This camera records the awe inspiring story of a dedicated team of conservationists at Operation Migration and their mission to save the highly endangered Whooping Crane. You'll be able to follow the training of the cranes leading up to their first migration south. A journey that which will be broadcast LIVE and in-flight, you'll be up in the air with the cranes!
The project (see also: operationmigration.org)
Currently fewer than 600 wild Whooping Cranes remain in the world. In the 1940's only 15 cranes exsisted and while they have rebounded since then, they are still highly endangered. Our goal is to establish and build a second migratory population of these endangered cranes in eastern North America - as insurance, if you will should something catastrophic happen to the only naturally occurring flock in western North America.
Because our cranes come from a captive population they have no parent birds to show them a migration route and this is where we come in. Our pilots and ultralight-aircraft take the place of parents and guide them along a 1200 mil e migration route. Beginning in Wisconsin and traveling along a network of predetermined remote stopovers, our team eventually guides the birds to two winter locations on the Gulf coast of Florida.
Our cranes are isolation reared, which means from the time they hatch until the time they are eventually released at the wintering location and then return north the following spring on their own, they NEVER see or hear a normally dressed human. All project staff members wear costumes, designed to mask the human form when in proximity of the cranes. Puppets, resembling adult cranes are used to help teach the young chicks how to forage and find food on their own.
Imprinting begins before the chicks hatch, when aircraft engine sounds are broadcast several times each day for the final week of incubation as the chicks, still inside their eggs can hear noise at this stage.
The migration itself begins in mid-October and ends typically in late December to mid-January. Each day, weather permitting, the team advances from one stopover to the next. There are a total of 27 potential stopovers along the way - covering seven states including: WI, IL, KY, TN, AL, GA & FL.
Once at the wintering grounds the cranes are housed in an open topped enclosure and encouraged to explore their surroundings. They are monitored daily until sometime in late March to early April when some primordial instinct kicks in and they take to the sky to fly back north. Sometimes they leave as a group; sometimes they leave in smaller groups, but they always return HOME to the location in Wisconsin where they took their first flights with our tiny aircraft.