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Cranes' flight is grounded
Wind and rain keep the eagerly awaited birds in North Florida.
By BARBARA BEHRENDT, Times Staff Writer
Published January 22, 2008
CHASSAHOWITZKA - Poor weather has kept the 17 whooping cranes migrating south this year stuck on the ground in North Florida for a sixth day.
Officials with Operation Migration had hoped to fly from Hamilton County to Gilchrist County on Monday, but 25 mph winds prevented the flight. Cold, rain and wind have all worked against the team since this year's ultralight-led migration began Oct. 13 at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.
This year's trip has stretched later into the winter than any other migration. The past six migrations landed the rare whooping cranes in Central Florida in December.
This year's migration has taken on greater meaning since all 18 birds led to Florida last year died, all but one killed in Chassahowitzka by lightning and rising water from a strong February storm.
Once the birds reach Gilchrist County, they are just one day from their arrival at the Halpata Tastanaki Preserve in Marion County. A public flyover event is scheduled the morning they arrive at the Dunnellon/Marion County Airport.
After that stopover, the cranes will be led by humans in their ultralight craft to their final winter home in the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, along the coast on the Citrus-Hernando county border.
For updated information, visit www.operationmigration.org and check the Field Journal.