Class of 2015
Reaching The Finish
February 6, 2016
Weekly Updates

Here the crew prepares to open the crates about a half mile from the release pensite at Florida's St. Marks NWR. Some of the crew will escort the birds to their new home. It's a strange ending for 15 years of ultralight-led fall migrations:

Six crated cranes on arrival day
Operation Migration

With the brood call playing on a loudspeaker in the pen a half mile away, the young birds head in the right direction. They check out their new surroundings.

Walking the last half mile to the penOperation Migration

Crew members Jeff and Colleen, along with pilot Brooke make the walk with them:

Costumed handlers escort the cranes to the release pen.
Joe Duff, Operation Migration

From the pen, the first glimpse of the the young cranes comes as they clear the treeline in the distance:

Nearing the pen
Joe Duff, Operation Migration

Getting closer . . .

Three cranes in low flight with handler leading the way
Heather Ray, Operation Migration

As usual, crane #2-15 leads the way. Close behind is #11-15, the only male crane in this year's cohort, and youngest among the six young cranes:

Crane #2 followed closely by #11 lead the way.
Heather Ray, Operation Migration

Eventually, Brooke coaxes them toward the gates of the pen:

The walk to the pen continues.
Heather Ray, Operation Migration

Whooping crane #1-15 was the second crane to enter and immediately began her typical leaping and dancing. She is still leaping as the others are all eventually coaxed in through the large gate:

Arrival at the release penOperation Migration

Last crane to enter was, of course, #2-15:Everybody in the pen at last

Operation Migration

Finally, all are in the top-netted section of the release pen, where they’ll stay until the final health check and banding within the week. A top net keeps the birds enclosed for now, but soon it will come off and they can freely come and go, foraging and learning the ways of wild cranes—before they begin their first spring migration back to Wisconsin.

The newcomers' first visitors appear immediately. They are subadults #5-12, #4-13, #4-14 and #7-14:

Class of 2015 in their arrival enclosure at St. Marks, visited b y four subadult cranes
Colleen Chase, Operation Migration

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Journey North is presented by Annenberg Learner.
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.