very slowly. Even now, there are only about 260 whooping cranes left in the wild.

posted at 2:30PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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