Cranes could return as early as today

Published December 19, 2006

The cranes might be back as early as this morning.

After the longest ultralight-led migration to date, officials with Operation Migration were hoping that the 18 young whooping cranes in the Class of 2006 will arrive in Central Florida early today. Several of the cranes were missing at the end of Monday’s flight, calling the arrival somewhat into question.

Still, the crane partnership members planned a public flyover and photo opportunity at the Dunnellon/Marion County Airport on County Road 484, west of State Road 200. Weather and other conditions permitting, the ultralight aircraft will fly in over the airport, allowing a rare public viewing of the cranes before leading them to the nearby Halpata Tastanaki Preserve.

The birds will stay there until older cranes from previous migrations clear out of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Once the pilots are sure the cranes are on the ground, they will return to the airport to talk about the migration and answer questions. People who want to view the event should be at the airport by 7:30 a.m. with their chairs, cameras and binoculars.

If weather doesn’t allow the birds to fly from their Monday location in Gilchrist County, the flyover will be postponed.