Well this is a nasty Thanksgiving Week surprise. Operation Migration is a group that has been using ultra light planes to teach an introduced population of whooping cranes their migratory flight path from Wisconsin to Florida. They raise the young cranes in captivity and great pains are taken to make sure they young birds do not imprint on humans...because when the humans are around the cranes, feeding them, tending to them, etc--they must dress and behave as close to a whooping crane as they can.
Once the young birds learn to fly, they are guided by special planes down to Florida--it is a long drawn our process. The flights must be taken in small steps, weather and aerial predators and individual bird strength must be considered. They are actually in the middle of a fall flight right now. Here's a short video that gives you an idea of what they do:
To add to their worries, their hangar used in summer and storing equipment and belongings of some of the crew working with the cranes on the current has been vandalized. Here's an excerpt of a news report from the Wisconsin State Journal:
The Operation Migration effort that is escorting young whooping cranes to refuges in Florida, already beset by weather-caused delays, received a major blow this week when a break-in and heavy damage from vandalism was discovered at its Necedah aircraft hangar.
The Juneau County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the break-in, but was unable to supply details.
In the daily Operation Migration field journal, which reports on the progress of the migration, Joe Duff wrote Wednesday from Livingston County, Ill., that the small nonprofit’s hangar used during the summer was "robbed and vandalized." The lights were smashed and tires slashed on the stored vehicles of two staff members. One of the staff members, who lives with the endangered birds all year, lost all of his belongings, Duff reported.
"His entire life is spent on the road so he uses the hangar to store all of the belongings the rest of us would leave at home. Most of them are now gone or destroyed in some distorted expression of violence that we simply cannot understand," Duff wrote.
Four wings for the ultra-light aircraft, used to escort the birds, were slashed, something that will cost $20,000 to replace. The group does not have insurance. A full-sized sculpture of a whooping crane, made by one of the ultralight pilots, was smashed and spray-painted. One of the ultralights used in the past to lead geese, swans, sandhill cranes and whooping cranes was damaged.
You can read the full story here.
It's going to take a lot of love and donations to make that up. All of us are tapped right now. It's the Holidays, there are gifts and as someone who earns have of her living via free lance work who now has the joy of a car payment reintroduced to her life, it's a tough economy. But, if you have any spare dollars or are looking for a unique gift idea, consider giving what you can to Operation Migration to help their efforts.
One way that will be easy for some is to just Give a Whoop or a $10 donation. That's two drinks in my neighborhood or about three fancy coffees from a coffee shop. If just ten readers gave $10 each, that's an easy $100 buck for the cause which is much needed right now. Also, check out the Crane Gift Shop--surely you could find some cool gifts for the birder or even the person marginally interested in birds in your life. It's a tight time and many of our favorite organizations and sadly many people we know are struggling. But if you can help, I highly recommend helping this crowd.