"Chass Five" Almost Home!
January 13, 2011: Status Update

St. Marks Five are banded and flying free!Photo Operation Migration
The St. Marks Five completed migration Dec. 15. Now wearing their permanent leg-band colors, they were set free on Christmas Day. They fly out of the pen during the day to explore. The "dummy" in the center of the photo, the lure of their water fountain and crane chow, and the costume (Brooke) broadcasting crane calls all help to coax them back to the safety of the pen each evening.

Heads up! Fall migration is almost complete for the last five crane-kids in the Class of 2010. Operation Migration's trikes and the last five birds, the "Chass Five," will be back in the air for their arrival flyover and celebration any day now! The older Whooping cranes have cleared out, leaving the release pen free for crane-kids #3, #9, #15, #16, and #17. The ultralights and pilots are just waiting for the right weather. On the next flyable day they will lead the chicks over the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport for the arrival celebration and then land at the Halpata pen. The five youngsters will take their final short flight to the release pen on Chassahowitzka NWR on the next flyable day, completing their first migration south! Look for our final two fall migration reports very soon. Then get ready for the spring migration story, starting Feb. 2!

In the Classroom: Journal or Discussion

(a) Pilot Brooke Pennypacker remains at the St. Marks release site to watch over the chicks as they slowly learn to become wild and free. Each evening Brooke broadcasts the brood call to bring the chicks home and into the safety of their pond/pen for the night. Why do you think this is part of the routine?

(b-for-bonus) Brooke reports that six 2009 Whooping cranes visiting "their" old pen site have not been a threat to the juveniles. Brooke and his helpers have hazed the adults off so many times that the chicks seem to have picked up on the action and have begun to run the adults off themselves. Brooke's main worry is that these six older birds might lead the youngsters off somewhere. Why do you think this would worry the team? What could happen?

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure presented in cooperation with the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).