December 23, 2014
Weekly Fall Migration Updates

The Class of 2014 was released to freedom on December 23, 2014 after completing their human-assisted southward migration on Dec. 11. They are free-flying cranes! This marks the first year of no arrival health checks, now considered optional. The young cranes will be briefly caught just once again to receive their permanent bands/colors on January 5th. Older “Bad Boys” (#4-12 and #5-12) watched as the youngsters marched into their new world of freedom. Most of them headed directly for the pond, but #3-14 (Peanut) and #3-14 went after the two older cranes, surprising them with a willy-nilly chase around the pond.

After this first joyful burst of freedom, crew member Colleen led the birds around their expanded world. First she showed them the feed shed and the familiar feeders holding crane chow. They finished their tour at the oyster bar—the causeway of oyster shells covered by a few inches of water reaching one-third of the way across the pond and where the familiar plastic crane decoy was stationed. The oyster bar is where the birds will be called down at roost time each evening by the speaker playing the crane call. Surrounded by shallow water, they would hear the splashes of any approaching predators in time to fly to safety. Colleen and pilot Brooke Pennypacker will check on the cranes twice daily throughout the birds' first winter at St. Marks NWR in Florida.

Bio pages will be updated with each bird's new banding colors after brief re-capture for banding on January. 5, 2015. Watch for updates in winter and spring. It will be a suspenseful first journey north for these young cranes, who didn't get to fly most of the first half of their migration route due to repeated weather stalls. Given that big "detour by road," will they find their way north to the flock's summer home in Wisconsin? We'll follow them and share the news!

The young cranes were released to from their top-netted pen to freedom December 23.
Class of 2014 is released to their freedom Dec. 23, 2014!
 Image: Operation Migration


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Partial funding for this news update has been made possible through Operation Migration by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Southern Company through the Power of Flight Program.