They are in Florida!!!! In a staging area the whoopers were split into two groups of 7. The first group, who were destined for the St Marks National Wildlife Refuge have arrived and are in their new winter home.
You can see two handlers in their whooping crane costumes in between the two ponds and the seven whoopers on the right hand side. They will be kept in the enclosure at the top of the pen (it has a net top) until they have been final inspected for health and their permanent transmitters installed. Their interaction with humans will be over at that point and they will be released into the open area. Come spring they will fly back to Necedah, Wi on their own and join the migratory group.
Here are a couple of pictures of the seven arriving. There was a huge crowd of over 2,000 people to watch them fly over to their new home.
There are three more "stops" until the final seven, including my #824, reach the Chassahowitzka NWR . This is where all the cranes previously added to the flock via the Operation Migration process have been taken to winter. I believe it was decided to split the cranes to prevent the possibility of losing the whole flock to a natural disaster - most of the class of 2006 was lost in an unusual storm February 1, 2007.
Pictures from Operation Migration Field Notes. Please click on the link to read more about this amazing program and the wonderful people who dedicate a large portion of their time to preserving the whooping crane population. Kudo's to them!!!