Operation Migration trains young Whooping Cranes to follow ultralight aircraft (equipped with an electronic brood call). Then they all migrate South together one time…and the Whooping Cranes know the route both ways for the rest of their lives. Check out a recent practice session below:
The Whooping Crane Festival has wrapped up and we have so much to share that we’ll be breaking it into a multi-part series. As we migrate back to New York City, we’ve been reflecting on everything we learned and how inspired we have been.
Before we get into the full story, we’d like to dedicate this poem to the Operation Migration team and all the Craniacs out there.
White Marsh Dawn
The fog hangs low in pockets, still, The sun a line behind the hill, The crows snack roadside, get their fill, The morning breathes a sigh.
And in the marsh, hear life’s refrain, The birds, the bugs, the critters reign, No wind, no rain, good day to train, It’s time to take the sky.
Tumes and Wellies* on, can’t be late, Trike’s in sight, we’ve got a date, Whoopers, eager, peck the gate, They just can’t wait to fly.
The trike’s a go, the whoopers free, They rumble tumble out with glee, They run, they jump, and whoop whoopee, No time for a goodbye.
From down below, we see them soar, They slide, they glide, first aft then fore, They form a line and flap no more, Fly low and then fly high.
And now the sun is glowing bright, As man, machine, and crane take flight, Through grit, invention, and pure might, All odds we can defy.
Weather permitting, the 2015 class of 6 young Whoopers will start their guided fall migration this Sunday, September 20. More from us soon as well.
*Tumes and Wellies = the white cosTUME and Wellington boots that Operation Migration folks wear when they work with the cranes.
Each year, without fail, we “migrate” for a time to the open shores of Cape Cod to enjoy the weather, the sea air, and the joys of nature. Our temporary habitat of choice? Provincetown. The pilgrim’s real first landing spot in North America, Provincetown has always attracted free thinkers, nature lovers, and artists of every kind…including Tennessee Williams, Jackson Pollock, and Mary Oliver, just to name a few. And because of its location at the very tip of the Cape, it also attracts a bevy of gorgeous animals on the land and sea.
We build our annual nest at Surfside Hotel and Suites, on the east end of the main drag, Commercial Street. Suddenly our backyard is the beach where we peacefully watch the tides come and go.
We also see all kinds of wildlife from gulls who take to the sky in droves at dawn and dusk to hermit crabs jostling about at low tide. Here is a hermit crab who won the competition for a new big shell. Watch it jump from it’s old “house” to try out the new one.
We’re used to scanning the sky for soaring hawks and were delighted to see our first juvenile Bald Eagles…
…a gorgeous Common Eider (what a snout!)…
…teams of Semipalmated Sandpipers bouncing around and poking their beaks into the tidal flats…
…the occasional Semipalmated Plover would join them to see what all the fuss was about…
And we even saw an elegant Long-tailed Duck, who drifted along the water and dove for 30-45 seconds at a time (using the scientific 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi counting method).
On one of the days, we drove out to the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is beautiful – offering everything from woods, to ponds, to marshes, to beaches. And, indeed, we saw all kinds of wildlife. Some of the highlights were a juvenile Great Blue Heron…
…a Snowy Egret…
…and hundreds of fiddler crabs who all have one small front claw and one GIANT front claw that makes you wonder how they can move around with an appendage that is the size of their body.
Amidst all the serenity, we did have one difficult experience. A Herring Gull drifted lazily up to the shore of the hotel beach. A brave woman, Diane (another animal lover from Manhattan!), gently scooped it up and we all set out to help it. We put the injured bird in a box and called Provincetown Animal Control and Wildcare Cape Cod, a rescue organization. Wildcare dispatched a hero named Swede (sp?) who came to pick up the bird and bring it to their treatment center. Unfortunately, it had multiple broken vertebrae due to blunt force trauma (meaning it hit something or something hit it at a very fast speed) and it couldn’t be saved. We were heartbroken but so grateful that people like Diane, Ruth Ann Cowing (Provincetown Animal Control officer), Swede and Wildcare Cape Cod are out there to give these animals a chance.
Despite that tough loss, something about the way the tides keep coming and going, the birds flying steadily and confidently, the clouds painting streaks in the sky…made us realize that things will be alright.
And the full horizon-to-horizon rainbow didn’t hurt either.