Sunday, November 28, 2010

Operation Migration

We see evidence of successes in wildlife conservation efforts. In recent decades, the whooping crane almost became extinct. However, with the concerted efforts of public and private groups, these beautiful birds are slowly increasing in numbers. The whooping crane population declined from an estimated high of 1400 cranes in 1860 to an all-time low of 15 birds in 1941. The only naturally-occurring flock of whooping cranes summers in Alberta and Northwest Territories, Canada. The wild flock, which now numbers 180 birds, migrates to the Gulf of Mexico coast of Texas. A consortium of wildlife experts recognized that the population was at risk with all of the birds sharing the same territory and migration route. In an effort to protect the whooping crane from extinction, another flock of cranes was established with a separate migration path through its historic range. This Eastern population now has 96 cranes which migrate from Wisconsin to Northwest Florida. Whooping cranes are guided on their first migration by pilots using ultralight aircraft. My friend, Shirley Murphy, keeps me informed of the whooping crane migration. Today the 11 young cranes making the migration guided by human fliers in ultralight aircraft are resting in Hardin County, Tennessee in the vicinity of Shirley’s Tennessee River home and bee yard. They are at the half-way point of their 1285 mile migration. You can follow the progress of the flight at The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership is a group of non-profit organizations, individuals, and governmental agencies that are working together to establish the Eastern population of cranes. Their work can be viewed at

Here at Peace Farm, we also see the results of successful conservation efforts. We are visited by birds extending their range: black-necked stilt, tundra swan, and bald eagle. This week, I noticed that a number of the nesting holes that Rita drilled into a dead tree trunk had been used by blue orchard bees, like the one I photographed gathering pollen from evening primrose flowers.

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